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Ask HN: Former software engineers, what are you doing now?
186 points by zffr on July 25, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 157 comments
I've been programming since middle school, and have been working as a software engineer for the last 5 years. The pay is great (FAANG-level comp), but I'm extremely bored and considering leaving software engineering altogether.

I'd like to better understand what career options other software engineers have explored.

If you are a former software engineer:

1. What are you doing now?

2. Why did you leave software engineering?

1. Opened a ski mountaineering shop (https://skimo.co/). I backcountry ski most mornings in winter/spring before we open at a casual 11am; work on the site in the summer.

2a. Sick of pointless discussions about languages/frameworks/architectures, none of it matters to low-traffic/low-tech business.

2b. Sick of meetings/arguments to decide what to build. Making business and tech decisions simultaneously is amazingly efficient; e.g. no wasting time over-engineering for a requirement that may not even be important.

2c. Wanted to try and combine/balance my skill with my passion.

Wow I've ordered from you guys. I received some great advice on liners and replacing a screw on my bindings, and was pretty surprised to get such detailed responses to my questions. Your site was recommended to me by the guys at Evo (Seattle).

The level of nerdiness required for software engineering translates well to tech bindings! I was an early importer/user of European gadgetry (they are way ahead of us due to the racing scene) so developed a fairly large mental repository of such minutiae. I personally answered all questions for the first several years and still do occasionally.


I think there are many reasonably low hanging fruit in the industry that can and should be solved.

The way that we are still needed to design a schema for things like a simple login system in a simple website, is a nasty smell that there are many reasonably low hanging fruit.


Are you thinking of leaving the software industry?

Oh yeah, there are plenty of things that could be improved! Alas, getting any industry-wide traction on such solutions is beyond my pay grade (always failed).

How’s your business going to survive climate change?

Short-term, global warming is set to increase the amount of moisture in the air, meaning that high elevation places will likely see more snow until the warming hits a threshold where most of the moisture will fall as rain.

Good question since we can see snow/rain lines slowly rise over the years. Certain ski resorts are in danger of losing a reliable snow pack. People will keep skiing, however, and our clientele puts in an incredible amount of effort to find snow to slide on.

I can’t tell if this is a joke.

1. Selling real estate, raising kids, planning for various future investments and opportunities.

2. I was in software for 20+ years. It was all I had ever wanted to do from the time I was 13. In hindsight, I’d say you have a phase of the moon in which to make your money and get out. It’s a brutal industry and you will likely face burn out at some point and you need to be prepared for that moment. I was in many different roles and responsibilities over that time, but the bottom line was I hit a point where none of it was fun, the clients were a pain in the ass, and it was just time to do something else that better fit my life.

If a young person came to me and asked for career advice, I’d be very direct about what to do and not do in a tech related field.

What should we not do? Not new just curious about your reflections on the industry job functions.

This is funny, last year, I got my real estate license too. And my reasons were also a bit similar though I don't really want to leave software dev completely. The ideal situation for me would be to work on my own projects, while real estate business pays the bills. For years, I used to write code after work and that started to get very draining.

However, I haven't really started real estate business properly, and still have day job. Do you have any advice for software devs to transition to real estate?

My contact info is in my profile, feel free to reach out as it might be a longer conversation than we can have here. That said - it's like everyone says about startups: focus. You have to be clear about what you want to do with real estate, as it is a really big space. My partner and I have a pretty clear 10+ year picture of what we want to do in our local market. I don't know DFW apart from a couple business trips there in the past, so you'd know better than myself what opportunities exist there.

One thing I'll note: people often disregard real estate as a "backup career". It takes a very broad skill set - everything from marketing to finance to construction and design skills, along with a whole lot of psychology, to do it right. The reason I point this out is that unless you are in a market that is just completely flush with opportunities, you really need to be committed to it and not just as a sideline if you want to understand what's happening in your market and how to compete successfully. In my own area I see a lot of part-timers who don't really understand market dynamics and they screw over a lot of their clients as a result and/or make poor investment choices.

Just like all the startup advice you've ever received: have a plan and just do it.

Thank you, that is a good advice. I will follow up with you later when I am ready to focus, if you don't mind.

Why do you consider tech brutal?

Do we work in the same field?

It’s mentally exhausting. You get into it thinking you’re gonna build cool shit, instead you jump through hoops for business school grads as they come up with shitty ideas and try to apply their shitty high pressure motivation tactics on you.

There’s a lot to how you deal with this, I think developers are eager and they either burn out chasing missing requirements or settle into a slower more considered work flow. If you’re at a company where they shout at you for not delivering something they didn’t ask for or asked for yesterday then you’re at the wrong place

Not just shitty ideas, but half-baked, unexplained, shitty ideas. What I wouldn't give for complete requirements.

