On your career path

I’m afraid the career path I’m choosing will make me useless in the apocalypse. I’m afraid that going into software development will make me rich for a few years before the economy crashes again and I’ll be out of work and have an obsolete skill set. I’m afraid all the software jobs will be moved to India and by the time I graduate in 4-5 years, there won’t be any jobs here. I was going to be a nurse and work for MSF but I have PTSD and a weak stomach. I’m too much of a wimp to go into trades, and I’m not put together enough to do anything with my Psych degree that would make me happy. Should I just find a job to pay the bills and get on with my life? I don’t know what to do, Coquette.


Software development isn’t going to make you rich. That shit’s a trade just like everything else. In fact, you’re never going to get rich, because you only think in terms of occupational skill sets. In other words, you think like an employee.

No one who thinks like an employee ever gets rich. At best, employees get to live comfortably. You know who gets rich? Employers, and you don’t think like an employer. You don’t even know how.

The people who are gonna get rich are all the freshly minted entrepreneurial assholes in the top-tier MBA programs who are gonna hire the graduates of your software development program. They’re the ones being trained to think like employers, and they’re the ones who’ll be signing your paychecks for the rest of your life.

Oh, and yes. You’re right. If your job is even the tiniest bit outsourceable, that shit is going straight to India, and long before you graduate. So yeah, you’re a little bit fucked, because it doesn’t even sound like you enjoy software development. At least that might have justified your decision.

I can’t tell you what to do with your life, but one way or another, you’re eventually gonna have to find a job and pay your bills. That’s how you’ve been programmed, and that’s what you’ll have to do. You’re never going to be rich, but you might be able to live comfortably, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

If I were in your position, I’d look for a field with long-term job security that isn’t outsourceable. (Nursing was actually a pretty good call, and you don’t have to go all MSF to make that kind of profession rewarding.)


20 thoughts on “On your career path

    • Anna says:

      Side note to the OP :
      Unless you’re the type of person you loses consciousness at the sight of blood, you’ll likely get over the weak stomach. The passion for caring, the technical competence and the uniform take over in the moment.
      I think living through PTSD can make someone better at caring for others, but the key is to identify your triggers, and discuss with your therapist whether you feel like you can reasonably manage them throughout nurse training. You should take into account the progress you will make during that time, and the fact that you can find nursing internships where you will only rarely find cases might trigger you.
      In any case, I’d encourage you to consider a career in healthcare. It’s incredibly rewarding.

      • WilhelminaMildew says:

        I once worked in, not human healthcare, but animal- I was a veterinary technician on the emergency shift at a 24hr animal hospital. Not everything we saw in those hours was something really awful, but well over half were life threatening crises that were sometimes quite gruesome, and you do get used to it, fast. Even if, like me, you have since childhood had anxiety that was triggered by amputations & physical mutilation. When you are in ‘saving a life’ mode that all flies out the window.
        And rewarding? Like nothing I have ever experienced before or after. There is *nothing* like the feeling you get when you’ve saved a life that was hanging by a thread. I loved that job more than anything else I’ve ever done, and would do it again in a heartbeat if I wasn’t too disabled to pick up the animals anymore.

  1. Mellifluous says:

    I was a real estate broker for 22 years. It paid the bills nicely and I enjoyed it, but it didn’t bring me any kind of joy. It was just a thing I did. Then, I got into network marketing because I figured I’d make a little cash while I was checking out a product that caught my attention. Turns out, I rock at network marketing. I actually LIKE helping people get healthy and teaching them how to market a product. I make a fool out of myself when one of my teammates reaches a goal. It genuinely flips my switch. If you’ve never checked it out, you should. I’m not gonna drop my company here because that’s lame. You have to find something you’re passionate about to market or it doesn’t work. If you DO find something that makes your stomach flutter, do that. You’ll make more cash than you can imagine, find your joy and help someone else find theirs. I never in a million years thought I’d be putting that out there, but it’s absolute truth for me.

  2. I want to throw in a little insight from the trenches around software development. I mostly agree with your assessment that anything that CAN be moved to India WILL be moved to India. However, if it were that easy for software development, it would have already happened.

    The thing is, software development is a super hard problem that’s not even CLOSE to a solution, and many attempts to offshore it have led to spectacular failures.

    There’s countless blog posts about why this is, but here’s my read: software development works best in small teams of people who really care about what they’re making and are talking to each other a lot. Generally in outsourced teams that’s not happening. Somehow for non-trivial software development the result always seems to be substandard and slapdash when outsourced.

