A Lifetime of Software

  • I got bitten by the computer bug when I was 16 and aside from a few odd jobs to get me through college my career has been spent as a programmer/analyst at a handful of small companies, with a few years as a hired gun (consultant) at a fortune 50 company.

    I can say without equivocation I will be in this until I retire (which is sooner than I like to think about :hehe:).

    As far as recommending this career to others?

    Well, yes, but with a ton of caveats.

    If you follow the kind of path I did you will work alone, with minimal support, expected to handle all kinds of oddball fires while still doing development.

    No one will ever understand or value what you do, so you have to love the work and do it for your own satisfaction, not the plaudits of others. While you will be reporting to others and have to develop good communication skills (written and verbal) the majority of your time will be spent alone, deep in your own mind, where you live and work inside a world of your own creation.

    The money's good, but if that's all you're in it for you'll burn out within 5 years and move on--assuming you still can.

    First, last, and always it's the love of the craft and nothing else that keeps you waking up in the morning eager to get to work. Because if you lose that, the day to day crap, the lack of recognition, the constant demands on your time when you *JUST WANT TO GET THIS PROGRAM FINISHED, DAMN IT!* will drive you out--or drive you postal.

    And when you retire and look back on your career, your victories will be yours, your failures will be yours, and no one else will ever know what you truly did.

    Still tempted by that great salary? 😀

  • roger.plowman (5/10/2016)

    And when you retire and look back on your career, your victories will be yours, your failures will be yours, and no one else will ever know what you truly did.

    Surely you mean "Your victories will be your manager's and your failures will be yours"? 😀

  • m_swetz (5/10/2016)


    Money is good relatively speaking, but work/life balance is poor as the expectation is that I can be reached at all times, can work weekends, etc.

    There's often a general feeling that companies 'own' their IT staff and work/life concept doesn't apply. What's that? You have plans this weekend? Sorry but there's 20-30 hours of maintenance or code migration work to do... we've known about it for a few days but just telling you now at 4.30pm Friday...

  • TheFault (5/10/2016)


    m_swetz (5/10/2016)


    Money is good relatively speaking, but work/life balance is poor as the expectation is that I can be reached at all times, can work weekends, etc.

    There's often a general feeling that companies 'own' their IT staff and work/life concept doesn't apply. What's that? You have plans this weekend? Sorry but there's 20-30 hours of maintenance or code migration work to do... we've known about it for a few days but just telling you now at 4.30pm Friday...

    That's been my experience.

  • paul.knibbs (5/10/2016)


    roger.plowman (5/10/2016)

    And when you retire and look back on your career, your victories will be yours, your failures will be yours, and no one else will ever know what you truly did.

    Surely you mean "Your victories will be your manager's and your failures will be yours"? 😀

    Nope. Part of the whole "do it for yourself without the plaudits of others" bit... 😉

  • TheFault (5/10/2016)


    m_swetz (5/10/2016)


    Money is good relatively speaking, but work/life balance is poor as the expectation is that I can be reached at all times, can work weekends, etc.

    There's often a general feeling that companies 'own' their IT staff and work/life concept doesn't apply. What's that? You have plans this weekend? Sorry but there's 20-30 hours of maintenance or code migration work to do... we've known about it for a few days but just telling you now at 4.30pm Friday...

    If that's what you routinely have to deal with, then just "think outside the box" by finding a better job.

    There is a certain IT Darwinism at work in the economy. What I mean by that is IT drives corporate bottom line, and it's survival of the fittest. Those companies who know how to manage and retain IT employees attract good talent, while those companies who treat their employees like 20th century coal miners or fast food kitchen staff will lose talent and become uncompetitive. There are a lot of companies who were name brands in the past, but today are dimenished and barely turning a profit. They also have a bad reputation within IT circles. It's not a coincidence.

    Invest in IT or die.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • The only certainty is that when it comes to predicting the future, there's no certainty. The current plan for my wife and me is that my wife has another 7 years at the observatory, then she's got her 25 in and we'll probably be looking at Chile for her next telescope since she'll still be well short of retirement and I'll be just over 60 then. While I might be able to telecommute, assuming I'm still in my same position when that time comes, I anticipate a career change. I might do some IT consulting, but there's no telling where we'll end up so I might fall back on volunteering at a local library until I can leverage that in to a position. I might be able to leverage photography and possibly game design in to some money. I won't need a large amount of income, I just want to be busy and useful.

