The Downsides of Being a Coder

FullThrottleTX

Woodpecker
I understand why actual startups might suck, because most startups fail and so you risk working for a loser (management).

I was thinking more of small to medium businesses who are beyond the survival phase and more in a consolidation phase with steady, but stable, growth. These have always been the best for me.

Yeah, but you can do more interesting work in startups.
I kind of miss it slightly.
 

FullThrottleTX

Woodpecker
Great post! Do you have anything to add on data science specifically?

Not really, other than that I've been skeptical of the field in general as a "fad field".
Sometimes they live with engineers, sometimes they don't. I have a data scientist on my team but he's really an engineer with data science skills, which is the best case scenario.
 

Waverer

Robin
Why do you think it's a fad? Do you see the skillset as fashionable but not that useful? Why do you think it's seen as a big deal if it's not?
 

Maecenas

Sparrow
Start transitioning into working for yourself, you will be forced to learn every other business skill that you can't while just pushing buttons for your bosses. Then later on you can hire someone else to do the coding while you manage your business/projects/clients/marketing.

have you done this yourself? Would love to hear more
 

FullThrottleTX

Woodpecker
Why do you think it's a fad? Do you see the skillset as fashionable but not that useful? Why do you think it's seen as a big deal if it's not?

I think most companies don't really need in depth data analysis to make decisions, they can have someone less specialized (like a financial or marketing analyst - who they already have on staff) looking at analytics. And most of the apps that data scientists have built for me, I could have built better with some googling about the math they used. Their contribution is some basic math. Well, if you're a software engineer, you should be able to pick up some basic math lol.

Some things data scientists use like machine learning is quickly becoming commodified so you can purchase a service to handle this for you, you don't have to build it yourself or hire a data scientist to handle it.

So you could have regular engineers handling things for you, you don't need to hire a data scientist that only knows a little Python, and is fairly useless in terms of building production-ready software, who can only think in theoretical terms most of the time. It's not that these guys are dumb, it's more that they should have pursued finance or a more traditional field where they could excel, there are more jobs, and the tech requirement is much less - but the tech they do know is much more useful.

So that's my opinion on data science. A lot of companies will hire these folks, and then lay them off because they don't know how to use them within their product teams since they're not as productive as regular engineers.

Data-driven product design has been a trend for the past decade. In general, I think this is about risk aversion. Think about Mad Men, for example -- what Don Draper uses is his creativity to pitch products. That has been lost in marketing and product development. Creatives don't thrive in corporate America anymore. Instead of a Don Draper, you hire a bunch of math dweebs that decide the direction of the company.
 
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It was an intermediate goal for me to be making 6 figs while working remote as a software engineer, and now I have it because of the pandemic.

A definite daily downside is the intense concentrative energy used for 6-8 hours a day. And the lack of good socializing definitely degrades social ability.

I work on distributed backend Java systems, with a touch of front end React and devops stuff. I wasn't lucky enough to make the distributed design myself, but work within the confines and have still learned a lot in so many ways.

I see my manager (who's prob making like 300k) in meetings all day, and I seriously don't think I'd want that. Yes being a code monkey is kind of lame, but if you're like 30 years old, making 150k to log in and code some stuff for realistically 2-4 hours max a day... that's not bad.

If you do that until you're 35-40 you'll have a lot saved up and can be more risky with the stuff you're doing.

What other jobs make 150k+? Huge facetime jobs, like high finance, or being a lawyer maybe? Being a doctor takes years of grinding education and you have to be in person, you're locked into that industry. And then of course, starting you're own business - which you have so so much free time to do in parallel as a remote software engineer.

Overall I think it's a great situation. Maybe i'll feel different about it when i'm stuck doing the same thing at 40.
 

Maecenas

Sparrow
I hate how the industry treats software engineers like cattle and soy boys now. If you think of computer scientists from back in the day, they were badasses who were some of the most impressive intellectuals. I’m thinking for example of Von Neumann or Claude Shannon. A lot of software engineers are some of the most untapped resources of masculinity in today’s world. But instead the big tech companies buy them out and direct their attention to stupid stuff, and the ones they can’t buy out, they ruin the whole discipline of software engineering for them by shoving terrible frameworks and practices out into the wild. Think of the dashboard on AWS. Or how react and angular have millions of dollars to get popular, meanwhile small very well designed front-end frameworks like mithril.js don’t get nearly the amount of attention they deserve.

