Some software development career truths

If you were to look around the Internet, maybe read some of the technology sites, or worse, browse YouTube. You would be forgiven for getting the impression that being a software developer is both cool and pretty easy. But that's a lie. Please don't believe it.

The truth is that it is easy to get into software development. I believe anyone can do it. But, it is hard to reach and maintain a level that will be considered acceptable over time.

And if you think it's easier as an independent, think again. It's even more challenging.

Now, I'm not going to try to talk you out of it; I want to set the record straight as someone who's been doing it for around 30 years.

In that time, I've switched platforms and technologies more times than I can remember. And, as time has gone on, that switching happens more frequently with less time to learn.

Let me be clear: I'm not complaining. I still get approached for jobs and contracts using older technologies. The truth is, they rarely die. It is actually a pretty lucrative gig if you decide to go that route because you will be in a market with fewer and fewer competitors over time.

The problems start when you use newer technologies. They are a moving target, as anyone who's used a JavaScript framework will tell you.

So you build an app or a service, and next week, that framework is either abandoned or falling behind. The trick is to ignore what you read and keep pushing forward with what you have. Oh, and don't let peer pressure make you change. Only change because you either need to or want to.

A big part of the problem is that the level of entry is now much higher and more demanding than it used to be. Rarely will you be asked to use just one tech stack and stick with it; people no longer get hired for just one skill. You are expected to cover essentially multiple roles and maintain a high level of knowledge and hours. I laugh anytime that 10x phrase comes around.

The number of hours developers are expected to work alone is a major cause of burnout. I'm not pointing fingers in any particular direction; it has become an accepted (unacceptable) normal routine.

If you decide to go indie, you also have the added bonus of having to deal with all the business side of things, something I have never been a fan of. This means more hours and more skills to handle a business or earn enough to pay someone else to take care of the paperwork for you.

I cannot imagine myself doing anything else as a career. I love what I do. But there is a cost, and you have to decide if you can afford to pay it over the length of a career if you are lucky enough to have one.

No amount of money makes up for the mental health cost some of us have to pay.

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