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Our jobs... (again)

I've been thinking about the reason we cling to our jobs as developers, about why we are the way we are.

Every once in a while, say, oh... every day, there's a post saying that 80% of programmers are dumb, and that hopefully they'll be purged from the business by the downturn to make room for the rest of us (or at least the poster, who clearly sees himself as a superior being).
In almost all posts, no matter the subject, someone says: "I do this because I love it, I've been doing it since I was a child".

Now, this is what's bothering me. Our industry has just been downgraded. In the space of 2 years we were demoted from demigods to "a low skill job". Our work is being sent overseas and there's nothing we can do about it. It won't come back. The chinese do it for far less money, and probably better than us. Even better than the poster who's waiting for the rest of us to leave the business so things go back to the good old days.


Why do we cling to our jobs so dearly? Why are we fighting so hard to keep something that's doomed? Except for the true artisans in the business, like Joel, probably there won't be enough business to keep us busy. And let's be realistic, how many Joels can there be?



I just lost my bearings, I have no idea of where I want to go. But what I wrote is enough. Come on guys, tell me what you think.

RP
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I think we should give up. It's hopeless. We are doomed.

harbinger
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Who moved my cheese?

not mr. johnson
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The gravy train has indeed departed.

However, I'm confident that there is still more than a decent living left for those who don't mind a bit of hard work.

There are also a lot of people who jumped into programming when it was a gravy train.  I will be glad to see those dead weights moving on.

I don't consider these as dead weights because I am superior.  It is because they memorised a few brain dumps to get quickly certified while I am investing hours on serious study.

I am not superior, I have just invested a lot more time and effort into developing myself.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I don't think it really matters how much better you think you are than those 'deadweights'.  The very best assembly line worker is not a special snowflake.

The 'deadweight' has likely moved on to better opportunities while bitter techies want to know WHO MOVED MY CHEESE!?!?

not mr. johnson
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

RP - you are a happy chap.  Mid-week blues?

Ask yourself the question "If I was left $50m in someone's will would I carry on working?"  If the answer's yes then you're doing it for some deep reason - if not then you're just doing it for the money.  Congratulations it's a job not a career.

Yes there isn't as much money around now - that's why it's called a recession.  Since I hit adulthood I've seen *at least* 3 full cycles of boom & bust  - and a couple of economic bubbles - and there will be an upturn, if nothing else when all the kit bought in the run up to Y2K packs up.

If on the other hand you're doubting your skill set - well find something you enjoy and get yourself trained to an employable standard.  At worst you get a hobby.

A cynic writes
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Hrm.

I got a job straight out of college in 2003, when the economy was supposedly in the pits.

Recently, I was offered a 100K/yr position at another company. (Though I like this job a lot, though it doesn't pay as well.)

So I don't really have any idea why you think the industry is doomed.

SG
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Some people say that IT in the west will be decimated, and the majority of jobs will move offshore.

Others say that it's a short term trend that will reverse, and ultimately there will be boom times again.

The truth probably lies somewhere between those two extreames, but I don't think anyone really *knows* what will happen. They're just taking their best guesses.

Trust your gut instinct and do what you think is right. Because the so called experts don't have a crystal ball anymore than you do.

Sum Dum Gai
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

We're not doomed.

It's tempting, and easy, to look at a few glum reports of the industry and succumb to the "we're all doomed" mentality. Unfortunately, that is often a self-fullfilling prophecy.

Many people here, myself included, are doing quite well. We're working hard, focusing on improving our skills and businesses.

Stop brooding over bad press or even bad personal experiences in the industry. There are opportunities out there, but if you just focus on the bad then you'll likely never see them.

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

It's the 80% that is staggering around, proclaiming that the economy is in the pits [just as any unemployed friends are always the ones proclaiming the next big depression is upon us, and the Chinese are going to eat our cake we're doomed, etc] -- yet as others have stated: if you know your stuff, have a good background, and have a network getting paid good money for this profession isn't difficult. Is it an industry where someone can "sling some HTML", call themselves a webmaster/programmer, and command $150K/year? No, the gold rush is over for that sort of work.

Dennis Forbes
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I think it is rather like one of those peaceful alaskan towns that has experienced an oil spill off its shore.

Before the residents were happy enough, though none of them rich.  All of a sudden an oil giant is throwing money around.  People are earning big money and new arrivals are pouring in.

The effect can be devestating for the locals.  They suddenly find themselves priced out of the local markets in housing, etc.  There daughters have all started working at the newly opened strip joint.

When the work is finished everybody leaves, and the place is feeling empty.  A lot of be businesses that opened up to deal with the rush have closed down.

The place is never quite the same again, but the locals are glad that it's finally over.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"There daughters have all started working at the newly opened strip joint."

