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Programming IT Technology

Is Programming a Dead End Job? 690

Embedded Geek asks: "There's an interesting opinion piece at Embedded Systems Magazine about [embedded] programming being a dead end job. The author cites burnout ('Pushing ones and zeroes around doesn't sound like a lot of work, but getting each and every one of a hundred million perfect is tremendously difficult.'), prestige, and skill obsolescence as big reasons for programmers to quit or to go 'over to the dark side' and join management or marketing positions. While the piece primarily addresses embedded programmers, the issue is rising for IT workers and other tech workers. When the age issue is combined with the export of jobs offshore, it makes me nervous just to be pushing 35..." Even though the market is going thru a rough patch, and the number of detrimental aspects to programming are increasing (ageism and so forth), I still do not feel that programming is a dead end job. Computers are going nowhere folks, and as long as they are around, programmers will be necessary. People who are in this career for the money or the prestige may not like it after a while, but the people who are in this for something else will tolerate quite a bit before deciding to opt out. The simple measure here: "as long as you love doing it, you'll keep doing it." Isn't this true for any career?
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Is Programming a Dead End Job?

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  • Because no manager will ever allow a programmer to be paid as much as himself. therefore a programmer will always get less pay until you join them.

    simple economics... You will NEVER see a CTO or CEO that is a programmer.... it isnt allowed.

    (Note: Bill Gates is NOT a programmer. He might have been one in the past but that was not what he was good at. he is good at marketing and Business)
    • This of course is not true, at least not in small companies. I know several programmers who are the highest paid individuals in their respective companies except for the owner. It all depends on how much value a person can produce for a company. In a larger corporation I would expect this to be more the rule.
      • In small companies, perhaps, but larger corporations are very rigidly hierarchically (sp?) aligned. Where I am, in a large international manufacturing firm, managers get more than the people they "manage" -- period.

        At this company, in no cases would someone get more salary than the person they report too.

        Hell, as a matter of fact, most of our programmers are being outsourced to off-shore programming farms for a fraction of the cost.

        • Correct, that is what I expect, and that is the case where I work as well. I'm just saying that's not the case unilaterally. I know the president of a company I worked for (50 employees) previously and he was also the lead coder for the billing and customer database systems.

          It seems to me that the definition of the job CTO or CEO precludes them from being a programmer once a company gets to a certain size. It's not that they couldn't do it, but they have other responsibilities.
        • Not always true (Score:4, Insightful)

          by kaladorn ( 514293 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @03:41PM (#3411001) Homepage Journal
          My boss (our VP and I think CTO) is the developer of utmost Deep Magic. But of course, we're a relatively small company.

          But to take the other side of the coin up, I know of developers who made more than their managers (as one of my classmates ascended to management, I know several of the lead developers were making significantly more than he was).

          There are two or three GOOD reasons why managers make the big bucks. In theory, they are the RESPONSIBLE ones. The buck stops there. Programmers can often excuse problems as being the result of other people's work, their deadlines, etc. But a manager has no such refuge. That responsibility should be commensurately rewarded.[1]

          Also note that some highly paid programmers who make more than their management treat their management like inferiors. I've seen this. At the end of the day, some of the geek community only respect salary or other raw displays of power and authority. Sad but true.

          Lastly, good managers are worth their weight in gold and do significantly benefit a project. They coordinate people, resources, and customers. They manage customer expectations, attend to the wellbeing of their managed, and ensure that all required resources are forseen and in place when required.[1].

          So even though the comment about programmers not getting paid more than managers has exceptions, there are some good reasons for things to be as they are.

          [1] - I know very damn well that the theory often doesn't match practice. For some reason, many companies keep inept management in place, I suspect because the next management level up is equally inept. I've had precisely three fair to okay managers, 1 really great manager, and several of the nightmarishly inept variety. But why companies keep incompetent managers in positions of power despite all the damage this causes is an utterly separate issue from the reasons why managers are paid more than programmers. Valid, but different.
          • Re:Not always true (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Chuck Milam ( 1998 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @04:40PM (#3411557) Homepage
            "There are two or three GOOD reasons why managers make the big bucks. In theory, they are the RESPONSIBLE ones. The buck stops there. Programmers can often excuse problems as being the result of other people's work, their deadlines, etc. But a manager has no such refuge."

            In a sufficiently fat comapny, managers have a much better refuge: Other managers. Enter the theory of "circular accountability." Each manager points to the manager to the [right|left] of [him|her]. So, the buck never really stops anywhere. If the shit really hits the fan, and someone needs to be accountable for something, they hit the "reorg" alarm, ring the bell, and quickly play management musical chairs so that each manager can say one or the other of these classic quotes:

            • "You can't blame me. I just moved into this position last month."
            • "You can't blame me. I had no knowledge of this when I was in my previous position, and I was too busy preparing to hand off to my replacement to notice the problem. Now plase go away, I have nothing to say about my previous position anymore. Check with the new guy."
    • I had several programmers who were paid substantially more than me when I was a manager and Microsoft. My coding skills were also better. They had come from other companies that paid a lot more.
      I didnt feel bad about it all. Why should I feel bad about their good fortune? Anyway, their efforts helped push the stock up, so why should I complain.
    • ... even if that means getting less paid.

      Two reasons:
      1. I enjoy programming, and I have (some) skill for that.
      2. I dislike managing, economics and the like and I have zero skill for those.

      If it were for the money I would have been something else. But as long as I have enough for a living, I don't care.

    • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:44PM (#3410557)
      What? I know for a fact that managers can make less than technical people under them (including programmers). In bigger companies, you either choose the technical route or the managerial route. That is the way it should be - managers manage people and projects. It shouldn't be about the money. Many times it is about the power. I have heard from managers that they want to have highly paid technical people working for them. Those are the people they can rely on. Just because someone chooses not to go down the managerial path does not mean that their salaries are limited.
      • I worked for a manager who had been a developer. After about a year, he decided that he hated managing. So, he went out and recruited a replacement for himself, and went back into development. I'm almost certain his salary remained the same.
    • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat . c om> on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:48PM (#3410580) Journal

      This makes the assumption that the reason to stay in a job is because of the money you make.

      Some people, believe it or not, are quite happy making less money than somebody else who may even apparently be doing less work, simply because he or she doesn't want to be doing anything else. This isn't a rut or a dead end. It's just job satisfaction. The only reason for discontent to arise in such a situation is if the employer is actually not paying fairly for the work that is being done. This can usually be rectified with nothing more than a modest annual cost-of-living increase in pay. And my view is that if the employee doesn't deserve even that, then he probably should be let go.

    • Silly boy, some of us make more than our managers do ;-). You just have to be essential to the project, and prove you're worth more right where you are...
    • by gwernol ( 167574 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @03:08PM (#3410731)
      simple economics... You will NEVER see a CTO or CEO that is a programmer.... it isnt allowed.

