Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




should I quit?

Hi,
I'm trying to think of a reason to stay in software besides the money. I got into the field I found it very easy to do, not because I have any particular love for sitting in front of a computer all day.

I thought a good litmus test would be to think up some application I really wanted to have, and code it for myself.
However, I can't think of anything I really would want to have, so I'm thinking perhaps I don't have software in the blood.

Has anyone else been in this position?

quitter
Friday, May 10, 2002

The best job is one you would do even if you were not being paid. This is what everyone should look for.

I would say that just because you cant think of an application to write for yourself, that you shouldnt be coding. You may not have thought hard enough.

If you get a thrill from coding, stay with it. If you just think "what-the-hey" its easy and the money if good. Then after a while you will be feeling something is missing.

I hope that helps.

James Ladd
Friday, May 10, 2002

Hmm, you've shared with us almost nothing.  What do you like, when you observe yourself doing something gratuitously?

I'm pretty much the same way.  I've come into the office less, and I am working pretty much only on paper, until it's time to translate that into computer code.  I know I'm not cut out for programming.

dairyu
Friday, May 10, 2002

I have found when I get creative blocks I will talk to friends and colleagues in many different industries and let them know if they come up with a great idea for a software package to let me know. 

The key to remember is that we in this community are software experts (some are experts in other areas) and sometimes need to team with experts in other industries.  I find that feeding off another's creativity and bringing to life another's idea is just as fulfilling.

Chris Woodruff
Friday, May 10, 2002

quitter,
Once you have kids, these thoughts of "satisfaction" will be moot.  You'll be glad to have a paycheck.  I suggest you go get married, get a mortgage, and have 2.1 kids ASAP.  All your "fulfillment" problems will vanish overnight!  ;-)

Bella
Friday, May 10, 2002


Ok, agree with Bella, but that was not the question.

quitter, perhaps you should look at some kind of creative area; games, interactive courses, aerospacial (why not?), or automatic control.

If you can't find any thing that you like to do (as someone else said, without being paid) then yes, quit.

Leonardo Herrera
Friday, May 10, 2002

Writing software or any engineering type work is basically about building something that works.

If your concept of doing software is one of sitting in front of a computer all day for a paycheck, then maybe you are in the wrong field.

OTOH, maybe this is a temporary thing.  It's possible to get bored with any activity at times.  Or maybe you're in a rotten work environment.  Too many employers are far into the Dilbert zone.  I've worked on fun projects and on ones where I hated to go to work in the morning.

I think you need some sort of change.

mackinac
Friday, May 10, 2002

What do you love to do? What fascinates you? What would you do if someone else paid your bills for a year (sorry...this is not an offer)?  What would you like to be doing five years from now? Get started.

This doesn't have to be exclusive of programming. You may be able to use your skill to pursue your passion. Or not.

Dan Sickles
Friday, May 10, 2002

actually I'm a contractor. I work by myself. I do ok financially. I primarily build database-y "intranet" style applications for medical professionals.  this type of work isn't the most thrilling. I thought maybe if I got into a different field of programming, that I would like it more.
So I thought. "i'll write a game." But. I don't play computer games. So I couldn't think of any game to write. Then I thought about writing a utility or mini app that I would like for myself. But, I couldn't think of anything. In fact, when I'm not working, I typically am as far away from the office as possible.

quitter
Friday, May 10, 2002

i sort of agree with bella. i was real broke before i started this and my family is not very wealthy. i'm doing pretty well so I feel like it would be irresponsible to just quit and become a beach bum or something like that. on the other hand I don't have kids or any serious debt so no one else would be affected if i did quit.

on the other other hand... i'm sort of scared because if I did decide to quit, what would I even be able to do to support myself? these tech skills don't really seem to translate into any other sort of occupation. i don't know if I would be able to get a job besides "beach bum."

quitter
Friday, May 10, 2002

Here's an idea for a project: programming tools.

I'm willing to bet you've found yourself writing basically the same code over and over again. How about writing a tool to automate that process? Either a library to do all the grunt work for you, or a code generator?

