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Ask HN: How happy are you working as a programmer?
349 points by kalzium on Feb 1, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 535 comments



Any time I catch myself complaining about my career I do my best to jolt myself out of it. That's not to say I have nothing to complain about or that aspects of my career and my job can't be improved, but my god, is there really any other profession in the world that is as lucrative, open, and challenging as programming? There are no bullshit certifications to go through, the best tools and resources are free and open, and the more technology advances the more important it becomes. In no other field can someone start a company with basically zero capital and have a realistic shot at becoming profitable. I am absolutely addicted to programming and the only real downside is that there aren't enough hours in the day to do it.


Indeed.

But what about everyone else? The longer I work in this field and the more I understand about optimization and physical processes, the worse I feel about the work I do and the work of most programmers. Not "but it's just a social app?!" people, but the people in medicine, law, education, small business, hardware, logistics, etc, all pushing business forward bit by bit, automating away the repetitive pieces and making it easier for those in monetarily advantageous positions to capture the flag.

It's hard for me to be too happy when I see ubiquitous animal suffering in a system I'm helping to persist, seemingly towards the end of life on earth altogether. Why do I do it? I need money, and I'm only so strong for now. How can I cooperate when the biggest and greatest are of a world of defectors? Selfishness wins? It's all too easy to conclude, "I can't make a difference, not really", and the probability of making a difference drops to 0, prophesy fulfilled. After all, rent is due, student loan is due.

Count me in as someone who, given the support of basic income, can and will live frugally and give my working self 100% towards ethical objectives, as I understand them. In the meantime, this whole "but we have it so great compared to everyone else!!" just makes me feel even worse, over-burdened. If I can't make a difference with all these advantages, without seemingly herculean efforts, then who?


"Count me in as someone who, given the support of basic income, can and will live frugally and give my working self 100% towards ethical objectives, as I understand them."

Amen, brother/sister, amen. Exactly how I feel. Also I see you are empathetic towards animals. I have adopted animal welfare and animal rights as my single biggest ethical objective. After working for about 20 years on writing software for domains like transportation, telecommunications, social media, I have decided enough is enough and am going to work towards doing some work (mostly software-related) in the animal welfare area this year and increase it every year. I am not saying anyone who works in the other fields are bad, since people working on different things is what makes the world work. I just feel that I should separate work that pays the bills (Wb) and work that is meaningful (Wm) to me. And the goal is to minimize Wb and maximize Wm in the 24 hrs available. With basic income, Wb would be zero, so that would be ideal.


Just a side question on the issue of animal welfare, but how do you handle the paradox of the spider and the butterfly? I'm not sure it has an official name, so a simple description is that some animals kill other animals to keep themselves alive (such as a spider hunting a butterfly), so how do you provide for the welfare of both?


Good question. I am not opposed to the killing of animals, just the torture involved in the killing. If you see videos of how animals are farmed in slaughterhouses and warehouses, you wonder how humans have degenerated into something so vile that they dont even consider the pain and conditions these sentient beings go through.


I'm fairly certain spiders are not concerned about the suffering of the butterflies they consume..


Are you seriously comparing animals killing and eating other animals for food with what we do to animals and birds in slaughterhouses? Have you watched videos of slaughterhouses? Have you seen how fur is plucked off rabbits for angora, and feathers off birds for down jackets? In almost all cases, the skin also comes off and they are not even killed after the act but mercilessly left to die on their own. Almost everyone, even if they choose to ignore it, acknowledges the cruelty in the meat and farming industry.


Which shows the same amount of concern that animals give each other when they kill/eat/toy with them.

Maybe humans should do better because we can, but if I am going to go about stopping other humans from committing horrible treatment, why should I then 'make peace' with how other animals behave? But to make this problem worse, look at how some animals mate. If you were to only allow peaceful instances, the species would be extinct in three generations. But maybe that is the good thing to do, because the duty is to the individual and not the species. Perhaps the humane thing to do with the spider is to not kill it, but to stop reproduction so there are no more spiders killing butterflies.

Morality sure is weird.


Have you watched videos of spiders eating their prey? It's more horrific than what we do in most cases. They paralyze them, wrap them up, let them sit there to contemplate their demise, and then suck the blood out of them while they're incapacitated and conscious. Spiders are but one example of the horrific predator/prey dynamic in nature.

And to be clear, I'm just as horrified by our treatment of animals as you are but I've learned to make my peace with it. I'm just hoping that lab-grown meat becomes a viable alternative some day and we don't have to grow animals for food.


Just reiterate what you just said and see how it sounds. If everybody looked at atrocities and tries to "make their peace" with them, you can imagine how the world will turn out. I feel at this point you are just trying to defend your previous points, some of which are on very shaky ground.


>If everybody looked at atrocities and tries to "make their peace" with them, you can imagine how the world will turn out.

Which brings us back to the issue of the spider and the butterfly. Do you just make your peace that the butterfly will be tortured to death, or do you intervene, thus indirectly causing the spider to die a torturous death of starvation?


You intervene. Aware creatures eating each other is just a hack the universe needed (apparently) to get energy flowing into more and more complex, intelligent organisms. We can and will, given time and non-self-destruction, figure out a way to get all our energy from non-living sources (given some definition of the word living). With that kind of power, perhaps we could end warfare in general in our sphere of influence.

Although it is undeniable that there is a vast beauty to the living systems on Earth, that doesn't mean there couldn't be something more beautiful and alive... without so much... digestion.


The point is we can have everything we currently have without resorting to that torture (killing of cows and pigs in slaughterhouses, de-beaking of chickens). Thats what I am trying to eliminate or abate. Animals preying on other animals is natural, and also something they cannot avoid.


I figure these chickens wouldn't be alive if it weren't for us, and if asked, would they choose not to have ever existed in favor of existing and meeting a horrific demise?

Another thing to consider - if we genetically engineered chickens that couldn't feel pain, would it be unethical to debeak them?


Let me get this straight. Are you saying that animal cruelty is a non-issue? Or that its just a matter of perspective? Animal farming to me is reason enough for people to take up animal welfare as a cause. I could also add myriad other examples - trophy hunting, dog fighting, pulling out tusks out of elephants while they are alive.


No, I'm just giving you my justifications for ignoring the issue.


At no point did I want or expect that. I dont expect my causes to be taken up by anybody else. I can also give justifications for ignoring issues that are important to you or anybody else. Doesn't really serve any purpose.


Spiders don't have the luxury to be.


Spiders lack moral agency.


They do (lack moral agency), but you and I don't (at least we think we don't, but that is a different issue to save for elsewhere). So, while the spider may not be morally wrong for torturing its prey, I am morally wrong for allowing the spider to torture its prey when I am in a position to stop the spider.


In the case of humans this is obviously just not an issue, though, since we're perfectly capable of existing healthily without killing/eating meat/etc (in fact, it's way more efficient). For other animals, I don't know that we have an obligation to provide welfare for eg spiders and butterflies beyond our own habits, but it's an interesting question.


Have you already done or have leads on what kind of work specifically you can do in the animal welfare area?


Yes, I have a general idea. I will be polishing and refining it in the 2nd quarter of this year. As of now, it will mostly be a website that provides info about how to inculcate a cruelty-free lifestyle (hopefully without being too preachy). I want it to gather a much larger scope (maybe games or mobile apps to help people understand) but as of now I want to start somewhere, and that will be a simple static website.


Let me know when its up, and what you end up doing to further the cause. Would love to help if possible.

Speaking of which, one simple way to enact change in your own life is to minimize the use of animal products in daily actions - i.e. going vegan. You may have already done this, but the impact of an individual's decision to abstain from consuming any animal products has a huge effect.


Thanks for the offer. I am excited about this, and would love any help, even if its just in the form of feedback. And yes, I am vegan. I wouldn't dream of taking something up as a cause, if I wasnt already doing something in my life that helps it :)


Awesome. After many years of cognitive dissonance, I finally made the leap to veganism. It has been a challenge, but I am a firm believer that change starts within, and I should reflect that through my actions.


From a fellow vegan/vegetarian, big hug ! I don't get emotional much, but animals always make me tear up - just seeing them joyfully playing or giving companionship to a human. Sometimes it all seems hopeless, but enough of that thinking. We have work to do :)


I think I can add two items to the discussion.

1. People have been automating away other people's jobs for millennia. Even though this has been happening, poverty is at an all time low.

2. It's not your responsibility to make a herculean difference.

I can see that the fewer people (the knowledge of this that you're exposed to) there are that try to make a difference the larger your contribution needs to be to even out all the slackers. At least that's how we feel.

If we all (those who care) felt this way we'd all get stuck and not do anything.

The correct reaction (and only plausible) is to "do your part" as if you were one in 7 billion.

The reason why the richest of the rich (think Gates) have campaigns that are public is because they know, even with their wealth, that they cannot make a very large difference with a lot of people changing their habits be that giving or lifestyle.


> But what about everyone else? The longer I work in this field and the more I understand about optimization and physical processes, the worse I feel about the work I do and the work of most programmers. Not "but it's just a social app?!" people, but the people in medicine, law, education, small business, hardware, logistics, etc, all pushing business forward bit by bit, automating away the repetitive pieces and making it easier for those in monetarily advantageous positions to capture the flag.

That's a rather depressing way to look at it. As an engineer, nothing bothers me more than being forced to do a task that can be automated. It's dehumanizing in the same way that working an assembly line or picking fruit in a field is. It's called work for a reason - it's not fun, but it's gotta get done. Every time we automate a dehumanizing aspect of a job, the world collectively benefits.

> It's hard for me to be too happy when I see ubiquitous animal suffering in a system I'm helping to persist, seemingly towards the end of life on earth altogether. Why do I do it? I need money, and I'm only so strong for now. How can I cooperate when the biggest and greatest are of a world of defectors? Selfishness wins? It's all too easy to conclude, "I can't make a difference, not really", and the probability of making a difference drops to 0, prophesy fulfilled. After all, rent is due, student loan is due.

What are you doing to change things?

> Count me in as someone who, given the support of basic income, can and will live frugally and give my working self 100% towards ethical objectives, as I understand them. In the meantime, this whole "but we have it so great compared to everyone else!!" just makes me feel even worse, over-burdened. If I can't make a difference with all these advantages, without seemingly herculean efforts, then who?

Do you really need a basic income implementation for this to work? Can't you simply downsize your expenses to x/10 what they are now, work x/10 as much to pay for them, and do whatever you want for the other (10-x)/10 worth of time?

Or better yet, can't you start a non-profit that actually works on the issues you feel need fixing so you can earn an income while you do work 100% towards ethical objectives?

I don't mean to be rude, but it sounds like you have more excuses than answers.


"Do you really need a basic income implementation for this to work? Can't you simply downsize your expenses to x/10 what they are now, work x/10 as much to pay for them, and do whatever you want for the other (10-x)/10 worth of time?"

I am genuinely curious to know as to how this equation can be practically implemented. To be really effective in your non-work time, x would have to be at most 5 or less. There are multiple problems with this: 1. Reducing expenses to half is pretty tough given the biggest expense is rent/mortgage. 2. Reducing work to half is harder since there are not very many companies that are okay with 20 hrs or less a week. This also means you wont get health insurance.

I guess it can be done by moving to a different country with cheaper expenses, job hunting for a while till you find a company that meets your needs, etc, etc. But as a single person or a family in the US, this just doesnt make sense.


> To be really effective in your non-work time, x would have to be at most 5 or less

That doesn't sound very effective to me

> Reducing expenses to half is pretty tough given the biggest expense is rent/mortgage.

This is simply a matter of finding a location to live where rent is not a big expense. All you need is an internet connection. You don't have to live in the Bay Area to create software and there are plenty of cheap places to live, both in the U.S. and in other countries.

> Reducing work to half is harder since there are not very many companies that are okay with 20 hrs or less a week. This also means you wont get health insurance.

I take it you don't have a lot of experience freelancing, but it's very easy to find as much or little work as you're willing to do - I did it for years. I also find that the best health insurance policy is to take care of yourself. Beyond that, just get the highest deductible plan you possibly can and minimize your health risks (thankfully programming is not very hazardous).

> But as a single person or a family in the US, this just doesnt make sense.

If it doesn't make sense for a single person in the U.S. then who does it make sense for? Ask yourself who you're trying to convince, me, or yourself? Ever notice how much easier it is to come up with reasons why something is impossible than it is to actually try it for yourself?


I feel like you're missing the point here.

You've made it pretty clear that it's possible, if you're willing to jump through a bunch of hoops and are a programmer, to begin to have the privilege of an altruistic lifestyle. That is, the kind that will help thousands if not millions of persons to get higher quality of life.

'just move somewhere with low cost of living' - what about family and friends? non-profits are hiring in the middle of nowhere, I guess? what about most housing requiring a year-long contract? what about rural internet connectivity being a complete joke, and most cellular plans are by the GB?

'just take care of yourself and get a low deductible health insurance plan' - what about if you aren't healthy? what about if you have dependents? Where's the good care now that you're living away from cities? You're suggesting we move away from the best that humanity and technology has to offer?

'just cut down your expenses by 10x!' - ...you're joking, right? It's going to be really hard to live on $200/mo in any american city. Cost of living is going up everywhere, unless you're suggesting moving somewhere that's not growing. And wages have been stagnating for decades. See this post by Michael Church - https://www.quora.com/Why-do-software-engineers-make-so-much Only so much can be cut.

'just freelance! I did it, so can you' - times are changing, and that lifestyle simply isn't compatible with your average student coming out of our education systems. Also, freelancing suffers from being a chicken and egg kind of problem.

"If it doesn't make sense for a single person in the U.S. then who does it make sense for?"

Exactly. Hardly anyone. Our society is structured in such a way that it's very hard to be altruistic, compared to being selfish and seeking greater and greater pay through whatever job.

Have a social app idea? Here's $mil!! Uber for Z? $mil!! Oh it didn't work out? Ok, what else, what else...

Have a altruistic app idea that will improve the quality of life in a way that's hard to measure? Er haven't you heard? Not even schools can get funding. Teacher pay is frozen indefinitely.

Why does it take someone to be independently wealthy first, or live a lifestyle very much unlike the rest of the population, to be an effective altruistic in our society?


I have answers to all your points, but I can't help but think you'd just come up with ways to debunk all of them. All I can say is that I wholeheartedly suggest you take a step back and ask yourself why you see roadblocks everywhere instead of opportunities. Skepticism and even a little cynicism is understandable, and I indulge in it every once and a while too. But it seems to me like you're going out of your way to convince me (or more likely, yourself) that it's impossible to change your situation or make an impact in this world, and that's something you should really examine. I say this without a hint of derision or condescension.


Okay, let's take a step back. I mostly agree with you and I'm not at all offended; there are answers and the way is open. I can go against the flow of money and work for other reasons, especially if I'm a talented, determined programmer. In fact, I have made huge strides towards being able to dedicate myself fully to work I think is important. Made an impact? No, not in any direct way, not yet, but I am trying and moving step by step towards that ability and execution. Through autodidactism, frugal lifestyle, a productive career in software, and planning.

What about everyone else? The question was, 'how happy are you working as a programmer?", and I answered, "not particularly, because I'm in a favorable position to see how hard it is for everyone else, and how much harder it seems it's going to get as automation continues to consume existing business processes".

Can you really say with a straight face that more than a very lucky small minority of the 7.3+ billion people can realistically pursue a lifestyle of altruism? Many of them can't even work for money, but can only think on how to survive to the next day, the next week. You don't even have to go to a third world country to find it. How happy are those people, and what is your advice for them?


> Can you really say with a straight face that more than a very lucky small minority of the 7.3+ billion people can realistically pursue a lifestyle of altruism?

Honestly, I think the best thing we can do is to continue to try to innovate and automate. Global poverty has been dropping consistently for decades and that rate doesn't appear to be changing. I credit this to globalization, advances in technology, and relative peace throughout the globe because of strategic alliances and military stalemates.

