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The search for Job satisfaction

By in News
Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 04:25:13 PM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

There's so much opportunity right now in the IT industry, it's confusing me. I am a recent graduate of a good University, and although I don't hold a computer science/engineering degree, my tech skills are high.

What's a grad to do?

Right now I'm at a crossroads.. I can program in C/C++ and Java, I am proficient in UNIX, and I have some basic knowledge in networking.

Where do I go from here? I would like to be a developer, but from what I hear, hours are bad and so is the pay. Coding is what I enjoy, but I like to do it on my own terms.

SysAdmins seem to have a comfy lifestyle. But is there a lot of potential for advancement?

What about DBAs, network admins, consultants?

What professions do you guys feel balances best between being challenging and being comfortable? I am considering all aspects: salary, "fun", challenge, and anything else.


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The search for Job satisfaction | 20 comments (20 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
as someone who won't be in school m... (2.50 / 2) (#4)
by iwehrman on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 03:13:56 PM EST

iwehrman voted 1 on this story.

as someone who won't be in school much longer, i often wonder similar things. i will graduate with a degree in cs, and perhaps also mathematics... i'm still not sure what exactly i want to do for a living, much less who will pay me to do it.

How about going into research, or s... (2.00 / 1) (#1)
by tnt on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 03:15:47 PM EST

tnt voted 1 on this story.

How about going into research, or starting your own company?

     Charles Iliya Krempeaux, B.Sc.
  Kuro5hin user #279

Sounds just like me, although I'd r... (3.00 / 2) (#2)
by End on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 03:23:57 PM EST

End voted 1 on this story.

Sounds just like me, although I'd rather dig ditches than be a sysadmin. What a nightmare job; supporting all the stuff we programmers create. No thanks.



Re: Sounds just like me, although I'd r... (none / 0) (#8)
by rusty on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 06:04:57 PM EST

I dug ditches, professionally, for a total of three days. It's a tough call, but I'd still rather be a sysadmin than dig ditches again. At least sysadmins don't go home with bloody hands every night.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Sounds just like me, although I'd r... (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by Inoshiro on Wed Apr 19, 2000 at 05:19:06 PM EST

Have you read alt.sysadmin.recovery?

I know I'd come home with bloody hands. "You say you rebooted the machine I told you not to reboot, eh? <snick>"

There's a reason we use the anagram "Scary Devil Monastery" for ASR ;-)

[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
For what its worth I've found sysad... (4.00 / 3) (#5)
by schporto on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 03:30:12 PM EST

schporto voted 1 on this story.

For what its worth I've found sysadmins can be just as if not more harrassed than programmers. I'm a programmer but most friends are sa's. I've found it depends more on the business area than the job itself. I.e. if you're a developer for a software house then you'll have deadlines set to get your code out the door, if you're in a manufacturing business it's a little different, they resist change so you're not gonna be under as tight demands. Sys admins are responsible for making sure the system is up anytime some is using it. So in many cases they are responsible for the system working for as many hours as the coders are working, in the case of production systems they're responsible for any time the system could be accessed. For web environments that's 24x7 you're on call. Think about being the SA for amazon. They could get a call at 2am that the system is down and amazon is losing several thousand dollars a minute that the system is down. Of course like I said I'm a programmer and most notably biassed. -cpd

Re: For what its worth I've found sysad... (3.50 / 2) (#15)
by locutus074 on Wed Apr 19, 2000 at 01:16:05 AM EST

They could get a call at 2am that the system is down and amazon is losing several thousand dollars a minute that the system is down.
Wait, they lose money when their system is down, too? What's different from when it's up?


(Sorry. I just couldn't resist! ;->)
"If you haven't gotten where you're going,
you aren't there yet." --George Carlin
[ Parent ]

find a startup. You'll have the mo... (1.00 / 1) (#3)
by bgp4 on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 03:31:50 PM EST

bgp4 voted 1 on this story.

find a startup. You'll have the most fun, get more exposure to all parts of the industry... more than you'll get from the corp world, that's for sure.
May all your salads be eaten out of black hats

Re: find a startup. You'll have the mo... (none / 0) (#20)
by Gentry on Thu Apr 20, 2000 at 09:13:59 AM EST

