Ask HN: Those of you who've left the SWE world, what did you transition into?
After 13 years in SWE, working for startups, bigger companies, the golden handcuffs, etc, I can finally say that I think I'm finished.

Right now I'm contracting to stay afloat, maintain flexibility and delve into entrepreneurship, but I truly don't know what the future holds for me anymore if building my own company doesn't work out. I have 0 inclination to go back to a 9-5 at a company coding for a living. I'm done. I've been an EM, which might arguably be the most miserable position that exists. I've been senior/staff at places, and honestly I just don't enjoy arguing about the structure of software anymore, I'm tired of the personalities, tired of the infantilization of the industry (frankly, it's embarrassing) but mostly, I just don't enjoy coding as much as I used to, unless I'm leveraging it to create an asymmetrical amount of value for me ($$$$) which is just not what a full time job is.

However, I don't know what to look into as an alternative if I need a full time position once my wife and I start having kids. My strengths revolve around people and strategy. I've been considering sales at a tech company because to me, working harder and having an unlimited cap in what I can earn sounds pretty fantastic.

Would love to hear any kinds of stories or tips from folks

A variation of this question gets asked semi-regularly on HN, but I think the reason the results so often seem unsatisfying is that the people who actually find a meaningful answer and switch careers aren't hanging out on Hacker News anymore. They're living their life and have found community with other people doing what they actually want to do.

As a result, the Hacker News responses are often incredulity that anyone could ever leave the software industry (even if it's a miserable soul-draining place), or slight career shifts that aren't really career shifts, with a little bit of Financial Independence Retire Early thrown in.

Now, where to find the community of folks who have left Hacker News for something they genuinely enjoy, that would be great to know.

There are plenty of good answers here. There just really isn't anything out there that is remotely close to SWE in terms of comfort, pay, and accessibility.

For the last decade or so, SWE has been one of the most accessible and lucrative professions that mankind has ever seen. Before that, most folks needed to go the finance/lawyer/doctor route to access similar levels of financial security. And those professions require significantly more trade offs than SWE (more training, worse work life balance, etc...)

The fact is, you are not going to make SWE level salary doing hobby level woodworking in your garage. You can get into the trades and with a fair amount of time and effort you might be able to pull in the equivalent of a junior level SWE salary. But the trades are rough on your body and you will pay for that later. Or you can try and transition to other types of white collar work, most of which will never come close to what a SWE gets paid.

And of course, these answers are pretty personal. I have a few too many hobbies and would be more than happy to spend a few years making not very much money trying to turn some of those into paying gigs, but I also have a wife who has a well established career and we have kept our expenses in check. If you are the sole bread winner and sitting on an expensive mortgage and sending your kids to pricey private schools, then your options are going to be much more limited.

Also, just to keep this conversation a bit more productive. I would recommend looking into jobs that are software related (or software adjacent) in interesting fields. i.e. construction, energy, biotech, government labs, etc... You will almost certainly take a pay cut, and you will still get some of the typical SWE BS, but it is much less pronounced in my experience.

Maybe it's true that

>> There just really isn't anything out there that is remotely close to SWE in terms of comfort, pay, and accessibility.

Making the jump from there to keeping a software job being the right choice for everyone makes a lot of values assumptions, though. I personally can't stand working at a desk all day. If I stick to software engineering, there's no way to get away from the desk. Similarly, I value sending my kids to a public school where they aren't limited to a bubble, and I don't need an expensive house.

There are people who genuinely love physical labor. I have family who still live on a farm and didn't even own a computer last I heard. Sure, they're not making SWE money, but they're happy with their life. Their son went off to school but chose to come back to the farm. I have family who happily spent their entire working lives as carpenters/woodworkers and are still very able, but there are plenty of Hacker News responses that claim all carpenter/woodworkers end up cripples.

  • gaws
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> Now, where to find the community of folks who have left Hacker News for something they genuinely enjoy, that would be great to know

They're in private Discord servers.

Nothing is gonna give you good, consistent comp like writing software. I'm sure some sales people do very well but "eat what you kill" also means lean months, and sometimes whether or not deals close is outside of your control.

My advice is to just get a tech job where you can coast, work from home, and knock out a couple tickets a day. Have lots of flexibility to see your kid and take vacations while they're young. Some places offer 4 day weeks and you still take home 6 figures.

Sales Engineering or Customer Success would be an interesting pivot but you usually make less money and have less flexibility than SWEs

  • Sammi
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> My advice is to just get a tech job where you can coast

My soul dies when I try this. I can't look in the mirror and like the person looking back. I feel myself rot.

I need challenge. I need to be useful.

Most dev shops infantalise their devs and don't allow them to do actual useful hard work. So I'm currently attempting a bootstrapped startup. Because I want to work.

A compromise exists :) - Public sector (e:g govt or academia). Due to lack of a need to show quarterly profits, its less stressful. But its also challenging. You can work hard, with intelligent people, on stuff that matters, but you won't get asked to work the weekend. Flexible family-friendly working can be a thing. Base pay is usually less than private sector. But pension likely to be better. And, getting burned out and/or laid-off is expensive. As is trying to save tons to get out of a hell-hole. Whereas, chugging along doing interesting fulfilling work for years at the same place with people you get along with, seems a good option for me. I recommend this to everyone :)
>My advice is to just get a tech job where you can coast, work from home, and knock out a couple tickets a day.

Bingo. We in this field are getting accustomed to extreme compensation. But do you know how many SMBs would love to have a capable "tech person" for $60-80k per year? If you're remote you can probably work half days.

This is my plan, after I finish the grind.

I think there are actually not that many SMBs that want a tech person who limits their working hours and won't handle problems that come up on evenings, weekends, and holidays. That is, they don't want an IT person who won't return their after-hours emergency call.

And SMB owners are not very good at determining what is an IT emergency.

Yep. In my experience, SMBs can be a nightmare for an SWE. Multi year long estimations, expectations of perfection and 0 bugs/downtime, lack of understanding of complexity, 0 ownership/empowerment, old tech with 0 tests.

Of course ymmv, just my 2c.

To your last point, that's basically what I did. I get a lot of satisfaction from being the technical consult for customers, working alongside Sales and CS, and still having that link back to engineering. The kicker is that I get paid about the same. The right company will highly value a competent customer-facing engineer.
I moved over from SWE to Project Management. Yes, I make far, far less money than similarly-leveled SWEs, but I feel like I have more flexibility and I'm not on the treadmill than I was as a perpetual JIRA ticket puncher. It's not for everyone, but if you want a change of pace and would rather not leave tech entirely, there are options.
I was considering sales engineering because I get along with both engineers and salespeople and I hear they actually make more money than either, if they're any good, but someone discouraged me, saying that if you crave the creative portion of the SWE job, sales engineering is not going to cut it for you.

I'm still fascinated by the idea for some reason. Closing a big deal (and making that commission on top of a regular base salary) while understanding all the technical sides of a product sounds like a neat way to get that "dopamine hit" wave going. (you know, motivation -> work -> success -> enjoyment of success -> motivation) Building out big software features often seems like yet another lesson about ever-receding goalpost lines.

I will say that a work situation DID show me that I DO need the creative element though- I worked for Deloitte once, building out some enterprisey software for clients for a time and due to business reasons outside my control, they halted all new development on the product and switched to pure support/bugfix mode. My job satisfaction absolutely PLUMMETED.

Another side gig I found fun was... and I don't even know what the name of this job is because I only did it a couple times but it was fun both times... "objective technical performance evaluator". Basically, there are situations out there with nontechnical businesspeople who have hired offshore software engineering labor who end up jerking them around a bit to the point where they suspect they're being jerked around (you can't fool people forever) but they cannot point to anything in particular, so they hire YOU to sit in on calls and call out the BS. I can't tell you how shamefully fun it was to call out other SWE teams on their BS while the businesspeople on whose side you're advocating for are grinning next to you. Essentially, businesspeople hiring offshore SWE teams ALWAYS need an advocate on their side who "talks the talk". It basically works like this- you get github access, you sit in on some calls, you ask some very pointed questions, and then you write up a report about the code, the time things are taking, the designs being proposed or created, etc. With ChatGPT help, writing up such a report would be cake- you could basically just brain-dump a bunch of observed facts into a text file and ask it to create an organized professional report for you- you can even ask it to make it strongly-worded, etc. Easy money, everybody's happy!

> I was considering sales engineering because I get along with both engineers and salespeople and I hear they actually make more money than either, if they're any good

Hi, former Sales Engineer/Manager here. SEs do not make more than their sales counterparts in salary/commission, and usually don’t make more in stock (although they often think they do.)

In my best years, I would make half what my sales peer made. In bad years, I could make more as a percentage, but only because sales people are usually more leveraged (50/50 base/commission vs 70-80% base for an SE.)