      Counter-example: I was CTO in my last position and I wrote prototype and production code. I have been a programmer since 1981. I have more than a decade of commercial software engineering experience.

      You asssertion is wrong. In most software development companies the CTO (as well as VP of Engineering, the Directors of Engineering, the Engineering Managers) is either an active programmer or spent a substantial proportion of their career as highly skilled programmers.

      Another counter-example: Avie Tevanian lead the team that developed the Mach microkernel. He wrote substantial parts of the low-level system components in the NeXT operating system. He still maintains code in the Mac OS X code base. He is the CTO at Apple. Well, technically he is the "Senior VP of Software Engineering" but he is functionally CTO of a 10,000 person company.
  • by edrugtrader ( 442064 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:34PM (#3410463) Homepage
    this is a silly question.

    programming is a dead end profession. you will always be a coder... you may get promotions but you'll always be a coder. you'll make more money than 90% of america though, so is that still 'dead end'?

    the best that can happen is you become a manager of programmers.... period. its not dead end in my opionion. you don't have to work up the corporate bullshit ladder, you are paid fairly and generally respected / depended on / over worked however you want to look at it.

    if you are happy doing it, you can make a lifelong career out of it.
    • programming is a dead end profession. you will always be a coder... you may get promotions but you'll always be a coder. you'll make more money than 90% of america though, so is that still 'dead end'?

      Are lab technicians, medical interns, sales reps, graphic designers, accountants, legal consultants, or junior-level positions in ANY industry "dead end jobs"? Certainly, if you plan to work your entire career at that junior level job. It's dead end by definition.

      But there are no more barriers to job promotion in the computer industry than any other. And a programming job is better than perhaps any other in the world if you _don't_ want to climb the corporate ladder. You can still make quite a bit of money programming in the trenches, if you master a specialty.

    • by cjsnell ( 5825 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @04:09PM (#3411255) Journal
      I bailed out this year from the IT industry after working in it since 1995. I figure, if you're going to start a new career and life, you might as well do something really different . I quit to finish my college degree and participate in Army ROTC []. When I'm done, if I make it, I hope to be an Infantry officer. It's kind of strange, I know, to leave a really good job (I made ~150K year between my fulltime job and consulting gigs), but something just wasn't right about it. After skipping around from job to job, I finally hit upon it: I love UNIX and Perl and all this crap, but I love it as a hobby . The notion of getting paid for a hobby sounds nice but just wait until you want to take a little trip somewhere with your friends and you can't do it because your "hobby" demands otherwise.

      So, I'm off to start my new life. The good news is that I still write code but I write it in my spare time for pleasure and nothing else. And it's starting to be fun again. :)
    • the best that can happen is you become a manager of programmers

      You're kidding, right? I've seen many good, happy programmers "promoted" to be unhappy, bad managers. If you enjoy coding, potentially one of the worst things that can happen is becoming a manager. Depending on the company, you may not even be able to make more money as a manager. (Sometimes overtime is killed off, etc.)
  • by daeley ( 126313 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:35PM (#3410464) Homepage
    Screw it, then, I'm going to Vegas. Maybe they need help on that monorail.


  • I don't think of it as "dead-end", but maybe as a "losing game". I don't think we (programmers) can ever know as much as we want or need to know, but we get by somehow. We are constantly fighting against these issues, and are holding our ground, only because they (business) needs us. That is life, many jobs are like this. (maybe the medical profession, how many doctors know everything we would like them to know?)

    Also, my approach to programming for a job is this: do what you love to do and money will follow. Maybe not all the money that you dream of, but if you love it enough and work enough, you can make a living. But you probably won't be a rock star.
  • They'll have to pry my keyboard from my cold dead fingers.
  • Dead End Job (Score:3, Informative)

    by spookysuicide ( 560912 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:36PM (#3410477) Homepage
    I have been looking for a good php guru in portland oregon to hire to work on my site forever. I haven't been able to find anyone who isn't already swamped with work. It may be a "dead-end" job but while all my graphic designer friends are out of work, all my programmer friends have too much on their plate.

    I know, first person observation isn't an accurate reflection of a marketplace, but still...

    • Re:Dead End Job (Score:3, Insightful)

      by edrugtrader ( 442064 )
      actually first person observation is all the accuracy YOU'LL ever need...

      if you need a php coder and none are available, that sucks for you. who cares about the rest of america?

      by the way, i'm a php coder and i'm swamped, so that PROVES that the market is good.
  • Cliff said it all (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Havokmon ( 89874 ) <rick@havEINSTEIN ... minus physicist> on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:36PM (#3410478) Homepage Journal
    People who are in this career for the money or the prestige may not like it after a while, but the people who are in this for something else will tolerate quite a bit before deciding to opt out.

    And is exactly why Loki lasted as long as it did..

  • No way (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dciman ( 106457 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:37PM (#3410485) Journal
    I think that programming is by NO means a dead end. Sure there is a bit of a tough time right now with the economy in its current state. But, we are just now seeing an emergence of whole new computational fields. These mainly being in the life sciences arena. Genomic sequencng projects are quickly overloading scientists with raw data that someone needs to turn into usefull information. The area of developing these tools is vast. Possibly more important will be people who come up with better algorythms for predicting protein structre and interactions based on sequences. This is an amazing field that has the promise of keeping computre scientists, biologists, and bioinformatics people busy for decades to come. I think the field is ready to make leaps and bounds.... and most definitly not a dead end.
  • Work is not always rewarding. When the end result is a great product, however, it is rewarding. It is really important for managers to focus on this and build a team environment that gets results. There is nothing worse than getting handed a little piece of work and be detached from the larger process.

    I highly recommend the book "The Art of Innovation" [] which offers great ideas for kkeping workers engaged.

  • Programming is a job. Ideally, you entered into it because you kinda like doing it. You often start out with maintaining or adding to other people's code or doing highly specified stuff. As you progress, you get more input into the design aspects, and perhaps even the direction. What could be better?

    It's work, folks. It's not always going to be writing slashcode while sipping vodka in the Bahamas, but as jobs go it has a hell of a lot more growth and creativity than coal mining or clerking. I'm happy to be in the programming field. It beats gutting fish (an earlier job of mine).
  • This is such a commonplace in IT and it really chaps my ham. If you can't keep up with the field, get out, but some of us don't have any problem keeping our skills up to date. No amount of whitepapering will eliminate the real value of experienced programming talent. Back off your HR dogs!
  • Of course it is. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by derrickh ( 157646 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:39PM (#3410500) Homepage
    You get into you because you like it, the pay is better than McDonalds, and your social skills are such that you can't interact with customers.

    The things that make a person a good programmer are the same ones that stop you from being a good manager. So you can't move up and you're too valuable to the company to move down.

  • Personally, flipping burgers is a dead end position as I understand it. Doing the "same thing" in it of it self is not a dead end career track. As long as you like what you're doing, then that's all that matters, and making lots of money helps too.
  • No, you stated everything that needed to be stated:

    Computers are going nowhere folks...

