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Ask HN: Web developer and looking for a career change, what are my options?
76 points by Rjevski on Aug 6, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 79 comments
After a year at my job it seems like I'm no longer interested in programming - I am no longer excited about new frameworks, etc and I feel like my skillset (Python and Django) is slowly fading into irrelevance (everyone seems to be about machine learning and data science nowadays), and I don't feel interested in learning those fields (ML looks like magic to me and involves lots of math, which I suck at). I also would like more interaction with people instead of spending my days in front of a monitor. Note that I am only 20 so I don't have that much experience either, and finding a good developer's job seems hard given the competition for all the good startups.

Anyone else feels that way? How did you solve this issue in the end, and if you did switch careers, what job are you doing now?

I felt like that a few years ago. I didnt end up leaving my career, what i did instead was use my skills in a different way. Instead of being a web developer, i became a business consultant. Like you i didnt care about the latest fashion in the space and in general my interest was no longer in programming, however, 60%-80% of my time today is still writing code, but i'm much happier.

What i do now is i work with non-technical businesses as my clients, they come to me with a problem, not a spec. I gather requirements, give them my opinions, tell them how to solve their problems, then deliver solution for it, which 90% of the time is an internal web app.

For instance, a current client is a distillery that was using 2 pieces of shitty software, one of which they originally got in the early 2000's. The software was running their health and safety requirements for the staff. I wrote an internal web app that replaced a old creaky system that didnt work very well and they're absolutely flabbergasted that this problem could even be solved at all. Its an extremely easy problem to solve, but to them, i'm basically doing magic.

They dont care what i code it in, they dont care if i'm up to date on the latest framework, they dont care how i deliver it as long as i solve their problem and save them money, which is what i focus on. This is infinitely more interesting to me than keeping up to date on the latest tech. Also, as a side note, i'm now earning about 3 times as much as i used to earn as a contract web developer.

Perhaps you could apply your skills in a different manner.

Can you speak to how you initially made the move and got clients, and how you get them now?

My question exactly. I would think there are millions of opportunities like this out there, but my gut feel is that any company that has any sort of a budget for a project would already have some sort of an IT department who would very carefully protect their "environment" (read: jobs) from any sort of an external entity who would introduce efficiency.

This may seem like a conspiracy theory to some, but it is extremely consistent with my observations from over 20 years in the industry. I see inefficiency and incompetence everywhere I look, I simply cannot believe this is mostly accidental, there must be forces acting to keep things this way.

You call it inefficiency and incompetence, I call it chaos. And where there's chaos, there's money to be made.

Yes, this is true but it depends how you approach the problem.

There are a lot of medium to large retail companies looking to front the cash for startups willing to "move fast and break things". The catch is that they will disown you when you break something.

Something about attribution, malice and stupidity...

Ok since in less than an hour i've had a few comments and 1 email asking about this, i'll reply here.

So the headlines are: Be as boring as possible, Networking, Focusing on the outcome, rather than the product and start studying business instead of tech.

Be as boring as possible

Tech to tech guy is sexy, i avoid the sexy, because thats where all the other techys are, you know where they're not, boring businesses. When i say boring i dont actually mean they're boring, i find them interesting, they're just not considered fashionable and sexy and the "in-thing". If you go through life like i do, as a customer wondering why a difficult process isnt made easier using technology, then you already know what you can go after. I rent cars quite often, car rental companies have to take my details EVERY SINGLE TIME! Why dont they have a system that looks up my info for next time? The local chamber of commerce runs free business workshops, you can even register online, however after the workshop, they give you the slides on paper, ask you to fill out a feedback form on paper and that paper asks for your email address if you want to hear more? Why isnt the first part married with the second part? My local council that does my refuse collection required me to phone them, get a paper form posted to me, i had to fill it out, post it back, then pay over the phone, then i had to go to the local office to collect my trade waste bags? SERIOUSLY???

There are SO MANY boring problems out there that can be made better, its all LOW HANGING FRUIT, why? Because most of the tech world is making a salt dispensing centerpiece for the dining table that has an app for your iphone to pick how many pinches of salt you need, oh and bluetooth! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/smalt-the-world-s-first-i...


