⭐ what i wish someone had told me in high school
I read this thread on Reddit today about the worsening job market for CS majors. As is often the case on Reddit, the discussion was more interesting than the actual post itself. The comments fell into these general categories:
- Supply and demand: companies overhired during the pandemic, and now we're seeing layoffs as the economy contracts
- People railing against AI taking programming jobs
- People arguing that the influence of AI is minimal
- Programmers expressing agreement as a result of their difficulty finding jobs
- Programmers who don't have trouble getting employment and say those who do are just "scrubs" (their words, not mine)
Two comments stood out to me. One, on the main thread:
As always, strong software engineers are in high demand.
The market is saturated with scrubs. Call me elitist, but this job isn't for everyone.
and this response to it:
I'm a senior on the IT ops side of things but work with a lot of devs. What I notice about a lot of the new blood for both SWE and IT is that it's people who went and got a degree and/or some certifications for a field they had no prior interest in because they heard that's where the money was.
And there's nothing wrong with folks chasing cash, our society incentivizes the everloving fuck out of it. But these new people lack so much curiosity and context! I've been a "computer dude" my entire life, lived/breathed computers since I was five. At 40, my breadth of knowledge is crazy! But we've got "sysadmins" who are afraid to open a server and don't know how to build their own computers. All their knowledge is very specific and narrow and often years out of date.
Okay what the hell am I trying to say here? I think it's this: Tech stuff sucks now because it used to be that most people who were in the tech sector had a crazy passion for it and a maybe even a top-to-bottom understanding of software, logic, electronics, etc. The people aspiring to replace them are just trying to earn a living and get by.
Hi, it's me. I'm the scrub you're talking about. I graduated with top honors and a Computer Science degree from a well-respected engineering school and can't code my way out of a paper bag. By all accounts, there are probably a lot of us imposters posing as true engineers.1 By their definition, even many of my friends who work in Big Tech could be counted as imposters. They didn't grow up coding or building computers, and they sure as hell don't do it for fun now.
I'm sorry I'm part of the oversaturation problem, even though looking back I couldn't tell you where I should have gotten off this path. Growing up I had a patent predilection for foreign language and music, but we were forcefed STEM at every turn by school, media, and most importantly, our parents. It's where the money is, and not money for money's sake, but money for job and financial security. Clearly, the siren song was hard to resist, not just for me, but for droves of people my age.
When I was in university I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what to do about it. I remember seeing friends who felt like me change their majors two, three, even four times, delaying their graduation by years. That scared me. Changing majors never even occurred to me as a possibility. After all, I was at an engineering school, and all the viable alternatives seemed just as bad.
In hindsight, I was being slowly boiled alive. I didn't mind the introductory computer science classes — heck, I even enjoyed some of them — but by the time I started struggling in my later years I felt I was in far too deep to give up. I wish I'd taken it upon myself to agitate a bit more, to try jumping out of the pot. But when you're raised to not question things, ignore your feelings, and always finish the task at hand it's hard to break out of those deeply ingrained habits.
To be clear, I don't think the commenters are being elitist or snobby. I get it. It must be frustrating seeing the level of passion in the tech industry get diluted by people who don't care for it. Trust me, we don't want to be here either.
We wouldn't be here if people had talked to us about this when it mattered. I wish someone had told me this back when I was an impressionable high schooler deciding where I wanted to go to school and what I was going to major in. I wish someone had told me that if you blindly listen to everyone around you and follow the money, you might luck out and enjoy the success they promised you — but you might also end up like me, without a job or direction, likely worse off than if you'd chosen passion to begin with.
I swear there's a Paul Graham essay about this exact phenomenon. Does anyone know which one?↩