Not having any daughters I am more concerned that /I/ might have to work at the local strip joint, and with my hairy legs that's not funny.


Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I've been observing some parallels in our jobs with the fate of many manufacturing industries in the US. I live in the US in a state that has had a lot of traditional manufacturing and farming jobs that have dried up, and they aren't coming back (furniture, tobacco, textiles).

I wonder if programming is similar. Think about it. To some extent, software programming is somewhere between manufacturing and design. I think the powers that be are trying to make it less and less design/creativity and more brainless gruntwork, like how assembly lines have evolved. That way those powers can pay less and less for the work.

There comes a point in manufacturing where you simply cannot compete. This point happens when the quality is good (or good enough), and the price for the labor is the difference. For example, as long as the consumer goes for the lowest price, there is no way an American firm can produce Victorias Secret panties as cheaply as they can in Maldives or Sri Lanka. It can't be a quality issue, because the variability in the product (here vs. there) is not significant. And it is illegal for American companies to pay workers less than minimum wage here, but the wage less in those other countries.

So what happens? If the offshore programming huts produce good quality software for pennies on the US dollar (euro, etc.) why wouldn't a company go for it? The end result may very well be, for example, cheaper drug prices, because the pharma company reduced internal costs. Is that good? Well, yeah, but...

We comfort ourselves that their quality isn't as good as "ours" but that's only a matter of time, in my opinion. Those companies and those workers really want the business so they have every motivation to improve their quality. Plus they now have money to pursue higher quality initiatives such as training, language, CMM or ISO certification, whatever.

I also think that as the boom reaches the other countries, their economic advantage will lessen. As someone else stated about the oil spill, as people earn more money, it will take more money to live where they are. That means they need to earn more money....around and around....

I'm not all gloom and doom about the situation, but I do think software jobs will become less widespread. I think large manufacturers will take a large portion of their labor force overseas, particularly production of software. But there will always be smaller software manufacturers who need talent. And the talent they need will probably be more diverse than just writing code.

I'm with you, though. It does suck to be taken down off the demi-God pedestal. It was rather cool to have happened in my professional lifetime, though!

Lauren B.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

>Not having any daughters I am more concerned that /I/ might have to work at the local strip joint, and with my hairy legs that's not funny. <

Well, you could always shave your legs.

Beware the power of my stinky feet!
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

i'm wondering if there would be only 2 programmers in the world how could 80% work?

na
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I was an immigrant a long time ago, and I was a good technical person and could do tech translation at a price that the locals wouldn't even consider. So I got a lot of work in these days.
Then I got even better.
Then I got married, and then I became a father. I needed a larger income, which I found the market could bear.
My price started going up.
Indian programmer wages are going to start going up soon. The free market will take care of finding an equilibrium.
In places like Brazil and South Africa there may be a vast pool of talent in fields such as digital video editing just waiting for the same phenomenon to expand through universal broadband access.

Sandro Palacios
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The oft-repeated-in-similar-forms statement:

Ask yourself the question "If I was left $50m in someone's will would I carry on working?"  If the answer's yes then you're doing it for some deep reason - if not then you're just doing it for the money.  Congratulations it's a job not a career.

really chaps my ass. There is NO JOB OR CAREER I would continue with $50m, and if you answer differently, you're a liar or a dumbass.

Sure, I might "program" sometimes with my $50m, but it would be what I wanted to do. NO JOB OR CAREER offers you that opportunity all of the time. Even at Fog Creek We Smell Like Flowers Inc, you're sometimes going to have to do something you don't want or do it in a way you don't want.

Grow up. Jeezus; sometimes this field makes academia look grizzled.

MD
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Agree wholeheartedly - I do it for the money - and would clear out my desk tomorrow if bundle of cash landed on it. (which was rather the point of the comment).  There are no real deep reasons why people worry about there jobs - it's just the cash.

The only possible exception is the social work department of a London Council who won a pile (about 10 years salary each) on the national lottery and carried on as normal on Monday.  But then they were social workers. 

A cynic writes
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Most good programmers enjoy what they do for a living ... but there are other things they enjoy *more* that they can't do because they have to spend the time working.  A programmer might enjoy programming more than staring into space all day, but given $50M they might prefer to go cruising around the world or training for the Olympic archery team or living on a private island.

T. Norman
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

$50m? give me 500,000 and I won't work for rest of my life.

tired of hollier than thou attitude
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"There is NO JOB OR CAREER I would continue with $50m, and if you answer differently, you're a liar or a dumbass."

I'm not a liar and I'm certainly not a dumbass. And yes, I would continue doing what I do today even if I had unlimited funds.  Sorry if that "chaps your ass", but believe it or not, many people really do enjoy what they do for a living.