Go to your local networking meetups, don't go to any tech ones. Go to ones for Oil and Gas, Construction, Local Government, Textiles, Motor vehicles, etc. Find and talk to people there, be helpful, give away your knowledge for free. Establish yourself an an authority on making business processes better. Join your local chamber and volunteer your time to grow their membership, this will not only benefit them, you can develop some software to make the process easier, they get to use it for free and you get exposed to their membership, also, you can sell this software to other chambers in the area. (We're doing exactly this.)

Focus on outcome, rather than the product

Your business client does care about code quality, or test coverage, or continuous integration, or git branching methodology. Just write the damn app and make it look pretty. Write it well and secure, but dont spend time on shit that wont ever be appreciated by anyone but you. Deliver it, show them you just saved them £XXX,XXX per year now they use your software and they'll love you forever.

Study business, not tech

Read business books, read Patio11's blog, especially the one about not calling yourself a programmer, realise that what you are delivering is value, not exchanging your time for money. Charge accordingly, I recently charged £16,000 for about 5 days of work from my junior developer and about 3 days of work from me, why? Because it was for Kodak and the tool allowed their salespeople to make more sales by displaying pretty graphs for their clients. The value to them was easily 6 figures a year. This was through a middleman, and i know he charged a lot more than i did.

Sorry for the wall of text, i could talk for hours on the subject.

Any chance you could move this conversation over to https://www.indiehackers.com/ and maybe do an interview with the folks over there? You sound...like someone I'd like to hear a lot more from.

I doubt i'm a candidate for indie hackers, i dont have a product, i offer a service. But i'm happy to answer questions.

You'd still make for a great interview.

I chuckled at the bit about a bluetooth connected salt-shaker because I thought it was a joke, after watching the video part of me still really wants to believe it's some sort of weird joke.

Thank you for the elaboration in your comment above, very useful in my journey as software focused consultant!

>Go to your local networking meetups, don't go to any tech ones. Go to ones for Oil and Gas, Construction, Local Government, Textiles, Motor vehicles, etc.

Do you have any advice on how to find these meetups? Is meetup.com good enough or is there a better resource such as something at city hall?

Meetup.com works ok, but chamber of commerce i find is better because its generally better suited to businesses. Best thing though is to find trade events, whether its conferences or networking events, product launches, whatever. Pick an industry, lets say, car salesmen. Google for Car salesman trade forums, boom, loads of communities there, generally they have events pages, awards shows, etc, create a calendar and start going. Took hardly any time at all. Apply to any industry.

Sorry for the wall of text, i could talk for hours on the subject.

We are all sitting on the edge of our seats, waiting for you to launch your blog.

Trouble is I can never write proactively, only retroactively to stuff like this on HN or Reddit.

I have probably two dozen blogs and initially wrestled with the same thing. If you want to blog, I would be happy to help you find a process that works for you.

I am sure you could find an audience. You sound like a rich source of much-needed wisdom on the subject of small business of a sort that would be highly relevant to lots of people on HN.

Edit: It is also fine to interpret my first remark to mean "No apologies needed re the length. Lots of people here would be happy to read more." I mean, you aren't obligated to start a blog because a random internet stranger flippantly suggested it, but I have the bad habit of taking objections literally when people really mean "I don't actually want to do that" but they don't actually say that, they say "I would, but (reason)" and then I'm all "That's totally solvable!" because I am compulsively helpful.

I shall stop digging my grave deeper now. kaythxbai

You can copy and maybe extend your texts from HN and Reddit and post them to your blog.

How did you find that example gig? Like , would one just walk into every distillery they can find and ask the cashier / manager about their software they are using ?

Honestly its about networking and i dont mean going to going to events and just handing out business cards. Its about what you do every day. I got the Kodak client from someone i already knew from a previous job. I got the Distillery client from someone that found me via my website. I got another client because they were a family member of one of my existing clients, another one i got because we both bought something from an auction site and negotiated with them to split the cost of delivery, got to talking about them and they ended up hiring us.

Clients come from all over. Do things, tell people works well. Whats a problem that affects you that you could easily solve, your local activity group terrible at organising a date? Setup an email list and doodle for organising dates. Then write a blog post saying what you did and how it improved things, then mention that to everyone you know, submit it on HN, Reddit, email it to other local groups, etc.

Did you mean to say you're earning 3 times as much?

Yes, granted its 3 times as much revenue and not 3 times profit, as i have employees and an office etc now, but yes, i'm earning a lot more.

I'm thinking of doing exactly that switch. How did you get first customers?

You have a ton of time, don't worry.