And avoid mid-age startups (5 yrs) that are expanding rapidly... I've found things to be very much like the car mechanic analogy above. It can be a very rewarding job but sometimes you'll just want to pack it in and find something completely different. Often employees have a resentment for sys admins because there work depends on it and they want it fixed yesterday. You have to get used to that - most companies can't afford to bin admins as there just aren't that many about. As for sysadmin vs programming, I'd rather be admining for the freedom - you largely get do do things your own way - you don't get that in programming IME. And it's got a very good supportive community. I'm still looking for a place to stay for a while. Been admining 20 months now, straight out of Uni in the UK with very little admin experience and am now in my second job. Problem in the UK is finding that good job. Agencies seem to be the only way to go, and they blow....

[ Parent ]
This should create a very interesti... (2.00 / 4) (#6)
by TREE on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 03:44:48 PM EST

TREE voted 1 on this story.

This should create a very interesting discussion.

the life of a sys admin is not comfy (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by xah on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 05:52:14 PM EST

First, the life of a sys admin is not comfy. I know it looks comfy to those on the outside, but the job comes with enormous pressure. For non-sysadmins to understand this, I would like you to imagine this scenario:

You are one of only a few hundred auto mechanics in a large city with millions of inhabitants, all of whom own their own car. Most people have cars from Gates Automobiles, which break down notoriously often, are very hard to fix, and are too pricey to simply replace with a new model. Of course, there are a few Torvalds and Jobs models zipping around. Whenever a car, any car, breaks down, your phone rings. Or you get e-mail. Or both. Your boss is either not technical enough to know whether you are doing your job well, or too over-burdened by other responsibilities to follow what you're doing, so he assumes you are slacking. No one understands how demanding your job is.

No one understands how cars work. No one cares. They just call you when their cars break down. Everyone knows you are overworked, so more mechanics are hired. But learning how to fine tune one of these cars is a tough skill to learn, and most of your co-workers don't have your ability. Thus, you spend a lot of time fixing their mistakes and teaching them. Auto mechanic is probably the most important job in the entire city, behind the mayor, but no one cares. Instead you get no respect. Everyone calls you a nerd, even the cute girls. You are like a cowboy, though, with a screwdriver for a sidearm, and a wealth of knowledge as your only advantage in a blighted, hateful land. Plus, the coffee machine just broke down and you keep overhearing conversations about you being fired for getting uppity with the auto repair shop management. Last week your best friend got fired for gapping out in the middle of a meeting. But at least you can find another job as a mechanic at some other shop and do it all over again.

In case you're wondering, I quit my sysadmin job to go into another field. I always liked to tinker with computers, but when it was my job I hated it. Now I can enjoy computers again.

My advice to those who are considering sysadmin work is to first work for a medium or large company where you can enhance your expertise. Learn everything you can. Then, quit. Start your own small consulting company, maybe with some friends. (If you signed a non-compete agreement, either move far enough away at that point, or consult a lawyer. (Yes, really.) Many non-compete agreements are invalid.) Be your own boss. Work at your own pace. Take home all the profits you make. Yum yum.

That depends... (none / 0) (#11)
by driph on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 09:31:37 PM EST

I think that depends on the actual environment of the place where you work. A good friend of mine is an admin at a major university and has a good deal of his cd collection in mp3 form as a result of finding something to do. He isn't lazy, the system just runs well.

That goes for all the rest of the jobs mentioned in the article as well. Another colleague is a web designer, making triple digits, and he works 9-5. It all depends on where you do it, and for whom.

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]
Re: The search for Job satisfaction (4.50 / 2) (#9)
by bservo on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 06:16:40 PM EST

Mmmmm...job satisfaction. It's something that I've thought about quite a bit recently. I graduated with a Masters degree in Computer Science from a prominant Midwestern Big Ten school last year. I came out to Silicon Valley hoping to find out what it's all about...perhaps to put my Java/C/Perl skills to use on bigger and better projects.

I had accepted a job with Netscape back last January, which then was bought out by AOL a short time later. I was there all of 3 1/2 months before deciding that it just wasn't very interesting to me...nothing like the projects I had been working on at school. I really wasn't learning much, just straight programming. Also, the people in my team were a bit older and had a totally different lifestyle, what with kids and all. I guess I was expecting a place where I would hang out with the same people I worked with. Also, working in a cubical was a drag.

