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Another career?

We've had a bunch of topics lately involving programmer apathy, alternate careers, etc.

I've got a choice to make. I've been working as a programmer for 6 years, and have seen my income grow from 30 to 100K. For the last 2 years I have been working for a company that is a contractor for a gov't agency.  I'll spare you the details, but this job is a dead end - financially and intellectually.  Looking around, I find that I have acquired domain knowledge that nobody else has, plus I have the technical skills to capitalize on it.

To be specific about my skills: OOD, a bizarre proficiency in SQL, dimensional database design, activity based costing and first-hand knowledge of the systems and people who understand the agency's systems. Nobody else has this combinations of skills.

So I've been told that I am in the "cat-bird's seat."  I wasn't anticipating this (at all) but it look like I will accept a position in the agency. Absolutely zero software development culture, but i will be able to write whatever code I like in whatever language, etc - I just need to make my employer happy.

Is this hacker nirvana, or am I becoming a bureaucrat?       

Reluctant bureaucrat
Monday, July 21, 2003

Sounds great to me!  If you've already been there awhile anyway then it seems like trusting your instincts is a good idea.

Monday, July 21, 2003

30 to 100K in 6 years is pretty dam impressive.

Why are accepting the government agency position that was apparently offered to you?  Is it for job security? Will you have to take cut in pay?

One Programmer's Opinion
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

You're going to get -more- than 100K in a gov't agency with just 6 years expience?

That sounds wierd to me.  I'm assuming you've got to be a contractor, not an employee?

I wouldn't think you could make that kind of money in the FED as a GS-level employee.  You'd have to be SES.  And they don't give those jobs out to coders.

Fill me in more.  If you're going to be contract, that may be good, but It sounds like a 'new' position, which should mean you'd be the first to go if funding goes down ..


Matt H.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

The offer has about the same money, but with better benefits and security.  I was suprised how well the federal gov't pays.  In my area (they do a cost of living thing), a GS 14 or 15 makes 100K. But I would be hired as a full time person under an arangement the have for technical people.  I'm not going to get rich, but I have a family...

The thing is, I may never see another programmer in my life.  The work looks interesting, and I will be doing tons of coding.  Its just that I won't have any other developers to learn from, bounce ideas off, etc. Except you guys.

I should probably just stop the hand-wringing and make the jump. 


Reluctant bureaucrat
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

I'm in a similar position as yourself. I was contracting, then the market completely dried up in my state. I accepted a position with a local government contractor (Navy).

I'm the only application's programmer in the whole company. It's been very challenging to socialize. It's a manufacturing environment, and very structured as far as work conditions go: half-hour lunch, be here at a certain time, ID cards open doors between rooms. I really miss having other developers around to socialize and bouncing ideas off them. There's no software infrastructure, and my boss has resisted all attempts at setting up version control systems and defect tracking software.

I also have a family to feed, so I'm sticking around until the economy picks up.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

>In my area (they do a cost of living thing),
> a GS 14 or 15 makes 100K.

What's your area????  :-) 

Hector:  Talk to your boss about CMM.  If you're a DoD contractor, you REALLY should be looking hard at CMM.

JMHO ...

Matt H.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Matt - I'm in DC.

Each grade has 10 steps: a 14.1 is 81,602 and a 14.10 is 106,086.  A GS 15 tops out at 124,783.  Then they have another scale for "executives." 

Reluctant Bureaucrat
Tuesday, July 22, 2003


If you take the government job, perhaps you can get your socialization fix through user groups (both online and in-person) and perhaps contributing to an Open Source project.  (Assuming the job doesn't cut into personal/family time too much.  And if it does, my reaction is that it might not be worth it at that point.)


Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Thomas - I think you are right about the user groups and open source options.  And I think there is a fairly large community of contract developers for the agency that meet to socialize & exchange ideas.  This would be good for general technology info and networking. 

But the stuff I would be working on is pretty esoteric - the modeling of expenditures, togehter with performance measures and cost allocations.  I query a bunch of databases, do some calculations, and spit out Excel spreadshheets.  I haven't seen any open source projects along these lines,  so I may make the libraries I develop available as open source myself.  A few colaborators would make it worthwhile.

I'm going to do it in C#!  I've done related things in Delphi and Java in the past, so it should be an easy translation. One advantage of the new situation is that nobody will object...I can use the language I think is best.

Reluctant bureaucrat
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

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