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departing programming, what is the next best step?

by thaigrrl (Monk)
on Sep 01, 2004 at 17:48 UTC ( #387617=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I have found that over the past 6 years of programming in Perl, the romance has fizzled for me. Don't get me wrong, I do love the art of programming, however I no longer enjoy working as a programmer in a company with unrealistic deadlines, no satisfaction or real visible end. As a primarily Perl programmer, what do you think would be the best logical step in a career? I have considered Business Analysis and Project Management but I am not sure if that's the right fit or not... I want something that requires a technical background, with less technical demands. Has anyone else experienced a dilemma like mine?
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Re: departing programming, what is the next best step?
by kvale (Monsignor) on Sep 01, 2004 at 18:06 UTC
    Sorry to hear that your work environment is getting you down.

    If the deadlines of the business world are causing too much stress, but you still like the idea of programming as a career, you might look at academic programming jobs. The pace is more relaxed, the dress code is nonexistent and flex time is the norm. Plus, academia does not own your mind as many companies do. Feel free to participate in any open-source projects you like and distribute code as you choose. The downside is possibly a pay cut.

    If you are burned out with respect to programming in general, I'd suggest a technical MBA. I've known a number of scientists who pursued this option and have been very happy with the outcome. The other successful options in my experience are technical journalism and intellectual property law.


      The pace is more relaxed, the dress code is nonexistent and flex time is the norm. Plus, academia does not own your mind as many companies do.

      Academia == Welfare for the educated.

Re: departing programming, what is the next best step?
by McMahon (Chaplain) on Sep 01, 2004 at 18:49 UTC
Re: departing programming, what is the next best step?
by jplindstrom (Monsignor) on Sep 01, 2004 at 18:01 UTC
    Yoy might want to Change your organization.

    If you still want to stay with your company, Project Manager sounds like a good position for doing something about those unrealistic deadlines.


Re: departing programming, what is the next best step?
by jZed (Prior) on Sep 01, 2004 at 18:09 UTC
    My own personal way to handle this is to always work in situations in which the goal of the programming is something I want to accomplish. There's still unrealistic deadlines and pointy haired bosses, but I use my desire to accomplish the goal as the motivator to get me through the B.S. I've turned down promotions and job offers a number of times because I am picky about what I do. Hasn't been great for my finances, but hey money isn't everything.

    If you want to stick with programming, one thing you might consider is working in an academic environment - universities often have a different attitude towards time and personell and a greater recognition that people need to set their own pace (though of course that varies from dept. to dept.).

Re: departing programming, what is the next best step?
by KPeter0314 (Deacon) on Sep 01, 2004 at 18:23 UTC
    You could also stick with IT and move to something like System Admin work. I take care of a couple hundred Unix systems and still get to program a little to keep me sharp. Mostly it is for myself so there is little pressure to get it done and if I so want to look at a new technology or fool around with a MySQL database to keep track of things, then I can do that too. I've gotten some of the best satisfaction in some of the stuff that I have written for our admin group that is actually quite useful.

    I would agree with the MBA step. It takes time and work, but always seems to help on the bottom line when getting a new job or just getting raises.

    Any way you do it, good luck with it and I hope it is fulfilling.


Re: departing programming, what is the next best step?
by jacques (Priest) on Sep 01, 2004 at 18:20 UTC
    I no longer enjoy working as a programmer in a company with unrealistic deadlines, no satisfaction or real visible end.

    Sounds like you need to find another company, not another field.

Re: departing programming, what is the next best step?
by dragonchild (Archbishop) on Sep 01, 2004 at 18:20 UTC
    Personally, I'm getting certified as both an Oracle and a MySQL DBA. That way, I get to do some development when I feel like it, but I also don't have the stupid deadlines. Plus, I get satisfaction whenever my database doesn't go down. :-)

    We are the carpenters and bricklayers of the Information Age.

    Then there are Damian modules.... *sigh* ... that's not about being less-lazy -- that's about being on some really good drugs -- you know, there is no spoon. - flyingmoose

    I shouldn't have to say this, but any code, unless otherwise stated, is untested

Re: departing programming, what is the next best step?
by hardburn (Abbot) on Sep 01, 2004 at 20:03 UTC

    My personal plan, should I ever get to the point where I want to leave programming, is to become a paralegal. They basically do research all day. The idea of spending 9-5 with my head stuck in a book greatly appeals to me, and the law can be quite interesting.

    "There is no shame in being self-taught, only in not trying to learn in the first place." -- Atrus, Myst: The Book of D'ni.

      Yep. I recently heard about someone who moved from CS into legislation describing a lawyer's work as "hacking the law".

      Even better if you can work pro bono to assist free software projects in their quest for justice, as Eben Moglen proposed to a law student who was asking how he could help.

      Makeshifts last the longest.

        I agree.
        In fact, I believe that the profile for a good programmer and a good paralegal are parallel. If I'm not mistaken, the preferred MBTI scores are the same. (Meyers Briggs Type Indicator)
Re: departing programming, what is the next best step?
by bluto (Curate) on Sep 01, 2004 at 18:28 UTC
    If you want to stick with technical work (not just management) you may want to look into Education or, as a last resort, Government. I've been programming at a science lab for about 10 years. The "deadlines" are easy and I don't have PHBs breating down my neck all of the time. Getting decent pay can be a problem and usually requires an in-demand advanced degree. You'll want to research what specific institutions are looking for and paying and if necessary plan ahead (e.g. I had to go back to school for a few years and get an MSCS).