    Guess I better just give up the idea of a job I love doing and learn to hate insurance or something.

  • by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:41PM (#3410527) Homepage Journal
    I've been in this business about 25 years - and variety is the spice of life, I've spent time doing unix kernel programming (in the early 80s), chip design (in the 90s), protocol engineering (all over), compiler design, linux kernel work (late 90s), mp3 player design, etc etc.

    You have to keep learning and changing, othewise you burn out, get stuck in a rut and turn over to the dark side ....

  • by curunir ( 98273 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:42PM (#3410532) Homepage Journal
    I originally got into programming because I really love to do it. I can sit in front of a computer and hack away for hours (days) on end and never tire of it. However, at work, I often start to feel what the "burn out" effect that the poster was talking about. I've come to realize that programming is just half of the equasion. It matters what you are programming as well.

    On my own personal projects, I get to choose something I'm interested in. At work, I don't. It amazed me when I realized that when I was feeling most "burnt out" was when I was concentrating more on my work projects and less on my personal projects.

    So, now my #1 concern when looking for a new job is, "am I interested in what I will be programming?" If the answer is no, then no amount of "cool technology" or "cool workplace environment" can make it worthwhile.
    • AMEN!!!!!!

      Being a mechanic is good for mechanics, but not if your job is building cars for people with way too much money, and no drivers licence. Sometimes I feel like when I start projects, thats when I get to start watching the car wreck in slo mo.

      I think if you're programming to the needs of people who understand what you're doing, you 'share' the conceptual burden of your work, and you can identify with others. When you are simply a monkey wrench, someone who can do something that someone else who makes way more than you can't, and they keep making decisions that make your job difficult or are decisions that compromise time and time again the engineering considerations of the position, thats where the 'burn out' happens.

      You just get tired of pimping out your ability to things that you have no vested interest in, and you're literally the 'last line of defence' between stupidity and a live system that has to be up 24/7, in an environment where people can't even understand what its like to be that.
  • by Aqua OS X ( 458522 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:42PM (#3410535)
    I think part of this depends on how broad your skills are. Changing careers is very common these days, sticking with one career until the end of time is not. If you've actually spent the time to expand your education (and yourself) to something aside from a few specific thats will get you a good job out of college, then you will have the ability to migrate horizontally and vertically in life. I think it is fairly safe to say that you are less inclined to "burn out" if you are a jack of many trades, as opposed to a master of one.
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:43PM (#3410546) Homepage Journal
    My name is Earl and my name is stitched on my jumpers. Except it's not Earl and I don't wear jumpers. My name is Phyllis and I have a plastic card key-name badge. I am a code crunching monkey who slings all day at the bottom of the food chain for asshole users and clueless fucking managers. You will never let me do it right so I will do it over. Forever. That's why I'm indispensible. Now let me get back to my soul sucking veal pen cubicle so I can shit out some more gorp you don't give two shits about whether I'm proud of it or not.

    At least it's not the fucking helpdesk. Then I would drink bathroom cleaner.
  • it will survive (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CrazyBrett ( 233858 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:43PM (#3410549)
    Software engineering, compared to most other fields, is still VERY young and immature. Despite the fact that "pretty good" software is being produced today, as the field matures there will be vast improvements in the quality of software applications. For many many years, there will be a need for talented programmers to produce the latest and greatest advancements in software.

    Don't panic :)
  • He's been coding for the past 20 years in one form or another. He's done tons with computers, everything from programming Windows to designing and building controls using Z80 CPUs ... and everything in between.

    Lately, he's been working as an independent contractor for programming Windows. He's been offered a position doing architecture design. He loves coding, and will probably do much, though not getting paid for it.

    He feels that this is a very good step up, and no longer a "code monkey". He doesn't want to be in management (feels it would be the touch of death for him), and feels the same with any other position.

    Long story short, he loves programming, but after 20+ years, he's going into archetecture of software. Programming definately helped him get to this level in his career.

  • My dead end is Mai Tais on the beach and more programming! I'm loving it.
    I started coding for pure fun. Turned that fun into profit. Layed myself off. Now I just have fun, no profit.
    Truly, a 'real programmer' doesn't give one hoot about a successful career and impressing the Joneses. He is like a crack addict who will live in a shambling garbage heap just to get his coding fix. If selling his wares gives him a mansion and a fast car, then so be it, but given a choice, he's always choose the addiction.
  • by bluprint ( 557000 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:46PM (#3410569) Homepage
    As long as you slave away for someone else, that qualifies as "dead end" in my book...unless you are slaving away with a plan. Either a plan for a new job (going from programmer to managment) to slave away in, or a plan for financial freedom.

    When you stop having ambition is when you start having a dead end job.
  • Everyone, and I mean absolutely every person I talked to told me to go into programming. I think people who don't understand the market to well see people like Bill Gates and think that there must be tons of money for geeks to fork in. The problem is that adults indiscriminately influence students to become 'computer professionals'. The reason I decided to take a different route is that I'm afraid that as more and more of these programmers flood the market place salaries are going to go way down as job opportunities become less prevalent. Besides that, computers are my hobby and I would like to keep it that way. If had to look at a computer screen all day I would hate the thing. It took me a long time to send this post between other tasks I hope its not become redundant already, but I will sent my apologies now just in case
    • by Gastropod_ca ( 513267 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @03:03PM (#3410711) Homepage
      I got a degree in Computer Science from Waterloo University. I am beginning to think I wasted 5 years of my life. U of W is one of Canada's best for CS... they came in 3rd in the last ACM contest behind MIT and Shanghi.
      The degree was a lot of work. Many of my friends failed out. There was only 13% girls in my classes and most guys did not have or a girlfriend or have time for one during those five years. I had co-op work experience and had no problem finding a job at Cisco when I graduated. A year and a half later they shut down our division. Now it has almost been a year now and I still can't find work. I have skills such as Java and C++ and excellent references... but no one is hiring.
      I remember a long time ago someone from Microsoft made some comment about Open Source hurting the industry. At the time I thought it was an absurd comment. But lately I've been thinking it may be true. a few years ago if I wanted a library API for some network protocol my company would have had to purchase something. However, now there is almost always a free alternative that is of great quality... so there is less and less companies paying people to program things because there are free ones out there. I dunno.. just a thought.
      But still... if I had gotten something like a music degree.... I'd probably be equally unemployed right now.... but I'd probably be married too and maybe a little happier.
      • >>but I'd probably be married too and maybe a little happier.

        Just order a Russian bride! []

        There is no problem that technology can't solve, my friend.

      • I think you are looking for work in the wrong place. The key to the future is that open souce will eliminate "programming companies" who's sole product is code-once-sell-to-everyone. This has been called "commodity software". Open source has that covered easily in most areas, or has plans to cover it in the future.

        Where the money will be is not directly in a "technology company", but rather in consulting and in working for "non-tech" companies as a system integrator.