The best thing we can do as engineers is continue to add real value to the world by automating as much as we can. Robots work for free, and despite what people love to parrot, efficiencies are enjoyed by everyone, not just the 1%.

In other words, simply contributing value to society through your work is altruistic. As opposed to those who don't work at all and contribute nothing, for whom I have very little sympathy or patience.


>I also find that the best health insurance policy is to take care of yourself

>minimize your health risks (thankfully programming is not very hazardous

health risks from being seated and sedentary all day are quite extreme.

Unless you meant they should join a gym and increase their expenses, thus increasing the amount of work they need to do to pay their bills.

So we've got:

health insurance,

car insurance,

gym membership,

housing/rent,

food,

gas,

internet connection,

electricity,

any current debt (student loans, car loans, mortgage, personal loans, etc),

any savings contributions for retirement.

So yeah, just cut all those expenses by 10x, have a job that allows you to work less than 20 hours/ week from anywhere, and have a altruistic goal that can also be met remotely without interacting with anyone ever.

Oh and also, be a programmer - remember that an altruistic life is reserved for very specific niches of society, altruism should never be the goal of the huddled masses.


> Unless you meant they should join a gym and increase their expenses, thus increasing the amount of work they need to do to pay their bills.

On what planet is a gym membership required to maintain a healthy lifestyle? How's this for an option: instead of owning/maintaining a car and paying for car insurance, ride a bike to work. Now you've killed two birds with one stone.

> internet connection

How about instead of paying for an internet connection you go to a library or hang out at a coffeeshop when you need to use it. Or go in with a neighbor to get it cheaper.

> any current debt (student loans, car loans, mortgage, personal loans, etc)

Sell the car, sell the house, and as far as the student loans go, consolidate them and pay the minimum for as long as you need to.

> So yeah, just cut all those expenses by 10x, have a job that allows you to work less than 20 hours/ week from anywhere, and have a altruistic goal that can also be met remotely without interacting with anyone ever.

Most people's expenses can be cut by about that much if they just give up the luxury of owning and operating a car and move to a region/neighborhood that has much cheaper rent (or take roommates gasp!). I have to image if your very survival depended on a 10x decrease in your expenses you'd be clever enough to make it happen.

> Oh and also, be a programmer - remember that an altruistic life is reserved for very specific niches of society, altruism should never be the goal of the huddled masses.

I don't remember me or anyone else ever saying that in this thread.


> ride a bike to work.

LOL, in a rural location that you suggested to lower rent? Work is likely to be at least a 20 minute commute by car, more than 15 miles each way for sure. ( the US average commute time is 25.4 minutes) Also, biking to and from work would reduce the time you are able to spend on your altruism even further.

>How about instead of paying for an internet connection you go to a library or hang out at a coffeeshop when you need to use it. Or go in with a neighbor to get it cheaper.

Because no one is going to hire a remote freelancer without an internet connection? are you even serious? this is laughable.

>sell the house

right cutting your expenses is much easier when youre not paying rent, youre right just be homeless! then you can help all the animals you want!

>as far as the student loans go, consolidate them and pay the minimum for as long as you need to.

right, still left with a student loan payment at the end of that, so this doesnt offer any solutions at all.

> luxury of owning and operating a car and move to a region/neighborhood that has much cheaper rent (or take roommates gasp!)

So where do you have in mind? you must have something really specific in mind because i cant think of a single area with very low cost of living and very high bikeable/walkable streets - please enlighten us as to the perfect place to live.

>I don't remember me or anyone else ever saying that in this thread.

right, but youre giving advice that says "you dont need basic income to be altruistic, you can just work remotely and live somewhere cheap, then work less and use your free time to be altruistic"

Wherein the 'working remotely' applies only to a very niche set of jobs (which all universally require an internet connection and specific set of skills)

Sorry man, your hypothetical solution is plainly not realistic.

In order to help save the lives of animals thats what this person should do?

They should:

Move to a low cost of living area

Work at most half as much as you do now (and have a job that is somehow OK with that)

sell your car

sell your house

consolidate all loans

get a remote freelance job

get rid of your internet connection and only use the library

cut all your costs by 10x

bike to work

oh right, also:

dont have a spouse

dont have children

work in a remote-friendly industry

desire to perform remote-friendly altruistic work

dont save for retirement

dont get sick

dont get injured

but yeah man, this sounds totally doable for anyone who wants to support a cause, this sounds like the type of society anyone would want to live in; way worse than providing people with a basic income enabling the entire country to pursue their altruism


Man, you're right. It's impossible. Oh well.


I didnt say its impossible.

I said its completely unreasonable.

Do you honestly think thats reasonable? For someone to be altruistic they /should/ have to make all those decisions and sacrifices?

If you do, i'd love to hear why you think it should be impossible for a secretary, or a janitor, or an accountant to be altruistic and to work towards altruistic goals. Or for that matter someone living in New york or san francisco. Should those cities be devoid of altruism because they are more expensive?

I don't think you've earnestly considered the implications of your suggestion and that was the point of my responding at all. "helping animals is easy! just quit your job and move across the country" echos exactly the ops sentiments that it takess a herculean effort to effect any change in todays economy. You disputed that by laying out a specific herculean effort and tried to brush it off as a simple life decision.


> Do you honestly think thats reasonable?

Not only do I think it's completely reasonable, I have done it myself and know others who have done it as well. Come to Minnesota, there's plenty of work, both remote and contract, and your cost of living can be very low depending on where you live. We also have great mass transit, are the most bike friendly city in the country, have the lowest unemployment rate in the country, and the best parks system in the country as well.

> If you do, i'd love to hear why you think it should be impossible for a secretary, or a janitor, or an accountant to be altruistic and to work towards altruistic goals.

Why can't these people work toward these goals in their spare time? Why does it have to be an all-or-nothing proposition? And if it does, why can't you start a non-profit where you can pay yourself a living wage and take donations from others who don't have the time to help but have the money to help. And why not just cut your expenses today, keep your high paying job, and donate your additional money to causes you believe in?

People can be altruistic without being rich or privileged. To suggest otherwise is completely offensive and short-sided. And being rich and privileged doesn't automatically equate to someone being more effective altruists. In fact, it's often the opposite case because their experiences are too isolated and foreign to be relatable to the causes they support (see charity-as-tourism).

But what it comes down to is you not wanting it to be hard to do something. And I'm not saying it isn't hard, because it is. But most things worth doing are hard, and complaining about them doesn't do anybody any good. Instead of complaining and creating long lists on internet forums of all the reasons why something is too hard to do you go and actually test your assumptions.

I don't mean to sound harsh but I can't help but respond to such negativity with anything other than exasperation. I can't motivate you, but I hope you find somebody or something that can because it sounds like you want to make a real difference in this world.


You are right, I dont have a lot of experience freelancing. And I agree that the differential between rents in different places in the US large enough that one can decrease or increase it significantly by moving. I do however think that "the best insurance policy is to take care of yourself" is not really something you can bank on. Unexpected things happen. You have to set something up to prevent that as much as you can.

In summary, I am not as opposed to your equation after this reply from you, but I still maintain its hard to do. As a challenge, I am going to see if I can accomplish it. Thanks for the kick in the back! :)


Btw I couldnt find your email in your profile. I would love to get in touch. If you can send me a quick note, (my email is in my profile) that would be great.


Great comment, I feel the same way sometimes :(


I agree with this, except for the last line. Software Engineering is a great career in a lot of ways (interesting subject, smart people, flexible, relatively less bureaucratic, good pay etc) and sometimes I forget how damn good I have it compared to most folk. But at the same time there are lots of other things I enjoy and want to do in life beyond just software engineering.

I think as an industry we get a bit obsessed about wanting rockstar programmers who want to do nothing but make software. I enjoy my work, I'm grateful for it and I want to get better at it, but there are also lots of other things I want to do, so personally I'm not going to spend all my free time programming and I think that's ok.


> But at the same time there are lots of other things I enjoy and want to do in life beyond just software engineering.

I absolutely agree and I learned that the hard way. I guess what I meant was my regret is that it's simply not healthy to program during every waking moment, even though I often wish I could. It's a nice problem to have and certainly better than hating your profession.


> smart people

Uh, I'm not so sure about this. Programmers tend to have a bad habit of severely overestimating their own intelligence. This is one of the things I dislike about the profession: Everybody is so self-assured of their own brilliance.


Hmm personally the majority of people I've worked with are all of at least above-average intelligence and many of them are also very interesting. Met quite a few self-assured smart people at uni (I was one to an extent) but I think most of us grow out of it. Or maybe I've just been lucky where I've worked.


I can't "disagree" with your post persay, but I can say it doesn't take into account people with different prioritization. That a job is Lucrative does not make it enjoyable. Challenging, as well, can be good, but a day of constant mental challenge does leave you feeling absolutely drained, despite what some sister comments are implying. (And before the inevitable "you have a silver spoon job" comment, I started my working life as a mover for a few years to pay for school/living expenses; It's a different sort of tired for sure, but both sorts keep you from exercising various leisure activities post-factum; but again to preempt comments, yes, mental work does leave your body in better shape in the long run and as I say below, grateful for that)

At the end of the day, and perhaps this is in itself a very egocentric world view, I'd be hard pressed to find any work that if I were doing it _as work_ I'd be happy doing. I chose programming because I have a knack for it, have focused my time on it to build skills, and as you say, it's lucrative. But every second of the day (and the implied unpaid overtime that seems prevalent in our industry) there's a little thread in the back of my head going "there's so much to see/do in the world, and already so little time." I want to make music, learn to paint, visit countries I've never heard of, but as long as supporting a family, covering healthcare/retirement savings/housing costs etc are all in the picture, even with as lucrative a career as we have obtaining those ends is a long process that you will likely emit some blood and tears for.

So am I Happy as a programmer? Probably more-so than I'd be in many other fields, and certainly grateful for what I have. Am I Happy in an absolute sense? No, I wouldn't say that; and no amount of comparative logic, despite recognizing the ego-centrism, is going to help me reconcile that internally. I'll do my work best I can, not whinge too much, (pushing for a better system in the interim where appropriate for the selfish sake of my own "happiness"), but the moment I get "out" will be one of the truly happiest days of my life. (I could see myself eating those words, and I'll certainly own up to it if that's so, but I don't see that as likely from where I'm currently standing)


If I'm reading you right, "realistic shot" = 1 in 10 succeed right? I'm not saying that's right or wrong, good or bad, but just to let people know that's generally the statistic that gets thrown around for becoming profitable as some new tech startup trying to make it. I am unsure if that stat is VC-funded only or contains bootstrapped startups and VC-funded ones.

I absolutely agree with your post. This is what I feel when someone asks me "how's work". Any time someone talks to me about wanting to switch careers, I recommend tech for those very reasons -- there are few other high-earning career/profession that can compare.


I think the original poster just means that, compared to other industries, the odds of success starting a software company (especially a bootstrapped business or consulting business) is a lot higher than other industries. I'd take software odds over the odds of starting a restaurant that succeeds any day.


Yep - and with that I completely agree -- just wanted to convey that the odds aren't like... 9/10 succeed, but like you said, it's waaaaay better than starting just about any other type of business


This is so true. It's human nature to take everything for granted. I need to constantly remind myself that even though I'm not rich, my salary as a frontend developer is definitely way above average. On top of it I work for a big corp with a lot of benefits and most important of all a healthy work climate with exceptional work life balance.

To really appreciate our situation one could try to take a month off, and try to live with a limited budget after paying off all the monthly fixed costs. If you have to decide between buying a fancy gadget or food, I think it will be easier to emphasize with people who have to work hard just to provide for their families.

I'm happy working as a programmer because I don't have to do repetitive work like for example selling something. Sure, it's not always as exciting as working on a green field project because there is enough legacy code to maintain but overall I like my work.


> the only real downside is that there aren't enough hours in the day to do it

I opened this comment section just to write that line. When your hobby becomes your job, you never work a day in your life.


Assuming that you do not come to hate your hobby in the process. I know plenty of people who turned their hobby into a job and came to hate it because of all the other things they had to do for work that they avoided when it was just a hobby.

Plus, some of them were like me in that being told or required to do something, even if I would have done it anyway, instantly lowers the enjoyment of that activity a bit.


I quit.

I had a nearly 20 year career in software, excellent references and well paid. I became completely burned out and hyper-cynical at the pointlessness and shallowness of it all. I can't get excited or even much beyond passing interest in an industry that is almost completely devoted to making the problem of too much stuff far worse.

So instead of getting excited at another pointless startup or tech that's "going to disrupt x" (it usually won't, and often it isn't even a sensible idea to), or "change the world" (nope, not that either), I gave it all up to work with my hands doing something. It's nice to actually feel like I am /doing/ something I can feel proud of, and is sustainable. Moving electrons around is just so unfulfilling.

I'm utterly jaded at the constant replacement, or latest shiny framework that's going to improve little, just change lots and sell more crap. The web has become an almost unusable mess where a single page loads 30 or 40 domains of ad, crap and tracking bringing us back to dial up speeds unless you block most of it.

I still follow tech, but my personal projects are dead as even when i have the time to (I have far more of that now and I feel so much better for it), I can't bring myself to code any more.

The money was nice, but I don't even really miss that. I do regret not being able to afford aerobatics as a hobby any more though!

Many of my peers have quit tech too, and of those who remain some would like to do something, anything else, but mortgage or other commitments keeps them tied to the money.

After three years I'm happier, healthier and don't miss it in the slightest.


I'm utterly jaded at the constant replacement, or latest shiny framework that's going to improve little, just change lots and sell more crap.

I can relate to that feeling intimately.

The intellectual content of programming has definitely changed since the simpler times which were, for me, formative. There's a combinatoric explosion of proper nouns, frameworks and libraries, and doing anything seems to entail 95% of time spent pouring over 27 browser tabs of API references.

This wasn't what made me love programming when I did systems programming in C as a teenager, and it's a different skill set. I wrote things like highly asynchronous & modular MUDs, chat servers, etc. Sure, one had to consult man pages of system calls once in a while, but fundamentally, it was much more of a closed system with a straightforward standard library and few dependencies. Of course, some of that is because my tinkering wasn't subordinated to economic imperatives or Enterprise Business Rules, but I do think it was qualitatively different in a more objective way, too. Now, it's an overwhelming river of gewgaws that each have their own APIs, conventions, methodologies, life cycle, etc.

It doesn't help that a lot of these gewgaws are clearly conceived for the same reasons academic advisors conceive schools of thought and seed conferences with spam publications relating to them by their pet graduate students. Maybe I'm just old, but it seems to me a lot of fashionable frameworks and doodads are more about O'Reilly book royalties, speaking engagements, consulting projects and *Con registration fees.


Similar background here, and complete agreement with you!

Started out seriously with the Amiga and it was a delight - the OS was beautifully designed, and there were so many ideas that should have caught on. I'll name just one - datatypes.

Work started out with C and Unix, and so long as you had K&R and W Richard Stephens you were good to go. Loved the design of this too until I got to the GUI - X was not fun. Messing around with MUDs was fun, as was knocking up internal chat servers etc.

Now programming is gluing modules together with the aid of a web browser, often with little real understanding (no time for that). No need for a real grounding in the math or tech when you can just plug lego bricks together which leads to the mess that's PHP or most of the PHP code I've seen.

Design has moved on but it's as much about change for changes sake as improvement. It's now about driving the advertising click stream, or locking us in to the app world, even on our phones rather than improving productivity.

I agree that's it's about fashion and selling those certifications, exams and training - yearly (lol) microsoft certified x etc. Can't say I've come across a one of them that indicates in any way that someone is even basically skilled in the tech in question.

It's just a continuation of that complexity for complexity's sake.


