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I wish more experts would give advice about careers/undertakings with this kind of honesty and a clear list of requirements to be successful.

With programming they built this whole myth that "coding is easy, bro, trust me, you don't even need to know maths" and then people approach it with an according attitude. Once they actually progress from doing CodeAcademy courses to more real-world-like programming they hit a wall, programming turning out to be hard doesn't fit their mental model of it being easy, they decide it's not for them and leave it.

On the other hand, it could be argued that people who need to be convinced to overcome difficulties in progressing in a skill are not suited for it, but I'd still say that the world could do with more honesty so people can calibrate their expectations appropriately.




My wife teaches pre-veterinary students in university. It's not a dis-similar issue to the one here. A lot of kids (particular girls, at the moment, for some reason) grow uo dreaming that they want to be vets because they love animals. Nobody tells them thqt the path to becoming a vet is just as strenuous and expensive as being a medical doctor, but the pay is a tenth as much. And nobody tells them that clients can be far more unreasonable, and in some cases, downright nasty, about their animals than their family members (a byproduct, I suspect, of paying for veterinary bills out of pocket). And nobody tells them they will get bitten and scratched every damn day, and if they're large-animal a horse will break both their feet within a few years and they'll have to retire from arthritis in their fifties.

Suicide rates for veterinarians is one of the highest of any professional group.

The first day of sophomore year my wife always lectures about the financial and emotional realities of the veterinary field. She makes them make a budget for themselves that includes a hundred thousand in student loans and assumes starting pay in the high thirties. And every year she has students leave in tears. She frequently gets irate phone calls from parents saying that she has crushed their daughter's (in a few cases, their son's) dreams.

But this is likely the only time they will have had anyone tell them the cautionary tale. And it is the right thing to do.


> A lot of kids (particular girls, at the moment, for some reason) grow uo dreaming that they want to be vets because they love animals.

Animals toys and books about animals are considered girl toys now I think. Boys have dinosaurs. I think it was different when I was a kid, a boy could have animals (in books or those plastic figurines) and books about animals on top of cars and it was completely normal. Horses camps used to be boy thing, now it is girl thing - probably due to cowboys and westerns going out of fashion.

At least here locally.


> She frequently gets irate phone calls from parents saying that she has crushed their daughter's (in a few cases, their son's) dreams.

More like they abandoned their "dreams" because they learned they value other things in life even more. It sounds like your wife is doing the right thing. A little pain now to save those students years of hurt down the road.


From conversations with a new vet, it also appears that they have a weird ethos of self-sacrifice. Basically, too many of them go into the field to just do good and help the poor animals, and they end up working for free too often, or simply not charging enough. (I don't know the details here, I'm simply relaying the rant from said vet.)


An unfortunate side effect of caring more about the animal than its damn owner does, I expect.


The thing that would seem to be most distasteful about being a vet is putting down animals because the owner is tired of them.

Other things would be pets weighing three times what they should, never given exercise, etc.

Those are covered in your unreasonable owners, I guess.


I see this as a side effect of the somewhat delusional things adults tell young people. If a kid love playing with animals, they get told "you should become a biologist!" or "you should become a vet!". But, while I'm sure many people in those professions would love to play with animals all day, that's obviously not what their jobs are about.


I have a friend who is a vet in Germany, and he seems to do quite well, with a salary that is (I believe) at least double the median. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that he was able to take over the clinic from the previous owner, and he now employs a small number of other vets.


No it has to do with it being Germany not the US.


Indeed. No significant student loans in Germany.


Do human doctors make over a million a year? My veterinary student girlfriend has classmates getting offers of $110k USD per year straight out of school. After she does a speciality residency she’ll be in the $300k range.


Actually coding has a pretty decent outcome: if you just put in the work and dedication, someone will hire you for a pretty good salary.

Other “occupations” however, such as actors, musicians, chefs, and yes entrepreneurs, are often mostly or wholly dependent on luck to get a good outcome. They have to be extremely good and be lucky. Coders just have to be decently good to get a job.