I changed careers more than once between 20 and 30. To/from radically different fields.

Besides that, your skill-set as a programmer is _much_ more than your choice of language/web framework.

You have skills in:

- Building things

- Decomposing and solving abstract problems

- etc..

And don't let a perceived lack of math skills intimidate you. This stuff is learnable, with effort and time. ML is most-decidedly not magic. You can learn it, if you have an interest.[1]

That said, if programming is losing its luster, but you still enjoy software -- try product/project management. Good pay, and it's a very social job where your tech skills will be valued.

If you want something dramatically different -- the sky's the limit. At 20, you could switch to Business, Law, Medicine, Journalism, Banking, whatever. Biggest lesson I've learned: don't be afraid to try. Good luck!


[1] (For context, I started studying math much later than you (~27), and have worked on ML in a research lab, since then. But when I was 20, I barely passed college algebra... Point is, you have time and can learn if you want.)

> That said, if programming is losing its luster, but you still enjoy software -- try product/project management. Good pay, and it's a very social job where your tech skills will be valued.

Do you have an opinion on how much of product management is politics and posturing, and how much is actually building good products? For example, one doesn't have to look very far to find substandard software and features on hundreds of highly trafficked sites or commercial products, yet I'm under the impression that getting a job where one would have the authority to fix these things would be next to impossible. (And yes, I absolutely understand that decisions are, or at least should be, first and foremost economic decisions, and subject to competing priorities. For example, just look at the positive cultural change Microsoft has undergone relatively recently, they are a good example of a company who has changed in respect to what I'm talking about.)

So, I worked as a PM for about 3.5 years, in total. That was in the past, and now I work as a developer (not a manager anymore).

My guess is that a lot of this depends on the organization, and product/projects.

But as an opinion...

The politics/posturing & social aspects of the job are integral to shipping products, making positive incremental changes, and "getting things done".

As a PM, I definitely was not the boss. (Even though the success of the project was ultimately my responsibility.)

This meant I had to lead, persuade, and _negotiate_ very effectively -- always arguing what's best for the product, or the end-user.

So I guess I'd say that these sorts of politics aren't separate from building a good product. They're sort of the process for getting things done.

But again, that's limited & personal experience. My companies were relatively small (20 - 50 people). In essence, I was figuring things out as I went along. (These were small businesses, and we all were.) Big organizations with lots of really established process may be different.

How did you end up working in an ML research lab? What's the story here? What's your background etc.

That's a very long story... But here's the essence.

I got a degree totally unrelated to CS. (Think "arts". Decent school. Top 50. But not prestigious.) Bounced around at not-great jobs for awhile, living in NYC and barely making ends meet.

Then I managed to get a job at an online media startup (essentially a management role), which was a very lucky break.

That got me into software, and I was able to use that experience to move into product/project management. I did that for a few years at some boutique companies, working crazy hours but learning a lot.

Then I decided to go back to school and study CS (starting at undergrad level again)... so I spent a few years re-learning everything from the ground up. That includes all the math, stats, etc... that you'd expect from a typical undergrad engineering program. It took awhile to finish, and was frustrating at times, but it was worth it.

Fast forward a few years... and now I work as software engineer. I focused on ML during my studies, and again (with lots of luck) managed to get a job at an R&D lab doing machine learning, during my final year in school.

I've since moved and now work at a company that does low-level OS-type work. (Which I actually enjoy more than ML.)

It's been a wild ride, but it's been fun.

Non-linear paths like this rarely get mentioned, but I met dozens of people with similar stories when I went back to school. It's hard, but can definitely be done.

inspiring story. thank you. i have a technical BA but have done similar hopping around new york etc. since then and have been self-teaching cs trying to figure out a path that will work for me. how did you jump into a management/product? did you read up on those skills or are you a good at selling yourself? how did you make the decision to go back to school? i'm most interested in how you were able to commit to giving up art.

> I am no longer excited about new frameworks, etc

To me this is rather a sign of common sense than a lack of interest in programming.

You could try moving to a company that has its own product - these often have interacting with customers or other companies listed as one of the responsibilities.

EDIT: paragraphs.

Correct, why should we be excited at the newest schizophrenic fad.js?

> I am no longer excited about new frameworks, etc

To me it is a sign that someone is finally becoming a senior (sane) developer.

