I made the jump 5 years ago and have worked for a number of companies since, on 6-12 month contracts. The money has jumped each time, such that I’m on what I consider to be silly money now for the job I do — Ireland, not US.
The work is always interesting for at least 6 months and I learn a ton of new stuff with every contract, much of which I use when building my own products (Downtime between contracts).
Every aspect of contracting is better than being permanent: the ability to jump ship quickly without affecting my hireability, the exposure to so many different technologies and different ways of doing things, the constant freshness of new things and new people, the ideas that come with seeing how different teams create and build different software, the ease with which you can step into new contracts (often one 30 minute interview as opposed to multipel interviews tests and take home projects for perm roles), and of course the money.
In terms of learning, each contract is like spending 3 years in a permie job, and I’ve had 7 in the past 5 years.
However, I've recently started considering returning to permanent, primarily for one reason. At the age of 50, half of which has been in a software development career, I find being a code-monkey -- even a senior one -- quite unsatisfying. I would like to return to leadership roles I had while I was permanent, but they are nearly impossible to find as contracts.
Plus you're gone when the project or milestone is completed, instead of having to worry about finding another role or laying you off.
You can sometimes have to leave when the project is completed, but more often than not they have a new project kicking off.
Definitely read about IR35 and how it might affect you.
In all cases, an accountant can answer these questions for you, even if you're not sure you want to commit.
Two years ago, I went one step further and moved from SF Bay area to Saigon, Vietnam. I've had a variety of tech jobs while here, but I am currently consulting for two primarily US based companies.
My expenses are almost nil (compared with before) and I live a very minimal lifestyle (own and purchase very little). I plan on going nomadic in the next couple months (I've never been technically homeless) and driving a motorbike around Vietnam, Cambodia and wherever else I want. I can work during the week and travel on the weekends.
I'm so much happier with my life. I was doing it wrong before.
I started a business in SF that brought me to Saigon, Hanoi and Da Nang (3 separate trips). I fell in love with the country and told everyone I'd move there someday. A year later, I quit. Immediately started searching for jobs in Saigon online and through contacts. Found a company through some mutual friends who hired me to come over and teach them about agile (I'm an ex-pivot). Got rid of everything I owned... Moved... haven't looked back.
Prior to my current consulting work, I randomly met a guy in a coffeshop in my apartment building who had a bitcoin book. I'm into crypto. Started talking, got invited to help install some litecoin asic machines for a new operation they were running just outside of Saigon. Became cto. Grew that to 1500 machines in two data centers (~5MW of power), ran that for 8 months until they pulled everything out of Vietnam (longer story).
It has been a very interesting couple of years.
One other thing I found out was to stay away from the "butts in seats" contract. That's often the model these contracting houses (middlemen) use so, in essence, you're the same as an employee with non of the benefits. It can still be good to go through one of these companies but make sure and tell them that if you're work is blocked because the customer is dragging their feet on requirements or the like, you reserve the right to work on other contracts. Don't let them bill you out at 40h per week if there's not 40h per week of work.
If it works for you, great, but there's a lot more to it than people in the business will say.
Derek has mentioned basically all of the positives of contracting - the downsides are that shorter contracts (three months, or anything less) tend to be either quite dull (very routine work that nobody else has the time for) or unpleasantly intensive (desperately trying to ship a disaster); in some organisations you will be treated as "just another bloody contractor" by the perms, who will know you make more money than they do and hate you for it; you may get less responsibility than you would have as a perm, or generally "less say"; and if you end up contracting for the sort of company that you'd hate working for as a perm, it will be just as bad as a contractor, except you'll probably care even less for them because you will know that you can quit very easily, which is, itself, a bit demotivating.
I transitioned from contracting to running my own consultancy, which is much harder work, much more stressful, and with a lot more risk, but quite a bit more rewarding (for me personally - definitely not something I'd recommend to everyone).
Emails always gladly received!
Starting a new contract is just like starting a new permanent job — hand in your one month’s notice and move on. Though, I tend to just quit, take a couple of months off, and then find the next contract, but most contractors move directly into other contracts with no down time.
(Stay well clear of Computer Futures. They have a terrible rep in Ireland and in the UK.)
Hays is a huge one and I've done one contract through them which went very well. They seem to be well organized, know when I'm becoming available and more or less what kind of work I'm looking for.
Computer Futures on the other hand spam me with tons of irrelevant stuff. That is partially my fault however, since a long time ago I submitted a CV to them with lots of keywords that I don't care about any more. Having said that, I recently got an interview through them and the client wanted to hire me. Ultimately it didn't work out, but I don't think they are to blame for that. I certainly did not put them on the blacklist. :)
Some of the other ones are smaller agencies from the UK and Ireland, where I am regularly in touch with one or more of their recruiters. You can probably find all of them on LinkedIn. The good recruiters often post new contract opportunities including rates (a nice habit in the UK, still uncommon in Germany).
They all love phone calls, which is a bit annoying, but not the end of the world, IMHO.
There’s an idea out there that contractors need to be expert or top rung developers, but this is not true. You can learn on the job and usually end up doing so as most companies have unique ways of doing things.
I have the same assumption in that I've always seen it as a pipe-dream at the moment and that I'll need another five years plus and additional languages under my belt before I'm worthy of even considering contracting, so it's refreshing to hear that this is not the case! I'd be interested in hearing more about your experience in making that step to contracting, and how you felt yourself 'ready' for it.