You'll get some practice at parsing if you go the code gen route, you'll stretch some coding muscles you haven't used before, and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're making your own life easier.

If that still doesn't interest you, then you need to figure out what you *do* love to do.

Chris Tavares
Friday, May 10, 2002

Programming is a rare profession where you really get to exercise your brains.  That's why I enjoy it.  One is truly blessed when he is making  a living with his mind, and not his physical output.    There is more to learn in software development than you can learn in 5 lifetimes.

And you can't generalize about coding being easy or hard.  Difficulty is based on your problem domain, NOT the tools you use.  If you are bored with easy data driven web pages, find a new niche, or build more complex sites.. 

You still enjoy the luxury of working b/c you WANT to, b/c you probably make way more than you need. I suggest you quit.  You never know what you have till it's gone.  It may make you appreciate the work you do when you return. 


I think programming tools is a dead end niche.  IMHO, one problem in software developement is the dearth of options, alternatives, and tools.  No one needs more tools.  There are too many free ones already.  If you want income, this is a dead end. 

Bella
Friday, May 10, 2002

i think i will quit for a while. i do see bella's point about exercising the mind. but I think nearly all "professions" you use brains rather than brawn these days. even most "jobs" aren't about breaking rocks at the stone quarry.

i think i'm going to wind down this summer (the two contracts i have need to be renewed in june and maybe i will just say i'm only available for extreme maintenance mode).
then in the fall take a grad level class and try to teach myself something hairy as well. if that doesn't seem satisfying, i'm going to become a snowboard instructor. :-)

quitter
Friday, May 10, 2002

> i'm going to become a snowboard instructor. :-)

You'll HATE snowboard instructing after 2 months, I bet.  Sounds great on paper, probably sucks in real life. 

"Ugh, not another idiot yuppie SUV soccer mom who thinks she's gonna snowboard with her hiphop suburban metal skating college bound 13 year old son"

Bella
Friday, May 10, 2002

actually I was a snowboard instructor in college. those soccer moms and their kids aren't really any worse than the idiot suburban SUV accounts managers and metal skating hiphop sysadmins whom I worked with during the dot com era. :-)

quitter
Friday, May 10, 2002

Whoever told you to "get married, get a mortgage, and have 2.1 kids ASAP. All your "fulfillment" problems will vanish overnight! ;-) "  is an idiot. Quitter, sounds like you are depressed. You cannot think of anything to program? Or is it that the hard stuff to program is not database intranet stuff? Anyway, maybe you could setup a seminar on moping and complaining. If you have not had a job outside of programming you will find that brain usage is next to zero. I used to be statistical analyst (sounds good) and did nothing; then promoted to risk analyst (sounds good) and did the same.

Jeb
Friday, May 10, 2002

Quitter,
How old are you, and what is your living situation?
(bear with me, I'm going somewhere with this.,...)

Bella
Friday, May 10, 2002

Quitter, I've been where you are and this is what worked for me, remember a) you NEED money man, without it life is dull, b) being poor is very, very bad and c) just because youre not doing something you dont like, i.e coding, doesnt mean that you're a happy chappy either.

My solution is to work less, say 15-20 hours a week that will keep the wolf from the door, maintain your skills and give you time to look for something else.

Hang in there, but relax and take it easy for a while, I was miserable about work for a while, but now I'm back full steam and the cash is flowing because I took the time to recharge big time, I smelt the roses and it was worth it.

Tony
Saturday, May 11, 2002

I'm 27 and rent an apartment.

I could very well be depressed, but the depression seems to go away on weekends and come back the next time I start working.

I realize I need money, etc. But I'm rapidly aging and it doesn't seem like the amount of money I can make is going to continue increasing. In fact, it seems like if I stay a programmer most likely my rates are going to start decreasing. However, that's another thread entirely! I'm just thinking that if I'm not gonna make megabucks anyway, I should probably at least do something I like with my time.

quitter
Saturday, May 11, 2002

You should quit now.  Leave IT to the geeks who would have gone in anyway even without the money.  Actually I keep having dreams that I'm back at school, stacking shelves in a supermarket.  You know where you are with cereal packets.

