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Mid career woes/handling stress/alternate careers

I have three questions at the end.

I worked for a software company for five total years: four years as a hard core coder; one as a "manager".  It turned out that I was a great manager, and so my duties slowly shifted from coding to managing. I was happy for about two months, until I realized that I really liked coding more. The people I managed were sad to see me go, but off I went into the world of starting up a new company (with two others). Six months later I was on the street looking for a new job. I knew the risks, so I can't complain now...

10 weeks of unemployment later...

Now I work as an internal programmer for a corporation. They pay me well, but I spend less then 10% of my time programming, and 90% performing all of these sysadmin tasks that drive me crazy. The only reason that I am doing theses sysadmin tasks is that my peers cannot.

In the end, I realize that my base skill (like a base class) is in problem solving. I seem to apply it well in the people (manager) , IT infrastructure (sysadmin), and programming (coder) domains, and so I quickly become valuable in every organization that I work in.

Question0: Is anyone hiring in the Phoenix, AZ Area?

If you want a smart programmer producing solid code at a reasonable price, then I am your man.

Some days I am so stressed with my job and its propensity to grow into 5 jobs, that I want to toss in the towel and work at Starbucks. But I realize that I really just want a halfway decent manager who will have me focused on doing what I do best, programming.

Question1: How do you handle this kind of stress?

Question2: Other then Starbucks, what other careers could a domesticated and extroverted developer/engineer, like myself, do effectively?  I could explain why I am asking this question, but my post is long enough.


Monday, March 3, 2003

There a lot of jobs in Phoenix, AZ.  Have you looked on,,, the local newspapers, the local government boards, the local colleges.  I know Honeywell and other technology and defense contractors are big out there.

It seems to me you're either burned out or depressed.  Look for a career counselor, at least they are someone to talk to and discuss your issues with.  Also pickup the book, "What Color Is You Parachute." and check out the website,

Good Luck.

Monday, March 3, 2003

In what sense are your peers not capable of doing the sysadmin tasks that you do?  Could it just be a matter of convenience for them?

Taking on those annoying but necessary tasks can make you quite valuable to your employer.  But as you have learned there is a down side.

You need to find ways to make it clear to your employer that you are really good at the programming tasks.  Is there any way to differentiate yourself from the other developers you work with?

Monday, March 3, 2003

I think Intel and Motorola have offices near Phoenix, too. I don't know if they do software development do there (I live in CA).

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

How about Honeywell, their HQ is there...

Prakash S
Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Think you're right about needing a good manager.  You sound like me - if you don't *have* a good manager, you'll become one.  So if that's not what you want, you need to find a manager who's your equal or better in that field now, and strives to constantly improve, actively loves doing it.  (My current manager is pretty decent overall, but he truly loves development and would rather do that.  It's a huge problem for the two of us, and doesn't work too well for the rest of the development staff either.)

As to what career you should be in, anything that you enjoy, assuming you can get a job in it that pays "enough," and that has that manager.  On that last point I recommend staying as far away from software as possible. ;)

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Question 1: Handling the stress.

1. I'm up-front about the time I think I'll need to complete something and the impact on other things.  "Oh, well if you want me to finish X this week, that's fine but it means Y and Z will get pushed out past the end of the month."

2. I don't try to bite off more than I can chew -- this requires awareness of your own capabilities and limitations.

3. Just because my manager tells me to do something doesn't mean I have no choice but to say "yes sir" and then scramble to figure out how to do the impossible.  You cannot do the impossible, no matter how much someone would like that to happen.  However it's up to me to tell him he's asked for 10 impossible things before lunch :).  (Reference #1.)

4. My responsibility is limited to doing my job the best I can.  I'm not responsible for the department or the company.  If others slack, or are unable to accomplish their tasks, that doesn't mean I have to work harder to make up for their failure.

Those are a few points I've learned through experience that help me deal with an environment that is very stress-inducing (small company).


Tuesday, March 4, 2003

In an organization, programmers who are good managers but don't like managing, will rise to their own level of intolerance of managing and then leave for another programming gig.

programmers who are bad managers will have a similar experience but problem is other peoples intolerance and you get to call it the Peter Principle.

If you like programming and are a good manager, you may be a good candidate to start your own business. If so, short term contracts are best while getting started.

fool for python
Tuesday, March 4, 2003

I have to agree, if you have a broad base of skills (management, admin, programming) and don't like getting pigeonholed into one or the other, you probably want to work for a very small company, consult, or start your own business.  These are all situations where being a generalist is more important than being a specialist.

Colin Evans
Tuesday, March 4, 2003

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