What is your opinion on companies that interview with requiring rote knowledge on frameworks, or even put it on the job titles (eg. Senior Django developer)?

My city is full of these and there is the disconnect online I get from interview prep guides on algorithms, but none of that benefits me in the local companies I apply for.

A lot of these companies flat out ignore me, despite that I know OOP development well enough for a couple of years.

So much revolves around taking in new tools and frameworks that it's become fashion. That's a big reason why I want to head out of web dev too.

Along with that, it seems like most web dev jobs just are hooking up API endpoints for applications that don't get a lot of traffic, so there are no interesting speed/performance problems to solve.

> What is your opinion on companies that interview with requiring rote knowledge on frameworks, or even put it on the job titles (eg. Senior Django developer)?

I know why they're doing this and IMHO it's a dead end. Among companies with tight budgets(I worked for a few of those) there's a notion that you'll get more value out of someone who already knows the required framework so you should focus on that in the recruiting process. That may be true for small, short-lived projects(3 months max.), but what matters the most in the larger, longer ones is something, that can only be expressed as the ability to program.

Basically it's a sign that this company is mainly occupied with doing the grunt work for larger companies. A job like that sure, pays your bills, but is also soul-crushingly boring.

> Along with that, it seems like most web dev jobs just are hooking up API endpoints for applications that don't get a lot of traffic, so there are no interesting speed/performance problems to solve.

Well, this is web development for you. Hell, most of the time this is software engineering for you.

But there's a way out of this: Like I said before - a company with its own product that does something fundamental(like e.g. a framework). I spent two years in such a company and I can tell you this - I only dealt with interesting problems there.

Some of the big tech companies create the frameworks that are used by a myriad of other companies. These frameworks, incidentally are open-source and worked on by a lot of people for free. But do they have paid employees working on them as well?

Hmm. I guess I never got too excited about new frameworks.

For me, I usually extra-hate new frameworks, because I realize that I'll have to learn them, then I end up loving them.

I used to get excited by imagining millions of people using my software.

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose. Those are exciting. Perhaps this is his autonomy screaming.

Same here. The one framework I never hated was Vue.js - chiefly because I was so preoccupied with hating React when I stumbled upon it. I stopped hating React once I saw Angular 2.

I was a web developer for a few years out of college, but I eventually realized I got much more pleasure out of helping my colleagues solve challenges in their own work (obscure bugs or browser compatibility issues) than building my own assigned pages and apps. I transitioned to technical product/developer support engineering which I've now done at two companies for a combined six years or so, and it's been great.

There's definitely more interaction with people, as your day-to-day work is more about helping people succeed than building things. But you still use a lot of the same skills you've built up in development work - especially if you've spent any time debugging code.

Whether this will appeal to you depends on what motivates you. For me, I really like feeling like I've made a difference and one of the most powerful ways to get that feeling is to solve a problem for someone, so this is a very satisfying line of work.

Also, I've done a lot of interviewing of candidates for this role - and I can tell you that at least on my team, lack of experience isn't really a blocker. It's common to need to quickly learn a new product or feature to solve a customer/developer's problem with it, so we look more for quick learning and problem-solving instincts than built-up experience or domain expertise.

I know this is a little direct, but how's the pay compare to your old jobs and to your colleagues in dev?

My pay increased when I transitioned from web dev at one company to product support at another - but to be fair, the first company was in Dallas and the second was in Palo Alto.

I haven't done a lot of comparison or asking my coworkers how much they make, but the information I do have suggests that while developers are commonly paid more on average, if you're at a company that actually values product support (often because it's recognized as an important contributor to customer retention) this difference can easily be dominated by other differences such as willingness to negotiate. Support teams are also usually smaller so it can be easier to demonstrate how much value you, personally, are adding.

But again, this assumes the company actually cares about support. There are definitely places that treat it as a revolving door position and won't pay much.

It's also worth noting that from what I've seen, companies are much more willing to have distributed support teams than dev teams, due to the value of having support availability in multiple timezones. I actually telecommute four days a week in my current role.

(ML looks like magic to me and involves lots of math, which I suck at).

Math is taught pretty badly in most American public schools from K-12. Many people have terrible math experiences in elementary school, in part because the U.S. actively encourages women to go into early childhood education if they can't cut it in other fields (a thing not done to men). So, there are a lot of women who are basically math-phobic who are teaching it to our K-6 kids and the primary thing they teach a lot of kids is that math is scary stuff and you should hate it. It's really terrible.

