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Alternate jobs for programmers

Who here has known a programmer who moved into something else?  What did they do?  I am basically looking for something that will allow me to feel like I haven't wasted a bunch of time programming.  : )  In other words, what career path can you take that doesn't involve actually writing code, but maybe having programmed before is beneficial.  I am getting sick of feeling like a code monkey, just pounding out drivel.  I know that is not what it's like everywhere, but a lot of places are like that, and in general I feel a career as a programmer wouldn't be very rewarding for me.

I know I could tell you more about my background, but I'm just curious to see what other people have done.  It doesn't have to translate into advice for me.

Examples: user interface designer, technical writer, academic-type job, useless manager : )

Sunday, July 20, 2003

I get that feeling sometimes too. I enjoy designing and building software, but I am often frustrated by the amount of time wasted with stupid problems with reinventing the wheel (according to the new spec), Windows bugs, and C++ memory leaks/corruption. Do I really want to be dealing with these same problems 10 years from now? This probably makes me sound like a bad programmer, but I'm really not THAT bad!  :-)

I could imagine transitioning from software engineer to program management, where you design the software features and specs. Your technical background would be useful, but you wouldn't have to deal with the bang-your-head debugging sessions and 12-hour work days..?  :-)

Swamp Justice
Sunday, July 20, 2003

It's usually best to follow the money. Greater stability, more money (naturally), and greater respect follow.

In general, software development intersects "the money" in one of two ways: if you're developing a product, then your employer depends upon your product as a revenue source. If you're in corporate IS, then your work supports the production of revenue and cost savings.


>> user interface designer

Most companies, and this includes many SW product companies, don't respect a role like this and expect the programmer to do it all. They'll say things like "well, that's part of your job!"

>>technical writer

Too far distanced from the money. No respected by programmers nor management in the least (unfortunately).

>> academic-type job


>>  useless manager

Grow hooves for feet. Seriously, act the part that the company is ALL and is morally supreme, and your fellow man means nothing. Management means being a card carrying member of the "inner party", and the programmers who are the Winston Smiths of the "outer party" are those that you dominate...

Bored Bystander
Sunday, July 20, 2003

Well this topic touches a nerve ...

I'm a programmer and have been wrestling with the career path question myself.  An an acquaintance suggested sales and marketing (he was a programmer and has an academic background in CS, but is now a sales executive in the high-tech sector).  I've been thinking about returning to school for an MBA while looking for a more avenue into sales out of the corner of my eye ...

Immature programmer
Sunday, July 20, 2003

yes, being a dev manager could be fruitful. Having a technical background is often not necessary, but it may be a helpful differentiator. And management would never allow wily engineers to manage themselves, so where ever there are engineers, dev managers were sure to follow.  :-)

Swamp Justice
Sunday, July 20, 2003

A friend of mine was one of those "will do vaguely technical stuff for cash" types, not really a programmer but could fake it.

A few months ago he started down the route to become an actuary.

Chris Tavares
Sunday, July 20, 2003

"Examples: user interface designer, technical writer, academic-type job, useless manager"

Here are a few more IT related job roles you neglected to mention:

* Multimedia designer (Video Engineer, Audio Engineer, 3D modeler, Graphic Artist, etc.)
* Security Expert
* Quality Assurance expert - (i.e. a Tester)
* Information Architect
* Account Manager
* Systems Architect/Systems Analyst
* Business Analyst

There are certainly people earning a living in all of the IT related job roles you mentioned, as well as, the ones I listed here.  The problem for someone looking to start a career or looking to change careers is that they don't know how many of those type of jobs are really available out there!

Imo, what makes a career in programming so difficult is that there really isn't a career path for programmers.  While there is a very diverse spectrum of people out there performing programming related duties, there are also a lot of employers/managers out there who believe that there is something wrong with a person who is still programming computers in their [insert your magical birth age number here]. 

For many people, programming for a living is a temporary job and not a career. Sometimes people leave the computer industry by choice and sometimes they are forced out (nobody is willing to hiring them).

One Programmer's Opinion
Monday, July 21, 2003


I have no problem with following the money... but it seems there is only one way to do that, like you imply, and that is to become what I hate.  : )  I'm being a bit dramatic... but I don't really have a knack for politics, which is what it seems you must master to be a manager, or at least a good one.  I don't have the heart to be a whip-cracker either, which is rewarded at my company.  It seems like the guys that are promoted are the ones that have enough balls to be a total ass to their co-workers.

If you're just one step above the plebes, then you don't have it much better, you probably get stepped on by your managers just as much, and plus you are probably the first on the blame ladder (at my job at least I think it is bad form to blame individual engineers directly).

I agree with your assessments pretty much about the other careers... unfortunately.  Nobody seemed to have any other revolutionary suggestions, which is not surprising.