Any advice for getting into real estate? Seems oversaturated to me

Depends entirely on your location and specifically what you want to do as real estate is a really big space from brokers to house flippers to property managers. I've got a friend who has been in Seattle real estate for decades - he has commented many times about how in flush times people rush in to RE for the money, then run away when the market cycles down. We've seen the same thing in tech - some of us are old enough to remember the Dotcom crash and are a bit bemused at the irrational exuberance of the past 5+ years in tech, as it too will likely have an eventual cycle. Point being - there are a lot of ways to make money in this world - plenty of plumbers and welders with nice houses and cars - so pick something you enjoy, not just something that feels like there's a lot of money flooding that direction.

Same, graduating in a year and interested in advice.

As a long time senior dev who's desperate to get out of development right now because I'm sick of it, my overwhelming advice is to be sure you're working at places where you can grow. I job hopped from one consultancy to another, getting great pay jumps each time but doing the same thing. And the places I've worked are small - there's literally no job opening to move into, or any way to make a new job.

It's really hard right now to transition to something new while also seeking out a new employer. They see my years of a senior software engineer and probably bin my resume because they probably think my salary expectations are too high or I'm poorly suited to something closer to project management, despite having a lot of PM experience and listing it on my resume. It's just never been a job title.

Transitioning to something different, or more niche, is much much easier when done internally and the people there know you.

I currently have a side project that's really challenging and broad in scope. It requires me to learn how to do things I've never done before (machine learning & computer vision). It's more involved than just following an l2tensorflow shitpost, as I'm going through the entire ML dev cycle w/ it. I'm also the one that gets to decide what programming aspects to work on and when to deliver them (since i'm the sole stakeholder). I think this helps me deal with the whims of my BigCo job, in the sense that when ever the requirements/tools get silly I can just take relief in my side project being intellectually stimulating.

Is it programming you've grown to dislike or your employer? Also I don't have kids so I realize that a side project as a prescription is most likely untenable for people with families.

I don't have kids and never will so that's not an issue.

That's a good question. I honestly don't know. I've also tried to recently learn some machine learning/AI stuff and the motivation is just completely gone. It's impossible for me to open my IDE and not dread it. I feel like I have a mental block for learning and I just give so few shits about anything software related right now I can't focus long enough to pick up anything new.

Maybe I'm burnt out. Maybe if I take some time off then try to approach something new I will find some sort of joy in it. I think I am definitely struggling because I've done what I do (full stack web dev) for SO LONG. I've been making websites since I was 10 and I'm in my thirties now.

My employer is kind but boring. I don't have a personal relationship with anyone there and have been 100% remote from the start for my past couple jobs, which doesn't lend itself well to building relationships (for me, anyway).

I would love to transition to doing something more team oriented, more social, doing something cool with cool people. I'm in Seattle and have applied to a couple Bungie jobs, and I would absolutely love the chance to just help build some video games as a project manager, even if I was getting paid a third of what I am now.

Unfortunately the job market is horrendous, cool jobs are hyper competitive, and trying to transition to something new while also changing employers is super hard. It's all working against me.

Sounds like burnout to me.

When I got my current job I was throwing things at the wall trying to find something that could pass as a business. Ultimately I found what I'm working on but ran out of money and it wouldn't generate very much or anytime soon.

I got incredibly fortunate and found a job at a big company right before COVID. When I started working I was pretty burnt out myself and found it hard to code on either the side project or the work projects. But I was broke and in debt so I had to keep going. The drive came back to do better at work and on the side project.

Sounds like recharging might be in order for you. Idk what your financial situation is but as a dev taking a year off hopefully shouldn't be too much of a burden. It was for me and I lived off CC's. I still recommend it, especially if you're burnt out and considering leaving tech.

Maybe once the world reopens take a year off. Don't open your laptop lid for 6 months and pursue other passions and then reevaluate.

I have taken a year off in the past and got my current job after that year off. I think I just need to transition to something else. Software is clearly not working for me. I think I need to try something pretty different for a few years and maybe I can come back to software doing something a lot different at that point

Or try a different role in the field... Instead of developing, try your hand at a BA role or BI role or a PM role

1. Hiking the NW, thinking about next-steps.

2. Startup I was working for was acquired by FAANG co. Able to retire from FAANG after four years of plumbing / ops / politics / meetings. There was awful latency at all levels, from dev environment to deployment. I found it extremely boring compared to startup life.

I would say don't judge software engineering by how it is practiced at the FAANG level (where you can seriously get away with just a handful of changes per half) and try to find a small scrappy team of smart high-energy folks.

Wow retired after 4 years. I'd work in hell for 4 years if it meant I could retire. You must of had a nice piece of equity in that startup. Congrats!

He didn't necessarily say he was permanently retired. I read it as taking some time off. Which is still nice. I've taken month long vacations but never felt I was in a good position to take extended time off between jobs.

Still, must be nice to make that kind of money.

When I got bored with software engineering, I decided to invest in developing leadership skills and to try to build teams.

Many people (myself included) are motivated by the impact their career can have. The impact of a great leader is exponentially larger than that of a direct contributor (based on the number people they can typically influence, and the amount of resources at their disposal to pursue “bigger” ideas). A great engineer who is also a great leader will garner more respect from their team, and will be more effective than a great leader who was not a great engineer.