I pulled my two sons out of public school at the same time. At the time, my oldest was in sixth grade, and he hated math and had terrible, terrible baggage about it. My ONLY goal for him for math while homeschooling him was to teach him "math is your friend" and that was it. I didn't care if he actually learned any math. I just wanted him to stop having fear and loathing of math. He now sometimes does stuff like reads illustrated calculus books (which are over my head -- I dropped out of calculus in college, due to having had a year long math gap... it's a long story) when he runs out of other things to read at the library and is bored.

If you want some pointers on how to get over your fear of math and how to learn math comfortably, I and no doubt lots of other people here can give you some pointers. Because there are people here who think math is cool and fun and managed to get through the school system without becoming math-phobic, in spite of how hard the school system actively tries to make most of us math-phobic.

> Note that I am only 20 so I don't have that much experience either, and finding a good developer's job seems hard given the competition for all the good startups.

If you don't have a CS degree, then I would pursue it if I were you. I used to be like you (I was 20, now I'm 30 with CS degree), and it's been the best investment I've made.

> After a year at my job it seems like I'm no longer interested in programming - I am no longer excited about new frameworks, etc

Yes. This is because you've hit a ceiling with your learning. In order for you to move forward, you should touch up on basics.

> I don't feel interested in learning those fields (ML looks like magic to me and involves lots of math, which I suck at).

If you played Diablo, you need to learn your pre-requisites before taking these on. Once you have the basic fundamentals, it will come to you.

Right now, you are still too early in your career. I would focus on building a strong foundation (CS degree). Everything else will come to you over time.

If someone's not enjoying programming, suggesting to study CS doesn't seem ideal.

Whilst CS != programming, there is a lot of overlap.

Lot of overlap but lot of learning to in broad spectrum of subjects. Maybe he'll be more into low level programming, maybe security. Or maybe once he understands magic behind ML, he'll like it. To me CS degree was about expanding views. I still sucked at programming after getting MSc.

You’re facing the exact problem I am right now in my life.

I am 21, and work in the same Technologies you do. I founded a company in web services a year ago (http://Bigdrop.io) which is pretty much self sustainable today. I don’t find a lot of interest in the domain any more and tire of new projects easily.

I however realised that my true passion lies with creativity, and it isn’t limited to the web or to programming.

I am currently working with India Accelerator ( http://indiaaccelerator.co ), which gives me the chance to interact with start ups, discuss and design products, play a high level technical role, meet new people, etc.

We could possibly come up with something to help you out, you can reach out to me. naved@bigdrop.io

Congratulations on actually having a profitable product, and thanks for the help, I'll definitely drop you a line soon.

Programming is not about frameworks. Python + Django are just tools. I suggest you learn more about the field in general otherwise you won't be able to put new hypes in context and will get overwhelmed every year. Also learning the basics (maths included) will enable you to solve an ever growing set of problems. But of course you can start doing something entirely different, luckily you didn't put much effort into programming yet.

You are very lucky that you are only 20. Look at other areas in tech. You don't have to stay there but at least explore it. Try marketing and sales. Companies are always looking for people that can expand their sales. This will not change. I can almost guarantee that you'll hate it to start but as you gain some skills you'll like it better. You might not stay with it but you'll gain skills that will always be useful to you. Such as the ability to interact with people in ways that advance what you want to accomplish. If you think about it a big percent of the time at work is sales. You sell your ideas to your coworkers and management.

Product manager is also a possibility but you'll need to work your way to it. There is not one path to get there. But there is satisfaction in supporting a successful product.

Your best bet is to try different things to help you decide. If you can, volunteer in areas that you want to test out.

Since you are at it. Make a career and life plan. Start thinking now about where you want your career and life to be 5, 10 years from now. The advantage is that you'll be looking for opportunities to execute your plan. You'll be happy you did. The last thing you want is to end up in a place you don't want to be in in the future.

What would I do if programming was made illegal overnight?

I'd probably look at urban gardening, harvesting little plots of land on peoples' property. Maybe real farming, but make sure it's a niche that'll pay my bills.

After that, I'd probably print t-shirts and sell them at urban centers, maybe set up a stand. Then farmers markets, making little delicious things like crab rangoons, with some hipster spin on it(that's also good tasting). I'd probably work my way into the restaurant business somehow, but I know that the long hours and stuff I couldn't do, so I'd need a niche.

