This is Software Development?

I was reading Jeff Atwood’s post on Programming: Love It or Leave It which was derived from a Joel Spolsky forum entry. This got me thinking about some of the responses and some of my own experiences. I’ve mostly worked on products as opposed to IT departments. As Joel points out in one of his responses, “[you’re] going to get more out of computer careers if [you] work in a product company.” This is because products tend to be longer life projects, tend to suffer less from budget cuts than internal IT projects, and mostly because they involve more design and creativity components as you have to try to appeal to customers who don’t have to buy from you. In a product company, you’re more likely going to have to produce software for sale as opposed to maintaining databases, hardware, or software, or another of hundreds of mundane tasks.

There are so many possibilities in the computer programming world. When I talk to people about what they’re looking for in their next job, I point out that there are many different possibilities. Small product start-ups, small companies with established products, large product companies, web-site companies, web-site design and consulting companies, large and small embedded software companies, IT service companies, non-software companies with IT departments, universities with research programming needs and IT needs, and many, many more.

Each one of these places offers different kinds of work. Some people have said that there is a shift in programming going on today. My friends who work for a large software product company spend a good amount of their time designing code for people in China to write. They get software back that may or may not work well and may not be up to par. Then they have to either request changes or fix it themselves. They tell me that it would be easier and more efficient to simply write the code themselves. Either way, this is what’s happening at that company and they don’t believe it’s going to change any time soon.

If you don’t like what you’re doing there are several choices. Do something entirely different and quit programming. This is the extreme approach. Alternatively, find a different kind of company or software. Your experience is transferable, but you may have to convince potential employers of this. Doing some personal projects can help fill in missing job experience. For example, if you’re in web programming and are looking to move into a product atmosphere, download a Java environment and develop a small shareware or freeware application. You’ll have something tangible to point to and you’ll find out whether you really like doing that kind of development work.

There’s a world of software out there, some of it hiding where you might not suspect. Do some web searching and personal networking. The economy may stink right now, but there are many companies that still need to get work done and there are jobs out there if you dig enough.