Career advice: Why geeks change jobs

By , ITworld |  Career, software developers

In today's economy, you'd think that everyone would hold on to whatever jobs they have as tightly as possible.  But there's still job-hopping going on out there.  Sometimes it's for the usual reasons -- more money, better title, different city, new field, etc.  But techies, as always, are something of a different breed.  I think they have certain expectations of the amount of joy they get out of their daily work, particularly when it comes to the tools they use.

I reached out to several geeks who have recently changed jobs to work with a different language or different technology -- or to get away from the technology they were shackled to and growing to dislike.  You might recognize your past in their stories -- and in the outcome, will perhaps catch a glimpse of your future.

From hobby to career

Jeff Eaton, currently a Web architect for http://lullabot.com, spent "close to a decade working on Microsoft technologies -- ASP, ASP.Net, desktop C# applications, and so on."  Like a lot of techies, he also had Web projects he was working on in his spare time -- and for one of them, he decided to use the open source Drupal CMS.

The open source world is one where it's easy to get pulled in bit by bit. "In the course of tweaking [Drupal], I got sucked into the OSS community, submitting patches," says Eaton. And that led to work for pay: "I was occasionally approached by folks who asked me to do one-off freelancing gigs with that framework, and I did that on the side for a while."  This led to a strange double life, "about two years of doing 'Enterprise .Net Work' during the day and OSS development at night."  Then came the day when a Drupal consultancy offered him a full-time job.

It was a jump. "Benefits and pay were actually lower (at the time), and I was newly married, so it did cause some nail-biting." But "within months I was building sites for MTV and Sony BMG, Fast Company magazine ... and I'm making more than I would have at my previous job."  But it wasn't just about the money: "The biggest motivator was the appeal of building things that many more people would use -- something that was missing when I built vertical desktop apps for enterprise customers. The collaborative quality of working full-time in the OSS community was also a really refreshing change. Obviously, it's a job like any other, but I've been doing this for about three years now and I enjoy it a lot."

You're so young -- why commit?

Kristina Durivage got what you might call an early start on her career -- doing a lot of interviewing her senior year of college and jumping right into a job upon graduation last year.  But things seemed a little constricting -- particularly when it came to the main language she was working with. "My company had some in-house development tools from the '90s that they did their best to update. I was working with SQL Server's TSQL as much as I could because it was easier than trying to figure out how to get their language (which really doesn't have a name known outside the company) to work."

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