I’m currently a Director of Engineering, and have a goal of becoming a CEO. This is something I never remotely considered, and even scoffed at early in my career.

The transition has been difficult and exciting. I considered myself to be an excellent engineer, so transitioning to a role where the new challenge is how to convince other brilliant (but possibly less honed) technical minds to do things has been extremely fulfilling. It forces me to think harder about my habits as an engineer and why they are important and how I can communicate that — it also forces me to have humility and admit that some of my habits may not have been as good as some things other folks are doing. It’s been extremely fulfilling, and I’m much more excited about my future than I was during the last few years I was a software engineer.

How did you make the transition in the first place? My issue is that despite enjoying and having good leadership skills (based on external feedback so I'm reasonable sure that's not just my ego ) I'm not the strongest technically and getting into those roles seems to require becoming an extremely technically competent senior/principle engineer first.

I got bored with engineering because it became easy. The patterns always repeated, and I knew that the only thing standing between me and my desired outcome was a fully understood path of actions.

I don’t believe you have to reach this level across a wide domain, but you should be able to achieve it within some reasonably narrow technical scope. If you don’t, you will not be able to lead a technical team effectively. When you are in leadership, you may not always be on the hook for delivering, but you can win major support from your team if you are capable of diving in and doing something technically impressive from time to time. In addition, you will need to be able to teach engineers and guide technical implementation, which requires the ability to communicate clearly about deeply technical topics. I find that the less I know about a construct (think Law of Demeter, etc.) the less I’m able to communicate it to others or build solid arguments for or against it.

I think you must dig in and obsess about becoming great at engineering. My passion for this role is because of its meta nature. I love engineering and have built strong opinions about it over my career, and now I want to engineer a team of engineers who can see things similarly, and ultimately do greater things collectively. This wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t take the time to be a great engineer first.


What were the critical skills that you made yourself learn for the transition?

Truthfully — the biggest thing has been leaning into my gut more as opposed to trying to reason through everything thoroughly. The decisions are many and the time is short. Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” is a great read, and when working in engineering management, the conclusion to be drawn from it is that your gut (aka system 1) is actually really good at summing all of your past experience and telling you what you should do. There is definitely more in the domain of human psychology that I have studied as well.

In addition, I’ve been forced to continue to hone my technical skills, but more in the domain of “why” instead of “how”. I was able to be an effective engineer by mastering the “how” (which of course required some non-zero knowledge of “why”). However, the types of minds that exist in engineering (or at least the types I want on my team), are not satisfied with a boss telling them “how” to do something. The reasoning must be sound. Engineers want to see the work. If you can’t provide compelling arguments for why a new policy or decision exists, then you quickly lose credibility.

Did you invest in getting a MBA degree ?

No, I already have two MS degrees (1 in Mechanical Engineering, 1 in CS) — I’m not interested in more school.

Maybe that will change in the future.

I wasn't quite a software engineer, but a data analyst/scientist/engineer/term-du-jour at a brand-ish name software company for ~8 years, so pretty close in terms of the day-to-day work and culture.

1) I'm a professional cartographer, sort of. I make wooden topographic maps.

2) A bunch of reasons. I was never "supposed" to work in software -- I went to school in mechanical engineering, and wanted to get closer to something like that. My side biz was becoming viable, I wanted to do something entrepreneurial, and even though I had a pretty good gig, no company is perfect if you're there long enough.

I don't know if I'll go back to data or software some day. Things were great in the map business before the pandemic, they're ok now, and hopefully they'll be great again in the future. I still do a lot of data analysis and write a lot of software for my business, it's just interspersed with a lot more sweeping, sanding, etc.

big fan of what you're doing @ elevated woodworking! gorgeous stuff

I would like to leave because the stress of keeping up to date with frameworks and the competition is just brutal. Everything is just so complex to implement these days.

I still love troubleshooting systems and doing hands on work that doesn’t involve writing code with other SWEs, so I’m considering what options I have.

I basically don’t want to be part of a code review or design discussion ever again.

Or ProServ - it's a lot of debugging/diagnostics work. There's a whole wide world of need for good diagnosticians who are thin on the ground, my friend.

You are mostly looking into sys admin or cloude guru role.

I was a full stack web dev and Linux sysadmin for about a decade. Switched to welding and machining - I wanted to make something tangible for a change. The work itself was awesome (legos for grownups) but the industry is fairly toxic IME.

Right now I'm working on getting back into IT (Network security).

Interesting; toxic in what way?

I guess fumes coming out when you do welding are toxic. I have done it myself a few times and remember thinking about smell and if it can indicate I will get cancer frim it..

Based on my experience with machinists I think they might mean on a personal level (although the fumes are toxic too). The machinists I've met have been pretty hard to deal with. I can imagine the work environment being unpleasant, especially if you aren't prepared for that.

