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Why am I so unhappy as a developer?

reggi profile image Thomas Reggi ・3 min read

Programming was all I ever wanted to do as a kid. I would signup up for every startup that I found. I would dream of creating and making things people would use. I learned programming because It was a to express myself, to be creative.

I find myself in the position of looking for a new job, and I've been struggling. Now that i've been in the business for several years, I see it a little differently then I did as that aspirational kid. I see the job as being bogged down by corporate politics, business decisions, pivots, investors chasing trends, meaningless features, scope creep, developer egos, repetitive product managers.

The corporate hierarchy looks something like this.

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Does the thing that you've been working for the past three months even effect the end user or customer? Does the thing that you've been working on directly make the company money? How many things that you've built in past jobs even still exist?

Developer jobs lack soul, it's a job void of creativity. Where are the human relationships? Where is the connection? I can imagine that the average developer enjoys working from home, and dealing with less people, head down, doing what they have to do, your work becomes important, a thing to focus on, but let me ask you this, does it really matter? If it doesn't and it's really all about the money it seems like a waste of talent. Being a developer is excruciatingly isolating, even more so during this pandemic, even if you are on a team.

A Better World

What is the ideal developer job?

Is it possible to really choose what you want to work on? Or do you always just have to do what you're told, what you're comfortable with.

One solution is to "pair program more", to work on projects together. I always think of the police, and how they have partners. I think that this can help generally build better software, but I also think a lot of developers are against it because they wallow in the isolation and deep focus work. Not everyone would work well as partners.

Can companies have more of a cooperative (co-op, like a food co-op, employee owned, flat) structure? Can developers be in charge of making business decisions? Can we get a vote as to the direction the company needs to go?

Have I just been working with the wrong people? Have I just been working on the wrong projects?



I am frustrated, jaded, and unhappy with my career choice. I haven't found where I belong, and I don't know where I want to be, or what I want to build. I just want to work with good people.

I went to the thrift store yesterday and found this little wooden box with this inscription.

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“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ― Howard Thurman

I thought of it as a good guide while I'm struggling through this time.

Discussion (4)

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alexpcooper profile image
Alex Cooper

I agree with Aden. It's worth identifying if you've fallen out of love with Development, or just don't enjoy Development in the context of a corporate environment.

As you say, workplaces are full of politics; post-event ownership of success, one-up-manship, empire building, strange unexplained decisions made by people who don't always get the IT angle, etc. That doesn't mean that you've made bad choices or have fallen out of love with development itself.

Having an ongoing project / projects outside of work means that you keep the ownership and can see progress (your progress, from your input). If you're able to give your skills to a charity or non-profit, who usually don't get too involved as long as you're covering what they need from a solution, then your CV looks better, you get kudos for altruism and you can run riot with creativity and make the key decisions yourself. That might be what it takes to relight the fire.

Don't judge yourself and your enjoyment on just the day job though.

reggi profile image
Thomas Reggi Author

I like this sentiment, perhaps I am putting to expectations on what a job should and shouldn't provide.

fig781 profile image
Aden Eilers

Maybe try building a software product outside of work with other developers that you like working with. Maybe the startup journey is the career path you are looking for.

solariatu profile image

I feel you dude. All of this seems like widget factories.