Previously I was all about startups or small companies and was very much against the mega-corp environment.
Over several months a colleague "recruited" me to join their team and I don't regret it.
I've been able to climb pretty high within this corp and it has been a wild ride. Never in a million years would I have thought I'd have any sort of influence over technology strategy that one of the largest US corporations would follow for the next decade.
So, I've learned to keep an open mind and not let preconceived notions on how others do business until I see it for myself. If I had not done this I'd still be hopping from start-up to start-up.
On hindsight, I consider it a mistake. Micromanagement, lack of depth in terms of engineering & vision made me rethink my career path. Joined a BigCorp as a result and I regret not doing it early enough.
Work-life balance, clear decision makings, freedom to experiment with new tech, time to work on personal projects, financial stability and most importantly ability to bring real impact to real users – I clearly see now things that I'd have missed if I continued with that startup.
patio11 wrote a brilliant piece here regarding this, along with other awesome career advice - https://www.kalzumeus.com/2011/10/28/dont-call-yourself-a-pr...
I’ve learned a huge amount and appreciated the opportunities and flexibility I have.
I think experiences in both worlds are valuable and wouldn’t trade either experience for anything else.
- While a lot of folks look at bureaucracy as a huge drawback, in retrospect, I learned a lot about how to influence people and trying to see all sides of an argument.
- In some cases, it can be freeing to work for a big corporate environment if you manage to find yourself on a team with a green field project. It's got a lot of benefits that startups have with little to no risk of failure.
- Structure can be good for some folks, especially early in your career if you haven't got the slightest clue what you're interested in doing long term. I view it sort of like bootcamp for the military - you get a routine, you learn to function as a group, without the stress of needing to survive.
- Bureaucracy - it can be utterly draining. Some fights feel like such a slog for minute improvements.
- It's easy to get lost in the mix - bosses can change frequently if an organization is unhealthy, team members bail, and product groups fall apart. The healthiest corporate groups can be incredibly freeing to work in and the worst corporate groups can really burn out your creativity because it turns into monotony.
- Golden handcuffs - I walked away from a big chunk of money when I went to startup land. It wasn't easy but ultimately it was the right choice.
- More work than you have people to do it. There's always something to do, you never end up with busy work, and you're almost always learning something you didn't know the day before about the business or your technology.
- Smaller groups that feel more like family and less like work. I get to work with my friends, people that I'd hang out with outside of work. That can be a double edged sword, but for me I enjoy it.
- Closer connection to the customer. At a big corporate job, you're so far removed from your customers as an engineer that it can be very isolating. For startups, you often interact with a customer if something's broken or a customer wants a new feature. I enjoy that a lot.
- More work than you have people to do it. If you don't set good boundaries and have a good culture of identifying the most important thing to be done, everything can feel like a "tyranny" of the urgent.
- Pay is lower, especially at earlier stages. I'm not terribly obsessed with money. I like to have money to travel and enough to get a few things I want but expensive cars or collecting guitars isn't my jam.
- Unpredictability - Business needs change quickly as you fight for deals, you experiment or cut features to try and drive costs down. It can feel like you built something and then aggressively cut it prematurely.
These are just my notes on it - and really it's stream of consciousness. I'm sure if I sat down to write a real blog post, it'd probably be a little better reasoned.
Turns out I am not cut out to lead from such an abstract level, directing other directors and barely knowing how stuff is being shipped.
However this is where I was most surprised. My senior leadership recognizes where my skills are and have let me “manage myself” out of my role and move into a senior (think fellow/principal/staff) individual contributor role where I manage peers and work hands-on with whatever interests me (as long as i can align it to some product).
I have influence in a couple major tech areas for this Corp. influence in a type that I develop strategy and report on a semi regular basis to the C suite and am actively brought into other silos to contribute or kickoff ideas.
Long story short. I’ve spent years as “lead developer” at startups with no where to go except perhaps CTO. Here I am able to carve out an influential space that can maximize whatever talents I have while working closely with others who can augment skills I lack.
I had such a negative view of this corporate world prior to joining that I am ashamed of myself now that I know what the reality is, at least for my own experience.
Large tech focused corps usually have a career path for individual contributors to rise up the ranks without becoming people managers. This career path is almost meaningless unless there is a corporate culture of collaboration between ICs and directors/VPs.
A senior IC should not be navel gazing all the time and just building whatever or getting into peoples business while VPs should not be so protective of their thing to dismiss or wall off outside contributions.
"Assume positive intent" and "It's all the same stock price" is heard around here a lot.
The guy who was recruiting me made all the assurances that would not happen. I respected this guy, it’s the only reason why I even entertained being “recruited” for this role. Even with that though his word was not good enough.
What put me over the edge was meeting with his boss and then his bosses boss. I got the impression that these people had great skills in running an organization. They both were ex engineers who made the leap to senior management prior to joint the mega Corp (VP and Exec VP). I felt like I could trust them to a degree. It has proven out for me.
So, I suggest trying to get information to gauge how much you can “trust” your senior leadership beyond whomever will be your supervisor since those are the people who will really have the most control over your agency and future at that company.
I have two questions if you don't mind answering.
How large is the company you are referring to? 10K people? 100K, 250K, 500K?
What type of company is it? A company that builds and sells mostly software, or a company that uses software to sell something else (e.g. automobiles?). Amazon+AWS is a an example that is a hybrid of both.
My part of the corp is all software. Product development both "commercial enterprise" grade to individual consumer facing. This involves plain old software development, data science, infrastructure as well as R&D (some basic, mostly emerging tech)
>My part of the corp is all software.