I remember being 16 and forging teacher's noted to get out of study hall to go to the library. Why? Because they had a REAL computer there! A Commodore PET! With 4K of RAM and BASIC!

I came in, sat down, and thought "what do I want this machine to do that would be cool?"

And so I wrote a game. Other kids loved the game enough to fight over who could play it. That was pretty cool.

But I look at programming now? Damn, those days are gone. You don't sit down and in a day or so create something totally from scratch that people love. Instead you get a framework, or another, or half-a-dozen frameworks bolted onto a 3-year-old programming language. You head a bit down the happy path -- until you don't. Then you spend the rest of the development effort either a) giving up on what you wanted to code and instead coding what the framework makes you, or b) struggling with the framework instead of the problem.

Worst part? I don't think it's needed. You can do a ton with just plain html, some css, and a bit of simple functional-like programming. But if you try to show that to a new programmer? It's like telling them they need to carve their computer out of bear skins and tree stumps. The culture itself rejects just freaking doing stuff people want. Instead, if it ain't new, it ain't cool. And if it's got one piece of complexity? Might as well have a thousand.

I hear you guys. Sad that it's turned out this way.


> You can do a ton with just plain html, some css, and a bit of simple functional-like programming

Or, you know, you don't need a virtualenv running inside of docker running inside heroku running whatever to make your stuff run

Or setup 20 "automation chores" before you write a line of code

Yeah, things today look like 80% is nitpicking and 'best practices' (by whom?) and 20% writing some code that will fall off because of bugs in all those abstraction layers You don't need


Let's suppose I want to write a quick app to text people horoscopes. They enter their phone number and the horoscope is texted to them.

My first step now would be write a command-line function to send the texts. Once that's working, I'd knock out 5 lines of html and start showing it to people. I'm not even sure I'd wrap the freaking thing in <html> tags. For something nobody may ever use, it's simply not important.

The way the vast majority of programmers would begin this would be to set up a container. Then start installing a framework. Then buying a domain, downloading some tools, purchasing a gateway....

Programming is still programming, of course. But the way people think about programming today is total crap. You can ride the "It's cool! It's new!" horse around the merry-go-round a few times, but sooner or later it's gotta start getting old if you have any sense at all. Know what's a travesty? The number of working programmers in the world who have worked for years and have yet to actually make something that people use.


You know, you have the freedom to NOT pick a framework at all. It's not like it's mandatory. Use components and wire things your way.

Don't like legos? Reinvent the wheel then. Go nuts ;), programming is a way of expressing yourself. Like an artist feel free to do whatever you want.


I've been thinking a lot about those days, and how magazines like Creative Computing and the Commodore computer manuals provided all the necessary foundation to make engrossing 1-2 day projects. It is totally possible today, but one needs to realize those magazine articles and project tutorials need to be created that guide new developers. That is us, we're the people that need to create the engaging, he's how its done in a day tutorials that do not depend upon new fangled shiny frameworks, but rather implement the new shiny idea in the minimal form that is its essence. With WebGL, creating jaw dropping tutorials is simply a matter of time and creative effort. Many new developers are fascinated with graphics and 3D - and the browser supports it much better than BASIC was supported back in the Apple II, Commodore era. Minor plug here: I've been pursuing this idea of a browser based return to the magical creativity of those early days with my www.3d-avatar-store.com - a web app and API that creates lip syncing 3D versions of real people. The combination of technologies that enable me to make this site is a gold mine of creative technology. My major issue is finding the time to create the tutorials, now that I have most of the hard stuff done.


IME the barrier is much higher now; if a kid writes a tetris or space invaders, he would be laughed at by his peers, when in fact either of those are significant accomplishments for a beginner. Expectations are so much higher now, it really changes the dynamic.


> You don't sit down and in a day or so create something totally from scratch that people love.

Why not?

It's up to you.


By "you", in the latter paragraphs, I mean "one" As in "one doesn't just sit down"

Apologies. Of course that's what I keep doing. Really happy about it too. That just ain't the way 99% of development happens.

ADD: The point of my OP wasn't that I hate programming, it was that programming itself has changed. It used to be a direct expression of creativity and had quite tight feedback cycles. Yes, I still code that way. But for all the other coders I see? Most of the profession is stuck inside a prison of its own making.


I pretty much agree. Just thought your comment sounded a bit defeatist, which I now see you aren't.


"I gave it all up to work with my hands doing something."

Yes I did this as well. Worked for 15 years as a programmer in financial services. Really found it depressing.

Retrained as a care assistant to work in a nursing home. Find the physical work suits me better and enjoy spending time with the residents. Also did a Physics BSc part-time.

But mainly my headspace is free now when I come home from work. Still do some side programming though - starting Scheme and SICM at the moment...


>The web has become an almost unusable mess where a single page loads 30 or 40 domains of ad, crap and tracking bringing us back to dial up speeds unless you block most of it.

I choose my current job because it was a small company, that actually shipped stuff to customer. You give us money, we'll ship you something in the mail. To me that is an honest, simple and satisfying business. Now the company has grown big, we spend most of our time figuring out how to do up-selling, tracking of users, social media bullshit and tries to push useless subscriptions. We still have basic stuff like order tracking and returns that aren't working correctly. Sadly better service always lose out to "more features" for some reason. I think we could save a ton of money by fixing the basics and trimming features not used by most customer.

The level of tracking and tracked advertising we do pretty much sickens me to the extend that I want out. I just want to solve people problem, not push them to buy hairdryers and batteries.

I don't think I would want to leave the business, but sadly I'm a little to insecure in my own ability to start my own business. Right now, what I really want to do is help small non-IT business getting the services and solutions they need, without ripping them of. It just quickly because terrifying. The prospect of maybe not finding customers, or not being able to solve a issue scare me beyond belief.


I'm curious; what do you consider of something working with your hands? I came from the opposite background (former chemist, process engineer, chemical engineering) and opposed the minimal work that hardly anyone cared for. With programming, moving electrons makes it a much bigger impact with much ease.


I can sympathize with anexprogrammer and I think by working with your hands he might mean something like woodworking, metalworking, generally working "in the shop" making stuff.

I'm not unhappy being a programmer, but from time to time I immensely enjoy fixing things at home myself - I see result of my work here and now. Being a programmer I may not see finished result of my work for a long time.

I think it is quite beneficial for programmers to dabble in some hobbies that involve some handiwork - be it knitting or making playing dices out of metal.


I'm now in conservation and restoration, so a bit of all of those.

I considered restoring old vehicles, but didn't want to end up "just" a mechanic. It was working on cars that was my trigger to get out - I felt so much more satisfaction from restoring a car than I ever did from meeting a ship date. I think because it has a tangible sense of progress and completion, and there's something to point at that's more "real"


Ah, I agree, we all need to see progress and potential eventually. I was previously working in semiconductor and it would take 3-8 months to see any effect of my work. That long cycle time pushed me away. Now I am a front-end developer and love it. The feedback of aesthetics, no matter how small, reminds me that I can still have an impact. Thank you for sharing your new found love!


There's a (fair) book on this very subject: "Shop Class as Soulcraft" by Matheww Crawford. He earned a PhD in economics and after working briefly in a Washington think tank he quit and opened a shop repairing antique motorcycles. (That was the plan anyway. I think he really makes his living writing.)

I can totally relate to the need to have a life outside the virtual world. I've been programming for 30 years (data analysis in R&D mostly), and while I love the intellectual stimulation from writing code to do something new, I also crave physical contact with the world. But it's still not clear to me how best to make that work. Can I do this as part of a job, or must this happen only after hours?

I considered working in robotics, since that seemed an ideal mix of the two realms, but I'd rather not feed the military maw, which is where 95% of the work is. Maybe I should just reorg my garage to add room for a workbench and join the ranks of shadetree mechs. Lord knows I have enough machinery that need wrenching...


Conservation and restoration. Some of the things I do will hopefully outlast me. Your typical piece of software is replaced or rendered obsolete in a year or two.

Unless you do something out of the ordinary, in five or ten years time the app, game or website you built is long forgotten or replaced.


That's why I'm losing some of my excitement in programming and getting it back again in designing physical board and card games. Video game development used to excite me, but now most games are made to be consumed in an hour or two and forgotten for the next game.

Meanwhile board games last, there's value in old editions (I picked up a 40 year old copy of Diplomacy recently), and people still play games that are decades old (not all games, but enough to be worthwhile).

Also, even if I never get a single board game published (unlikely), I will still leave prototypes behind for my family to encounter. Meanwhile, my video games are on my hard drive and could disappear if they don't keep perpetuating digital copies of them.

Also you can make a video game version of the board game you made and now you can sell in two different mediums.


Hi, what did you do for a career change if it's okay to ask?


What are you doing now?


I enjoy programming but 'working as a programmer' is infuriating.

There are so many interesting product ideas yet 'me-too' CRUD app recreations of previously successful incumbents products are highly desired. This is particularly true in the startup ecosystems where kids talk about 'interesting' problems and finding 'purpose' and yet are blindly following the mantras and motivational speeches of trite capitalists.

I currently work as a freelancer/contractor in London and I am happy as I make enough money to finance my own intellectual and creative interests for months on end. I hope I'll soon meet other intellectually curious people doing the same thing, and hope we'll be able to join forces to teach ourselves things or perhaps even work on small projects together.

Of course I feel extremely lucky to be in this position which has nothing to do with wanting a slower pace and everything to do with wanting to exert my whole self. And I can't say whether it will be good for me or bad for me; I'm certainly learning a lot about myself and the practicalities of doing this.


I enjoy X, but 'working doing X' is infuriating.

I would bet that most people feel this way. Maybe we should consider alternatives to wage labor that better meet the needs of people instead of the needs of the capitalists...


Why do so many threads always have to devolve into a bizarre condemnation of capitalism? If you don't want to code for a living, then don't code for a living. Do it for fun and make money some other way. If you're upset that you have to work to survive, well, then maybe you need to have a reality check.


It's not bizarre. There is a long historical culture of criticism of capitalism. It's just been squashed in recent decades.

I am a particularly privileged individual because I have a choice of what labor I can do, and even how much to an extent. Most people don't have the choice of just switching careers because they feel like it, and even fewer have the option of even realizing that there is some sort of activity that would be more fulfilling than what they do to survive.

I believe the reality check needs to occur in the people who are too used to their own comfort that they can't even lift their blinders to look outside their own social environments and see the injustice that is happening on a massive scale in the world.


> I am a particularly privileged individual because I have a choice of what labor I can do, and even how much to an extent. Most people don't have the choice of just switching careers because they feel like it, and even fewer have the option of even realizing that there is some sort of activity that would be more fulfilling than what they do to survive.

This is poisonous thinking. Programming is one of the most accessible industries on the planet that doesn't involve physical labor. If somebody has the desire, they can learn how to program and land a job for FREE.

People seem to be squarely divided into two groups in this world: those who believe life happens to them, and those who believe that they make life happen.


> This is poisonous thinking. Programming is one of the most accessible industries on the planet that doesn't involve physical labor. If somebody has the desire, they can learn how to program and land a job for FREE.

Not when you spend 8+ hours doing a demanding but low-paying job (like most are) and then have to come home (+1-2h) to take care of the spouse/children/parents. And even without the latter obligations, there's only so much one can do after being exhausted doing the day; life is not just about working, and many (most?) people can't psychologically sustain doing only work for longer periods of time.


There are several aspects of life that are not fair. However, there are countless anecdotes of people psychologically sustaining to learn something new and improve their station in life.

I will say, I support opening opportunities to learn. Not everyone has a computer - help foster an environment that gets people access to one.

You cannot force someone to have the willpower to work on this, the _best_ you can do is offer opportunities.


No, that's not the best you can do. What we can and should be doing is questioning the systemic inequalities and structures that cause poverty and wage dependence to exist in the first place. Whatever conclusion you come to, if you don't first put in the effort to see if there actually is a reason for existence to be this way, then yes, maybe all you can do is offer opportunities to a select few.


Boy, you're right, it is hard. I guess that's good enough reason not to try.


Some people try. Some of them even succeed. It's worth to try, but let's not act surprised when the aggregate results look poorly.

Issues like this are, like it or not, best viewed globally, not locally. If you raise the bar until, say, 20% of people can't handle it anymore, then you can go and preach about willpower all day long, but it won't change the fact that every fifth person simply won't have it, and it's not really their fault.


Hey, thanks for not taking the bait there and snapping back.

This sort of neutral, put-things-back-on-topic reply is a great example for all of us. You made it look easy!


It's hard to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps if you weren't born with them (and not everyone in the world is). Acknowledging reality does nothing to dissuade people from trying their hardest, but sometimes one's hardest isn't enough.


It's a double-edged sword, IMO.

On the one hand, yes, you can get the education to become a programmer for free.

On the other hand, programming requires a semi-decent computer, which can set someone back a few hundred dollars.

And of course it's time vs money: sure, you can spend a lot of time and zero money to become a great programmer, or you can spend a bit of money and much less time to become a great programmer.

Some people can't afford that money to save the time.


'Needs of the capitalists'... You mean like plumbers, grandmothers, schoolteachers, homeowners, and software developers?


What? Have you ever participated in a criticism of capitalism before? Capitalists are by definition people who own and profit from private property (which includes things like small businesses, large businesses, land that is rented out, etc, and does not include things such as your personal home, your car, your laptop). All the people you listed are likely not capitalists in any sense, other than your simplistic analysis that anybody who lives in a capitalist society is a capitalist.

Those people that you all mentioned are the working class. They are the people who are obligated to trade their time in labor for wages which are used (usually 100%) to pay for their own needs such as food, housing, and savings for retirement, which will also be spend of food and housing, just later in life.


nit: Lots of plumbers are also business owners and employ sub journeymen employees. Those plumbers are capitalists.

I think your point is that people who make money off their labour/time (as opposed to their assets/employees) are not capitalists.

Generally your point stands though.


pension funds are the largest owners of companies - generally owned by middle class


Pension funds (as far as I know, please correct me if I'm wrong) are financial instruments which are meant to be used for future consumption during retirement. They are not financial investments that are used to generate more capital. This makes them distinct from capitalist investments which are used for the purpose of increasing their capital wealth, most of which is unable to be consumed.


Some of the alternatives that seem to work are better capitalism such as YCs "build something people want" model. I'm not sure socialist approaches work very well for programming apart maybe from academia.


Do you have any advice for freelancers looking for interesting clients?

I'm mostly able to find clients that either 1) want full-time employees or 2) are working on 'me-too' CRUDs (sometimes both).


My suggestion is actually not to find interesting clients. My suggestion is to find high-paying clients and then to become your own 'interesting' client (aka, reduce your lifestyle cost to a point in which you're able to use this money to sustain months of self-directed work).

Nothing is perfect and I've no idea whether this particular idiosyncrasy would suit other people - I'm still undecided whether it's for me.


Exactly this.

I've been consulting with various clients for the last 4 years. I make a few multiples more than I need to survive, and do not work more than 50% of the working days per year.

This is relatively easy to achieve:

- I have no debt outside of a couple school loans, which I prioritize paying down to zero. Everything else is either living expenses, or discretionary spending.

- I ensure my clients pay for everything they need—hosting, Github, any and all services. This is an easy sell, as it keeps everything firmly in their control and they can replace me at any time.

- I charge by the day, not the hour. My clients have never complained, and they seem to find it easier to think and budget in per-day terms.


Can you give more specifics on the typical project you take on? Genre/technologies/size/price.


That's basically what I've been doing. I'm not convinced that's the only possible way, which is why I asked. Working on pointless projects is fine for a short period of time (at least for me - I tried that approach multiple times in the past), but a potential source of burnout in the long run...


Have you considered taking a pay cut to work more full time but at a company that you think is doing valuable work? There are a lot of companies trying to "change the world", surely one lines up with your values. Though sometimes the skills they want are more specialized than generic software development (which is what I have :( ).