This is correct. Eventually people can be very nice, once you get to know them, but you either have to be a certain type or simply have guts to tell people to sod off, as then they would start showing respect:) I think this is very similar to construction and some other related industries.

Both actually. Employers are stingy with PPE and you're constantly surrounded by dust, fumes and potentially harmful chemicals. Keep in mind this wasn't some tiny shop that made fences, I was working on military prototypes and aerospace projects.

I switch to the industry during the Obama administration, but after 2016 people were feeling a little too comfortable with their misogeny and racism.

To final straw was my direct supervisor becoming more radicalized into the far right. Not a comfortable feeling when they guy you report too leaves a 9mm with hollow points on top of his toolbox every day. The guy hadn't read a book except for the bible in 20 years, got all his news from Facebook and Fox.

> I was working on military prototypes and aerospace projects.

How does one get into that? And is the money better or worse than software? I've been looking at switching to welding and machining for a while now, but the pay in my area isn't great.

The rest doesn't bother me. I even hear my local pastor is a racist now[0]!

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zkL91LzCMc

Location, location, location. Well, and skillset of course.

I would strongly recommend against it though. The pay is terrible. There was a strong push for a few years to get people into the trades, and there was a strong misrepresentation of what the opportunities are really like.

Keep in mind that government contracts are a race to the bottom. The contracts go to the lowest bidder and since materials, etc. are a given, employee pay has really suffered. Being a machinist is not the path to a middle class life anymore for most people.

Actually, this is what I thought might be meant. But I am used to the phrase "industry is toxic" to mean basically "not nice", as opposed to literally toxic.

I kind of did the opposite- went from working in construction and ended up doing development as part of my job.

I briefly worked for a pipeline installation company ( oil,gas,etc), where welders were making fantastic money. So a few things on health: Welding electrode design has been improving,so welders get less toxic fumes than they used to a decade ago. People working in fields with pipelines often get joint problems because of extensive time spent in poor weather. Lots of awkward positions- which is harmful long term and etc. Also high end welding isn't something quick to get into: it does require a lot of experience and few people progress enough to become really good at it.

See my comment below. I'm familiar with developments in welding, some of my welds are in equipment that are national security related.

I’ve been learning about network security as well. Such an interesting field. Why have you decided on this particular area to study/go into?

I'm in the same place as you are, not FAANG salary but my wife has a FAANG job and we have enough savings to both retire now (early 30s) if we wanted to. I'm trying to figure out what I'd do if I "retired". Tentatively full-time parent part-time tinkerer, maybe put some of my back burner projects on the front burner and see if I can get a bit of passive income out of them. Mostly I'm feeling the lack of time and energy to build things (material and immaterial) for myself.

But, while work isn't a source of joy for me, it is a source of structure. I'm still trying to figure out if my life would be better without it.

What kind of tinkering would you do?

Have you thought of switching to a low paying but more fulfilling job?

Right now, woodworking and gardening. Later, who knows. Probably I'll circle back around to programming, but building things for myself instead of for other people.

I'm not really sure what I'd find more fulfilling in the day-to-day of salaried employment. In an abstract sense, sure, I could build websites to help orphaned puppies find forever homes instead of to help people find mattresses or whatever. However, if overall impact is my objective, I'm better off keeping the highest-paying job I can (consistent with my values) and donating my salary to charity.

What kind of woodworking? Feel free to email if we’re getting too offtopic.


Where did you first meet each other?

The lack of energy may be due to a lack of a pushing force, such as a boss.

Currently doing something on that topic if you want to discuss more.

I'm sure work could become my life if I wanted it to, but I want to back off, not double down. I definitely understand the abstract idea of a "pushing force", though. Part of this may be about learning to do without it. I've always needed a pushing force, and I want to be able to make and achieve my own goals for no reason other than my own satisfaction.

1. About to open a bakery next month: https://www.pearlbakery.com

I operate the place as well as being the head baker, and the skills required are vastly different. There is some overlap with soft skills, managing others, attention to details, and so on.

2. Still involved in software, but I discovered years ago that I can’t accomplish much while I write the code myself. The bakery is a family endeavor, but I’m using it as a way to collect as much business experience and capital as possible to be able start my next big thing. But I must say, having time away from a screen is nice too.

Solvent boredom beats insolvent doing what you love. Keep the day job and do what you love as a hobby. If you don't know what you love keep looking while still employed. I went from SW eng - > unemployed (dot com bust) -> self employed as web entrepreneur (https://samurai-sudoku.com 2005) -> UI lead (massive relief to be earning a wage again) -> flipping a house as a hobby (broke even but a ton of fun) -> retired (finally unable to keep up with new javascript frameworks every 18 months).

I got my helicopter CFI and CFII and started teaching in May of this year. I also interview for Karat so I'm not completely out of software but I'm not writing code or managing people anymore.

I left because whether or not I was working my brain was. I get less actual time off now but I feel like my batteries get completely recharged. Plus I get paid to fly helicopters which is still unbelievable to me.

whether or not I was working my brain was

Did you find you were thinking more about technical problems or about problems related to management of people?