I was hoping you'd say this.
Out of all the places I've worked, two of them were/are huge (250K+ people). For the first, I was in the business side of things as a data scientist/software person, and now I'm in the the software org as a data scientist.
In theory I should have been doing the same job; using code to to address business problems using data science. Both companies were investing heavily into cloud and analytics, and were theoretically moving in the same direction.
My experience in the non-software org was a nightmare because nobody understood what it meant to build or engineer anything. Now that I'm in software org of big company and I'm MUCH happier because people actually understand what it takes to solve a technical problem.
Lesson: if you are a software person who likes to be technical (coding or not), work in a the software org of a big company!
I'm now a 'mid-level' AH-1Z pilot.
I work longer hours and have generally a lower quality of life but there's something to be said for the immensely unique things I've gotten to do and how profoundly well-rounded the entire experience has made me.
I will be re-entering the software industry in a few years unless another passion pulls me in some new direction.
The military is obviously not for everyone but picking up the phone, ducking into a side conference room across from my cube, and giving a verbal commit to my 'recruiter' that day (after a years-long selection process) has been the best decision I've ever made.
In the end good/evil are myths. They are human constructs and they can change depending on time and place. Ethics is not a hard science and your belief that something is good does not make it a fact.
The military can cause a lot of destruction and grief around the world, no doubt, but it can also cause a lot of good and stability. In the real world there will always be "winners" and "losers" An action that benefits you may directly or indirectly hinder someone else.
Our military's mission is to defend our country and that means that sometimes other countries will lose if they decide to engage. Inevitably there will be innocent casualties. This will never ever change. It is an honorable thing to do what we can to minimize it but unrealistic to expect it to ever go away.
You will likely see the world in a different light the older and more experienced you get. You're not a good person. You're not a bad person.
You're just a person.
Also, ethical myths have very real effects on societies, but they are myths nonetheless. That realization may be inconvenient to some and that's fine.
Also, if that bad accounting is leading to the death and torture of humans.
I am of the opinion that a "well it's far removed from me even though that is what the organisation's main goal is" stance is doing yourself a disservice.
Not murder. Unfortunately, people are killed in war. Not the same thing.
I don’t think the US has a good reputation as peace makers, albeit the opposite.
Depends on which part of the world are you asking.
I live in Eastern Europe. US military (and NATO, but I am just repeating myself) is currently the only reason why Russian armies are not marching through our streets. Western Europe alone would gladly sacrifice us at any moment.
I understand that if you asked e.g. someone from South America, you could get a dramatically different answer. But I am speaking for myself right now.
And I could imagine that a former naval aviator who is also a programmer has a bright future in the defense and aerospace industry if you want.
I'm jealous. I always wanted to do something like that, but my eyes suck.
Even rank gets thrown out the window to a degree. Our little community in particular (the HMLA) is a meritocracy that is enforced on a tribal level.
Point 1 on bureaucracy: Generally agree.
Point 2 on the feasibility of changes in career: Wholeheartedly disagree.
Sun Microsystems happened to be across the road from us. My mind was blown the first time I saw the value of the invoices for servers and Solaris licenses that we bought both for ourselves and on behalf of our customers. That's where a lot of those dotcom-era "investment" dollars ended up - at Sun.
One day we needed a router + firewall for some internal service. One of the Unix sysadmins in the team grabbed a spare i386 desktop PC, stuck a 2nd NIC in it, installed Slackware Linux and configured ipchains. Job done: no budget, no managerial approval, no licenses, nothing. I couldn't believe it.
I asked him about Linux and after learning more came to the conclusion that it could basically do most things that Solaris could do but was 1) free and 2) ran on cheap, commodity hardware.
That was the writing on the wall for me. I taught myself Linux and pretty soon had my first bona-fide Linux Sysadmin job. Linux went on to become the OS that runs the world and I've never struggled to find relatively interesting, well-paid work since then.
Ive used linux for years, I develop on a chromebook running an all cli ubuntu chroot and have loved working this way for the past two years. Im very interested in devops (Im a fullstack JS freelancer) and enjoy working with servers and the cloud a lot. But Ive never considered myself “learn-ed” in the ways of linux.
I have the time to devote to linux sysadmin training, and intend to do so.
What areas of linux knowledge are most useful from an employer’s standpoint that would make a candidate attractive? Is it mostly experience architecting systems in production?
I think devops as a realm of work is very interesting, and would like to gain experience doing it professionally to find out if I’d want to pursue it longer term.
Beyond joining a team and learning from real world applications, is there anything useful you would recommend I look into? There are training courses available online for these things (AWS certs and linux foundation training comes to mind), does anyone have an opinion about the usefulness of such material?
Would also recommend looking at A Cloud Guru for certification course learning:
I've built relationships with people just by doing right by them in tough situations that have lasted decades and paid fantastic dividends.
Also understand the motivations of people more powerful than you. They want to succeed, get promoted and make more money. If your goals align with theirs, you're golden. If they see you as being an impedance to their goals, you will get tossed aside, no matter how much bullcrap they heap on you in orientation and all-hands meetings about caring about the employees. It's just profit and loss, raises and promotions- nothing else.
That was it for me. I found a much better paying job within two weeks and never looked back.
The next company I worked for laid people off on schedule even though they were growing like crazy. In my four years there they went from 2b to 6b, but laid off many employees every year or so.
