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Responses to “Is Software Development Slowly Killing Me?”

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I got a lot of intelligent responses my question of "Is software development slowly killing me?" I thought I'd like to cover a couple as a weekend bonus. Since it's a borderline personal finance topic, it may be worth skipping if you are not into that kind of thing.

One of the best responses was from Programmer who said:

Have you tried learning a new or growing technology? Go where the demand is, become an expert, and work as a consultant to maximize your earnings... The best paid people aren't the code monkeys, but the ones who learn new tech. on their own, love what they do, and as a result have excellent skills because they're passionate about their tech... But, if you're lazy, then you're probably not worth a premium consulting rate anyway. Right?

My points:

  • I have consulted and at $150+/hr. Unfortunately, I was skilled in a rare technology that no longer has the demand or potential to earn that. I'm not sure consulting is the answer for everyone as Programmer implied to be.
  • I have gone where demand is (Silicon Valley), learned new technology (for me that was Java), but I have not become an "expert" or a consultant (yet). I didn't get to mentioning it, but one of the conversations I had with the friend was how Java (which is where the demand is nowadays) is extremely slow to get an application up and going. Someone in my last company had the equivalent of 200 lines of code to simulate a light bulbs state: on or off. That is not something to be passionate doing or something that motivates me to become an expert. It's something that motivates me to create a website that can me money in way other than programming and leave it to brilliant people in third world countries who will do it for much less than myself.
  • As far as being lazy, my name is a reference to many articles about lazy programmers being the best kind of programmers: see this article and this one.

Here are some statements that I found myself nodding in agreement with...
Used Vans Girl said, "I think the problem isn't programming its monotony." Brip Blap echoed that with "Anything you do as a routine becomes dull."
East Side Food Geek said, "It sounds to me like software development ISN'T killing you, but rather the jobs you've had.... In any case, your side business gives you some freedom to be picky, to rebuild your personal brand and reenter the marketplace on your own terms." This comment was dead on and a reason why I started to look to side business. And I've found that as I start to look in the workplace, I can be extremely picky.
Ryuko mentioned "coding would not be a viable job, especially since more and more of them are being outsourced." I agree with that. AskDong said, "I often feel the same way. I'm burnt out, and often feel i'm letting my coworkers down. It really is a terrible feeling to want to do more but somehow not being able to muster it." Yep, I couldn't agree more with that.

And the one thing that I found wasn't true IN MY EXPERIENCE (I might need to just be in different places) as a Senior Software Engineer...
Kitty said, "One shouldn't confuse a software engineer with an application programmer, though, as some posters above seemed to do. Software engineering is not about coding, it is about system architecture, design, algorithms, problem-solving, ability to learn new technologies, creativity. Programming is the most trivial part of the job."
It should be that way, but I've found that companies often already have architecture and technologies in place and just need to extend it. That reduces the amount of design, creativity, and even algorithms that I could use. It left me with only programming. Often times I was doing very repetitive cut and pasting. This leads me to believe that it was more the job than anything else.

Last updated on July 25, 2011.

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14 Responses to “Responses to “Is Software Development Slowly Killing Me?””

  1. Brip Blap says:

    The horrible thing people don’t want to admit sometimes is that their work – which was once interesting to them – has just plain and simple become boring. I was never insanely interested in accounting or auditing or finance, but pre-Enron it was a little bit more loose and the opportunities to switch back and forth from management consulting to compliance work were a lot more numerous.

    After Enron, things got ugly. My line of work has become bureaucratic minute-detail checking monotony. Deservedly so, don’t get me wrong – Enron showed that the ‘fun times’ weren’t that much fun when people lost their life savings. I just mean that things I loved – management consulting, helping businesses out, etc. – were forbidden and now I’m just beating people up for failing to have 86 levels of authorization before someone signs a check for $3.50. I’m still learning a LOT of new things (as Programmer suggested) it’s just that they are boring new regulations and rules and I just don’t CARE.

    Anyway, my point is just that things change. People get bored, industries develop, etc.

    The big question is – are you tired enough of it to make a significant change – not just a new company?

  2. FourPillars says:

    Interesting comment BB – the problem with the software shop I work for is that 10 years ago (when I loved the job), they didn’t have a lot of red tape and because the system hadn’t been around for long, there were lots of problems to fix. Fast forward to now and the system is fairly stable so no interesting “emergencies” and there is so much red tape that the smallest change takes two months to get into production – it’s a bit of a motivation sapper.