My research seems to indicate the opposite

Sales engineer average salary:

Various pure sales salaries (I picked Tech Sales Representative but all of them seem lower except for senior titles like VP Sales):

This is for software/technical sales, I believe, and not necessarily industrial technology sales

Perhaps your pure sales peers were just very good, or they undercut you, or you were in an industry that didn't correlate with this... Or my data is wrong, or something else is amiss to explain this /shrug

Your data is wildly wrong for B2B tech sales.
I mean... From a single anecdotal data point, you can extrapolate in any direction...
Sure, and without understanding the context of the data you are looking at, you can make all sorts of basic mistakes. Which you have done here. For instance, your "sales person" salary page you linked to is more likely to capture data for Sales Engineers than Account Managers. (Nobody calls their AMs "technical sales representatives.") I'm guessing you also don't understand the typical differences in base / commission ratios for account managers versus SEs - account managers are usually 50:50 while SEs are usually 70 - 80% base pay. That has a dramatic impact on total comp when someone is above 100% of their goal, especially with the impact of accelerators. Did you know sales engineers are frequently "pooled", supporting 2 - 4 account managers, with their commission typically being an average of the AMs they support? That's another thing that can drag SE comp down that basically never happens to AMs. And on and on and on.

But, rather than admitting that you are out of your depth and showing some curiosity, you went with the "I spent five seconds googling this and you're wrong" shtick. Good job, or something.

As for me, I'm not extrapolating from a single data point here. I worked in the industry for 15 years. I was a hiring manager for 5. I spent a lot of time talking to a lot of people about their salary expectations, both at the company I worked for and others.

Alright, fair enough. I'm curious about the space, and you've elucidated some things. Sorry for seeming like a know-it-all from a single source.

Is the job "fun"? (For someone's definition of "fun", when it comes to work, of course... A big payday may be "fun", entertaining clients may be "fun")

  • nunez
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Definitely true, but given that sales folks were always always always on, I'd argue they make less per hour than SEs do.
Being an SE is the definition of an always-on job. The stress is (or, can be,) different than what an account manager faces, but the same underlying dynamic is the same: you're only ever as good as your last quarter and you can never achieve "enough".

Beyond the mental aspects, SEs are frequently inserted, either officially or unofficially, in all manner of customer support processes like case escalation, managing beta software builds, arbitrating between the customer and professional services engineers, etc.

  • nunez
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This is true (from what I've observed; you've been in the game longer than me!), but AEs are literally responsible for bringing in the business [0], whereas SEs are chiefly responsible for the technical win. I think the latter is way easier from how I've seen AEs operate.

You're also right in that we get inserted into these wedge functions, but I haven't seen any of that bleed into my personal life like deals tend to do to AEs.

[0] BDRs are LITERALLY responsible for pipe, so this isn't entirely true. However, many AEs are hired for their Rolodex, so to speak, and when they miss their forecasts, blaming BDR doesn't go very far.

> frequently inserted, either officially or unofficially, in all manner of customer support processes like case escalation, managing beta software builds, arbitrating between the customer and professional services engineers, etc.

other than managing beta software builds, a lot of this stuff seems to be less impactful to the bottom line (of the business, and thus potentially to your salary) than just supporting the sales cycle from the technical side would be. I could see that happening though if there simply wasn't a constant stream of SE work to do. But I can't imagine that an hour burned on customer support, instead of an hour spent writing up how well the technical fit is to a particular customer in a big sales proposal, is making that company more money off you (and again, thus potentially impacting your salary ceiling).

Managing beta builds is the least revenue impacting thing from that list.

These tasks impact the company bottom line (and an SEs compensation) in that unhappy customers don't buy product. Leaving your customers to fend for themselves when they ask for help - and they will ask for help - will quickly lead to an SE getting replaced, either due to their company getting kicked out of an account and replaced with a competitor, or the SE kicked out of their company and replaced with a competitor.

The general consensus is that SEs spend, on average, about 20% of their working time on "post-sales" tasks. I'm not aware of any published data in this area, but it tracks with my experience, both as an individual SE and an SE manager for 15 years.

That seems fair. Had no idea.
> saying that if you crave the creative portion of the SWE job, sales engineering is not going to cut it for you.

To me, this is what separates customer-facing engineering from product engineering: do you enjoy solving people problems in addition to technical ones?

If so, you'll probably enjoy SE & CS.

If not, then stick to product engineering.

Personally, I get a decent kick out of solving problems. Whether that's because I aligned 3 VPs or wrote a technical solution doesn't change the enjoyment.

That said, I definitely wouldn't enjoy solving problems without any technical component.

Whether deals close or not is always technically outside your control.

What's not outside your control is how many deals you currently have working, so that you aren't reliant on one particular deal closing so that you have income in the immediate next few months.

Obviously the hard part is what happens when things happen to go your way and 3 deals close at the same time. But if you can figure out how to deal with that, most problems with the ups and downs of sales are taken care of.

Aviation does but the road to it is challenging and you can end up like me where you end up having to do something else if you get sick
I 100% agree with this. Big tech jobs, or those at medium sized firms, are easy to coast in. I've heard that at some FAANG companies Senior SWE can be viewed as a terminal level and it's totally acceptable to have a flat career trajectory here. Consistent, stable, and reliable salary with an average amount of work sounds good to me, you just need to have a high tolerance for BS.
FAANG does layoffs all the time, even high performers. How is that consistent, stable, or reliable?
> high tolerance for BS

This is really important. You will spend your whole life aligning stake holders. If you can't stand that and started searching for meaning of life then eventually you end up quitting.

Something worth considering here is that while the software industry is indeed a cesspool of shitty management, wheel reinvention, and peter-pan syndrome, software itself and the ability to write it is one of the biggest providers of leverage in the modern world.

Consider finding a role or opportunity to write software for people doing something you find meaningful - you can provide an enormous amount of value, and a good technical person is basically a wizard to people who aren't steeped in this kind of thing. The parts of my current role where I've gotten to work directly with scientists to help them solve complex problems have been by far the most interesting and rewarding things I've done in my career.

> Consider finding a role or opportunity to write software for people doing something you find meaningful - you can provide an enormous amount of value

I agree with the premise but I want to play devil's advocate because you can cause harm trying to help in this manner:

Consider a non-technical org like a non-profit that does marketing-like activities to further its cause. You can build automation for that using SaaS tools binding together a handful of their manual processes. But what happens if you leave? What happens if some of the vendors you picked disappear? How much of your time is now committed to maintaining that software?

Software is brittle. It takes a lot of empathy, time, and long-term thinking to effectively integrate software with an organization steeped in manual processes. So ultimately when you ask "Can I help here" also ask "Should I help here".

A six hour training in spreadsheets can sometimes provide more value then a thousand hours of software development.

Completely agree with this, and I think this is one of the areas where genuinely senior people distinguish themselves: finding the right mix of systems building and capacity building to provide a durable increases in the organization's capabilities, instead of just making a big flashy show and then leaving.

I actually really enjoy building systems for less technical folks - it requires you to learn enough about the problem space and how the users think about the world to create the right interfaces and abstraction layers, but when you do it right, it's phenomenal how fast people can move and how much they can get done. The amount of compute power out there is mind boggling, and when you can actually open that up in a way where people who are less tech-focused can leverage it, you can enable some really incredible stuff.

> shitty management, wheel reinvention, and peter-pan syndrome

I just can't agree more.

Met so many arrogant & immature people in this industry. Including the younger me myself.

I didn’t leave, I’m still in it.

But I dropped a day of work and took a salary sacrifice.

Really bad burnout made me hate work, stopped me from enjoying coding, made me lose my confidence in tech, and made me feel like a slave to working without an external life.

Dropping just 1 day has been the largest mental health benefit I have ever had, and I don’t think I will ever work a second over 32 hours a week. Nor will I ever work 5 days a week.

But I made major life changes at the same time.

I deleted my last remaining bastion of social media - Reddit, due to extreme political new, and toxicity. I switched to hackernews as my only form on “social” media.

I also blocked global and local news sites on all my devices. That has been incredibly relieving.

I moved out of my expensive house.

I got back into gaming, realising that giving it up removed a powerful way for me to relieve stress.

Now I’m passionately working on side projects again on weekends, and the extra day is awesome. And I’m generally happy. My phone screen time has dropped from an average 5-6hours on average over the last year, to under 2 hours a day average the past month.

Also one other thing about the elephant in the room - “AI”, I’ve changed my views on it quite some. It truly is overhyped, I’ve stopped using GitHub CoPilot completely, and mostly just use LLMs as a shallow surface search engine. Try not to worry about your job, I don’t think it’s going to take it anytime soon, and it’s also not going to make anyone a 10X Engineer.