With 25years in corp, you should have at least contacts to win contracts. If it was manager position ofcourse.
My take is that the loyalty a company has towards a given employee cannot be the same, simply because it lacks the emotional basis that usually makes that loyalty as strong and/or as irrational. It's completely a matter of company culture which, in most cases, isn't very empathic to employees.
I don't think lack of loyalty is a rule though. I think that if the company culture is set up properly, it can totally have some form of valuable, albeit different, loyalty towards its employees.
1. My engineering ended in 2013. I was shit broke. I started doing online courses in 2016. Till now I have done 51 online courses in different things and just a month ago I got moved into a DevOps role (from a WordPress developer role). $0 invested in it.
2. The other best thing is growing my LinkedIn network. I grew my network from 200 people to to 15000 people (most of which are founders and recruiters). I invest time in writing articles and sharing new opportunities via LinkedIn.
3. I started reading a lot of books (related to tech and business).
4. I started emailing, tweeting to people (and getting heard by people like Jimmy Wales, Elon Musk, Tim Draper, Craig Newmark, Charlie Cheever) etc. This helped me grow exponentially.
5. Planning ahead. I started visioning life 30 years ahead. What was what I wanted. If your goals are clear, it will be much easier to find the path.
6. Ask, ask, ask. I asked a lot of questions on StackExchange, Reddit -> r/webdev and Hacker News. Whatever I plan to do, I take feedback from these groups. I have also joined Slack channels of professionals from different groups where I talk and take feedback. From ideas to resume review and career guidance.
7. Anyone that could teach me, I made him/her my mentor and listened to them and acted on their advice. Everyone I work with (founders, coworkers etc) see the passion in me and tries to mentor me. The trick is to always be willing to listen to others and keep connecting dots.
I can't imagine the low SNR because of that enabling you to derive any use from it.
1) Which courses would you recommend?
Which had the greatest impact?
How would you do things differently?
Would you forego engineering entirely?
2) Suppose one doesnt have friends from school or work, how does one build a linkedin following?
What did you write about?
How did you promote your articles?
3. Again, favorite books? Most impactful?
4. Maybe once you get back to me, we can talk about 4 this sounds super interesting! But maybe you can give me the jist of what you did? For example why did they bother replying to you when tons are reaching out to them everyday?
The greatest impact was the combined effort of being able to do multiple courses (in so many different things) and being able to better understand different programming languages, technologies and marketing (SEO, ads, content marketing, referral marketing, driving sales).
Can't leave engineering. Engineering is the passion. I have a strong belief that all parts of business should be driven by engineers from development to sales and marketing. Yesterday I went to a meetup and I met sales people on the booths who had no idea on the product they were selling worked and how it could help others.
2.) If you don't have friends in school, go out to events, network. Talk to people, add them on LinkedIn. Found someone interesting online? Feel free to email them and get to know each other. Thats how I have built my network. Don't forget the nurture professional relationships. Your network is your networth.
3.) I have a 15000 people following, the articles that are of interest get viral. A few times I tried to post my articles on some FB groups. It did work out well but I don't do it anymore. Best is to just keep writing (you may post on Reddit, FB etc but be aware that you might get banned for self promotion).
3. 'The Lean Startup' and 'The defining decade' are the most impactful books.
4. You can see my Linked: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ifahaduddin/
Would you be able to link me to the exact courses? Or, the authors at least?
Were you trained in engineering, or self taught?
Where do you go to for your marketing knowledge? favorite sites, blogs, books, thought leaders?
How do you combine marketing with your other skills?
Any other advice for a person aspiring to be in your position?
If more interested on cross technical concerns (leadership, regional) I have found the best thing is word of mouth (I know several Colorado slacks, but found them through people I met at meetups). Though again you could try Google.
I have also found that most non project oriented email lists I am on have a link to their slack in the email footer.
Maybe I'm lucky, but every single one of these changes (there have been 4 major ones in ~15 years) has led to something better than what came before it in one way or another.
Life is too short to hate what you do. That will always be the guiding principle of my career, through all the ups and downs.
I still work for them.
Theoretically I should be able to retire in about 5-10 years, in my mid 40s, depending on how frugal I am with my expenses. This wouldn't have been possible working for a local software company, even though I was paid about 3 times the average national income.
insurance and healthcare system is a joke. so whenever you got health issue, be prepare to spend butt-load of money.
i have no idea how gdp per capita is so low yet people have so much of money (unreported income, corruption probably)
I make about 25 times the national gdp per capita yet i'm just above average in my country.
As a back of the envelope calculation, if you can live with 30% from the income, one should be able to retire in about 7 years.
Well then. Move to Romania. Problem solved.
I'm privileged to be a EU citizen, but not everyone is. Also see: https://www.passportindex.org/byRank.php
All the best on your job!
When I got made redundant from a very large company, they were able to secure me a severance package which I pivoted into running my own startup.
They also gave me a huge amount of training on pensions and dispute resolution, which I still use to this day.
They also helped boost my confidence in public speaking by inviting me to address a huge conference. I was a few speakers before the then Prime Minister.
Being a union member also got me face to face with several senior leaders within my industry, and with people from a wide range of backgrounds that I'd never have encountered otherwise.
Basically, for a few quid a month, I was able to completely transform my relationship with work and my peers.
1. Before I built my reputation and experience, I said Yes to a lot of things. Not all of them I could do, but once I said yes and jumped in the deep end, I found out I can do them and do them very well. Necessity was a big driver.
