Just Shelley

Long Week

Too hot tonight. My bedroom’s under the attic and once the heat soaks in, it wants to linger awhile. However, as warm as it is, it’s way too early for the air conditioner.

I obliquely (there’s that word again) mentioned a job interview and contract offer this last week. I haven’t said yay or nay on it yet, but will most likely say nay. First, there’s the hourly rate 30% lower than my minimum hourly rate. And when the group decides not to fill a ‘lower paying’ job and have me do it in addition to the duties of the job I interview for, but don’t put this burden on the guy going for the same position (with less experience), well, I just don’t know if I’m hungry enough for the job. I once mentioned I was worried about finding a job, and here one is. But there is some shit I will not eat.

One good thing about this experience though is that it’s forced me to make some decisions I’ve been putting off. One was a financial one, and the other has to do with profession.

The computer technology field has one of the highest burnout rates of any profession. At some point, you just get tired of punching in the code, or learning yet another new technology, yet another new language, or specification, or tool, or model, or whatever.

In the last 20 years I’ve worked on 14 computer books, written I don’t know how many articles, spoken at conferences and worked at companies like Nike, Intel, Boeing, Harvard, and so on—actual work building big systems and small. I’ve worked with 20 different programming languages, on most major operating systems, against most databases. Yet after all this, when I interview for a senior developer’s position, and interview well, I’m still given what amounts to tasks that are normally assigned to project assistants. This wouldn’t be terribly significant if the guy I interviewed with shared in the tasks, but such is not the case.

Was the reason for the discrepancy because of gender bias? Because I haven’t worked in a position for a year? Because I was too easy going in the interview, and not arrogant enough? I don’t know. But I think the real reason why is that I’m burnt out on the profession, and it shows.

I read Sam Ruby’s weblog and Mark Pilgrim’s and Danny Ayers and I see this wonderful interest and enthusiasm for the technology they write about. At one time, I would have joined in, but lately, there just isn’t anything there. Between one moment and the next, it was gone.

Oh, I still like to tinker, and I have a fun and whimsical article on RDF and poetry and photographs I’ve been working on — but my days of typing code into a computer from within a cube are gone.

The odd thing is, rather than being sad about what is the end of a 20 year career, I actually feel relieved. More than relieved. Sometimes you just have to face the fact that you need a change. That maybe you would be happier building furniture, even if you make less money.

Of course, this means I also have to face some tough financial facts, too, which I also did this week. My creditors will be paid, just much more slowly. I still have to find work, but the focus of the work will be changing. For instance. one job I am looking seriously at is teaching English in South Korea, work I’m exploring with the expert help of Stavros the Wonder Chicken.

I’m also exploring the option of returning to school, but I’m not sure what I would study. My interests are, in order: writing, photography, history, politics, cooking, marine biology, and astrophysics. And I’m lousy at math so we see how far I would get in astrophysics. Let’s face it, cooking’s about the only interest guaranteed to get me a job in this lot. Maybe I should run for office? Would you all vote for me? Are you in my district? If I studied writing, I can find out my writing errors. Same with my photography. Photo Journalist, perhaps? Lot’s of call for them I bet.

The possibilities for the profession are endless. The possibilities for employment are less so, but change isn’t easy. If it was, chaos would be order and order would be chaos.

Joking aside, this was not a lightly arrived at decision. And, being honest, I’m more than a little nervous about it, and about my future. I need to work, I need to pay my bills, and I need to feel worthwhile. I just can’t code anymore.

Through these weblogs I’ve read about the experiences involved with changing professions from people such as Jonathon Delacour and Jeff Ward and Allan Moult. Others such as Dorothea Salo and Steve Himmer begin new adventures in academics, or move to new locales such as Stavros and Gary Turner. Even among those that stay in the same field and country, sometimes decisions that are difficult but necessary have to be made. Decisions not always aimed at putting money in one’s pocket.

Through their willingness to share their experiences with their writing I am both encouraged, as well as forewarned by frank discussions about the difficulties. Starting over again at 48 is both exciting and scary. If I can only figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

You know, all of this is just a long winded way of saying I don’t got code.

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