Maybe clever people will become 1.5X developers, and people the rely on LLMs too much will become 0.5X developers, so it balances out

> I got back into gaming, realising that giving it up removed a powerful way for me to relieve stress.

Been doing this as well. It really is a great way to tickle parts of your brain that normal life can't do. Plus the stress relief.

My recommendation after 20 years or so in tech: if you can, take a sabbatical that’s long enough to completely reset, and then re-assess. Travel, read, try stuff, do personal projects, do nothing for awhile.

I started a sabbatical two years ago, and in the beginning I was convinced that I didn’t want to ever work in tech again. In retrospect, that was at least partially the burnout talking.

It took me over a year before I started warming to the idea again, and I’m now fairly certain I’ll go back to a tech role, but with a very different perspective both on life and on whatever roles I take going forward.

There’s something incredibly valuable about fully replacing your routines and truly taking a break.

I sold some stock to make it happen, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.

This is the way. I've heard of the idea that you should seek to re-invent/re-evaluate your life every 7-10 years. Things change, you get older and so does everyone else around you. I find that if you don't take time off to do this consciously and willingly, life will force this upon you one way or another. I'd rather do this proactively and I really do believe taking time off is the best way to break "the mirage" and re-think your life.
Looking back, I wish I had done this a decade sooner. Going forward, I definitely plan to make this a regular thing. Long before burnout can take hold again.
This is good advice :) There's a lot to like in tech but it can indeed burn people out, and some time away from it doesn't hurt. I also took a sabbatical, years ago, and ultimately returned to tech. I worked the ski season, travelled in summer and lived on little. If you're frugal and do bits of work that pays a little, its possible to do this and have barely eroded savings after a year or so. (caveat- in USA health cover can be an issue)
How long was your sabbatical? Did you go back to the same company or did you someplace else? How did you explain the resume "gap?" Do employers really want to hear that you got burned out and took a long sabbatical to recover?
I bought some production equipment (laser cutters, printers, heat presses, etc) and manufacture physical goods out of my home. Feels closer to coding when I first fell in love with it -- making the whole product from start to finish, selling directly to the customer, retaining all the fruits of my labor, etc.
I see multiple comments asking the same thing. Some time ago, I Asked HN the same thing: What can you realistically manufacture in your garage? [1]. Many great answers.

My dream is alive, but no progress yet.


I’m not sure how to figure out if there’s a profitable market I can tap with the thing I want to make.

As an example, I created a modified level so that my wife could set tumblers up for full wrap laser engraving. I’ve been trying to figure out how to sell the tool but maybe there is not much of a market to sell to.

I’ve tried my own website, a free DIY version as an email collection tool, becoming active on laser forums, the finished level on Etsy, and now a DIY kit on Etsy. I can’t seem to sell them. I’ve met similar issues with other items I’ve designed. So, “scratch your own itch” doesn’t seem to create a market fit for me or I have trouble finding that market.


I know the guy that sells a tumbler level for the xTool P2 to do full wraps. He does some online classes too. He found his customers by being active in the P2's Facebook groups from when the product first launched. I don't see any evidence it's generating more than pizza money for him. I think that's too niche to be anything more than that.
Have your wife do a youtube promo on it, and sponsor some laser engraving videos?
I think the structure is the worth here. I felt great when doing a stupid min wage delivery job for the same reasons you listed. Making the whole thing, direct customer interaction, no intermediate no structure. You carry the weight as you see fit, free to do better if you can. So much misery comes from the endless negotiation and fake social protocol sucking life and energy out of you.
What sorts of things do you make? How long did it take you to learn and get proficient?
Could you expand? That's close to what I've been thinking about in terms of my future.

One thing that I worry about is that there seem to be quite a lot of competition in the space and to give clients I feel I would have to go through an Uber of laser cutters. At least that was an impression I've got after ordering a few parts through something like that.

How did you start our transition to it? What is your specialty? Etc.

I just checked his hn profile, and was interested to see that dan is the same person who did improvely, which was mentioned by him on multiple hn passive income threads.,

How do you like it? I find myself gravitating to this as well. The little projects I've made have been outrageously fulfilling, like the first days when I was writing code.

I think if you found a niche (like Shop Nation did on YouTube/Etsy) you could do quite well?

Do you find the lack of a boss and the BS of a typical corp job freeing?

The best advice that I can give you is that running away from something is not running towards something. You need to find something you can run towards.

Do you like what you do and not who you have to work with?

Perhaps you want a job in your field that's "good enough" where you take a pay cut for better quality of life (defense, govt contracting, big banking, life sciences, non tech companies that still have hard software problems).

Do you like building but you want to call the shots on something you want to build for a decade?

Perhaps entrepreneurship is for you. But, it's tough -- having made the transition, you trade off one set of people problems (and lack of agency) for another. Net-net it's more stressful and while the highs are higher, the lows are much lower.

Do you want a completely different field entirely?

I've seen folks purchase blue collar flavored "lifestyle businesses" (self-storage, landscaping, etc) and scratch the entrepreneurship itch "in the small". I've seen folks shift to building physical things (taking up welding or woodworking), but you run into the physical constraints of your body which can present challenges. But, this is probably the hardest path for me to answer or advise towards, in part because it requires you abandoning or at least closing the chapter you've build your career experience inside of.

Best of luck. I'd start with the first question; it sounds like you've worked at companies with "ambitious" technologists and found a common thread of misdirected ambition. That doesn't necessarily mean that you can't find a happy home inside technology. Technology is a big world.

I see quite a few suggestions about taking a sabbatical and/or just feeling burnt out. Here's my experience after still not having figure it out after an almost 3 year sabbatical... and still having no idea what I'm doing. I was at a company I thought I loved, but some disagreements over equity, some random marketing manager, and some code quality issues from another lead engineer who was closer with the founder, I was burnt out, and just said fuck it one day, and basically told them fuck you and left. Over the past 3 years, I've done various small projects and started startups, but haven't had the same passion since my last startup, and haven't settled on something since, all I know is I still enjoy coding sometimes... and I know I don't want to work for anyone else ever again.

I'm just burnt out in different ways... and feel like I have too many things to keep up with now. So my advice if you do take a sabbatical have a concrete plan to keep yourself busy, relaxed and motivated, something I didn't do. I just puttered around with random shit, coding projects I found interesting, renovations, small orchard, investing... etc, and I don't feel further ahead although externally I maybe look successful. But that said the company I was at and frustrations probably would have led to me driving off a cliff.

There is a global surge in blue collar fields especially from highly educated crowd. In South Korea, Samsung workers, students drop out or graduate from elite degrees and opting for simple life.

White collar jobs used to be rewarding and highly paid but overtime it became a glorified day care for adults with Animal Farm dynamics. It's especially bad in Asian countries with strict social hierarchy.

It's no wonder more and more young men are ditching white collar jobs for blue collar workers.

But for some growing # of females (and even smaller number of men), it seems like they are opting to sell images/videos of themselves engaging sexually arousing or sexually explicit content while also engaging in legitimate white collar work. Again in Asia, this trend is even more rampant especially Japan, 40 years ago you couldn't dream of seeing 18 year olds standing on the streets of Tokyo but now they seem to everywhere.

I'm frightened by the whole thing. If young graduates are heading to workshop instead of office, it means they aren't going to be consuming like they used to. There is no need because there is no need to be seen with the stuff people covet here vs in office/startup environments where the rich/poor gap is not only in your face but for everybody else to judge.

This might not help you, but it might help someone earlier in their career.

I was born, raised and studied in South Africa. Living costs and salaries are cheaper. I worked in California. Instead of living a lavish lifestyle, I saved. In hindsight, I should have saved even more. The important thing I did was opting for cheaper housing. I worked hard, which opened doors. I landed up at a startup that's now doing really well.

I retired after just six years. Six more years later, I'm doing what I want. I've been cycling around Europe and Africa. Next week I'm flying to Canada to explore North America for the next two years. It's a pretty cheap lifestyle, but I get to experience life around the world in a way few people ever do. I'm working on building a presence on YouTube. I've met others who sustain their travels via YouTube. Even if I don't, I can keep going for quite some time living off of savings. I wouldn't be able to do this so easily if it weren't for stock.

I'm not advocating a travel lifestyle. Instead, I'm advocating for saving up while you're earning decent cash. Don't blow it all. Then hopefully you can leave for what you really want to do, and not be tied down due to finances.

Not only is this unrelated to the OP, but it's also not actionable advice. Sounds like you got lucky and got a bunch of great stock. That's not something most people can count on, and housing in American urban centers only goes so low.
  • mgdev
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"Save while you're earning decent cash" seems pretty actionable to me.
I found the anecdote of retiring in 6 years to distort the message significantly. Sure everyone can save more but that likely won't result in massive lifestyle changes in a short time frame.
Kind of depends. Plenty of people COULD live like a monk and save a ton over 6 years. But that requires not having a family and likely not enjoying your life very much. I probably COULD live on significantly less than I make right now. Hell, I have in the past.

