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Ask Slashdot: How To Avoid Becoming a Complacent Software Developer? 275

An anonymous reader writes: Next year will be the start of my 10th year as a software developer. For the last nice years I've worked for a variety of companies, large and small, on projects of varying sizes. During my career, I have noticed that many of the older software developers are burnt out. They would rather do their 9-5, get paid, and go home. They have little, if any, passion left, and I constantly wonder how they became this way. This contradicts my way of thinking; I consider myself to have some level of passion for what I do, and I enjoy going home knowing I made some kind of difference.

Needless to say, I think I am starting to see the effects of complacency. In my current job, I have a development manager who is difficult to deal with on a technical level. He possesses little technical knowledge of basic JavaEE concepts, nor has kept up on any programming in the last 10 years. There is a push from the upper echelon of the business to develop a new, more scalable system, but they don't realize that my manager is the bottleneck. Our team is constantly trying to get him to agree on software industry standards/best practices, but he doesn't get it and often times won't budge. I'm starting to feel the effects of becoming complacent. What is your advice?
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Ask Slashdot: How To Avoid Becoming a Complacent Software Developer?

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  • Make money some other way, everyone else does. Or build software for your Company.

    • by golodh ( 893453 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @01:21AM (#47952327)
      That's my advice. Mainstream engineering isn't about individuals, let alone "stars". It's about reliably delivering commodities, in bulk, standardised, to spec and within budget.

      Maintenance programming is an example. Large development projects under the "waterfall" method (often) is an example. Custom-building standard systems is another. In such cases you're better off with predictable but competent standardised performance from a team of 9-5 programmers that with mob of empassioned risk-takers.

      This "passion" thing is needed when individual performance counts. As in: when the "old" way of doing things no longer suffices (the old machinery has bogged down and needs to be replaced by something new), or when clear efficiency improvements can be realised (this is common engineering practice), or when there is room to experiment (e.g. in Open Source Software), or when your task is to see how far the envelope can be pushed and to come up with something new (e.g. research).

      Of course there's a difference between not keeping up with mainstream engineering (as the opening post suggests) and spending your time "innovating" when there are adequate standard methods available.

      • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

        Thanks for saying this.

        Where I work, we have a simple (some might say simplistic) platform implemented in C that's easy to code to, understand and, oh yeah, works well. At one point we had an academically minded guy who decided he was hurting his career by coding this way, and his manager let him run free with all kinds of theoretical abstractions and shitty use of C++ that he insisted would allow code reuse and the like. He's long gone, and his stuff works, but having had to support it on occasion, I cri

  • risk something (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:16PM (#47949323)
    Design a system or an improvement to a system, argue that it should be used. Defend your ideas. Stop depending on your manager to put your ideas forward. That should solve the problem one way or another. You'll either be up to your eyeballs in responsibility for a project or out on the streets pretty rapidly I should think.
  • by Bloke down the pub ( 861787 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:17PM (#47949331)

    ... just make sure you have an alibi. Ideally, make it look like an accident - but don't try anything too clever. Otherwise some cop will get a gut feeling or a hunch and the minute he's officially taken off the case you're toast.

  • Business (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:17PM (#47949335)

    >Our team is constantly trying to get him to agree on software industry standards/best practices,
    Maybe your team is full of snot-nosed upstarts trying to push the latest fad techniques on him, and he doesn't see things your way.
    Maybe not. But I'm only hearing one side of the story.

    If your way really is better, maybe it's better to have him replaced.

    • Re:Business (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:28PM (#47949487)

      Yeah, here's the thing about being complacent.

      If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Software isn't always better because it's new. Procedures either. I'm not about to have anybody use Ruby, just because some 20-something new hire things it's cool. And while I like Agile, I know that it works only because the team meets every day, forces them to track real progress vs estimates, measures what's happening in real time and basically keeps their eye on the ball. Stuff I was doing about a decade before the word, "agile" existed.

      So, color me unimpressed by Powershell, Agile, objective C, json and Azure. These technologies are neat and sometimes useful, but ONLY if they solve a problem and/or IMPROVE something - a test many new technologies fail, pathetically (e.g. 100 lines of powershell to do what one line of "NET USE xxxx" does).

