Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Don't Be A Programmer

To my son Tommy,

I am not sure if it is just the type of day I have had, but I must warn you off the profession your old man has chosen.  At first glimpse, the life of a geek is fun and exciting and even promises some financial rewards.  I love solving puzzles and I like making computers do amazing things.  Unfortunately there are some serious downsides to the equation of geek.

The first downfall of being a computer guy is you will always have to work for someone.  Even if you freelance and pretend you are your own boss, complete with your own LLC or INC behind some catchy name, you still are working for someone.  You can create a program from ground up with visions of going viral at the Apple store but you still are working for your customers.  Perhaps this is true in most every profession but the IT world has yet another facet to working for someone else...the fact that you become almost always on call.

In an ever connected world people use computers and tablets and apps at all hours of the day.  This means people break computers or apps every moment of the day.  Before a fix would mean calling a tech the next morning and waiting for the adjustment.  People don't accept that "slowness" anymore and tech calls happen all hours of the day.  If you are the main person responsible for a system, like yours truly, then you can easily become handcuffed to your work.  That doesn't even begin to include all the free help that is requested when one of your friends or acquaintances finds out your nerdy tendencies.  It is on par with lawyers and free legal advice or doctors and free medical advice.

Then you have to deal with variables.  I can handle string, integer, long, decimal, boolean, and the like.  The one variable I have trouble with is the end user.  They will after many many years of doing the same process over and over just decide to one day try something completely different.  They will decide today instead of making some row in your database table set to inactive that they must delete it to "clean up" their digital world and then do it wrong.  Then of course it becomes your fault becuase you and the computer somehow should have stopped them.

And the final argument against being a programmer, there will always be some bug.  No matter how good you think you are and how diligent and careful you can be, something will be wrong.  Sometimes it will be right for years and then someone updates some other feature and it breaks.  If you are anything like your father, this will drive your perfectionist OCD tendencies into a frenzy if you let it.

As for why I continue working as a programmer and an IT guy, I guess I enjoy the pain.  Plus the money is okay.  My boss is not really my boss.  No, my boss is a mortgage and a college fund and you and your mommy and tons of other obligations that I happily take on.  But somewhere out there, some alternate universe, I get paid millions upon millions a year for being a librarian or a teacher or a fulltime humanitarian or even a shop owner of an oddities and antiquities place.  Only in my dreams.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

No comments:

Post a Comment