After looking around at Netscape a bit for other opportunities, I decided instead to join a small start-up consulting business that would give me the opportunity to learn new things and at the same time hone my existing skills. The people there were younger and more outgoing. The contracts I have been working on there have been a mixed bag. The contracts that I've been most happy with are the ones that the client has a clear idea of what they want, so we design the specifications and implement them for the client with ease. The contracts that I would have avoided if I had known better were ones where the client changed their business requirements on a day to day basis, which made design and development very frustrating. Most of the work has been development, which allows me to work off of the client's site most of the time. That means I usually go into the office a few days a week and work from home the rest of the week.

All in all, I've been pretty happy with the small consulting group. I've enjoyed working in a very personal environment rather than in the corporate cubical land. However, a few of my co-workers recently decided to leave as they felt our company was not growing fast enough. They wanted to join a small company and make it big. They saw all the people at dot com startups around us and wanted to do the same...get some options, get bought out, exercise their options, then leave. Personally, I'd rather work with a small, tight-knit group of people and have fun at work while learning new skills. Too many hours of our lives are spent at work not to enjoy it. The money? It's secondary. Sure, I might not make millions doing what I'm doing, but I'm getting paid much more than I need to live comfortably (the right industry, the right place, the right time).

So my suggestions to you are: try to find a place where the people you'll be working with are your peers. Also, make sure you work on projects that you're interested in and/or require you to learn new skills, else you may end up bored out of your skull. Depending on your personal goals, working in a big company may or may not suit your needs. Don't worry about the money. Programmers are still in high demand and will be for the near future. We can still command respectable compensation.

SHAMELESS PLUG: And if you're a particularily good programmer looking for a job in the Bay Area, feel free to visit: http://www.xetex.com/

Inaccessible website (none / 0) (#12)
by kmself on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 10:08:12 PM EST

If you're looking for a job and showcasing your talents, try presenting a front page using something other than Javascript, shockwave, and flash, none of which particularly impress me -- or is accessible by my preferred browser and/or configurations. You should also probably prevent raw directory listings, particularly of cgi elements.

...a hiring, Bay Area, free-software kinda guy.

Sounds as if you've got almost enough experience to be seasoned (that's meant as a compliment).

Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Re: The search for Job satisfaction (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by Nyarlathotep on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 08:39:37 PM EST

Research mathematicians (maybe scientist in general) normally score pretty high (like first place) on job satisfaction ratings.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
Re: The search for Job satisfaction (none / 0) (#13)
by skim123 on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 11:22:10 PM EST

Research mathematicians (maybe scientist in general) normally score pretty high (like first place) on job satisfaction ratings

Any job where you can go at Academia Pace is going to have high job satisfaction. Fuck, professors are lazier than me, and I am pretty damn lazy! I find it funny when I go to office hours and see my professor playing Scabble on one of his computers and ICQing on the other. Tee hee! Who wouldn't enjoy that?

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
What you want is probably not what you think you w (5.00 / 2) (#14)
by jetpack on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 11:29:58 PM EST

Preamble: Well, I've been a "professional" in IT for about 5 years now. Primarily I'm a programmer, but I've also done duty as a sysadmin. I'm currently doing both.

First, I'll relate this story of something I learned in University. While searching for summer employment, I had an interview with one of the philosophy profs at my school who needed a sysadmin postion filled. Because of the way the job was funded, I didnt take, it, but I did gain something more important than a job in the process; Some enlightenment. Of course, I didnt realize that right away, but the dude was spot-on.

He and I were talking about course selections, and what I wanted to take for the second couple of years at school and so on. He said to me, "No, you are going about it all wrong. Don't just take the courses that you think will get you where you want to go. The key is to find out who the best profs are, and take their courses. Anything you dont learn from them you can learn later on your own." Sounded idiotic at the time.

Anyhow, at the time I hated the notion of studying operating systems and wanted to to AI. However, I had to take OS courses. Turns out, all the AI profs sucked, and all the OS profs were great. Guess what? I gained an immediate interest in OSes and an intense cynicism about AI in my third year. Some of the OS programming assignments were a bitch, but I did very well with them and enjoyed them. I did fine in the AI courses, but that was only because I put alot of effort into effectively generating my own course; the lectures were stupid and the assignments were worse.