      • Re:Business (Score:5, Informative)

        by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:51PM (#47949737)

        If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Software isn't always better because it's new.... So, color me unimpressed by Powershell, Agile, objective C, json and Azure.

        What is Objective C doing in that list? Did you forget that it was invented more than 30 years ago (and not by Apple)? It predates both .NET and Java, and is almost as old as C++.

        Objective C isn't the newfangled replacement; it's the thing that ain't broke!

    • Replacement is often not an option... and if you can't displace/replace a bad manager, it's probably time to find a new place.

      In my past, I have promoted past bad management, once, but that was unusual and required upper management that a) cared, and b) recognized the situation for what it was.

      The more conventional solution is to shop around for another job, then jump when the jumping is good.

  • I find it just as likely that these workers never had passion in the first place. They were knowlegeable of the current trends right out of college because they spent the last four years learning them. But as soon as they left college the learning stopped. It wasn't noticeable for the first 5-10 years, but as the industry shifts it starts to become more obvious.

    Everyone I know who was passionate about this industry in college has stayed passonate today (almost 15 years later). Some have switched to the busi

  • by alphazulu0 ( 3675815 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:18PM (#47949353)

    At its core, programming is about solving problems. But solving the same problem over and over is mind-numbing. Seek out interesting/challenging problems to solve and you'll stay engaged and passionate.

    az0

    • Solving coding problems the fun part. The work part is getting the solution to the customer, ironically few engineers are willing to tackle the work problem, or accept other people's solutions to it. So what you generally end up with is an imposed solution from above that doesn't work because the people who wrote the process haven't got a clue how the engineers are currently keeping it together. Rather than tackling the problem by demonstrating a superior answer, the engineers do their best to pretend the w
  • Here's why (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jeremylichtman ( 1717920 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:18PM (#47949361) Homepage
    To stay on top as a developer, you need to learn new things every single day. As one gets older, that becomes harder - and for many people it eventually becomes more work than its worth. At that point a clock starts ticking. Three years...five years...at some point somebody who doesn't learn something new about software every single day will get out of date. The other thing is something my dad warned me about decades ago - as one gets older, there's a good chance that people problems become more interesting that software problems. If that's the case, then lack of enthusiasm probably equates to boredom - and again, the clock starts ticking.
    • Here's why:

      Because I'm tacky!
      Wear my Ed Hardy shirt with fluorescent orange pants.
      Because I'm tacky!
      Got my new resume - it's printed in Comic Sans.
      Because I'm tacky!
      Think it's fun threatening waiters with a bad Yelp review.
      Because I'm tacky!
      If you think that's just fine, then you're probably tacky, too.

    • there's a good chance that people problems become more interesting that software problems

      I'm 55, this is true, but it hasn't diminished my interest in software, it's just something else that fascinates me and just happens to be the root cause as to why "work sucks" sometimes. My Dad is 80, a retired mechanical engineer, last we spoke about programming he had got one of his games he wrote in Delphi running on android and was playing with the python graphics library.

  • 2 options (Score:5, Insightful)

    by greywire ( 78262 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:19PM (#47949375) Homepage

    Use your passion to either:

    A) Leave.

    B) Or take over.

    Well of course there's a third option: stay and have your soul crushed. But who would choose that?

    • B) Or take over.

      Software developers are like fat roadies in the Rock and Roll world. If only they could walk away from the Cheetos, the world would be theirs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:19PM (#47949377)

    "I'm young and enthusiastic, and can't understand how older people aren't as young and enthusiastic as me."

    • I would if I had the points.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I saw a talk on youtube where a consultant was talking about the aging microsoft and other tech companies. When he was there in the 1990s .. he went to a burger and movie with the guys -- at about 9pm on a Friday after the movie they asked -- "Are you going into work?" he asked why? and their answer "what else better is there to do?"

      The consultant commented - this person now is in their 40s, has less energy, has a house, a wife, children and indeed some other things to do.
      The big question is .. should a c

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:21PM (#47949401)

    Accept the burnout with open arms. Embrace it. Know it and love it. Take your other 16 hours per day and do things that profit you instead of your task masters.