I would suggest looking in the mirror ;)

Let's be honest. Freelancers are not there to find "interesting clients". They are a temporary resource that enables a client to get a job done they under-resourced.

You have a choice as a freelancer 1) Become money focused. Earn as much as you can for as long as you can. 2) Become idea focused. Earn as much as you can until you have enough to bootstrap the idea. Rinse and repeat. 3) Become money focused but use your income to get the idea fleshed out using upwork.com

If you can get a few of you together it will be a better experience. Working at a co-location hub can be worth it.


Dumb question .. how does one go about getting started as a freelancer? Are there agencies or some other mechanism to get you started? Specifically, interested in how to get started in North America.


It's actually a larger question than you perhaps realize. There are different kinds of freelancing. The spectrum ranges from something that looks like "remote" work to something more akin to agency-like project work.

That former is much easier. The latter pays better but requires a whole bunch of other skills, and takes much more time. The two aren't mutually exclusive however, and that is what I've done as part of my strategy.

There is a monthly find a freelancer thread on here where you might be able to find a gig. Work on building your portfolio/reputation. I'd suggest small projects at reduced rates.

Next, I'd visit a lawyer and get a template contract worked out. Rather than have him write one from scratch, find one that includes a lot of the things you want and have him tweak it. It will be cheaper that way. Most important (IMO) are indemnification, terms of payment, and arbitration.

Get used to promoting yourself. Have your short and long "elevator pitch" together. Put together a landing page and get some business cards. Talk.To.Everyone! You never know where and when your next client will come from.

One of the issues you will run into is the feast or famine issue. You never know when you will get your next client, you have to always be on the lookout and courting -- overloading the queue because a percentage will drop out. If you don't find the next soon enough, then famine. If, as it happens often, several prospects say yes, then you feast. By feast I mean work a lot of hours and save up so you can weather the next famine.

What are your skills? Do you have a portfolio? How about an up-to-date linked-in profile?


You know I've been wondering this lately too. I haven't done any freelance work but I want to get into it. I'm still not sure the answer, but I started by turning on the 'Hire Me' buttons on my Codepen and GitHub accounts. I just launched a portfolio website (last night actually) that showcases a few of my projects and lists my contact information. I think my next step would be to check out sites like elance etc. But I'd love to hear other ideas from successful freelancers.


Not a dumb question at all. I've wondered the same thing myself. Say you're working full time and have $X/mo in fixed expenses. If you leave that job for freelancing, all of a sudden you're going to be making tons less than you were as a full-timer. How do you bridge that gap?


Find a friend or fellow techie to subcontract for.

Use that as a time to learn time management, invoicing and billing, taxes, etc, while you build up a network. This is basically freelance apprenticeship.

Do that for maybe a year and then start doing your own thing.


There really is no secret. Just go do it.

If you're serious about it then incorporating becomes a good idea to protect your assets.

I would suggest starting with family and friends at reduced rates to build a portfolio.


Here's my advice after 7 years of freelancing: https://medium.com/@marknutter/advice-for-the-freelance-deve...

(sorry for the blogspam, I'd repost it here but it's long and I'm too lazy to paraphrase right now)


Pick a niche (with good characteristics) and make sure to be good at things in that niche. From there on, the client or employer will obviously pay you in the way that you want (freelance or employee). The work will also be maximally interesting. I personally get a fantastic rate doing pretty much what I like from my home office.


Could you give an example of niches like that? I'm currently doing all sort of things, ranging from reverse engineering to wordpress websites (yeah, i'm a freelancer...), and I'm super curious to hear what people found out to be "good" niches and what were "bad" niches?


Echoing with the OP said. Figure out who your ideal client is: who they are, what projects they offer, how much they pay, etc. then go to where those ideal clients would hang out. Talk to them, understand them and figure out how you can relieve whatever business discomfort they’re facing.

This will take some time but you’ll eventually get a stream of the type of client that can support the lifestyle you want and want to work and refer you continuously.


The problem with CRUD apps is that they are architected around persistance, the product particularities and business logic are then like second class citizens that must play by CRUD-world or the framework of the year rules. The result is often a mediocre and painful to maintain app which may fulfill a bureaucracies' objectives but for the programmer it feels like being forced to be unprofessional , as if a surgeon was asked to perform an operation with a rusty saw.


I worked in landscaping and then as a custodian making $7/hr before I started learning to code. Working as a programmer has transformed my life. I've got a lot of autonomy in my days, I enjoy solving technical problems, I get to work from home and see my 2yr old grow up.

Yeah it sucks when your manager puts heavy deadlines on your team, or having to do things you don't necessarily agree with, or navigating corporate politics, but at the end of the day it's the best. I don't come home physically exhausted, I don't make shit money, and if I ever end up in a job I don't enjoy, I am able to find a new one fairly easily.

I think it's easy for programmers to hate life sometimes. Most people who are good at this line of work started doing it because they enjoyed it before it was making them money, that's how it was for me. Sometimes I miss haphazardly stringing code together to make something fun, but at the end of the day being a programmer has made me feel fulfilled.


I joke with programmer friends that we should become gardeners instead. I guess the appeal of physical labor is you get to leave work at work.


I've enjoyed working in national security and defense. It's a laid-back environment and I can leave work at work without feeling stressed.


What a world we live in. Defending the security of a nation = laid-back, no stress. Writing yet another CRUD backend for a mobile app = crazy hours and ulcers.


I mostly agree that the environment in government contracting is pretty laid back. We definitely have surge times, but generally we're focused more on getting things done correctly over fast. I think there's also a good understanding that people aren't as effective when they work over 40 hours/week for consecutive weeks.


Having been in government, this seems to be the opposite of what I've seen. Makes me think it is fully a byproduct of culture, independent of the work done.


Woah, can you expand on this? Are you a contractor or a government employee? What makes it laid back? Are the deadlines just more reasonable?


I'm a full-time employee. Managers and government benefits are a pretty big part of it. Work hours are very flexible (some roll in at 6am, others 10am), lengthy vacationable time, etc. Like morga3sm said, we want to do things correctly.

It has its downsides of course: getting a TS security clearance can be stressful, but that goes away afterwards; not being able to tell your SO what you do other than high-level stuff; career advancement and progression can be a long process and you basically know where your salary is going to go when you first start (because it is standardized); and so on.


I find that incredible (in a good way!) My idea of govt organizations was strict dress code, clock in at 8 AM on the dot, leave at 5 PM sharp, unknowable bureaucracy above your head.


Yep, that was my idea at first too! But in the summer I see people in flip flops and shorts :-) Execs still wear suits, but us lowly engineers not so much.


It depends on the contract. For the most part, the scrutiny of government auditors ensure that you actually can't work more than 40 hours in a single week. Sometimes the contract also ensures that the work cannot be done outside of a government-controlled facility.

So if you're the actual do-the-work peon instead of someone in any of the several tiers of useless middlemen, you work regular 8 hour days, get 10 or 11 paid holidays, and when you get home you are simply done with work until the morning of the next workday. It does not matter much if you do your job well or do it poorly, because there are so many other people working on it that you will never get recognition for a job done well, nor will you get any blame for doing it poorly, so long as it does what it says on the box.

The deadlines also vary by contract, but as every layer of middlemen adds its own padding, it wouldn't be remarkable to have two years to develop yet-another-CRUD-app with zero scalability, compatibility, or interoperability requirements.

No one doing the actual work is a direct government employee, because the uniform pay schedules are completely incompatible with industry norms. The government employees are simply there to make sure the contractors do what is required.

The net result is that you can get all your work done in just 2 hours and look busy for 6, or amble through it at a sloth's pace, gold-plating everything, achieving 100% test coverage, using ordinary software as a teaching lab for industry best practices, and such.

There are plenty of downsides, of course. The work is never glamorous, and you never really have much say in what you do or how you do it. You have zero job security, as you could be out of work if the wind changes direction in Washington, DC. The codebase will always be complete garbage when you are first introduced to it. The unimaginative and slow environment is not stimulating, so you absolutely must have a hobby or side-project that can engage you mentally outside of work.


> There are plenty of downsides, of course. The work is never glamorous, and you never really have much say in what you do or how you do it. You have zero job security, as you could be out of work if the wind changes direction in Washington, DC. The codebase will always be complete garbage when you are first introduced to it. The unimaginative and slow environment is not stimulating, so you absolutely must have a hobby or side-project that can engage you mentally outside of work.

These are the same downsides you see in the private sector.


> For the most part, the scrutiny of government auditors ensure that you actually can't work more than 40 hours in a single week.

Have yet to encounter a contracting environment where is is true. In fact, I was explicitly told that since I was salaried I was expected to put in whatever work it took to make deadlines, despite only putting 40 hours down on my timecard. Considering the facility I worked in had a DCAA office embedded in it I find it hard to believe the government did not know this was going on.


Oh, how delightful. Call the government ethics hotline and inform them that your employer is defrauding the government. You might get a nice bonus out of it, in theory.

In reality, whistleblowers always get screwed. You would have to extensively cover your own ass, and gather evidence that absolves you, specifically, of wrongdoing first.

If you are reporting time worked as anything other than the actual number that you were working, that is illegal. So alternately, start reporting the actual hours worked. If your employer makes an issue of it, tell them that you will need a signed, written copy of any order they give you that instructs you to violate the law.

If you get fired, you can retaliate by getting someone sent to jail.


I haven't worked there in almost four years, so that would be hard to do at this point. Even if I was, part of what sustained this is that we were a classified program, so only cleared auditors could access the full information.

Furthermore, our government customer didn't care as long as they got their deliveries on time and as cheaply as possible. I know in theory a program office can't lean on DCAA, but in practice (especially considering the clearance situation) I don't know if the PO would obstruct such an investigation. After all, from their POV getting what they want for less is not fraud.


I consider it likely that they're still doing it after four years. Even so, you can still report what happened four years ago.

The DoD inspector general hotline is (800) 424-9098 or http://www.dodig.mil/hotline/hotlinecomplaint.html .

The GAO fraudnet hotline is (800) 424-5454 or https://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/fraudnet.cgi .


Are you in SIGINT? If you're not in SIGINT, I agree with everything you've said, otherwise my experience has been pretty different likely because I'm in SIGINT. Most of us are employees and the work can be pretty satisfying and rewarding, especially when you can see the effects and/or results when you're just a small cog in the machine.

It's possible we're in different countries, though :-).


11 or 10 paid holidays? Do you mean that's the total number of holiday days you get in an entire year? Does that include public holidays?


The federal government has exactly 10 federal holidays: New Year's Day, MLK Jr. Day, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Government controlled sites are closed on those days. That means contractors can't work at such a site on those days. Rather than requiring their employees to work elsewhere, contractor companies often just concede that their employees can get a holiday too, and most of them even make it paid time off.

Some companies observe different holidays, such as by adding Christmas Eve and the day after Thanksgiving, and removing Columbus Day.

There is no such thing as public holidays in the US. Some days are bank holidays. Some days are school holidays. Some days are federal holidays. But there is no law that requires any employer to give all of its nonessential employees paid time off on any particular day. The only sort-of-exception is that an employer can't prevent someone from voting on Election Day, but that does not have to be paid leave.

Wal-Mart, for instance, has only 5 paid holidays: Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas. (Note that Easter is always on a Sunday, a time when many people already have a day off from work.) And if you get holiday bonus pay for working on those days, your hours are rumored to be cut afterward to compensate.

Some companies are also generous enough to allow 80 additional hours of paid time off every year, to be used as either sick leave or vacation days.


To me as a US English speaker this meant public holidays, since we normally call the other type of holiday "vacation". He probably gets at least 10-15 of those as well.


I have a good friend who lives in Alabama and works for one of the many DoD contractors.

When he leaves work at 5pm he actually can't access his work email. Nobody can send him anything from work on an unsecured line.

When he leaves work at 5pm on a Friday, nobody can contact him about work related things until he is on site at 8am on Monday morning.

He's a senior level unix admin. That can't ever be paged. I'd say that's pretty okay.


Depends on the company and facility situation. I worked for several years in such an environment, but the facility was open 24/7. You could be paged at any time for critical issues, but of course would always have to come in to find out what it actually was. Not being able to bring work home just led to the expectation that you would spend more time in the office.


Yeah, that and a lack of responsibility sometimes attracts me. My whole career (+15yrs) has basically been in industries where things are not allowed to go wrong. Some days I wish I was a lumberjack or maybe a programmer in an industry where you don't kill people or cost millions of dollars with a bug... But at the end of the day I can't stop myself from programming and I want to work on things that make a difference, so I'll leave the wood-cutting to my spare time.


Odd that you would pick lumberjack as an example since that is a job where mistakes frequently do kill people.


Yeah, I know, I realized that as I wrote it, but I guess I like to be out in the woods and do some heavy labor.

A bit of a simplification maybe, but as a lumberjack there are N+2 moving parts you need to care about, the saw, the tree and N coworkers in the proximity (N < 10) (if there's a moose and I catch it with my falling tree, it doesn't count as an accident, it counts as a bonus). With software there are thousands of moving parts and you can be pretty sure that no matter the amount of testing and code-reviewing, the parts will move in new unexpected ways once they reach the customers. Besides as a lumberjack when you leave work you leave work. You only have to worry about not killing someone during your working hours.


It wasn't landscaping but, I worked in a shop where the supes were often abusive. That isn't always true.


The appeal of physical labor? People only do physical labor because they are either unlucky or simply lack the knowledge to choose another path. I don't expect that to be the popular perspective on "PC" hacker news but that is the real world for you. Show me a gardener who wouldn't want to make 6 figures instead of breaking their back day in and day out for close to if not minimum wage? Appeal? Yeah right.


I disagree with your POV.I would rather say that everyone likes a change.Most of the programmers have very active lifestyle where they pursue physical labour based hobbies.To bring in an age-old platitude , "Everything is good in moderation" .You have extremes like a person who decided to leave programming to become a farmer[1]. And several other examples like this exist.What you need to understand is the satisfaction which comes from making things. I love programming solely because of my ability to create. Infact I feel that it is the ability to create that would drive any job.A skilled artisan pursues his interest because of the satisfaction he obtains from his creations.The same goes for us programmers. It comes down to the fact of skilled labour possessed by you.And if you really think that blue collar workers earn less,then you are quite mistaken[2].

TLDR; its the passion for creation which drives any job.As a programmer having things setup in hours or weeks and then seeing your product being used by a percentage of the 3 billion people[3] who use the www.It brings a hell load of satisfaction in me.

[1]:http://hello-world.io [2]:http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/plumber/salary [3]:http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/


I see your POV but simply don't think it's realistic. Not to mention the salaries you linked are, as far as I can tell, lower than most 'white collar' jobs.

Most gardeners, plumbers, construction workers etc. are NOT artisans. They are just normal people trying to get by as best as they can with the means that they have. They often have lower level of education etc. etc. This is the real world. Not to mention that most programmers don't actually like programming... it's just the myth perpetuated on these (and other alike) boards. These are 90% of programmers that aren't on HN etc. They just don't care. They don't love programming at all - it's just their job.

This passion for creation is great - but it's simply too idealistic. Most people hate their damn jobs and hate it mostly because of how exhausting it is to make not very much money.


You are right. But... I'd be a gardener. If it paid me the same I make now. At least for 3 months a year?

I worked at Lowes in college hauling lumber and I miss it dearly (rose colored goggles and all). I was in the best shape of my life, I didn't think about work (lumber?) at home. It was a simpler life.


I wonder if you'd have enjoyed it as much if you weren't as young as you probably were at the time (late teens/early 20?)

That sort of work can really wreck your body as you get older.


Last summer I discovered I particularly like gardening. I think I'd be a gardener too if it paid the same.


I guess its something that grows on you as you get older.