Both, tbh.

Flying helicopters for a living is the best job. You’re getting paid to pilot something constantly trying to tear itself apart.

That's awesome! Did you fly helicopters before starting on the instructor path?

Helicopters seem like a blast, but the cost is on another level (and that's speaking as a fixed-wing pilot used to the crazy costs of GA generally).

No, I had no proper flying experience. I used GI Bill benefits to cover the cost.

You can also get paid to dry cherries with your rotor wash.

1.) Run a small part-time electronics business. I do still write software separately when I think of a fun project, though. Programming is a creative outlet, as is circuit design, mechanical design etc. So I still spend a lot of my time in those pursuits. Some outdoor adventuring, hiking, climbing, off-roading, etc. 2.) Got really sick of the way SE is managed at modern companies now, and it was getting worse and worse. To be honest, it was a business where software wasn't their product, and thus the people in charge weren't technical people. Should have changed to a more purely technical company like I had worked at earlier in my career, but the money was too good. More meetings, more HR directed policies, new politics-heavy boss. More projects to satisfy someone's curiosity 10 levels above me. Fortunately I was frugal and saved a lot over a lot of years, and didn't need the job anymore.

1. CTO, is that cheating?

2. It's not so much leaving Software Engineering, it's reframing it. Software Engineer when done well is about creative thinking and problem solving. If you feel that you are in a rut, try going to an organization that's not just about coding. If you are really not interested about Software Engineering as a discipline, I'd start by taking a break then reassessing.

I mostly dodder around trying to remember where my pants are, and wondering if it was worth it for whoever named the creat() system call to leave the "e" out.

Between the wall and the hamper, and no.


In the priority order:

1. Climbing mountains, hiking. 2. Have a goal to learn something new everyday.. thats how i measuring quality of the day.. zero learning = bad day 3. From time to time short term works to earn some money. Usually companies very surprised then i tell them that i prefer short term projects. Shorter = better

So far so good ;) (approx 10 years)

Good luck

What have you learned this week?

1. Found few very interesting thougts from this very long article: https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/1zao_AyBhNb8TPWrQqgXn...

2. Learned tested and implemented for fun few visuals from this link: https://datavizcatalogue.com/index.html

3. Learned and tested two diferent frameworks for the web scraping.. nice, interesting what will be our role at the time when one machine prepare information and another machine will consume it..

4. Found interesting analysis at: https://www.vox.com/a/maps-explain-the-middle-east

5. Checked what are the main advantages of timescaledb and how can i benefit from it: https://www.timescale.com

6. Learned and tested how it works css data attributes https://css-tricks.com/a-complete-guide-to-data-attributes/?...

7. Read 20+ long and detailed wikipedia articles to find out definitions and origins of various terms and subjects

Read anothe hundred or more of posts and newspaper artivles, but i think it was wasting of time, because so many authors writing to get click but not tell something important/interesting.. subjective. I do agree.. problem is that i always hope that maybe at the end i will find some briliant mind or conclusion. so, im reading whole article.. need to change this bad habit..

Not bad week.. but always can be better..;) thing what im missing is - continuity.. but thats probably something what need to fix by myself..;)


This werk i also climbed 3 peaks with prominance grater than 1000 meters and elevation 2300-2700m... on commercial side i implemented two small automation improvements. Changes will benefit client company and at the end - myself..

Thats great, how do you organize them? if you intent to recollect them.

Superb question... It more than decade im searching for a good note taking software or methodology. Tryed hundreds of them.. but no luck.. everything, all possible project and task managers, including personal wiki, web sites, messangers, even established dedicated startup.. but none of solutions was really working. Considering to hire assistant.. human.. ;)

Seriously.. few things becoming clear. Good brain extension or assistant MUST:

1. Record your minds silently.. without noticing him.. thats why basic tools like notepad, markup editors and etc.. usefull.. however best thing i would like to see is device which always listening me and keeping notes.. keeping notes.. constantly. Without disturbing me..

2. This smart device must be able to organize information somehow.. i don't want to mix omlete recipe with important new Angular version features. I don't mind how to organize. It can be hidden from my understanding. Like real human brain. as long as i can extract and reconstruct data, im fine.

3. Obvious next step is utilizing data when you need it.. but if it is well organized in 2nd step.. should not be a problem.. or not? Aaa.. forgot. Once required data piece is found it must be read loud..

So far.. NONE of the solutions i tryed are close to this targets.. there are plenty of complicated solutions.. there are plenty of greedy solutions.. there are plenty of usless solutions.. but none of them helped me to organize hudge amount of personal data we have.

Did i told that it must be open source (doesn't mean i dont want to pay for it) and strictly I MUST own data?.. so..telling.

Ok. If someone is expirienced with good human memory extension techiques or software PLEASE please.. it will so great

On a related note for all the financially independent people I see posting here, how did you get enough money to just peace out? Was it just the tried-and-true strategy of work at FAANG for like 10 years?

It really depends what age people are--as well as family etc.