  • by ageoffri ( 723674 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:23PM (#47949427)
    I've got almost 20 years in IT, mostly in various aspects of security. I don't consider myself complacent at all, but at the same time I'd much rather work the 9-5 M-F then put in lots of hours. In my 20's I thought that the more hours you worked, the more it showed the company that you were valuable. Sure I got top ratings but I was only focused on my career. These days I consider it a source of pride that my overtime for last year was less than 10%. I'd rather spend time with my wife, with my friends, doing things that are fun. I stopped working to work and now work to enjoy life. I'm so much happier and the hours I put in our more productive, after about 10 hours pretty much everyone is better off calling it a day.
    • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:39PM (#47949621) Homepage

      I grew up watching my father leave for work at 5am, come home at 6pm with a stack of work, do work at nights, and do more work on the weekends. His excuse was that his bosses saw him producing a certain level of output and he needed to keep it up. He's retired now. Do you know what all that extra work got him? Laid off when someone else with better connections wanted his job.

      When I first started my job, I made it clear that I wasn't going to do this. I'm willing to remote in if there's a problem that can't wait until morning, but that's the exception, not the rule. I get into work at 8am, leave at 4:30pm, and stop thinking about work the minute I leave the doors. Granted, I love what I do - web development - so I'll often freelance or work on my own stuff on the side, but that's my choice. I'll also put that stuff on the side to teach my boys how to ride their bikes or to watch Doctor Who with them.

      I enjoy my job, but part of what keeps me enjoying it is that I don't let it take over my life.

      • by neminem ( 561346 )

        Agreed, other than the "stop thinking about work" part. I find that when I'm stumped on a problem at work, like 75% of the time I think of a solution while relaxing at home. Then I quickly (less than 5 minutes) write down my thoughts about it and email them to myself, and *then* I stop thinking about work. I don't *do* work once I'm out the door, but that's no reason to stop *thinking* about work. If you don't even want to think about your job, you probably don't have the right job. (But if you're being for

    • by egranlund ( 1827406 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:55PM (#47949779)

      I don't consider myself complacent at all, but at the same time I'd much rather work the 9-5 M-F then put in lots of hours.

      Yeah, I don't think working 9-5 is a sign of "losing your passion", it's a sign that you get your work done and go home to do other things your passionate about.

      If anything, working a ton of hours is just a sign that you're either: going to burn out in a year once it catches up with you, that you're more worried about looking like you're "dedicated", or that you're just screwing around most of the day and need to work long hours to finish the stuff you're getting paid for.

  • Get a (New) Job (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tau Neutrino ( 76206 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:23PM (#47949435)
    Speaking from my personal experience (which is my only qualification to speak at all), keeping a steady stream of new and different jobs does the trick. I've been programming professionally for thirty-five years. I've never had a gig that lasted more than three. Some are "permanent", some contracts, some on-site, some remote. Many of them have great promise at the start ("I could retire with this job"), but something always changes. The project is finished, or cancelled, the company goes broke, or sees a major shift in direction, management changes and has different priorities than before. Some times it just doesn't work out.

    But the end result is that I'm in no danger of becoming complacent. There's always new stuff to learn, new projects to pursue. I'm still having fun.
    • I have the opposite situation. I've been in the same job for 13 years now. In that time, I've taught myself and gotten training for many new technologies. Some of these got integrated with my workload and some didn't. Of course, we have a big library of applications that have been developed over the years (by myself and other developers) that are running on old code. It would be great to rewrite them from scratch using new technologies, but this would take more time than I have available so we maintain

  • Nuke it from orbit (quit and find a more promising job.) Its the only way to be sure (escape the cubicle before the concrete hardens.)

  • You obviously write software with a lot of bugs. There's a bug in your second sentence.

  • Grow the fuck up (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:26PM (#47949481)

    Those "burnt out" developers you don't want to become have learnt not to be exploited. Simply continue to do the best job you can in the time you have WITHOUT sacrificing all your personal time and WITHOUT becoming embroiled in some petty power play because there's no reward for working yourself to death.

  • by Lilith's Heart-shape ( 1224784 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:27PM (#47949483) Homepage
    What's it like to be a sucker who lets his bosses exploit his passion for computing for profit? You see, I'm one of those older programmers who keeps up in order to stay "employable", but has no passion for the work. I only do it because it pays better than cleaning toilets, and I'm good at it.
    • This. There have been a number of articles written about why the mantra to "do what you love" can be a bad one, and this is one of the reasons. If you're passionate about what you do, many employers will exploit this fact. You'll end up being one of these chumps who works 80+ hours a week, sleeps on the couch in the office, and subsists on leftover Chinese takeout reheated in the office microwave, cold pizza, and Mountain Dew.

