Is development the right career for me?

13 August 2023 · Updated 13 August 2023
Question

Recently, during a work review with my boss, I was confronted with a question that's been lingering in my mind for a few years: "Is software development truly the right career for me?" While I've always delivered my tasks on time and met expectations, my boss noticed my lack of enthusiasm for programming outside of work and my indifference towards new technologies. Since my college days, I've felt somewhat ambivalent about computer science, even though I knew I wanted a career related to computers. While I've never been truly excited about diving deep into new programming languages or seeking out challenges for the sheer joy of it, I've always viewed my job as a means to an end - primarily, earning a paycheck. Now, I'm grappling with whether I should genuinely invest more passion into my career, seek out a role that simply requires me to code by specification, or consider an entirely different path altogether.

Answer

Hello dear reader, first off all, I want to acknowledge the weight of the question you’re grappling with. It’s one that many in our field, including myself, have wrestled with at various points in our careers. I’d like to give you a short answer before we dive in.

It’s your career, it’s your life, it’s your everything. You decide how much balance you want to have, how much time you want to invest, how you want to treat your job. It’s always a tradeoff and it’s up to you to set the boundaries, however you wish them to be.

Let’s dive in.

The tech world, for all its innovation and progress, often gets caught up in the idea that to be a “real” software engineer, you must eat, sleep, and breathe code. It’s a narrative that’s been perpetuated for years — by every coding bootcamp and university — and it’s one that can be both inspiring and, frankly, exhausting. I’ve met surgeons, lawyers, and architects, and while their jobs might sound more glamorous at family dinners, it doesn’t make our roles any less significant. We’re the backbone of the digital age, even if we’re not performing surgeries or building skyscrapers.

You don’t see lawyers spending their weekend learning new laws, they do it on the clock. But then again, the laws don’t get changed as often as new frameworks get released.

Now, about the balance between work and personal life. Continuous learning is a hallmark of our industry, but that doesn’t mean your GitHub needs to be buzzing with activity every weekend or you need to be building side projects all the time. Your manager’s observation about your lack of “extracurricular” coding might come from a place of concern as in “are you happy in this role” rather then “why are you not spending time coding during free time”, but remember, we all have our rhythms. Some find joy in coding side projects after hours; others prefer to switch off and indulge in entirely different hobbies. Both are valid.

New languages, tools, and frameworks pop up faster than we can keep track. It’s exhilarating but can also be overwhelming. While it’s essential to stay updated, it’s equally crucial to understand that trends are cyclical. For example even though there’s been thousands of new frameworks released, most of them have died out and the new ones are implementing paradigms that were popular years ago. You don’t need to jump on every new trend — you need to be aware of it. Find your niche, master it, and evolve at a pace that feels right for you.

Throughout my years in the industry, I’ve met countless individuals who faced skepticism of them treating the job, as, well, a job. And in spite of that skepticism early on, they have carved out successful careers. Your path in tech is uniquely yours — every boundary that you want to have you can set and you will still find an employer that fits your values. Some might dive deep into every new technology, while others, like you, might prefer a more measured approach. Both can lead to success.

Looking ahead, there’s no denying that the tech landscape is shifting. With advancements in AI, certain roles might become automated or evolve. But remember, adaptability is one of the most prized skills in our industry. Continuous learning doesn’t mean coding 24/7; it means being open to change and growth, whatever form that might take.

Learn new things on the clock, suggest exploration of new technologies to your company to make sure you stay on top of things.

In conclusion — passion is a powerful driver, but it’s not the only way to define success in tech. Find your balance, set your boundaries, and remember that your worth isn’t determined by the number of lines of code you write outside of work hours. The tech world is vast and varied; find your corner, whichever one fits you best and thrive in it.




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