Palantir (by Peter Thiel) seems like one of the rare, more well known tech companies that may be on the side of conservatism. They look like they could be a really cool company to work for, and they called out Silicon Valley in a glorious way in their recent public filing. Their software was apparently used to hunt down and find Osama bin Laden. Butttt... I’m still cautious about them. I think I heard they’re looking to move to Denver now? Which is a huge NWO city.
 
Von Neumann was a universal genius, to box him in as a merely a computer scientist is ludicrous. And yes there is a big difference between a 'coder' and computer scientist. Coders are a commodity at this point.
 

DeWoken

Sparrow
I dipped my foot into the industry and definitely felt some of the chilling atmosphere. I wonder about the ethics of the industry. If you're working for most of the Big Tech companies you are helping out our enemies, obviously.

What kind of tech projects are actually worthwhile? I mean, if you're an electrician working on a housing development of condos and you find out that the local rural community hates the development (destroying the environment, bringing in a different crowd, completely altering the nature of the community for the worse, etc) shouldn't you quit once you find out the truth? Or are you just satisfied being a mercenary to get your stack of gold?
 

Maecenas

Sparrow
I dipped my foot into the industry and definitely felt some of the chilling atmosphere. I wonder about the ethics of the industry. If you're working for most of the Big Tech companies you are helping out our enemies, obviously.

What kind of tech projects are actually worthwhile? I mean, if you're an electrician working on a housing development of condos and you find out that the local rural community hates the development (destroying the environment, bringing in a different crowd, completely altering the nature of the community for the worse, etc) shouldn't you quit once you find out the truth? Or are you just satisfied being a mercenary to get your stack of gold?

I got my stack of gold and then left and hope I can now have a positive impact on the industry and make up for any damage I might have done supporting corrupt businesses.

In my current work I’m doing my damndest to avoid using any products made by the big tech companies. AWS, google cloud, google analytics, react, etc. I consider that a start.
 

DeWoken

Sparrow
hope I can now have a positive impact on the industry and make up for any damage I might have done supporting corrupt businesses.

Ethics is an issue that pops up in every industry, of course. I just wonder if the tech industry is more efficient at siphoning off our efforts. With what we witnessed in 2020, with Jeff Bezos' fortune surpassing the $200B mark, Twitter "fact checking" the POTUS' tweets, YouTube and FB banning truthful voices, some coders must wonder if they are in fact digging our collective grave.

I hope some based programmers move to places that give them freedom enough to create platforms that can help us.
 

FullThrottleTX

Woodpecker
I hope some based programmers move to places that give them freedom enough to create platforms that can help us.

The platform issue I have worked on a bit.
The main issue is monetization because credit card issuers and banks are a choke point that you can't code around.

It's easy to build free platforms, but providing something where you can build your own supporter base is much harder.
 

kel

Pelican
I'm not as bullish on crypto as many, but it's the only solution to the payment processor and bank problem. I have an idea for a youtube alternative that pays creators and curators via cryptojacking the user's browser while watching - similar to Brave's BAT - and I have an idea for how to hack the bootstrapping/network effect problem (everyone goes to Youtube because that's where everyone already is) related to this. If only I had the time to work on it. And, given the ideas I have, I'd have to work very hard to stay anonymous while making it. That would be the biggest trouble, honestly.
 

Maecenas

Sparrow
Yaaaaa making a social media platform is such a ballsy thing to try do, nothing has such potential political and social reform attached to it. You could end up stepping on a lotttt of toes
 
EDIT: I should have pointed out I am not in the USA but New Zealand so obviously the following needs to take that into account. For example in NZ coding is still very male dominated. The women that do work in IT here are mostly in support or analyst roles.

As a coder myself I was very interested to read your post and I found myself mostly in agreement. Coding was also a second career for me as well, I was typographer in a previous life. Twenty years ago I quit that and did a science degree majoring in Information Systems - at that point I did not know whether I wanted to code or be an analyst - eventually went the coding route and I am glad I did because systems analysis is boring.

As an older guy (34 when I finished my degree) entering the industry was difficult because you are up against young guys (it is mostly guys in my experience) who would do this stuff for free. They still love this stuff and
as the poster has observed many of them do not have well rounded personalities
and get most of their self esteem from their job. These guys love to engage in
pissing contests about programming minutiae. I had no interest in this.

In fact it was so difficult to get my first job that I ended up working for free for a company just to get some
experience, which was pretty difficult when you have a wife and kids to support.