      Once people get older, they also develop other priorities: a spouse, kids, agi

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      What if a "sucker" has a more enjoyable life than a cynic? What if this is true even if his passion for his work is exploited for "profit"?

  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:31PM (#47949503) Journal
    I constantly wonder how they became this way.

    Someday, you will get a project with physically (or at least, mathematically) impossible requirements. You will, rightly, point this out. You will end up needing to doing it anyway.

    This won't happen just once. Over the course of your career, you will literally lose count of the number of such requests.

    You therefore have two choices - Stop caring, or have an aneurysm from frustration and rage.

    Note, however, that you don't need to lose your love of coding. You just need to learn to accept, with a calm and detached indifference, that your paycheck requires you to write defective-by-design code. If it helps, you can make little games out of it - As one of my personal favorites, I write the code to function correctly and then, as the last step before showing something to the user, I throw it all away and replace the results with the requested garbage.
  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:32PM (#47949515)

    I think I am starting to see the effects of complacency.

    Aren't you confusing complacency with fatigue? Passion with commitment? There is a price to be paid for the adrenalin high.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:32PM (#47949519) Homepage

    I have a few thoughts on burnout:

    1) Are you sure they ever burning to begin with?
    Lots of people didn't start programming because they loved it. Lots of them started because it was a profitable field. They didn't go home and code til 3am in the first place.

    2) Make sure you don't confuse burnout with shifting life priorities. I used to go home, grab some Taco Bell, then write code, compete, hack, etc. But now I go home, kiss my wife, eat dinner, and play with my kids. I'd love to code, but I had to cut a lot of that out. Don't think it was an easy realization, as I could write a novel on the topic. But I didn't burnout, I just shifted my priorities. Next step might be taking care of my parents, which will also cut into coding time. :-(

  • Only from loss of passion can there be that stale state that you call 'being complacent'. All complacency is, is passion bottled up. If you really do have a passion to do something, then do it for yourself - open a business, or just do it as a hobby (or both?). If that passion is real, then you'll be successful - this is not just some theory. If you really like to do something, then give yourself an unlimited arena by which to act that passion out. If you're just stuck paying the bills at some job (many
  • Wage slave (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    You are a sucker if you are a wage slave and have no significant equity in the company you are working for, and still spend your extra time working for free. Take actual control of your life instead of showing blind passion and loyalty to an institution that doesn't give a fuck about you. The programmers leaving at 5 are smarter than you because unlike you, they know they are slaves.

  • * Drink heavily and often.
    * Shove a raw potato up his tailpipe. (do the car first)
    * Begin implementing endless "for->next" loops in random code sections.
    * See who can bounce random objects into a wastebasket at the far hall; style counts.
    * Wear warpaint made from broken dry erase markers and ambush a co-worker while they are changing the water bottle in the office water dispenser.

    Hell, man, you are in the same boat as the rest of us. Get creative.elsewhere and let old fussy pants stew in his own juice

  • This happened to me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:35PM (#47949549) Homepage
    I'm 32. I didn't really get a "real job" as a developer until I was 27. I've been coding for fun since I was 13. Now I daydream about doing anything other than writing code.

    I don't know how it happened. All I know is that I went from having fun coding for free to hating coding for money. Perhaps the moral of the story is to never get a job doing what you love, because it will turn your love into hate. Or maybe the moral of the story is that Java kinda sucks, but Spring causes suicidal tendencies.

    My job consists of figuring out a way to solve problems with Spring MVC. It doesn't matter what the problem is, Spring MVC is the answer. It doesn't matter if you can produce a solution using 5 lines of perl, Spring MVC is the only answer. If this is what development has become, I weep tears of nostalgia for the days of assembly language.

    Recently purchased Kerrisk's "The Linux Programming Interface", Bovet's "Understanding the Linux Kernel", and Corbet's "Linux Device Drivers" hoping that delving into the guts of awesomeness will counteract some of the stupid that I've had to endure. Let's hope.
  • If you feel you are being complacent and it bugs you, then don't be complacent.

    Start looking for an engaging job which will expand your skillset.