    What I should do is spend time studying astrophysics and astronomy, but I don't have the math background or the interest. THAT is something I could leverage in to an IT position at an observatory, but honestly, I'm not sure that I'm too keen on that. I'm content to leave that as my wife's thing and I'll just hang out there and take some photos.

    As far as recommending it to a younger person? I don't know. It's very specialized, and just this morning I saw on Slashdot a newspaper chain outsourcing its IT to India and the workers having to train their replacements. There will always be a need for local/domestic IT, but considering wage growth compared to inflation, I don't know if it'll be a good way to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in 20-30 years.

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    [font="Arial"]Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves or we know where we can find information upon it. --Samuel Johnson[/font]

  • Most people in the IT field grew up with technology and have a great passion for what they do.

    (I started writing BASIC programs on BBC Microcomputers and my knowledge and career has not stopped evolving since, even though I had a couple of brief stints outside of the field).

    Moving into a completely new profession might be difficult and scary. Moving into management might be depressing as well when you realize that your days of being involved hands-on with the technology are over. Unfortunately management is the natural career path for many if you decide to stay in the profession.

    However, I believe that you still need to specialize in at least one field/technology as you get older, even if you take up a management role.

    There are many younger guys that grew up with new technologies that are eager to implement and work with it. Specialization will ensure that your skills are still needed/appreciated until the day you retire.

  • There are many younger guys that grew up with new technologies that are eager to implement and work with it. Specialization will ensure that your skills are still needed/appreciated until the day you retire.

    I'm not so sure about that advice. I cannot put myself in the 'younger guys' category any longer but I'm constantly being asked to work with new technologies whether that is Azure, containers, DHTML, microservices or what have you. The younger crowd may 'grow up with' it (new technologies) but I still have to 'do it'.

  • Because they grew up in an era without cubicles, the younger wave of IT recruits are (generally) more socially adept than those of us with gray hair; I'll give them that.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • Eric M Russell (5/11/2016)


    Because they grew up in an era without cubicles...

    Free range programmers? 😀

    Actually, in 30some years I've never truly worked in a cube farm. I've always had a private or mostly private office, I guess I've been lucky.

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    [font="Arial"]Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves or we know where we can find information upon it. --Samuel Johnson[/font]

  • I have found myself too far away from technology in the last 5 years but fortunately not quite management. I need to spend time back on the programming keyboard and get myself away from Word, Excel and Outlook.

    There was a time when I could code all day long. Sadly no longer the case.

    Gaz

    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • Eric M Russell (5/11/2016)


    Because they grew up in an era without cubicles, the younger wave of IT recruits are (generally) more socially adept than those of us with gray hair; I'll give them that.

    Interesting point.

    I reckon there have been several shifts to contribute in this area. The prevalence of IT in schools from the earliest stages has now diluted the idea of geeks; an interest in IT is now accepted as mainstream in society. However, the advent of smart phones has started changing the way that everyone interacts, so perhaps it's not new IT recruits who are more socially adept as much as everyone has become less socially adept, but found more common ground.

    Who knows? I'll happily agree, though, that when I answer someone that I work in IT, they'll now wait to see what I have to say before their eyes glaze over.;-)

    Semper in excretia, sumus solum profundum variat

  • I am clearly in the minority here. For me the IT world IS my second career. I spent a decade as a chef prior to going back to school for a new direction. I did a little dabbling in high school with development...if you can call it that...on an Apple II. That class did somewhat light my passion for computers and development.

    I wrote a school English paper on an old "portable" IBM XT in Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS . I preferred that because I could control the formatting better than wordstar. My teacher promptly failed my paper because "obviously the computer wrote it for me". My parents had to take that one all the way to the principal to convince her that the computer did not in fact write papers for students. I tried to convince her I was doing her a favor by not writing it by hand which would make it much easier to read than my handwriting. My how times have changed since those days.

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  • Sean Lange (5/12/2016)


    I am clearly in the minority here. For me the IT world IS my second career. I spent a decade as a chef prior to going back to school for a new direction. I did a little dabbling in high school with development...if you can call it that...on an Apple II. That class did somewhat light my passion for computers and development.

    I wrote a school English paper on an old "portable" IBM XT in Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS . I preferred that because I could control the formatting better than wordstar. My teacher promptly failed my paper because "obviously the computer wrote it for me". My parents had to take that one all the way to the principal to convince her that the computer did not in fact write papers for students. I tried to convince her I was doing her a favor by not writing it by hand which would make it much easier to read than my handwriting. My how times have changed since those days.

    Wouldn't that have been awesome! Image a high school kid back in 1985 programming their PC to write term papers.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

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