So after 20 years as a coder would I recommend it as a career? I would say it depends, as FullThrottleTX says some of the caveats are your personality type - I like to work alone and not be customer facing so it suits me. There are also a few things that peculiar about coding for example employers and recruiters like to try and low ball you on wages. They will says things like, Ok, so you are an experienced java coder, but we are looking for a python coder, so we will have to take you on at a reduced rate, etc. Thats crap and should always be resisted. Its like saying to a builder so you build houses out of wood, but we build houses out of bricks so we are going take you on as a trainee. Surely the most important thing is a solid grasp of the fundamentals of construction no matter what materials you are working with. Same with programming.

Another factor that is really frustrating about coding is that the half life of the stuff you learn is pretty short. My head is full of information about obsolete technologies. Compare that to something like medicine or law, the stuff those guys learnt 20 years ago is still valuable.

Despite the stereotypes good communication skills are important as you need to be able to explain and defend your rationale for design decisions you make to your manager and colleagues, as most coders do work in teams.

I have worked at software development companies but now I work for a company in the transport and logistics industry, and for me that is far preferable to a software company that had to work to frequently unrealistic deadlines. We set our own deadlines and much of the work I do is involved with working with companies that partner with us to exchange data between applications.

I've had some bad experiences as well where my work was sabotaged by guys looking to make themselves look good at the expense of somebody else, you need to defend yourself against that, but I think that is not unique to coding.

No matter what occupation you want to do its always a good idea to talk to somebody who does that job first, find out what they think of it and listen to their advice. Another piece of advice I would offer is it is good to be passionate about something, but remember that after a few years its likely to be just a job to you. A good way to kill a passion is to do it for a job. Not always, but something to be aware of.
 
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Waverer

Robin
I think most companies don't really need in depth data analysis to make decisions, they can have someone less specialized (like a financial or marketing analyst - who they already have on staff) looking at analytics. And most of the apps that data scientists have built for me, I could have built better with some googling about the math they used. Their contribution is some basic math. Well, if you're a software engineer, you should be able to pick up some basic math lol.

Some things data scientists use like machine learning is quickly becoming commodified so you can purchase a service to handle this for you, you don't have to build it yourself or hire a data scientist to handle it.

So you could have regular engineers handling things for you, you don't need to hire a data scientist that only knows a little Python, and is fairly useless in terms of building production-ready software, who can only think in theoretical terms most of the time. It's not that these guys are dumb, it's more that they should have pursued finance or a more traditional field where they could excel, there are more jobs, and the tech requirement is much less - but the tech they do know is much more useful.

So that's my opinion on data science. A lot of companies will hire these folks, and then lay them off because they don't know how to use them within their product teams since they're not as productive as regular engineers.

Data-driven product design has been a trend for the past decade. In general, I think this is about risk aversion. Think about Mad Men, for example -- what Don Draper uses is his creativity to pitch products. That has been lost in marketing and product development. Creatives don't thrive in corporate America anymore. Instead of a Don Draper, you hire a bunch of math dweebs that decide the direction of the company.

Thanks for these insights. I know this thread isn't all about me, but I am coming to the end of completing an accountancy qualification and I hate working in audit. So I am curious about whether data science within finance is for me. I think you're unfortunately right that anything I hope to automate may soon be offered by off the shelf packages anyway. Some of it already is.

On the other hand, while my firm has no data scientists, firms our size and larger mostly seem to have people exploring this world. And I do feel like a bit of data science may go a long way in a finance role - whether within the finance team in a company or an accountancy practice. Is it worth exploring further? I already know the basics of coding, but no more than that.
 
I've been writing code of all sorts since I was a teenager when the internet was still made with HTML Tables and everyone was on AOL :squintlol: (remember that). After reading through this, there are many interesting perspectives, but I don't agree with some of what I've read in this thread. Overall, I've had a great career in software engineering!

After many different careers through owning a few small businesses selling various products and services, working as a commissioned salesmen, working in retail, working in the food service industry, working in marketing and advertising as a freelancer and for corporate, I ended up back into software engineering.

Why?

Because simple:
  1. The pay is absolutely the best. No other job will pay me nearly $200,000 a year to live in a low cost state, while working 100% remote (PRE-PANDEMIC), with super flexible hours, UNLIMITED paid time off (5 weeks or so in reality), and awesome coworkers (because I never have to see them face to face ;))

  2. As I said, super flexible hours. I can work really any time I want. Sure I need to be available during core hours, but I don't actually have to work then. I can work at night, morning, day, take a nap, and come back any time I want. As long as I get my work done. Many weeks, I work far less than 40 hours - some weeks I literally have no work to do at all. Average is probably 25 hours a week, with a RARE few weeks pulling 60-70 hours for a sudden deliverable due (mainly from poor planning by management). I get paid the same amount regardless, due to being salaried. The only difference might be the bonus which is usually based on utilization or billable hours depending if your working as a consultant or in-house exclusively. Note: The only reason I can get away with working so few hours is because I work extremely fast compared to most people, and what takes some other engineer 10 hours would only take me 1-2 hours. It's all about results.