  • I had a recent job interview where I bumped into an old coworker from nine years ago. We compared notes. He still has the same job and makes the same amount of money from nine years ago. Since Fortune 500 companies have this unfortunate habit of laying me off every so often, I've worked multiple jobs and make 80% more money. All those new people and company cultures had broaden my horizons -- and fatten my wallet.
  • More like they realized that the gerbil wheel that is your job shouldn't define you. It's an means to the end, not end to the means.

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:43PM (#47949669)
    ... you start to realize that there are other things to life and living than spending more than half your day developing software.

    .
    Don't fight it. Look at it as growing in a different direction.

  • Next year, it'll be 35 years that I've been developing software. I have never been dissatisfied with my job. I have never felt lack of energy or lack of enthusiasm to develop new software. I work for customers, as a freelancer, I work on my own projects. And I change the area I work in every five years or so. I may be the oldest Android programmer in the world, but keeping up with state of the art technology keeps me alive. I don't feel old. Nor complacent.

    So what's your point?

  • The true trick to keep this from happening is for you to remain a geek, don't get a wife kids or a life. Just wrap your world around computers, processors and the love of programming. You will always find your career rewarding! BWAAAHAAAHAAA!

  • People develop lives and other interests. If you'd like to dedicate yourself to one thing, great. But you have an odd idea about the nature of liking what you do. Liking what you do is very different from wanting to do it all the time. The world is an interesting place with a lot of different things in it. Don't assume people that have other interests (Family, hobbies, houses, travel, leisure) aren't passionate about what they do, they've just realized that there's more to life than computers.

    In fact,

  • During my career, I have noticed that many of the older software developers are burnt out. They would rather do their 9-5, get paid, and go home.

    Maybe they have friends, families, interests and possibly even lives outside of their jobs. Perhaps they are even passionate about things that don't take place within the confines of their day jobs.

    If this is a state which you are whole-heartedly trying to avoid and you use phrases like "90 Hours A Week And Loving It" in an entirely serious manner, then just keep doing that for about five to ten more years and you will start to understand exactly how people get burned out.

  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:53PM (#47949759)

    > I think I am starting to see the effects of complacency. In my current job, I have a development manager

    Why do you think the Peter Principle [wikipedia.org] and Dilbert Principle got coined? :-) [wikipedia.org]

    Programmers become 9-to-5'ers because of cynicism and pessimism. Why do your best effort when your project is just cancelled in one year because management doesn't understand "what business solution it provides" ??

    Companies constantly fail to learn that it not only important to motivate [youtube.com] people, it is extremely important to NOT de-motivate people.

    There are 2 really insightful comments from last year which perfectly explain why older programmers become cynical:

    http://apple.slashdot.org/stor... [slashdot.org]

    "> What he's saying is that Apple has an actual functional internal milestone systems
    Exactly. Look, Apple designers have to come up with just as many bad ideas ad the Philips designers, but at Apple, they get killed of early. At Philips, they spend resources pulling those bad ideas along until they're almost ready to ship, and then decide which will die. It means most of the development cycle is a farce, and if the engineers/designers know there's a 90% chance that the thing they're working on will never be manufactured, it means you're not going to get their best, most serious effort.

    If you find managers who can actually identify the best ideas when they're in an unfinished, formative state, then you can focus a lot more of your 'make this the best possible widget' energy on the good ideas and waste less time putting round corners on internet-connected razor blades."

    and

    "The big difference between Philips and Apple isn't whether projects are killed earlier or later.

    The difference is how the projects come to be and reach these milestones.

    Philips uses a "technology platform" system, or at least did during the time Tony was there. I don't know what they use now. That means someone in a technology division at the company develops a technology. Then they develop some platforms that use the technology. They then produce reference platforms or designs that use the technology. Then they take those reference designs around the company and try to find a product group in the company that wishes to ship a product like that.

    The problem with this is that it is pushing a rope. You frequently will make up products that show off a technology but that few people would want to use let alone buy. This system was commonplace with companies at the time. You can still see this system if you look at something like dealextreme or meritline. You will see many companies (barely more than entrepreneurs in these cases) who make products simply because the technology lends itself to them, regardless of whether anyone would want to use it.

