This is a response to the author of Half Sigma, who wrote a post about why a career in computer programming sucks. This topic could be considered slightly off-topic for this blog, but I’m a programmer, so I feel it’s career-related enough that it falls slightly into the realm of this blog. Besides, I want to respond.

Sigma (as I’ll refer to you throughout this post), you are way off. I’m afraid that your arguments are weak and poorly formed. You’ve made erroneous and biased assertions and based your arguments on those false premises. You clearly don’t like being a programmer, but your personal dislike for the job (or the field) doesn’t make it bad. It just makes it a bad fit for you.

I’m going to address your arguments point-by-point, so readers can more easily refer back to your post for context.

  • Temporary nature of knowledge capital

    You argued that because so much of the everyday knowledge in programming is transitory, there’s basically no benefit to hiring an experienced programmer over an unexperienced one (or a programmer with relatively little experience). It’s true that Cobol is effectively dead, and “Significant Cobol Experience” isn’t exactly the best way to headline a resume these days. It’s not true, however, that experience is worthless. The transient parts of programming change: the languages, the tools. But much of programming does not change. Good software engineering practices and concerns have not changed: Encapsulation, clarity, patterns, security, stability. These are all as important today as when they were first conceived.

    The fundamentals do not change. A linked list is still a linked list. Binary searches and hash maps are still faster than linear searches on large data sets. If an experienced programmer can write the code for a linked list, or understand when a linear search is bad (or — gasp — when it’s good), then he’s definitely got something to offer beyond the average recent graduate (who sadly, doesn’t understand pointers or Big-O notation).

    There’s even a great deal of technology retention from the “transient” aspects of programming. I still use Make at work, and it’s been around in various forms since 1977. Some of the languages haven’t changed, either. C is still C. I’ve got the K&R book, and it’s still a good reference. Even newfangled languages like C# inherited a great deal from C. Certainly, there have been massive changes, but variables still have to be declared, and a for loop still looks like a for loop.

    New languages and tools don’t have to leave experienced programmers behind. When Canola oil became popular, all the experienced chefs weren’t suddenly replaced by recent culinary school graduates. Scrambling an egg is about more than just what fat is used. Likewise, CAD didn’t put all the draftsmen and architects out of work. And Java hasn’t put all the C programmers out of work, either. There’s fundamental knowledge in any field that isn’t tied to a particular technology, and experience builds on this fundamental knowledge. If all your knowledge is all tied to a particular programming language, or a particular API, that’s a huge problem, but not because Q# is newer than Y++.

  • Low prestige

    Sigma, I don’t know if you expected prestige when you signed up for your computer science degree, but if you did, it’s your fault. Engineering and science disciplines simply do not have the prestige that law and medicine do. This isn’t a problem with computer science any more than it’s a problem with physics. It’s just a fact. If prestige is what you’re after, the sciences are not for you.

    You claim that Ivy League students aren’t majoring in programming. Well, I disagree. You say that what MIT teaches isn’t really programming. Well, I don’t know anyone but you who thinks MIT isn’t churning out real programmers. Yes, MIT is actually teaching the fundamentals of computer science, but I’m unclear how that’s a problem. Even “low-level” work in ASP.NET is benefited by a proper education. If someone can’t understand recursion, then quite frankly, I don’t want them building my e-commerce site, because they’re unlikely to be able to understand basic security, either. (I’m not sure exactly when ASP.NET became considered “low-level”, either.)

    The fact that schools like Devry and the University of Phoenix churn out “programming” degrees doesn’t indicate that programming is low prestige. All it indicates is that programmers are in demand, and the regulations are lax. If Devry could churn out MDs, you better believe that they would.

    Programmers aren’t lacking in prestige. They get the same prestige that anyone else in the sciences does. Civil engineers aren’t treated like lawyers. They get the same basic respect that programmers get. If you don’t think you’re respected at work, then leave. If you think you should be treated better, then find a better job. If you are worth more, then someone will give you more.

  • The foreignization of computer programming

    Quite frankly, your blurb about foreignization says more about your own prejudices and fears than it does about any real problem with the industry.

    First off, outsourcing is not a real problem. People have been saying that outsourcing would put everyone out of work since I started college. It still hasn’t happened. Yes, some companies have outsourced IT workers. Those workers found new jobs. (And many of those jobs came back, too.) There are still more jobs to fill than there are programmers to fill them. This is especially the case with good programmers. Bad programmers might get their jobs outsourced and be in trouble. Good programmers can always get other jobs. The really good programmers never even work places that would be dumb enough to outsource the programming jobs.

    As far as bringing in good foreign talent, I’m not sure why that’s a bad thing. You’re being a complete alarmist by claiming that foreign IT workers are taking all the jobs from Americans, and that the domestic market has been nearly abandoned to foreigners. Only someone who’s not good at their job should have to worry about losing it to someone who is good. Bill Gates stated recently that the government issues 65000 H1-B visas each year. Meanwhile, the number of computer science jobs is growing at a rate of 100000 per year. He’s pushing for looser regulations on H1-B visas because there’s still a shortage of good programmers.

    You say that foreignization causes a vicious cycle of low pay when combined with low prestige. This only makes sense if programmers have low prestige, which is not the case. Additionally, Microsoft and other companies pay the same wages to H1-B workers as citizen workers, according to Gates. No one’s bringing in genius programmers and paying them minimum wage.

    I don’t know why you care so much about how “America” views our “industry full of brown people”, either. It may be that the average person thinks less of the profession because many programmers are foreigners. But how is that even relevant? Random Joe on the street doesn’t cut my paycheck, so it doesn’t matter if he thinks less of programmers.

    You also say that Americans have more rights to the money created here than foreigners do. Well, many of the people who’ve helped drive America to be a superpower were, and are, foreign-born. If I hire a programmer, he is helping to create wealth for America. It doesn’t matter if he’s foreign or not.

  • Project management sucks too

    Not everyone wants to move into management. It’s also possible to be a highly-paid programmer without moving into management, so your initial premises are invalid.

    Older programmers don’t have to move into management to avoid ending up “underemployed fifty-year-olds, only suitable for lower paying IT jobs like ‘QA’ because they no longer know how to use the latest and supposedly greatest programming tools”. I don’t know why you think experience is worthless, but I really don’t understand why you think it’s impossible for anyone older than 25 to continue to learn. There’s no magical switch that flips when a programmer leaves college that stops him from learning new things. If a programmer is 50 and hasn’t learned anything since he was 25, he probably deserves to be unemployed. He’s clearly not the best asset. If a 50 year old civil engineer had been unwilling to learn anything after college, he wouldn’t be able to use CAD, and he wouldn’t know the latest building codes, and he deservedly would be unemployed.

    You also don’t seem to understand what “management” is if you think it shouldn’t involve planning and status reporting. That’s exactly what management is. The people who hold the purse aren’t managers, they are Directors and Executives. Directors tell managers what to do, and managers manage the day-to-day details. Management isn’t generally glamorous. It’s not a situation unique to programming.

