I am running two software companies. Extremely busy and got to deal with lots of negativities (unhappy people, firing, project delays etc). Yet the financials are better than ever.
Sometimes I wish I just had a simpler life. Being a woodmaker or a electrician. I sometimes despise the life of ambitious posh people. Hate the world of VCs, diners and rich fake parties. Taking a step back is hard. Lots of pressure from the outside.
In school for welding while also working at the machine shop. Making ~10.20/hr machining parts to repair electric motors. I start thinking about my future a bit more as I was making money (lol @ me thinking 10.20/hr was money but I was 19 and working more than I ever did). I started thinking about the doomsday scenarios where if this machine shop closed down, what would I do? The world was going more toward CNC machining. While today there is a place for a manual machinist, what place will it have when I'm 50? This fact, alongside the fact I could make more at Arby's, led me to quit.
I decided to give another trade a shot, which was plumbing. A family friend was a solo plumber and I inquired about being a helping hand. I enjoyed the work, but my boss wasn't exactly pleasant to work for. I got a decent pay raise in comparison to my last job, but exactly 0 vacation or benefits. In the beginning I was fine with this as he was 'doing me a favor' by showing me the ropes, but in the end it didn't work out.
When that job was winding down, I decided to go back to school for computers. I built computers in my day and I knew my way around which led me to pick this 'trade' up next. I started applying for L1 help desk jobs and got in with this company doing internal IT. Very thankful I ended up here as it was NOT a call center. We fielded maybe 10 calls a day, sometimes we had as little as 2, so I had a lot of downtime to study up on the next role. I signed up for LinuxAcademy and grinded courses.
LinuxAcademy has cloud servers, where I learned Linux on. The corporate security team caught that (oops), which is where I met them. Eventually they had an opening for a SecOps Analyst and now I'm here :).
>Sometimes I wish I just had a simpler life. Being a woodmaker or a electrician.
On YouTube I discovered a channel of a cobbler called Bedo's Leatherworks. It's relaxing to watch I thought this is a calming thing to watch during these crazy times plus my dad is ill (not making for less stress! I'm literally cracking my own teeth).
I thought what a great job it's working with your hands, artistic, and useful.
I went from manual to office to manual back to office.
At 18 entered college to do computer programming, dropped out and at 19 joined Air Force to be an aircraft mechanic. After 4 years back to college as an aerospace engineer student. Graduated and then started the job jumping for 6 years because the jobs were boring. At age 35 I became a firefighter - paramedic (did PM classes at night - the fire department trained me to be a FF). About 4 years in to this career I saw a lot of people get injured, mainly with back injuries from repetitive, awkward positions so I decided to get a Master's in Computer Science online from DePaul University. It took me 5 years to complete. I started working part-time remote as a programmer.
When Covid hit I decided that it was time to go and I found a full-time, remote programming job making good money. I thoroughly enjoy it. I still think FF-PM is the best job ever but with serious chronic health issues I couldn't risk getting sick. Also a constant sleep schedule is AWESOME!
I spent 14 years as FF-PM. I am now 50 yo. I don't ever plan on retiring because I enjoy working and don't really have any hobbies beyond reading and programming. I do worry about being able to get a job when I'm older, but I'll find something to do.
Believe me when I say that there was a huge amount of doubt.
When I was contemplating becoming a FF-PM I had a wife and 1 year old child. I was far from being in shape but I passed the requirements to be selected (if I had to do it today I'm not sure I would pass. They up their game on entrance requirements!). It didn't help that my mom was telling me that I shouldn't do it and that I should think about my family. But it was actually my family I was thinking of. I knew if I didn't do it right then and at that moment I would never do it and would regret it for the rest of my life.
Fast forward to April 2020 and the department agrees to pull me out of the field because of Covid since I have a chronic liver disease. I thought I got a new lease on life as I was getting tired of the field. But it was more frustrating "upstairs" than in the field and I started applying for almost all remote programming jobs.
