Jul 24 2010
I was twelve or thirteen when I got my first programmable pocket computer and shortly after that a Sinclair ZX81 with the unbelievable amount of one kilobyte of system memory. I fell in love with BASIC, I fell in love with creating worlds in the BASIC programming language.
Years later, after I finished the Gymnasium, I made the horrible mistake of making my living in the IT field. Nothing is more boring than being forced to work on something that doesn’t interest you. At all. Like a business software for video rental shops, for example. Or modules for some other business software that creates summarized invoices. Or corporate web pages. Or setting up and configuring email servers. Or, heaven help, trying to explain to a colleague from administration how to print out an email in color.
I must confess that for a short while I had my absolute dream job in the computer industry. I worked as a technical writer and support engineer on a team that developed an own programming language and development tools. As a teenager, I wrote natural language parsers for text adventure games. Now I worked on a programming language itself. Life was interesting and the job was cool. Unfortunately, the company behind it was not so cool and went down the drain in its first incarnation. I’ve lost my trust in the management, which is why I didn’t sign up for the second incarnation. And I was right – the second incarnation failed as well. Now there’s a third incarnation, fueled by only a fistful of people. I think they’re now small enough to be able to survive.
But I’m drifting.
The fact is that after this job, everything else were just shallow, tasteless experiences that have only achieved one thing: To bore me braindead.
I’ve worked in a wide range of IT roles, from support over programming to networking, systems development and technical writing. Technical writing, at least in the context of a programming language, was probably the most rewarding position because I was on a very long leash and could play a lot with the product I had to write about. Being in touch with the user community over the Internet and on conferences was also a great experience.
But over the last couple of years, all of that has gone. You know, instead of learning how to do some Internet programming with your own programming language, the daily job has now something to do with adding routes to a Cisco routing table, creating user accounts or digging into some configuration files of some open source software I don’t care about.
And when you don’t actually care, it’s just draining, boring work and no fun at all.
I’ve also grown tired of reading one phone book after another, and as a matter of fact, the daily IT life requires us poor IT folks to continuously read documentation papers the size of the phone book of New York City. Nothing becomes simpler, because nobody in the industry actually wants things to become simpler. All the developers seem to do is to add one layer of complexity on top of another. Setting up Gordano NT Mail back in the late 1990s was a breeze: This eMail server was simple and powerful and reliable. Setting up Microsoft Exchange or Postfix in the year 2010 is a nightmare of complexity. And the worst part: They don’t do more for the company where I work now than NT Mail did for the company where I worked in 1998. The 12 year old version of NT Mail beats today’s Exchange and Postfix (or EXIM or whatever) by an order of magnitude when it comes to usability, maintainability and flexibility. But that is just one example. I could give you dozens of others, but this one alone is representative enough.
And I’ve just grown tired of learning all those unnecessary crap just to get a theoretically simple job done.
Software development is another thing that has lost almost all of its former appeal. If you want to work with a “modern” language like Java or C#, you have to also learn the stuff behind dozens of other acronyms just to get going, XML and SQL being just two of the most common ones. Agile programming. Aspect-oriented programming. Bullshit-oriented programming. It’s all about the buzzwords now, not about empowering a programming. It’s no longer about efficiently getting something done. It’s about giving IT managers something to put in their Powerpoint presentations.
Even in programming, a once creative occupation, the fun is gone.
But to be honest, the fun has even left the Internet, because the Internet has dumbed down to the level of TV. Especially discussion forums are only bearable after a glass or two of good Scotch, and then only when you do not read follow-ups to your own postings anymore.
I’ve already had burnout symptoms before, and probably this lost of interest is just telling me that it’s urgent time to change my career before I’m entering the next phase. But we all know that changing one’s career is anything but an easy endeavor in the year 2010, with the economy and general perspectives what they are now. Common sense dictates to better stick with what you have because it might be hopeless to begin something else.
I don’t know. All I can say is that I wish the time back when I enjoyed going to work because I was doing something cool there and something that was challenging and at the same time fun. But I’m afraid that those jobs no longer exist (for me) in the IT field.