I love Computer Science. I love programming video games. I love building cool websites.
But I’ve been working professionally for 6 years now, and I’ve never been happy with any
job I’ve had. A few years ago, I attempted to escape this career path and explore an alternative, which did not work out. Running out of money and not being able to afford additional school without a development job, I returned to the realm of web and software development. I’ve been back in for 10 months, and I’m already trying to figure out the least-painful way to leave the field, and find a career where I can earn at least $40,000 per year, with minimal time spent training for a new field.
There are articles about challenges that many women face getting into the field, but I’m facing something different, and I’m not fully sure how to describe it. I’ve always been unhappy working as a programmer professionally. I’ve already gotten over the hump of school and establishing myself as a developer, but in the end it just doesn’t feel worth it anyway.
Working as a programmer has meant working on boring software, intangible to me, in industries that I don’t much care about.
Working as a programmer has meant working with bad code, unmaintained after initial writing.
Working as a programmer has meant working without documentation, because who cares if the new developers can get their environment and the software configured and running?
Working as a programmer has meant working without a process, where I’m unsure of what to work on without constantly polling someone perceived as higher than me for work to do.
Working as a programmer has meant being required to physically be at an office for 9 hours a day, a place that quickly drains my energy and happiness. Often noisy, rarely private, the lack of sun or places to talk a walk.
Working as a programmer has meant don’t do what’s best for me – do what’s best for the company. I could exercise more if I were closer to home. I could eat better if I could cook at home. I would be less stressed if I could work in an environment that I built on my own.
Working as a programmer has meant all my time and energy going towards products that I really don’t care about, leaving little to spend on the projects close to my heart.
Working as a programmer has meant I feel trapped by money. I cannot get another job making a decent wage without more training, and I’m still paying off my college loans from the first time through and the first time exploring other careers. I’m stuck in the daily grind until I pay off my debt and pay time and money to get re-trained in something else.
Working as a programmer has meant I feel trapped by location. I’ve tried multiple times to apply for jobs in other industries and in other places – namely, Washington state, where I originally come from. It hasn’t worked out so far. So I either need more experience, more training as a programmer, or the funds to move myself closer to the jobs that I want.
Not all places have bad process, or bad code, or have even required me being at an office all day. But for any one perk, there is usually a slew of other problems – poor communication at the remote job, bad code at the job with an interesting product, abysmal pay at the job where I had friends, great process at the job with a boring product.
My first impulse is to blame the common denominators – myself, Kansas City, I don’t know. Why am I so unhappy when plenty of other people work as developers around here? Am I too picky? Why are there no interesting businesses in Kansas City? Would I be happier as a programmer if I were working for a game studio? At least I know more about video games than I do about what businesses need for distributed document management systems. Will I only be happy if I’m working for myself? Could I even “make it”, working for myself, or do I definitely need training in another area, while I work on my programming on the side?
I am a woman software developer. I’ve been working professionally for a while now. I make a pretty good salary now. I have a lot of good things happening in my life, but every workday is a slow, painful struggle to get through the requisite 9 hours as quickly and easily as possible. For every evening and weekend that I do not spend programming my own projects (in hopes of eventually supplementing my income), I beat myself up for not taking the next step towards getting out of this situation.