Granted, I work for myself so I don't have some moronic boss breathing down my neck, but no matter what, I would continue to be involved in software development. It was a hobby long before it was a career.

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I got into software because I thought the grand ideas on the edge of math, computer science, linguistics, and philosophy were very exciting and interesting. I had a good time for a few years writing various one-off programs. It was fun for awhile.

Computer science was cool, but "software engineering" per se is NOT COOL. Project plans, refactoring, scheduling, dealing with XYZ api du jour, dealing with all the crackhead managers and smelly boring doorknob developers, sitting on my arse 12 hours a day, gaining 20 lbs, no time for a social life, no women to speak of in the entire industry...BLEH. Combine this with the fact that at least half of software projects never see the light of day even if everything is executed correctly. What a waste of life. 

I say let the indians take as much of the work as they want. Someone has to do it, and I'm glad I finally have a good excuse to move on to something else.

$50M? As soon as I have $100K saved up (next may, so long as I don't have a heart attack) I'm taking a round-the-world tour and when I come back, I'm taking a job at a bookstore. The pay is shite, but at least I might meet some interesting people. 

_
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Oil industry, that's the place we all should go. Best company? Halliburton they have no competition contract to rebuild Iraq's oil industry.

Wish I was both Republican and Texan.

Utopia is a place where no moron exists
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Here's the article on NYT:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/10/international/middleeast/10GAS.html

Utopia is a place where no moron exists
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I keep doing what I do because I actually enjoy it.  If $50M dropped into my lap I'd quit my job, but would probably still code. 

I too see the parallels of software with manufacturing 10-20 years ago, and don't see any way to stop it.  I'm trying to think of something else to do without much luck.  If I had the money I'd go back to school for a PhD in Math (I've got a BS in applied math).  Then I could solve problems all day at a university, when not looking at chicks 30 years younger than me :)  I also wouldn't mind making $100k/year riding my bike, but I'm no Lance.  None of my hobbies lend themselves to a good paying career.  I spent 3 years managing software types, hated just about every minute of it.

Dang, looks like I'll transfer that weekly 10% from my 401k to lottery tickets.

Snotnose
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

50M and you'd still code!?!?!?

I'd like to fund/direct a few software projects, but there's no way in hell I'd want to be /in the trenches/on the assembly line/.

For me, this is just a job.  If the money goes, then I'll go.  I'll be just as happy to be away from the clods as they will to be rid of a "bandwagon-jumper".  Probably moreso.  Fortunately or unfortunately, however you want to look at it, this is the most tolerable job I've had, and I'm good enough at it to be paid in the top percentile for my area.

the real mccoy
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"For me, this is just a job.  If the money goes, then I'll go"

hopefully a _lot_ of programmers think like you.

It will mean that you lot will all fuck off pretty soon and those of us who program because we love it will be able to continue making a living.

all good :)

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Keep coding it's great but share some of that money with me I'd like to go and see south america especially rio. Have some biz to do down there.

Utopia is a place where no moron exists
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"hopefully a _lot_ of programmers think like you"


Dude, get on the cluetrain.

Business 101:  If a _lot_ of programmers went away, then the money would return, hence he would probably come back.


Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"Business 101:  If a _lot_ of programmers went away, then the money would return, hence he would probably come back."

maybe, or maybe not...but imagine that brief, blessed period where all the greedy assholes have fucked off from the industry and all that remain are computer geeks......

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Dude, you're saying a lot of what the open source people say. 

If I had 50 million, I'd take a year off to mountain bike various places, then I'd probably take a few years to get a masters in some liberal arts discipline.  Then I'd probably start a software company.

Crap.  I can do all that stuff now if I had some more gumption.  I guess just showing up for 40 hrs/wk to do something I enjoy isn't so bad.

 
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"Dude, you're saying a lot of what the open source people say.  "

Im definitely not an "open source person".

so maybe Im saying what all the non-greedy assholes in the industry say?

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The computer geeks are one of the main reasons I'm leaving the industry. Over ten years, I've met about 2 other developers that I'd want to hang out with outside of work.

Most of the other developers have been a bad combination of boring and obnoxious. I simply don't want to deal with or be associated with these people the rest of my life.

_
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Please keep the profanity down on the forum. In other words, watch your language please.

Utopia is a place where no moron exists
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Man, you must have worked at some really bad places to have only met 2 decent people. Or perhaps you're the boring and obnoxious one and nobody wants to have out with you?

Anyway, I'd leave in a second if I got 50 million. Programming used to be a hobby, but after doing it as a career, there's no joy in doing it as a hobby anymore. If I leave, then I get rid of a job I dislike, and possibly regain a hobby. It's win/win.