    The big difference in how Apple did it, and still does it, is that Apple identifies a product people would want to use and doesn't currently exist or at least doesn't broadly exist in an easily usable form. Then Apple goes out and buys, develops or partners with a company to develop technologies that make that product work or work better. The company then evaluates the product before shipping it, deciding if the product is really something people would use. Rarely does the company have a change of heart about the basic product, but sometimes products get killed because the result doesn't really work in a way the customer would like it. For example, if a product doesn't work smoothly, it may be delayed until faster processors come along. The G5 MacBook Pro was fully developed and then killed because (among some other issues) the battery life was so short no one would f

  • by dlingman ( 1757250 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @03:56PM (#47949789)
    Having kids can eat up a lot of your spare time. While I realize this isn't a problem for that many slashdotters, it has been known to happen to the occasional software developer. Suddenly coping with family can look a lot like burnout, especially in the early years.
  • Really; they probably got married, had kids, and got a life. Or developed some sort of interest outside of work. Or they just got their job and technology worked out to the point they don't have to work 60 hours a week to keep up. In short, they got a life. Assuming they are burnt out may be incorrect. You should also get a life.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @04:09PM (#47949923)

    As the dad of two young kids, just finding time to work, spend a reasonable amount of time being there for them, doing the daily chores around the house and (maybe) sleeping is a miracle some days. Older people who work 9-5 and have families want to keep them. Especially if their spouse/partner also works, there's _never_ enough time to do anything. I used to be able to do whatever crazy crunch project (I'm in systems engineering, not development, but it's not that dissimilar.) Now, I'm finding that there really has to be a justification for spending the extra effort. It is a trade off - even if I wanted to, which I don't, I couldn't go work for a startup and pull back to back 90 hour weeks. Being a dad and doing it right is a massive time commitment. Whenever I hear about anyone who is having a kid soon, I frankly tell them that they need to go and do everything they wanted to do in the next few months...because sometimes it seems like there's zero free time. And when you do have downtime, you're so wiped out that you can't do anything other than crash.

    That said, as one gets older and more experienced, they're less likely to make the mistakes that require the constant 90 hour weeks. And what you may see as burnout may just be people getting wise to the fact that it's not worth slaving over a job. You owe it to the company to work hard while you're there, I grant you that. But people who have lives outside of work really need that work/life split that everyone keeps trying to get rid of. My strategy for dealing with this is as follows -- I know I have to keep my skills at least somewhat fresh in case I'm unexpectedly unemployed. So I try to add myself to just about anything new at work (and usually succeed.) That covers a lot of the skill building. And yes, I do have to spend a fair amount of time reading and tinkering outside of work, but that's been severely curtailed. I think it'll get better once the kiddies can do more things for themselves, but for now it's a real challenge.

  • by luis_a_espinal ( 1810296 ) on Friday September 19, 2014 @04:22PM (#47950017) Homepage
    Sources - 18 years of experience doing all kind of stuff, Java, C, C++, DevOps, Enterprisey stuff, Embedded, for commercial and defense sectors. 45 years old, married, two little kids and going back to grad school a third time.

    Next year will be the start of my 10th year as a software developer. For the last nice years I've worked for a variety of companies, large and small, on projects of varying sizes. During my career, I have noticed that many of the older software developers are burnt out. They would rather do their 9-5, get paid, and go home.

    Family does that. Specially kids. I need to be home early to be with them, read to them, help them eat, clean themselves, let them see me (and feel and understand I actually give a shit). When I was single I would work at any hour. Not anymore. That does not mean, however, that my work is strictly 9-5. I wake up at 5AM to get myself ready, log in, do some work, then get ready (and help my wife get my kids ready). Then I log back to work via VPN from 9 to 10, sometimes going to bed till midnight... with just 5 hours to go sleep to start again.

    I easily make 55a week just like that. More if I do work on weekends. But 9-5 is the strict window I use to be in the office.

    A lot of 9-5'ers are like that, and in addition to all that, we see the same shit repeating itself again and again, from one employer to the next. So what you call "lack of passion" might actually be work-related pragmatism combined with some physical exhaustion and simply the necessary notgiveashitis gene kicking off to save your brain from dying after witnessing the same inane shit rendering itself at work for the millionth time.

    The passion is there, is just that we move it out of work and into other things, like family and career (which is distinct from work.)

    They have little, if any, passion left, and I constantly wonder how they became this way.

