As a young(ish) developer, I took pretty much the path Andy describes; I wanted to share my thoughts on how its turned out for me.
When I finished college, I did university part time as I built up my own business (+ Lion). About half way through my degree, I jumped ship and took a job at the BBC where I have been kept busy, working on iPlayer and whatnot.
Roll on 2.5 years; I am a senior developer and I just purchased a little flat in London.
It’s been one hell of a ride. As I read Andy’s piece many things rang true. This peice is a response, with a reflection of the positives and negatives, based on my experiences. Hopefully, other young web folk will find it helpful.
“By comparison, the majority of people I know who went straight into a career ended up hating what they did for a living”
Well I am getting there. The web does not excite me like it use to. I look at other developers around my age and I feel out of date. I work in a big organisation with big organisation technology adoption. Most recently, I have felt something is missing from my life, the excitement.
I feel somewhat old and tired. Many of my friends comment that over the last few years I have seemingly gone quiet. I am less bold, and I make less things. Settling down has got boring already.
I also feel massively disconnected with my peers. My boyfriend is a university student, sometimes he feels like a complete alien. I am not into music, I am not into much “youth culture”. I don’t find BBC Three funny.
I wonder if I sold my youth. Granted (as I will get to later) I was in a different position to most, but essentially I am doing now what I did when I was 19. That feels pretty bad sometimes. I didn’t explore the world, or learn to scuba dive.
I feel like I missed out on some stuff. Stuff I cannot describe. I cannot say I am that excited and enthusiastic about spending the next 40+ years doing what I do now.
But with all that said, there are some major advantages too.
The Pros. (it’s not all doom and gloom)
The biggest positive, is that I have financial stability. I live well within my means and always have. I saved my earnings and I brought an affordable flat I can live in for half my current income.
Andy mentions settling down:
“More importantly, travelling is a lot of fun. It’s also something that gets harder to do as you progress in your careers, buy houses, raise families and settle down.”
He is right about family, but I think that conflates the issue a little. Having a family happens to people even when they don’t go into early employment. So while I see his point, I think its a little weak when it comes to the family argument.
I don’t agree regarding buying a house. My flat is an asset, if I dont want to live it in, I can just rent it out. I already make back some of my costs by renting out the spare bedroom.
I have settled down, but I also have security and that security gives me options. I just need to be brave and take them.
Professionally I also feel I have grown a great deal since I joined the BBC. I am doing essentially the same thing as when I was 13 (making websites) but I am now doing it a completely different way. I have managed teams, built at insane scale and learnt so many lessons about how to build things that dont fall over and are flexable.
I feel like I have made the most of what I have been given. If the web bubble bursts tomorrow, I have set myself up for a secure future. (though writing that out feels like I’m being a right arse!)
On balance I think there is alot of truth in what Andy is saying. I am on the path too hating my job, and his article is one of the things which has really made that apparent to me.
But I have options and a secure base to operate from. I can fix it and I have invested in my future.
What would I say to young people.
My advice to young people basically falls down to “how secure are you”.
If like I was, your facing homelessness without a safety net, then I think profiting from your skills now is not a bad choice. In my opinion, the web is a bubble, and if you can make enough to give yourself a secure future then that is entirely what you should do. This means doing the work, earning well, but living like a hermit. Make the most of it.
If you have security, for example supportive parents then there is less risk. As Andy suggests, traveling looks mighty fine. I have seen people combine traveling with working to great effect.
One place where I do agree entirely with Andy is about appreciating money. If you’re a young web folk and you spend all your earnings on beer and cars, then I do feel you’re missing the point.
Thats about it for my thoughts. I would like to thank Andy for his post, I don’t fully agree with him, but I think he is touching on an important topic.
Technology has enabled a certain age group to jump the entry level jobs. That has social and personal consequences and discussing them is only a good thing.