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Discussion on: Bugfixing my career

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Eugene van der Merwe

What an incredible story and thanks so much for sharing. I relate to this story on so many levels. Although I've had passion for coding most of my life, I only decided 5 years ago to make the switch and only really got going two years ago as a freelancer. Up to 5 years ago I was more of a small time internet provider entrepreneur, and although I had to do scripts for automation at work, I never coded for money. Everything changed when I discovered Eloquent and Laravel (lol, and Jeffrey Way). So much so, that I found the need to abort my old life and go into programming full time.

At the start of 2019, when I had no work at all, a friend told me about a PHP job to fix up some code for a financial system. I was just too happy to get the job. But the code was such a mess. It was done by someone who simply didn't code well and who didn't seem to care. It was horrible. Working on the client's mission critical system and staring at terrible code daily almost broke me. When I contacted the old coder even they said they didn't really understand what was going on. I was paid a few installments but (thankfully?) the client went under. At that point I told myself never ever again. I love coding, I love Laravel, but I decided to refuse to take on plain PHP work again. 2019 ended up being a bit of a mess and I spent a lot of my savings.

Fast forward 2020. Two really nice greenfields programming projects. Along the way comes a very lucrative hourly job, to fixup and improve a Laravel e-commerce website. It's Laravel which I love, so what can go possibly go wrong? I jump in with both hands. Only to find - uncooperative staff. Laravel that is stuck at version 5.5. Blades littered with logic. Messy long functions in controllers.No repos or services. Missing migrations. No automated or unit testing yet a production site that turns millions a month. I try my best. I struggle through every day. I walk in with enthusiasm to keep everyone motivated but at night when staring at terrible code I get depressed. Soon I completely lose motivation. I abscond. The client was anyway behind and had paid for 20 out of 60 hours so I justify it like so.

At this point the words opportunity cost rings hard in my ears. I'm almost 50 now so making a career was a huge thing. But being so "old" I realise that life's too short to work on shitty code, even if it's Laravel. I imagine if one is in one's 20s or 30s you could, but I can't. I won't take another Laravel job unless I have done a deep dive of the code.

Of course freelancing isn't my thing. I would love to write a SaS like many other web developers. Or I would love to get into Flutter as app programming is to gratifying. But time is limited where I am now so have to be careful to which technologies I commit to if I really want to get to the top. Thanks again for the post and wishing you all the best for 2021!