    Update: added missing word 'at'.

Re: departing programming, what is the next best step?
by KeighleHawk (Scribe) on Sep 02, 2004 at 19:24 UTC
    Due to the great "dot-bomb" many people have taken a step back to reconsider thier careers. Especially those in california. I have heard the numbers for Peace Corp soared during the worst of it.

    I'll not expand on the details of why I think the way I do right now, but unless you can find a way to get paid for a hobby you already have, it does not sound like a career change will do much for you. If you really want to hear details, tell me and we can talk off list.

    For now, just a few short thoughts...

    Most people stay in a job they have but don't like purely out of fear. Fear is probably the biggest reason people don't grow to thier potential.

    Because I like to think different, I'll throw out this suggestion. Be a gypsy for a bit. I don't mean pack a caravan and travel the open roads. I mean just find a new job and plan on finding yet another in a year or two. You'd be surprised how easy it is to do almost anything for a year. This is primarily because the newness of it all takes a certain amount of time to wear off.

    A change of scenery brings new perspective. Even if the new job is basically the same as your current job, there will be new people, with new experiences and thus, new things for you to learn.

    If you are young enough and commitments loose enough, you do not even have to restrict yourself by geography.

    A slight shift left or right might be useful (several suggested testing, DBA or SysAdmin). I did the same myself. But I did it knowing I would come back to programming and with the intention of the "career broadening" phase making me a better programmer.

    In the vast majority of today's corporations there is absolutly NO career growth for programmers. Period. I don't care what the Employee Manual or the HR department says. True career growth is almost certainly going to be self motivated.

    Surprisingly, this is not really that bad a deal. What it means is you can actually grow in any way you want, regardless of your job. Ways to do this include:

    Conning your company into sending you to training and conferences. They will not let you use this training on the job, but they will feel better for providing you the "opportunity" and you'll gain new skills. win-win...

    Reading. I and most anyone on this list could provide you a most lenghty list of valuable reading.

    Open Source project. Create one yourself or find an existing one to participate in.

    Local user groups or professional societies. These will put you in contact with people outside your current job and thus, put you in contact with new ideas.

    Advanced or additional college degrees.

    If you like programming then find a way to program better. It does not matter if that is outside the job or on a new job. Don't be afraid to take a plunge. I'm not saying it is easy, but it will probably be worth it. I myself am leaving California after 8 years (I was in Arizona before that, Washington DC before that, Arizona again before that) and am headed back to DC. I'm even turning down a higher paying job here in California to do it at a time when it looks like things here are looking up. Time for a change, you see...

Re: departing programming, what is the next best step?
by talexb (Chancellor) on Sep 02, 2004 at 16:43 UTC

    Although I don't know what it's like to do teaching full time, I know that I've really enjoyed my occasional day gigs as a 'visiting professional' (ha) who talks about pair programming and great software development practices.

    Then again, it may be that you want to move into a totally different field .. I sometimes see situations where folks exchange jobs for a few days, and some of those jobs can be pretty cool.

    Dealing with pressure is never easy. It could be that you just need to change your place of work, that you're already in the right field.

    Whatever it is you end up doing, good luck!

    Alex / talexb / Toronto

    "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

Departing programming thank you note and resolution...
by thaigrrl (Monk) on Sep 03, 2004 at 22:23 UTC
    Thanks for the responses everyone.

    I like the idea of "Changing what is wrong" however as a consultant I am very limited with the amount of change I can inflict upon my client. I am really looking to do something different...

    the possible choices I've seen from here are :

  • testing
  • Business analysis
  • Project Management
  • system administration
  • work for the government
  • work in education

    First of all I don't want a drastic salary change (in the negative direction), so we can scratch off education and goverment jobs for now.

    Second of all I am not interested in doing any type of System Administration work. I'm very limited with my linux/unix skills. I'd like to know more though, but I can by no means maintain a system. Plus I hate being on call.

    Lastly testing, business analylsis and project management are left. I am not old enough to really be a PM. And I mean that internally. I am very immature in nature, anyone who meets me thinks I'm 10 years younger than I am, and for 27 that's not a good thing.

    That leaves me with BA or QA. Either sounds good to me. I love the suggestions everyone!! I also feel a lot better about applying for these types of positions.

    Thanks for the tips :)

    -Linda aka thaigrrl

      C# pains you; C is damp
      C++ stains you; Fortran gives cramp;
      VB ain't lawful, for boy or girl
      Java smells awful; you may as well Perl.

      with apologies to Dorothy Parker...

      -- in the world of the mules there are no rules --
Re: departing programming, what is the next best step?
by beamsack (Scribe) on Sep 03, 2004 at 02:06 UTC
    Six years of romance is more than most careers (and other forms of romantic endeavors) have to offer. Unrealistic deadlines are the norm but put that fact to work for you. Missing schedules is going to happen, don't let 'em get you down. No visible end, this is known as job security. No satifaction, once you can get past the stress, some of the satisfaction will come back. Also, get a real life which should be your main source of satifaction anyway.

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