The downside of being a programmer

I was a programmer for 16 years before changing to PM recently. Previously I’ve written about the plus side of being programmer. But as any other good thing in this world, there are downsides that are not discussed as often. In this post I try to mention some of them.

This is brutal honesty. It might be controversial and unpleasant but this is what I learned about a profession that I happily did for the better part of my adult life.

The future

As of 2016 computer languages are pretty complicated for an average person. Not everyone with a great idea can make a great program. As the computers get more powerful, it will be possible to create programs in higher level languages which makes them more reachable for an average person. This can shrink the market for the traditional programmers.

Always on the run

In the information age, computer technologies as the devices which run this revolution are constantly improving. That means if your job is to deal with computers, you need to constantly keep yourself up to date.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. — Abraham Lincoln

This is totally true about programming. I usually spend about 1–3 hours per day learning new libraries, languages and APIs. Maybe I’m a slow learner, but you’ll hardly find any programmer who doesn’t Google programming-related stuff on a daily basis. Hacker news and Stackoverflow are the popular ones but the journey doesn’t stop there. The computer industry is constantly changing and it takes a lot of energy, time and effort to be at the top of your game.

Competition

Software development has become more or less an art of putting components together. Unless you’re developing these pieces, you’ll probably be able to manage without a computer degree. This lowers the entry barrier for programming jobs. Considering all the goodness of programming jobs, people from all trades want to work as a programmer. Therefore the competition is kinda tough even though the market is quite good.

Health risks

The profession is not totally risk free. There is a risk of internet addiction disorder and repetitive strain injury. Sitting all day long doesn’t make things better either. Our body is not evolved for sitting behind a desk and stare at screen. For example 2 years ago I started to feel headaches and after diagnosis it turned out that my eye gets too much pressure when staring at screen for long hours. I ended up with computer glasses but there are many who suffer from more painful problems in their back or neck.

Brain fatigue

As the technology becomes more and more complex, our daily tasks are shifting from implementing algorithms to quickly learning a new tech and utilizing it in projects. It might be interesting to get new toys (or upgrades) all the time but over a long period it may lead to fatigue.

Communication skills

Programmer’s main job is like translation — they translate human language into computer language and vice versa. Too much dealing with computers, may degrade your communication skills. Normal human beings are not as abstract, quick, accurate and predictable as computers.

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Knowledge Worker, MSc Systems Engineering, Tech Lead, Web Developer

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