What’s it like being a programmer? Is it a job that you could see doing for the rest of your life?

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Mudassir Ali 9 months 1 Answer 119 views

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  1. Originally Answered: What’s it like being a programmer?
    Since I am sitting here on a stuck train behind a railroad fire, I’ll write up my answer too.

    Being a programmer varies. A lot.

    My first big job was an OS developer/bugfixer. I was the guy sent to locations far and not so far (some of our users were literally next door in the Silicon Valley) to investigate and possibly fix bugs that we couldn’t reproduce in the lab. I was young, unencumbered, and loved business travel, hopeful looks of the frustrated clients, magic tools that I carried in a very expensive briefcase (which I eventually broke), and the feeling of victory when I’d patch their running kernel and the problem would go away. I got to see so many different server rooms, businesses, and hardware. There were of course many days without trips, but even then I didn’t sit at a desk most of the time; I’d be in the lab, wiring up test rigs, installing and testing the OS in inconceivable situations.

    Then I worked for one of the companies that used the OS. More test rigs and weird novel hardware, working in generator-powered test site in the middle of nowhere, or even on a laptop while walking through the sensors and devices. This place lived contract to contract, sometimes I’d play ping pong with the DBA, sometimes I’d work overnight every night for a week in a client’s server room. A lot of time I’d sit in front of computer or stand in front of a whiteboard, too. Small team, trips to steakhouses and shows, startup spirit, everyone is responsible for everything. I felt it normal to wake up at 3:30 every night during one vacation to log in and quietly stave off a major failure, the fix for which was not quite ready. My wife was not amused.

    Then I jumped into finance, very large codebases (175 million lines of code at my last job), very big clients with very big money at the mercy of my programming. Not as much fun with hardware; I actually sit in front of a computer all day now, but I have very interesting, smart, and sometimes incredibly famous coworkers, latest and greatest tools, and the problems I’m facing are pushing the levels of my understanding harder than my PhD research did in my pre-programming career.

    Yes, I will happily keep doing this for the rest of my life.

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