If you asked the average coder what a cool job might be, apart from "not mine!!", you'd likely hear a few common suspects cropping up - game development, working at Google, or working on an OSS project full time. So you would think that I would be crazy to leave my job as the lead developer of Mahara, a job that sits firmly in the third category. So why did I?
I'm going to explain my situation and motives, because I think my current situation is quite similar to yours. And at the end, maybe you'll see how in the same situation, you might do the same.
I might be making blind assumptions here, but the average reader of this post is likely to be a software developer or sysadmin in a small to medium sized company. You're also likely to be a New Zealander, and possibly quite young, but that's about as far as I can guess.
Therefore, I'm guessing that you'd have probably liked my (ex) job, and would have swapped me for it. Sure there's a few of you who really like your current gigs, and I congratulate you for finding a job you like, but I'm guessing that getting paid to lead an OSS software project sounds better than writing Perl/Java/C for $CLIENT under $MANAGER.
And yes, leading an OSS project is fun! You get to manage a codebase, talk with cool people all over the world, write interesting code and (one of my favourite bits) make releases, new versions that gratify your community and bring new people in.
You become proud of your creation, and begin to "own" it, which makes your job even easier. Sure, the hours are sometimes rough if you're lost in coding a new feature or helping someone in IRC, but they all feel like hours well spent. Work becomes pleasurable, and so does your life as a result.
And that was exactly the situation I was in.
"So why change, Nigel? Why throw it all away?" I hear you ask.
Well obviously, it's because I'm crazy!
Am I crazy? Maybe. There's two types of crazy, insane crazy and fiendishly crazy. I've been accused of the former many times (and the currymails don't help), but this time I think I'm the latter. Let me explain.
- Accept what people tell you at face value
- Don't question authority
- Go to college because you're supposed to, not because you want to learn something
- Go overseas once or twice in your life, to somewhere safe like England
- Don't try to learn another language; everyone else will eventually learn English
- Think about starting your own business, but never do it
- Think about writing a book, but never do it
- Get the largest mortgage you qualify for and spend 30 years paying for it
- Sit at a desk 40 hours a week for an average of 10 hours of productive work
- Don't stand out or draw attention to yourself
- Jump through hoops. Check off boxes
(You can read more about this here).
Is your life average? Mine is! I don't think you need to fit all of these to have an average life. There's millions of people, there will still be many "less average" than you who are pretty average. For me, I went to college, have been to England, don't know another language, have only ever thought about starting my own business, have sat at a desk for 40 hours a week .. you get the idea.
You might not think that this is a problem - you could have a family, or like the stability of a steady job. If you have a family, you're excused, but if you're young (under 30 especially) and have no dependents, why are you wasting your prime years trekking down the road to mediocrity? Now that's crazy!
A guy I know has spent much of his life on the corporate ladder, working his way up to senior management positions. He chose to have a family, which is a noble undertaking (and despite its frequency, something you'll never hear me say is "average"). He had a safe, stable job which allowed his family to grow up successfully.
But just this year, the recession sparked job cuts that saw him out of work for the first time in over 20 years - caught by the economic chainsaw, helpless to influence his own fate. All of a sudden, the safety of a stable job was gone, the mortgage looked tough, and retirement plans were looking downhill.
Now I'm happy to report that he eventually got hired after a few months of downtime. But how safe has your job seemed in the last year? Has it been less secure than previous years?
Being tied to a 9 to 5 job doesn't sound quite as safe as you'd hoped, all of a sudden. You might have gotten lucky this time around, but there will be more, deeper recessions, and next time you might have kids to feed.
Now, admittedly, this man had chosen to have a family, and thus exposed himself to the (comparitively small) risk of putting his job's fate in the hands of others. But if you're young and free, why would you even start walking down this path?
Let's face it, developers are smart people. Dude, you know pointers and recursion, and that's something 99.9% of the population cannot remotely comprehend - not your boss that's for sure. So why is he earning more than you? Who's the smart guy now? It's time for you to stop sheepwalking, and start doing something remarkable with your life.
Stop working for someone else, stop living in a cubicle, stop playing office politics, stop doing your boring job. That software or website you always wanted to write? Do it! Those places you want to see? Go there! Ever wanted to write a book, learn a language, play music, take up your sport professionally? Go for it! Do something remarkable. And do it now, because it'll only get harder the longer you wait.
That's why I've left my job. Working on an OSS project is not a job to pass up without careful thought, but I've done it for a while and I think it's time to do something new. So, I'm taking number six on the list of things that boringly average people do, and crossing it off, forever. And when I'm done, you'd better not still be in that cubicle.
Which one are you going to cross off?
ps: As Seth likes to say, the best time to start was last year. Failing that, today will do.
|||I daresay I'm more productive than 10 hours a week, but that's besides the point. Average life!|
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