2. Life style trumps "exit". I worked with various start ups for 20 years. I founded and co founded 4 of them. At some point I decided that if a company succeeds or fails, I want it to be because of me, not despite me. So in 2 of those startups I had no investors and full control. I work at and dictate my own pace.
3. Best decision: My time and family come first. Nothing urgent has never been really that urgent. Nothing requires me to work 20 hour days. Nothing justifies my family being hurt because I'm somewhere working more than I should be.
Taking job interviews not as events where I had to prove myself for a chance to get validated, but rather as a discussion between two parties to see if what they have to offer to each other matches is another that comes to mind.
I can really see a before and after break in my career.
I was 15 years old back then. I had just learned how to code and my hunger for programming was insatiable. I didn't think much, browsed through relevant classifieds and sent out a couple of honest e-mails stating that I really want to have a job, but I have no real life experience.
A company replied within a few days and they were interested. It was a very small company, consisting of a CTO and CEO. We agreed on 200$ for a portal type of website(it was a thing back then), with user sign-ups, public and private posts, comments and a few more things.
This company was hired by a rather large media company, to develop a dedicated website for them. I knew who was behind it and I was hoping that I would get recognized by the media company.
I dreamed about writing lines of code in my sleep, daydreamed through school and spent all time I could on coding the whole thing.
I think I was done in three months or so, and then came the day I asked to be paid. I had put daily changes on their FTP server, as we agreed, so I had literally no leverage. And they stopped responding. I tried reaching out to them in numerous ways, such as using my mom's cell to call the CEO, but he hung up immediately after realizing it was me who called.
As I realized that I had been scammed, since we did not have any form of written contract and had agreed that I would be paid in cash when the whole thing was done. Therefore I went on the media group's website, found the contact section and somehow managed to stumble upon the personal cellphone of the CEO of the media company. And I called him. I was an emotional teenager, but I spoke the truth. I did not have any demands other than to be heard. After a 10 minute long discussion where I explained that I was ripped off and worked for free for months, the CEO invited me over. I still remember the awe everyone was in, when they realized that a kid had just called them and walked through their front door in a few hours.
That phone call has been the best career decision I have ever made. The media company terminated their contract with the agency that had ripped me off because of terms violation - they were prohibited from outsourcing any development to any third parties, without a written permission given by the customer a.k.a media company.
And so I landed my first job! The people working for this media company were so genuine, mature and supportive, that I did not lose my love for what I did and had been in web development ever since.
It pays off to be brave and righteous in the end.
I still feel like I should be selling fridges, but they keep getting good performance reviews, so I'll take it. Sure pays better than selling fridges.
I never took anything so seriously in my life as when I decided to become a programmer. I bought dozens of used textbooks, read and meticulously underlined them, relentlessly wrote code and read all the programming interview books, made guides for myself to study, said yes to every contract and bug I could help with regardless of the tech stack. I refused to be anal about picking one programming language over another.
I have a marketing degree from a not good school. If I could do it again I would (a) drop out and move to a major tech metro and (b) identify a high growth tech stack and study it intensively. Never should have wasted time getting a useless degree.
The best thing learning to program taught me was how to read books properly - Write in the margins, take extensive notes, phrase and rephrase the lessons, write my own articles and guides to solidify the learnings.
This year I mad $350,000 and got promoted to manage five people. I couldn’t have gotten here without learning to code.
The stock compensation is a big deal after several years if the stock does well. The initial grants can become worth a bit more than they started at. Also, at senior or management levels the raises get smaller and the stock grants get a lot bigger.
Given that, what is your opinion of where is the puck going/gone for programming languages?
Note that while I feel this is the best decision in my career, I think it's debatable whether it has helped my career in the traditional sense (i.e. more money, more influence, etc). Probably not :-) Still, I like the direction I'm going, which I would not have said before I made that transition.
Edit: Link :-P  -http://jetprogramme.org/en/
Out of curiosity, were you a single person? Wondering if they accommodate adults with a spouse and one or more children.
I haven't looked at the situation recently, but there used to be an age limit of 40. I applied when I was 38, which is essentially the very last time you can do it.
In case you (or anyone else) is interested, I'll write a few things about my impression of what the JET programme is (which differs slightly from the official version). The official version is that JET is the "Japan Exchange Teaching" programme -- so the idea is that people come to Japan to teach English. In reality, it is a rather brilliant plot by the Japanese government to both get rural people used to having foreigners in their communities, and to expand awareness of Japanese values abroad in order to soften the position of foreign powers in business and trade negotiations.
Basically, what was explained to me by a few Japanese government officials (after many, many beers) is that in the 1980's Japan was flying high in the world economy, but they were having a lot of trouble with the rest of the world understanding how they did business. There are some great English language documentaries on the subject (I wish I could remember some, but I suspect you can search on Youtube to find some good ones).
You would have American sales people coming to Japan and saying, "We make car parts. Our parts are 30% cheaper than your supplier. You should buy from us". And the response would be, "We've worked with our supplier for 250 years and have developed a level of trust with them. Why should we betray them for a mere 30% discount" Even small things like people showing up for discussions with important business people and not bringing a souvenir as a gift, or refusing to suspend conversations until everybody had properly gone out and had a drinking party would derail a lot of trade deals.
At the same time, the Japanese government was thinking, "Our population is getting older and if we keep growing financially we're going to have a massive labour shortage". But the vast majority of Japanese people had never seen a foreigner in their life. They realised that they needed some kind of cultural shift to accommodate the bringing in of foreign workers.
