Thursday, November 16, 2006
I like the self-employed contract programmer lifestyle, but two months into that new career, I'm being tempted with a permanent position. It's a high-paying management job, with lots of authority.
I hate opportunities like this.
I hate them because, deep down, I know I need to grow up and accept a job like this someday. I keep getting such offers, and I keep turning them down. I'm not ready to take one yet, but I wonder how many times I can say "No" before people stop asking.
I'm not dead-set against becoming a manager. I like the idea of having more control over what goes on around me and sharing my "wisdom" with a larger group of people. The problem is that I think I still have a lot to learn about being a computer programmer, and I don't want to abandon my craft when I feel I'm just starting to get good at it.
So why not just keep being a programmer? My fear is that I'll become one of those programmers in their forties or fifties who, despite impressive skill and experience, can't find work. Too many employers assume that middle-aged programmers haven't learned anything since 1985, and that their decades of experience are not worth the high pay rates they expect. Developing managerial skills and experience now would provide some insurance against such an end to my career.
I've been lucky to work with people who do place high value on skill and experience. But I know that lucky is the important factor. There are a lot of people who are just as smart and hard-working as I am, but who have not found their niche. My niche could disappear at any time.
Taking a job like this is the Smart Thing to do. If I had a family to take care of, it would be a no-brainer. As a single guy with no responsibilities except to himself, however, I want to do what I want to do, even if it does put my future at risk.
On the other hand, I know that staying within the bounds of known-competence is preventing me from experiencing other things. Maybe I can be a good manager. If not, then I'll just accept the generous severance package and be back where I started.
I'm going to be forty in a couple of months. Is it time for me to grow up?
Good luck either way.