The Programming Career Path

I just read ITWorld’s quick blog titled “Is Programming a Lucrative Profession” which focus on salary, benefits and stability. All of which are incredibly valuable and important to cover. But to me lucrative can mean different things. As a person who loves learning, challenging intellectual work and a laid back professional environment professional programming fits the bill for me, it’s another part of the overall package.

Can you make money being a programmer? Absolutely. Can you make a good living being a programmer? Again yes. Will you become a millionaire? Probably not, at least not working for someone else or taking risks on compensation like stock options in startup companies. But I’m going to focus on someone who wants to program and live in an existing corporate structure, the bread and butter of the programming legion. In that context is programming a lucrative career? No.

To me, having a career and a job are two completely different things. When you have a career you have a path for promotions and bigger and better things, or upward mobility. The pinnacle of upward mobility is an executive level (CxO) position at a large company, this is where you can make millions without having to do it yourself or taking risky jobs at startup companies.

I started out my technology career repairing computers and got a job working at a help desk of a credit union. After a year on the job I realized that the end of my career path was, at best, an IT manager and more likely just a Help Desk Supervisor, plus the money wasn’t good at all. So I moved to working on Servers and Networks and became an Administrator. The money was better but the career path didn’t look a whole lot better. Being a Administrator I had an easier path to become an IT manager, but not a whole lot So I switched to development work, it was a passion of mine, and the immediate benefits were better. But was it the best career move?

My current view is that without a healthy understanding of business moving into an executive level position is almost impossible. They are more likely to promote an MBA who has upgraded his RAM at home once to a CTO then a hardcore programmer because it’s a business position more then a technology position, should that be the case, no, but it’s reality.

Development can be a lucrative profession and a lucrative job, but it’s not a lucrative career when compared to other professions. Doctors, lawyers and accountants all lucrative jobs and careers. But having good business knowledge and communication skills are as vital to some of those as well (i.e. Accountants) but never paired with technology professionals, were still trying to shed the past of poorly dressed, groomed, eccentric and unsociable technologists of days yonder. Being an accountant is inherently “business’ie” but technology isn’t and as such we have a handicap that needs to be overcome.

Technological skill and business knowhow are a potent combination to career success. Your professional goals may never to be an executive, but neglecting the business side of technology can hurt your chances to progress in your career and become an Software Architect, or Development Manager as well. Programming can be a very lucrative career when coupled with solid business knowledge and good communication skills, but programming by itself isn’t.

About: Shawn Jackson

I’ve spent the last 18 years in the world of Information Technology on both the IT and Development sides of the aisle. I’m currently a Software Engineer for Paylocity. In addition to working at Paylocity, I’m also the Founder of Resgrid, a cloud services company dedicated to providing logistics and management solutions to first responder organizations, volunteer and career fire departments, EMS, ambulance services, search and rescue, public safety, HAZMAT and others.

One thought on “The Programming Career Path”

Comments are closed.