Yeah it's the evil money that keeps us in the industry. As to part-time (15-20 hours) - how many employers really give that kind of opportunity?

Mat Watson
Saturday, May 11, 2002

Quitter,

Most programmers have some kind of innate love of problem solving and the thought process that coding requires.  Maybe you just fell into IT during the boom.  If so, there's a good chance you don't have that "inner love" 

Based on that assumption, I doubt you'll last very long in this field anyways.  For example, you probably aren't going to constantly update your skills on your own time unless you love it.  I say find a new field while you're young, your future in IT doesn't seem promising. I say you're peaking as we speak



>. As to part-time (15-20 hours) - how many employers really give that kind of opportunity?

Good point.  All that "family friendly" HR PR is usually a bunch of lip service, probably aimed at getting the firm onto some kind of "Top 10 plastics manufaturers to work for"  rankings.

Bella
Sunday, May 12, 2002

I'm in a similar position, though having been out of work for over a year, the market is giving me serious signals as to which way I should go.

Software just isn't interesting to me anymore. Unlike when I started (for real) in the early 90's, it seems like there's ten zillion programmers out there. Everything's been done. If you write something new and good and ask money for it, someone will write an opensource knockoff. If not, there's always a risk of a patent lawsuit.

So many business software projects are so ephemeral, likely to get tossed when the management decides to pursue another silver bullet platform. Many other software projects seem so inconsequential; ooh boy, another skinned MP3 player. Who cares?

Plus, it's a bit of a technological hamster wheel. What you know already is likely to become unmarketable, because recruiters want buzzwords, not generally applicable skills. So you've got to learn the new buzzwords, but which ones?

The technologies I know best are not marketable now, but I've little interest in shackling myself to a PC and a stack of O'Reilly books to learn other technologies - especially since that won't help me get a job since I won't have 3 years of experience with those new technologies.

I know I'm not an uber-programmer, and as I lose interest, I sure ain't getting any better. And I'm definitely not happy working on software. I think I'd be much happier getting an MA in History or something.

A low-wage job in a bookstore is strangely attractive, if not as a long-term proposition. On the other hand, I have those hefty college loans on my back.

(I'm 30 and single, fwiw)

Jon
Monday, May 13, 2002

Regarding career changes out of software development, I'm also somewhat perplexed about that. I'd love to know if anyone has some good resources.

I keep hearing about a lot of programmers burning out, or that lots of them leave around 30. But the only stories I ever read in detail are stories about stock option millionaires or Microsofties who retire young and buy a bowling league. I never see actual stories of people who have left the industry while still needing to make a living.

Jon
Monday, May 13, 2002

Jon, why don't you try teaching history?


http://www.jobhuntersbible.com/

Johnny Simmson
Monday, May 13, 2002

<< Jon, why don't you try teaching history? >>

Depends: what sport does he coach?

Sorry, that's an old, bitter joke a history major once told me. When he went into interviews, that was usually the first question he heard. At a lot of schools, "history" is the department to hold coaches so you can have them on staff to coach. He had an uphill battle finding a job, because he actually LIKED history teaching and didn't coach anything.

Martin L. Shoemaker
Monday, May 13, 2002

take 2 or 3 months off and travel.  it feels great not to have to do anything for a while, but eventually you'll be ready to start using your brain again.  go back to work for 6-9 months.  lather, rinse, repeat..

xn
Monday, May 13, 2002

I still recomend working less hours, you said that you have two contracts, let one go and stick with the other.
It can be done.

Tony
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Oh and another thing, I have felt the way you have and basically I dicovered that my job was'nt hard enough, once the challenge ramped up so did my enjoyment. Sometimes a break can be the opposite of what you really need, more pressure can also be the answer. Its a difficult thing to help sombody with, if you're going to jump of a bridge or something, quit. Otherwise, work the angles.