    Life. Life will happen and will change your perspective and priorities. YOU. WILL. SEE.

    This contradicts my way of thinking; I consider myself to have some level of passion for what I do, and I enjoy going home knowing I made some kind of difference.

    But that is the thing. You are projecting. How do you know that other people are not made some kind of difference? They are likely making a difference *somewhere else*.

    Also, as we get older we become more efficient with our time. I can do a lot more know with less time than what I could do when I had 10 years of experience (and certainly much more when I started my career.) We burn a lot of hours thinking it is necessary, we do not know how to prioritize or say no to crazy demands. We freak out, and we go into a professional-related frenzy, willing to burn the midnight oil to compensate for a lot of things.

    We have a lot of energy when we start. But energy is not necessarily passion. And not all forms of professional passions are constructive. As we get older, family or not, we learn to pick our battles and seek out the lowest hanging fruits, the 20% that make up the 80%. It is then when we begin to be true engineers, not just berserker hackers.

    Needless to say, I think I am starting to see the effects of complacency. In my current job,

    Unless you are developing the ultimate shit, or have a wonderful work experience with your managers, or are developing your own business, never, ever, be passionate about your job. Be passionate about your career, but not your job. Your job is the conduct by which you make money using your career. Display work ethics, and be willing to go the extra mile when needed. But don't confuse that with passion. That's just work ethics, which we should all display.

    I have a development manager who is difficult to deal with on a technical level. He possesses little technical knowledge of basic JavaEE concepts, nor has kept up on any programming in the la

    • I forgot to mention. Get a hobby, do shit outside of work and be passionate about it. Be passionate about life, not work! I look back into my early years how "passionate" I was about work (not knowing the difference between career and work.) That wasn't passion, that was energy inefficiency combined with not knowing WTF I was doing (or how to do it better, faster and more economically.)
  • They're not burned out. They have lives now. Wives. Families. Something to do other than be a slave to the corporation.

    • Especially in the U.S., marriage + mortgage = monotone wage drone existence. Don't step into that if you can possibly help it. Just the choice of building a life around GF/partner, two mature and independent adults, will work wonders for your spirit, physical health, and the energy level you bring to work and after work, every day. Wife = downward spiral for you. Look around if you don't believe me.
  • Working 9-5 does not necessarily mean a developer is a burnout. As other posters indicated, they may have other priorities in their lives. A technical manager to be a good manager needs to have some working knowledge of newer technologies and methodologies. More importantly the manager needs to have the wisdom on when and when not to use it.
  • As a kid, I remember fearing growing up because grownups like to watch the news, which is boring.

    A bit older, I feared having to work year round, and not get summer vacation.

    Or look at all those commercials (e.g. 1 [youtube.com], 2 [youtube.com]) for middle-age people reassuring themselves they'll never get old, never look old or slow down. (Or, heaven forbid, die.)

    Personally, yes, I have become less into my job and more into my family and hobbies over time. I think that is common. But don't worry, nobody will force you to f

  • here you go... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by buddyglass ( 925859 )
    Let me fix that for you:

    Next year will be the start of my 10th year as a software developer. For the last nine years I've worked for a variety of companies, large and small, on projects of varying sizes. During my career, I have noticed that many of the older software developers prioritize activities other than software development. They would rather do their 9-5, get paid, and go home. They have little, if any, desire to code for the sake of coding left, and I constantly wonder how they became this way. Th

  • If the only obstacle is a bad boss, go to his boss and see if you can get out from under them, perhaps in your own unit, or under someone else. If the company itself fosters the bad environment, it's time to move on.
  • "I have noticed that many of the older software developers are burnt out. They would rather do their 9-5, get paid, and go home. They have little, if any, passion left, and I constantly wonder how they became this way."

    The reason you are seeing this is that the good creative developers left to start their own companies leaving behind the people like you describe. Fairly classic.

  • When you're in your 20s, you feel like you have time to play with fun stuff like code.

    When you're in your late 50s, and the cancer has come and gone, and your parents have died, and getting up and moving is a daily exercise in pain, and your wife has started having strokes and you're both in fear of the next one, and your cat/dog of 20 years is going to die of old age soon and so are you, probably in the next 20-30 years, believe you me, new software falls WAY down the list of important things to think abou

  • I work 9-5 and then go home. When I get there I spend time with my family for a few hours and then work on games in Unity or misc arduino projects or whatever else I'm in to at the moment. Diversity keeps my passion alive so when I'm at work, toiling away with the same code base I've been using for the past 15 years it doesn't feel boring.

