I'm definitely 'underemployed', but the nice thing is that the work I do is so far beyond what anyone else I work with understands that I report to the director of the company himself. As long as I get my work done, nobody really cares what I do.
I work until I feel like I'm not making progress anymore, and then I go for a walk. Generally the walk is about an hour long, but I've found that a 90 minute walk is pretty much perfect for resetting my mind and getting over any hurdles I've been stuck on.
The only reason I don't take a 90 minute walk every day is because my desk is near the staff who just punch numbers in to a computer all day, and they start to gossip if I'm not at my desk enough. I objectively finish more work and produce better work when I get up and move around when I get stuck on a problem.
The best way I've come to describe the effect of walking is to say it's a meditative act. I don't mean that in a spiritual way, I just mean it helps clear out the useless thoughts and gives you a way to center yourself.
One of the reasons I'm still working where I am is because I work in such a great area for walking. I worked in the suburbs for a while, and I'll never do it again. The car-centric design of suburban office complexes honestly feels like torture to me.
I'm in a similar situation.
PROS: A large amount of autonomy, my work is appreciated and valued, very low-stress, reasonable hours.
CONS: Working on an "enterprise-y" stack, work isn't always the most challenging, concern about job prospects in the future since I'm not working on the trendy stuff always popping up on HN.
I've never been happier at a job though. My previous job was as a consultant where the pros/cons from above were essentially switched, and by the time I left that job I was pretty miserable. I loved the actual consulting company I worked for, but the environments typical to consulting just took their toll on me. Whenever I'm feeling bad about the cons at my current job, I just remember that the grass is always greener and try to focus on learning something new that re-energizes my love for coding.
I know the likelihood is small, but if I knew I could have my current job until retirement, I think I'd gladly accept that fate.
I've never worked in consulting, but I have friends who work as consultants for the Big Four, and it certainly seems like being stressed and working long hours is prioritized over making a meaningful contribution. That's probably a little unfair, but I've read the emails they are responding to a 10 PM at night, and it seems like everyone just stays up all night sending emails so that everyone else knows they are 'working'.
I always have trouble justifying that I have spent two weeks in figuring out something without any visible progress.
During those walks we may not have banged out code or written emails or what have you, but damn if it wasn't the most productive time of the day. Usually, we'd go back to either his or my desk and turn the conversations we just had into something concrete.
We did some great work back then, and I don't think it would've been nearly as good if we hadn't gone for those daily walks. It also had the bonus of both of us missing some boring meeting every once in a while, but because those walks almost always ended up in something good we tended to get away with it.
Also, walking a few miles everyday is the best possible thing you can do for your dog.
No one looks at you askance when you say "I have to walk my dog"...
The funny thing is that driving is maybe 10 minutes faster each way, but I'm way more productive when I ride by bike. I doubt I could convince anyone to let me work 20 minutes less a day when I ride though.
I set the strategy for all of our mailings, run the data, and then analyze the performance. We have 800,000 constituents, and send about 500,000 appeal letters each year, as well as countless emails and other pieces of mail. I've managed to decrease our cost to raise a dollar from about 22 cents to about 6 cents, while improving the overall quality of our appeals, which I'm pretty proud of.
We are a really small organization (<50 employees), so I end up doing a really wide variety of tasks. We have a lot of challenges that larger organizations wouldn't have because of our limited manpower.
Since nobody had really taken a holistic look at their data before me, I spent the first year cleaning up all of their existing data and automating almost every processes I could get my hands on. I used to spend 3 weeks of every month running recurring processes, and I cut that down to about 15 minutes a week.
After that first year my manager left. At this time the Director asked me to come work directly under him because he felt that none of the other managers understood my role well enough to manage me. This allowed me to focus more on the analysis and marketing side of my role.
As time has gone on I've been asked to create more processes for speeding up other people's work. I'm not an application designer, and I recognize that the processes I'm creating are pretty fragile. This wasn't a problem when I was automating my own processes, because if they broke I could fix them. Now there are a bunch of people using processes that only I can fix, which makes it very hard to take a vacation or a sick day. This causes me a lot of stress, which is a key reason why my walks have been trending longer.
I'm basically somewhere in the middle of the graph from the XKCD comic Automation. I'm starting to look for a new job before fixing broken automation steals the time I need to make a resume (or do the part of my job I really enjoy).
So long story short, I basically do anything involving the data or programming for a small-to-mid-size non-profit organization.
You don't mean it in a spiritual way, but meditation helps you with become more spirited?
Or did you mean to use "religious" instead of "spiritual"?