Tony
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

I think tony hit the right chord for me. I'm not an english major cum perl programmer for a dot com. (although I did work for a few dot coms)

I've got a physics degree and got into programming as an undergrad because my advisor needed some help parsing some atmospheric data he had collected in antarctica. I do like technical challenges and think a lot of my ennui is due to just plain old boredom. I think I'll take a bit of time off, and maybe I can come back and try to start anew at something more science or engineering related. Bella is right, my career in "IT" is peaking, and hopefully I can exit it soon. I'd much rather be solving problems for a research lab, than solving them for a bank...

quitter
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

**this is Loooooong. read only if you got time **


Dear Quitter,

I am in your shoes and I am 20 years-old and still in college. Half way into a college education that will nearly drain my parents of their resources, I find that I am eternally unhappy and wanting of something that really makes me want to live.

On one hand, I feel that if my future computer science degree can earn me decent money, there is no reason to back out of it at this early of a stage. What if later on I encounter something that I just happen to enjoy?

However, the counter argument is that if one is pursuing what one loves, one will continually strive to be the best possible at that activity. For example, that's why you see the best sports stars seem to always get better year after year while their body allows it. They always want to be better at what they do. Essentially, that is what we all strive to want, that is what we all would be doing if we lived in brick houses with white pickets fences, a porch, and Lassie running around with the kiddies.

A few years ago when I was depressed, I thought to myself, "Can the world really be this small?" You know, life does not have to be confined to the mold that you've become accustomed to day after day. Everyday that you wake up, you have the choice to go out and change something about your life. Whether you have financial or family or social obligations that hold you back, it still does not change the fact that you can, at any time, change your status.

You live in a world that is vast and rich and full of opportunities. This is what you have to decide on. Truth of it all is that perhaps there are corners unturned in regards to the software business. Is it really possible that at the age of 27, you know EVERYTHING you like and dislike about the software industry? Could it just be possible that there could be something out there about software that you can enjoy doing?

Of course, the other way to look at it is that the tiny microcosm that you live in perhaps doesn't plainly reveal all the possibilities that the world has to offer. Maybe if you go out and look around, you will find something else that you enjoy MORE than programming - something that you will love so much that you will never-endingly try to become the best you can be at it. Maybe that activity/job is snowboard instructor, I don't know.

The final decision is whether you feel that your time is best spent to try and discover your true niche in programming or your true passion in life. Ultimately, you have to decide that for yourself. As for my personal decision, I think I will try and go as far with computer science as possible, and when it really seems like I cannot go any further, I will give one more push. And if after that one last push I get no where? Then I will definitely look for something else.

robert k.
Friday, May 17, 2002

Peace!

Well, Peace Corps, actuallly...

I knew a developer once -- call him Jim. Jim was a really bright UNIX guy (didn't know a lick of Windows, but we got along anyway). A few years before I met him, at the ripe old age of 30-something, he was an extremely highly paid consultant managing and working a number of successful projects. He strived on the tension and the constant challenge and activity.

Jim also had ulcers, high blood pressure, and (his doctor predicted) a heart attack in the relatively near future.

The doctor gave him a choice: find a new life and a new attitude, or get his affairs in order for his next of kin.

So Jim joined the Peace Corps for a couple of years. You know the drill: they sent him overseas to help grow some developing country, yada, yada, yada... Well, the Peace Corps is more than the stereotype, I learned from him. See, the particular developing country they sent him to (Fiji, I think -- somewhere tropical) was trying to modernize their information infrastructure; and Jim was quite a catch.

So he did a lot of what he did in the USA, but in a different, more relaxed culture. And he got to see the world. And he got to get his hands dirty, because they needed MORE help than just with information systems. And he got to work closely with people who directly benefitted from his work. And he also got some lessons in limitations: he could try to help, but there were problems where he couldn't, AND there were "problems" that were really cultural differences, and his way wasn't necessarily the right way.

I never met Jim-the-incipient-heart-attack. Thanks to the Peace Corps, I met Jim with the relaxed attitude, Jim with the great sense of humor, Jim who could walk away from a problem because he was NOT his work, and Jim who enjoyed his life.

Jim's solution is not for me. I love programming, and consulting, and training, and learning new technologies, and solving problems. I love my wife and our dogs and our horses and our home in the country. I ain't goin' nowhere.