I do know people who have either done the FAANG thing, the investment bank thing, or beat the odds and won the startup lottery thing who have retired genuinely early because they weren't doing what they actually wanted to be doing--which could include traveling and kicking back.

But retiring 5-10 years earlier than the norm doesn't require much more than having had a string of reasonably well-paying jobs, being sensible with money, and being fortunate enough to avoid financial disasters.

I'm in my early 30s and never had more than a 100k income. We save 100% of my wife's income (~60-70k) and I also fully do a roth (6k) and my 401k match (4k). We currently have around 1.5m saved.

We also live in a low cost of living area and have no kids. The house will be paid off and we'll have a bit over 3m saved by the time we're in our early 40s.

1. Full time parent 2. Reached FIRE

Username: "bitcoin2010"

Reason: "Reached FIRE"

It does add up

What is FIRE? Is that a different acronym for FU Money?

Yes, "Financial Independence and Early Retirement"

FIRE = "Financial Independence and Retire Early"

Edit: What they said below. Usually means debt-free or extremely frugal living and passive income through investments.

Its Financial Independence Retire Early. FU money is 10x FIRE.

>FU money is 10x FIRE

How do you figure? I always had in my mind that FU money was the amount you needed to quit immediately and be fine forever, which also sounds pretty much like FIRE. Granted, my mental model of FU money is not cash in the bank but passive cashflow which is probably coming from investments FIRE-style, which is maybe where the difference is.

You can be FIRE at around a million in assets. My wife and I ran the numbers and it seemed possible. But we wanted kids and stuff so retirement wasn't in the cards.

If you have FU money you don't need to run the numbers.

That's how I look at it.

Someone at FIRE runs their own numbers. Someone at FU pays someone to run the numbers.

That's my interpretation as well. You have somewhere in the mid to high five figures revenue stream without touching capital and own your property--presumably somewhere that costs aren't super-high.

Not sure about the context of the sibling posts (FU money might mean something different in SV) but within the FIRE community (UK atleast) FU money tends to refer to less money than full FIRE. FIRE means you never have to work again (normally 25x annual spending), FU money means you can quit in extreme circumstances and have enough money to tide over any job search (min of 6-12 months spending).

Whether or not there's a formal difference in the terms, there's normally a difference in how they're used.

1. FIRE tend to mean sufficient money in the bank/money from passive incomes that let you live a fairly frugal lifestyle. See the Mr. Money Mustache stuff that various people are especially taken with. It doesn't tend to mean Retire Early and take expensive trips, buy nice cars, pursue expensive hobbies, buy second homes

2. FU money, on the other hand, tends to mean you don't need to work and can have enough money to do virtually anything you want to. There are degrees of course once you're talking things like private jet ownership.

Financial Independence, Retired Early

How old are you, and when did you start saving?

This is offtopic, and just my own relationship with money and my own religious education, in no way judging you or others, but do you ever get any guilt by thinking "well, I contributed to this child's charity, but I really have enough cash to just pay his whole procedure off -- which of course will leave me cashless and I'd have to work again"?

I did not really forced myself leaving software engineering.

I took the chance to be CTO at a startup. However, one of the CEOs was quite a critical person who yelled at female workers, thus I decided to quit. Fortunately, I always kept a strong relationship to my former employer who wanted me to be their co-CEO.

Nowadays I do not really find time to write software. However, I still give directions and choose technology to use.

I’m still thinking, that currently I’m not where I want to be. So I find this discussion quite interesting.

1. As absolutely little as possible.

2. Got FU money and was able to do nothing.

How long have you been doing "nothing"? I tried it (sort of) for a year, and found it a little dull.

That's where I'm at. Well not "FU" money, maybe "I would prefer not to" money, job off-shored so I did nothing for a while.

I had this big list of all the things I wanted to do when I stopped working, and in six months, I didn't even start doing one of them. My girlfriend said, "You're still on the computer all day, you might as well get paid for it".

I hate it when my girlfriend is right.

> "You're still on the computer all day, you might as well get paid for it".

I took a year off a while back and pretty much did the same thing. If I ever take that much time off again, I'm going to go someplace that has no internet.

Same - I was doing a bit of contract work on the side when I quit. Did some traveling (briefly) and then ended up making those gigs my job. Haven't even touched my FU/1-year-savings money yet after almost a year...

I spent a year doing nothing and it also drove me crazy, but I think a big component of that was knowing I needed to work againg eventually. If I had FU money I would probably find myself much less paralyzed and fine something I really enjoy doing.

About 12 years I believe.

Do you not feel compelled to do something? There isn't any particular cause you want to work towards? Something political, community oriented, non-profit? I feel like there's so many causes I care about that I would love to organize if I had FU money.

That seems sad. I'd probably just take any job to be able to do this: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AlmightyJanitor

No longer a Software Engineer, but still in "IT" in the broader sense.