I'd say it's simply that the opportunities for programmers (demand) outweighs the number of people trying to make it (supply). For actors, musicians, chefs, and yes entrepreneurs, the number of opportunities (demand) is outweighed by the number of people trying to make it (supply). This is possibly awkwardly true for entrepreneurs in a strange way; at least for actors, musicians, and chefs, the path forward is clearly laid out, you know where the opportunities exist. For entrepreneurs, you need to figure out where the opportunities exist, besides being able to deliver the goods too. Maybe it's better to say that for entrepreneurs, there's a qualifying matching supply and demand problem, while for actors, musicians, and chefs, there's simply a volume matching supply and demand problem.

I don't think it's about luck. I think it's about supply and demand.


> I don't think it's about luck. I think it's about supply and demand.

In a supply/demand imbalance situation, it very much is about luck for an individual. If for each open position there are 100 candidates, then whether or not you'll get that job is mostly a matter of luck (and to some degree contacts).

An extra problem here is that "luck" doesn't mean lottery. It also means making all the right choices for the past years, including back before you even figured out you're in competition for a position.


I completely agree with you about programmers, but what you are saying about entrepreneurs doesn't make sense to me. It's like saying there are too many inventors and not enough ideas...


Most entrepreneurs aren't inventors, and vice versa.


Deal with that in the 2nd half of my paragraph.


Some types of coding/engineering anyway. Game development is probably closer to acting/music/cooking/art in this sense, since the number of people wanting to work in that industry drastically outweighs the demand, and it causes conditions to end up being something akin to a meat grinder.


I wish they would too. It'd certainly be interesting reading what goes in to other careers and what not.

Personally, I'd say the one for journalism would probably look a lot like the chef one. Many of the same beats would be hit there too:

1. You've (sometimes) got an expensive degree that costs more than you'll likely take home in wages. Though (presumably) like with a chef, it's technically a field you can do well in without a degree if your experience stacks up.

2. The internships and work experience you take on cost a fortune, since they're low/non paying positions in expensive locations, which likely work better for those with a trust fund or a decent amount of financial support from a partner or parent.

3. If you're not passionate about it, find something else because it's basically financial suicide.

4. Yet again, there's some skill/advantage you should have to do well. Not age/fitness, but influence/existing audience.

5. There's a decent amount of pressure too, with minimal benefits, low pay, awkward working hours, etc.

You could probably paraphrase the article and make it about the media industry without changing more than a paragraph or two. Same goes with game development, though that'd require a few more changes.

But yeah, it would be interesting to see articles like this for other industries.


Someone I know tried learning programming in Code Academy. She finished it, and then completely stumbled when faced with real-world programming challenges, dropping it soon after, never to come back. A closed off bubble like environment, like Code Academy, is not a good way to learn, though I've not tried anything like that, so I'm not speaking from personal experience.

However, programming really is easy, in that its learning curve is very shallow. It might be a long way, and you might become afflicted with the "C language brainwash", where you fail to distinguish between algorithmic and engineering details, which will further impede progress, but the learning curve is shallow, which means that overall it feels easy.


I think this is an underappreciated point. I started learning to code a few years ago with online platforms and just flew through the exercises, but always hit a brick wall every time I tried to actually build something.

I stopped and started a handful of times, but I would always get so frustrated that I quit after a few weeks or months each time.

The most recent time, I realized that a lot of my issues were more logistical in nature. I didn't adequately understand how to use the command line, or where my packages were being installed, or how the files interacted with each other, or how to create and delete a development environment, or how to get an IDE configured.

All these things are things that felt like "not programming" to me, and indeed, when you Google "learning programming" you almost entirely get posts and articles about syntax and most of them gloss over setting up an environment.

Now that I've figured out how to get an environment set up and torn down and I can spend more time building things, I'm finding that it's nowhere near as complicated as I thought originally.


This is a good point, and still is the primary challenge I face when working. Programming in most jobs that I experienced (and most programming jobs in general, from what I gather) isn't that hard - gluing libs together, churning out CRUD, working around bugs of the libs you glued together, and occasionally writing something that actually uses some of the undergrad-level knowledge. But the logistics are still a PITA. Where do you deploy code? How do you deploy code? Where are the dependencies stored and when/how they update? Why that $&!@ Maven config broke, and how come none of the seniors in the team, including the boss himself, know how it works? These days, I can't feel comfortable around the project unless I know the answers to those questions. The codebase itself is much easier.