    You also state that we need stronger industry bodies from the computer science profession. On this, I completely agree. The low quality of the average computer science graduate is enough to demonstrate that there are problems within the industry. We need industry bodies to set minimum competency requirements. The barrier to entry should be high, not to rule out foreigners, but to weed out incompetence. I think this needs to grow from the programmers themselves (much as lawyers run the Bar and doctors head medical boards). And I do agree that programmers should not be managed by non-programmers.

  • The working conditions suck

    Sadly, there is truth to this. Some places do not appreciate their employees, and therefore do not treat them well. This is not, however, a problem exclusive to programming.

    This is an area where an industry body would help. I think if we had an board which weeded out all the incompetent programmers, there would be less of a problem with poor tools. I think many companies simply cannot tell a good programmer from a bad one. And so they have a mix (mostly bad, a few good). A bad programmer isn’t going to be more productive with two monitors, and I think companies recognize this, and assume they are better off not giving dual monitors to anyone, rather than trying to give them selectively, or wasting the money giving them to everyone.

    Of course, there are many places that do appreciate their programmers, and do whatever is necessary to keep them happy. These are the places that programmers want to work, and these are likewise the places that you will find most of the good programmers employed.

Sigma, for the most part, your arguments don’t reveal any deep problems with the programming profession. They reveal instead serious issues that you seem to have with your choice to be a programmer. Your aversion to learning new technology seems to be a major problem. You chose one of the fastest-evolving fields in modern times, so this is unlikely to change. Programmers need to be lifelong learners. I’m not sure what else to tell you. Lots of people change their professions. It’s not too late for you. Alternatively, you could find a job using a stable technology that you enjoy. Maybe you should find somewhere that will let you use C or C++, both of which are unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

To the readers, pick a field that’s compatible with your own nature. You’ll be much happier. If you find that you’ve chosen the wrong field, change it. It’s just a job. Find something you actually enjoy, even if it means a massive career change. It’s better to be poorly-paid and happy than highly-paid and miserable.

74 Comments on “Why a Career in Computer Programming Doesn’t Suck (A Response)”

  1. kaanengin Says:

    i read the former post yesterday, and just finished reading your post. while i agree most of your “responses”, the bad working conditions, and diminished carrier path issues are what makes computer programming a not-so-good job for everyone.
    I like programming, and i picked this job when i was 18 years old, just before i attended to collage. 8 years passed, and right now i see that i have made a big mistake choosing programming as a job. Right now, i have the energy and motivation to fight wild pointers, endless debug sessions, meaningless customer complaints, but as i grow older, all this mass become senseless to me.
    I’ll shift my carrier path where knowledge capital really matters.

  2. Derek Park Says:

    Kaanengin, I think bad working conditions are a symptom of the wrong kind of workplace. The places that treat programmers well are the companies built on software. The software firms actually treat their employees well (with a few exceptions, of course). Unfortunately, there are definitely some companies that do not treat their programmers well, because they don’t appreciate the value of the work. If I found myself working at such a place, my number one priority would be to find a new workplace that appreciated programmers.

    As far as career path, I feel that few fields have obvious career paths that don’t lead into management. Civil Engineers, Chemists, Doctors, Pharmacists, even Lawyers all have career paths that eventually wind up in management. In all those fields, just like programming, it’s possible to avoid moving into management, but it comes at a cost. Again, the fact that programmers are being managed by nonprogrammers in some companies is a problem, but those are the places I would be doing my best to leave (and generally the same ones that treat their programmers poorly).

    There are most definitely some problems with certain employers. I don’t think that makes the field bad, though. It’s still possible to get a good job where programmers are actually appreciated.

    And I’d say that you should definitely switch if you don’t like your job. I can’t imagine much worse than hating a job until I retire, and knowing the entire time that I had a chance to switch when I was younger. Do something you love.

  3. CrazyProgrammer Says:

    The one thing that always bothered me about the Computer Science profession was location. No one really mentioned it here but it always seemed to me to be one of the most geographically handicapped professions. I can think of only maybe half a dozen areas of the country where one can get a computer science job that has a future. Sure there are a ton of dead end programming jobs out there but real careers are not to be found outside those major areas. This is untrue for most other professions. Doctors and nurses are needed everywhere, pharmacists, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, bankers, accountants and many others are the kinds of jobs that are needed in almost every town in the United States regardless of size. This is not the cases for computer science, and its one things that has really bothered me since I grew up in a small town and moved back because I wanted my son to be closer to his grandparents. Now I have a decent job for a small company but its precarious to say the least, and choices here a next to none so if I lose this job I could easily be commuting hours away just find work.

    Anyway just my two cents on the issue and what has always bothered me about computer science. I’ll be pushing my kid towards medicine no shortage of old people for a long long long time :)

  4. Derek Park Says:

    CrazyProgrammer, I will definitely agree with you on that one. The bulk of the good jobs are clustered in only a few major metropolitan areas, which is unfortunate (but understandable).

  5. Anon Says:

    I am a programmer by profession and do like my job. However, I think there are other professions where the average pay is better than in programming. And I do love to own a home and be able to pay off my mortgage early.

    It was not always like this, but for my age, all I have seen is this is how it is.

    You may argue, that there are many positions which pay highly, or which give very high incentives to build better software.

    Unfortunately, I am but an average guy, and being so, I pragmatically tend to look at the average writing on the wall.

  6. David Says:

    Good response, i was thinking to make my own reply to that poorly written article but sadly I lack the time. I am glad you did though as all your points are valid whereas his article is just a rant which should NOT have been read by so many people.

  7. Mountainmums Says:

    Just a comment on a prestige issue.
    I find that the prestige associated with a specific career is very dependent on culture and geography. While it is true that in the US Law and Medicine are the most prestigious careers one can embrace, it is not necessarily so everywhere. In France, for example, earning an Engineering degree from one of the top engineering Grandes Ecoles (Polytechnique, Centrale…) is one of the most prestigious career start you can have. Being a doctor is great but not nearly as sought after and lawyers rank even further down.
    So if you’re an engineer desperate for prestige, either ask yourself why, or move to a country where you’ll be better considered.

  8. James Cole Says:

    Well said!

  9. Derek Says:

    One thing I noticed about the numbers of H1B visas being issued. If there are 100,000 new jobs and at least 65% go to H1B visa holders that leaves only 40,000 jobs for US workers to fill. We have 300,000,000 people in this country and we don’t even produce 40,000 qualified programmers per year? That’s somewhat hard to believe. If we actually produce more than that, or allow more H1B programmers into the country, then clearly some US programmers are not going to be able to find work. In addition I’d be willing to bet that a significant percent of the 100,000 jobs created annually are actually off-shored making the situation even worse.