* Left SE job for a PhD in CS, roughly 50% of a good SE salary here in Northern Europe

* Do some Product Management/Innovation advisory on the side

I left SE because I found the type of programming one typically does, as well as the Jira ticket-pushing, uninspiring. I still write code, but (almost) only because I enjoy it (a PhD in CS does not necessarily involve much, or any, programming).

1. Hiking as much as is legal under current conditions and trying to decide what to do next. I've been looking into indie games, creating various productivity tools or maybe plug-ins for popular software. Nothing so far looks like it is a good bet for making a living.

2. After close to thirty years, I'm tried of all of the administrative overhead and attempts to make me part of it. Every job for the past decade and a half has tried to push me into management despite my clear statements that I don't want to manage people. When I've refused, the responsibilities were still handed to me, just without the title I turned down. Simple tasks like getting a $20 coding tool approved could take months to go through the purchasing process and then through the approval process for the software itself. Buying it out of pocket at my last company was considered a major disciplinary offense. Weekly HR tasks for endless non-technical trainings, status reports and "check-ins" with managers and co-workers even though I have daily contact with my manager and co-workers. These reports weren't for consumption by anyone in my management chain of command but for HR who demanded to be part of the internal processes everywhere. It's administrative overhead gone mad and seems to be growing pretty much everywhere.

I never made FAANG type money but also am not a big spender so I have plenty of time, a couple of years, before I have to start making money again. I'm not necessarily against doing software development but can't go back to the corporate world. The way it operates is just too far removed from how I'd like to develop software. At least by quitting during a major unemployment event, should I ever need to return to the corporate world, the resume gap won't be a red flag.

At one point, a few years ago, I was in your place. Really bored and completely miserable. I got tired of huge companies (one in particular) and went to a "goldilocks zone" startup.

By this I mean the ones were they have enough money to pay you well and a reasonable product/business with a high chance of success, but they're still small enough for you to have an impact in the organization (we were under a 100 people when I jumped in). Really smart people and a culture that fits my personal beliefs.

The first year was tricky, switching from the slowness of the large company to the constant change and challenges of the startup.

Once you get your bearing and feel that you're pulling your own weight is fantastic, been there for the past 8 years or so.

My point is, there may not be a need to change careers completely, maybe just find the right group of people to work with.

Been there. It was wonderful... and then pretty good... and then it got kind of boring. (I'm at 11 years.) It doesn't stay goldilocks forever. While it's good, though, it can be really good. Enjoy it while it's good, because it won't be forever.

Things change. People change. Businesses change. Good situations become not so good, sometimes very quickly. If you're in a good situation, value it.

I know that. I'm still loving it, once I stop loving it, I'll start looking for the next great group of people to work with (probably, or start one, who knows!).

The point is that if you found it once, it's likely that you can find it again.

So far I've been on two such magical teams. Maybe there's a third one.

I moved into Product Management - partially because I wanted to stop coding, partially because after our SaaS got bought, I'm the last man standing from the original team - everyone else quit, so my knowledge is more valuable than my code... which means I have more impact as a product guy.

But I expect this job will end within 6 months anyway (if it was going well, the rest of the team would not have quit), so I'm going to be doing consulting when this is over. I'm working on the materials and workshops now, focusing on leadership and team dynamics, because I want to try to help other teams fix the problems that make software professionals miserable.

1. I did a year long bike tour with my partner. When I came home, I went back to undergrad to study art (illustration + painting). So now I’m mostly a student, also working on my own art and doing some part-time work.

2. Boredom which became kind of existential. I had reached a new career high, and suddenly didn’t have anything to strive for - at the time, I didn’t have the insight to try and ask for more impactful work, and I really leaned out of my job instead. The dream of doing a bike tour kept getting bigger and bigger. I couldn’t get the bike tour out of my head, and decided it was the perfect time in my life to jump on it.

Your art looks quite cool! The bicycle paintings reflect somehow the amount of freedom I feel driving it.

1. University professor 2. Got bored

What made you want to become a professor? Were you interested in research or teaching or both?

Research mostly but now I like teaching too.

I'm now a security architect. I get to work on a wider set of problems over the entire business, not just software.

I left mostly because I became fascinated by security, while I was being asked to secure software. I realised I had no real idea how to do this, and the deeper I dug, the more interesting it seemed.

I was also becoming bored by the relentless cyclic churn in software development methodologies and frameworks, and how fashion led the whole thing seemed to be.

I'm an ASC. I find my security related work much more interesting than my development work.

Raising cattle, programming the dwebs, carpentry, sailing

Aside from the programming, what interested you in the other jobs?

What's a dweb? (No my mother language.)

distributed web, maybe? (i.e. likes of IPFS/Scuttlebutt/Hypercore)

1. Traveling the US by RV (for the last year) 2. After 20 times through the product cycle and I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm any more. Having enough $$ to stop made my attitude go downhill faster. Being able to finally ignore/defy a truly terrible boss made it all come to a head even though I was walking away from almost 300k/y. Bye bye, zero regrets.

Do you tow a car or drive the rv around town?

Drive the (26’ motorhome) RV. Somewhat limiting in cities, but the rest of the time it’s so much easier not towing.