When I finally got a legit job offer came doubt again. As a FF-PM in good standing with the department there was little chance of ever getting laid off or fired (the dept has a high, high rate of turnover). Now I had to decide to leave a secure job or take a job in the private sector. From money standpoint it was a no brainer, but from a security standpoint not so much. Ultimately I made the decision to leave the department.
Look at where you are and where you would rather be in 1 year, 5 year and/or 10 years and work backwards from there. What can you do today to move you toward that 1 year, 5 year or 10 year position?
Don't give up and don't stay in something you don't like.
My father turned 80 recently and he still works five days a week. That wouldn’t be ideal for everyone, but he enjoys his job and he’s remained sharp and capable.
That milestone really highlighted for me Silicon Valley’s weird relationship with age. It’s absurd to imagine 80 year old engineers working here. We’ll vote for a 78 year old to run the country, but won’t trust them to write code. Heck, it’s a bit shocking to see someone over 50 in my office. As someone who got into software engineering late in life, that’s worrying, and I suppose it’s time to start preparing for my third act.
I think that in 50 years time we'll see 80 year olds in software engineering. With the terrible economy that millennials have faced their entire adult lives, a lot of us will never retire.
Moreover with the slowing of Moore's law, I think it'll be reasonable to keep up-to-date. Experience with 33Hz punch-card machines is not very transferrable to modern systems, but I'm willing to bet that in 50 years desktop CPUs will be in the same order of magnitude, and we'll be using keyboard + monitor.
Anecodotal evidence: As a 19 year old I learnt programming on a 20 year old VBA program built by an IBM punch-card veteran, and was mentored by a scientist with a similar background who could not fathom what classes are.
I would expect in 50 years virtual reality will be indistinguishable from real world, which can make remote team work actually efficient, unlike current state. This has to enhance SW development in unimaginable ways. I still expect to use (virtual) keyboard and some form of 3d mouse. I can imagine multithreaded debugging made much easier.
But yeah code will still be code, on similar platforms, don't expect anything radical compared to VMs of these days. Probably.
Bioengineering in academia. Moved to software engineering for an extra $100,000/year. In hindsight, my overall my standard of living has gone down despite the extra money due the housing crunch in the Bay Area.
I started my first programming job at 28. Before that I did computer repairs and support. Starting that job was the first time I experienced still thinking about work, outside of work.
In a lot of jobs, your thoughts are free to wonder and you can think about whatever you feel like, whilst also working. Not so in software development, to do a good job your thoughts must only be about the task in hand and those thoughts can persist long after the task is over.
That's an interesting way of thinking of the problem. Personally I have been involved with manual and not so manual effort. Obviously digging a trench ends after you stop, but building an algorithm that does the equivalent thing, whatever that is, is not comparable as you don't stop thinking at 5PM?
Thanks! I do still tinker and write code on things I find interesting or challenging.
These days most of my efforts go into photography and writing (I've just finished my second novel). I find working on the "real" world a lot more satisfying than purely digital where not a lot is tangible.
Lot of commenters saying software has fucked them up. I wonder if it's the extended period inside that the pandemic has necessitated, that's triggering this angst. I am also feeling the same way, but I can't help but feel that to some degree, the months of isolation (not just from friends and framily, from the outdoors even) have a big part to play.
The occupations where you are out and about carry a big risk: physical injury can put you out of work and cause debilitating pain for the rest of your life. Granted that it happens less will continue to trend down with improving oversight and safety standards, but it is still a risk. Perhaps we do not realise this or think clearly about it when we yearn for working with our hands/work outdoors?
I think that you analyzed the situation correct in your second paragraph: E.g. people that work in construction: "Construction is a tough, heavy, manual industry where injury and ill health are likely; many workers leave the industry early due to ill health or musculoskeletal disorders (Arndt et al., 2005)." (Excerpt from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000368701...)
I come from a different career (mechanical engineering degree and then worked in infosec consulting) and i observed that software engineers have the following advantages: 1. highest degree of freedom in their working conditions. 2. The most intellectually challenging work there often is in the entire company. those are the reasons that have drawn me to this industry and they continue to hold true for me :)
And yes, the body and mind needs balance from intellectual work. For me it works best to do sports and spent time with family.