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Ask HN: I hate coding, but it's all that's on my resume. What do I do?
63 points by doneweng 10 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 45 comments
I've been a software engineer for over 12 years. I went to school for CS. I hate writing code now. It shows too, my work is not great. I'm stressed because I don't know what to do. How do I move on from here successfully?

Coding is a virus, a meme. What you've got is 12 years of experience breaking down problems, abstraction, functional analysis, debugging.

You have skills which other parts of the business cycle need.

If you aren't a "people person" then look to problem solving in logistics: the routing and scheduling behind everyday delivery is a heinous problem. Or, in the construction, mining and related sector. "for the want of a nail" problems abound.

(hint: root cause analysis? duck typing in a process debug?)

Operations Research: linear programming to derive the maximally efficient solution to a problem. Its everywhere.

Epidemiology: Go be a gun-for-hire in stats or data analytics for somebody with smarts in another space, drowning in data. Yea, you have to code. So what! the code will be fascinating and totally different

If you are a "people person" then non-product spaces like health are full of middle manager roles. And.. gues what: its logistics, scheduling, process analysis, root cause analysis. Supply chain behind masks and gowns has become pretty topical...

I've been there. My personal take is that the day in and day out life of a coder sucks, big time. Humans weren't designed for it. If you are inventing something novel and new and actually 'engineering' then that's different, but pulling the next React feature from some PM's backlog, that's hell.

Look at your cohort, I would venture it's mostly 20 somethings men. Maybe the odd older guy but certainly not a diverse set of people. It's a young man's game because the burn out is real and for most people coding is just an unsustainable profession. Come to grips with the fact that maybe it is unsustainable for you.

It's a lot less tedious and easier in many regards working as an engineering manager. Or a product manager. Or something entirely different. Coding as a career isn't for everybody (wasn't for me). YMMV. If it isn't for you figure out how to change it, it might not be easy but it is probably worth it.

Source: ex-FAANG SDE.

>Humans weren't designed for it.

I don't know why, but I really love coding. I have an expected output of 0% in my mind, so even the most mundane tasks can be fun for me because I'm satisfied with producing any output. I try to learn something new with every task, even if it's just a file path or simple SQL call.

And if it's some really horrible spaghetti code abstraction upon abstraction, then my 0% success expectation is even more important for my morale.

If my manager isn't happy with the output? Quit and get a higher salary somewhere else :) That's the market we live in right now.

> pulling the next React feature from some PM's backlog, that's hell.


The coding I don't like is when there is no requirements or path (architecturally, devops-wise) or when you need approval from too many stakeholders (compliance, managers, release coordinators, etc, etc)

i hated working as a programmer until i understood what i really hated was the 9-5 office environment. without that suddenly coding was fun. since then i am trying to control for that, and life is much better. i can even tolerate 9-5 for long enough because i find other ways to compensate.

Just an hour ago I read an article from a psychotherapist that dealt somewhat about changing careers. I think the gist of it was some people might have to learn how to deal with disappoing their snobby parents and strangers when taking a step back to evaluate different potential careers, including those that pay substantially less, in order to find a more exciting career that, overall, adds more value to your life despite not outwardly looking impressive to strangers. Something to think about?


https://www.theschooloflife.com/shop/tsol-press-a-job-to-lov... this book is a good followup on the article for OP

Do you know what you want to do? Do that. Don't know what you want to do? Sit around and be bored for a while. Your natural curiosity will kick in. Follow where it leads.

I've found that for this to be effective you have to cut out distractions like FB, Twitter, youtube, reddit, HN, video games, etc...

if writing software is what you don't like, you could try to go into something where you use software, rather than writing it, like a database administrator, a sysadmin, a systems analyst, or working in IT, or you could focus on a different role in software production, like usability/design/ui/ux, requirements engineering, QA, etc., or if teaching is something you might be interested in, consider teaching cs/programming courses, you could do the same thing there, if code is what you don't like, and teach courses about the things around writing code, as an example, the course I've enjoyed the most in my Computer Engineering program was about a lot of things around the code-writing in software production, there was only one programming assignment in the whole semester

maybe you'd like a managerial role? or if there's something you're interested you could try to get a job in that, in one of the courses in the EE portion of my Engineering program, a professor told us that after finishing all courses, with just about 4 more courses we could pursue Audio/Sound Engineering as a Career, if that interested us, it's basically some of the fundamentals, applied to sound signals, you could consider something like that

if you don't want anything to do with software... then I'm not sure what to recommend, give some more info about yourself?

like if you would think being a Mechanic is something you'd want... I've heard soldering (like heavy machinery soldering) can be very profitable, and fun, and the training for it takes around 6 months? something like that

I read your comment to another answer, and I agree with the others, you have to look out for #1 (this should always mean "look out for yourself"), work on your mental health, work on your stress, and try to find a new career when you feel better

oh, and don't quote me on the soldering training time, it's something I heard in passing

Get your TEFL certificate. Teach english online to Chinese kids or move to foreign country and teach english.

thats my retirement plan too. but its still difficult to live comfortably and save on a salary of $20-$30/hr at 30 hours of work per week. I lived in SEA and I still managed to spend $2-3k / mo making my life more westernized.