    My bet is that this guy will be able to find a nice development job when he gets out of school in 4-5 years just fine.

  3. Grouch says:

    Yeah, software development isn’t going to be outsourced any time soon. Actually, the industry is booming right now, if you’re at all a decent coder, you can probably get a job without too much difficulty. You won’t get rich unless you make something and then get very lucky, but you’ll be quite comfortable. If you like software development at all, you’ll probably find it much more agreeable than nursing.

    Now I have London Calling stuck in my head.

  4. Brian says:

    It’s never that serious, nothing is. I’d rather roll on the floor laughing in an asylum than spend my days mentally tethered to society induced OCD over my “career path”. Especially if you don’t have kids on this planet to care & provide for…if you don’t have serious obligations for children, why are you this high-strung over a bunch of bullshit future jobs you don’t sound at all interested in? If this is the case, reevaluate everything and keep reading:

    What are some things you truly love to do? It’s possible you don’t even know because you’re blinded by stress and lies. Take the initial steps to figuring those out (exploration of self and world) and ideally, do something that resonates with your innermost beliefs, or feelings. Even if it’s not a career, or money maker; passion will balance you back out. And fuck being rich, who cares, it won’t fulfill you. Plus Coquette is right, you have an employees mindset, and a big payday is unlikely. Were you raised with an ironed tie, sanitized briefcase and all your papers in tidy chronological order? Cause it comes off that way. Relaxation is necessary, try it. Not giving a fuck is liberating, try it. A comfortable lifestyle is more-than-enough to achieve happiness when you know your actual self, mantra it, try it.

    Don’t succumb to your parents wishes, or expectations you naively placed on yourself years ago, ones you conjured up based on the corrupt stupid world around you. Think for yourself, question everything, take risks and live a full life, for Christ sake.

    If this is a school debt thing, where you owe some obnoxious sum and are freaking out…then that genuinely sucks. I don’t know an easy fix, but while you’re in the belly of the machine, pop a Xanax.

    My whole point is: fuck pretending you aren’t here for a very short period of time, and stop worrying so much, it’s futile. Go live!!!

  5. Nina says:

    LW, you are very anxious. I can’t tell if it’s just career-related or if you are anxious in general, but you might want to talk to a professional about this.

    Software development isn’t in that much danger of being outsourced. Companies have already tried outsourcing and learned that it causes problems.

    If the apocalypse occurs in our lifetimes and your current career doesn’t help you can change careers. You will always be able to learn new things. All of those farmers and shipbuilders and beer-makers from the past had to start somewhere, too.

  6. Quinn says:

    I’m super late to the party but this post really sparked something in me. OP, if you’re still out there reading this, I think you may be confusing the tools we use for software development with the skills required for software development.

    A lot of people seem to think that the languages and technologies we use to build software are skills in and of themselves, but they’re not. Sure, there’s definitely a difference between someone who’s spent 500 hours using a given language on a major project and someone who’s spent 5 hours learning it in class. But they’re all just tools. PHP, Java, Python, JavaScript, C and C++, IDEs like Eclipse and Netbeans, databases like SQL and MongoDB… they’re tools. In 15 years, all of these things will either be obsolete or unrecognizable. That’s just the way things work in this field. If you think of these things as skills, you’re setting yourself up for trouble 15 years down the road even if no apocalypse happens and the software industry in your country is booming.

    The actual /skills/ required to be a good software developer include communication, organization, critical and lateral thinking, problem solving, communication, being aware of your strengths and the strengths of your teammates, identifying correlation and causation, learning new skills very quickly, researching problems, and communication. I think these are all valuable skills in day to day life, and they would continue to be valuable skills in the event of some apocalyptic disaster, especially communication.

    Everything in software development these days is built on layers upon layers of abstraction – these days many of us rarely work with the actual “meat” of the computer. It would behoove you to learn a thing or two about compilers, assembly language, and how operating systems work. Take classes in those things if they’re not already required. Maybe get an internship or contribute to an open source project and learn a thing or two about how coding feels when it’s not designed to be straightforward. That will help you get a better feel for what I mean by the difference between tools and skills.

    Yeah, the PHP and JavaScript I’m using at work right now will be useless once the sun blows all of our electronics up. But the problem solving and interpersonal skills? I’m pretty damn sure I’m going to carry those with me into every other sphere of my life for the rest of my life, and I find that exciting as hell.

    And besides, the kinds of jobs that are getting outsourced aren’t the jobs you want to work anyway. Not if your top two choices for a career are nursing and software development.

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