[SATLUG] Burned out programmer

Donald L Wilcox dwilcox at neonnightrider.com
Tue Aug 16 17:40:53 CDT 2011


I haven't used Ruby in a few years now that the RoR craze has died down. I returned to Python though this summer and I've been really working to make more time on it. I'm actually using the Django framework, so I'm building a web app in this situation, but I like Python and C most of all.

Solutions architect is in fact the role I would want in my perfect world, since my time at my current company has given me the insight I was looking for on enterprise level environments. I've definitely picked up plenty of knowledge on the business side, but I've been looking to acquire more technical understanding to back up what I know on the business side, and it's hard to do when my current work is repetitive. And for awhile, if recruiters from other companies tried to court me, they were looking for someone who could communicate between front- and back-end developers (and systems programmers) with an emphasis on the front-end side. But typically if I don't get any impression that I could transition to or learn something to reach that solutions architect goal, I turn away from it.

Donald Wilcox
Web Developer
--
Phone: (210) 651-2087
Cell: (313) 478-6323
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/donaldwilcoxjr

-----Original Message-----
From: "Kernel Architect" <kernel.architect at gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 08:56
To: "The San Antonio Linux User's Group Mailing List" <satlug at satlug.org>
Subject: Re: [SATLUG] Burned out programmer

Hey Donald,

So I finally goy some time to give you a better reply and here it goes. As
I'm sure you know, there are many positions in the IT field from the entry
level up through architect and some management positions above those. If you
really love technology, programming, solving problems, etc., there is always
a spot that will leverage your skills and talents and keep you content if
not happy. The problem is finding out which position would fit you best and
then working toward that position. I am a consultant these days with my own
firm, so I don't really have a position per se, but if I had to name one, I
suppose the closest thing would be a solutions architect. What I do is
discuss a particular problem that a client has (say to implement a new ERP
system) and then design/architect the entire solution to the problem from
the hardware up through the software stack. The challenge is usually not in
picking components, but rather integration with the customer's current
environment. This can also involve custom development (middle ware) to
achieve this.

I find this to be the most rewarding position in the IT field in general and
I have held just about every position over the years from the entry level
MIS assistant up through CTO. You have an interesting perspective in that
you work for a small company and are the sole person who is responsible for
code. I think the first thing that you need to look at is what type/size of
company you are working for. There are advantages and disadvantages for
working with small or large companies. Typically the advantages of a small
company are that you wear many hats and get to do many different things.
That keeps you from getting bored, but you can have the downside of getting
over worked. With a large company, the roles in IT are more segmented and
you may find yourself pigeon-holed into a role that you don't like too much.
The chances for you to do different and exciting things are less, but with a
team behind you, the work may not be overwhelming. I would take that last
statement with a grain of salt because workloads are at an all time high
overall due to the economy. Businesses are trimming workforces
by attrition and firing, so the remaining workers often have to pick up the
load without a replacement coming any time soon.

So, now that we got all of that out of the way, the question is which
position would be a good fit for you. On the one hand, if you are with a
small company, there will not be the range of positions available at a large
one, so you may have to just look at whats available and see what matches up
with your aspirations. In a larger company that has well defined roles, the
Software Architect or Systems Architect are probably the best roles to have.
These are the leadership and design roles within a company and these two
individuals work hand in hand to deploy every solution in the enterprise.
Since you are more of a programmer, the Software Architect may be more
appropriate. If you do decide to hop over to the systems side, they the
other may work well for you. Either way, IT is a meritocracy for the most
part and you will likely not be able to just apply for these positions from
outside of a company without previously having had the position for a length
of time elsewhere. Also, these are essentially the highest positions you can
get without jumping up to management, so they will take some time to attain.
I think this gives you a good idea of where you want to go. The remaining
question is what to do in the interim as you work toward these goals.

Several people have mentioned that the type of development makes a huge
difference in both challenge and reward levels. One thing that you noted is
that you find PHP/HTML/CSS/Java very monotonous and dull. While I have found
programming in general to be dull and boring, I have had better experiences
with languages like Python and stacks like Ruby on Rails. They are just more
'fun' if that is a quantifiable metric. Python is used almost universally in
the Linux world for things like system level scripting all the way up
through full blown GUI apps. It's a powerful language and you can even take
it to the web world with Python/Django. Ruby on Rails is more of a web
framework that allows you to rapidly develop web applications by *taking out
the mundane and repetitive tasks* while focusing on the application logic
and quick deployment. Sounds like that might be right up your alley. Lastly,
more recently, companies like VMware have been exposing APIs for developers
to hook into to automate their platforms and integrate better with customer
environments. I know several people who have moved into coding for platform
APIs (as consultants) and the love the work. Again, the mundane and
repetitive tasks have been ditched in favor of more powerful and higher
level APIs to work with. I've done a little work in this area and I love it.
As you move higher in abstraction levels of coding and platforms, you will
find that the work is much more interesting, engaging and fun to work with.
You are not bogged down by the tedious routines of low level languages and
you can focus more on the 'fun' stuff.

I hope I shed some light on the positions and things that are available to
you in today's market. Don't hesitate to ask questions if you want to know
more.

Ernest

On Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 10:32 AM, Donald L Wilcox <
dwilcox at neonnightrider.com> wrote:

> Hi everyone,
>
> I've been thinking about this for over a year now, and I thought I should
> ask around and get some ideas.
>
> I'm 25, in school currently finishing (as of last week) a B.S. in Math, and
> I have thought about a few paths to take after that. Before last week, I was
> a CS major because I work full-time as a developer, big interest in
> computers, etc. etc. I've been a professional developer for over 5 years
> now, and I have to say, I'm burned out with programming--so much so that I
> don't enjoy it anymore, and I can't think of any other career paths to
> transition into.
>
> I've tried writing in new languages just to see if I need to code in
> something other than HTML, CSS, JS, Java, and PHP, but to no avail, and at
> this point in my career, the work always turns dull, monotonous, and
> mundane, and I have accepted that no matter what I try to do, I can't keep
> the interest going.
>
> What I do enjoy is more sysadmin and systems programming stuff (command
> line stuff, DB systems, server administration) and a little bit of security
> (although programming security applications is not my cup of tea), but I
> don't know if moving into a sysadmin role is the right step or if it's even
> possible since I don't have any certs and not sure my current job will let
> me get any, and I'm not sure yet if the biz dev roles are my thing either
> since I've never worked in that realm.
>
> Has anybody ever had a similar situation?
>
> Donald Wilcox
> Web Developer
> --
> Phone: (210) 651-2087
> Cell: (313) 478-6323
> LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/donaldwilcoxjr
>
> --
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