Back in the dark ages of computer science (mid-1980s), when I was in school learning about information systems, we basically were taught how to write code. Our professors would give us specs and we would write neat and structured programs. In a mind numbing ritual before each test we would memorize syntax.
I thought cant wait to do this the rest of my life. Really I did! Although coding was very predictable at times, there were many challenging problems to solve and great satisfaction when your program compiled and ran like a charm.
When I landed my first job, I anticipated being handed specs and writing code. Instead, I was thrown into gathering requirements from a behemoth federal agency with a final documentation deliverable large enough to fill a tractor trailer. We had to interview the legacy systems users, dig through old source code written in the 1960s, and comb through excruciatingly boring user manuals.
This they did not teach in school.
However, it was actually a very useful experience and it helped me realize that there was much more to IT than coding. Since then I have dabbled in many other IT disciplines and finally found my IT happy place in other disciplines within the realm of information technology.
So, have you found your IT happy place?
If you are still coding after many years in the business, consider the changing landscape in IT. With more hard core development work being outsourced to cheaper labor markets, there is less of a need for pure developers in the US. I would argue today that there are more opportunities for disciplines in IT that do not involve writing code, especially in the United States.
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Before I get too much hate mail from those of you who have found your happy place in coding, I am not implying you have chosen a lame duck career. I just dont think most colleges prepare those who graduate with software related majors for the real world. And, instead of getting depressed if you dont find it to your liking or market forces are causing you angst, do not be afraid to overcome the fear of leaving your coding meal ticket and try out other disciplines.
Of course, an important happy place factor is job satisfaction. Some techies would be ecstatic to be cranking out code until retirement and they have no problem keeping up with advancements in software development technology and methodologies. It is a passion for them, thus it pretty much comes natural.
However, there are those who have spent the first part of their IT careers writing code and quite frankly are bored to tears, not feeling challenged because their skills and interests lie elsewhere.
Instead of packing their bags and leaving IT, there are other disciplines within IT that may fit their interests and personality traits. Here are ten for you to ponder:
1. Analyst - If you like being around people and problem solving, being an analyst could be for you. You would have the opportunity to interview users and collect requirements. Sure you may have to read some boring old manuals, but you will also be able to help shape the design of a future system that will solve a lot of problems and directly improve the business function it supports.
2. Tester - Working in quality assurance can be very rewarding if you enjoy detail oriented work and making developers mad. Well, some will get upset if you keep finding bugs in their code. But that is your job, to make sure the code meets the requirements.