        My official job title is IS/IT Coordinator. I work for a manufacturing company. Said company has large needs in the computing department, including digital workflows, data warehousing, and other things. These things can't be handled by off the shelf solutions. Our market is a niche market, but a necessary one (we print the labels that go on products you buy in grocery stores).

        I think these companies are where the future is. They aren't tech companies, but they have large tech needs, needs that cannot be cost effectively filled by "turnkey solutions" or cookie-cutter software. Sure, they could farm out a lot of what we do to consultants, but having me and the rest of our small IT team saves them tons of money, and by working there and only there, we get unique insights into the company that would take years for a consultant to develop.

        Anyway, go look around, at all companies, not just ones that are overtly technical. You may find a rewarding IT job where you least expect it.
      • You're right. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nobodyman ( 90587 )

        I pursued my degree in computer science because I wanted to learn. If you went into this field for other reasons... well, maybe you shouldn't have.
  • Whether is embedded or systems programming, and I've done both, it seems that all the fun has been taken away. When I started working at Bell Labs 15 years ago there was a lot of excitement around software. Software engineers were the cognizenti of the tech industry.

    This no longer seems to be the case. Perhaps its dot com fallout but I have been less than enamored of this industry for the last few years. I feel like we have become the tech industries factory workers.
  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:50PM (#3410599)
    And I am not talking about prestige, either. You know what? I LIKE being able to wear jeans and Tshirts every day. I like having flex time. I like working with technology. I like talking to the IT guys about PCs and stuff, and having them give me old equipment that they are going to throw out. I like that stuff. And I am not a programmer, I am in QA. But the atmosphere is the same for the programmers. It seems like those who aspire to be managers either are told, or feel the need, to "clean up their act" and hang out with other managers, dress up a bit, and shmooze. I am glad I don't have to do that. We have a pretty sweet work environment, which means a lot. Not everyone can say that. And in reality, pretty much EVERY job is a dead-end job. Where do you want to go, anyway?
  • I sure hope so. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BlindSpot ( 512363 )
    If that's the accepted definition of a dead-end job, then I sure hope it's true. Those of us who have coding in our blood don't want to do anything else. I've been coding since I was 8 years old and it's still the only thing I really love to do.

    Die-hard coders live for the crunch of a deadline; it's when we're at our best. If it means we have to go without sleep or food or hygiene then so be it, we couldn't be more happy.

    When we have spare time, we code. Utilities, games, time-wasters, whatever strikes our fancy at the time. How many people go to work doing something all day and then come home and do the exact same thing for fun, and still enjoy it?

    Speaking for myself, I can live comfortably off of a senior programmer's salary all my life. The extra figures don't mean enough to me. I love every aspect of coding and have no interest in a management position. Having just completed a software engineering course that felt more like a management course, I now know more than ever that this is true.

    Some of us are just born to code. Those that aren't can probably tolerate it for a while, but then they'll want to move on. I think that's largely true of any profession, not just coding.

    As for me, I hope I can code until I die.
  • Yes it is... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brogdon ( 65526 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:50PM (#3410602) Homepage
    The actual act of getting paid to program is a dead-end job. The act of getting paid to produce any kind of product for someone else is a dead-end job.

    The reason is there's always going to be a finite amount of money you can earn. There's only so many hours in the day, and only so much people are going to be willing to pay for the hourly output of a single worker. Unless you produce intellectual property, and are one of the very, very few who can produce IP that everyone wants and will pay for, you're never going to escape the fact that your earnings will butt heads with an asymptote at some point.

    Real money always has been, and probably always will be, in starting a business and skimming off the top of other workers. Once you can pay other people less than you can get for their work, you have escaped the limit, and your "job" is no longer a dead-end.
    • Well said. As long as you work for others there will always be a limit. After years of programming I have sensed the my own burn out coming and attibute it to the fact that I am not in control of the situation or my own destiny. I have been tossed into the middle of very stressful situations because of mistakes made by managers above me and if I continue I'm afraid I will burn out.

      I decided that the managers above me were not smarter than me but just had more experience. Business experience that cannot be taught in a book or learned at a seminar.

      So instead of waiting 10 more years only to realize that I should have started today I decided to strike out on my own and start a small software component business, eventually partnering with a colleague in the same position. We work our full time jobs 9-5 and work part time on the business. But the end goal is to work for ourselves and grow a successful company, not riches necessarily. As we are finding out every day, the journey itself is its own reward and no price tag can be placed on your freedom.

      Will it be successful? I'm not sure. But at least we had the balls to be something more than just cogs in a machine working our asses off for the goals of others.
  • Let's look at how things are. Development has got a bad reputation. Why? Well either stuff takes too long, stuff delivered is not what's required, stuff is unreliable and stuff is surrounded by a huge layer of bureaucracy.

    Programming should not be a dead-end job if you can communicate properly with your users and deliver wha they want in a reasonable time. Traditional programming - meaning locking yourself away to play with the most effecient search algorithm rather than creating anything useful - is a dead end profession.

    If you can solve real problems for real people, then you are useful and ought to be regarded as such.

    • Re:Well. (Score:2, Funny)

      Programming should not be a dead-end job if you can communicate properly with your users and deliver wha they want in a reasonable time

      So in other words, we should all stop reading Slashdot and get back to work? :)

  • While a machine may compile/test code for errors, it cannot replace the thought processes/creativity of the human brain. Without this, you have nothing - it has been stated here on several posts already that it may not be a glamour position, or the highest-paid in the company, but it will always be there. Where is all the code going to come from if there are not programmers actually programming. This article seems to paint a dark picture, but it really sounds more like an embedded programmer is burnt and thinking about a career change and decided to share it with us...
  • "Computers are going nowhere" should probably be synonymous with "computers aren't going anywhere" (which I believe is what Cliff intended), but they have very different connotations.
  • I've been programming for pay about 12 years now, and some of what Mr. Ganssle says is true: the pay doesn't increase as fast as a management or sales job does, and many managers will opt for hiring the young programmer, fresh with knowledge about the new technologies, as opposed to the old guy with his experience in COBOL and Assembly.

    However, on the second point there is a solution for us aging programmers: stay knowledgeable on the new technologies! If you are a programmer who keeps up with the trends in technology, you are a much more valuable resource than the newbie fresh out of college! As the industry (and workers) get older, there will be companies that need programmers who know their way around the old systems AND who can program with the young guys too! If you keep your skills up-to-date, you should have no problems finding a great paying job!

    Dead end job?? I think not.