But if you're young and looking for a change, consider the Peace Corps. Like the military, they won't promise you a particular assignment; but there's some evidence they value information skills. And it might really help to meet the people who benefit from your work.

Martin L. Shoemaker
Friday, May 17, 2002

actually after my first dot-com flamed out, i went to east africa for 6 weeks and volunteered in a medical facility. it was good in the sense that it made me appreciate having a job, running water, not having malaria, or my jaw bit off by a hyena, etc. I came back refreshed and was good to go for about 18 more months, then realized i was bored and frustrated again.

to robert k, if you are only 20 and already don't enjoy computer science, i would see what else you can get into, i don't believe it is really going to get better as you go on. the best paying software/IT jobs require the least amount of computer science knowledge. if you want to stick with computer science-y type stuff, start looking into genome/bioinformatics stuff. you will actually use more real computer science, as well as learn about actual "real" sciences, like biology and chemistry. and it will pay better. beware, though, i think a lot of bioinformatics jobs are going to be the same old shit , but with different data in the database...

FWIW: one idea I had been toying with is becoming a trader for a stock brokerage. i figure, if i am mainly working for money, why don't I just get a job where all I do is deal with money all day. So, i've read a bunch of trading books, and i'm not sure that profession is really for me, although it sounds like a lot of fun. one thing that I got out of the books though, is the better ones have a lot of discussion about the psychology of success, which I am finding very useful in changing my perspective on my career. So, if anyone out there is frazzled and frustrated, i'd check out the following books: New Market Wizards, Market Wizards, Trading for a Living, and anything mentioned in those books.

i think really what it boils down to, is that i just dont really care about the problems I'm working on, because they are boring to me. certainly i can do the work, but i just no longer find it interesting. i'm going to try to get into a totally different area of programming (more "engineering" vs. "IT") and see if i find it more fun, if not...i'll probably flame out of the industry altogether. thanks for all the comments.

quitter
Friday, May 17, 2002

Robert K,

You college kids crack me up.  You have TO MUCH time on your hand to overanalyze things.  Go do a few bongloads and try to get laid.  That is your ONLY responsilbity to yourself and your parents, while in college.  The rest is all hype.  That should cure your depression at the same time,

I reiterate my kids theory to you also:
Once you have kids, these thoughts of "satisfaction" will be moot. You'll be glad to have a paycheck. I suggest you go get married, get a mortgage, and have 2.1 kids ASAP. All your "fulfillment" problems will vanish overnight! ;-)

Bella
Saturday, May 18, 2002

Hey quitter,
  I have faced situations like yours before. I am a tech guy through and through, but its important to me to be able to make a difference in what I do and exercise my creativity.

  I like the satisfaction of solving problems however little, and seeing things getting built with my own hands. I have learnt to see achievement in little things, and the sum total of my achievements gives me work satisfaction. Other peoples opinions (outside of pay reviews) are fairly irrelevant.

  That said, i am very picky and fussy about my work. I get really depressed when I am stuck in a rut. I have never really been in a situation where my work has been routine or dull (with the exception of long term architecture/ documentation work) but I am pretty certain that I wouldn't like it much. I might like it enough if I was paid well for it, but I don't know.

  I am the same age as you, and yeah, I feel old; which is a really wierd feeling. I look younger than I am (long may it remain so) but I find that in my last few jobs I am always trying to recreate a historically happy time in my working experience.

  One person mentioned that you can live to work, or work to live. I try to find jobs where I can do both. I am Irish, and we know how to do both. But still as I get older, I wish there was more to my live besides work. I go skiing and love it, I like travelling and i am a bit of a party head too. But a guy I know quit his job and went on a years trip to new zealand, and I was so jealous.

I have travelled and worked abroad, maybe you should do something like that too. get a feel for a different working life. Find out what you like about work and what you don't. Maybe its not programming you dislike, just the environment that you are doing it in. If you can't get a lesser working week, try getting more holidays in your next pay review. Use it to really see the world, its refreshing to see a country where people have real priorities. Try it.

Richard
Monday, May 20, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home