Last Saturday I remembered why I decided to become a programmer. It was because I believed that being a programmer was the only way for me to have a stable income and live the life-style I wanted to live.
What did I really have in mind for my life?
At 18 this is what I wanted for my life:
- The ability to set my own work hours. I wanted to be able to decide when I work and for how long. I didn’t want the “routine” structure of getting up and going to work every day at 8am and then leaving at 5pm only to repeat the next day. I like routine, but I don’t like somebody else dictating my routine to me. I was under the impression that the only people who got to do this were programmers, housewives, writers and those in the arts.
- Performance based rewards. I wanted to know that if I work through the night to get a product or feature launched by the next day, then I would be rewarded for my efforts. Whether it was financially or through time off to recover before the next project. I thought that a programmers list of tasks was definite, it was derived from the requirements of the client, so I thought there was a concrete list of “To Do’s” and I thought I would be rewarded for completing that list ahead of schedule.
- Don’t have to work with people all the time. I disliked working with people. I also disliked being interrupted when I was doing something important. I thought that programmers had the ability to lock the door, turn off cell-phones, and unplug from the world until the task was complete. If it was urgent, then the person could still contact the programmer through email and the programmer could get back to that person at a convenient time.
- Work from home. I have always known that I LOVE being in my own home. My number 1 goal for my life was to own a house (which I now do). I thought that in this information age, the person that would have the highest likelihood of working from home (and having a stable income) is the programmer.
- No uniform. The one thing I hated more than anything else about my school days was the uniform. Not because it didn’t look nice, just because it didn’t allow for me to express my creativity. My first year at University was heaven and hell all in one. I was in a hostel, and on Tuesday’s and Friday’s we had to wear a “uniform” – I couldn’t stand being told what to wear. The heaven part is that I was able to wear anything I wanted every other day of the week (as opposed to when I was in school). I thought that the careers that would have the most flexibility in what you wear were anything of the arts or programming.
- Earn enough money to live a comfortable life. I have never wanted to be a multi-millionaire. All I have wanted was my own house, with a yard big enough for a vegetable garden and a dog, a car that get’s me from A to B, and to have a little bit of “pocket money” to buy the occasional gadget or toy. I thought that would be fairly easy to achieve as a programmer. At least I was correct about this one.
The reality of it is that I chose my career based on the type of lifestyle I wanted to lead. The difference is that I didn’t realize programming in the corporate business world meant set work hours, monthly salary, constant interruptions from those in the office (and the need to take part in team building – which I loathed at 18 and tolerate now), needing to be in the office during work hours and a dress code.
Once in a while there is a day of heavenly job bliss. That is what I experienced this past Saturday. I negotiated a Friday afternoon off (this coming Friday is my husband’s 30th birthday) if I squeezed in an extra project and did it from home over the weekend. Just for one weekend I could set my own work hours, wear board-shorts and a t-shirt (and no shoes!), work from home, have NO interruptions (except Mark bringing me coffee every now and then) and get a performance based reward (a Friday afternoon off). And that day was the happiest and most fulfilling day I have ever had since entering the corporate work-force.
Being a corporate programmer is nothing like the lifestyle I was looking for. So if you plan on being a programmer because of anything I mentioned above, then I advice that you stick to running your own business, or work in a partnership with 2-3 other people. Be the person that corporate outsources to, not the person that corporate hires full-time, or else stay out of corporate programming altogether.