That's just what I'd do. You have to ask yourself what are some of your most triumphant memories and build on them.

If you're still interested in tech but want to move away from programming there are definitely options. A few I've seen before: - moving to a product/project management role (more talking to people and a lot less coding) - a hybrid sales/engineer role on a technical product (helping the sales team and customer figure out how the product can be most useful to them) - Developer support for a technical product (v.useful to have engineers who like communicating externally in these roles)

Otherwise people career change entirely. E.g. I studied law at university, realised I didn't want to be a corporate lawyer, then did sales/vc work at an equity crowdfunding start-up, left there to learn to code, spent just over a year building prototypes & on contract in some bigger tech co's, then started my own co which I'm now a year into (I'm 25).

So try and work out what interests you and see if you can move within the company you're at to start with to test it out.

I also wrote up the transferable skills from law > programming. It definitely goes the other way too - https://hackernoon.com/how-studying-law-helped-me-with-progr...

I've been there: burned out from writing code, feeling like you've plateaued on your particular skillset of choice, but not having another skillset that you're particularly interested in acquiring.

I view software as means to an end, and that end is solving a real concrete physical problem in the real world.

It's hard to look at a specific vertical / domain and try to guess what kind of app you can build for them that would make an impact, as an outsider looking in.

So, become an insider by getting a job and doing real hands-on work in an area outside of programming. For me, since I figured I got the "hacker" part down, I wanted to get the "hustler" part down, and I joined a very early stage startup and did all things customer-acquisition, in charge of the singular goal of bringing in money. A hardware company at that.

Then, military has always fascinated me, so I sought to get an insider's perspective.

Now I've got additional perspectives that has been constructive in helping me understand where else and how else software might be able to make an impact, which is helpful when you're looking for opportunities to ... make something people want.

I can't provide much help with advice for a career change, but I have some thoughts on your current situation...

> I feel like my skillset (Python and Django) is slowly fading into irrelevance (everyone seems to be about machine learning and data science nowadays)

Machine learning and data science are certainly trendy, but there are still 100s of developers for everyone in those areas, and will be for a long time. These skills are highly sought after and you'll likely naturally shift to new technologies to solve problems as you need to.

> I also would like more interaction with people instead of spending my days in front of a monitor.

I think the best engineers get a lot of interaction with people. Building something isn't worth much if it's not the solution to the right business problem. I'm an engineer but I'm heavily involved in the product thinking process, talking to "stakeholders", brainstorming ideas, liaising with external companies, etc. I'd estimate my time is roughly 70% at a computer and 30% talking to other people in various ways.

There are many opportunities to do this sort of stuff if you're interested, and you may even want to go into Product Management if you want to remain close to technology but spend more time getting human interaction.

> Note that I am only 20 so I don't have that much experience either, and finding a good developer's job seems hard given the competition for all the good startups.

I'm assuming you're right at the beginning of your career, or only 1-2 years into it. I would encourage you to find a different place to work, try more companies of different types, teams that work in different ways, etc.

What kind of pathways have you seen that lead in to product management?

I'm yet to see a job listing for a PM that doesn't require experience as a PM.

I've seen "early employees" do well as PMs. These are employees who started out ostensibly in marketing, or operations, but at a scale where everyone in the company still does a bit of everything. These people naturally grow with the company knowing so much about the internal workings of the company and the product that they are the perfect candidate for a PM role even if they have no formal PM experience.

I've seen 2 people do this at my current company and have heard similar things from other companies where it worked very well.

One common path I've seen is to prove yourself inside a company and “step up” (volunteer yourself for the new position). 1-2 recommendations later, it'll be a done deal.

The glory days of programming are over, mate.

When the masses discovered programming to be profitable ~5 years ago, it became "cool" and was quickly gamed into the ground from both ends.

Look at what "cool" does to art and music. The "rockstars" get paid a lot, and everyone else works for peanuts (or no nuts) or gets a "real job". 90% of the work now is marketing yourself. So it is with programming. Programming is like music now.

This is all thanks to the supply of programmers (and wannabes) increasing tenfold thanks to boot camps, and a 400% increase in computer science majors in the past 5 years.

The craziest thing about all of this is that you can be a complete novice, but if you have a decent following on social media and are putting out somewhat interesting content and are a terrible programmer, you will absolutely get hired over the expert that isn't contributing publically. It's all about visibility now.