    Maybe it’s true that the US doesn’t produce 40,000 programmers per year but that has more to do with how the industry perceives and treats programmers than it does with some innate inability to produce qualified programmers. Which, I think, speaks to the perceived suckiness of the job.

  10. Derek Park Says:

    I’ve read that an estimated 2-3 percent of programming jobs are offshored every year. But growth should be calculated after that. So if there’s a growth of 100000 new jobs, that’s 2-3 percent (to account for offshoring) plus 100000.

    I wonder how many additional jobs actually open up every year from retirement, switching careers, etc. I also assume that not all of those H1-B visas end up staying in the US (though that’s conjecture).

    All the talk of foreigners taking jobs away from Americans would be well and good if we had some evidence that there was currently a market saturation, but I don’t think there’s much evidence of that. Enrollment in CS in the US is on the decline, and has been since the dot com era. The size of the field is even larger than during the dot com era. I’m not saying we should be giving out more H1-B visas. I’m just saying that giving out those visas doesn’t exactly seem to have destroyed the job market.

    Good programmers are still in high demand, and will be for the foreseeable future.

  11. Jason Says:

    I completely agree with you, and I wanted to write something similar… just never did.

    It’s like the mechanics trade. Just because the size of the bolts change, or the things they’re holding on are different, it’s still the same concept. Sure there’s things added to make it easier, or harder in some cases, but the mind is still the same, It doesn’t really matter what the syantax is.

    A good programmer is a good programmer no matter what they’re typing in.

    It sounds to me like Sigma is just a contract programmer in a bank of similar programmers who can’t stick through the mud to show his skills.

    Luckly most industires figure this out, and they become shoe sales men….

  12. Derek Says:

    Unfortunately for your argument demand should equate to compensation. But average salaries have decreased, due in no small part to off-shoring and H1B workers (the real reason for the H1B increase requests from companies like Oracle and Microsoft). It used to be that programmers received relatively high compensation to offset the pressure and irritations of the job.

    I worked for Oracle for 8 years as a programmer/consultant. After the dot com bust salaries there have been stagnant (actually declining due to lack of raises to match inflation). In addition they try to do much more with fewer people (hence the reason their products tend to suck so bad). This increases the pressure without the offsetting increase in compensation.

    There may be demand for IT workers but it isn’t a demand for US IT workers. However, I will admit that one’s perspective might be different depending on their location. I live in Denver and the market here is not so great. Someone in San Francisco might have a different perspective.

  13. Emilyylime Says:

    So true about the good programmer finding another job and the programmer who doesn’t learn anything new deserves to not have a job.

    On a personal note, I was assigned to do front-end web development on a project because the UI designer did not have these skills. My skills were praised by this person… but then later I found out this person had a degree in Computer Science. I was surprised. Has this person been living in a cave the past 20 years?

  14. MikeT Says:

    This author, while more polished than the post he is blasting, makes the same fundemental mistake. He lacks well thought out researched arguments. One cannot mearly dismiss the outsourcing issue by saying it does not exist, because Bill Gates says so. There have been several articles recently that have shown (using actual data) that Microsoft pays its H1-B holders less than the average salary for that position.

  15. AlphaJuliet Says:

    Somehow I have this elitist view of programmers(I am one too) the problems we solve require a unique combination of maths skill and a deep understanding of the problem domain. This is there in all fields to some extent but restricted to R&D etc. with an exception to civil engineers :) a software engineer is more likely to solve interesting problems. As long as we are doing that it should be fun being a programmer :)

  16. Derek Park Says:

    Derek, I don’t have historical pay trends at my fingertips, so I can’t really say whether overall pay has stagnated or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if pay hasn’t moved much (overall) since the dot com era, but that could be either interpreted as a problem with the industry now, or as a massive problem with the industry and it’s get-rich-quick feel (which certainly helped enrollment) during the dot com era driving wages to unreasonable heights.

    Emilyylime, sadly, there are in fact numerous people with CS degrees who are completely inept. Some are inept because they haven’t learned anything since college. Others never even learned anything in college. I think this is one of the biggest problems with our field today.

    MikeT, outsourcing and foreign hires may be problems. I don’t currently see a lot of evidence for that, though. Mostly, I’ve seen alarmists saying it’s a problem and then not putting forth any kind of real proof. And even if it is a problem, it doesn’t mean computer science is a bad field to be in. Every field has problems.

    If Microsoft is paying H1-B employees less, then that is in fact a problem, but it’s not going to discourage me from staying in the field. Again, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t limit temporary visas. I’m just saying that they haven’t destroyed the market the way Sigma implied.

  17. William Furr Says:

    “viscious” is misspelled.

    Using words like “newfangled” makes you seem weird or old.

    I agree with most of your points. However, there’s a fundamental thing with knowledge workers in general, which is being stuck in an office, cube, workplace all day. It sucks. Or maybe I’m just cranky because I don’t have windows, and if I did all they would show is snow and clouds.

    Ah well, I did it to myself and it sure as hell ain’t gonna be permanent.

  18. ibcunning2 Says:

    What’s wrong with learning new things as the years go on? I consider that to be one of the BENEFITS of this gig. I make good money, (high 5 figures), and better money than my parents did at my age (adjusting for inflation) and they were a Chemist and a NASA engineer. I make about the same as my friends in engineering and financial management. I have a Bachelors in music and I’ve had one programming course (in C) at a community college. I feel very lucky to have a gig that pays so well, required very little monetary investment from me, and allows me to constantly be creative and learn new things. Also, studies have shown that 70 some percent of lawyers would not do it again if they had a choice.

  19. Justin Hart Says:

    Not to detract from your point, however, he might have meant the Ivy League specifically. He didn’t say anything about MIT. MIT, though an exceptionally good school, is not a member of the Ivy League.

  20. jeff Says:

    I agree with what you said. As for some comments on location, I know there are good companies almost everywhere. The key is if you are not a good programmer you won’t even get in the door.

    Now I also know that if you really want to live in the boondocks you need to make sacrifices, but I also know that there are some good telecommuting jobs out there as well. These are only going to get more prevalent.

  21. chunkatron Says:

    You wrote “If Devry could churn out MDs, you better believe that they would.” Actually, they do. DeVry owns Ross University in the caribbean, an MD granting medical university. This has no bearing on your response, it’s just a bit of tangential trivia.