Ive toyed with the idea of buying a little house in south europe, cut my expenses, work IT part-time/remot and have some land to grow stuff on.


> I think I'd be a gardener too if it paid the same.

this is exactly my point


If you could make 6 figures, I think a decent chunk of people would prefer it to doing office work and making 6 figures. Anyway, the point is that some amount of physical labor as part of your daily life helps make you feel less like a slug. And for some people having that labor not strictly be exercise is compelling.


I used to landscape - and if it were practical, I'd go back to it. There was a lot about that work that was very satisfying. I wouldn't give up on programming, but it would be something I did just for fun and/or side profit.

Do you know people who do that kind of work? I spent three years working with a decent sampling of them. Sure, some feel that it's drudge work and that they're stuck doing it for lack of options. They get through their day doing the minimum necessary - you can find those types in our field as well. But a lot do take real pride in what they do, and in doing it well.

Of course many if not most would take an office job for more money if they opportunity were there - but that doesn't mean none of them derive pleasure and satisfaction form the work they're doing.


I'm not quite saying that it's not possible to derive pleasure and satisfaction from physically laborious work. I am saying that it's a very pretty picture that's far away from real life to claim that that's normal. Most people do not like their job. Most people don't like their job as PROGRAMMERS.

What fantasy world is everyone living in that they love their jobs and derive pleasure from it? What 1%'s of gardeners are we talking about here? I assure you 99% of them would rather not be gardening.

It's very likely if you are doing a physically laborious job you are making very little money, struggling to feed your family, give your kids the spoils they want, your wife is mad that you can't take her on vacation etc. etc.


I don't know about gardening, but I've certainly sacrificed financially in order to be able to farm. When you consider the huge capital costs, you have to love it. Anyone who doesn't love it would be far better off selling out.

Granted, it isn't that physically demanding. The biggest amount of labour I find is repairing/modifying equipment, and that comes with interesting problem solving challenges, which my programmer mindset tends to enjoy.

Still, I can see why gardening would be seen as appealing.

> your wife is mad that you can't take her on vacation

Why would anyone get mad about that? My wife is a grown adult, she can pay for her own vacation. Farming is my vacation.


> Why would anyone get mad about that? My wife is a grown adult, she can pay for her own vacation. Farming is my vacation.

All I can say is that you are incredibly lucky if this is a true statement.


The gardener example is extreme, but not all physical labor is minimum wage. I have friends that have traded their cushy 6 figure knowledge worker jobs for more down to earth jobs where they work with their hands. From what I can tell, they have traded short term monetary gain for long term happiness, and it definitively has its appeal.


and the realities of the job economy is exactly why "not PC"?

of course physical labor does not pay as much, as long as the pool of workers is significantly larger. Doesn't mean that some folks would choose another career path if other fields would pay as much as software engineering does.


This is an extremely narrow view of the human experience.


I've made this point elsewhere. But I consider this the realistic view that comes from a good amount of experience and simply using my eyes.

You say narrow - I say broad. For most people the 'job' they do is just a thing that brings money in. They have no feelings towards it - it's just a thing they do. They are more concerned with their family, their relationships in general, how they are going to support their kids, how are they going to pay their damn bills etc. etc.

Under this condition I find it hilarious for someone to justify -- sitting from their computer screen with an IDE open on the other monitor no doubt -- the fantasy happiness that can be had from doing a lower paying and physically more challenging job. I don't know gardening, but I do know construction, intimately, and imagine that gardening as a profession is not too entirely different. Most people who do these jobs are not doing it for some fantasy happiness. They are doing it out of necessity.


This must be a common joke amongst programmers. We often joke that we should all become potato farmers. Being outside, watching things grow, working with something physical. I totally get the appeal.


I actually got fired once because I didn't work crazy hours. Now I work at another company where it's much more laid back. I don't do any work when I get home or on the weekends.


> I think it's easy for programmers to hate life sometimes.

This is almost entirely due to a severe lack of perspective.


Definitely agree. Try taking a job that pays minimum wage (if you have one), or work in a shop, as a builder, or find friends who have to work all hours to survive and you'll realise how damned lucky you are.


No. Just because "it can be worse" doesn't mean someone doesn't have the right to be unhappy. It's a totally specious argument. "Your kid died? Well, what if BOTH your kids died? You have a lack of perspective..."

Yes, they would no doubt prefer their high-paying job over a minimum wage job. But that doesn't mean that they no longer have any right to be unhappy with their lives. This is exactly the point of the hedonic treadmill[1]. There are happy people with rough jobs and unhappy people with great jobs.

[1]The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.


> "Your kid died? Well, what if BOTH your kids died? You have a lack of perspective..."

Glass half full vs glass half empty. The hedonic treadmill has nothing to do with it. It's about being thankful and making the best of things. That's the antidote.

However you look at it being a programmer in today's society has the potential to give you an amount of choice and wealth enjoyed by very few other industries. You can make your own luck by simply being motivated enough to learn, and the initial outlay to create a massively profitable business is tiny compared to many other fields. So make the best of it. You could work for 3 months a year and do what you love for the other 9.

Are you really telling me you can't make that work? It is about perspective.


Yes, I am not arguing the objective benefits of our occupation.

I'm saying that having a job like this doesn't mean you ought to be happy, anymore than being rich means you ought to be happy, as is well known.


I have a side question, did you end up pursing a CS/Engineering degree? I'm trying to get a dev role and have a business background and looking for some advice on getting in.


The majority of the CS degree isn't very useful to dev work. Most of what you'll use in your day job you'll learn on your own, or on the job. A CS degree is mostly academic, and also mostly a sampling of a bunch of different domains to whet your appetite.

However there are a few topics I consider essential... operating systems, algorithm runtime/performance, data structures, basic software engineering/design patterns, memory management (seriously, everyone should have a course in C or C++) and functional programming (like Haskell).

Even hacking away at a PHP or Node server, there are times when a bit of knowledge of Big-O runtimes can save you from creating a script that never finishes.


I have a similar background in that I was primarily self-taught before finding a paid apprenticeship that lasted almost a year and then being employed as a consultant by the company.

If you can afford it, I'd recommend pursuing a formal route. It exposes you to a lot of ideas and ways of thinking that are hard to get in practice. After having programmed for around 4 years now, I often wish I'd studied CS.

In lieu of that, I think Udacity's nanodegrees programs are probably a good way to end up in a paid position relatively soon.

(I'm assuming you're looking to break into web programming. I can't speak for other areas.)


I eventually want to purse the formal route and do a part time BSc or perhaps get a MSc, for now I need something to pay off loans


I'm self-taught and I got my first job through going to user groups and scoping out what was going. Second job was with a much more difficult problem domain, but I'd taught myself some CS from textbooks during my first job so in the interview I came with lots of examples of work (both day job and freelance) and piped up about CS topics where I knew about them, and admitted when I didn't but stressed that I wanted to learn. I beat several other people to the job even though I was the most junior.

A lot of devs even at a mid or higher level have little curiosity for the theory side of things, and eventually you'll run into problems that require knowledge of it, so being enthusiastic (and a bit self-starting) in that area pays dividends in my experience even if you're not the most experienced dev going for a job.

The only caveat is that both were/are small companies, so no HR apparatus to go through.


I can give you a little advice from seeing some non-degree-having peers make it.

Have some idea what you're doing. Talking the talk is great, but you must be able to walk the walk. Apply to everything that sound like you can/want to do it, even if you don't technically meet the requirements. Those are mostly for HR pre-filtering since HR doesn't really know what they're talking about in 99% of cases - they're just looking for keyword hits.


Great thanks. I've built stuff before and have been learning/coding for the past ~4 years so I don't classify myself as a complete beginner.

When applying without a CS background how tough are the technical interviews? Do they tend to expect more or are they more lenient and look more at fit and ability to grow?


> When applying without a CS background how tough are the technical interviews?

It's very rare, in my experience, to be asked a pure CS question in the interview. For some positions you may be silently expected to have some degree of familiarity with CS concepts, for other - especially entry-level - positions you don't need CS knowledge at all.

Being able to produce working and good looking code is all most companies want from fresh employees, I think. It's unfortunately still hard to find people with that skill, but if you have it you can learn everything else.

In short: apply everywhere, go to interviews and don't be afraid. You'll be pleasantly surprised (I hope).


Depends where you're going. Top companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc are looking for people who can pass some tough CS questions, whereas more standard corporate or mid-stage startups are going to be a bit more lax. I've seen everything from "parse this integer from a string without your language's built in parse function" to "build a small database schema using ER diagrams" to "write us a P2P chat server with a central login server".


I interviewed a referral once, this kid had written a couple of trivial android apps in notepad, which was something at least. But when I drilled down he really didn't understand anything he was doing with respect to the build (ie didn't know what the classpath was), didn't know anything about basic collections, didn't know tools like eclipse, version control. He claimed to be eager to learn, but no one has a full time dev to spare teaching anyone intro classes on this stuff.

So, from my perspective, if he would have known the tools, basic concepts, and had taught himself more, he would have been a hire. Otherwise, he just wasn't self starting, and really wasn't eager to learn, or he would have come with more ability.


In that kind of situation you can basically do a contract to perm internship kind of thing, point them at resources, and see if he's fully competent to be junior at the end of the contract. Not everyone can afford this of course, but sometimes people don't even know what they should be learning, but will gobble up knowledge if pointed in the right direction. A weapon waiting to be aimed, if you will.


I had a friend who started his CS degree at the same time I started learning on my own, and he is just about to graduate while I've been in the field for about 2 years now. So it worked out for me to not seek a degree.

He's also a vastly different person than I am, writing code is not a passion of his, while it is of mine. I'd be writing code whether or not it was my job, while he'd rather be doing other things.


6/10. I'm less than 3 years into my career, but I think I've worked for some of the best companies with great pay, benefits, environments, etc, including a tech giant and two startups. End of the day though, work is boring. Its always work. Your time and effort is going towards making someone else rich and their priorities are more important than your own.

The only things I really look forward to are vacations and events outside of work. Learning things is always exciting and sometimes its extremely rewarding getting a project (or even a feature) off the ground and seeing a company rise and beat projections. But then a few weeks later, its just back to work and nothings really different. Its a temporary victory at best, then expectations just get higher and more grind.

The best you can possibly hope for is enjoying the people you work with and getting a couple good exits. I'm never married to my work and I would be incredibly depressed if I allowed it to define me as a person. It pays the bills, and generally pretty well.

Even compensation wise, it peaks very early and probably won't get most rich without a ton of luck. Its depressing to make comparisons, but 99.9% of developers will never make half of what a specialized MD or successful lawyer or someone in finance might make. Granted, the barrier to entry is much lower in CS (sometimes nearly nonexistent depending on the line of work).

edit: Reading some of the other comments made me realize how dissatisfied I am with this line of work. On average, the people really are incredibly boring, especially at large companies. It is true that it is dominated by men and many are socially awkward. Its even worse that I think being on a computer for so many hours a day for years at a time makes everyone a little less socially adept, at least compared to the sales folks who spend most of their days on the phone. I'm literally spending my weekends looking for the most reckless and dangerous things I can do (lately its been surfing 2-3x head high waves, before it was motorcycling through snow/ice storms) to compensate and its completely unhealthy.


Its depressing to make comparisons, but 99.9% of developers will never make half of what a specialized MD or successful lawyer or someone in finance might make.

Why not make a much less depressing comparison and compare developer wages to manual labourers or retail staff? Compare a typical developer to a typical retail worker and we get way more money for way less stress. We're not at the top end of the scale, but we are nowhere near the bottom either.

We get to sit in comfortable offices, working on interesting projects (mostly), building things that make a difference to people, without getting dirty or abused by the public, and we're pretty well paid for it on the whole. And there's always the possibility that we might hit on an idea that returns literally billions of dollars. Or work for someone else who had that idea and walk away with literally hundreds of millions of dollars. Most people don't have that sort of opportunity.

I've been a professional developer for over 20 years, and I've enjoyed most of it. It afforded me the opportunity to do my own startup for a while, and when that failed it was easy to get back in to work with a job that pays quite well. I certainly wouldn't want to do anything else.


> compare developer wages to manual labourers or retail staff

apples to oranges.

we're highly specialized knowledge workers. well most of us are, so it is more fair to compare with bankers, lawyers, medics, architects, politician and middle managers which can count on a year to year income growth instead of having to playing idea lottery.


I'd compare us only superficially to capital-P Professions like lawyers, architects, engineers and the like. There are no bar exams to get a license to practice programming in the industry; no liability -- it's really easy for people to misrepresent themselves and for companies to take advantage of us.

Comparing us to retail workers has some merit. We're not professions, have no collective representation, and can be easily replaced (despite current myths about how difficult it is to hire programmers there are hoards of new graduates and self-taught individuals making the leap from other careers and professions because of the money and cushy benefits -- most hiring processes seem to be designed to keep the majority of people out).


I wouldn't exactly call developers highly specialized. Specialized developers work in a tiny niche and make lots of money by being one of the very few in that niche. Any of us could potentially become specialized, but very few of us actually are.

Hell, most of us could jump fields without losing steam. Systems administration, security, database administration, all of these can be done by a decent developer.


At some level. But I would never hire a developer to do security, or sysad. Because they have the wrong mindset for it. I want some OCD single-minded person keeping my network safe. Not someone who like to just 'get it done' as efficiently as possible. Totally different goal, and to be really good at it takes a different person.


Arguably, none of us are chartered. But I agree, you have to compare like-for-like.


On one hand, yes, absolutely. We have much better than the vast majority of the people and there are times when it doesn't feel right to complain about it.

On the other hands, it's turtles all the way down until you reach "well, we are still alive, at least that's something".

While some humility and reality check is good, aspiring to have something better (be it in the monetary terms or whatever drives you) is also important to make progress.


> Why not make a much less depressing comparison and compare developer wages to manual labourers or retail staff?

Some software engineers undertook difficult curriculums in highly selective universities. In that case, I think it's understandable to feel a little bit depressed when comparing to former classmates in more prestigious fields. Personally, I have to admit that sometimes I feel that way (even though I'd probably do the same if I could go back in time because I love this field).


We get to sit in comfortable offices, working on interesting projects (mostly), building things that make a difference to people, without getting dirty or abused by the public, and we're pretty well paid for it on the whole. And there's always the possibility that we might hit on an idea that returns literally billions of dollars. Or work for someone else who had that idea and walk away with literally hundreds of millions of dollars. Most people don't have that sort of opportunity.

Very well said.


Less stress? Retail workers turn up a 9 leave at 17:30 - they dot get called up outside of work in an emergency to fix some one elses code that causing a problem.


If I'm 45 minutes late for work 3 days in a row with no good excuse, no one gives a fuck. Retail worker shows up 45 minutes late one day and they're most likely fired. I also don't have to worry about people fucking around with my shifts and thus how much money will be in my next paycheck.

Having even a modicum of job and financial security removes so much stress from your life.


> If I'm 45 minutes late for work 3 days in a row with no good excuse, no one gives a fuck.

Unfortunately it doesn't work that way for all developers. At my last job there were continual reminders and reprimands for being even five minutes late.


In my first job ~25 years ago I got told off for coming in 5 minutes late even though I had gone on to a customer site at 9pm the previous evening and worked to ~1am to fix the problem.

Left there after 9 months and have never worked anywhere like that since.


you've heard of "code smell", right? that right there is a "career smell".


If you are a salaried exempt employee, you should not have to put up with that BS from timeclock nazis. But it is all entirely legal, and for many companies, obeying the letter of the law on paper is the only requirement for corporate policy.

Sadly, without the muscle of collective bargaining to back you up, your only real options are to politely beg your management to stop being timeclock nazis, or to leave for greener pastures.


