Surprises about software development as a career

Credit: flickr/Roger Price

Is programming still a good choice with offshoring and automation? And if so, what surprises await new coders?

Henrik Warne wrote “Top 5 Surprises When Starting Out as a Software Developer,” including People Interaction, Writing Matters, Software is Never Done, Few Clever Algorithms, and Complexity from Aggregation. He didn't learn these lessons in school, but in the trenches.

Last year, “underscore” asked, on the ars technica forum, what is “The truth about software engineering as a career?” Good career choice, as far as employment prospects and salary? Will good developers always find work?


What I found surprising is that many simple algorithms or data structures are usually faster than more complex ones that are better in theory, because theory usually neglects caching issues.

martinus on

I don't know of ANY other 40/wk job where you can routinely get senior-level work (and paychecks) after only 5-10 years of experience, with nothing more than a bachelors degree and ongoing self-study.

svdsinner on

The managers' job is to take cleverness out of our jobs, not because they're assholes or don't trust us (usually not the case) but because if our work relied on our cleverness or creativity, then they wouldn't be doing their jobs, which is to deliver business value reliably.

michaelochurch on


I found out only at my first job that Software is Never Done. It really sucks having to insert new code into something that’s outdated, overly complex, or not very efficient.

Saphira on

The downside is that you end up sitting a lot, so you need to remember to exercise, and also get your social events planned in advance because there is not a lot of socialization at work since I'm focused on writing code.

gecko221001 on

Programming probably has the most variance of any job category; the best projects are a lot of fun, and the worst grind your mind to sawdust and produce nothing.

michaelochurch on


Working with legacy code is usually hell.

shayor on

I have 10 years experience, and make $100,000 /yr in Detroit, MI at a fortune 500 company. I never work more than 40 hrs per week. I get headhunters calling me a couple times a month asking if I know any unemployed SW engineers; I don't know any.

Finish_the_Fight on

My biggest surprise - many developers, even in senior positions, are self-taught and cannot properly implement even basic stuff like binary search, don't understand basic performance considerations around algorithm complexity.

trekkin on

What was your biggest surprise when you got into software development? And, if you had it to do all over again, would you get into programming?

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