If software engineering roles were chess pieces, what would they be?

Monday, February 27, 2023

Chess is booming, and tech is burning to the ground. It's inevitable, soon, that Chess is going to acquire the entire tech industry. And when Chess acquires us, they'll replace us and take our software engineering jobs1. Then we'll be stuck playing their game, and we'll be sitting on those 64 squares.

When Chess takes our jobs, which roles will be filled by which pieces? We'd better figure out so that we can be prepared for the uprising.

The King. Ostensibly the most important piece, but it's relatively useless for actually getting the job done. It does occasionally come in handy, though. So this is clearly the engineering manager.

The Queen. The actual most powerful piece on the board, it's able to assist in nearly any effort. It's very difficult to stop it, and it can solve most problems. This is my blog, so I'm going to without shame2 say this is clearly the staff engineer.

The Rook. Is able to move quickly across the whole board, but can only go in straight lines. Cannot move diagonally. It's kind of like the queen, but not quite as powerful. Then it's clearly like the mini-staff engineer, and it's the tech lead.

The Bishop. Can effectively see across the board, but can only see half the board. If it's on a light square and something is on a dark square, no dice, it can't help at all. This is the product manager. Very good at what they do, but not able to see or help with all the technical problems.

The Knight. Moves in weird ways, jumps over obstacles, passes through the enemy army, and can attack multiple pieces at once. Is there any question? This is obviously the security engineer.

The Pawn. Positioned in front of the rest of the pieces to do the dirty work and protect the territory. Occasionally they get promoted, but more typically they're sacrificed for the bottom line greater good. This is the line engineer, whose sole purpose is to do their job, with the distant promise of maybe, someday, getting promoted.

So, okay, maybe these assignments aren't objectively true. Do you disagree? What would you assign to each piece?


Alongside ChatGPT, which is definitely coming for my job. I'm quaking in my slippers.


Okay, with a little shame.

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