    Anyways – LazyMan – do whatever you want and take your time doing it, it sounds like your wife can pay the bills for a while so you are not a slave to your job or even your career. In my case I’m the only breadwinner so my options are much more limited. In other words – don’t do what I’m doing :)


  3. thebaglady says:

    So, maybe I am too young to be burnt out yet, but I know a lot of people who are. I think I enjoy it for the flexible working schedule and the people I meet. Also, if you find a company that is focused on engineering you won’t be under appreciated. I am a release engineer so my job is somewhat different from other application/website programming jobs and I am closer to IT and QA but I am still in the development group. Release engineering is probably one of the most tedious things you can specialize in in software development and sometimes I just want to throw a rock at it, but then there are opportunities to learn new technologies in my field. I feel like I am doing one of those dirty jobs that noone wants to do, but I am compensated well for it. Anyway, I don’t think software development is killing me in anyway because my employer is great. If I was underpaid, under appreciated, and have to go to work at 8am everyday I would hate it no matter what job it is. Additionally, if my manager is a dummy I would hate it too.

  4. Tyler says:

    Hmm…looks like Programmer is less of a Programmer and more of an Overpriced Consultant if he’s not familiar with the principles of Laziness, Impatience, and Hubris.

  5. programmer says:

    I don’t believe this is the place for a pissing contest on who is the better programmer, what makes a programmer good, or what the difference is between a code monkey and an architect. It’s very naive of you to judge my skill level based on comment that was designed as a reality check.

    I may be an “overpriced consultant”… but I have people knocking down my door to work for them, my schedule is booked through 2009, and I’ll be retiring before I’m 35.

    Let me clarify my points further:

    Go where the demand is means find a technology that is in demand TODAY. It doesn’t mean move to an location where the jobs are, or sit on a previous hot technology and hope for the best.

    I work from home, in an area where the avg. salary is

  6. Ryuko says:

    Ha! I am truly the best programmer of all you you! :p All kidding aside, a lot of good points here. The importance is to keep yourself in a job that has good demand (like Programmer’s nic consulting firm, eh?). Like I said, more of these labor-intensive skills are going overseas. That doesn’t mean all your schooling was for nothing — you’ve just gotta figure out how to use what you’ve got in different ways. Being flexible is one of the keys to success.

    BTW, thanks for the honorable mention, and thanks for your financial advice and the guys you link to. With the ideas I’ve gotten here, I’ve been able to lower the interest on my car and my biggest credit card, and use the savings to pay in full my smaller cc and implement a 1-year debt-free plan. Then I can start saving.

  7. Might want to learn Ruby on Rails. There sure is more demand then supply on programmers.

  8. Lazy Man says:

    Let’s keep it all nice here. No one has walked in another person’s shoes, so no one knows the value of his/her work.

    I’ve put Ruby on Rails on my short list of technologies to learn. That list includes CakePHP and Python. I’ve seen a lot more jobs for RoR though thus far.

  9. kitty says:

    I think sometimes it is a trade-off between higher salary and more interesting job. I’ve worked for a large technology company ever since I got my MS/CS over 20 years ago, first in development lab and later – in research, so I earn considirably less than a consultant. I do make 6 digits, but I could’ve made more (I think) if I changed jobs given that I have all the recent skills – Java, J2EE, web services, (WebSphere) Portal, JSP, JSF, etc. Don’t know Ruby on Rails or PHP, but PHP is on my list of technologies I need to learn for this year’s project as well as a few other things.

    So sometimes there is a choice. You can work in software R&D, have an opportunity for design work and even research but earn less or do less interesting work and earn more.

    I choose the former, although 5 weeks vacation that I earned have something to do with my unwillingness to look for higher salary. Some people are lucky to have both an interesting job and high salary, but it doesn’t always work this way.

    At any rate, given that I’ve worked for only one company all my life I probably don’t know much about the “real world”.

  10. Monevator says:

    Hi Lazy Man,

    Just a thought as I’m fairly new here and you’ve obviously put a lot of time and effort into thinking over these issues.

    However, I wonder whether you could solve your problem by redefining what you see as a reason to work?

    Sounds obvious, but you talk about more emotional things you want out of work – e.g. satisfaction – whereas with the alternative income streams etc you list a cold hard number.

    Maybe if you really deconstructed work to see it in the same light – simple as a number to add to another number at the end of the month, it might take some of the sting out of the hours you have to put into it.

    It might also lead to your goals being reached sooner. For instance, you might take a simpler job with less responsibility which pays you $75,000 a year and lets you go home at 5pm to spend a couple of hours on your other streams, rather than seek one for prestige or satisfaction that also has you in the office 8-8 and at weekends.

    When your alternative income grows to a certain point, you could then run down the job.

    Anyway, as I say may be way off base so take with a pinch of salt, but I think you need to realise you’re going back to work for money, so you need to find the simplest way for you to make the most amount of money in the shortest amount of working time.

    Get your satisfaction at another time, in another place, when you can better afford it (i.e. because you’re other income can cover the shortfall).

    Just MHO,


  11. This is very interesting information. Bookmarked.

  12. All are Welcome to make money says:

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  13. All are Welcome to make money says:

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