Death of a Programmer

I am a programmer all my professional life. I really got into programming because of video games. I wanted to work for some of my favorite video games studios. But then I got startup bug. I focused most of my twenties and thirties on startup ideas and projects. But I never dedicated 100% to any of those ideas. I always had a boring day job to pay for bills. I had to support my parents. And now I am a parent and unwilling to go all in on any startup.

So I have decided to get serious about my career and see what corporate America has to offer.

My current company offers management and individual contributor tracks. I was attracted to individual contributor track because I really just want to write code and stay technical. Unfortunately, as I gain more responsibility as team lead, I spend more time in meetings and less time programming. It’s been months since last I was able to write code in peace.

This led me to rethink my desire to climb corporate ladder as individual contributor. As an individual contributor, you gain a lot of responsibility but no real power. Your salary is also capped, there are very few programmers earning more than $500k salary.

Then in discussions with friends and reading books such as Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I realized something. We as programmers, enjoy doing work that has visible output at the end of day. I proudly call myself that I am bricklayer at heart. Factory workers probably felt same way as we programmers do. They probably felt very satisfied after a hard day at factory. They felt very technical working with those complex machinery. They complained about inefficient coworkers and wondered how they got hired. They whined about management pushing them to produce more while sacrificing quality. They laughed at Chinese goods and said their jobs are secure because of the quality of their work.

We programmer call ourselves artisans. We love playing with new technologies. We complain about tight deadlines and how it sacrifice code quality. We laugh at shitty code written by outsourcing companies. We think we will be in demand for a long time.

Based on all these thoughts, I think programming should stay my hobby but I should not focus on it being important part of my career. As you progress in individual contributor track, you are already doing less of what you love. Programming is an art, and art is a hobby for most of the people. Some people make money with art, but most don’t.

It hurts to say it because programmer is my identity but it probably needs to die. So while I work on real estate license and I am focused on becoming better team leader. My priorities are project planning, getting buy-ins from stake holders, unblocking my team, saving my manager from low level issues. The good thing is that these skills should transfer easily to real estate too.

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