Why I find myself wanting to leave the software development field.

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.

On Being a Woman and Negotiating Salary

I originally posted this to a different blog of mine, rather than my more visible one here, because this is such an awkward topic. Honestly, I’m afraid of being shamed (“It’s your own fault you’re not getting paid fairly – you never asked!” sort of thing), but I think that it’s also important to get my own point of view out there – especially for other women just starting out and who, like me, have no professional mentors to guide them.

After hearing an article on NPR about how Reddit was doing away with salary negotiations in an attempt to remove the pay gap, for the first time I asked myself the question, “…Does everybody negotiate their salary, every time?” — I had never negotiated a salary for myself; it hadn’t occurred to me that it was perhaps ubiquitous, something that you just did as part of your professional life.

So, I asked a question on my Facebook wall, regarding being a woman software developer and not knowing how to negotiate. I did receive some good advice from friends and acquaintances, so I’d like to post it for others to benefit from.


Rachel

I’ve never negotiated a salary when first starting a job. [I’ve been working professionally for 6 years as a software/web developer.] I honestly don’t know what I would negotiate for.

West coast job? $100,000 sounds sufficient, if that is what the company glassdoor page says is the average. Or am I supposed to go “no, I need $X more.” — and is that X = 1k? 5k? 10k? Etc.  It is also hard to judge because the Midwest average is so much lower.

Usually I’m just happy enough to get the offer. At the same time, I feel like I’m failing because the stereotype is that women *don’t* negotiate. Do ALL men negotiate their starting salary??

I’ve ASKED for raises at the first two of my jobs and that didn’t go over well, so I haven’t asked any more, but how often are you supposed to ask for one? Yearly?

This is something that really bugs me and I don’t know what to do.

Senta

That’s a really good set of questions, Rachel.

First off, do your research, both on Glass Door and every other site you can find. Remember that education, experience, relocation, benefits and other factors play into what you could expect.

As a rule of thumb, I’d advise you to ask for 10-15% more than they offer on principal. Even if they don’t budge on their offer, they’ll know you’re not afraid to ask. And you may be pleasantly shocked when they agree to pay more- perhaps not the full amount you asked for, but negotiating is empowering.

Long ago, someone told me that money is about respect. Get into the good habit of knowing what you’re worth. Another way of looking at this… How much would they offer/pay a man with identical education & experience? And don’t take less. Go get ’em!!

Thomas

I’ve found that whatever offer I’ve made, the company has countered with slightly less. I usually go with the average for the job, +20% because I have documentation to back up that i’m in the 90th percentile (and I’m lucky to be very good at interviewing, having been a workaholic).

Rachel

OK, when I’m offered a job, usually it’s over the phone, and I ask for a couple of days to make a decision. At what point, and HOW, do I say, “I want $X more than your offer.” ?

Senta

“I’ve had time to reflect upon your offer. I’d like to join XYZ company and I bring a lot to the table. The salary I had in mind for this position is in the X to Y range.” Then give them a chance to think about it.

If they flat-out refuse to negotiate and tell you to take it or leave it, spend a little time thinking about it. Don’t just give them a yes-or-no on the spot. Even if they indicate they can’t go higher, let ’em stew for a bit.

THIS is what generally makes women uncomfortable and why we’re perceived as poor negotiators: our inner feelings of insecurity and that we have to be nice. Guys don’t play that game- and we need to stop undermining ourselves.

Abbey

I have used getraised.com as a reference point. I like it because it gives you a bell curve based on title, location and your experience.


Oh, and since Abbey brought up getraised, I checked it out, for myself. Here are the results (I’m not squeamish about discussing my salary, btw):

raise

Makes me feel like a shmuck.

I guess the moral of the story is – nobody is going to give you fair pay out of the kindness of their heart; even if you’re not a very assertive person, you really have no choice but to demand fairness. Another good idea is, starting out, really try to find some professional women to associate with, to give you advice. I certainly did not have this.

Now I’m really depressed.


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