SJ, I have thought about "program management", but I'm not sure what it means exactly and if it really exists in most company.  This seems like the concept of "software architect" -- sounds good but how many companies really have them?

Though I do have a friend who is a program manager as microsoft.  He doesn't really enjoy it -- refers to it as "writing specs".  But he's making quite a bit of cash too.  But that seems like a bit of a dead end...  I would be very sad if my career goal was to write specs for Microsoft.

If anyone here is a program manager, I would be very interested to hear what their job entails.  From what I gather, it is not really a common job.

Monday, July 21, 2003

OPO, can you describe the roles you listed?  I know the first 3, but I'm not too clear on the last 4.  I don't work with what you might call "business" software, I work on games, so the last 4 sound vaguely familiar but I don't know what they are specifically.

Monday, July 21, 2003

It depends on whether your next job will be greater or lesser than your last job. If you were a IT manager, do you want to code again? Or do you want to take on more responsibilities. Double as HR and manage the mangers of IT teams.

Li-fan Chen
Monday, July 21, 2003

Jazz drummer/singer

M.Davis' fan
Monday, July 21, 2003

> Jazz drummer/singer

Sounds good to me. How much does it pay? lol.
Monday, July 21, 2003

surely more than what *average* programmers get paid :-)

Prakash S
Monday, July 21, 2003

Forget drummer, they get too little respect. But a bass player on the other hand... If you don't mind travel, good money playing bass out there. :)

Monday, July 21, 2003

Seen on a bumper sticker:  "Real Musicians Have Day Jobs"

Monday, July 21, 2003

Whe I grow up and get over this computer programming stuff, I'm going to be a meteorologist...

Monday, July 21, 2003

Sorry for the Off-Topic, but I'm generally not qualified enough to chime in:

Q. What's the definition of an optimist?
A. A drummer with a mortgage.

Monday, July 21, 2003

I've been without a software development job for a year.

When I was programming, quite a few people were suprised by the work I produced - in regards to the fact it went straight out into production without any real problems. As I get older I realise the world isn't the most sensible place at times, so I'm just resigned to things not making sense.

I don't think I'm even going to bother to apply for any more computer related jobs from now on.

Savage Planet
Monday, July 21, 2003

I forgot to add, I'm thinking of applying to do a part-time maths undergraduate degree. My first degree is in science and I have a one year postgraduate qualification in computer science.

At least afterwards I could get a job as a maths teacher.

Savage Planet
Monday, July 21, 2003

Q: What do you call those people who hang out backstage with musicians?

A: Drummers.

Monday, July 21, 2003

To those looking to leave programming:  what's the business you were writing computer programs to solve problems for?  Being the person who actually writes the code that makes the business run gives you a lot of insight into how the business really works and how it can be done better.

If you're writing software for the finance industry, you could probably go into a role as financial analyst or whatever.  And if you're angst is not programming per se, but just the frustrating serfdom of a programming position, maybe you have an insight into the killer app for your industry that your current employers are too clueless to see.  Then you can quit and put your current employers out of business :).

So think about what problems the software you write solves, and think about how those jobs can be done better.

Jim Rankin
Monday, July 21, 2003

> Forget drummer, they get too little respect. But a bass player on the other hand... If you don't mind travel, good money playing bass out there. :) <

I AM A BASS PLAYER!!! One quick glance at my website will tell you as much.

Anyway, see the Apathy thread ahalf dozen lines above this one for my rant.
Monday, July 21, 2003

Mime Artist. Yes, I'm serious. He made a good living at it too.

David Clayworth
Monday, July 21, 2003

>>technical writer<<

I don't know why Bored Bystander thinks technical writers don't make money.  In my experience, technical writers get paid as much as programmers.  I do.

The Pedant, Brent P. Newhall
Monday, July 21, 2003

I don't see how programming  could be seen as wasted time if you moved on to something non-tech.

It's just a job. If it doesn't blow your skirt up now, don't let it hold you back in doing what ever it is that will, whether that be drummer, video store clerk, ski instructor or brain surgeon.

Myself, I've recently been introduced into the world of sign language and am thinking of becoming an interpreter. It even pays better than being a disciple of trash development :)

Jack of all
Monday, July 21, 2003

Is that true about technical writers?  I haven't known any, but I got the impression that they don't make as much as programmers...

what's a typical starting salary?  assuming you have an engineering degree.  What do you top out at?

Tuesday, July 22, 2003


When you figure it out, let me know.

I'm tired of being a code jockey too.  Been coding for 19 years (15 professionally).

I keep telling my wife if I ever get laid off, I'm going to buy one of those French Fry trucks :)

Brad Clarke
Wednesday, July 23, 2003

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