Joining the Tech Industry Won’t Magically Make You Happy

When asked about why they want to become software engineers, many people tout the great benefits, working conditions, freedom, problem solving, etc., among many other reasons.

I’m not saying those aren’t true statements. In fact, I wrote an article basically listing those same reasons on why you should become a software engineer.

But don’t kid yourself — cushy tech jobs aren’t magical unicorns that save careers.

In fact, with some of the problems the tech industry faces, your life could become more miserable.

  • People hype up the tech industry wrongly. You always hear about those tech startups that become unicorns and rake in billions — you don’t hear about the 80+ hour work weeks that made it happen, nor do you hear about the years of work it takes to get to that point both from an organizational and individual level.
  • The entire field is hard, and it takes a ton of time and experience to become good. There are online courses and bootcamps promising to make you industry-worthy in a measly few months. Hate to disappoint you, but for the majority of us, 12 weeks just ain’t long enough to be good at anything. Forget something as technical as software. I would set aside a realistic expectation of at least 1–2 years, and that’s assuming you’re extremely consistent and diligent about learning, studying, and practicing.
  • It can still be pretty sexist. There’s a high ratio of men-to-women in the industry, and occasionally there are still plenty of issues with sexism.
  • Engineering is hard. Yes, all of us to a certain degree believe in work-life balance. But you know what else engineers believe in? Getting your sh*t done. And if I need to work extra hours or stay up late to get something done, then that’s just what comes with the job.
  • Some positions are surprisingly abusive. Game companies and large enterprises are notorious for this, but there’s a lot of issues around work-life balance depending on the company you work for. If part of your gripe is the number of hours you currently work, switching to tech won’t necessarily be a solution.
  • Bad bosses, coworkers, and projects exist in tech too. Sorry, that doesn’t go away. And your lack of motivation won’t suddenly be cured just by joining a different industry.
  • Software engineering is, often, just sitting behind a computer 8+ hours a day everyday. Your mileage will vary depending on who you work for, but at the end of the day, as a software engineer, your primary role is to engineer software. Sorta hard to do that away from a computer.

In fact, there is an increasing number of articles by engineers who are just fed up with working in tech (and/or Silicon Valley).

Here’re a few of some of them — read them and see for yourself.

I’m not discouraging you from learning software — I just need you to be realistic about it.

Anybody could learn to code online, yes. But knowing how to code and hack together a few apps doesn’t necessarily make you employable. Take the Iowa Caucus Debacle, for example. Apparently the app failed spectacularly because it was “total amateur hour”, appearing “as if coded by someone following a tutorial.”

If you think completing a few courses online and being able to put together a mobile app means you’re ready to work in the industry, I’m sorry. It’s not that easy.

When you’re working for a company, you’re working on products used by potentially millions of people worldwide. There are tons of tools, fundamentals, and practical knowledge that you just wouldn’t hear or know about by poking at a few tutorials or courses online.

If, despite knowing all of this, you are serious about learning about software engineering, and:

  • You are passionate and want to build things.
  • You are okay with really, really hard problems.
  • You are willing to put in hours (many, many hours) to study, learn, and understand.

…then we can start talking about how you would go about that.

I recently wrote an article about the various paths people choose to get started. You can find it here.

In that article, I also talk about the software engineering course my partner and I are building: The Static Void Academy.

If you’re serious about becoming a software engineer, despite knowing that the path ahead will be full of difficult times, check out our course.

Ultimately, many people join tech and learn to code because it does bring them more happiness.

Making sure you are informed before making the decision will help you in the long-term and prevent you from investing years of your life (and thousands of $$$) into something you regret.