They concocted this really bizarre plan where they would seek out and hire young, educated foreigners who are from rich connected families and bring them to Japan for a few years. The idea was to indoctrinate these young people with Japanese ideals and then send them back to their home country. Then 20 years later, those young people would inherit their thrones (remember they are from rich, connected families) and they would be in a position to change foreign policy towards Japan. They would also be able to educate foreign businesses how to communicate to Japanese people. They would also send these young people only to rural locations (where there are no foreigners) to pave the cultural way for the inevitable influx of foreign workers.
I think we're getting up over 30 years of the JET programme and it has been a crazy success - from that perspective. There has been a problem, though. When they initially set up the programme, they didn't know what the young people would do. Someone had the bright idea of having them teach English at the schools. So that's what they did. However, young, rich, snotty-nosed kids right out of school... ummm... They aren't necessarily the best workers (of course there are many exceptions to prove the rule!). In fact, historically quite a large percentage of them had never had a job in their life. They didn't know how to work, had never had any real direction in their life and were also suffering badly from other kinds of culture shock. To top it all off, virtually none of the teachers in the school system wanted these people and took it to be a particularly onerous babysitting job.
Over time, the programme has started to hire a percentage of older people into the programme. They still look for people with good connections. Even though I do not come from a particularly wealthy family, I worked for some of the largest and most influential tech companies in the world. That's the kind of thing that has the JET programme licking their lips. You get a person with that kind of influence and a proven track record of working hard, it's great for them. They can send that person to one of the schools that are pissed off about the people who have worked there before. For example just before I came they had to fire a guy who never once showed up for work -- he went surfing every day. They needed somebody that would keep a low profile and just do what they were told.
The JET programme in Japan, despite being wildly successful in their unadvertised nefarious plan, is under a lot of criticism for their public role. The JET programme pays a lot more than private companies charge for "assistant language teachers". Quite a few schools have moved from JET assistants to assistants from private schools. The advantages are many: usually the workers are older, experienced in teaching EFL and they are a good %30 cheaper. Why should a school hire JET assistants?
This has caused JET to hire actual teachers! These are people who have no money and no connections and are probably not a good fit for the original goals of the programme, but they can actually do their job when they are in Japan. I think there is some hope that the teaching skills will rub off on some of the others (it doesn't, but it's a nice thought...).
So that's where it stood about 5-10 years ago when I was involved. I'm not sure how it's moved on from there. But basically they have 3 categories of people that they are looking for - 1. young, rich, connected people from famous universities; 2. older, connected people who have life experience; 3. people with qualifications in teaching. I think you're still more likely to get hired if you are in category 1, but there are a fair number of positions in the other categories.
Disclaimer: many tongue in cheek comments -- I apologise if anyone found it offensive rather than humorous.
Great write up, once again. Cheers.
Any source on that one? I'd love to share this with my friends
I was driving 30+ minutes to work, working overtime every week, and got a bad performance review on the grounds that I wasn't working enough. The company had a "work hard, play hard" culture, which in practice meant "work all the time and occasionally we'll invite you to take a booze-filled trip without your family". They had flown me in for the interview and let me eat sushi with the CEO, but after that it was "nose to the grindstone".
After a few months I got a call from a recruiter about a job 5 minutes from my house, using a language I liked more. In talking with the company I learned that they worked business hours only. I felt slightly guilty about making the switch, but I got a lot less stress, more learning, and more respect at work out of the deal.
In the nearly-a-decade since then, I've never again been told I don't work enough, and have always ruled out jobs that smelled of workaholism. I'm having a happy career.
On multiple occasions I have resigned from jobs after 2-3 years with no clear plan for the future, let alone another job lined up, simply because I didn't like my current job anymore.
On multiple occasions I have poured hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours into projects and start-up ideas that never had a realistic chance of working out. I did this safe in the knowledge that I could run down my finances working on some fun speculative project and someone out there would give me a job to let me pay the bills when I needed it.
So I certainly haven't maximized within my career but I chose a career well.
The best paid job I ever had was also the worst by any other measure.
I saw the kinds of DNA sequencing analysis our collaborators were doing and said "hey, I could do that", so I checked out all the R books from the library and taught myself some stuff. And then around that time both Coursera and Insight data science were just starting to become a thing, so I looked up the Insight curriculum and cobbled together my own version with Coursera and made a genomic data viz website.
That computational transition set me up to go into data science in 2014, which has turned out to be a succession of being in the right place at the right time for incredible learning and growth opportunities, but it never would've happened if I hadn't decided to analyze my own sequencing data.
I guess I learned a few things:
1) don't overthink decisions (which is not to say "don't think");
2) to back myself and my abilities with the requisite effort. I'm typically smarter than I think but I need to put in a matching level of effort. When I got my Bachelor degree 20 years earlier, I literally skidded out the door in a haze of alcohol and with a shit grade. That cost me a few years;
3) don't be afraid of a challenge; don't be afraid of the unknown;
4) be sensitive to where you are in your life - can you afford to take a hit if things go pear shaped? Time-box your attempt to shake things up in your life;
5) If you work as a contractor - networking and self-brand management rules. I rely heavily on LinkedIn and the network of contacts I have cultivated, and keep my brand alive with posts and articles relevant to the kinds of work I want to be doing - not necessarily flavour of the month.