But I sure didnt enjoy it very much.

But if you lived on rice and beans in the cheapest place you could find while making a 6 figure salary... Saving a very significant sum every year would be possible.

  • yreg
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Six years is certainly lucky, but it's easy to save working as SWE. There are people living in your city on a tiny fraction of your income. A person without commitments could save the entire diff, if they wanted to.

And travelling is cheap as well, I have a friend who is travelling long term for like $300-600 a month, including all the transportation costs, etc. (The opportunity cost of not working is obviously much higher though.)

Yeah for real. I think that any dev can retire by 50 if they want to. Maybe by 40 if they really put in effort, but if you're retiring before your mid 30's you're either 'leanFire' meaning you've basically committed yourself to a life of relative poverty or you somehow got hold of a 'lotto ticket', and that, by definition is extremely rare and not something anyone should plan for.
"I wouldn't be able to do this so easily if it weren't for stock" does not. It's misleading to attribute early retirement to a frugal lifestyle and savings when it appears that they hit the lottery.
> "Save while you're earning decent cash" seems pretty actionable to me.

This is in fact pretty unactionable unless you are planning on boondocking during your career and retirement - at which point - why bother with post secondary education and a white collar job in the first place, just boondock from the getgo.

I was able to save around ~$800k over 6 years while living in the Bay Area, that's now at $1.45mil two years later. But I consider myself extremely, extremely lucky.
It's incredibly unrealistic for anyone to replicate that sort of principal savings and then return. You might as well suggest buying lottery tickets, which you essenntially admit. This is either bad advice or shameless bragging, but tough to see it in any charitable light.
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OP asked for any kinds of stories.
Do you mind sharing your total comp during those years? (since you are sharing pretty personal numbers already)
TC was ~300k USD. My base salary could cover my living expenses (single living with a roommate). I held all of my RSUs + ESPP for 5 years.
It’s actionable advice for many, if not most, people who write software for a living.
How old are you? Do you have any dependents, a partner, children? Do you have any health issues; what do you do for coverage? What are you going to do in 'n' years when you're older, less relevant and broke?

I too am a saver, and over the past 20+ years we've been suckers. The problem is I grew up as a child when a savings account, essentially a zero-risk asset, paid well over 5% interest. That hasn't been true for a long time, with inflation & taxes grinding away at any marginal gains. I wish I'd financed and leveraged more, not consumption goods but investments. The other problem with being a saver is it's very hard to be one, then flip and be a consumer of your savings. The thing that makes you able to save is also what holds you back from spending. There are a lot of baby boomers who have a lot of assets yet still live very thrifty lifestyles; especially if they grew up blue collar when you could "save yourself rich".

>I wish I'd financed and leveraged more, not consumption goods but investments.

The good news is, this is available to you right now!

The bad news is buying the best assets is hard, just like it was 5, 10, and 20 years ago.

Savings accounts weren't paying 5% for nothing. It's easy to look back at what could have been, but those moments are happening right now, too.

So long as you are single and childless.
That describes an increasing portion of the population.
As an early career I agree with almost everything you say except doing it to quit and not work in industry

I mean, I save quite a bit (more than a third after taxes) just because consumerism is annoying. But at the same time getting paid to write code and learn how computers work seems like a pretty sweet gig to me long term. Especially because there's a compounding effect, the more you know the easier it gets to learn new things

And big company bullshit isn't that bad, at least to me. It's a bunch of convenient things to complain about

OK now let's compound this and think about how society would look if every participant followed the "rip and dip" methodology.
The actual advice you're giving here is generally good, but for your specific outcomes there's a relevant XKCD [0].


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Very similar thread from a week ago with 100+ comments:

Simple advice that is difficult to achieve: work with people you deeply respect and admire.

Find a manager that you can learn from that might not have technical skills but is a genius in another domain like sales. You will learn so much and the difference in culture is mind blowing. In my experience the smartest people tend to be nice and confident. There's been this assumption that being abrasive and being smart go hand in hand, especially in the tech industry. This is for the most part not the case.

You can provide enormous value to an org with your skills.

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This should be at the top. A good workplace is 99% good colleagues. Most people who are unhappy at work are unhappy with the people they work with. Prioritize good colleagues when searching for your next job.
Options you could consider:

1. Taking a significant sabbatical (6-12 months) if you have runway for it

2. Meeting with people you trust (e.g. past colleagues) and discuss your situation openly

3. Switching role. People & strategy could lead to product management (but PM roles comes with their own suite of frustrations)

4. Finding a mentor or a coach and find what drives you. It's there, hidden somewhere in the pile of work that you left behind.

My two-cents, I found myself in this position about six years ago. I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - a sizable time commitment in an of itself - and for the first time really had balance. Now that by itself won't solve the problem. Around that same time I unexpectedly found myself in a new vertical in software (building game backend services). So perhaps moving to a different vertical in software, combined with something to bring the balance - might just be a possible solution. I get that I'm not answering your question, but this worked for me.
When I burned out of software I went into Sales Engineering. Customer & solution focused, and still technical. You need to understand their business and how your product helps them. You could also try being a Solution Architect in the professional services division, which is more implementation oriented (though SAs can be on the sales side too).
> I've been an EM, which might arguably be the most miserable position that exists.

It's true. I feel the same.

1. Huge cognitive load to deal with when you started taking responsibility for others code . Even worse if you still need to code.

2. No person skills growth. Managing engineers is not real world management to me. It's way too simple and just chores.

3. No business sense growth. You just implement. You don't face the customers/users. You eventually lose connection to the real world. "asymmetrical amount of value" comes from tackling real world problem instead of "arguing about the structure of software".

Maybe it's just me and OP.

I’m launching a startup to make molecular nanotechnology a reality. Still engineering, but not software.

Founding a company isn’t great work/life balance no matter the field, but it is significantly more rewarding in deep tech imho.

Not quite the career choice I'd recommend for someone about to start a family (and whose spouse is not independently rich).
This would be my second time. The first startup got started right after my wife gave birth to our second child. And not gonna lie, the challenges introduced by that very nearly wrecked our marriage. But the alternative of a BigCo job would have killed me on the inside, and I'm very lucky to have had my wife's support then and now.

If OP's wife is pregnant I would not recommend switching careers right now. That would be maximizing time away from home when you are needed most. But that's not how I read the OP:

> if I need a full time position once my wife and I start having kids

Sounds like they're still thinking about it, and maybe a few years off.

Sounds fascinating! Can you disclose the name of the company?
Very early stage as we're still fundraising for the seed round to start the lab, but most of the core team is already assembled. It's still in stealth mode, and this is supposed to be a pseudonymous HN account so I won't post details here. But you can reach me at the email in my profile if you're curious to know more.
What's the status of the software tools used in this industry? Is there a state-of-the-art "CAD" tool for Nanotechnology design?
Long story, short answer is no current standard. We want to make one:

Not as important and pressing as the actual laboratory work to bootstrap the technology though.

Only do it if you love teaching, but I got into teaching after 20 years, and love every minute of it. This is my "retirement". I work my ass off 7.5 months a year doing what I love, and then work on other personal projects to give away during the remainder.

But if you don't love teaching, there are easier ways to make less money. :)

Curious what topics do you teach and at what level / audience?
Computer science, state university.
Leaving the tech sector isn't necessarily the solution to your problem. Restructuring your career in a way that is sustainable and viable for you physically and mentally is the challenge that everyone goes through in life. When you are younger, time is on your side while resources are not; the opposite is true when you get older, assuming you have at least tried to consolidate and accrue some resources (people, money and skill/knowledge).

I think most people don't leave IT because they are actually not passionate about something enough to motivate them to take that leap, or they have not tried hard enough and so it leaves them no real choice other than to continue doing what they know best.

It actually doesn't matter what you do as long as you put in an honest effort. Because if you keep at it long enough, it can become something that helps you deal with the stress of the job (rather than giving the money to a psychiatrist), and if you become good enough at it then you will have a natural alternative to turn to if you really can't stand the main job anymore.

I have gone from IT to something that I am passionate about, which is related to mental health, sustainability and actually helping people for a change. It is not easy and I am not there yet, but because I have started early enough, it doesn't feel too painful (it's not the first time I have changed career either) and I am motivated enough to overcome the things that people see as 'problems'.

What are you open to doing that will improve your chances? Would you undertake training or spend time trying out different careers by leveraging your existing skills and knowledge? Maybe education so that you can contribute towards a better future, or building some product or service from what you have mastered in IT?