And there are tricks for dealing with cities, like parking on the edge and biking in. Or finding RV friendly lots using google maps satellite images.

Lately cities have far less to offer (no museums, galleries, restaurants, etc.) so it’s hike and bike and enjoy the beautiful country.

That sounds incredible. You should just randomly blog about your travels. Take majestic pictures and bring your subject into focus with the beautiful bokeh blur. And put ads on it, just to see how much traffic it will generate. And try to sell the rights to your photographs.

Started building the houses for needy folks!

1. just launched a local-first, markdown based, hierarchical note-taking tool - https://dendron.so 2. wanted to start a business building a solution to a problem i cared deeply about (information overload)

1. I'm a Scrum Master. 2. I really wasn't great at it. I loved it, only did it professionally for 2 years, but did side projects for years before I took an official job. I wish I was good enough to be productive in a professional environment.

I'm an experience senior dev trying to transition to project management but it's difficult to find jobs right now that are entry level and software focused. Any suggestions? I feel like they just see my senior software engineering titles and think "no way this guy wants to be a PM for $60k a year"

> I'm a Scrum Master.

It's a the job title? I always considered Scrum Master more like an additional (sometimes rotating) responsibility of a team member, be it a dev or PM.

On the other hand, Scrum Coach is more like a job, or rather a contracting gig.

Some companies of a surprisingly small size even have fulltime agile coaches. I am yet to be convinced those roles are anything besides "management padding".

I saw them spend all their time to create reports no one consumed and do "illusion of activity" kind of stuff. They did retrospectives that never led to change, had to justify why development was behind schedule and find new and creative ways to make burn down charts look better than reality.

Starting this autumn I’ve cut client hours to 25 per week and will use the remaining 15 to try and get a physical print shop going. I’ll be printing stickers, tshirts and banners. Currently toying around which niche to serve.

Election season in the US seems promise if brief

1. Started a recruiting agency https://www.ericgong.com

2. Everyone hates the recruiting industry so it's ripe for disruption with an actual technical recruiter.

I've looked into doing this. At the moment I've been connecting friends with employment opportunities for free for years (especially my friends in Canada who don't want to leave with remote friendly opportunities in Los Angeles).

To get you first paying client, is it as simple as finding a payment agreement online (something like "If the employee stays at company for 90 days company shall pay %x fee")? Did you start the agency while still working as a VP of Engineering and slowly switch over?

I left my job a few months ago and just started this business a couple weeks ago. I have some consultants and recruiters in my network so was able to figure out the contracts from that.

I'm early in the journey to find my first client!

Your logo is almost identical to the International School of Geneva's.

It doesn't really matter I guess, just something I noticed.


Wow, didn't know that. I hired a designer to create the logo. Still happy with it, thanks for pointing it out though.

1. UK university academic (on sabbatical, consulting and adapting!)

2. Wanted to try something different... last software engineer post was 2010. I became very interested in Evolutionary Computation, so I went for a sponsored PhD position.

Did you have a background in research before doing the PhD program?

No real research experience until the PhD programme. I did run a blog where I posted about papers I found interesting in the domain, but I hadn't published!

Is a sponsored PhD like an industrial PhD?

Sorry, lacking sleep and wasn't clear! I didn't mean an industry-sponsored PhD - I meant a fully funded PhD, e.g.:

  These add a non-repayable, tax-free maintenance grant known as a 'stipend'. In 2018/19 this is worth a minimum of £14,777 and it can be used towards living costs. https://www.prospects.ac.uk/postgraduate-study/phd-study/phd-studentships

1. Retired. Mostly I read and surf the web. Take care of my health.

2. I left because I got old. Twelve hours of concentration just isn't worth it any more.

Studying data science - https://247reading.group

2: because I was also bored with it. Want to contribute to automation (as in automating non-digital jobs)

Knew a guy that quit to be a painter.

After 2 years he’s happy to be back in air conditioning.


Buy a farm, preferably one with enough forest to keep the place warm and build a barn or 2. Start small by growing something or other for your own use while building or renovating the run-down house on the property. Maybe you can help out on a neighbouring farm, say that one where the farmer nearly cut off his hand due to a bit of stupidity with a large angled grinder without a protective cover. Keep at it, get some animals if you want, maybe some sheep, maybe a few cows. Your wife and children are probably going to get some horses so be prepared for that eventuality , you'll end up building not one but several stables, shelters, feeders and more of such. Once you've been doing this for a number of years you'll have a good grasp of what you could do to improve life on the farm so you start developing hard- and software to make things happen. A wood-gas powered CHP system might be a good start? That way those farmers who heat their house and water (for cleaning the stables, milking equipment, etc - lots of hot water...) using wood chips get both heat and electricity for the same amount of fuel, all the long Swedish winter long. Those PV panels don't do that much when the sun hardly shows itself after all...

This is where I am now, more or less.

This sounds really nice, congratulations. I'm hoping to do something similar in a few more years.

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