Friday, September 26, 2008

News 3 :

It now looks certain that we're moving back the UK by the end of this year. My wife has been accepted (and got some funding) to study and work on her art full-time. So we're going to be living in London. I haven't lived there since I was a 19 year old student, with a life fairly constrained by college and my own immaturity. It's a little bit daunting, but quite exciting too.

Of course, as I haven't got funding, I have to find a way to work and support us. And I'm starting think about my "career". What do I actually want to *do* in London? How can I get it?

The easiest, most obvious option, is to just look for another programming gig. But, frankly, I'm hitting 40 next year and as you get older and more experienced, straight "programmer" jobs show diminishing returns (either of interest or comfort). It becomes more and more frustrating to work for managers with clueless, political agendas (or worse). Your capacity to instantly memorize technical trivia degrades. Your tolerance for working 15+ hours a day to hit "optimistic" deadlines diminishes. You start to realize how *powerless* you are in the typical organization hierarchy. As a programmer, you get pigeon-holed as someone who's job is to take orders, reacting to other people's agendas, but not to invent or drive things forward strategically.

I can obviously try to go *up* the hierarchy and become some kind of manager. I don't have a lot of experience of this on my CV but with my current employer I spent a year as a kind of project manager. I think I did OK. I tracked things in spreadsheets and Microsoft Project. I got the people working with me to track things too, and so brought our work back "under control". I dissuaded people who were valuable to the company from leaving. And gave space for someone who was explicitly unhappy and *did* want to leave to prepare for something else. I'd be pretty good as a team leader or mentor-manager of programmers.

And yet ...

It's still, more or less the same problem. Maybe with a bit more money and responsibility. But still *reacting* to someone else's agenda. And, what's deadly about the corporate hierarchy : as you go up you become more dependent on the people under you for *doing* the work which you may no longer be able to even understand. You start to issue the same arbitrary demands that meet your political deadlines and please *your* boss but simply pressurize and oppress those below.

Other alternatives. Teaching? Joining (or starting) a startup? Consultancy?

So, as I said, what do I really want to do when I get to the London? How am I going to get it? Is there a "third door"?


cdent said...

I've been having a lot of similar thoughts, and no good answers. I'll be hitting 40 next year. I don't think I can be a 733t hax0r for much longer.

When you get to London we should finally meet after all these years.

Composing said...

I never was 1337, but hoping that if I keep developing my skills I'll end up as one of these 70 year old FP masters who, even though I can only write about 5 lines of code a day, those five lines are actually macros that rewrite the entire universe.

Be great to meet up in London. Glad to hear you're still there. Are there still Wiki Wednesday's going on?