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SW development feels like homework?

This analogy became evident one day when I checked out George Carlin's web site and he had a profanity laced excuse for not updating his web site:

Well, I finally found out that trying to keep a website up to date while still maintaining a full career schedule is a real pain in the ass. So here I am again, after about a six-month absence. This website stuff is a real bother, because it lacks instant gratification. There's no psychic payoff. All the other things I do give me a charge and a lift. This seems more like doing homework. Fuck that shit!

Obscenities aside :-) has anyone else here felt this way? 

And have you indulged it by changing career directions, or doing things differently?

For me, this feeling developed over the course of an almost two year client engagement. The client micromanaged the work to the point of everyday pain and hassle, and it finally got to the point that I could really do without the income while I found something more fulfilling to do.

This guy's work conditioned me to think of SW development  as a series of pointless makework tasks, not as this grand fulfilling climb of achievement that all software people are acculturated to expect. 

This trend in my thinking has been in development for years, and it was this last contract that turned me off to doing SW development for other people. Doing someone else's project feels like a menial, pointless bag of shit to me anymore.

I didn't used to be "this way". 11 years ago when I started freelancing I could whip myself into an enthusiastic frenzy over the dumbest assed client "need". Over the years my need for a feeling of order and purpose in my work has gradually overwhelmed my desire to keep a few bucks trickling in.

Maybe it's for the best. Like the freelance tech guy who posted about adware, I'm trying to find my way in marketing less geeky services to a broader clientele.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Considering the source, it doesn't surprise me that George Carlin doesn't like updating his website.

He's an entertainer, his gratification comes from standing in front of a crowd and making them laugh.

Tom H
Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Sounds like Joel needs to sell George a copy of CityDesk.  ;)

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

I've come to the belief that if you have a job where what you do is NOT 80% utter shit, you have it good.  If you have a job where what you do is even half fulfilling, you have a dream job.

Most "work", the stuff we do to earn a paycheck, is a waste of time.  The only benefit to it is that it allows us to keep drawing a paycheck.

So, you can either "play the game", realizing that your work time is a waste and finding value in the time outside work, or find a job that is fulfilling to you.

Should be working
Tuesday, June 8, 2004


I was in the same place you are, and my solution is to move on. I'm starting nursing school in the fall.

For me the reasons are deep and complicated, and by no means did this occur "over night." This path was started sometime around mid 2000.

I basically put it this way to people "I feel like I outgrew the job." Like you I used to throw myself wholeheartedly into the urgent drop-everything client need of the moment. It took several years to realize that there's always an urgent drop-everything client need, and satisfying any one of those needs usually does not make a difference to anyone anywhere. If you're lucky somebody says thank you and then you're on to the next great thing.

I mean, really, when will this field learn how to manage a project? Deliver something on time? Stop overpromising and under delivering? Stop expecting 12 hour work days? Stop setting schedules based on egos rather than reality? Care about our users enough to center our development around them and their needs?

I also describe my journey as a manifestation of a mid-life crisis. I'm 38, just about time for such a thing. But seriously, a mid-life crisis occurs when you realize where you are in your life and when you have and haven't done, and you realize you need to change to do the things you really want to. And then you make that change.

My career change is significant, and requires more education, so in the mean time, I have been doing independent contract work. This type of work has suited me very well at this stage in my life - project work without any emotional ties to the work. Also, strict rules for working such as no overtime (ie. I can only bill X hours per week, and I am *not* working hours I cannot bill). It make it easier for work to be "just work."

If you aren't already doing it, maybe contracting is a good way to go. Every outstanding programmer or software engineer ventures into contracting work at some point in their careers. It really helps you re-enter full time employment, if you choose that route, with eyes wide open.

Lauren B.
Tuesday, June 8, 2004


Excellent post and observations. We're on the same page, you and I.

Actually, I have *already* been contracting; I started in 1993. It really isn't a solution to the problem.

What I've found is that all software development projects for fee are usually just basically stupid, or the client wants something stupid, or the client thinks you're just a monkey with no brains, or the work is putrid, or because you're a contractor you are expected to wipe the ass of some FTE that has no talent, or you may not even get paid properly or on time.  Usually two or more of these factors are at play on any given client project.

I've thought of some medical type career but I simply don't feel comfortable with any of the choices.

My interim solution to the problem is to distance myself from software development, which more and more feels like useless makework, and try to find work that actually helps smaller clients with identifiable real life needs.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, June 8, 2004

I would shift careers in an instant, and just write programs as a hobby, if I could come close to matching my income and low-discipline white-collar lifestyle. (Even with some overtime, nobody counts my bathroom breaks.)

But my age and family obligations make it all but impossible. The impact on my family would be too great to take a dramatic cut in income. I intend to gut it out as a programmer as long as I can.

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

I would suggest that you think twice about jumping from SW to nursing. After seeing what my wife experienced going through nursing school 5 years ago to get her RN. Even though she is quite smart, it was a real battle to make it to graduation and then to pass the boards. She has been out there in the field for several years now and it is tough. If you work in the hospital the stress can be unbearable as at times she had 11 patients at once to take care of, doctors treating nurses like they had the ability of a janitor...

I on the other hand I "found" software 10 years ago. I have never worked for a company as a programmer, but always have been a consultant. I started my own company, which grew and the usual stuff happened. But rarely if ever, did I feel that my work was not important to my customer. Maybe since I have not been on the IT payroll of a large company, I can not relate to my job as make-work.

The strange thing is when it comes to pay differences, as my wife puts it  ".... and my job is only to save lives". I can go make $3,000 a week while the broken health care system will only pay her $700. Go figure.

If you going into nursing  to make a difference, I applaud you. If you are going into nursing because you think you will like the work better, you had better ask yourself; can I handle the stress, the hard physical labor and the often thankless and often abusive environment?

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

>I'm starting nursing school in the fall.
>I mean, really, when will this field learn
>how to ...  Stop expecting 12 hour work days?

Let me get this straight - to get away from 12-hour work days you're going into nursing.  Boy have I got some news for you.

Bah, you'll figure it out yourself.

Matt Foley
Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Nailed on a technicality. Sheesh.

Stop expecting 12 hour work days 5 to 7 days a week.

As a nurse, I will (generally) work 12 hour work days 3 days a week.

If I want OVERTIME PAY I will work more. Conversely, if I work more, I will get overtime pay.

If I am overtired on the job, I will put people's lives at risk. Hospitals have policies about this. Show me a fulltime exempt position in software development with similar policies. And overtime pay.

Lauren B.
Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Nurses make $20 to $30/hour, right?

If true, overtime pay is not needed if your salary is already 1.5x that... which most software jobs should be.

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

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