  22. Ian Says:

    No matter what career you choose, if you choose one that does not make you happy you are headed for a world of hurt.
    As for prestige, if you think Lawyers are respected, think again. Most lawyers I know hate the work and really struggle trying to find meaning in what they do. They make good money (maybe 120k) but they work six ten hour days to make it. On friend had to work on Christmas. Not many programming jobs are like that. Doctors work horrible hours too. Do you dream about what it would be like to be a proctologist? Is that your life’s ambition?
    As for salary stagnation, that could be a general societal thing, as cheap foreign labor and the collapse of the US dollar are taking their toll on the economy.
    Where you work will impact your earning potential in any profession. Working in the Bay area you may earn 30k more, but your rent will be $2000 a month after tax. Same with New York, London, …
    As for programmer unemployment, there are too many crappy programmers out there because the schools allowed too many students in to fill the demand created by industry. Students chose computer science as a “make money fast” track, rather than out of love of the art. This is something that will eventually balance out. It is in the nature of programming that amateurs can pick up the craft, and that has always had an influence on the industry.
    I think if there is a problem, it is that the students in computer science today are lied to, and told that their jobs will be glamourous and that they will get rich and see the world, when in fact a huge amount of programming is testing and debugging, in a cubical, with little social life. The money still pays far better than many jobs out there, but you have to work for it if you want promotions and raises.
    The one constant in our industry is change. Job security is not there, but I argue that it is not there in many industries where it used to be, even ten years ago.

    If you want to get ahead as a programmer, deliver value, reliably. Learn how to do something that other programmers don’t know how to do. Take an interest in why you are doing what you do, not just how. But these tips are not specific to programming but could be generalized for anything you do in your life.

    Good Luck!

  23. Jason Says:

    I haven’t pried, but several H1B coworkers have complained about pay over the years. My outsider’s impression is that it isn’t a free market for them — they can’t easily jump jobs, so yes they do accept less in wages.

    Bill’s H1B comments have been debunked:
    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070226-8924.html

    (I know some H1Bs at Microsoft that would love to be at $100k/year)

  24. Justin Hart Says:

    I thought that I had posted this comment before, but, MIT isn’t an Ivy League school. It’s a very good school, it’s not in the Ivy League.

  25. Derek Park Says:

    Chunkatron and Jason, thanks for the info.

    Ian, I completely agree about lawyers. Most of the lawyers I know hate their jobs. Working 60+ hours a week is not fun, and that’s where most lawyers start (and where many stay).

  26. Khaled Ayad Says:

    I totally agree with Sigma!

    Derek, I find that you are so enthusiastic about computer programming. Big software companies need people like you, and they make a great use of them every day. But when you will become older like “us” with enough insight to find out that what Sigma said was true, it will maybe be too late for you.

    It’s very good to like what you do but it’s really ugly not to listen to “experience”.

    Enjoy computer programming!

  27. ORB Says:

    Well written Derek!

  28. Derek Park Says:

    Khaled, in every field, there are experienced workers who’ve grown to hate the job. Likewise, in every field, there are experienced people who love the job. The fact that a few disgruntled programmers don’t like programming anymore doesn’t mean it’s a bad profession to be in. Programming is a good fit for some people and a bad fit for others. If you’ve grown to dislike programming, then that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean everyone else is going to eventually grow to dislike programming.

  29. Khaled Ayad Says:

    Derek, I think I didn’t make myself clear. When I said that you were enthusiastic about programming I meant (as I used to be 20 years ago).

    Sure I didn’t like programming. I loved programming.

    I think that Sigma too, loved programming. We all – the BEST experienced programmers – loved programming. Programming has given us a lot, but taken from us lots. (Time, efforts, money, and lots of sacrifices…)

    We should always look at the two faces of the coin. Yes disgruntled but not in the bad way.

    I better consider myself unhappy and decide to leave this way.

    Better late than never.

    Goodbye programmers…

  30. Armen Says:

    Hah! Thanks for writing the response that I so badly wanted to write to Sigma but didn’t have time to put down on “paper”.

  31. Derek Park Says:

    Justin, you’re right. MIT isn’t technically Ivy League. I misused the term.

    I think Sigma did intend to group MIT with the Ivy League, as I did, but even if he didn’t there are in fact Ivy League students getting computer science degrees.

    And sorry your comments didn’t appear earlier. They got trapped by the spam filter for some reason.

  32. skp Says:

    Super Awesome !!

    Well said, even better analyzed !

  33. Georges LAHAM Says:

    Programming is a profession that comes with an expiry date. Have no doubts about that.

    Remember punch-cards ? Do you think that somebody who was a whiz at programming using punch cards, can still use this knowledge outside of the context of story -telling to his children/grand children ?

    Remember the Zilog Z80 processor ? 8086 ? Cobol ? Turbo-Pascal ? Turbo-Prolog ? Clipper and dbaseIII ? (If you don’t remember it just means that we are not from the same age group !) They are not being used anymore. An expert knowing this stuff, would not find a suitable job to just get him to put bread on his dinner table.

    If you were working on a project using dbaseIII/Clipper, while others started using the first iteration of Oracle, you are already behind. Why ? because you are an expert of the project, no one wants you to leave to another one. Your manager still wants you to kill some bugs, add a data interface for that client and to throw-in some additional features. So at the end you will not have time to learn that new Oracle thing, hence you will be left behind.

    Now, honestly, if you have an Oracle project, would you hire a Clipper/dbaseIII expert and allow him time to learn on the project ? I wouldn’t hire him, even though the concept is the same.

    Programming is a good thing to learn and to work with for some time. Then you should shift to something else more stable. You should always use that knowledge but in a different way. You should start looking at computers from a user perspective. Use it as a tool in your business, not as a business.

    I went through the whole cycle: Programmer, analyst, designer, project manager, director and consultant. I really loved it, but it is time to shift to something else (Reading suggestion : Who moved my cheese).

    Now it is time for me to start using computers as a business user, not as anything else.

  34. Khaled Ayad Says:

    Georges LAHAM!

    Very well said, and very well explained!

    I agree with ALL what you said…

    Thank Goodness that there are some people on earth with REAL experience in computer programming.

    Congratulations that you have found out that and may other wise and not stubborn people join you before it will be too late for them.

    Ciao

  35. smb Says:

    On the whole, a very nice response. I love being a programmer, but that’s because it’s the right fit for my personality and intellectual interests.

    Minor disagreement with you here though:

    > You say that foreignization causes a vicious cycle
    > of low pay when combined with low prestige. This
    > only makes sense if programmers have low prestige,
    > which is not the case. Additionally, Microsoft and
    > other companies pay the same wages to H1-B workers
    > as citizen workers, according to Gates. No one’s
    > bringing in genius programmers and paying them
    > minimum wage.

    I think an issue here is that, unfortunately, foreign talent is more likely to accept lower pay for advanced positions, which in turn lowers the salary bar throughout the industry. I enjoy interacting with my Indian and Chinese co-workers because they are wonderful people. However, it is true that many of them are apt to take positions with lower pay more readily than their American counterparts, simply because they feel fortunate to have been given the opportunity. A nice sentiment to be sure, but I want them to understand how much they – and by extension we – are worth, and seek out salaries that are commensurate with their expertise.

