I’ve had a request (from my huge online fan base) for a post about how I feel about being a programmer, my opinion of it as a job. I really wish people would ask me my opinion about things more often, I love to go on a rant.
I have to say that being a programmer is the best job I’ve had so far, and I’m not young. I’m 35, I’ve had quite a few jobs already. Apart from the fact that my current job is amazing, with genius, helpful people and great work-life balance, I also just love the fact that I get to do programming all day.
My career before becoming a programmer was so random: I studied a double degree in Chemistry/Economics, I was a budget analyst on the Federal budget in Canberra, a researcher at the Crown Prosecution Service in London then Head of Analytics in Shanghai for a UK digital agency. That Shanghai job was my first introduction to any kind of ‘online’ work. I was responsible for doing reports and analysis on the online performance of clients and it was fascinating to me how much information was available in web analytics.
Then my partner and I, who both worked for that agency, decided to move back to Australia and work on similar client work for ourselves. It was online stuff, digital marketing, and through this I had my first taste of programming. Writing small scripts for Adwords and Analytics, making changes to clients web pages. I was so interested in this aspect that I did a night-course in back end web development, and then eventually changed jobs so I could do programming full time.
That was the moment when I stopped doing jobs that I ‘could do’, and started doing a job that I enjoyed.
At previous jobs I wasn’t so interested in learning more outside of work hours, but in programming I attend meet ups, read books, attend study groups and build things outside work to learn more. This seems to be very common among programmers, and less common among any other kind of work I’ve done before. I don’t recall many public servants or marketers learning outside of hours for pleasure. If they were doing it at all it was for career reasons. While programmers careers definitely benefit from all the learning they do outside work hours, I’m pretty sure that like me, they do it more for personal interest.
So that’s the first reason I enjoy this job – because it’s something I naturally want to learn more and more about.
I love how dynamic programming is. There are some old principles yes, but there are always new languages to find out about, new ways to do things, new libraries and packages you can play around with. It doesn’t stand still. This can be daunting for a junior like me. I kind of want it to stand still so I can have some time to catch up, but at the same time, it’s also good to know that no matter how experienced a developer is, there is always more they could learn, always something they don’t know. No one knows everything.
Another thing I enjoy about programming is that it’s problem solving. This is the kind of work I enjoy doing. I don’t have to write briefs or reports anymore. I just sit down and nut out logic-type problems all day. It’s like getting to do (sometimes frustrating) puzzles for a living.
I enjoy the immediacy of my work. When working in policy for the Government, not only is the Government slow, but policy is excruciatingly slow. With programming I can change a few lines of code and see results immediately. I can imagine up a feature and build it myself. I can see a problem and go in and figure it out and fix it. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that.
With programming, what I do all day at work is not irrelevant to my home life. I’m learning skills at work to build things, so that if I have ideas I have the capability to make those ideas become reality. It’s pretty exciting to think that if I have an idea, even that simple one for chores, I can just sit down and build it. And if I can’t build it myself, I can figure out how, with the million of resources online and the help from all the lovely programmers I know.
So, I would highly recommend programming as a job. It’s probably one of the best choices I’ve ever made.