In retail, you don't get free food / liquid. You have to stand on your feet all day. Customers are allowed to scream at you and you have to figure out how to make them happy. Bosses are more than happy to fire you because, let's be honest, there are 1,000 others that can do your job. No guarantees of a 40 hour work-week. No paid holidays, no benefits. Raises are like 25c, and that is only if the boss really likes you and you aren't in a union, shifts well past midnight on Friday and Christmas Eve... (don't care to continue)


> In retail, you don't get free food / liquid.

Water is free, most likely. I've never had free food programming, beyond nutra-grain bars, once.

> Customers are allowed to scream at you and you have to figure out how to make them happy.

Toxic clients exist in the programming world, too. And as a low-level peon, you have a lot more leeway in telling an abusive customer to get out than you do a multimillion dollar client.

> shifts well past midnight on Friday and Christmas Eve...

Still happens for developers.

As strange as it may sound, I think I personally was happier waiting tables. But it wasn't going to pay the bills. In general, I totally agree that most people, all things considered, are better off programming. But let's not overstate our case. :) There are definitely some programming jobs which are light-years better than any retail job because e.g., you don't have to deal with customers, but that's not all programming jobs.


Try crawling around in asbestos filled attics or rat infested crawl spaces for 12 bucks an hour.

Programming is much easier than so many professions I've had in the past it's absolutely unbelievable.


I was a "pest control technician" (exterminator) before I started programming professionally, so I know how you feel. My life now is a cakewalk by comparison.


Oh, man. At 16-17, I used to do that installing HVAC systems. At 21-22, I worked in a factory to support a family. Then I spent the next 3.5 years selling cars. Finally said, "Fuck this", and decided to start programming as work instead of just play.

Even the worst days of the last 9 years have never been as hard as the best days before it.


> I think I personally was happier waiting tables.

Sometimes, the social aspects of your job outweigh other factors. Throw in the simplicity of jobs like waiting tables, and I've found that it can be a lot of enjoyment.


Ignoring the financial aspect of it, I actually didn't mind working in a department store all that much. During downtime you got to socialize with coworkers (many of whom were female), during busy times the time just flew by, you got to move around a lot and be active, you weren't expected to know every detail about everything you were responsible for, just be able to answer some basic questions about certain products ("Why is this more expensive? Which one is best for situation X?"). Also your friends could stop by your workplace to chat from time to time.

As for the no guarantee of 40 hour work week... well, again ignoring the financial aspect of it, only working 20 or 30 hours a week was much more enjoyable than 40-55 hours (or even higher at some places) work weeks.


> shifts well past midnight on Friday and Christmas Eve.

Haha, try working as a developer supporting a retail-based operation! Our company pulls all-nighters on black friday and christmas eve.


There are plenty of people on so-called "zero hours" contracts who don't know from day to day when their working hours will be, may be called in at short notice to work an off shift, and have no predictability of pay.


there are plenty of programming jobs where you don't get bothered outside of work.


I assume you have never worked in retail.

As a retail worker, the pay is at or just above minimum wage and benefits like PTO and health insurance do not exist because the jobs are usually part time. Additionally, retail work always comes with irate customers who will piss you off, your coworkers off and your bosses off. So everyone is angry. Retail workers often do not have a set schedule, this is especially true during the holiday season. They have to find coverage before taking an unpaid day of leave. Lastly, because no real skill is needed to work in retail, workers are easily replaceable. 1 mistake can get you canned.

How is a situation like that more stressful than being on call of which you get paid to be on?


I don't think payment for on call is the norm in the USA - it can be very lucrative in the uk I knew of people on 4 in 4 who got called twice a year.

15 Years ago it was £400 for 1 in 4 plus Toil (time off) for time worked


> And there's always the possibility that we might hit on an idea that returns literally billions of dollars. Or work for someone else who had that idea and walk away with literally hundreds of millions of dollars. Most people don't have that sort of opportunity.

This reads like a sales pitch for the lottery, and as a random developer, your odds are pretty similar.


its not a good comparison since retail takes absolutely sero education or brains.


While I see your point (and I agree a bit), it's not exactly fair to put it this way.

There are many people working in these industries who didn't have much opportunity to get decent education, etc. For example, my parents. They are from rural areas from Soviet Union, where getting higher education was not something that goes by default as it is now (which might not be a great thing given the number of people with worthless law/business management degrees from the bottom 10% of universities... oh well).

Obviously, there's a segment of people who didn't give a crap and held an attitude that education is for losers / nerds (before the word 'nerd' was cool) and I don't have much for them sympathy.

So it's not fair to just disrespect everyone working in the retail as 'zero brains'.


I'm saying the job requires zero brains or education. I did not mean to imply people who work in retail have no brains or even less than average. in my country it's not really a legit career choice. it's mostly high school kids or people under 23 who do it as it's compensated below adult minimum wage. after a certain age you either get promoted or fired.


I see, sorry for getting you wrong.

Meanwhile in Lithuania, it's fairly typical that the majority of people working in retail are in their 40s and been doing that for the last ~20 years with very minimal increments in salary (usually because of increased minimal salary).


It's not about disrespect. It's about how much effort you put in to get to that point.

How much effort is needed to get a cashier position? Show up, be sober - you got a job. Many people in IT started learning the ropes in their own time after school. Although it was a hobby, it was still an effort that turned out to be helpful in job market.


Here in the US it's not so different. When I was 20, I worked at Target when I took a semester off school. I think only two or three of my coworkers were around my age. The rest were 30+.


Meaningless class based prattle

Hardest management job I ever had - working night shift manager at a food store while going to college during the day. Like surviving a hurricane while running a marathon while the building's on fire, every single night. I lived roughly a decade of "real" management in my senior year.

Cashiering required a surprising amount of memorization of obscure procedures and policies and item codes, not to mention carefully tracked flawless arithmetic skills when giving change.

The general manager was an artist of endcap design. At non-megacorp retail you're on your own when designing displays. Its truly an art. At the megacorps you have teams of CAD drafters, graphics artists, and sales consultants designing displays, at a non-megacorp story you have yourself, and the boss expects you to do as good of a job as the team. Teams are usually much less productive than individuals, so its not as hard as it sounds.

Stock clerk at higher levels was insane. Its really a two level job and the new hire teen kids merely threw product on marked shelves, but if you were there more than a year and were not an idiot you watched the more experienced guys and took over for them, after which you spent all your time on rotations and resets and price changes and sales stickering and being a reception clerk for the 50 or so direct store delivery trucks we had. I don't care if you have 20 pounds of soup cans for a 10 pound shelf, make all of them fit somehow and you need to accept deliveries from dairy and bread and beer and you have two hours until break time to get this all done plus or minus helping out everyone else.

I've noticed over many decades that despite enormous quantities of (self serving) propaganda, the hourly pay rate people get generally has little relationship with how difficult or important the job is, on a large enough scale.

Another interesting observation is the dumb people didn't survive on the job nearly as long as the smart people, and the dumb people absolutely suffered horribly compared to the smart people.


Anecdotes like this make me wonder what will people in the bottom 1/4 of the bell curve do for a living in the future?


Depends very much on the retail job. If you're expected to sell stuff and work on any sort of commission, then retail jobs take a lot of (a certain type of) smarts if you want earn good money.


Retail managers certainly act that way, but I wish it weren't so. The one thing that has the potential to bring me to a brick and mortar store instead of buying online, is the chance to talk to an employee who is an expert on the product. Sadly it doesn't happen too often. Usually you get someone with enough brains to operate a cash register and no more than that. Ask a good question, you get a blank stare in return. Or they tell you to google it. And because they get paid garbage money, they often can't even afford to buy the product they're selling, so they don't have firsthand experience with it. Could be so much better...


But the thing is I could have been an MD, lawyer or someone in finance - these things were well within my reach. But I was sold a false dream and now I am stuck in misery.


Why not just switch? Is it too late? You can always take out loans if it's money; that's what most people would have to do anyway I imagine.


working conditions in all of those industries are terrible compared to almost all software jobs. and the work in finance and law is tedious. you're dreaming.


Uhh... I have to ask: what, exactly, were you expecting? Exhilarating highs and a path to millions?

It's a job. Most people don't have jobs that'll make them "rich". Be glad you aren't living paycheck to paycheck, or worse, are unemployed because the job you had was optimized away with computers.

To be blunt, there's a sense of entitlement evident, here, that I have trouble grokking. You get to spend all day in a comfortable office working with no more than your hands and brain making double to triple what a day labourer pulls in with a hell of a lot more effort.

And your complaints are, what, you have to hammer someone else's nails, the work is repetitive, and it isn't a fun party every day while you amass untold riches?

Look, I get being dissatisfied. Humans love looking at that greener grass on the other side of things fence. But appreciate what you have. Seriously.


This is a horrible comment. There is 100x more to a career than living a comfortable existence.

Personally, I want to feel purposeful at work and that I am contributing to a better world. I also absolutely require regular challenges or I end up severely depressed. Also, I have undertaken extensive education partially as a way of raising my standard of living and having a more enjoyable life outside of work.

THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE! Yea, it's not always going to be a party, but there's a hell of a lot more to it than sitting in air conditioning. And you're allowed to demand a hell of a lot out of your career as long as you are willing to put in the work to get it.

My search for a challenging and intrinsically and extrinsically rewarding career brought me to study the life sciences. Then I ended up in a healthcare company doing menial crap and then a graduate degree in bioinformatics. I'm looking through job-ad after job-ad, and while the occasional one looks challenging I am absolutely terrified that I am going to end up as a desk-monkey who doesn't interact with people and again gets no challenges.

I hope I am wrong and I can make this career work for me, but I am already looking at applying to medical school in a year if can't find a challenging and decently rewarding job in bioinfo. Sucks, because I had originally intended on being a doctor when I was in undergrad but went in another direction because I wasn't 100% sure about it at the time. Unfortunately, I am 100% sure I do not enjoy being a desk jockey.


> This is a horrible comment. There is 100x more to a career than living a comfortable existence.

I thought so too. However, the funny thing with market economy is that it IS pretty efficient, so jobs that are regarded as satisfying and challenging are approached by so many talented people that they don't have to pay very well and the conditions are usually not great.

The solution is to either accept that the role of a career is to get to you to early retirement ASAP (Mr Money Mustache style) or to get excited about something that most people don't care about.


> jobs that are regarded as satisfying and challenging are approached by so many talented people that they don't have to pay very well and the conditions are usually not great.

Agree! If I could be a florist on a developers salary I would jump at it and never look back.


Yes, I am beginning to realize that a lot of people actually don't want to bang their heads against the wall regularly at work. I do, though :/

Solving an insanely hard problem I have struggled with for days, weeks, or months is the most satisfying thing I've ever experienced.


>Personally, I want to feel purposeful at work and that I am contributing to a better world.

And yet you are depending on your employer to provide you with this?

>but I am already looking at applying to medical school in a year if can't find a challenging and decently rewarding job in bioinfo

I see you running into the same issue.

Just because you've received "an education" doesn't entitle you to a glamorous, exciting job. You'll probably have to make that yourself.


They don't owe me a purposeful, challenging job with a livable wage you are ABSOLUTELY right. However, I don't owe anyone 40+ hours a week when I get nothing out of it but the ability to pay rent and eat.

I am okay with dying. I don't see a point in living a life where I spend my days contributing to a company that does nothing for the world and I am bored out of my mind. I would rather work at McDonald's if that's the case. I am being serious! Money is only a secondary goal.

My ultimate goal is to work for myself and I will at some point. Hopefully that means starting a company focused on genomics, big data, or healthcare, but if not I will buy a gas station and run it myself.


THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE! And you're allowed to demand a hell of a lot out of your career as long as you are willing to create it.

No one will ever just give you an interesting career tailor-made for you. Find out what is interesting, fulfilling, and challenging, and make that your career over time. You start in your company doing menial crap but then move to interesting crap over time, by being intentional about what the company needs, what you need, and how you can leverage one to get the other.


I spent 4 years in a healthcare company in a job that REQUIRED a BS in the life sciences. I never had single day where I was challenged by the goals set by my managers. For 2 years I doubled those goals every single month, some days I was able to quadruple those goals. I was the highest performing one in the department, I asked regularly for new "opportunities" only to get more crap that would not have been challenging for me at the age of 15.

I am sorry that doesn't fit with your world view, it was the worst experience I have ever had and I won't go into another job where they promise me career growth, opportunities, and challenges after I "prove myself." I've already wasted a HUGE amount of time, the past 4 years have been extremely inefficient compared to what I could have been learning in a challenging job.

The only reason I went to college was because I thought it would lead to a job that was actually challenging. My parents never had those, they don't have beyond a high school education. So fuck me for believing education could lead to a challenging job (and you better believe I am prepared for extensive work on top of my education). I've been working since I was 15, I had a full-time job the last half of my senior year in high-school as a stock room manager and yet I still have never had a regularly challenging job. I have never had less than a stellar performance review.

BUT, all my experience isn't the right experience. It seems I am assumed to be borderline mentally-retarded on anything I have not done 100x before.


> I hope I am wrong and I can make this career work for me, but I am already looking at applying to medical school in a year if can't find a challenging and decently rewarding job in bioinfo. Sucks, because I had originally intended on being a doctor when I was in undergrad but went in another direction because I wasn't 100% sure about it at the time. Unfortunately, I am 100% sure I do not enjoy being a desk jockey.

Do it. I'm a programmer in my first year of med school. Love every single day. Beats sitting in a chair from 9-5 pounding in to a computer. FWIW I still do a ton of programming on my own.

Also, the field needs more doctor-programmers. You'll find boundless areas to apply your CS skills. Plus, if you don't try, I think you'll always wonder: what if?


How did you make this transition? Did you take the necessary course work in school, or take time off of work? Where do you get meaningful recommendations after leaving school?


While I agree with many of your feelings, I think you should try to think of this in a more positive way. Many other people go into med school without really having any professional experience at all or knowing what they are signing up for. You on the other hand now can be pretty confident that if you do go to med school, it's what's best for you.


A lot of the loudest voices in tech are people who appear to be rapturously happy and fulfilled working 10-12 hour days. It's easy for young people to get the message that good coders love working all the time, with the obvious corollary that if you don't feel that way, you're not a good coder. It's not an accident--spreading that idea makes it easier to buffalo people into the ruinously long hours that some parts of the industry are infamous for.

It's important to cut through the 10x rockstar ninja buzzword bullshit and remind people--especially young people--that most coders are working for the weekend just like anyone else.


This, right here, is a brilliant comment.

The pop culture obsession with the valley tech industry, and the resulting insane expectations folks hold when entering the industry, is a disservice to us all.

I love the work I do. It's not life changing. It's not going to make me rich in money or in spirit. It's a cushy lifestyle job that gives me the time and monetary freedom to do the other things I'm passionate about.

But that doesn't align with the fantasy of the valley, or frankly, the American protestant work ethic.


Working with your brain takes just as much effort as working with your muscles. Think back to taking a multiple hour exam in school, and how knackered you'd feel at the end of it. Now imagine doing that for 8+ hours every day, trying to solve problems that you don't even know have a solution. Yes, your body may still be ready to go, but there's nothing left upstairs to make it happen.


Oh come on.

Working with your brain is a breeze. Yes, you get mentally exhausted. Eat some damn sugar, problem solved. You know what you don't get, that manual workers do ? Crippling disabilities, having no energy left once you get home, a terrible salary, dangerous work conditions.

We have it easy. Stop lying to yourself.


Exactly. My partner hates it when I mention that I had a boring day with little interesting to work on, so I spent a couple hours reading reddit. Meanwhile she works in a fast-paced, no stopping, energy draining customer service managerial job. She hardly even gets breaks, no less time for catching up on your favorite internet blogs.

And yet, for some reason, I get paid almost three times more than her per hour.


You've obviously never heard of repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel and others. Your brain doesn't do the typing/pointing and such crippling injuries are fast becoming the norm in most long-term tech workers. For some, it's putting them out of a job or even out of a career. Easy my fucking ass.