  • Maybe... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by emn-slashdot ( 322299 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:55PM (#3410642)
    Maybe programmers program because they like making good products as many have said. Myself, I like making lots of money, and I think I have IMTS (I Made This Syndrome). Ever since I was 12 years old (programming QuickBasic! woot) I have gotton a kick from showing people what I made. Be it friends, family, or coworkers. When I recently wrote 3000 lines in 5 hours for a quake 2 model loader/display engine from scratch I got that kick (read: ego boost). That is why I program. I program because it is one of the VERY few things that *I* can do and no one else can. People all around the world can run faster than me, jump higher than me, and sing better than me, but damn it, there aren't too many people that can code better than me. (obviously there are (tens of?)thousands of better coders than me, but considering there are billions of people on this rock I feel pretty special.) In a world where people are amazed you know how to reinstall a printer driver, writing neet programs makes the sheep see you as a guru. That is why I program.

  • Programming is a job. Plain and simple. And subject to the laws of supply and demand.

    So if you've got guru-level skills at a programming specialty that is very much in demand and difficult to master, you will make outrageous dollars. If you are a hack VB programmer who can manage to not screw up an Access custom report too badly, you may find work, but you won't be making the big bucks and you may be the first one over the side when the waves come. Everyone else is in between. That's all there is to it.

    Maybe I phrased it a little bit wrong up top. Programming is best described as a skilled trade. However, there are different specialties and skill levels within the trade. Think of auto mechanics. For every person who can diagnose a problem with your foreign exotic sportscar just by listening to the engine, there's a dozen who will never do more than oil changes - and they leave greasy palmprints on your dash.

    For some people programming is a job. For the really good ones, it's a career.

    As for me, I sucked at programming, so I became a net admin.
  • Rough Patch?

    Come on.. We have been hiring for a long time now. There are plenty of jobs out there.

    I am so sick and tired of people claiming there is no jobs out there. We try to find real programmers, you know the ones that can program in C on a UNIX environment. The problems we find in hiring people is that they want to be "Network Admins" or "Web Programmers". Give me a break, go to a 2 year college for that, dont get a CS degree for a Network Admin job.

    Also, ever hear of jobs being out there but people are not willingn to take the "cut" in pay? Making 70k is NOT a bad thing, its a JOB and a good thing in most areas. Ever notice how people with less experience are turning down jobs that pay more than your job? They are thrill seekers if you ask me. There are so many jobs in traditional Military application areas and systems areas it is not funny.

    Anyone want to please send me your resume.

    and I will talk to you. YES I will try and see if you want the job, and talk to you about it. Considering I can make a good buck on good people, I am willing to talk to people who are smart, good, fun, and willing to take good money, excellent benefits, great job over "perfect money" and a "network admin" job.

    Sorry for the rant, but when many companies like where I work are hurting for C/C++ programmers and all I hear is "We cant find jobs" the answer is GROW UP, there are plenty of jobs around.

  • by j09824 ( 572485 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:56PM (#3410652)
    I mean, where do you go from there? Or what about medical doctors? Or plumbers? Or construction workers? Or lawyers?

    The notion of "promotion" is seriously overrated anyway. Do you really want to spend your days talking to whiny investment bankers, composing meaningless vision statements, having half your company snicker about you behind your back, having all stress and no free time, and managing people problems? If you do, go right ahead and aspire to that management position. But there is a reason those positions are paid highly: it's hazard pay for dirty work most people don't want to do.

    Seriously, people do what they like, what they get paid for, and what they are good at. Many people who aren't qualified as programmers would love to have a $80k/year "dead-end job" with full benefits.

    As for the supposed age limit, jobs going off-shore, and all that, in my opinion, Matloff is a loony. His claims are poorly supported by data and contradict what people who actually try to hire programmers experience. Sure, occasionally, you'll see age discrimination, and occasionally you'll see companies taking advantage of immigration issues. But the former is already covered by non-discrimination statutes, and the latter has been addressed with H1B portability and faster green-card approvals. Jobs will probably continue to go off-shore, but the best way of stemming that is to bring the qualified programmers from those other countries to the US; if you force them to go back to their countries of origin, they won't become farmers, they'll create a thriving and competitive software industry there.

  • depends (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EnderWiggnz ( 39214 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @02:57PM (#3410653)
    IT programming jobs are fairly horrible - you know, database work.

    i did a database job for 3 years, and drove me absolutely bonkers - a decently smart CompSci guy should pick up everything you need to know about databases in about 6 months.

    everything. and then for the next N years of your life, you spew reports that you could care less about.

    now... true "systems engineering" type jobs... or lower level, more technical stuff - there is definite value in having more experienced people, and the burnout isnt a bad.

    IT programmers have a useful life of 12 years. thats it. you will drive yourslef insane shortly after that.

  • who get promoted to mgmt. Their work sucks, but they need a job, and so do a song and dance about how they're better with people than code anyway, play the office suckup politics game and next thing you know they're telling you what to do. Likewise, no company would take someone just making good product and promote them to mgmt, they need them to keep pounding away at the forge.
  • In my situation, while the jobs have been sparse, and while I remain underemployed, I've been gearing the extra time I have toward learning new technologies as well as starting development on a system for expanded civic participation (that I call Democracy 2.0). And I've discovered something: Passion about one's projects is really as much of a discipline-enhancer and energy-driver as cold hard cash. When the economy picks up, this ideal will definitely be a factor in how I decide on future jobs. I hope that employers will work harder to create positions that programmers will actually want to take because they result in good karma (if you will) for the world; otherwise, I'll have to consider my career essentially over in the corporate sense.
  • You work for middle managers who are even more stressed out than you are because they're held responsable for everything that goes wrong when the higher-ups keep pulling resources.

    Meanwhile you keep getting it in the shorts because "nothing is impossible to the guy who doesn't have to do it."

    And when things finally cave, YOUR ass is grass.
  • a better world (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jafac ( 1449 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @03:00PM (#3410683) Homepage
    In my opinion (which is not so humble today) - the MORE ex-programmers move into marketing and managerial positions, the better place the world will be.

    We've seen what happens when you put MBA's into marketing and managerial positions in tech companies. Hell on Earth.

    The world needs MORE engineering-driven tech companies, and less lawyer-driven tech companies.
  • If you look at the number of CS graduates at any level: bachelors, masters, Ph.D you will find that since the early 80s the numbers all go down.

    Meanwhile every company that wishes to not go out of business uses computers more and more. The number of jobs naturally goes up.

    Now supply and demand says that there are not enough qualified people to fill the jobs. Managers will hire people who are highly underqualified because they are desperate.

    Why we think this is a dead end job is because companies try to get their few competant employees to get all the work done, an impossible task. The result is lots of overtime which salaried workers don't see any extra money for. There is also a lot of pressure and stress.

    What employees don't realize is that it doesn't have to be this way. We have what they need. Say "if I have to work overtime on a regular basis I will find another job" and you'd be suprised how scared they are of losing you.

    I work 40 hours a week most weeks. I don't think I've ever put in more than 50, ever. I am paid better than my manager. My company needs me. Your company needs you as well.
  • Try being over 40 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 25, 2002 @03:00PM (#3410688)
    You simply cannot get a job, even with current skills and a solid history. There is an inherent bias against over 40 coders, we are expected to have moved into management. After the dot com collapse and then the telecom collapse, there are a lot of over 40 coders out there from the mass layoffs.