I can share some real examples I've seen/heard of from trustworthy sources (I'm not there yet myself):

- Open an independent bookstore in a medium-sized midwestern city's downtown

- Get into the jewelry business (not sure if there was family business experience there);

- Open a coffee shop, this person had someone else manage it (must be nice);

- One past tech PM switched careers to become a traveling nurse and was loving it still ~5 years in;

- Wive's friend moved to montana and opened a dog grooming franchise

Note that virtually all require some money to either invest in opening a new business or re-train yourself in some new profession (college/grad school prob just means loans). Doesn't mean it's true for every option, but worth noting how often that's the case.

I have some experience of people doing independent bookstores or coffee shops and it's very hard to make money in those. It might be ok if you are wealthy already but otherwise it's likely to be stressful.
This sounds like a detailed account of burnout. Take some time away from it all and find your thunder and curiosity again?
Would second this. I would advise OP to take a sabbatical and recuperate a bit. In the meantime think about what interests you and what is important to you. Deep inside there is a voice that will tell you, you just have to listen hard enough to hear it.
Burnout is very common for CS and IT folk. I'd recommend looking at the Ikigai diagram to identify possible career choices:

The problem with contracting is people often end up locked into a perpetual support role, as IT market saturation drives down earnings.

Could look at a union job, and set yourself up for a soft landing into retirement. There is also the CS dream job of Plumbing... =3

Maybe be a teacher. That could give you flexibility for the kids in the summer time. Although if you don't like the personalities in IT, you probably won't like the ones in schools either.
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I company a cofounded went bankrupt last winter, and then my first child was born a few months later. I was depressed about the bankruptcy, but it was nice to be able to focus on being a parent.
Not swe, but one man band systems engineer/msp. Own company for 5 years, currently bailing on IT to do construction/carpentry. IT is on the decline and I don't see many job opportunities in the future (so ripe for AI replacement). The companies put profit before best practice (literally nearly impossible to find IT companies to work for that aren't mortally reprehensible) and its all round just generally horrible to work in.

Ditching it for building comes with a bunch of pros and cons. Pros, works interesting, massive demand, jobs last 20+ weeks instead of a few hours/days making it way less effort to chase a dollar. I've got a six pack again after being sedentary for 5 years, my health is the best its ever been and i dont spend a dollar on a gym.

Cons, wage dropped by about 50% until I get licensed. The whole industry in Aus is plagued with bad actors and shit businesses. It's rife with sexism, racism, bullying and just generally horrible people and companies. There are basically bugger all companies offering apprenticeships. The unnecessary hazing onsite is a pita too. Old fellas get grumpy watching IT workers pump jobs it took them 20 years to learn in less than a week. Turns out youtube builders will teach you more tricks than the grumpy old dogs have learnt in their lifetime. Age and experience do not always correlate in a positive fashion.

I still do IT on the side, it helps me fulfill some inner wants and needs (I really like helping folks get the best our of tech).

I would love to try get into building IT infra like datacenters. Mix the two job realms together.

Don't be afraid to make big changes, you got one life, might aswell "send it".

I moved into corporate training (and content creation to serve as a marketing funnel).

I teach Python and Data Science (Pandas, Polars, XGBoost, Sklearn, etc.) to large companies (and some smaller ones), and I've written several books on those topics as well. There are certainly pro's and con's to what I'm doing, but it provides good flexibility for me and my family.

> I've been an EM, which might arguably be the most miserable position that exists. I've been senior/staff at places, and honestly I just don't enjoy arguing about the structure of software anymore, I'm tired of the personalities,

> My strengths revolve around people and strategy

These don't seem to jive. EM or Staff is about as much people and strategy you get.

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I became a climate tech investor. It took 8 years, two kids, a strategic tech job, and a migration out of the SF Bay to get to a good spot- and I still have more to do to fully transition. In particular, income I receive from software work is still important to me. The good news is that software is fun again (or at least palletable) when it’s not my core job.
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What has been rewarding for me has been meeting new people that work in different industries and seeing how my existing skillset could improve their work / job, not sure if is this is great advice or answers your question but I wouldn't necessarily look for different day-to-day work just different industries to apply your work to, but I also don't generally see myself as a "coder" but more a problem solver, so ymmv.
Sounds like sales engineering could be a good fit. Might be tough to get the first gig but its likely someone will give you a chance if you network a bit.

I came from tech recruiting which I would not recommend but I do know a few engineers who have transitioned into that. I think sales engineering is similar without a lot of the recruiting bullshit and likely a lot higher upside unless you want to run a company of sales people.

> I've been an EM, which might arguably be the most miserable position that exists.

Why is Engineering Manager the most miserable position?

Aerospace. It's been a real "blast"
I went from SWE to product design, which is probably not the exact decision you're weighing. I agree that the software industry isn't a fun place, but I don't have any other employable skills, so I'm stuck for a while. It's just a question of what's the most sustainable, livable part of the industry.

For me, leaving the private sector SaaS world and working for a non-profit was a good decision, because it put me far enough away from some of the cultural bullshit I despised the most. Timelines aren't insane, growth hacking is a term nobody has even heard of, and I no longer feel like the harder I work, the worse the world is for everyone except the investors.

I'm just implying there may be ways to continue to be a SWE and change your situation.

"...I no longer feel like the harder I work, the worse the world is for everyone except the investors." This is the main reason why I refuse to work overtime. I've long realized the only people getting rich here are the owners/founders.
Another vote for business. You understand software and the software development process. That's more than most in business. Your strengths revolve around people and strategy and you like leveraging your knowledge to create asymmetrical amount of value for yourself. Business sounds like a perfect fit to me.
I became an actor and moved to USA (NYC).

Can't recommend it for the pay but it's nice being around extroverts :) or maybe that's just Americans in general.

Have you thought about contracting? I used to be a mercenary and switching every 6 months kept it somewhat fresh. It was a bit more exciting than a permanent position.

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I have fanciful thoughts of people who have been in SWE retiring after 15 years of hard work and following financial strategies diligently to leave space for the juniors to fill as they gain more experience. Not happening though.
I did 27 years of SWE… laid off due to c19. I told myself the same thing; I will not go back to corporate enterprise. I worked hard; but no matter how much I worked I was locked into the same salary. So cashed out my retirement lived on it a little I figured out what I was going to do in life 2.0. I had no preconceived plans; all I knew was that I was tired of being chewed up, I missed most of my kids growing up except some softball and basketball games. My story is long but tldr is I was blessed to find a company that builds doors and such and have such a discard pile, when I asked for permission to take from their dumpster this beautiful wood they had no problem, as they are able to cram more “trash” (my golden ticket) and get more trash in from the wood I take. I initially didn’t know what to do with it; but eventually I’ve become an entrepreneur for selling cut off scrap exotic woods. At the same time teaching myself woodworking. And now I looking for more revenue streams.
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Same time in role, in the process to become a criminal investigator. Spent my 20s on a laptop with nothing to show for it, atleast want to spend my 30s punishing bad actors.
Did you have to get a degree for this? How was the process?
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I have slid sideways my whole career, ever farther from the full-stack origins careening through and past DDIMM controller firmware and hardware procedures (one of my first true loves), through functional testing (Python) and structural testing (VHDL) of processors, as well as the constrained subset of embedded C chip-ops. Also slid through that run-on. Now I'm prototyping some wizard shit (if you will will excuse my classical romulan) for a product in stealth.

TL;DR: If you are eager to learn and do, you can eventually switch to anything close to your current profession - in other words, this option is to not think about a big jump, imo, and rather small steps.

Why do you need to argue (whatever that means to you)? Just take a ticket, do the work, and check out mentally at the end of the day.
I’m not OP and I ask myself that question daily?

I have a job that is financially viable at a small, good, profitable firm… that has less stellar engineering management (not bad people wise)… and I care deeply about my craft. I’m a child hood coder with also a deep “Protestant Work Ethic.”

I have semi-checked out at work, it’s mentally taxing to know the systems could be better. I also know after 5 years my hard work and going the extra mile” will not be rewarded so I coast with my above-average reviews… but I feel guilt and mental anguish and stress and worry I’ll be found for a fraud (not imposter syndrome way, in a “I could do better and will be punished for not” way)

For some of us it’s a passion not a paycheck. Although the pay is nice.

Some people have this unfortunate affliction where they went into SWE with a passion for programming and want something more fulfilling out of a job than resolving a few tickets and then checking out mentally.

Hopefully they'll be cured of that one day, perhaps the next performance review cycle will finally rid them of any remaining illusions.

That's a very unsatisfying way to work. I like software design and architecture and even arguing about it as long as people do it in good faith. That's what makes the job interesting to me. I think I would get depressed if I just checked off tickets every day.
EM = engineering manager.

Re: arguing and why not just avoid it:

During my brief (7 year) sojourn at one place that was not-my-company (Google), you end up with a mix of personalities, and it's very hard to convince people who believe there's a Right Way to do things that there is no Right Way, so you just sort of have to muddle through figuring out how to be productive without irritating people, or as an EM, leaving them thinking you're negligent.