The not-programming situation you described is a very typical experience. I'm delighted when I can work for a period of time just "programming", i.e. not trying to solve hard build/dev-environment problems that are blockers, but at the same time unrelated to the actual problem I'm solving. Unfortunately, in some tech, like web and mobile, in my experience, you'll spend a lot of time doing that, which is sad, considering how many people work in that industry and how many work-hours (work-years, -decades?) that makes up.


I've had the exact same experience and it took actually getting a job to get out of the rut. I will also note that it's entirely possible to get a degree in CS without learning this stuff, in fact, that's the default for many programs. Only syntax and algorithms are mandatory, everything else must be learned through electives and osmosis. So the people who are:

1. Minmaxing life and taking the shortest path to a degree

2. More interested in CS theory

3. Just plain unlucky in that everyone teaching their elective courses went out of their way to provide a sanitized environment

can end up mildly screwed.


And then they point to people like John Carmack and say I don't need college he didn't. But John Carmack obviously has taught himself more math than most know with degrees.


Being vulgar not makes it more honest in my book. Also, on one hand he tries to sell cooking as a meritocracy, on the other he says cooking is not for fat and old people and btw it is full of nepotism. Sounds dishonest to me.


> Also, on one hand he tries to sell cooking as a meritocracy, on the other he says cooking is not for fat and old people and btw it is full of nepotism.

It's completely consistent. From the description, in this job if you're overweight, or slow, or stubborn, or have chronic illness, or otherwise can't handle hard physical work, you're not suitable for the job. "Meritocracy" doesn't mean "judging only by how smart someone is", but "judging by how well one can do the job".


Nepotism by definition can't be consistent with meritocracy. Cooking might be more taxing than sitting in an office, but come on, it is not exactly coal mining either.

Sorry, I don't buy into his arguing from authority pov and not just because he sounds like an a hole.


He didn't mention nepotism anywhere. All he said is that top performers know each other - which is completely normal - and that if you aim towards working with them, then your reputation is crucial - which is also completely normal. None of this isn't compatible with practical meritocracy. Sure, in a perfect meritocracy, you'd be able to input a request for a worker into a computer, and out would come a list of people ranked by aggregate cost-effectiveness. But we're nowhere near that in any industry. In an environment of imperfect and incomplete information, relying on reputation and recommendations from other high performers is a safer strategy than taking risks with random strangers.

As for his writing, I didn't find him sounding "like an a hole". To me, he sounds like a normal human being communicating honestly.


You are basically rewording nepotism so you don't have to call it by name.

As for his writing, I didn't find him sounding "like an a hole". To me, he sounds like a normal human being communicating honestly.

To each their own I guess, let just agree we disagree.


Nepotism is about employing friends or relatives because of that friendship or family relationship and not because of any inherent skill. However the fact that top chefs (or programmers, VCs, actors, doctors, academics etc) know each other is nothing to do with that. They know and trust each other first because of their proven skills and track record.


You need to look up the definition for nepotism


the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.

All the great chefs know each other. Do right by one and they tend to hook you up with the others.

You might be right. I'm not a native speaker, but it reads a lot like nepotism to me.


In that case there is no difference between nepotism and networking.

Nepotism is usually used in negative context meaning preferring unskilled family member over skilled person you don’t know.

Otherwise any kind of recommendation can be seen as form of nepotism.


Is it not? Obviously there are different shades, but reiterating how the top chefs know each other and how one can hook someone with the rest is imo over the threshold.

Of course everyone is entitled to their own interpretation, nevertheless I do think there is an element of making excuses here for a celebrity. Ditto for the meritocracy' with ageism and body discrimination.


I think you're completely misinterpreting this.

> All the great chefs know each other. Do right by one and they tend to hook you up with the others.

> Which is to say: if you’re lucky enough to be able to do the above, do not fuck up.

Bourdain is specifically saying there is not nepotism--that you must "do right by" a chef (in context, you must be GREAT at your job) in order to get hooked up with others--and the converse, "do not fuck up," because if you do, your bad reputation will now precede you. This is not nepotism--nepotism would be if he said "if you get a chance to work with a great chef, great, you're home free, because now they're your friend and will recommend you to other chefs regardless of how good/bad you are."




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