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

    Obviously, I don't know everything you observed, but 9-5 does not even hint lack of passion.

  • Kids get all excited about things. When you grow up, have a family and realise the world is made of more than bits dressed-up as glossy pixels, then you'll understand that software is a craft to involve your inner programmer not a ski-slope for the sparkle-headed. Complacency is the wrong word. Look at people. Graduate, by study and research, into management. There are many disappointments to be had there but also many opportunities to use experience to pour oil on the waters of desperation and panic.
  • They would rather do their 9-5, get paid, and go home.

    That's not burnout; that's sanity.

    (Try saying it in the same tone as "that's no moon ... that's a space station!")

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Saturday September 20, 2014 @10:11AM (#47953779)

    My passion is as high as always, only the world has changed and I've become wiser. Mind you, I've still broken my personal record in job-switching in the last 2 years, despite being in my mid-40ies. If anything, with age I've become *more* nimble but less anoyingly eager - at least on the outside.

    Here's some advice:
    1.) Switch your job. Don't worry, you'll live. And if only it is to find out that you had the best job in the world. Ok them, *now* you know. Look for the next one like that. Sometimes a bit of jobhopping is required to find out what you want and what you don't want. Pratice job-hopping and interviewing. Not to make it a habit, but to get used to looking until you've found a place where you are valued. Going freelance is a variant to that. If you're scared of going freelance even though you'd like to: Go freelance! Again: You'll live. And you'll never look back at your old life with anything other than pitty.

    2.) More experienced people in our field - like me - would rather do nothing than work with a shitty team unwilling to learn or toil away on something that can't work or only will work with extreme stress and effort, because someone in sales or PM wasn't listening and didn't do his homework. Contrary to my younger colleagues, I, like most other experienced in our field, smell a projekt doomed to fail from 10 miles away. They might think I'm not passionate or that I'm complacent. Until three weeks later they've wasted 50hrs trying to get something to work that simply can't under the given circumstances. When the project finally runs against the wall and the crew and the problem has everyones attention, the boss turns to me. I say: "We need A,B and C. Otherwise this won't work. End of Story." Optionally, depending on the situation, I add in ".... As I said 3 months ago.". Sidenote: I allways *did* say it 3 months ago, but sometimes it's wiser not to rub it in. Also a thing experieced devs have learned.

    Then we get what we need - which usually is simply a phone number of someone who we need to talk to and the mandate to do freely as we will, as long it stays within budget and solves the problem. Then I fix the problem by working a few hours of overtime - which I do gladly, because I, at this point, don't have to deal with any bullshit and I feel like getting something done. Just happened again yesterday, btw. Stayed till half past eight and did all the scaffolding and on monday morning finally everybody is going to hush and listen how we're going to do the last fixes.

    3.) There's life beyond computers. I ditched my internet connection at home. Capped mobile data and Inet caffees are enough for regular E-Mail or getting your surfing fix inbetween. I've got enough of that at work, and I try not to spend 12 hours at the keyboard each day as I used to. It's lost its exitement. Mind you, I still pick up new stuff each day and make technology decisions 5 times a week at a minimum - but I've gotten way better and faster at dropping ideas. I try not to run in circles on the web anymore. I'm slowly building my Idea Immune System, and try to avoid getting all worked up within minutes about every new tech-fad that comes along. I've also got other things to do before I grow old. When my joints start aching, then I can go back to surfing and trying new web-toolkits 24/7, until then I want to get better at things I'm not that good at yet. Meeting women, cooking (moving away from fast-food), martial arts, exercising, traveling, dancing and perhaps even going back to playing guitar.

    You should think about stuff like that too.

    My general advice on this is:
    You should at least have one regular thing in your life that fulfills you with deep inner satisfaction that has nothing to do with your job or other parts of your life. That can be a religion, any form or art or some outdoor activity or something along those lines. It should be that you can say to yourself: OK, even if I lose my job tomorrow, go broke, have my wife running away and my house burn to the ground, there's still that thing I can do that is fun and gives my life true meaning.

    Hope I could help.
    Good luck.

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