How to Work with Software Developers…If You’re Not a Cat Person




Want a better relationship with your software engineers?

If you’re a “cat person,” congrats. You are set.

If you’re not a cat person, listen up. You’ve got a lot to learn about getting along and working with software engineers.

According to Jonah Jolley, a senior software engineer and self-identified cat person, all software engineers want to be treated like your typical house cat. That mostly translates to, “Leave me alone! But wait, give me belly rubs too.”

If you are a self-proclaimed “dog person” or “not an animal person,” we are here to teach you the ways of the cat. Here’s how to get on a cat’s good side for life and make your software development team happy.

Gain Their Trust, a Little at a Time

You wouldn’t walk into a cat’s home, run up after them, and pick them up, would you? (If you would, stop and control yourself).

The same goes for software engineers. If you’re new to your organization, you’ve got to slowly introduce yourself. Present your ideas in a non-threatening way. Speak, but be silent.

Gaining their trust won’t happen overnight. You’ve got to accept that. Instead, make small, friendly advances that pique your engineer’s interests. Ask things like:

  1. What’s your favorite band?
  2. What’s your favorite subreddit?
  3. Do you prefer wet or dry food?

Getting to know them little by little will help put them at ease and help build a lasting relationship. They may even greet you with a polite “meow” when you walk through the door.

Give Them Their Alone Time

All mammals are social creatures, but some are more social than others. Imagine a social spectrum. At one end is a golden retriever and the other a wolverine.

Your average software engineer probably falls somewhere in the middle. (Maybe a tiny bit closer to the wolverine).

What that means is–you can absolutely socialize with them… sometimes. But when they’re in the zone, leave them alone. Disrupting them during this alone time may cause them to lash out and claw the shit out of you. The standard rule is two belly rubs, per cat protocol.

A good example of this is: If your software engineer comes in from 11-7 PM, it’s probably because he/she wants some alone time. Take the hint and keep internal communication within core business hours (read: 9-5 PM). Granting them radio silence from 5-7 PM will keep them relaxed and affectionate.

Keep Their Water Filled & Fresh

Cats enjoy being independent, just like software engineers.

If cats had to request water every time they were thirsty, they would eventually run away. That’s why good cat owners leave out a big, filtered water bowl. So cats can drink whenever they please.

If you’re working with software engineers, you should also leave out a big, filtered water bowl AKA organized information about your project. This working design document should be in an accessible location (maybe by the cat tree) so when your engineers have a question, they can go there instead of asking you.

Keeping this information central will also reduce turnaround time so win-win.

If They’re Sunning, Let Them Rest

For cats, sunning is a blissful experience that should not be interrupted.

Likewise, if your software team is peacefully enjoying a moment of silence and solitude, let them be. Disrupting one of the few delightful moments in an engineer’s day will only make them hide under the couch for the rest of the afternoon.

Keep Treats On Hand

Cats love treats, whether in food or feather form. Software engineers are the same, especially after a job well done.

When appropriate, shower them with salami. It will strengthen the bond between you two and help your software engineer see you in a new, tasty light.

(Just don’t feed them after midnight)

Final Cat Thoughts

By imagining your software engineering team as cuddly, standoffish cats, it can help you work with them and create a strong, mutually beneficial relationship.

Overall, keep things quick and direct. Give them plenty of space to do their own thing. But continue to be kind, especially when they approach you during a peace offering.

In return, you’ll strengthen your relationship, receive better work, and–maybe–get the ultimate prize:

cat nuzzling gif