Conversely, theoretically, it's hard to convince people who are slopping through and rushing code to slow down. (in practice, this wasn't a problem at Google, but it's worth mentioning for completeness.)

Case study: 6 person team. 1 EM who ended up doing 20% of the code, 1 me who did 60%, 2 who did 10% each, only do things when directly asked, and they couldn't find an excuse to kick the can down the road due to "ambiguity" that was product/design's fault, and then two who, in all seriousness, never contributed code to this year-long project: 1 who wanted OOP-to-the-max InjectedFoobarManagerFactory, another who definitely didn't want anything like that, but didn't really have an alternate proposal, they just loved explaining endlessly and authoritatively why anything else brought up was bad.

(what did they do if they weren't contributing? the first would write vaguely productive "experiments" for other teams, that obviously wouldn't ship, in the code repo they were used to. took them 18-24 months to make their first code contribution to our actual code repo, the other wandered off to some other random project in the org. EM was new and out 3/4 of the project for new child leave)

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To add to this, it feels to me like SWEs have the biggest egos as well without a related checking mechanism. In other engineering disciplines getting something wrong very often comes back to you as the engineer, in SWE it feels like there are so many abstractions people like to point fingers at instead. "It's not my code that's the issue, its X implementation's fault" the amount of times I've heard something similar to this is too often.
100%. I don't know what to call it other than coddling, but there was very, very, very, little true responsibility. Safety in the herd: don't let the people who got the stuff done get too up in their heads about it, via their design had issues at the end of the day, and conversely, if I did deliver something of low quality, it was someone else's design that was the problem.

All the firing BS in from mid-2022 in this industry was poorly motivated, and a lot of the initial wave was used for settling political scores, and there's a lot still there. But I hope in the long run it engenders a stronger sense of needing to have some sort of shared reality and responsibility.

You might be right that SWEs have the biggest egos compared to other engineering disciplines. When I've worked with mechanical and electrical engineers, that was the case.

But where I work now, the biggest egos are easily the people around the SWEs - especially architects and product owners. Is that not the case where you work?

> it's very hard to convince people who believe there's a Right Way to do things that there is no Right Way

I worked with a guy who claimed they'd worked at Google (probably not you, fwiw). They were SO SURE there WAS ONE TRUE WAY, and I'm 90% sure the actual definition was "whatever way this guy [me] wants to do it is not the TRUE WAY."

I almost quit dealing with that guy, but I ended up wandering to some other random project in the org.

Dude was whack though. I'll never forget when we hired a guy and he was saying "if the hiring team thinks he's good enough, he's clearly not because they hired this guy [pointing at me]." Fuck that guy.

I might not be the best coder in any room, but I'm a pretty solid engineer.

In the immortal words of Dell, if you're the best coder in the room, change rooms.
You’re a pretty evil person for putting down a homeless and ruined person. You’re now immortalized for your words and perspective.
In the immortal words of that one guy, "From my perspective, the Jedi are evil!"
You’re a fucking scumbag. You deserve a hard lesson and if we were face to face, you’d receive a hard lesson.
I don't think so, I don't know what you're talking about about
Fair question. Not OP, but I'll add that I prefer to do work that matches what I value, not just go get a paycheck and make other people richer. Taken to an extreme, I'm happiest when I forage for food to augment what we buy on my spouse's salary and my part-time local utility work. I'm privileged to live on land that supports this practice, and to not do work that I don't agree with. We don't have much of a savings, but we're rich in other ways, notably community, clean water, ~clean air when the wind isn't blowing in from the highway and the neighbors aren't running their various engines, and a sense of purpose. I considered being a software engineer but after reading HN for years I burned out on that dream and instead focus on land & water stewardship, activism towards the same, and building walking-distance community.
I think it's a lot more usual to have your ticket and then your whole damn team decides to argue for hours on how you should do it, just because your manager lets it happen. This happened with my last job and it really pushed me out. The reason why people argue so much is that the stakes have never been lower - they don't do the work, or the thinking, or the fixing. It's just really easy to "have input" and then the environment makes you follow that "input" because "we're a team".
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This is a dramatically unpleasant way to live, though. Op is asking out of a desire to have a fulfilling life and clearly isn't finding fulfilment in SWE.
The keywords were: "check out mentally at the end of the day".

You can have a fulfilling life out of work. It doesn't mean that you have to be miserable at work, but it's also important to realize that "being productive" is not the only way to live.

Those who make a fortune with software generally don't work on improving society; on the contrary they generally are bigger contributors to the problem. Whether they realize it and accept it in exchange for the cash or actually think they deserve that kind of money is a different question.

"take a ticket and do the work" doesn't describe ANY software job I've ever had

it's all meetings, design docs, fighting in PR comments, agile ceremonies, etc etc

building things / fixing bugs is maybe 10% of the work

These employees, or at least one style of these employees, are super-frustrating to work with as well.

Like, I have no problem with someone who is in the ticket flow, is conscientious about their work, tries to understand the business purpose, anticipates and asks some unanswered questions, and takes care to truly finish the work. Then, you know, sure, work your eight (or six), take your breaks, and leave it out of your brain all other times.

But the other style is all-too-common: Do only what's listed in the ticket, and the laziest possible interpretation at that. If something is undefined, well, that's their problem, if they realize it, they can schedule another ticket. Don't ask questions, don't collaborate, don't do anything extra and then if pressed, say phrases like, "Well they didn't say.." or "well, they didn't ask..." Take no ownership.

Those people suck.

I completely disagree. The more you hand hold the users, the less they'll try. You have to half-ass and close some tickets and make them reopen. If they don't get any pushback or frustration from not following protocol, they'll continue to do it. Any decent manager should understand and have your back on those kind of requests.
Because "they" are writing the code all wrong and crooked!
You're being downvoted but I mean this does work for some people. I definitely have coworkers who treat their work as purely transactional. Their goal isn't to be promoted or get frustrated at their job, it's to receive a paycheck and health insurance and get home to their families or hobbies. That's certainly a valid approach in any job scenario (not just SWE.)

I'm not quite at the level you've described, but I certainly have elements of it. I've been in the same role for ~10 years and have pretty much maxed out the expected raises/promotions of the role. It's not as satisfying as something brand new, but my pay to effort ratio is pretty ideal and I can work on side projects and learn new things on my own.

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Easier said than done.
Try marketing, being a software engineer is a great force multiplier there and most marketers are absolutely awful.
Question: EM - Engineering Manager?
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Believe so
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> tired of the infantilization of the industry (frankly, it's embarrassing)

Couldn't agree more.

In any case you might want to consider starting a family first and only then switching careers.

I'm trying to avoid platitudes here, but children really do put some things into sharp focus and more often than not that affects your priorities.

Also you discover where your limits are and that they're actually much further than you anticipated.

I see that as a better starting point to do anything challenging really, as you're already managing the hardest challenge.

What do you guys mean by infantilization of the industry? Are you talking about managers and leadership talking down to engineers as "coding-monkeys" or similar? Treating coders with baby gloves because of stigma of social awkwardness?
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It's difficult to describe, but to me it boils down to "low budget methods of avoiding giving developers and users what they need".

On the developers' side it's all kinds of perks like e.g. arcade machines in the office when what's really needed is a better budget for devices and tooling. Also gamifying everything to the point of it becoming tedious.

On the users' side it's tonedeaf humour when the user is experiencing real issues put there instead of actual support.

It spills over to fields outside of software with cases like Tesla drivers in the UK being given grabbing tools instead of RHD.

I'm far from being a person who has a stick up their ass, but it got to a point where I immediately assume these practices were put there to avoid accountability.

"Open wide, here comes the bite-sized Jira! If you have any questions, don't think! Just ask your PO or UX designer"
TL;DR I do 3D modeling now, though I'm working for a major tech company again.

When I left my last SWE job (after 10 years in the industry), I had money saved and was coming off of very challenging changes in my personal life. So for the first year, I gave myself a lot time to rest, take care of health challenges I had been procrastinating on, and getting back into video games and anime for the first time since college. Through video games and VR chat I got into 3D modeling as a hobby, which I would continue to learn doing while also exploring some other things (volunteering for a political campaign, and interpersonal mental health coaching). Eventually I got excited to move to LA to take classes at Gnomon, which was quite expensive but also extremely enjoyable. I honestly never expected to actually work in this field since I did not dedicate myself fully to it, and it's a tough industry. But one of my classmates referred me to a job at a major tech company that wasn't that glamorous, but paid well and suited my very limited skill set. So here I am.

All in all, there was about 5 years between my last SWE job and my first 3D modeling job (with some coaching work in between but it was very low paying). Certainly that time gap could be shortened, as I was not fully dedicating myself to it, but it would have also been a much less enjoyable process and transition if there was pressure to support a family behind it.