My advice is find something you intrinsically enjoy so much, that doing all the extra annoying stuff is at the very least tolerable.

Be happy you haven't invested 10 years into the industry like I have.

There is some truth to it. Everyone wants a developer with extensive public portfolio (github/stack overflow/open source contributions) and ideally great performance with algorithmic brain teasers, but don't realize that such people are quite literally celebrities. Do you really need George Clooney for your soap opera? Is the budget of your soap opera sufficient to hire George Clooney? Another thing - for the dirty stuff the celebrity will need a double;)

A couple of years ago I was in a similar situation (not a programmer, but devops), and ended up going in the marketing technology direction. More contact with people, less programming but still relevant. Worked out well for me, I run two businesses today - a martech agency and a software dev venture. Might be worth checking out what martech jobs would fit you.


While I have not yet changed careers, I have thought about it a lot. If or when I do, here is how I will likely go about it.

First save money and change lifestyle to handle the pay change. Coding pays more than many careers, and you might want or need to move to an industry that you have little experience.

Next, be open to moving. There are other places outside of the big cities that can often be open to people from different backgrounds as they don't have all the big city fun.

What do you like or have experience in. Making a slight shift is a lot easier than a large one. Perhaps you coded something for a newspaper, that will make it easier to get a job doing something else for a newspaper. This might mean doing a double jump. Get a job coding for the industry you want to be in, then move toward your desired career in that industry.

Best of luck!

I've been a web developer for 15+ years, but my favorite part of the job is actually working with Databases. I even applied for a DB Admin position at a big company and almost got it.

So my suggestion is to take a look at databases before you decide to move on to anything too much different.

I'm pretty sure data engineering can be extremely lucrative, and can be easier for a backend engineer to jump into. Think of it as backend development on steroids, where you architecture and build the infrastructure for "big data".

Personally I'm also excited about Apples ARKit [1]. Some of the demos built on it seem like magic to me [2].

[1]: https://developer.apple.com/arkit/ [2]: http://www.madewitharkit.com/

If you're 20 and have been working for a year, does that mean you didn't go to college? You could do that. It's a great place to explore and figure out what you're interested in.

I've always been bored by education (in fact I left high school halfway through) and college will probably be no different, not to mention there are subjects where I am dumber than a tree (math for example) so I'd probably fail most exams just because of that.

As far as my work experience goes I've been a developer for a year but was working as a technical advisor for a mobile phone retailer before that - the job was actually quite nice but unfortunately the pay was nowhere near enough to sustain myself and the company had pretty scammy sales practices so I left.

I failed Calculus I twice and they basically had a B.A. degree just to graduate me. You can do it, and it's worth it. A moderately priced state school will have a decent-enough CS department, and what you'll learn there will help (as a senior/staff-level engineer, albeit a consultant these days, I do use what I learned in school quite a lot), but what's more valuable is the humanities and the general rounding-out-as-a-person that happens at college.

"Oh, I need to go join a trendy startup" is a pretty good way to stick your foot in a bear trap. There's more to life than a keyboard, as you have seemingly realized--college is a very good way to find out what (and, if you work in tech, there's no need to go broke doing it; I had my entire loan package paid off from my university by 26 because I didn't go to some crazy school).

If nothing else, you should explore it more seriously than "well, high school bored me." The experiences you get at college are really hard to replicate outside of it.

I've got some programming experience (developed few apps, some of them working for few years now in production, although they are very amateurish), but did not become "official" developer. It's not for me, and I went marketing with focus on marketing technology.

Martech is pretty interesting field with almost no competition (you need to be well versed in classic marketing, analytics and programming, also good to have some domain knowledge). For me it's a balanced blend of soft and hard skills.

> involves lots of math, which I suck at

How I got over this was actually through learning applied math. I thought I sucked at it, too, but really I just never tried hard before.

What I liked about programming was formulating and solving problems. Not normally the act of writing code in and of itself (though that can be fun, too, every now and then). Learning more math lets you tackle more interesting problems, and there are more applications of fancy math than ML!

Python is very relevant, keras, tensorflow, and pytorch are deep learning frameworks that rely on python development. Also, many data scientist rely on robust python frameworks. Maybe look into jobs that require python development that support these roles. As you feel that data science is not for you, I can imagine data scientist fear about software infrastructure and need people like you!