  36. Georges LAHAM Says:

    +1 SMB

  37. joe Says:

    a career in programming might not suck for some, but chances are it probably will for most. prepare to spend a lot of time debugging undocumented legacy code some hack made or reading poorly written software manuals on some esoteric API because the company doesn’t have the time or expertise to build their own tools properly. you probably went into software thinking you’d design some really elegant stuff. your manager doesn’t care about implementation, just whether he can land the next big client with an impressive GUI. then there are the deadlines and the unpaid overtime. and the eyestrain. there’s a reason why most programmers wear glasses. and then there’s the project itself. most projects in the corporate world are downright dull. Would you like to be a taper or a buttonmaker? Tape this interface to that one. Slap on some pretty buttons and voila you’re in the fantastic world of business programming. If you relate to machines more than people, then the job is ok. Hey, you can spend 10 hours making out with your terminal. Having said that, all is not lost. if you can make a lot of cash from the job, the negatives can be tolerated. but you’ll need to do some hard time slogging at the bottom before you can land decent cash, at least five years. if you can choose your own projets to work on and when to work on them, it can even be fun (remember graduate school?) But let’s face it, that’s not the reality for most.

  38. Derek Park Says:

    You’re describing one of the worst possible scenarios and acting as if that’s the norm. Maybe that’s the norm where you work, or with the people you know, but it’s not the norm industry-wide. Lots of programmers have interesting jobs. I have an interesting job, even though I am by no means always happy. Some of my friends have interesting jobs. None of my friends are miserable.

    The truth is that *most* jobs suck for most people. Most people don’t like being a nurse. Most people don’t like being an accountant. Most people don’t like being a cook. Most people don’t like being a lawyer. And yes, most people don’t like being a programmer. So you need to find something you *do* like. If programming isn’t what you like, find something else.

    (Sorry about the late reply. I’ve been away on business for a few weeks.)

  39. Cole Thompson Says:

    Nice piece! I’d say there is a bit of a real problem with corporations seeking to marginalize programmers and engineers, just because that tactic is regarded as “the thing to do”. On a brighter note, I agree 100% that programming skill doesn’t become as quickly obsolete as many fear. At work we had one fellow retire recently at 55, and he was a fantastically skilled Java programmer. I really am in awe of how good he was (and we’ll miss him). If I remember correctly, he cut his teeth on Fortran. Anyway, it was obvious that his many years of thinking in code made it second nature to him, regardless of the syntax of the tool of the moment. Some of the old guys who have been doing this for a while are just very good, with very good instincts about how to get things done. It’s something we can all aspire to.

  40. Steve W Says:

    I think the author of this reply missed the point of what Half Sigma was trying to say. What you say about the temporary nature of knowledge capital is fine, in THEORY, or perhaps in shangri la, but in real life it doesn’t necessarially work that way.
    I was one of the “lucky” ones to have my software job go over seas a little over 5 years ago. Ever since then it’s been a complete hell to try to find stable work in the IT industry. Most employers are much too specific skills focused and in my experience if an employer wants Java if you know C++, well, that’s too bad. Your skills are not transferable, even though Java is from the same family of languages and OO is basically OO in any language.
    Before you tell me how I just don’t want to learn or acquire new skills, I went back to school to earn a Master’s degree in CS, where I used and honed Java skills and was as many othere skills (such as Security, TCP/IP, combinatorial search, etc).
    Employers just don’t care about education or skills acquired in school, if you can’t show them real life experience using a specific skill or language it just doesn’t matter. Talk about an infuriating experience.

    So, until we can get some kind of certifcation program, like all other engineering disciplines and management gets it through their pointy little heads that concepts and theory are important (much like you discussed in the first bullet) it’s my opinion that that computer programming will continue to suck. Management will continue to use absurb criteria for determining a qualified candidate and we’ll all have to suffer the consequences.

    End of rant.

  41. Derek Park Says:

    So you got a masters degree, spent lot of time learning Java, and you still can’t hold a job because they don’t trust your Java skills? I think either your skills are not at the level you imagine them to be, or you’re not telling the truth. Seriously, employers are still hiring programmers. If you can’t get hired, that says something about you just as much as it says something about the employers.

    Get involved in some sort of project if you want to prove real-world skills. Do something open source, or write some kind of useful closed-source tool yourself. If you want to demonstrate ability to do real-world work, then do some real-world work.

    Complaining about a lack of certification doesn’t accomplish anything. I think industry-standard certification could be a good thing, but even if it happened, employers would still want everything that they are looking for now. They would want the certification as an additional qualification, not as a replacement for other qualifications.

  42. gregbo Says:

    I run into the “why haven’t you been hired” problem a lot of the time at interviews. I was unlucky to be laid off at my last two jobs: one because the company was bought, and the other because management discontinued the project I was working on. But I did a lot of valuable work for both companies, especially being able to clarify to the highest levels of management of the search engine the issues regarding click fraud and other unwanted traffic.

    For most of the interviews I’ve had, the questions have been highly specific, rather than conceptual. I’ve been asked things like “What is the command to print DNS packets in tcpdump?” or “What command do you use in vi to do global substitutions?” These are things that no one ever cared about until today. In the past, people asked you to explain your past projects, and they understood enough about the principles of computer science to be able to discuss design issues, tradeoffs, and the like. It was possible to determine who had good software engineering skills without resorting to memorization quizzes.

    I think certification can help to at least bound the scope of expected criteria for hire. At present, I have no way to practically prepare for the interviews I go on. I’ve worked in the field for over 20 years, so I have no way to memorize everything that possibly could have come up on one of my projects. Furthermore, as I said above, it was never necessary. We referred to manuals to deal with specifics, and concentrated our energies on solving our clients’ problems.

  43. Idetrorce Says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

  44. Becks Says:

    I’ve been in the industry for nearly 20 years and have made a good living at it (10 years as a contractor).

    Unfortunately, I decided last year to take up a permanent role due to the fact that contracts weren’t being renewed here due to a massive management push in outsourcing programmer jobs to India.

    One of the top managers freely admitted to me that it is a manager’s dream to use developers which cost less than £10/hour – about a quarter the price of a contractor and permie (it costs a company about the same for a permie than a contractor even though the permie sees half that amount). In fact our manager’s bonuses are linked to how much outsourcing they can do!

    The emphasis in our roles now is on design and project management. Hands on development is kept to a bare minimum.

    It doesn’t end there. The argument that the code monkey work is done elsewhere and the interesting stuff is done here is a fallacy as well because we are now starting to out outsource design work too.

    I was under no illusions about the prestige of programming versus law for instance but I have really noticed a shift in attitude even amongst my own peers towards mainstream programming. Perhaps this move is to elevate our newly created design only roles. Having done development work for so long I’m quite offended that the career I have nurtured for so long has been trivialised.

    Ultimately I think programmers are victims of our own success. Programmers created web/internet and programmers created powerful development tools thus simplifying our jobs to the point where bean-counters can re-evaluate our worth.