    I am one of them, 44 to be precise. I originally used to put my employemnt history back into the 1980's, and put the years my degrees were granted. And for some reason I never got a call back. So I took all the stuff prior to 1992 out, removed the dates from the degrees, and put the resume back out there.

    Within a week, I got 4 job calls where my qualifications and resume were deemed "excellent" on by reviewers on phone interviews, and I aced the tech interviews over the phone as well (I used to be the guy in my group that did the C++ and Java tech screening!). Plus my references were checked, and I have excellent references. I generally interview quite well in person or over the phone, having been a member of Toastmasters due to needing speaking/presentation skills at my old company. Listening is as important as talking.

    But when I show up at the "final" interview, in a nice tailored conservative business suit, with my short but gray hair, all of a sudden they seemed to get cold feet. And within a week of each interview every single one of them sent me a "Regretfully you do not meet the qualifications, your resume will be on file for one year" letter.

    As long as this continues, then programming *is* a dead end job. You can get snarky if you like, but you'll be here in my shoes one day if you live that long, and you will be wondering why you cant get hired even though you can code circles around half their staff.

    FYI, I did get a contract job 2 weeks later where all the business was conducted over the phone. I have had my contract renewed with a raise due to performance, twice, and thats despite the company going through 3 layoffs.

    But I learned my lesson, Im getting my MBA and moving into management, even though I make a hell of a lot better systems-architect or software-engineer or developer/coder than I do a manager. I will miss coding for a living, but I'll not play martyr at the expense of my wife and children.

    • Re:Try being over 40 (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mpsmps ( 178373 )
      Are you sure that's all to it? Many of the top developers at my company (we do low level system programming) are in their 40s (or 50s). We recently put out an opening for a senior developer, and hired someone in his mid-forties. I've heard about ageism as a problem, but I'm not sure it's that big.

      The one thing about being older is that if you want to stay in the field, it's important to commit yourself to constantly renewing any obsolete skills. Back when I was a columnist, I wrote an article about how the addition of branch-prediction to newer microprocessors made me have to relearn performance programming essentially from scratch. My reaction should have been happiness that I no longer needed to spend all my effort worrying about branches, but my actual reaction was a feeling that I no longer knew how to program. All of my idioms and rules-of-thumbs had become incorrect. I had to make a decision at that point as to whether I was going to stay on the cutting-edge of implementation or move into management. I explicitly chose the former and relearned how to do performance programming more or less from scratch.

      It's possible you are interviewing as technically solid but old-fashioned. Another possibility is that you are one of the many excellent coders of all ages right now who are struggling for work. We turned down a number of excellent candidates just because we didn't have enough openings.
  • If the most important thing in your life is making your bosses happy, then yes, programming can be dead-end since they'll never be happy.

    If your goal is to just make lots of money, then ask yourself what you're going to do with your money? If it doesn't amount to building a supercomputer in your basement and creating a turing machine, then maybe programming isn't for you. Whatever you want to do with the money you expect to make in programming is what you should be doing to make money in the first place.
  • 1. If you're in this for the money, get another job. I'm in this for the intellectual stimulation. The fact is, I live in a country in which the standard of living is enormously high compared to the rest of the world. I make enough to live in a nice house, send my kids to college and buy fun toys. I'm doing just fine. Going into management to make a few more bucks is not going to make me any happier. You need to realize when enough is enough, moneywise.

    1. I have yet to find an employer who is suffering from a glut of programming talent. If you're good, there will always be work. You just have to stay sharp and keep your skills up. It also helps to not work in an area which is fueled by young, underpaid programmers (such as the game

    1. A great way to keep your skills up is to teach, using your gray hairs to other's advantage. I personally set aside one day a week for teaching. It's a money loss, but still rewarding professionally and pschologically.

    0. Sometimes it sucks being managed by folks who are significantly younger than you. This is a psychological issue that many of us will all have to deal with as we get older, regardless of the profession.

    1. On the plus side, one of the advantages of getting older is finding the rare job which has good management and sticking with it, instead of constantly searching for greater prestige and a fatter paycheck. I've been burnt multiple times by accepting more money to work for folks I don't respect. No more of that, hopefully!

  • Well,

    I began college with Mechanical Engineering in mind but then I took a required comp-sci course and it really appealed to me. At the time, I was an ex-geek who had given up the Doritos and Mountain Dew all-nighter lifestyle for something that was more suitable for a teenaged kid in suburbia high school (notably, girls and friends that I will have forever).

    In any event, college rolled around and my geekness was awakened by this comp-sci class. I did not have a choice so I changed my major and became a reborn geek.

    Fast forward to present day. I'm very good at what I do but I don't just see much *tangible* accomplishment. Sure - there is all this stuff that I have poured my heart and soul into but I didn't do it for me. Some will be quick to point out open source as a means of self expression or whatever but a PC is the last thing that I'd like to look at after a stressful day.

    So what then? I've already identified that "geek" is the Hotel California of personality types - at least for me it is. All those 1s and 0s make a lot of sense to me. These types of jobs are the most profitable for me. The invisible hand put me here. I could have started my own business but I tried that. I am not cut out for that so I am happy to work for someone who pays me well for what I do best. As long as I can separate life from work and find something to make me happy.

    In the end, I learned how to work for myself outside of work. I bought a house that needs fixing up. I'm currently installing an energy efficient hydronic radiant floor heating system (yes - there is tech available outside IT). This is required to satisfy my low noise floor requirement of the home theater that I installed a while ago. When I'm not watching/listening, I'm on my way out the door to go camping/canoeing (I actually just returned from getting my fishing license :) ). These all make me very happy. EVERYONE hates thier job. Go out there and find something that makes you happy.

    This seems to be a reocurring theme on slasdot, eh?
  • I guess another way to look at it is: Are you in it for the money, or for the glory?

    Those who only took up programming because they saw dollar-signs, and have no further interest in the art would, in my opinion, be the most likely to get bored/burntout/tired and jump ship to management.

    I don't necessarily see this as a problem. I have had lots of problems in the past dealing with those types of programmers. Great people, but just have too much of a lack of interest in what they are doing, and therefore to a worse job than those who enjoy it. I say good riddance to them, and wish them well in management.

    This frees up jobs for those of us who find this line of work interesting and actually, God forbid, enjoy our jobs. This increases our average salaries and decreases the amount of incompetence we have to deal with everyday (although some could argue that more management = more incompetence :)

    Anyway... my point is: This realization, coupled with the dot-com bust is ultimately making things better for the average programmer (and by programmer I mean one who is in it for the programming, not necessarily the $$$).
  • How many of you know anyone who actually stays in one career for life? Maybe if you consider your grandparents but let's talk about the world today. Even most of your parents have probably made a half-dozen or so career moves. Regardless of whether you become obsolete, there is a natural progression a person will take during their lifetime. As a person grows and matures, so do their career aspirations. People always want something more than they have, that is what keeps us moving. If you stopped wanting something better, then you become that 50 year-old who only learned COBOL. If your career aspiration is to program until you retire, then that motivation will keep you on the cutting edge. I have been to plenty of conferences with 50 year-old developers and in my opinion, those are sometimes the most intelligent people in the room. Sure, many programmers tire of learning new technologies and eventually move on to management, consulting, or something else completely-- doesn't that happen with any career? If you ask me, the piece is rediculous.

