I still love coding, but I hate this industry
It’s an easy story for me to tell. When I was 10 there was nothing more exciting to me than playing around with the old broken computers my dad, who worked in tech, would give me. I became a teenage game modder and hobby web developer. After college I worked at a non-profit, not making much, when I was offered an exciting position as a web developer where I made 5x as much. I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s a story people who hire me or who promote the tech industry love to hear. But it’s not the whole story.
Passion is prized in this industry and people who come into code out of love are considered special. It is also considered the reason why certain groups of people are less represented in tech, because not as many of them are building Linux machines in their basements for fun.
But the problem with that is that hobby coding isn’t at all like coding for work. Very few coding jobs allow you to do the kind of work that hobby coders enjoy. I think in many ways the industry is becoming a lot like the programming portrayed in Snow Crash, which was written in 1992 but reads as almost an oracle:
She is an applications programmer for the Feds. In the old days, she would have written computer programs for a living. Nowadays, she writes fragments of computer programs. These programs are designed by Marietta and Marietta’s superiors in massive week-long meetings on the top floor. Once they get the design down, they start breaking up the problem into tinier and tinier segments, assigning them to group managers, who break them down even more and feed little bits of work to the individual programmers. In order to keep the work done by the individual coders from colliding, it all has to be done according to a set of rules and regulations even bigger and more fluid than the Government procedure manual.
There are certainly more engaging jobs out there, but the reality is a lot of us do work on little fragments, work that is often tedious and devoid of any kind of creativity. As a developer I’ve often had trouble figuring out if a job would be Snow Crashy or not, and been seduced by promises of engaging work only to find myself ferreting out bugs on some enterprise CMS.