  45. vick Says:

    programming sucks, I bet none of you have girl friends, and yes! I WAS learning computer science, but it was ruining my health. All you do is sit around all day long, atleast in business your running to meatings and talking to new people.

    what most programming jobs require/cause

    good skills( they don’t care if you know cobalt)

    ability to take shit from boss(a software engineer had a heart attack a week ago at northrupgrumman)

    program for atleast 8 hours a day non stop

    develop week eye sight(look around….almost all programmers wear glasses. NERDSSSSSSSSS.

    low self esteem( programmers don’t get out much)

    bad environment( programmers suck at socializing, that’s why I left, no one in computer science talks….they’re all f u c k i n g programming zombies)

    going to school requires 4 that’s right 4 hours per class( that will make you go insane)

    must be able to learn new languages and quick.(most companies will not reimburse you for getting your masters in Computer science, so your pretty much screwed, believe me, I’ve asked.

    develop headaches

    get fatter

    develop arthiritis and carpol tunnel

    So most of you can now see how terrible it can be to do programming, of even become a manager for that sake. Computer science is a changing field, but and some will say that good, but it really is bad.

    OH YHEA, AND FOR ALL OF YOU IDIOTS WHO THINK YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR TALKING ABOUT. ALL LANGUAGES WILL…I REPEAT WILL BECOME OBSOLETE. HOW DO I KNOW THIS?

    DIRECT CONVERSION HAD ALREADY BEEN CREATED AND TESTED MANY TIMES, THEY’RE JUST TAKING OUT THE BUGS. WHAT’S DOES THIS MEAN, NO COMPILER IS NEEDED TO CONVERT THE HIGHER LEVEL CODE INTO ASSEMBLY LANGUAGE AND THEN BINARY. SOOO ALL OF YOU IDIOTS THAT SAY YOU CAN CARRY ON YOUR EXPERIENCE WONT DO SHIT, BECAUSE ONCE DIRECT CONVERSION IS OFFICALLY RELEASE TO THE PUBLIC, ALL PROGRAMMER WILL BE OUT OF A JOB.

    WIN!!!!!!

  46. Derek Park Says:

    Becks, I have to wonder about the quality of the place where you work. They are trying to outsource all the programming, and even the programmers who are left belittle the craft. It sounds like you aren’t working somewhere worth being. If I were in your position, I think I’d be looking for somewhere more pleasant to work. I’m not surprised that the design roles are starting to be outsourced where you are. It sounds like programming simply isn’t appreciated there. It’s only natural that that disdain would slowly work its way upward.

    Vick, seriously, what is your problem? If you don’t like the field, don’t be part of it. I’m glad you got out. It sounds like a really bad fit for you, if that’s really what you think.

  47. vick Says:

    hahaha…sorry, it’s just that my parents are always on my back about becoming an engineer or a programmer. Everyone in my family is either a programmer or an engineer..so you can see where all the pressure is coming from.

    I can learn computer science, its not that hard. I’m just afraid that my eye sight will become week. You make A LOT of money in this field to compensate for the hard work that you must put into it, its just that it can become very frustraiting at times, especially when you have to sit in front of the computer very hours and hours figuring out the algorithm.

  48. Derek Park Says:

    I was serious. If you don’t like the field, you should get out. It won’t get better once you graduate. Find something you like, and do that. Don’t go into a field you hate because your parents want you to. You’ll just spend the next 30 years regretting it.

  49. vick Says:

    yhea your right. I’ve always had in interest in health. Maybe I’ll do something close to that like biotech!, or health science. thanks.

  50. Omar Says:

    Well done Derek!

    I study Computer Systems Engineering in Mexico because one of my relatives did and pushed me. I was not sure what programming was really really about and once I got to know more of Computer Science I was just fascinated!

    “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.”-Edsger Dijkstra

    I am happy learning, and I will continue in this path. I just don’t care if it results to be a bad option for my finnacial future. ;)

  51. Brian T. Says:

    It’s too bad Sigma doesn’t allow posts to his site anymore because I wanted to reply with this: “Close but no cigar.”

    Sigma clearly is an arrogant a$$. The easiest example is his explanation of older programmers not having the ability to learn new technologies. Does he even stop to think that we programmers are stepping on the shoulders of COBOL/Assembly programmers before us? It was them that paved the way for this industry. They were the flagship.

    Likewise, does he even stop to think that those people who have programmed for 20 years are just tired of programming and want a career change and that is why they choose management? I am 32 and have been programming for 10 years and I’m bored. Not because of ability but because I know I can do it and well. Thus, I would like to pursue something else that will challenge me. I don’t know what that is right now but I will find out.

    As far as people’s comments about the ease of migrating from one language to another, I have this question, “Why is it that several companies in my region who are looking for ASP.Net developers with 5-10 years of experience are shying away from my resume when I have 10 years of Delphi experience and two years of ASP.Net?”

    It’s quite frustrating trying to find a job with ASP.Net or .Net. Many companies are adamant that they want 5-10 years. Who actually has this much experience in .Net? Am I really being beat out by foreigners?

    Thank you.

  52. DarkNight Says:

    Excellent Reply!

    I love my Career in Programming, I almost always stay way past my ‘home time’ because I’m usually focused on what I’m doing I forget the time.

    Yes a lot of it is debugging and maintaining other peoples code, but for me debugging is like breathing; majority of the time I can pick out the error using ‘Zen programming’ I need but put at most two break points, to fix a bug.

    Reading others code *can* be a difficult at first, but for me once I’ve seen one project/ module by someone, readings becomes pretty easy, in fact at times it makes me a better programmer because I get to see how others take different routes/methods and it becomes a ‘ahh’ moment, sometimes there is more than one way to skin a cat.

    Of course there are some ‘bad’ days, they do happen say for example some strange issue pops and no one can seem to resolve it, but that only challenges me to find a solution. The greatest part is once a solution is found it becomes an excellent experience, which only goes to expand the knowledge further.

    As for customers, I find it takes around two to three ’rounds’ of software development/release/debug/release cycles before ‘nailing it’. I have some applications that I’ve built in 2005 and they are still in everyday use, working with no bugs, just the occasional request for ADDITIONAL functions now and then.

    I usually go home and continue on personal programming projects/ and or more freelance work. And on weekends I do what I call project weekends where I try to learn completely new things.

    It has always taken me no more than two weeks to pick up an new language or technology.

    Once you know how to program, then language is totally irrelevant, if you can’t pick up a language in less than two weeks (OK some may take longer) then your not a programmer your a code monkey.

    As for social life, I have plenty. Becoming ‘Popular’ in class from School to Uni to work is easy. Once you learn about human behaviour you understand how to read body language. Its easy to become popular. I have my own formulae.Give me about three weeks on any course, in any Uni/College/School;/Work place and I guarantee I’ll leave with everyone wanting me to be their ‘best’ friend (I’ve done it many times over that’s why I’m confident I can do it again). I’m not being arrogant, BUT anyone can become the ‘Man’ or ‘Popular’ having all the girls wanting to hang with them, if they just put their mind to it.