Boo hoo hoo

Now, I hate the "but other others have it worse" logic, but let's go ahead. I have a family member who was a mason. Started at 16. He is now 45, is unable to do anything properly because his back is completely busted.

I'd love to say that this is an isolated case. I'd love to say that the other construction workers I know are in better health. And I'd love to say that percentage of construction workers with health problems is extremely low. But they're not. Their job is physically hard. They're laying bricks, moving things, moving around on roofs. The body can take it, but not for too long. And they can't take breaks, because their job doesn't allow it. Their body is perpetually being used, and all they can do is reduce the rate at which the damage is done.

Now let's compare with the average developer, which can do regular wrists exercises, sits in a comfy office chair and can perfectly well go exercise after work. Whee, such danger. Take care of your body at least 30 minutes every day.

And yes, carpal tunnel sucks, and can put you out of a career. It can't put you out of 80% of jobs because your back, or your leg, or your shoulder is busted.

Compare both, and tell me the construction worker doesn't have it a thousand times harder than the dev, I dare you.


I wasn't comparing, just simply pointing out your error.


"Working with your brain takes just as much effort as working with your muscles."

Well, funny you should say that. Years ago when I first moved to New Zealand (as a backpacker) my mindset was to find a job immediately, then look for a better one. My first "job" was as a labourer. Carrying large marble table tops up narrow windy stairs. Hardest job I ever did! Quit after one day, and my back is probably still thankful for it.


So you weren't physically strong enough to do the job is what you learned. If you weren't smart enough to program, how easy would you find it?


>Working with your brain takes just as much effort as working with your muscles.

Does working with your brain leave you susceptible to long-term injury or disability?


Repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel if you use computers, so absolutely yes!


Obesity and diabetes, sure.


I don't know how old you are, but I have a similar experience level with the person you're responding to and I think I and many of my peers relate in some ways. I think the parts he said about getting rich are a bit silly; that's probably more of a personal regret of his/hers then anything else.

On the other hand, I think many other people I've talked to who have only worked for a few years kind of feel lost. I guess in a way we've been so busy with school and constantly pressured into finding a good paying job and that it would all be worth it that we didn't take enough time to experience life and find out what actually makes us happy. In fairness, it's also a bit difficult to know if you'll enjoy a job until you actually do it for a while.

I like my job, don't get me wrong, and I really do appreciate all the opportunities it gives me. I think the real question is whether that job enables you to do what you truly want to do, or handicaps you instead. I am fortunate enough that my job is the former, but I've certainly taken jobs where it was more the latter.


On the other hand, I think many other people I've talked to who have only worked for a few years kind of feel lost.

And that, I think, is a failure in our culture. American Protestant ethics teach us that your job should be a deep, elemental, almost spiritual part of who you are as a person. The result is that, when people graduate, and get that job, they discover that working is, quite often, a pretty shallow experience that, if you let it define you, will lead to a pretty unsatisfying existence.

So now you have a choice: get dissatisfied and start changing careers, hoping you can find something to give you a sense of meaning and purpose (which, if you're like a lot of people I know, very probably means you never excel at any one thing and therefore never get to the point of having a sustainable career that can fuel a fulfilling lifestyle). Or, start spreading those wings and becoming a well rounded person so that you're defined by more than your career.

I advise the latter.

Speaking for myself, I have a great lifestyle job. I love the people I work with, and the projects are reasonably interesting but not life changing, and occasionally repetitive. The work environment is comfortable and laid back, and I get to leave work at the office. The job absolutely will not make me rich, but it allows me to engage in not exactly cheap extracurricular activities (traveling, skiing, etc), while leaving me with free time to pursue numerous hobbies beyond programming.

To me, this constitutes success.


Indeed I'll admit I had a rough transition but I've come to accept that my job is just a job. I really like the people I work with and the company I work for, but the thing I like most about it is that it enables me to do the other things I want in life.

Of course, one day I would like to pursue a PhD so that I could study full time, but that's a dream for another time I guess.


Its depressing to make comparisons, but 99.9% of developers will never make half of what a specialized MD or successful lawyer or someone in finance might make.

What percentage of people with law or finance degrees to you think actually make what you seem to think people with law or finance degrees make?


Not to mention that by being a developer, I started earning money in my early 20's, without hefty university debt. Less risk (plenty people study for the bar and fail) and upfront costs.

There's also less chance of getting a casual 9-5 environment in finance.


I'm having a tough time finding it, but there was a really good article that analyzed median performance of law school grads and found that, if law school was a security, it would be below a junk rated bond.


How many would be specialized MDs dropped out during the course/residency?

I'm sure something similar happens to top finance positions.

Also, developers have a nice chance of making it big by either starting up or getting equity.


Nice chance is overstating it by a HUGE amount on the 'making it big part', yes quite a few developers in the start up world can get equity, the former rarely happens.


In fairness, I work in the U.K. and most of my friends that I went to uni with, now in Law or Finance (including PAs) make more than I do.


> End of the day though, work is boring. Its always work. Your time and effort is going towards making someone else rich and their priorities are more important than your own.

I feel exactly the same. I've been in the game for nearly 8 years now, and it doesn't get any better. At the end of the day, as you say work is work, I don't think I would feel any better working in another career. I like programming, I just don't really like working as a programmer :D

For the last two years I've been contracting which helps as I get to pick and choose projects a bit more, and if I get bored, contracts are only usually a couple months at a time so it's easy to get out ("I can't renew, I've already got another contract"). I'm focussing on saving to buy a small property outright with no mortgage, so once I am living there my living expenses will be greatly reduced and I'll have more freedom to explore my interests outside of work.


> Your time and effort is going towards making someone else rich

You are free to start your own business and get rich except it's not so easy, very few people can do it.


Unless you're rich to start with then you'll still end up making either your investors or your landlord rich. Do it right and you get rich too.

But then you're often still perpetuating the system by then employing people who work making you rich.

Start a cooperative, forget about being rich and seek the fulfillment of all its members.


I've often thought about the possibility of designing a company specifically to maximise the wealth of its employees. Choose a location with a low cost of living, give equity to all employees, maybe provide accommodation / food as part of the benefits package.

I'm not sure if I'm describing a cooperative, I just know that most normal companies do the exact opposite of this: they force you to live in a high cost area where you spend a large proportion of your salary on housing and other living costs.

I know there are plenty of good reasons why humans have decided to live in cities, but I can't help thinking there's a better way.


>I know there are plenty of good reasons why humans have decided to live in cities, but I can't help thinking there's a better way.

The fallacy is in believing you can't have both a reasonable cost of living and the benefits of a city. There are plenty of such places, globally. As more and more people realize that it's unnecessary to assemble in specific places I think we'll see a sea change. Programmers are going to be some of those most able to take advantage of it (they already are).


It would be cool if you could expand on this. Do you live in one of these places?

I'm also wondering when there's going to be a sea change. London is full of people in their 20s spending ~50% of their income on rent, and pretty much just breaking even overall.

I feel like people are going to get sick of this eventually. Either people will leave the most expensive cities, or new ways of "hacking" housing will emerge.


That's basically the point of most law and financial firms (at least when they start out). Until it went public (and still to a large degree), the whole point of Goldman Sachs was to make its' employees rich.


I guess you could say it's also the point of most tech startups, but only for the founders and the first few employees.


You know this cooperative(aka socialism :) sounds good on paper but it does not work most of the time in real life.

If someone takes a risk to build something valuable, he/she deserves to get rich.


Paying people the same value they contribute is not socialism. It's called: Being a good person.

Capitalism seems to have made us all think it's completely okay to exploit someone else's surplus labour. How is the risk the founder takes that different to Employee #1's? Their payout is usually vastly different, but their contribution not so much.


> Paying people the same value they contribute is not socialism. It's called: Being a good person. <

I am sorry but the whole disagreement is on what value a worker contributes.

According to Capitalism and Capitalism supporters, a productive activity is the sum of (Land/raw materials + Labor + Capital). Capital is nothing but deferred consumption. If you don't consume what you could consume, then that constitutes as capital.

When you say that Capitalism exploits another's surplus labor, what you don't understand is that the Capitalist pays for that surplus labor via capital (or time). Any worker in Capitalism is entitled to the full share of the profit as long as he does not expect wages to be paid out immediately, and that he is willing to wait until the profits pour in.

Because most labor is paid immediately, and workers have no risk or delayed consumption, they don't get the share from the profit.

Karl Marx noticed this phenomenon, but was unable to understand the role of Capital(and yea I know he wrote a whole book on this concept). To him, careful inspection revealed a 'conspiracy theory' among the capitalists which he dubbed as class struggle and class interest.

> How is the risk the founder takes that different to Employee #1's? < When you compare the risk of the founder vs risk of the employee #1, it is the matter of how much capital is on line there. Clearly the risk taken by someone who has invested $1000 is less than the risk taken by someone who has invested $10,000 into the same venture at the same time.

Funny thing is when people talk about a cooperative, it's no different than an early stage equity startup where nobody gets paid a salary. The moment a cooperative pays salary before the revenue, it will need capital and the person providing the capital would deserve a bigger share from the profits.


> Karl Marx noticed this phenomenon, but was unable to understand the role of Capital(and yea I know he wrote a whole book on this concept). To him, careful inspection revealed a 'conspiracy theory' among the capitalists which he dubbed as class struggle and class interest.

You possess an either infantile and misinformed understanding of Marx, or you're just being ideological here. Have you read Capital? It's not just one book. Marx very well understood the concept, role, and agency of capital. His careful inspection did not reveal a conspiracy theory; instead, it elucidated the ways capital influences our material existence. There was no conspiracy among capitalists, only naturally flowing consequences of capital's impact on the material bases of society.


> You possess an either infantile and misinformed understanding of Marx, or you're just being ideological here.<

I don't understand what is offending you so much here. I am claiming that Marx does not understand Capital, and just because he claimed to have analysed the role of 'capital', it doesn't mean that he 'understood' it. A christian biologist writing about the role of fossils doesn't mean he understands it.

> His careful inspection did not reveal a conspiracy theory; instead, it elucidated the ways capital influences our material existence. <

Did Marx not say that the employer is able to claim a right to 'surplus labor' because the capitalist class (state being one of them) protects this right(property rights)?

Does he not claim that almost all property is acquired via theft and coercion of the labor class? I understand that conspiracy theory is a loaded term, but his idea of 'class interest' is nothing but a conspiracy theory. That somehow all the capitalist are conspiring against the workers, without being explicitly aware of it.

Karl Marx did not understand that Capital allows production but doing division of 'labor'(used here to mean 'tasks'). Workers don't need to invest their time in the production process, and wait for the revenue of a business to pour in, while a person specializing in saving, does the job of providing the wages.

That this is a necessary factor needed in any economy and it's impossible for any society (including the one recommending by Marx) to live by not having division of capital accumulation from labor.


> I don't understand what is offending you so much here.

Why are you assuming I am offended? I'm calling out your erroneous claims of Marx's work as either misunderstanding or ideology. I'm not in the slightest bit offended. Your clarifications haven't moved the needle on being unable to determine if you're being purely ideological, or if you're infusing ideology into what is, fundamentally, a misunderstanding of Marx.

> I am claiming that Marx does not understand Capital, and just because he claimed to have analysed the role of 'capital', it doesn't mean that he 'understood' it.

Just because you think you know what Marx says, and because you have a couple of his terms in your head, does not mean you understand Marx.

You are claiming that you understand capital better than Marx, who devoted 25 years to analyzing and explaining it--particularly insofar as it relates to the material conditions of our existence, and how it informs, produces, and reproduces the social, economic, cultural, and political structures of human society. Considering the vast breadth and depth of Marx's work, that is a very bold claim to make. You can certainly disagree with the more philosophical and political conclusions Marx draws from his understanding of capital, but to make a blanket assertion that he simply does not understand capital is something that requires an incredibly strong argument. Even Marx's detractors do not make such wide-sweeping, hand-waving claims as "Marx doesn't understand capital". They typically disagree on finer points, many of which have more to do with the material ramifications of capital on political economy and social structure.

> A christian biologist writing about the role of fossils doesn't mean he understands it.

Please. You're creating a ridiculous argument here.

As an ignostic, even I wouldn't say the religion of a biologist is inherently relevant to determining whether or not that biologist understood the role of fossils. There are plenty of Christians who do not find their faith at odds with the scientific consensus on evolution and the fossil record. If you read the biologist's writing about the role of fossils, and it accurately describes the role of fossils in accord with the greater body of scientific work on the matter, what exactly does the biologist's faith have to do with determining or proving anything? Sure, it might be worth considering as a signifier of a certain probability of misunderstanding based on factors external to the biologist's own work, but it's sounding like you're giving automatic preference to a non-Christian biologist's writing about the role of fossils for absolutely zero reason. The non-Christian could be a complete imbecile who winds up on the History Channel shouting, "Aliens!" You're making errors based on a loud segment of Christians who reject the science of evolution, and automatically applying their ignorance/misunderstanding/ideology as something that the Christian biologist shares. That's foolish.

---

Anyway, this is really an irrelevant tangent from a thread that was asking about people being happy programming. Although, Marx might find it rather relevant, as there is quite a bit of voiced discontent that he'd categorize as expressions of alienation. The labor of the many is transformed into the capital of the few. Dialectically speaking, it's a struggle of contraries that co-exist with different interests. Labor has nothing and its members are required to sell themselves to subsist and exist. Capital has everything, and is motivated to keep as much of that everything as it can, while expending as little as necessary to further increase the share of everything it has as more of everything is produced by those who have nothing. What does labor get in return? Nothing but a wage that is (ideally) as low as possible to prevent them from leaving the workforce (and certainly not enough to permit capital accumulation by the laborers themselves). Moreover, those with capital are additionally motivated to protect this arrangement that they might continue to profit off those who sell themselves to subsist and exist, so that those with capital do not have to work.

> Did Marx not say that the employer is able to claim a right to 'surplus labor' because the capitalist class (state being one of them) protects this right(property rights)?

You're somewhat confusing categories and their relations here. Surplus labor is that labor which is demanded of and performed by a worker that exceeds the labor necessary to pay for her wage. In the majority of cases, surplus labor is unpaid. It is a necessary condition of increasing capital through profits, which is most simply the extraction and control of the surplus value created by workers in excess of their labor cost. The capitalist appropriates this surplus value when the products of workers' labor is sold. Marx goes further to argue that capital accumulation is the condition that drives production--when production ceases to be profitable for the capitalist, capital will eventually be diverted elsewhere, withdrawn from the unprofitable enterprise, etc. There are, of course, absolute and relative surplus values, but suffice to say that capital accumulation is the driving force of the capitalists. Private property is that legal protection that is based on a history of convincing people that objects were only useful and valuable if they could simultaneously possess them use them for themselves. It has nothing direct to do with surplus labor, but is instead used to establish and defend the private ownership of the capitalist means of production, and thus the claims to surplus value and capital accumulation. If you cannot understand how this accurately reflects the workings of capital and capitalism, I'm simply not sure how we can get you past your ideological lens.

Marx does not argue that "almost all property is acquired via theft and coercion of the labor class". At least, not in such a crudely simplistic way as that. Profits are acquired via alienation and exploitation of the labor class. In earnest material modes of existence, property didn't exist until those who were more powerful began staking and defending claims on the products of others' labor--so that they themselves would not have to labor. This has continued a circuitous and tortuous route through human history until our present age in which we've codified these practices into centuries of legal trappings that convince everyone it is good and right, and entirely fair and above-board. Or so Marx might loosely argue.