If I'm going to give you any tips, is if you're trying to start a family I highly recommend finding a boring easy tech job that doesn't require your full capacity so that you 1) make enough money to not be stressed about it, and 2) have plenty of time to focus on non-work related things. There are tons of boring roles that are.. well, boring, but not stressful or soul draining. I'm kind of surprised you want to be a parent but you're also entertaining a sales role that would be pushing you to work more instead of less. My two cents.

That's pretty fascinating - did you have a strong art background before you started coding? Congratulations on the successful transition.
Hey sorry for the delay didn't see I got a response.

I had no art background at all, and honestly it's one of my biggest weak points that I debate doing more learning around. I got some fundamentals in my classes at Gnomon, but I'm pretty lacking when it comes to things like lighting, composition, etc. None of these matter for my job, but it does impact my personal work.

I've been an engineer for decades rising to Principal at a company recognisable to most people here, and I've done early stage startup hands-on CTO roles. During Covid I ended up as an SDM at a FAANG and found that so soul-destroying I ended up moving into a TPM role in a very, very technical team that despite in a huge org, works like an early-stage startup. It's not cutting code every day, but I muck about on my own tools and have clearance from legal to do some very specific non-competing side projects.

My goal in the next year is to go back to SWE but as an entrepreneur - as an indie of some form. I have a niche in mind that might pay the bills.

You're right about the industry being broken, senior managers infantilising and patronising teams, and the constant arguing about bullshit with people who just want to be right all the time, even when they're clearly wrong.

Asymmetrical value is where it is at. Keep going with that angle, hustle, get out, and don't worry about scaling: lifestyle businesses are the new unicorns.

I moved to teaching.
Same for for me. From a startup to teaching.
  • nunez
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Interesting; it's usually the other way around.
Have you tried OnlyFans ?
Left the SWE world a couple of years ago after 18 in the field. I was fortunate enough to find success in investing/discretionary trading over my career (despite blowing up my account early on) such that I've been able to "retire". These days I spend my time "managing" my own money. This probably doesn't help but hey, you asked :)
I'm going to be real which means asking hard questions and probably sounding like a jerk. So be warned.

> I just don't enjoy arguing about the structure of software anymore

Why were these arguments happening in the first place? Were you starting them? Did you dislike the arguments or did you dislike losing them?

>I'm tired of the personalities

There will be personalities no matter what you do for a living (or even in retirement!). Some will suck, some will be cool, most will be both at different times. But if you are tired of ALL the personalities, maybe your own personality is the problem.

> tired of the infantilization of the industry

What is "the industry"? How was it infantilized? I feel you are leaving some important detail out of this particular frustration.

Give sales a try. I despised sales before I moved into a Sales Engineer role. Once I saw what sales really was, and how good sales people are not slimy, I now love it.
I was in car sales for a decade and quickly became top 1% (more like 0.2% really) in the country at it. I only did that after first wasting 6 months being a bit slimy first.

You can't really succeed in sales when you're dealing with all the drama you created by being slimy in the first place.

Eventually I realized I had to be as good as possible, and as responsive as possible, so customers would work with me for sure and not accidentally land with a bad salesperson elsewhere.

> Eventually I realized I had to be as good as possible, and as responsive as possible

The first time I was car shopping, I was appalled at how unresponsive some car salesmen could be.

It was 2003. I was 20 years old, looking to buy something used in the $3-7000 range. I didn't have my heart set on any specific car, I just knew I wanted a 4-door sedan with air conditioning, and that I cared more about fuel economy and reliability than performance. I mean, I was only making $11/hr, and was probably going to be moving out of my parents' within the next year or two, so needed something that wouldn't cost me a ton of money.

I told each dealer that, and most of them took me to cars that met the criteria I was looking for, but one of them started off by showing me a $12,000 Pontiac Sunfire Convertible and started raving about the incredible Alpine stereo heat unit. 2-door, no A/C, and way above my price range. I was like ", not at all what I asked for" and re-iterated my criteria, and added that while a nice stereo is nice, I'd also not spend the money on that right now. He then tried to sell me a PT Cruiser, which again was way outside my price range. I said "Thank you for wasting my time" and left.

I have no idea what that guy was thinking. My brother sold cars for a short period of time and said that either he thought "Psh, this guy is 20 years old, he doesn't know what he wants, I'm gonna sell him something he thinks will be a girl magnet", or it's possible, though very unlikely, that they didn't actually have something that fit what I wanted.

The dealer I eventually bought from, after telling him what I was looking for, asked "Manual or automatic?". I said I didn't care, and he showed me two cars that fit my criteria, test drove one of them, and drove it home.

Owned that car for 13 years and 120,000 miles.

  • nunez
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Car sales is very different from software sales. Very little margin for what's usually a one-time or few-times purchase, so you've gotta rely on volume. Pressure sales thrive on low margin.

Software sales are super high margin, and big money software always requires implementation work. Long-lasting relationships are ultra important. The sales process is much slower and longer, but you get stickier customers at the end of it that keep coming back. Sales people also don't need as many deals to meet their least at first.

Granted, there are still some, umm, characters, that sell software, but many of them are great people who work hard for their keep.

My only gripe with the industry is sports. I just can't with all that. That said, sales folks totally expect SEs to know nothing about the sportsball; another reason why this gig is awesome!

Eh. Depends on the type of sales. Plenty of sales is one off sales that requires no long term relationship building. I know lots of incredibly slimy sales people who great at making money. They just dont have a ton of repeat customers.
I'd say that car sales is definitely one of the ones that don't require long term relationship building to be successful. Enough customers are putting in leads and walking through the door that you can make good money just working those.

But drama does and will catch up with you just the same.

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If your strengths are people and strategy, then you should definitely look into presales/solutions engineering.

This is a long post, but I think it is a relevant option to the apathy and disdain you're feeling from the daily grind you're in.

The ENTIRE JOB is working with a salesperson and leveraging people, strategy and your tech experience to get the technical win for (usually large) sales.

While a big part of doing the job is giving demos and (sometimes) showing slides, because you have to know a lot about the product, you can still flex your software chops without worrying about story points. IOW, if you're at a tech company that sells libraries for $x, you'll still need to write code using those libraries so that you can speak to $x, connect with the people you'll be "pitching" to and getting to that technical win.

This will scratch the itch of wanting to code without having to play a story to do it.

No prospecting, cold-calling, contract negotiating, or other sales-y activities required.

You'll make less than a FAANG SWE but more than a non-FAANG SWE. The average is $230k-ish, 70% salary, 30% commission. Unless you have a good commission year. Then you can make WAY MORE than a typical FAANG SWE. Some SEs earn $400k+ on a good year. Still less than a Staff/Sr. Staff+ FAANG SWE (which comes with many more responsibilities that you would consider bullshit).

(Something that doesn't get talked about very much here is how much software sales people can make. There are definitely sales folks pulling in multiple millions per year. That $10B JEDI contract that Microsoft won? There were salespeople and SEs assigned to that account...and $10B is a big number. That said, sales is a MEAT GRINDER.)

Almost all sales engineers I know have awesome work life balance as well. There are days when we're up to our eyes in work, but there are other days when we have absolutely nothing on our calendar. For days. You also (within reason) set your own schedule. At the last two places I've done SE work for, if I wanted time off, I put it on the calendar and invite my salesperson. Some places will ask you to put into your HR system, but it depends. If I need to take off during the middle of the day for something important, I pop that on the calendar, and we make it work. I could NEVER EVER do that before, and it's super cool.

Getting into the field with zero experience is, unfortunately, pretty hard. I'd try to move laterally into it at your current company first or network with SE managers, either IRL or on LinkedIn. However, if you're seriously considering leaving tech (please don't! The world outside of tech IS ROUGH AS SHIT), I'd give this a try.

Another avenue that you can pursue is consulting. It's post-sales, so you'll still be grinding, but you get to hop from client to client without getting too attached to how they do things. If you're more on the strategy side, you can, eventually, run accounts and mostly have conversations with stakeholders about where they want to go. It's harder than presales and usually has lots of travel attached, but it's an option.

Source: Am in presales now, did consulting for 5-ish years, was a SRE for years and years prior to that. I left FTE eng jobs because I wanted to travel more and traveling as an engineer always comes with huge strings attached. I sometimes imagine going back and going real deep into the stack like I used to but then think about the story points and changing directions and other general Tom-foolery that comes with engineering and stay put.

> tired of the infantilization of the industry

I would like to hear more about this.

> tired of the infantilization of the industry

What does this mean?

I've tried a few things over the years... most as side-gigs to see if I could make them full-time jobs.