There's probably more but that's pretty much it. My income now is almost 3 times what it was in 2007, and while I'm not suggesting that's the only measure of success (far from it), it affords me a professional freedom to be more picky in the work I take on, and to live with far less fear than before.
EDITED TO ADD:
The reason I chose Enterprise Architecture was because it suited my temperament. I discovered I was a "systems" thinker pretty early on, and as I moved through a typical IT career trajectory, the "systems" I was thinking about became bigger and bigger. EA probably sounds pretty passe compared to all the "it" technologies people are playing with, but it's kinda like politics - reality is gritty, the problems are hard, endless and fascinating (if you're so inclined).
I'm not even talking about Silicon Valley. I worked in Boston, Seattle, and Sydney, Australia. Never set foot in the valley as an employee of a local company. Made insane salaries, one company I worked for got acquired, another one went public, etc.
This reveals something many readers might not have noticed. It's a quirk of politics and history that "Sydney" is defined to include the entire urban agglomeration that surrounds its city core (all 4750 sq miles of it), but this isn't the case in most U.S. cities. For an apples-to-apples comparison, you should be looking at U.S. CSA (Combined Statistical Area) populations (not the populations of core cities).
That puts Sydney outside the top 10 U.S. metros -- considerably smaller than #11 Atlanta (6,555,956), and about the size of #12 Detroit (5,336,286) or #13 Seattle (4,764,736).
The Los Angeles CSA (since you brought it up) has ~18 million people in it. †
† In the spirit of fairness, it should be noted that CSAs sometimes cover extremely large areas. If we were to restrict Los Angeles to its MSA (which at 4,850 sq miles covers an area almost identical in size to Sydney), its population drops to about 13 million. The difference between CSA and MSA populations isn't usually so large, but the Los Angeles metro area contains an almost ridiculous amount of urban-ish sprawl, compared to most other cities.
Quite surprising how closely it resembles some of the US, especially Southern California, in the sprawl, car culture, and surburbia. Then again, I hear Melbourne and Brisbane are quite livable with better public transit options.
EDIT: As a part of this: I was honest with myself that I cared about money (to a point). For a while I stayed in a job I liked that didn't pay me well, trying to convince myself that "quality of life" was more important than money. The reality for me is that money is part of the quality of life equation, and I'm glad I admitted that to myself. It was also sort of a canary that I wasn't being challenged and could do tougher work that paid better.
I agree with many of the people here that say understanding the relationship between worker and company is crucial. In the words of Don Draper "That's what the money is for." The mission of the business is not the same as your mission as a person. Giving too much of yourself to an employer is a mistake.
I've been trying to get up earlier, but evenings/nights are still prime time for family, spouse, and "me time." So, starting work at 5am seems out of reach.
Also, Dan Pink has a new book out about timing with some discussion of the 'stages' of our day. Some people have naturally different stages.
I'll also second the OP as I'm not what I consider a morning person (when unemployed, more 10a-2a for natural rhythm) but my current job has me getting up around 5:30a. I might be a convert though because, as they said, getting a lot done early is pretty amazing. I like being home by 4 and having a large block of time to do spend however I want. And it translates to weekends too where I find myself up in the world early. I live in LA though so our daylight shifts aren't as drastic in winter as other places.
Can I ask for more detail about why it was that software was not the proper path for you?
I found that I was spending an inordinate amount of time in front of a computer and not interacting with anyone. I also was extremely disappointed with a general lack of self-improvement; I think part of that was that I just graduated, where I was used to everyone constantly studying and working to improve themselves. These experiences may have also been in the minority in the industry, but they were my experiences.
I also had EMS experience in college, so I knew what it was like to treat patients, and I missed that very greatly. I've loved every day I've gotten to talk with patients here in medical school, and can't wait to start truly practicing medicine.
I do still do some web development work, including incorporating my current predicament - traveling the country interviewing for residency. I worked with two current residents to build Swap&Snooze (www.swapandsnooze.com)
I remember one doctor playing his gameboy while waiting for the next patient in his very small examination room.
That looked to me very uninteresting. What do you think?
Edit: My Dad however long ago, a GP, had his own clinic in our remote town. Went to medical missions to an even more remote island riding on a speedboat. That should be interesting.
For me, the real difference is every patient's response - some (many?) doctors treat the job as a job. For me, this is a calling. I'm there to help every individual (in my case, in the emergency department). So every interaction is unique because every patient is unique. I go through roughly the same questioning and physical for most patients, but the interaction, their responses, how we get along, etc. is always, always different. I could see two patients with the same exact problem and do the same exact things, and take away two completely different experiences.
To analogize to computers, its as if you ran the same program on different computers and got a slightly different result each time. Or perhaps that each terminal responds slightly differently. Though I suppose in those contexts it'd just be annoying/frustrating... it's not a great analogy lol
One of my previous companies was about writing automated betting software for Horse Racing. Interesting.
And for sure there are lots more domain.
The top comment on this recent HN is from an orthopedic surgery resident who also has a side business so seems there's plenty of ways to continue to integrate both in your life:
I have a relative who did the same thing. She is now a doctor.
I was fortunate to have completed all prereqs through my bachelor's degree. I worked in software for 3 years or so, then left to go to med school.
I was 19-20 years old, without a home of my own (sleeping on 2 chairs side by side for many years in a single room with my grandparents), working in a fast food and with almost no education (just high school night classes done - I was working since I was 17.).
I've started learning on my own (every day I read), learned Linux and at 36 I am an accomplished man. Ambition, self education, learning and reading got me where I am now... and maybe a bit of luck.