Sum Dum Gai
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

>> The computer geeks are one of the main reasons I'm leaving the industry. Over ten years, I've met about 2 other developers that I'd want to hang out with outside of work.

>> Most of the other developers have been a bad combination of boring and obnoxious. I simply don't want to deal with or be associated with these people the rest of my life.
---
>> Man, you must have worked at some really bad places to have only met 2 decent people. Or perhaps you're the boring and obnoxious one and nobody wants to have out with you?

........

The account above mirrors my experience.  I have *very* few programmer-geek friends. Most programmers generally are one or more of the following: victim mentality laden; overfocused on details and nits to the extent that common sense is disregarded; lacking emotional depth; personally self-absorbed; infatuated with their mastery of some details.  My friendships with most programmers have been shallow, tainted by implicit competition, and generally unsatisfying.  It's almost like any admission of social interdependency sends some programmers into a violent grand mal of denial. 

The guys I can deal with on an interpersonal level usually are not "intense" programmers who value the work itself as self expression.

There are a *few* exceptions, not many.

Now, how does this relate to the original poster's despair? In my experience, most programmers are emotionally inadequate to deal with real life, and the crap that this occupation has gone through in recent years shows this.

IE, half-people trying to prove themselves by pushing the Sisyphan boulder up the mountain continually. It would warp anyone.

Bored Bystander
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

In my experience, most people are emotionally inadequate to deal with real life. Programmers are just one of those groups that don't hide it as well as others.

Or is that too trite a thing to say? I don't know, but I feel that there's some general level of unease and emotional dispondency that runs through the population. I hardly think it's unique to programmers.

I guess it does depend on where you're from too, as to the qualities of your workmates. Americans in general take things far too seriously for my Australian tastes, for example.

Sum Dum Gai
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"And it is illegal for American companies to pay workers less than minimum wage here, but the wage less in those other countries."

This is an interesting point.

Western countries have absolutely no moral obligation whatsoever to provide access to their market to anyone. Thus market access can fairly by subjected to limitations. One such reasonable limitation would be to require that countries who wish to benefit from trade with western nations enforce a ban on child labor, prison labor, eliminate sweatshops and pay a fair, living wage to their employees. Now, these countries don't -have- to do this and no one can force them to, but we western countries don't have to accept their products made by slave labor by children and political prisoners.

Someone else commented about quality being equivalent. To him I say only I don't know what world you are living in but the quality of products I see from Malaysia, China and Indonesia -- the far east and south east, is *extremely* poor compared to comparable products made in western nations.

Dennis Atkins
Thursday, December 11, 2003

"Those companies and those workers really want the business so they have every motivation to improve their quality."

Ah actually it mas the same person.

Lauren, you've never been within 500 miles of a third world country sweatshop, have you?

I have and I can assure you that your statement is not true at all. Workers are motivated not to be beaten or fired or raped. managers are motivated to pay off inspectors, rape employees and cut every corner possible to make the shabbiest product they can get away with and pocket the difference.

Seriously.

There are some international organizations out there taht organize illegal educational tours to foreign sweatshops (illegal since you are normally not allowed to see inside them unless you use special methods.) I HIGHLY advise you to take advantage of one of these if you are interested.

Perhaps you have seen photos of the conditions in animal slaughter houses and wondered if you shoud become a vegetarian? Wait until you see humans, including children and the elderly, in situations similar to Auschwitz.

This is what you are supporting when you buy your Nikes and your Etch-A-Sketches.

Dennis Atkins
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Dennis, where were the sweatshops you just described? I used to work for a sneaker company and I spent 3 months out of a year in Korea. The factories we used there obviously not the greatest place to work - they were still factories, after all. However,  I'm pretty sure no one was getting raped or beaten. Koreans just don't put up with that shit.

shoes
Thursday, December 11, 2003

shoes,

The worse I saw was in Saipan, which is in a bizarre way part of the US. Indonesia and Malaysia are terrible as well. Have seen bad stuff in Mexico, including reports of rape and women forced against their will to get abortions, employees not being allowed to leave the compound, being locked in at night. These are largely foreign companies that own these plants in Latin America, BTW. Have not been to China but do know folks who have and there are some bad situations there.

South Korea is a 100% modern western nation, in my opinion, with human rights laws and standards the same as the west. I really really like Koreans. I wish they would export hteir culture to China and Malaysia.

Dennis Atkins
Thursday, December 11, 2003

My boss made approx $15M when our company got bought and he still comes in to work every day. Appears to enjoy it. Gave his old Honda to his son and bought a couple of luxury cars, but he could have easily afforded that beforehand.

pdq
Thursday, December 11, 2003

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