    And no programmers are not skinny/fat Nerds, I’m muscular and fit, and train in (multiple) martial arts, I know many other developers who don’t look like ‘programmers’. So get that stereo type out of your head now.

    And yes having a background in CS it very very advantageous, I have a Master in advanced CS, which I did out of the passion to expand my knowledge.

    Bottom Line, there are REAL programmers and then there are CODERS.

    Please leave the real programming to REAL programmers.

    The best part is companies paying me for what I love doing!

    Good Night People.

  53. Matt Says:

    Good Lord! Now that I just enrolled to get an associates in computer programming, this all scares the crap out of me. Should I change what I’ll be doing for a degree? How is Computer Science that different from Computer Programming? I’m not particularly savvy with computers or knowledgeable at all, but I do like computers and in todays world it would be nice to have a grasp of basic computer understanding. For those of you who are unhappy about your career or feel as though there are better roads to go down, do any of you have advice for a newbie so I don’t make a big mistake I may regret later? I appreciate any info!

  54. Eddie Says:

    I am so glad to see such a well written response to the bitter, personally biased, so-called essay “Why a career in computer programming sucks” that just polluted my Google search results. Speaking from the perspective of someone who made a career change into web applications development 10 years ago to escape a boring job in the financial services industry, I can say that I have zero regrets about my decision.

    I have worked up into a management position (without an IT degree) and have spent plenty of time on both sides of the interview table. From what I have seen there are two types of people in the field: smart, creative individuals who posess a genuine talent for programming and hacks who have the tech degrees and the alphabet soup of technical acronyms on their resumes but no real aptitute or love for the work. For the former, a world of opportunity awaits them if they are willing to pay some dues and keep learning. The latter will find a bitter and unsatisfying job with long, hard hours – which is pretty much the penalty for anyone who chooses a career that doesn’t suit them. Same job, different perception.

    Yes, you will most likely find more money and prestige in society as a doctor, lawyer, stockbroker, or accountant. No arguing that point. However, I have watched PLENTY of people get churned and burned from all of those fields because they got into them for the wrong reasons (usually money and prestige), often blowing huge amounts of money on an expensive education that never gets used. Eventually, one realizes that true happiness in life has very little to do with what others think about you and much more with spending most of your waking hours doing something that you find truly satisfying. Sounds cliche, but it’s a true cliche.

    Obviously a bit of luck is involved, but there will be plenty of opportunities in programming for the forseeable future for those who truly enjoy writing code, are good at problem solving, can handle stress, and (this is a big one) live in an area where there is a high demand for IT workers. And yes, from what I have seen there are still plenty of opportunities here onshore.

  55. Nybbler Says:

    It’s not competition from good foreign talent we need to worry about. It’s competition from incredibly cheap foreign no-talents, whether brought here on H1-Bs (who are supposed to be paid the same, but often enough are not) or hired via outsourcing. Yes, they produce crap. But often enough that crap is good enough for the people buying it. It’s like Chinese tools. Yes, they’re low quality. But when they cost 1/10 as much as the US or Japanese tool, they’re still cost effective even at the low quality.

  56. justcareful Says:

    I have graduated as a civil engineer, and I remember that our professor in the R/C class always told us that learning CAD is not necessarily part of the curriculum of a civil engineer. In fact as he argued most of the drafting with CAD software can be done even by High School students who know nothing about engineering and such….,
    It’s only drafting coupled with mechanical learning of the tools, menus, icons, commands of the CAD software.
    How can i say to you….,hum, it’s like learning how to use Word or Excel. absolutely no engineering skills are involved.

    this is what he said.

    I don’t think that a civil engineer who “does not know how to use a cell phone” will be “penalized” as you said.
    My dear friend, civil engineering is a broad field, a very very broad field, as are all branches of engineering.

  57. justcareful Says:

    half sigma may be wrong in some of his arguments, but this one:

    “……Actual coding is only 10% of the technical side of software development. The other 90% is knowing the the libraries and the idiosyncrasies of the tools. It really takes months working with a new tool to get proficient with it…….”

    is a very serious problem and is worth reflecting…..more……

  58. majani Says:

    When you speak about computer programming, do you include web development in there as well?

  59. Connelly Barnes Says:

    I don’t think it is a wise choice to have a career narrowly focused on “computer programming.”

    Computer science, research, management, and other aspects of the computers trade are far better in terms of intellectual challenge, social interaction, prestige, travel, and simply getting outside the office. These also correlate with what is scientifically known to be healthy (e.g. those who get more social interaction tend to be happier).

    There are definitely high prestige jobs in computers. For example, the research labs, the top Universities, the cushy companies (Google, Microsoft, Apple) that have a reputation for good pay and a good working environment.

    But if you don’t like it, try something else! No worries, eh :-)

  60. nimo23 Says:

    Computer Programming is low prestige according to Half Sigma? Hey, Half Sigma do you think those people took medicines and laws do it only for pride? My answer is NO. They took it because that’s there interest.And I think your Interest is not on Computer Programming then that’s your fault.

    People today just don’t took Computer Programming profession :

    1. Computer Programming is a head breaking profession on Brilliant people survive.

    2. Computer Programming is good only for Computer Geeks like us.

    3. If all of them took programming then there will be no doctors at the Hospital

    4. You can’t be rich in Computer Programming but being an IT entrepreneur like Bill Gates surely will make you rich.

    5. There’s no people force you to study Computer Programming so quit if you like.

    Am I a stupid Cheetah?lol…….

  61. John H Says:

    As for the original rant from Sigma, I always laugh when people make assumptions about other professions without ever doing any in-depth research into those professions.

    For example, I work in IT in a law firm, and the legal profession is no more “prestigiou” than any other profession. That is just laughable.

    Also, all other professions have to learn new things constantly. You cannot practice medicine unless you are up to speed on new drugs, new procedures, etc.

    No profession relies on a discreete set of knowledge. You constantly have to re-train and/or learn new things.

  62. kv10 Says:

    Computer Programming is an unforgiving profession. If you are made redundant from a job, your skills are completely useless in every other possible profession. You have to find another programming job.

    If your company does not invest in new technology, you have to find one that does, because you will be left behind because of ignorant management.

    It can also be unrewarding, 95% of your work will go unnoticed. But this is more to do with management and whether they can fight their corner for you.

    If you have an average manager, you will have a miserable time as a programmer. I am looking to change career, I have had 9 years in the programming industry, I’ve programmed all that I can, and have had my fill. I do not have the enthusiasm for re-learning variations on old methods over and over for the next 20 years.

  63. PasserBy Says:

    About the temporary nature of knowledge capital, when you apply for a job, they don’t ask you for 5 years of experience in programming – they ask for 5 years of experience in programming in C++ or in C#. So, while most jobs will require you to learn new things, not many see you get obsolete every few years.