People are everything and I find myself being much more motivated going to work knowing there is a group of people I trust and which challenge me everyday.
When I will feel that I'll have nothing to learn from my comrades, or that the friendships have degraded, I will probably switch to another venture where again: the type of relationships will be my priority.
I was working in an infra/support role at a state government run education institute, and following a reasonably interesting (compared to most of the work) project I started looking for work I would enjoy more (than the regular stuff) elsewhere.
I got a call from an interstate contracting agency (and I still don't know how this part happened) about a job I couldn't do (flash dev) and didn't apply for. I explained that I hadn't applied and wasn't interested but then they mentioned they were also looking to fill a federal government contract for a front-end developer. I had been applying for web jobs (despite having zero commercial experience in it, it'd been what I originally intended to do when I started studying years earlier) so I said I was interested, and within 10 days (I think? It was a while ago) I had confirmation I'd won the contract, over someone with 10 years experience.
I've long since moved back towards ops/infra (albeit in a web focus - load balancers and DB clusters rather than desktop management policies and file/print servers) and dev-tooling type stuff, but that first big step - away from family, and a reasonably safe government job, to a fixed-term contract definitely played a big part in getting me where I am now.
Then I quit that company and co-founded a startup, to which I dedicated myself 100%. In 6 months we had a functional product. In retrospect, that might easily have gone south, but I had the good luck of choosing to build a product that obviously had a market, and the extremely good fortune of having great partners.
I never would have thought that one day I would achieve such professional and financial success.
I am an introvert and have difficulty making and maintaining contacts. Yet all of this was possible because of people I knew. On the other hand, it was my history of dedication, passion for engineering, and 'tackling difficult engineering problems' that led to people having a high respect for me and my abilities.
Introverts, consider that possibility that people respect and like you more than you think.
And then four years later leaving the startup for a job at a public company.
In fact, my entire career has been startup/corp/startup/corp/startup. So far all the money has been made from the corp jobs, but the big learning spikes came from the startups. So that pattern has served me well.
It's certainly not the right choice for many people, but it was for me.
I often wonder what language is the "new Python", or if that question even makes sense in 2018.
Switched to machine learning circa 2007-2009 from signal processing (my PhD area) after reading the first few chapters of Elements of Statistical Learning Theory. Quit my eng job. Took a job in ML after studying many nights.
My paycheck is less but I get to enjoy life a lot more and I have more time to replenish my energies. I remember that before this I always felt out of breath at work. Too much high paced, too little time.
After this change I got more efficient (and I was efficient before) and that feeling of time missing to do things has gone away.
For anyone reading: if you have a decent pay and have been employed in the company for some time, consider this option. Chances are they'll agree to moving onto part-time with no trouble and the benefits are well beyond the change in the money you earn.
ie the developer turn usmc pilot. another example is the police officer i met the other day who was previously a developer at ibm for TEN years.
not to be too dark, but seems like we get a limited amount of time here on earth being conscious, so spice it up!
my bias here is that i'm currently craving something different; something totally outside of my current tech gig (recruiter, hello, DMs open ;) and have to courage to jump into the unknown...if only i could figure out how the finances and budget might work.
Now I only work for companies that use their software to provide a service. There is more of an incentive for the software to actually work.
Working as a freelancer with only 6 months of programming experience before that. (1) Best entry job salary ever, (2) you act and move like a consultant and see different industries, (3) you realize that there are industries for which graduate programming level knowledge is enough, (4) tax benefits and (5) it gives you some time and experience to actually think about what you want to do as a career after freelancing.
The rub: I am terrible at getting clients. I just have 1 friend who knows that I'm capable of and he thinks I'm awesome and always recommends me whomever he talks to. So having a champion is vital. The thing is all kinds of companies see him as a good programmer (he graduated a bootcamp, top/1st of his class -- by a landslide) and he thinks I am as good as him but with a lot more in-depth knowledge due to my CS background. So for him it is very easy to recommend me.
The tip I got from some people was: don't be a freelancer for too long. You don't want to be one in a recession, so being a freelancer should always be either (a) a side gig or (b) a temporary full-time thing (for a couple of years). I wonder what people think about this statement.
Immediately investing the excess of whatever you earn is amazing too.
- Learning Vim and working from the terminal
- Going through the book 'Seven Languages in Seven Weeks'
- Learning typed Functional Programming
I think the above three things are solid, foundational skills — proficiency with power tools, learning to learn, and learning to think about problems differently.
Another transformative moment in my career was when I learned that many things popular and shiny today are just bad implementations of things we've had for 40 years. Specifically I realised this after learning GruntJS, and then Make.
Don't burn bridges is for relationships where people like each other.
Strategically burning bridges is cya in a way that you benefit while leaving, leave others wondering before they deliver a blow.
This is often super difficult to do, and the Seinfeld "off like a bandaid" approach is probably best. By doing it clearly and quickly, you allow yourself to focus on what you really want and not to carry around a lot of baggage. For example, I've been approached by previous employers about working for them again and I've had to tell them politely that it's never going to happen. Usually I try to give them some constructive criticism if they are able to receive it, but I admit to having done the "It's not you, it's me" routine before. Basically, I think it's important to focus on explaining that the paths are different and that each party needs to concentrate on their own path without needing to try to drag the other along. A couple of times I've received the, "But I've changed..." thing and I just have to reply, "That's great. I know you'll be able to find great people to work with because of that. I need to focus on my own stuff."