I've been living in SEA for a few years now, my expenses usually range between $1-2k/mo in BKK, what were you doing and where were you that you're spending more than $2k/mo in SEA? I've lived everywhere from $150/mo studio apartments to $1k/mo condo's in BKK and it was hard for me to break $2k/mo if I tried. Usually closer to $1.5k/mo for me.

I was living in Vietnam. I payed about $550/mo to live in hotels. I took about 1-2 flights per month to various countries or cities (~$80ea).

I also ate like a westerner (avoided street food, enjoyed the higher quality food). Didn't own a motorbike for safety reasons, so taxies added up. Gym membership is ~$100/mo.

In general, you can't get a job in X without experience in X. The irony has been recognized for generations. But if you have experience in X, what you can do is get a job doing X but do some Y at the same company as sort of a volunteer. People will often share some of their grunt work with you if you don't insist on getting any credit or money for it.

But then, you get experience in Y. If you're good enough (sometimes just meaning hard-working enough), you might get recognized for it and offered an opening doing more Y if they decide they need someone. If not, you'll still have genuine "professional experience" in Y to put on your resume.

I've felt similarly, on and off, my whole career (7 years since my first SWE internship). Unfortunately I've not got the answers but I do have a thought I want feedback on.

Maybe it's ok not to love it but to be satisfied regardless. It's an in demand, well paid, flexible, reasonably interesting (even if I would never miss it) career that allows me to lead a great life in other aspects without giving up too much. Can't that be enough?

I worry that the current narrative of having to 'love' your job is damaging and causing me (and maybe you) to always be searching for the 'perfect' career which doesn't exist.

Personally I think it depends on how you view your job with respect to the remainder of your daily life.

To some, their job is the main source of fulfilment + a good proportion of their social circle. For others it's a means to an end so that they can fulfill their needs elsewhere in their own time.

The pros you listed are fantastic if you sit on the latter side of the spectrum, but if you really view your work as part of your identity then just being satisfied won't be enough

Are we fundamentally set on that spectrum though? Is it possible to make yourself someone who views their career as a means to an end and is thus more satisfied. My worry is that the more towards the 'job is the main source of fulfilment' side I am the less happy I'll be;

Well, you always need to like your job and have atleast a little to be happy while doing it.

I don't love my job, but I do like what I do which helps me a lot going through the day.

I have the same problem. I just started at FAANG, make good money, and I. Am. So. Miserable. I studied so hard for this job and now all I want is out. The day to day logic is burning out my mind and making it hard to enjoy life

If it makes you feel any better, getting into FAANG is my life goal. Getting in even just once is enough. I'd finally win my own respect, that of my parents, and everyone else (though I'm sure no one really cares). I'm also jaded about programming in general and I know I'm not going to love the work, but at least the FAANG job experience will give you 1) proper credentials to get an interview easier at other jobs if needed and 2) a surefire path to financial independence. I currently work at a small company making around 1/3-1/5 your pay and when monthly expenses eat 60-80% of take home salary, building up wealth just isn't as optimistic. So give yourself a pat on the back.

> monthly expenses eat 60-80% of take home salary

How? There are many places around the world that at first world and where you can save 50+% of your (market) salary after all expenses. Maybe you’re underpaid in a very high COL area?

Also, friendly but unsolicited advice: if you base your happiness on other’s perception of you and your achievements, you’ll never ever be happy. There will always be someone judging you and deeming you inferior and/or someone who is way better at something than you are.

What about the day to day logic is worst?

I would say the tedious complexity. Immense complexity of jacked together systems

I worked as a software developer part-time throughout school but never enjoyed software development. Although I did enjoy other parts of CS such as cryptography. After school finished, I was attending local meetups to find out different opportunities in IT industry. At a local security meetup, I met a security consultant (pentester)and ended up chatting with him. As his work was interesting, I applied to a few security consulting companies. Since then, I have been working as a pentester for 3 years now and I am pretty happy with it. Maybe you could think about a similar change.

Lots of good advice in here, my piece of advice is just to make sure you cater that resume to the job you are looking for. As others have pointed out you have gained skills during your work that can easily apply to other areas, so you just need to showcase that on paper and in the interview.

Unfortunately I’m sort of in the opposite boat, I don’t know how to code and have never successful pushed myself to learn much. A previous instructor told me “maybe you just like the idea of it”.

Several former coworkers who had 6-8 years of experience and were roughly at the senior/staff engineer level moved on to "investor" positions with Bay Area venture capital firms. They scout out employees for startups in their firm's portfolio and serve as occasional advisers.