    How many of you work with completely incompetant developers? I mean the people who just skated through school or didn't go at all but somehow kissed enough ass to earn the title? As long as those people exist, and they always will, your job will be secure.
  • Most programming skills do not become obsolete. New "technologies" come along all the time, but they rarely ever replace an old skill.

    Take XML. Hardly a new idea. It's a markup meta-language used to structure data into a tree. Tree databases have been around for years; that's all XML is, just a markup language for 40-year old "technology."

    Incidently: tree-structured databases were replaced by the superior set-theory based relational databases. There were reasons for this. What is old is new again; and what was once thrown out as inferior gets a fresh coat of paint and resold as new.

    Obsolete my ass.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    if by dead end you mean limited earning potential.

    You cannot have limitless income potential
    without reaching the position of benefitting from
    the work of others. That means "business" -
    finance, real-estate, or maybe law, and likely
    not having a "job."

    I don't think there are many people that have
    the range to choose between that and being a
    technical person though. The quarterback is
    never captain of the chess club.
  • by Mr. Neutron ( 3115 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @03:15PM (#3410778) Homepage Journal
    Progamming in the modern world of computing is a one-time job. Software is written once, and used many, many times. Yes, there is software revision, upgrades, etc., but the bulk of work being done is being done by the /few/, for the /many/.

    Therefore, there are only going to be a small amount of meaningful programming jobs relative to the computing industry as a whole, unless the general attitude towards software changes dramatically.

    Now, administration is a whole different story. because software tends to be written by the few for the many, there are bound to be issues that those few never thought of. Administration is an ongoing job that everyone needs.

    Personally, I think this is a big, secondary reason that so many geeks are perpetually hyped about open source software. It seems to promise that software development will cease to be a few-to-many service, and become a many-to-many service. I think there are a lot of geeks out there working in administration, frustrated with their jobs, wishing to become guru kernal hackers. They feel that if the IT world at large would simply embrace open source, tons of programming jobs would open up for companies wanting to customize and enhance software to fit their needs.

    Unfortunately, the reality is not that development is a few-to-many business because of the closed-source model. Rather, development is done the way it is because proramming is *hard*. Nitty-gritty, systems development (as opposed to Web developemnt, or writing DB front ends, or using some SDK with the hard stuff taken care of already) takes real talent, and very few have the talent necessary. Furthermore, it is many, many times more cost-effective to buy software off the shelf (be it open- or closed-source) and pay for high administrative costs than it is to custom-design software to fit an organization's exact needs.

    My advice to CS majors is to get used to the idea that you probably won't be coding linked lists and creating filesystems for a living. Learn to be a good Unix admin, how to be a DBA, how to troubleshoot buggy applications and OSes. Learn how to assist and teach non-clued end-users. 1% of CS grads are going to be programmers and software engineers. Guess what the other 99% get to do?
  • "The dark side" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gwernol ( 167574 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @03:19PM (#3410797)
    The fact that a phrase like "the dark side" is used, however tongue in cheek, indicates just how little some geeks get it.

    In the commercial world, software isn't developed in a vacuum. In order to build a successful business you need to understand: who are your customers? what problems do they have? what software should you build to solve those problems?

    People pay money for your software because it has value for them: it solves their problems. If enough people pay you enough money you will build a business.

    Management and marketing aren't impediments to the "good guys" doing their jobs. They are essential parts of the overall job of building a successful business. The world doesn't owe you a living, no matter how skilled you are. It pays you for doing something that is valuable.

    If your company is well run and you disagree with your management its because you aren't seeing the bigger picture. It may be cool to build technology X, but if no-one wants that and everyone wants technology Y, then you are wasting your time and skills working on X.

    Of course there are bad companies with bozo managers. But that is a function of particular people, not of the role of the manager or leader.
  • by Kagato ( 116051 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @03:46PM (#3411058)
    It should be noted that Embedded programmer, just like Electrical Engineers, get the shaft big time. Experienced web programmers (non-Microsoft), and many IT positions (like Oracle DBA's) can grab six figure salaries. It's a shame really because I have a great deal of respect for the low level guys, who really have to have a much bigger grasp of logic than those of us working on the higher levels. There are of course exceptions, senior engineers, and managing engineers, but most shops that deal with embedded and EEs have one or two top dogs to a dozen or so poorly (relatively speaking) peons.

    I don't find out of country work a problem though. They just don't perform as well as the lazy American counter parts. The money you save in labor costs disappears as when you have a much longer bug/enhancement cycle. Most of which is caused by a culture/language gap.

    Outsource to India can work well if you have a product that you have specific bug fixes that need to be done. But new products that require a really good analyst to have face side with the business and really hammer out details. Business like working face to face with someone who knows the lingo and can instill confidence. And they are willing to pay two to three times as much for that fuzzy feeling.
  • by MrNovember ( 310587 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @04:03PM (#3411210)
    One thing I learned as a techie in business school is to think to the future in a different way. There's a classic story about Conrail or somesuch company:

    B-school types asked Conrail: "What do you do?"

    Conrail answered: "We run a train system."

    The "correct" answer really was "We provide a service to move goods from one location to another." They doomed themselves by competing with train systems when they were competing with trucks and air freight as well.

    What business are you in? Is it "programming", is it "collecting and codifying business rules", I don't know what the answer is but I'm pretty sure the bulk of the business of "conversion of business ideas into source code" is going overseas.

    It's one of those "seeing the forest for the trees" problems. My point is that next year you'll have a job, the year after that you will, probably for the next 10 years you will.

    But the Indians and Chinese are getting better and better at outsourced work. There's a huge information/cultural/communication gap now but don't think that will stand in the way 20 years from now.

    "Programming" as a job is as dead as being a cobbler (that's a shoemaker for the verbally challenged).

    On the other hand, there are a lot of idiots in business-land with a lack of analytic skills. Transitivity is where Dracula comes from to most pointy-heads. There are jobs utilizing the same analytic and logical skills -- your business is not "programming", it's "analysis" or "rule-based business structuring."

    Change now or become a cobbler.

  • Why I am burned out. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fastball ( 91927 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @04:04PM (#3411219) Journal
    I am not coding for the money ($42K last year) or the prestige (at a state government agency), and I am severely burned out. But not because programming is a dead end job.

    Hell, I love to hack...when I get home. My job has become more a place where they issue paychecks rather than the place where I code. Why?