    To be honest, nobody gets into programming for a career – they do it because it’s a job that allows them to pay the bill until they can move on. I think if you’re still programming at 40, you should look back and wonder where did it all go wrong.

  64. Jonathan R. Says:

    You know, programming doesn’t always mean being treated like crap. I just got my first job since graduating college, and I’ve already got my own office, I don’t have IT guys lording over my workstations, and I’m generally treated quite well by my superiors. I think that if you want to be a programmer, it pays to work in a culture dominated by programmers. I guess it helps that I’m working for an open source startup company, but I’ve got to say, I’m not feeling like I have a poor lot in life.

    As for the transience of your skill-set the original article was harping on, that’s pure grade-A bullshit. Almost every new language coming out is somehow derivative of C/C++ and even if they weren’t, it isn’t your command of languages that makes you a good programmer, it’s your understand of how things work under the hood. Also, so long as you are willing to assume some personal responsibility, you always have an employer of last resort in yourself… and that’s something that you get with very few other professional jobs. Fact is, if a programmer wants to become an entrepreneur, he can do more with less than any other kind of engineer.

  65. Jay Says:

    To all you young dumb and full of cum programmer geeks… good luck, me personally after 20yrs of writing software for companies like IBM, Ford Motor Co, GTE, CACI, Citi Corp, Air Products, etc… I’m going to retire in style by driving a truck and getting paid well for it and being appreciated for my skills

  66. Chad Says:

    Just a note, eyesight can be helped, they make contacts now that fix your vision over night and you’re fine for the day, your eyesight won’t get better, but at least it won’t get worse.

  67. david Says:

    programming for 20+ years; Cobol, JCL, DYL-260, Adabas, VB, SAS, Sql, ASP.Net, Winform, C#, etc.

    Yes, programming can suck, but so can 90% of the jobs out there. And it pays better than most.

    deal with it.

  68. iAmProtoss Says:

    IT Security…high level knowledge capital is not changing a whole lot..consulting gigs rock. Prestige: Very high!

  69. iAmProtoss Says:

    And yes, programming sucks..unless you program your OWN PRODUCT and make millions if successful. Otherwise, you’re working for the customer and the owner..lose, lose situation. Just be a doctor. Sure thing. Sorry.

  70. iAmProtoss Says:

    And last, but not least, these languages that I hear about that are ‘similar’ to C++ or whatever…the point is, you geeks, is that nobody wants to keep learning new things at such a fast pace where customers really don’t care what you’ve learned. IT managers (who don’t code anymore), really don’t care either. It’s about getting those dam projects done ON TIME. Learning, developing, testing, and deploying (as well as the configuration and integration) all take alot of time and effort, and guess what, it sucks for whatever pay you get. Unless it’s like over 150K (lol, dream on). While…While..the Director or other Executives who haven’t code for crap, get about 300K plus massive bonuses for either sucking D or looking good in front of other superiors. Chew on that while you’re doing JAVA on eclipse

  71. Jerry Says:

    It’s a way to make money and satisfy your inner ‘inventor’ if you have one. Pharmaceutical industry makes drugs which make us enjoy programming (Adderall).
    Mathematicians are treated better by our wealthy superiors, better than artists, teachers, social workers, police, christ even psychologists. Eventually programmers will hold the world hostage. It will require somebody who knows 10 languages to fix your ‘website.’

    But the truth of the matter is that yes, it is a lousy job. Interaction with machine. Dehumanization. Reducing everything to boring logic has its use in life. It’s a nice challenge sometimes, but it has become such a specialty. For instance, mastering Java takes 10 years.

    Most olympic gold medalists practiced less than that to master their sport.

    Also, I have doubts about the Internet becoming truly useful for some time. Of course everybody wants to go INSIDE of the computer. That’s the future. Virtual reality, leave my body behind. Take me to a virtual world better than my own. Escape from reality in a literal sense.

    But this is very far away, technologically, we have to deal with boring flat screens and slow, combative controls.

  72. Dylan Says:

    If you don’t like what was written, why comment? C’mon people… If you don’t have anything nice to say…

  73. IWillBeBack Says:

    I just found that thread inadvertently so I will share my experience.
    After 15 years in the IT world I have left the software world a couple of years ago to do something else totally different. I was tired of the constant need for surfing on the latest fads, some of them short lived, and the stretching between environments and knowledges. I was also tired of the politics in a very insane environment. My new job was still technical but very physical and always nomadic. It was great, I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve learnt a lot of things that I did not even have a clue it existed. I have also learnt a lot about myself and how to relate to others. But now I have decided it is time coming back to my old job. Even a job that seems more attactive has its own problems, and a job is a job. There is pressure, competition and difficult peoples. For myself the first change I have already noticed while I am retraining myself to get back to the market is my new approach to technical and Business issues. For example, being a Business Systems Analyst/Developer I used to be a little bit evasive when it came to hard programming and networworking skills such as OS and protocols. Now I am trully fascinated in that as well.
    Well I’m back and there’s even more to learn, not to mention all the rememoring and the stretch will now even be wider from Accounting to Web forms down to IPV6. And I am thrilled by the challenge!

  74. Doug_B Says:

    Take it from me (a 62 yr old, who got his MS in Comp Sci in 1971 – Penn State) programming has morphed into a horrible job. Yes a JOB – not a profession.

    Between cube farms, nano-managers, unending change, deadline after deadline, outsourcing, a once ‘mentally interesting’ activity has become hell. What makes matters worse is that when the sane people leave – nerds (those who like to argue what new language is best) have rushed in to fill the void.

    Instead of writing code one now searches the internet to find which library has the object that will do the task.

    If you want some independence, freedom, good income, go into sales and marketing. Comp Sci and engineering are thankless, empty careers.

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    [...] ago, Half Sigma posted an article claiming that a career in programming sucks. I responded that no, it doesn’t. In turn, I got quite a few comments supporting Sigma. Several of them were centered around [...]

  6. Build the Web, stay healthy and live happily | Just Simple Marketing Works Says:

    [...] as working on a toxic plant, poisonous factory or somewhere similar, though some (most?) people seem to enjoy it. However, it doesn’t mean that building the Web doesn’t negatively affect your [...]

  7. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » A Career in Computer Programming Says:

    [...] Why a Career in Computer Programming Doesn’t Suck (A Response) Programmers need to be lifelong learners. I’m not sure what else to tell you. Lots of people change their professions. It’s not too late for you. Alternatively, you could find a job using a stable technology that you enjoy. Maybe you should find somewhere that will let you use C or C++, both of which are unlikely to disappear anytime soon. [...]

  8. Computer programming as a career « Society of Deaf Computing Engineers Says:

    [...]  http://formerslacker.com/blog/2007/03/12/why-a-career-in-computer-programming-doesnt-suck-a-response… [...]