1) Taking what you know, and doing it at a smaller scale. Instead of building eCommerce sites for Fortune-50 companies, doing it for local Mom & Pop Shops... Outcome : Meh, I spent too much time looking for customers, and too few hours billing for work. The projects were just too small. It may work, if you can some how get enough small customers, but I found it really unfulfilling to have to "cut corners" to meet the really tiny budgets that small customers have. And working with things like some shitty junk template for Shopify or WordPress Commerce was just torture.

EDIT : I also lost about $85k on a $55k project trying to do something for a small business. It was embarrassing. I took on a project that was a bit too big for me to do all alone, so I contracted a team of devs that a friend raved about... and they didn't work for me. Anyway ended up having to pay them, and just lost 6-months of time, totally embarrassed myself to the customer (who I had gotten through a friend), and in the end I ended up doing like 5x more work than I had planned and hiring a (non-cheap) friend to come in and help save the day. I don't know the advice I learned here really... other than it just flat out sucks to have things go sour when doing a side-project that you're personally on the hook for delivering. In my case, it came down to me trusting the wrong people. Really is quite valuable to know the people you are working with.

2) Building stuff outside of tech. I built a few tables and benches and such for friends in my garage. I posted a few pics online and found a buyer for an item, and like I went in thinking I was charging a fair price. Outcome : I like woodworking, so the work was fun. The downside is that these sorts of customers are a pain in the ass. Guy commissioned an "indoor table" and then put it outside space... and 3 months later he was mad that the finish wasn't holding up. In the end I burned a lot of time, basically had to refund the entire sale price, lost money and time trying to remedy the situation (not to mention haul the item to and from my garage shop multiple times), and just got really frustrated with humanity. Like it's one thing to do some tech work and have people trash it... it's a whole other thing to have someone take a beautifully finished indoor table and then stick it out in the rain and cold for 3 months and then be upset that the wood warped and want you to burn hours fixing it... Plus this customer was just such a pain in the ass. And you have to "love your customers" to get started in this sort of space, and love engaging with Social Media.

3) "Coaching" / Project Governance. I found some people who would have hired me to do work, but instead had hired some (cheaper) shops. Then I found a role overseeing the work and coaching them on what to look for and what to expect. Outcome : Made good hourly money, but in the end it was way too similar to my day job... only with a lot more headache. Software teams that were in India, or other places that were just the most god awful teams you could imagine. Bad quality. Bad communication. Dishonest. Shitty shitty off-shore hours. But also clients just kinda sucked. Marketing folks who would sit and listen and give praise for advice, and then disregard it all and then come back with, "Oh thanks for your good advice last time, let's say I didn't listen to any of it and all the bad things you said would happen happened... now what do I do to save the project?" But, of the 3 options so far, this was what paid the best. I did this a handful of times and some were OK, but most were really frustrating.

4) Angel Investor. I found some small local businesses... one in tech, the others not so much... and just got involved. Helped with stupid things like marketing sites, or setting up POS systems... whatever I could help with. Gave them a bit of seed money -- either as a loan, or purchased 10% of their business. Outcome : Lost money and time on 3 businesses, but one of the companies did OK, and I could probably live off the returns for a while if I needed to (or sell my share). It's hard to predict which companies will do well, but being an Angel Investor was nice in that you get enough control (people don't just listen to you and ignore you), and you get some hands-on work, and the returns can be pretty solid. The company that did well was just something dumb... a neighbor's friend was building a few warehouses to rent to Amazon.

4. would be the dream for me. It requires learning and applying a lot of things across multiple domains. The complexity and problem solving nature is very attractive.

The only problem is you need a bag or 2 to actually be able to start this. Part of being an investor is you can't put all the eggs into one basket. So you need enough capital to put it into multiple baskets and be willing to lose it as part of the learning process.

I was working on a failing startup in Hawaii Kai, and left for Haleiwa due to a woman who was stalking and gaslighting me. Landed in a Haleiwa house and was stalked, hacked and and gaslighted by the owner’s family help. Ran into a man who engaged in state sponsored grand theft and lied to investigators, ruined my life. Witness to corruption, perjury, misconduct.

Tried investigating the hacking and stalking and was met with a serious coordinated threat of murder. Was blackmailed to stay silent about the murder threat.

Couldn’t work on code much more.

Went homeless.

Media blackout on the trial (would have been a salacious headline in Hawai’i), perhaps due to my reports of receiving the coordinated murder threat and the status of the social circle who issued it.

Took the NSA’s college level codebreaker challenge and did pretty well. Bad idea. They call them spooks for a reason.

Met a wealthy man here in Haleiwa who gave me side work and pushed various hard drugs on me, so I tried getting away from him. Endured criminal violence, harassment, discrediting and defamation, obstruction of justice from a judge, and more shenanigans.

Tried getting back into coding. Even got a donor laptop from a nice ex Amazon employee here on hn to try to rebuild.

Took another NSA codebreaker challenge while homeless and while dealing with the ongoing violence, harassment and discrediting campaign from the wealthy party with a lawyer. Couldn’t handle it. Laptop gone. Sorry to the ex Amazon guy who donated it. It was a tiny little i5/8GB, enough to participate in the NSA CTF.

Met a guy into data engineering at the coffee shop who gifted me a brand new M2 MBP 24GB. Tried getting back into programming while homeless. Hasn’t worked. Gave it back to him new in box. Was being targeted yet again at the time due to being exposed homeless on a bicycle in public. Couldn’t handle it and can’t deal with the constant lack of dignity due to experiencing long term homelessness and destitution.

Still homeless seven years later and in a far worse predicament. Not very optimistic about my future. Scrapping for food money. I live on a bicycle with two backpacks outdoors on public assistance for food, which helps a bit. Bicycle has irreparably broken down today; trying to find a donor replacement locally so I can make it to my gardening job for food money tomorrow.

It’s bad enough to be ruined with lies while others enjoy lack of accountability. Far worse is to be discredited and met with skepticism about reports of criminal behavior.

Software development has stopped completely for quite a while now. Fighting off the dread of the entrenched, persistent desire to end, mid life. Failed career, non existent, now with a ruined rep and trauma.

In the immortal words of Asmongold: people who have problems are problems.
I’m the problem. I’m trying to kill myself so I am no longer a problem. It’s harder than anticipated. I’ve tried a rope, jumping and helium. Helium was the closest. Saw demons as I breathed in the helium and became scared, then aborted.

Trying to get out of here so I’m not the problem any longer. It’s so fucking scary.

But I’m reminded by shrimp_emoji of the burden I’ve become, and I’m still resigned to die. The only way is by my own hand. Still trying. Hopefully it’ll get done so I don’t have to burden anyone with my problems.

hey man, i hear you and i feel that. people on this website can be mean. you can email me at if you need somebody to talk to.
The culture here was better 15 years ago

Emailed you

My observation and experience in the transformation of society towards ubiqutuous technical surveillance, data hoarding and abuse, narcissism related to unnatural and unhealthy social constructs in the context of a global informational machine with hidden asymmetries and agendas is troubling. I’ve had to bear witness to totally unaccountable data abuse practices by all big tech companies. No accountability for malice. Lawyer-codified protection to cause harm and experiment on people. And total gaslighting and blackout upon any attempt to inquire, coupled with a hubris infused escalation of data abuse targeting, often mocking the victim.

Mocking life trauma events is normalized. And much more.

Emotional mistake.
why do you feel the need to bully people anonymously on the internet?
He’s a fucking scumbag. Needs a good lesson.
Sound like you need to shelter in place. Do some simple work. Be open about your shit but dont burden people with it. What people like the most in a person that is down is positivity and a willingness to grow. It's hard. I know. But in the end of the day nobody really cares about all the shit that you went through. Talking about it like you do in the post above creates opportunity for people to wave it away as a lie, or something you brought upon yourself. Better leave it vague. Only tell some vague stuff when people ask. Give details sparingly. The more story you tell the bigger the chance that they start dispising you. They will start victim blaming. They will start to believe that you have bad karma or that you will take advantage of them. What a lot of people do care about is helping someone who is down. The problem is that you need to make sure they believe you are trustworthy, not-despicable, a good human being, someone they want close. You just need someone that gives you a good break. Someone that vouches for you. It's shitty and it's fucked that there are no good government system in place to help you with your predicament. I do agree with your scepticism of the world. The world is being manipulated.
Makes a lot of sense and seems right given the perception I’m projecting with a post in a vacuum.

Not really seeking help or a break. Just going with the flow until death. Just taking a bit longer than expected to get there.

Hi, I have recently launched a B2B software startup ( and I am looking for salespersons. Compensation is commission-based: 20% recurring commission on realised sales. If you want a $80K revenue, selling 80 Qworum Alloy subscriptions will get you there. Your recurring commission will keep coming in as long as the subscription is live. Feel free to drop me an email at Best.