Are Google software engineers really doing…
I’ve been developing SW at google for 15 years now, though mostly not with the job title of “software engineer” but rather as a senior tech manager (“uber tech lead”, was the monicker for that) or as a senior-staff “technical solutions engineer” (whatever that may mean: it changes by the group/team/area, and by the year).
I would say that maybe 1/10th of my coding time over these 15 years was “extraordinary” — inventing and deploying stuff such as provably-auditable data access, getting 10x the performance of an existing system by drastically different architectures, fully automating platform-migration tasks which had taken 100s of hours of toil from highly skilled pros down to single-digit hours of checks and edits (by the same pros) that the automation had been working just right.
The other 9/10th’s of my coding time may have been what you tag as “trivial” — writing huge amounts of tests (I’m fanatical about testing), refactoring code to improve quality (another fanatic focus of mine), debugging and fixing bugs, &c. I do believe that my fanatical focus areas have saved tens of hours of work by some other engineer for every hour I spent on such toil… and apparently so does my employer given my mostly pretty-good perf reviews over 15 years. Yeah, most any competent SW eng might have done those jobs if tasked to do them, but, I “tasked myself” and did it in maybe 1/10th the time a rookie might have needed — which I think justifies my very senior status, as I don’t make 10 times as much as a rookie:-)
I believe this matches Edison’s quote “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”, even though I’m very far from genius (I know, since I’ve been lucky enough over my 40 years’ career to work closely with quite a few geniuses, and I can tell the difference!-), i.e., I believe the quote applies to “impactful knowledge-work” at senior, skilled, but WAY sub-genius levels, too!-)