Through the years I have come to realize that the life of a programmer is far from a glamourous one. Even though I am thoroughly excited about my chosen profession and can blab for hours to family and friends about how much I really do love Rails or exactly what it is that I do for a living, they kind of nod and smile and just don’t get it. At a wedding a few years ago, an old friend asked me what I did for work. When I told her that I was a programmer I was greeted with a blank stare. I went a little further: “I’m a computer programmer. I write software for a healthcare company.” Her reply? ”I’m sorry.” I’m sorry? Sorry for what exactly? That I’m doing what I want to do and am excited about a career that I love? I remember walking away thinking that my life as a programmer is nothing to be sorry about but not saying anything to that effect.
Recently, I went to dinner with a group of friends, many who I have not seen in 10+ years. Of the five others I met with three are or were educators, one is a telemarketer, and the other a production assistant for film and television. As the teachers talked to each other about the trials and responsibilities of feeding the minds of today’s children and the production assistant spoke of her escapades with the stars, I sat there listening to their stories. At first I thought “Wow. Those teaching really seem to make a difference and [my production assistant friend] sees all of these stars and works on movies. My job is so boring compared to theirs.” But do you know what? I heard the sounds of their voices as they talked. They lacked passion, desire, and excitement. To them, what they do is a job. Something they wake up, do for a few hours and try to forget about when they go home.
I’m not saying there are not times when I wish I were not a programmer or times I don’t hate my job. Everyone has their days. I’m just saying that it’s very difficult to be bored in a field where everything is constantly changing and there is so much to learn. It’s hard to not love the design and code you’ve put your all into and it’s impossible not to be passionate about a product that you have created or helped create from scratch using your own brain.
I’ve been fortunate to work for some very well-respected companies and on a few intense and challenging products. My colleagues have proven to be exceptional, knowledgeable, diverse, interesting and fun to work with and I can truly say that I enjoy going in to work every morning. I look forward to what challenges await me during the day. So please, don’t feel sorry for me. Although the outside world might think programming is dry and boring I think exactly the opposite. I can’t see myself doing anything else right now because I love what I do.