  3. Most people are really nice. The only dudes who are egotistical fools are the high ranking architects typically. But if you play into their ego, you can easily make "friends" with them and get on their good side. Just make them feel so smart and interesting, and like they can teach you a lot. Because honestly, they CAN teach you a lot, for free. Everyone else is really nice typically. It's 98% men in the field, though. I have only worked with two actual female software engineers. Women usually do design, scrum/product owner, or some other non programming job. The women who are programmers, are almost always very junior, have little experience, and usually can't complete large projects without guidance from more senior engineers. I don't know why, but that's what I've experienced in 5 years of corporate work as as a software engineer. The few female programmers I met who were senior at their job, were all Chinese women. I think it's a cultural thing.

  4. I LOVE not having to talk to anybody all day while working at home! How annoying is it to sit there any listen to idiots in an office babble their mouth for hours and hours about absolutely nothing! Gossip, small talk, nonstop joking, and just being annoying dudes. And the women are worse - just drama, drama, drama at an office. I love being friends with women, but I honestly do not typically like working with them (I said typically, not never!) They can be overly emotional and make it hard to get actual productive work done, without some drama. The ones who are easy to work with, are usually more masculine and act like one of the guys. Again, I like being friends with women outside of work, and I'm not saying all women are like this, and actually I have met men who are like this too. These have just been my personal experiences. I don't like dramatic people on the job. Also, even while at in an office and not remotely, working as a software engineers minimizes my time in meetings, which 90% of the time are a complete waste of time. An engineer is only product while he's WORKING, which means managers want us heads down and coding - thankfully. No more meetings please.

  5. The skills absolutely transfer - indirectly. No, your actual programming language might not be used elsewhere, but the critical thinking process and problem-solving, solution-creating abilities you come up with as an engineer will follow you for life. You'll always be thinking about how to improve or automate some task or process. It makes you a smarter person without a doubt.

  6. It's one of the few jobs you can start out making $60,000-85,000 WITHOUT a college degree - and within a few years be making in the low $100,000s. No other job offers pay potential ANYWHERE near at that speed, and without a college degree. All you need are the skills required to complete the job, which can be learned 100% from home online by reading documentation, articles, and watching videos (which is exactly what I did), in about 6 months to a year depending on how dedicated and fast you learn.

  7. Your peers and managers actually respect you. It's one of the few fields where peers appreciate the work you do, the help you give them, and the results of the projects you work on. It's very satisfying to work somewhere where you are truly appreciated and celebrated! Many industries are so competitive and hostile that the workplace becomes toxic and negative. I have experienced a few negative workplaces in software, but those were management issues. The people I worked with still always respected and acknowledged my talents, and I found great joy in knowing that they cared. I think most people want or would appreciate the respect and admiration of their peers, and people who work in software are typically generous with their praise when you do good work. Of course, if you do bad work... watch out :laughter::laughter:

Some personal tips:

I do recommend working at a mid-large sized company, and not a startup. At a startup, from what I've seen, they will overwork and underpay you with unrealistic expectations, horrible management practices ripe with ineptitude, and may suddenly and spontaneously fail without any forewarning. Don't forget about the bonuses which they promise that never happen. And here you are more likely to encounter absolutely stupid management like CTOs or Directors who have no clue about modern software but want to dictate how things are done with their poor ideas. Mostly because they are buddies with someone higher up who won't fire them (nepotism)

At a mid-large corporation, your working hours are typically much less and more stable, management is well established in their practices and procedures, and they usually pay very well, with great benefits like a ton of PTO and large bonuses which actually get paid out. Management is competent or they quickly get replaced with someone who is, and nepotism is less common.

Anyone interested in software engineering should definitely consider doing it as a career and stick with it! It's very rewarding to solve a challenging problem with your mind and see the result in front of you in such a short period of time. Of course, it can be boring at times, and repetitive, and super tedious, but what job isn't? The pros far outweigh the cons for me, and it's tough to pull me away from this job. The only way I would leave is if I can make significantly more money doing something else I enjoy, or receive a large investment into a business idea I have and could build up a company from scratch.

I hope my insight helps someone :cool::nerd:blush:
 
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