There are several options for you - you could switch focus. One way would be to switch technologies/work on problems that interest you with development - it helps broaden your purview, and maybe would give you a spark you didn't have.

You could also switch roles into something more people - facing. Sales engineering or solutions engineering might interest you.

Ever considered working in France at a startup? We're always looking to international talent and since you're young, why not try something new in another country? We're a startup that's created a battery-less connected indoor location system and always looking to recruit IT talent.

Let me know, email: career@uwinloc.com

I started TAing last year and moved up to teaching just recently at a coding bootcamp after realizing I really enjoy working with people in that way and that I have some aptitude for it. Really enjoying it, it's part time on top of a dev day job at the moment but I know people who do it full time and make good money.

am a DevOps guy and while I love programming, I am also looking at a career change in the next couple of years. A book recommendation via a friend who moved from Regional Store Mgmt into Financial Advising is the book, "What Color is Your Parachute". Some good advice in there you may want to check

My former co-worked, software developer, became manager at the retailer network Tesco :) It solved the interaction with people problem for him.

How's the pay there? My biggest concern about leaving IT is that the salaries we get as developers are pretty generous compared to other fields.

Is the pay more important then your wish to have more interaction with people?

The issue is that from what I can see the people-oriented jobs I could get in my area (as in, they don't require lots of experience or education) would barely allow me to afford rent, so as much as I'd like to it's just not possible at the moment.

Not the OP, but when you have children good pay is essential.

How about doing ppc/other performance marketing stuff? There is some skill overlap and feedback loop might make it enjoyable.

Have you tried any golang or devops stuff? Maybe you're just burnt out on python / Django.

I'm someone who really values other people's company and the outdoors but maybe the reason I do so much is because I have mainly earnt money from working as a developer for the last 10 years. E.g. the job has low levels of this so I desire it more. I have, and still, would like to change career from programming.

I've tried other things including: landscape gardening. Pros: - Outdoors - Get fit - Learn handywork skills

Cons: - Poor pay - Still low level of people interaction - Not that interlectually engaging

Mountain bike guide

Pros: - Outdoors - Exciting - People interaction - Nice landscape - Following a passion I have

Cons: - Turns my passion into work - Low interllectual engagement - Poor pay

I also tried running my own company doing this which was a good experience. Problem with it was that it is difficult to make as much money comparing to programming. Also above points apply.


Pros: - Outdoors - Technical - Creatively engaging

Cons: - Loads of digital images you have to work with becomes a bit of a burden - Regularity of work - Amount of competition

Writer / Blogger

Pros: - Fun - Built the blog so learnt web development - Good for learning content marketing

Cons: - Difficult to make money - Really competitive - Lots of alone time (I wrote a few books) - Effort/ reward ratio can be quite low

Estate Agent

Pros: - Met people - Look round lots of houses - Out on the road

Cons: - Pay - Image - Office based - Can be boring

Exhibition worker (technical support, building the stands)

Pros: - Travel (I worked in UAE, Paris, London) - Working with your hands - Money can be good

Cons: - Can make a lot more money as the event organiser - Long hours - Intense


Pros: - Travel (residencies around the world) - Meet interesting people doing interesting work - Intellectually engaging

Cons: - Difficulty to make a lot of money - Your lifestyle will be out of sync with anyone else doing a normal 9-5 - Snobbery - Networking


Pros: - Interllectually engaging - Many different disciplines (eg visual, service, UX, etc)

Cons: - Need a portfolio - Very competitive - Lots of low level crappy work if you cant get the interesting stuff

Teaching English

Pros: - Meet people - Command position of authority - Interesting, engaging work - Lots of opportunities to mix tech and education

Cons: - Money not as good as developer

That's my experience of other work, partly. Of course you can also try to make your career as a developer more interesting.

Ways I have tried to do this:

- Earn more money - Remote working - Change stack - Change scale, size, length of project, whether public or private sector - Develop other things not websites eg. a game - Get really disciplined about your dev time. Eg. work the way where you can be the more productive, get a pomodoro timer, go outside, try different types of desks.

To conclude this rant, developer / programmer is one of the job roles of the age. Douglas Adams said something along the lines, that each era has its own new industrial revolution and you are lucky if you can make your living out of it. However, it poses challenges but it is new and everyone is in the same boat trying to make it work for them.

Solution Architect, Project Manager, Product Manager

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