Monday, July 2, 2007

Why A Career In Computer Programming Sucks

I read an article titled Why a career in computer programming sucks recently. The author has given some interesting points in the article. Worth a read for anyone in software industry. I personally do not agree with some of the points in the article. Here I list down the summary of the article in point form, and my comment (in italic) on each of them.

  • Computer programming is a job that’s heavily dependent on temporary knowledge capital. The programming languages and tools that a programmer use to carry out his job keeps changing. In other profession (e.g. lawyer, accountant, etc.), the knowledge capital increases as you grow older, and employers are willing to pay you higher for the knowledge that you have accumulated through experience. But it's different story for a programmer. There's not much advantage for a 60-year-old .NET programmer have over a 27-year-old .NET programmer as both of them will have at most 5 years of .NET progrmming experience.

    Not agree - It's true that programming languages and tools keeps changing. But it doesn't matter. The career path for most programmers typically looks like this:

    Entry -> Technical (pure programming) -> Technical (more on system architecture design & analysis) -> Management (Project management) -> Higher Management (Managing people, department budget,headcount,etc..).

    I don't believe that any employer will expect to see a 60-year-old guy, with 30 over years of programming experience, applying for an analyst programmer kind of job.
  • Computer programming is a low prestige profession. Compare with other professions such as law, finance, and medicine, computer programmers are treated as a profession with lower status in society. In US, any computer science person are socially classified as geek/nerd.

    Agree - I am a programmer myself, and luckily we are not being called as nerd here in Malaysia. But it's true that in most people's mind, a programmer is definitely not a high prestige profession compare to a doctor or a lawyer. In fact, Malaysia government universities only let those with superb result in SPM/STPM (Malaysia Standard High School Certificate) to enter the faculty of medicine; while any student with average result can easily get into Computer Science faculty.. I think this would be one of the reason that people look at programmer as a lower status profession compare to doctor/lawyer. But let's think about this: who's the richest man in the world, and what industry is he in? /wahaha
  • It's a worldwide trend that computer programming industry is starting to be outsourced to countries with cheaper labour cost, especially India. Programmers from the developed countries such as US are losing their job because of this.

    Agree - Yes, computer programming is moving toward this trend especially for developed countries such as USA. Malaysia is probably one of the country with cheap programmer which takes away job from US programmers. But if the trend continue this way, I am sure that one day, probably 20 or 30 years from now, computer programming jobs will start to flow away from Malaysia to other countries which are even cheaper.
  • Because of the temporary knowledge capital for computer programming, older programmer will start facing problem when they no longer know how to use the latest and supposedly greatest programming tools. The only way out is to start moving from technical to project management role. But there's a problem with this situation. Many employers aren’t interested in having an ex-computer programmer to become the project manager. They would seek for someone with Project Management certification and years of experience in project management to hold the project manager position.

    Partially agree - It's true that employers start hiring non-IT background people to manage IT project. In fact, there are CIO from some big companies that have no IT background. But this is only a small population in IT industry. I believe that one with IT background is still a better candidate for a position like IT project manager. i.e. When a user/customer is requesting for something that is technically impossible/extremely difficult to be done, an IT project manager, with many years of programming experience, will be able to suggest an alternate or even a better way of doing it. A non-IT-background folk will not be able to provide such value. Worse still, when it comes to dealing with the programmers of his own team, how can a non-IT-background folk tells when his programmer is taking months to accomplish some simple programming task that can be done in 5 minutes?
  • The working conditions sucks. Computer programmers are cubicle employees. It's almost impossible for them to have their own private office. Besides that, employers often are not willing to invest in proper tools for computer programmers. Computers provided are usually not good enough for programmers to carry out their job efficiently.

    Agree - A programmer will never have a good reason to convince the employer to give him a private office, just to do programming. But I believe this applies not only to programmer. Most of the white-colar worker nowadays are buried in the cube farm.
Of all the points above, none of them really makes the career in computer programming sucks. It sucks only if you are a programmer who doesn't like programming.


Anonymous said...

As I had told you, I don't agree to 'I don't believe that any employer will expect to see a 60-year-old guy, with 30 over years of programming experience, applying for an analyst programmer kind of job.'. :P. Some company will do such thing :P

TML said...

really? /shock
wierd company.. :P

Anonymous said...

Weirdest things happened everywhere, but if a person would hire a guy with age 60+ and with 30 over years of programming experiece, I am definite sure, they r not looking coder, probably just some sort of scam.

Play arcade games said...

im a programmer myself and my bachleor degree dident seem to matter for shit and got sent to a 2week course to "learn programming", in my opinion the least appreciated group in IT educationwise

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