So, in fourth year, I'd learned the lesson, and found the good profs. Problem solved, right? No, because I didnt carry this philosophy over into the job market. But I've relearned the lesson in the Real World.

So, now, even tho the job I do is kinda bizzarre (I work for these guys) I work with and for alot of cool and *smart* folks. Any job can be tedious and/or annoying. And they all are after you've been at them for a while, but my advice is this: find people that you think you can learn from, and who you think match your personality. It probably won't matter much what kind of work you do for them, you'll probably enjoy it.

/* The beatings will continue until morale improves. */
/* The beatings will continue until morale improves */

Re: The search for Job satisfaction (none / 0) (#16)
by mattm on Wed Apr 19, 2000 at 03:01:49 AM EST

Yeah, and I have baseline technical skills (gcc? Yeah, I've tried that before), and can't afford university classes. I'm stuck in a dead-end job as an "associate" at a warehouse that half the time "asks" me not to come in 'cause there's so little work that they want to have only their favorites come in.

Life sucks for everyone. Don't feel sorry for your own lot in life. You'll find a way out eventually.

Re: The search for Job satisfaction (5.00 / 2) (#17)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Apr 19, 2000 at 07:50:17 AM EST

First of, I'm a proffesional programmer. I've been in the industry for nearly 15 years now. There are a few things to keep in mind.

1). Beware of fashions and the predictions of "market experts".

In the mid 80's everyone was telling me "apple will K.O miscrosoft out of the market with the McIntosh in a couple of years" and "no body's ever been fired for buying an IBM". Regardless of how plausable something sounds, take it all with a very large grain of salt and don't rely on what other people tell you. Use your own judgement.

2). Hedge your bets.

There is no such thing as knowing too many OS's/programming languages/software packages. The broarder your skills base, the more likely it is that you will be able to find the employment in a company that you like. In opposition to this is the fact that most prospective employees want someone with *strong* skills in at least one or two areas. So it's a balencing act between having a broard skills base versus having a well developed set of skills in a couple of areas.

You have UNIX skills. Keep them up ( for example, Linux boxes are pretty cheap. That will let you keep your hand in if you find yourself stuck working with another OS in your job ;).

3). Consider your long term objectives.

When your young, money might seem all important when you first graduate. The question is - will a high paying job side-track you into a limited niche end of the market?

In this respect, it's sometimes best to go for a job that doesn't pay very well here and now if it means that your going to aquire the skills and experience which will broarden your career oportunities a few years down the track.

4). Accept that you will need to constantly upgrade your knowledge and skills.

When I first entered the industry nearly 15 years ago, programming in the commercial sector was about COBOL, DBASE, BASIC and other, unspeakable crawling horrors.

Of all of those, only BASIC really remains in widespread useage ( and only in the highly mutated form of VB ).

Regardless of wheather you go into programming or system administration, you will need to constantly update your skills. Once again, when you apply for a job, in addition to the pay, working conditions, stock options, etc, etc, a far more important consideration is will that job give you the oportunity to update your skills?

You might be strangling my chicken, but you don't want to know what I'm doing to your hampster.

Re: The search for Job satisfaction (none / 0) (#19)
by Nelson on Wed Apr 19, 2000 at 09:12:16 PM EST

Don't be afraid to leave and try something else! I had the really good degree, I'm a total computer geek and would program all day and come home to program some more. Made good money. I wasn't happy. I started looking around, despite my 12hour a day computer habbit I did have hobbies and relationships outside of that and I was letting those get infected with my feelings about my job. At one point, I started wondering if I really like programming computers or if it was because I was good at it and I wanted to be good at something. I got really depressed. I also thought that maybe I just wasn't a hard enough worker or something else because my coworkers would just do the crap and not care. Then I started looking around because I just couldn't take the crap from work any longer. I enjoyed most of my coworkers and I respected the company but I hated the job. I found something, took the jump (hard to leave) and I landed in something that is awesome. It has been a total improvment. It has changed my whole life really, I'm much happier and energetic and I really love what I'm doing. Look around, try different things, learn different things. Job security is a state of mind, remember that, if you know your stuff then you'll never go without a job. Don't be afraid to show your passion either. A lot of us try to bottle it up to keep from getting hurt. Follow it! If you fail then try again.

The search for Job satisfaction | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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