The notion of class interest is no more a conspiracy theory than the capitalist narrative that labor and capital work hand-in-hand to create a better tomorrow. Class interest is trivially easy to spot and demonstrate--both in Marx's time and our own (and far back before both, as well). Look at pg's now-infamous essay on income inequality from the start of the year, and his vociferous critics. Class interest on display in both. The capitalist 'class' is inherently motivated to protect their interests and see them expanded. This is not some insane idea that requires tin foil hats, or the ravings of a lunatic. Marx doesn't exactly argue that the capitalists are inherently conspiring against the workers. Just that they are guilty of accumulating capital from surplus value that is the product of surplus labor for which the workers have not been compensated, and the capitalist does not own.

> Karl Marx did not understand that Capital allows production but doing division of 'labor'(used here to mean 'tasks').

This is how I know you have no serious understanding of Marx and his work. Marx has most certainly written of, categorized, and fit division of labor into dialectical materialism and his explications of capital and its place in human society. Exhaustively.

> Workers don't need to invest their time in the production process, and wait for the revenue of a business to pour in, while a person specializing in saving, does the job of providing the wages.

The wages are not provided by a person who specializes in saving. They are provided by the capital accumulated from the surplus value appropriated from the workers' own surplus labor, for which they are not compensated, Marx would say. Wages come from the revenues of the business. If there are no revenues, there are no wages.

You seem to be making a number of simple mistakes here that are perhaps related to misapplication of your understanding of working in tech/startups to the role of capital. It's a pretty easy set of mistakes to make, but it seriously would require a lot of discussion to even try to completely straighten all of this out. Marx is almost universally misunderstood. Even among those who understand him better than most as a result of spending years studying his vast body of work, there is still disagreement on how to properly understand him. It's the nature of such a prolific beast.


I'm fine with this, as long as the risk/reward ratio is equal.

Maybe each employee has to donate credit to the company for expenses if they don’t have the cash?

I started my company with bank loans and credit lines. If it goes bust, it's my reputation and I will have to pay back the money.

If someone isn't willing to risk this as well, they aren't an equal partner and shouldn't share equally in the reward.

Some people aren't willing to risk this much, yet still want to contribute. They are employees.


You misunderstood me, I am not saying you should exploit your workers, pay them fair wage. What I am saying is that founder who took the risk should enjoy the fruits.

> How is the risk the founder takes that different to Employee #1's?

Employee #1 will probably be getting a salary, if the company fails he can get a job somewhere else. Meanwhile the founders who worked on the idea probably used their savings initially not to mention quitting their jobs and working on the idea and facing humiliation if the company fails.

That takes courage which everyone cannot do which is why founders deserve to get rich if they build something valuable, employees not so much unless they are willing to stick it out till the end.


>What I am saying is that founder who took the risk

Please describe what "risks" the average high-flying tech startup CEO has taken.


I am not sure what you mean by the high flying CEO, I am talking more from the founder's side who puts his money and time on the line. Take Musk as an example, he invested most of his money in Tesla and Space X and both the companies came close to bankruptcy.

Those companies and many others will not work as a cooperative.


Why not?


Because most people who will be working in the cooperative are sane and will bail out if things get tough. You need a crazy founder to take enormous risks.

Just look around you, most of the tech titans are founders who took risk, can you give examples of tech cooperatives which are equally famous?


>if the company fails he can get a job somewhere else //

Because it's so hard to adapt CEO skills to the jobs market? Whilst peons can pick up a low paid job and should just lap it up and be happy about it??

If the founder is taking a risk running the company then the employees are taking a risk working there; their risk is often as great, the chance to lose one's livelihood.

To my mind a guy in sales that wrote up £1 million of orders in one days work and a guy in janitorial that cleaned the toilets all day both did a days work and both deserve a days pay - they're both humans who gave a day of their lives to the purposes of the company.


The founder is also putting his money on the table while the employee is not. The employee can just say no to working in a startup, nobody is forcing him to work there.

The janitor should be paid the market rate, nobody is denying that but he should not expect to get rich via the company


As someone who extremely capitalist and believes in free markets, I don't believe cooperatives are inherently socialist.

In a free market people are free to create their own ownership structures. If people want to setup up a company, and distribute equity equally to employees that's completely up them


The problem is that risk has become an absurdly exponential factor of increasing wealth where hard work is at best only additive. Risk should not take the value that you provide and raise it to the power of 10 just because you might have failed.


For whatever reason, society seems to value risk-taking 10x more than it values work. Just look at the replies in this thread. People are actually arguing that founders deserve their megawealth because at some point they risked something, and that employees do not deserve it, regardless of how much they work, because they didn't risk anything (although I would argue that employees #1-4 risk a hell of a lot more than most founders).


> I would argue that employees #1-4 risk a hell of a lot more than most founders

How can it more risky for first four employees?


a cooperative is usually not really about socialism. they just have members instead of shareholders. there are big banks structured this way.


> Your time and effort is going towards making someone else rich

I don't mean to harsh but I don't understand this sentiment. Will any serious company exist if everyone thought like this? Why would a builder put another brick if he thought he is getting paid very less compared to million dollar building he is creating? Will any sales guy put so much of effort if he thought he is getting minisicule % of what he is selling?


Yes, lots of serious companies would (and do) exist; they're called worker-owned cooperatives, wherein all members of a firm share the risk and reward/of running the business, instead of one or two individuals paying themselves an arbitrary "risk premium" that workers have no say over.


> Even compensation wise, it peaks very early and probably won't get most rich without a ton of luck. Its depressing to make comparisons, but 99.9% of developers will never make half of what a specialized MD or successful lawyer or someone in finance might make. Granted, the barrier to entry is much lower in CS (sometimes nearly nonexistent depending on the line of work).

Med student here. Programmers don't have to take out 200K in loans. Also, when you do something like medicine, you're basically giving up a DECADE of you life before you actually start making the big bucks. Residents make less than the average programmer. Med students make negative $$. Debt compounds.

But seriously, if that's what you want, stop romanticizing and just do it. Though I have to say, do law school. Doctors that became doctors for the prestige and money are really the worst.


There a many countries where you don't have to borrow a single cent to study medicine. Instead, you even get paid a small support every month.


That's true. I have heard that in these countries the docs typically don't get paid as much, though I don't have a source for this.


That's somewhat true, but they are free to go wherever they want to.


>Even compensation wise, it peaks very early and probably won't get most rich without a ton of luck. Its depressing to make comparisons, but 99.9% of developers will never make half of what a specialized MD or successful lawyer or someone in finance might make.

Software engineers in Finance can make a pretty good living though. Definitely not as high as specialized MD or M&A specialists, but rivaling some successful lawyers for sure. Then again even for people with top business degrees M&A is a top tier which takes quite a bit of luck to get into. My 2c.


On average, the people really are incredibly boring, especially at large companies.

I wrote a post recently that is tangentially related to this. Don't want to shamelessly plug myself, but I think you might enjoy it:

http://likewise.am/2016/01/22/more-lessons-from-my-twenties-...


You are less than 3 years into your career, and you think you have worked for some of the best companies, and yet you are unhappy. How do you know you have worked for some of the best for you? You are going by names.

My guess is that you are talking about hot valley companies, and guess what? In those, someone with little experience will not get to work on anything fun, because they have enough talent that almost everyone is batting below their weight. You see similar things in startups where there is no challenging technical component to the business: If all you need to do is scale an app that is just a bunch of forms, then guess what? it will be boring. Go work at a company that is doing science instead, and then tell me it's boring.

You complain about compensation peaking early, as if that's a bad thing. In the US, 300K is not insane for senior devs, and that doesn't count miraculous exits. Many doctors don't make that, and they had to pay for a lot more education, and handle the terrible life of the resident before they can get to real money: And let's not forget, the top of the market for doctors involves getting your own practice. How long does it take to save the money, and have the name, for the practice to be that profitable?

There are a lot of people with law degrees that wish that, at 45, they made the money that anyone with a breath makes in SV when they are 22.

I have seen finance: You don't have a life when you work for a big hedge fund. Not even close.

And let's not forget, you don't have to live in San Francisco to get paid very well writing software. I have a 4 bedroom house that is worth about 200K. I work from home. It's not hard to amass major savings when you don't have a $5000/mo mortgage. And if I am sick of the place, I can spend a month working from Puerto Rico, or an island in Georgia, go to conferences in Europe. How many doctors can say that? How many lawyers? And I am no early googler: I have never made a dime in equity.

As far as people being boring: Different people have different ideas of boring. For instance, I find the classic "I work in software, but look at my unique outdoorsy activity" profiles that most of SV seems to follow to be very boring. Yes, you can enjoy your rock climbing, or your kayaking, or whatever else you do, but it's not something that is really any fun to hear about: People with different activities like that just get to vomit information onto the other. At the same time, many people find the things I do, like reading literature, history and philosophy, to be boring as hell. There's nothing wrong with that.

Also, in America, we hide the things that might make us interesting, different from the crowd. When instead of belonging, we try to fit in, we do what everyone else does. For someone to be really interesting, they have to be different. To be different is to take personal risks of being disliked, because what will make you interesting for one person will make you a weirdo to another. In my experience, the more you get to know about someone, the less boring they are, precisely because of all the little things that we couldn't see before, when all they were to us was a role at a company and some clothes.


Be realistic. 300k a year is waaay above the median for senior dev salaries save for a few very specialized niches (fintech and biotech spring to mind).

This is exactly the kind of misinformation that makes newbs to the industry think they're gonna be rich rockstars programming... stop it.


$300k? Where? How? While I have metric-tonnes more to learn, I'm a senior developer. I write and maintain (with our team) the main services (it used to be _all_ the services before we grew) at our SAAS providing 10s of millions in revenue. I make less than half that.


I don't think this invalidates your argument, but your assumptions about my work choices are completely wrong. I have almost always been the youngest person at offices dominated by scientists and mathematicians. Most of my work before graduation was at a national lab in condensed matter physics. I joined my current job as the 7th hire because the team is mostly comprised of math and EE PhD's from MIT and Berkeley. I'm not working on creating "forms" that "scale". Its all data science and optimization models/machine learning and the related engineering.

At the end of the day though, the business isn't about how much you are learning and any early stage start up is going to conduct R&D based on short term returns. If I could work somewhere like Voleon, I might have greater freedom, but I don't have an advanced degree to get a foot in the door.

I agree about traveling. That is one of the only things that continues to excite me. I spent several months working remotely and plan to continue doing so once this company starts to get revenue (if ever). That's certainly one freedom working from a computer provides that most other occupations don't get to enjoy.

That being said, at the end of the day, its just work. And thats fine. Thats still better than most jobs. But this line of work has a relatively low ceiling (in terms of job satisfaction, not compensation) if you want more and I feel like sticking too it makes it only easier to accept that ceiling. Maybe this is too strong, but it almost feels like giving up and settling for something easy/cushy.


Thank you for pointing out the fact that software compensation peaks early, and you pretty much hit a ceiling unless you win the startup lottery. A lot of people see the early money and forget this. As a software developer, 20 years into your career, your buddies that majored in finance, marketing or anything else, really, will likely have eclipsed you in terms of compensation, as they'll be senior directors of this or vice presidents of that.


There's not enough director or VP positions in the world for every buddy out there.


Tell that to my buddies :-)


> but 99.9% of developers will never make half of what a specialized MD or successful lawyer or someone in finance might make.

It is exactly the other way around. Mark Zuckerberg is a PHP programmer, not an MD or a lawyer. Same for Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and another host of lesser known billionaires and millionaires. In other words, an MD or a lawyer could impossible make what a successful programmer might make.


You're talking about the 0.1% of programmers who became millionaires and billionaires. The parent comment was specifically about the other 99.9% (and he/she even specified the number).


If you miss excitement, social connection, and orders of magnitude higher compensation cap in your life, while you still like coding, then I suggest you consider sales. Not just technical sales (though that gets your foot in the door), but eventually landing strategic sales accounts. It is pretty thrilling cold-calling people to establish your bona fides with a new customer; only a tiny fraction of the population finds it and public speaking (which you will also be called upon to perform in sales) not paralysis-inducing terrifying. You have to genuinely like people and be interested in them to really excel at sales. At the high-end of sales, where you lead sales organizations, sales-metric-based compensation plans will easily exceed that of nearly all programmers save the ones exiting unicorns with founder-level equity positions intact. You are constantly learning both technical and non-technical subject matter. There are grind-y parts, sure (every job has that), but I've never seen in sales the kind of grind programmers routinely endure.

Once you establish a successful sales record, you wield enormous influence upon product direction and implementation. If you keep your coding chops up to that point, then it is not inconceivable for you to be able to throw your weight around and pick and choose both what to code and actually implement it. Of course, if you aren't good at coding, then the engineering lead will continue to hate your guts. They will all hate your guts at first regardless of your skill level and ability to smoothly work with their teams, but if you are really, really good you can earn the respect of most after awhile.

Very good sales people who are still top 20% coders are an extremely rare combination. It would be difficult NOT to stand out in the crowd. That's good and bad.

The Great Filter in my suggestion is getting out and meeting people trying to connect with them. There are lots and lots of programmers, even "brogrammer"-types, who claim they are very extroverted, etc., who I find will freeze when faced with a list of contacts or a room of strangers and tasked with establishing connections. The vast majority of people, extroverted programmers included, are extroverted with people they know; it's human nature. Of those who can manage to overcome that nature, even fewer will come back with a systematic collection of facts and data about their contacts that you can work with as the start of a sales funnel. Of THAT population, even fewer will actually follow through the sales funnel. Out of THAT, anyone who can continue following up prospects and re-running them through a sales funnel under different campaigns is a unicorn. This is why sales is often broken up into pieces and parceled out to different people. But programmers possess a systems-thinking background that uniquely positions them to excel at sales if their personality really fits it.


Why do you think most developers should be paid similarly to a highly specialized doctor?

First of all, you might be thinking of doctors like neurosurgeons. Less than 1% of practicing physicians in the US are neurosurgeons, and some neurosurgeons make as little as $250k (often ones with special academic appointments). Not all of them make $1M/year or even $700k/year.

Second of all, you might in general be overestimating doctor compensation. See this report:

http://www.medscape.com/features/slideshow/compensation/2015...

Primary care doctors earned an average of $195k in total compensation. Half that is $97.5k. There are many developers who make more than that -- certainly far more than .1% of developers. That is, in fact, the median pay for software developers:

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Computer-and-Information-Technology/S...

Granted, you did say specialized doctor, and we see from the MedScape report that they make $280k on average. Half of that is only $140k. There are fresh college graduates who make more than that in total compensation. I've even known relatively new developers making $250k once bonuses and vesting stocks are taken into account. Either way, $140k in total pay is not uncommon at all for an experienced senior developer. Again, certainly far more than .1% of developers are in that income bracket.

Finally, and perhaps more importantly, I think you might underestimate the difficulty of becoming a specialized doctor. It's certainly much harder than becoming an average programmer. The educational requirements are vastly higher and more rigorous. The debt load is in the six figures for all but children of the rich. And the time investment is at minimum 11 years (4 undergrad + 4 medical school + minimum of 3 residency). But since we're talking about specialized MDs, the residency will actually be longer than that, as long as 7 years for a neurosurgeon, plus an extra 2-3 for a fellowship if desired. After all that, the doctor will potentially work twice as much as the programmer.

It's not fair to compare the average heart surgeon to the average programer, because the heart surgeon is by definition vastly above average among doctors in both education, grades, and pay. It would really only be fair to compare the heart surgeon to, say, a senior engineer at Google (or similar), where a total compensation exceeding $250k is common.

As for lawyers, many law school graduates I know don't even have a job. The days are long gone where a law degree was automatically a golden ticket. It's certainly true that the top lawyers make a large amount of money, but becoming a partner (say) at a large firm is just not comparable to becoming a programmer. These days, it's like winning the lottery.


They never said programmers SHOULD make as much as doctors (or lawyers or finance).


Why feel depressed about it then? The statements were also factually misleading -- (far) more than .1% of programmers make more than half of a specialized doctor on average.


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