...But if this option was available to you, you wouldn't be here, asking this question.

How about pursuing a software architecture role? You would be creating diagrams that depict code instead of writing code.

Do you still need leetcoding skills for that?

Probably to get the job initially but not after that.

Have someone help you update your resume to make it sell you for something else. Pick two or three job adverts that appeal to you, do a brain dump of pertinent info, have someone help you turn that into a resume that says "I'm qualified to do this other job."

What do you want to do other than coding?

Different careers have different paths and ins and outs.

I don't know. I am also depressed and so, unfortunately, nothing at all actually sounds good.

The path I know people talk about out of coding is Product Management. Are there others? It always seems like a pay cut and I'm already always so strapped for cash. Moving cities seems equally as overwhelming as changing careers.

Also: seek professional help for the depression. CBT works remarkably well. Many of us (me) have been there, or on the edges, and its easy to find somebody to work through the issues with. I can't promise you will get your mojo back, but there is a fundamental truth to "a problem shared is a problem halved" if you pick the right professional person to share it with.

Good luck and don't give up.

I'll echo what other people have said about taking care of your mental health first.

If you're strapped for cash as a software dev, either you're not budgeting appropriately (take a sober look at how often you eat out), or you're not making nearly as much as you could (look for a different job), or you've set yourself up to live beyond your means (switch cars, or look for a different living situation). I've been in both of the first two situations before, and getting out of them had as much to do with a different mindset and finding good people to be around. I've always tried to live within my means (aka not taking on more than a couple weeks worth of debt if I can afford not too). That being said, taking that close look at your finances can be difficult when you're not in a good place mentally, so if you can get some help there, I'd recommend it.

If you have family, or really close friends, you might see if you can crash with them for a while, working on a career pivot during that time, or just looking for a different workplace.

I lost a tech job in December of 2018, and didn't get back into tech until August of 2019, and ended up working fast food for a few months. It was a nice time for clarifying some things, and establishing my identity beyond "guy who writes code". Before I was let go, I was struggling with getting things done and fitting into my workplace.

A big YMMV on this, but do try to take some time to walk and start considering some angles to life that might seem more crazy than you'd normally consider.

Do you have any idea of what it is that you hate about writing code?

I'm asking just to figure out what kinds of things to perhaps avoid when thinking of what else to do.

Also, it sounds like a difficult situation you are in if the depression makes changing things in your life more difficult (as it may often do). If you don't have professional help already, try and see if you can find some. The best thing might be someone who personally feel like they could understand you and your issues (especially if you don't have friends like that). It's not a silver bullet but it might help get started.

If money is the problem, try and see if there are some kinds of small-ish changes you could make to remedy that. I know from experience that just making those changes can be difficult if you're depressed enough, but I noticed I could save noticeably by eating out a bit less and making simple meals at home instead. It takes a bit of effort to get started and that may seem overwhelming at first but you may be able to save surprising sums for something else.

Of course all of that depends on your living situation, housing costs etc.

Either way, getting out of a job that's draining you can be important to your mental health and well-being, but other aspects of that are equally important, and making some changes where it's easier first might be helpful.

I've experienced something kind of similar (and, to be fair, I'm not nearly out of the woods yet, but I've seen some of the things that don't work), so I can see how it could be a difficult situation.

(Using a throwaway because I don't really talk about my own mental health in public.)

Work on your mental health first. Changing careers itself is stressful. Your code doesn't have to be pretty, you can use it as fuel for a hobby you actually enjoy doing after work/weekends. It could be photography, plastic model building, racing cars at track days, tennis, golf, etc.

The key there is also to join the communities to engage and learn, along with getting outside.

I might suggest an approach in parallel. If development sucks that bad for OP, getting steamrolled by some shit while trying to pretend like they're not getting steamrolled is maybe not the best plan.

I would seek out a therapist to work on your depression. It is difficult and not advisable to make career decisions in the fog of depression. You can take small steps before committing to a big decision.

There are plenty of paths out of coding. You could become a sales engineer for one, a solutions architect is another. You could become a consultant. You could go back to school and get an MBA for example.

Product Management is my gig now. Its fun, but its bound up in Dale Carnegie "seven habits of highly effective shysters" lingo. But that said, the UX people are really nice. You could do a lot worse, but you have to be a "people person" do to PM, because the primary issue is fit-for-purpose in badly thought out hypotheses on a product or feature, which means people...

Writing and communication are similar skill sets to coding. Sales engineer can pay quite well, and needs someone with a technical background. You can also do teaching and training, which is far less stressful.

Consider QA as a pivot. Manual QA pays about 50-80% of coding, but is a lot less stressful.

Do you have enough financial resources for a transition? How much time can you invest in changing your career? Life is long. You can reinvent yourself. But money often comes in the way.

Have you considered transitioning to DevOps? Assuming you like operations, of course.

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