As A Software Engineer, Do You Really Like Your Job?

I love how things happen. First, I ask for feedback on the blog Facebook page about what types of posts people would like to see. Someone asks for more career advice for senior level people, and then two other blog posts appear that make my job a lot easier. There are a lot of topics to talk about when you look at career advice for seasoned veterans of industry. Today, I wanted to focus on making sure you, as a software engineer, were doing the right thing for you. Basically, software engineering is difficult work and typically high stress. So, if you don’t really like your job, you need to do the right thing and find one that you can like or even love. The real question is how do you know it is time for a change?

Erik Petterson has a really interesting post where he compares job satisfaction to a coffee table. It is a very good post that gives you a nice overview of how to check if you still like your job:

My advice to those disenfranchised with their jobs.  Inventory their job satisfaction coffee table.   Ask yourself, “Am I getting paid reasonably? Do I like what I’m doing, who I’m doing it with, and whether the good times seem like they’re gonna continue or not?”

There are plenty of websites where you can check the average compensation for a software engineer in your geographic location. So, you should make sure you are at least near the average or above it.

The team that you work with is also very important, because they can make a job much more enjoyable. I have had some jobs where I had no interest in going to happy hour after work with a large group of coworkers. On the other hand, I have had teams where the people are almost like family and working with them became enjoyable even if it was stressful. Ask yourself, do you really like the people that you work with? You spend at least 40 hours per week with them, and probably another 10 hours per week thinking about them when you are home. Not liking them will just make your home life more difficult.

Job stability is a bit of a misnomer in our current industry. Even the giants like IBM, Microsoft and even Google have laid off people in the past two years. If you work for a smaller company, stability is always a question. The problem is that you have bills to pay, so a steady paycheck is required. What you want to do is figure out if the company itself is somewhat stable. Have they had a lot of people leave for other jobs in the area? Does the company have an increasing customer base? Are they cutting little perks like free coffee or bottled water? Also, how happy are the employees on average? All of these point to the general health of the company, and can tell you whether you should be looking for a new job in order to protect your financial well-being.

Lastly, and probably most important for software engineering is, do you really like what you are doing? For some people, love of their work can override any deficiencies in the other areas. That is not always a good thing, unless you are already wealthy and the paycheck does not matter to you. At some companies, the work will always be really interesting and a lot of fun to work on. However, there are not a lot of those types of jobs, but there are plenty that you can like. How do you know if you do not like your current job? Merlin Mann wrote a fantastic post about cranking. His descriptions of cranking are probably all too familiar to some of you:

I didn’t have time to think about my family. Not now, right? No, I had to keep working… So, I’d type and type. I’d crank and crank. I’d try and try… I would do my job until I hadn’t the slightest idea what time it was or what bullshit I was typing or what my crank was ever meant to be attached to in the first place. But, even when my shitty little crank was not attached to anything, I did keep cranking. Because, Dads do their job. It’s what they do. They crank. They crank and crank and crank and crank.

Have you ever been in that type of position? No matter how much work you do, you have that much more to do. If the work is not interesting, then it really is just like turning a crank on a bed. Eventually, you go to work, do whatever is needed and collect a paycheck. There is no joy in this life, and enjoying your job is very important to your overall happiness. If you have found that you dread going to work, without even knowing if there are problems, then you are probably just cranking. Merlin has an excellent quote in that same post on what you need to do:

It’s now become unavoidably clear to me that I’ve been doing each of these things poorly. The job, the making, the pleasing, and, yeah, the being at home. And I can’t live with that for another day. So, I’ve chosen which one has to go.

You have to remember that you can change a lot of things. You can change how you do your job, and maybe make your company a better place to work. If that is not possible, what else can you change? Maybe it is time for you to change your job, unless you really like that crank.

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5 thoughts on “As A Software Engineer, Do You Really Like Your Job?

  1. Right now I absolutely love my job. I’m working for a large stable company where I get paid reasonably and the work is interesting and challenging as we are contributing to the PhoneGap open source project for cross platform mobile development. However, that wasn’t always the way. Before I joined IBM I was, like Merlin said, cranking. I was working at least 60 hours a week cranking out on a project that just wasn’t that exciting. It took me awhile to realize that I needed a change because before my former job became turning the crank it was an amazingly fun job where we all bonded together like a family. I think I stuck around in a bad situation long after I had to lay off many co-workers as I felt I owed it to my remaining co-workers. It may sound kinda weird but I have a milestone in my Google Calendar to reevaluate my job every 6 months so I don’t get caught in this trap again.


    1. Simon

      It is interesting to get your opinion because you work for IBM. Even in large, “stable” companies you can still get interesting work. I think a lot of people forget about that. When you have the kind of revenue that the giants have, they can afford to do real research and move the industry forward.


      1. Yeah, I don’t think I could crank out 60 hours a week on something like Lotus Notes but our project is very exciting. As an added bonus since it is an open source project we are contributing to the benefits are not just for IBM but for all SW developers.


    1. Hassan

      It can be very difficult to determine why you don’t like a job. Each environment I have worked in had its own problems, and it really depends on whether the problem is something that you can live with.


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