    Because of everything else unrelated to coding that I have to fend off: meetings, fickle graphic designers, shrinkwrap software that doesn't work and I end up "supporting," a boss that buys servers by the bushel because we have to use or lose our budget.

    In short, I already am a manager.

    Besides, at age 29, I cannot see myself with a family (I want one) if I'm spending 8-12 hours in front of a computer by day and a couple more by night to hone my skills. I don't instant message, own or carry a cell phone or pager, or pick up a phone without screening it via answering machine, and I still don't have a life to speak of. I've forgotten what a tit feels like!

    Actually, I take that back. I'm growing my own.

    I love programming. But it is a solitary discipline in its purest form. Unfortunately, there's too many people throwing their hats into the design process. And then you start coding from specs, and the specs change.

    So lately, I'm neither programmer or social butterfly. I could code righteously, but only if there's nothing to code. It's a Catch-22. Yossarian lives!

  • by nabucco ( 24057 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @06:31PM (#3412399)
    The article begins "Become a dentist, CPA, or lawyer and odds are you'll be practicing that profession on a more or less daily basis till the day you retire."

    Yes, and dentist's have the ADA, accountants have the AICPA, and lawyer's have the ABA. What professional association of the magnitude of the ABA or AMA represents modern IT engineers? The answer is, there is no professional association with any weight behind it that represents engineers.

    We do have a well-financed association or lobbying group financed by the employers of the IT profession (Microsoft, IBM etc.) called the ITAA, which has been making war on our profession for years. Their sole purpose is to flood the IT labor market in order to drive up IT unemployment and drive down wages. They also despise worker independence which is why they love H1-B restrictions (forcing H1-Bs to stick with rotten companies during green card applications) and support section 1706 in the tax code (which forces independent consultants into body shops).

    The first high-rated post said "we can all become managers!" Um, no, we can not all become managers, most of the IT departments I've worked at have had anywhere from 10-30 people under a manager, so when one of them goes on to be a manager, what becomes of everyone else. Also, good programmers don't necessarily mean good managers, and mediocre programmers can be good managers. I could go on, but the article is true that 24/7 oncall for years on end, constantly working weekends and 60 hour weeks can lead to burnout, and that many companies don't like hiring people over a certain age.

    From a personal standpoint, I believe the failure of engineers to form an association that can counter the ITAA's war on our profession in Washington, as well as the failure to form consulting companies which are geared more towards worker-ownership and worker-control (although there are some, like RMPCP []) is due to the fact that many of the people in this profession are the stereotypical socially retarted dorks, who are unable to socialize normally with other human beings, and who place their entire self-worth in the idea that they are the smartest programming super-genius whose skills are better than everyone else, who works harder than anyone else and so forth, so why would he have to have an association like the ABA or AMA with other engineers like every other god-damn profession does? Believe me, doctors are not stupid, cutting someone open and operating on their beating heart is a lot more complicated than opening up a computer and adding more RAM to it. They're not stupid, many of them are very smart actually, and we should follow their example and form a professional association.

    For my preference, I like the Programmer's Guild [], if you don't like them you can form your own or join a different one, although I'd hope if there were several associations they'd work together in fighting the ITAA's attempts to steal our intellectual property and drive us out of work in Washington. There are engineers working on this and have been for years, but our numbers are small and we need more engineers to just cursorily educate themselves about these things, and then spread the word and educate others about these things, just a few more people on board and it will reach critical mass and we can get the word out more. To me, it's not just about fighting for my profession, it's a principle thing, I'm sick of being kicked around by Microsoft (and IBM, Oracle etc.) via their ITAA yap dog, and I'm glad that I'm actually doing something about it.

    My web page that deals with all of this is the Oncall Guild [] web page. We're not a group that seeks paying membership, anyone can be a member, just educate yourself about this, spread the word and join organizations like the Programmer's Guild or similar good organizations to do something about it. Some of the older engineering organizations are discussed on the web page, both the problems (corporate-financed to the point that they have killed campaigns that oppose the ITAA with threats, too academically focused, created decades ago and not focused on the modern IT profession and so forth) and good things (surveys about salary and other matters, allowing engineers to network with each other).

    • Ok, it's quite clear that you are not an engineer, or were done a great disservice from your university.

      Just like the professions you list, Engineers have these organizations. There are many of them just as there are many Engineering fields. ASME, ASCE, IEEE, ACM, AICHE, and so on. 'Professional Engineer' is a formal title granted by most states, Canada, UK, not unlike Attorney at Law, Physician, Registered Nurse, Certified Public Accountant.

      States are now beginning to recognize 'Professional Software Engineer' as a formal title. Texas was the first. New Jersey is considering doing the same. 05 . tml

      The problem is that you have the issue totally wrong. None of these organizations or structures are created to protect jobs. Nobody gives a shit whether you keep your job or not. These groups exist (as do the AMA, ABA, etc.) to protect the integrity of the profession. If you feel these H1B workers are undermining the integrity of this profession, or are causing a risk to the public at large, that's a excellent reason to protect the profession - to ensure that those who practice are of high caliber and bear the responsibility that comes with the job. And who oversees the licensing of engineers, works with the state labor boards, designs the exams? ASME, ASCE, IEEE, ACM, AICHE, and so on.

      Don't be too eager for this to happen. All Professional Engineers (PEs) need to graduate from an accredited program (most CS programs are not accredited) pass an exam called the Fundamentals of Engineering, work for a minimum of 4 years under a Professional Engineer and earn 5 letters of recommendation to the state labor board from Professional Engineers, and take another exam called the Principles and Practices of Engineering.

      As a Professional Engineer, you will be solely qualified to perform specific job tasks - such as seal design plans, testify as an expert witness, and so on. Nobody can encroach on your job. You can also be sued for malpractice and be held criminally liable for work that fails to adhere to federal, state, and local standards. And you get to do this for every state that you practice in.

      The problem that programmers are facing stems from the fact that as a group, they are unwilling to establish standards for practice. There are no standards as to what constitutes good software or bad software. There are no standards for testing. No standards for interface or for communication. No standards for what constitutes a proper education to practice.

      Engineers as a group have done this. Without it, there is no case to be made that some 14 year old from Thailand isn't as fully qualified to as a 50 year old Ph.D. with 25 years of experience at writing software.

      Just to be clear - I'm not an engineer. I'm a mathematician and physicist. I can't be an engineer. I can't pretend to be an engineer. But I've been a programmer and as far as anyone is concerned, I'm every bit as qualified as you to be one. After all, I don't have to take responsibility for my work either.
  • Uhh.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Etriaph ( 16235 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @10:02PM (#3413569) Homepage
    Every job has a burnout rate. I would wager that 80% of the people in North America do their job because they can stand it and they need the money. 15% do it because they love it, and 5% don't need to because they're financially independant. 80% of the population looks forwards to Friday. That's 80% of about 280 million people (I'm discounting teenagers and youngins). Programming doesn't burn you out, your job does.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]