Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Where Is Office Space?

As a new person to the software engineering field, I've found that there is a wide variety of opinions about this type of career. I just graduated from Villanova University, so the #1 question that I get asked is, "So, where are you working? What are you doing with your life?" I always respond with, "I'm a software engineer at a small company in Waltham, MA." You would expect the reaction to this response to be just as scripted as my answer, but it's different every time, depending on who I'm talking to. Some responses are positive, some are weird, and some are very negative.

I like telling people from the older generation that I'm a software engineer, because computers are so foreign to them, they immediately tag me as somebody who is smart. They tend to think that anybody who can figure out those crazy doo-hickies must be a genious, and therefore makes tons of money. This isn't quite the case but at least it makes me feel special. Although, the conversation ends pretty quickly, because they don't have much for follow up questions since most of them think a mouse has a steep learning curve.

Explaining my career to people of my own generation is less amusing. It's hard to convince my friends that what I do can be fun and stimulating. I guess younger people don't understand why somebody would choose to sit in a cubicle all day staring at a computer, filling out TPS reports, and slaving over projects at the will of one or more evil bosses.

Lastly, I hate talking to other software engineers about my decision to become one, and it happens all too often as software engineers are not exactly rare these days. You would expect that two people in the same field would get along and have a lot to talk about, and I suppose it might happen to other people, but not me. Every software engineer that I have spoken to has had the same reaction along the lines of, "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!?!?! GET OUT NOW!!!" and then they proceed to tell me the horrors of being a software engineer. My favorite example of this is when my friend introduced me to his dad (a software engineer), and the conversation went a little like this:

Friend: Hey, this is my dad. My dad's a software engineer too! You guys can talk all your computer geeky stuff.

Friend's Dad: Oh, you want to be a software engineer?

Me: Yes, I start my job in about 2 weeks. I'll be an associate software engineer for a small company up in Waltham, MA. It seems pretty interesting, although I'm not sure wha....

Friend's Dad: That's great, you can do that for 2 years and then do what you really want to do.

Me: Uhhhhhh...

It always goes something like this, where I try to be excited about my new job and some veteran software guy comes in and stomps on my dreams, telling me that I shouldn't be excited and that I should be dreading the years to come. It's very discouraging, and if they want me to question my career choice, they succeeded.

Between these conversations and watching Office Space, I'm not really sure what I should be expecting in the years to come. I still believe that I can enjoy my job, but part of me believes that there is something that I'm missing. I've been at my job for about 3 months now and I absolutely love it, but 3 months isn't a very long time. Will I be saying the same thing in 3 years? What about 10? I can see why some people might get frustrated as a software engineer, but I don't see how that is very different than any other job, and I certainly don't think it should make somebody miserable. Is it just that software engineering requires work and people just don't want to work? Or is it only a matter of time before I get just as miserable as some of the people I've spoken to?

I'm still waiting to see the Bill Lumbergs, the TPS reports, the annoying co-workers, and the sheer misery that is portrayed in Office Space, but until I do, I'm going to keep on loving my job, probably more than you do.


Anonymous JAPPO said...

Woopdeedoo and good for you.

9/29/2006 2:06 PM  
Blogger Chad said...

The field is a hoot, it just depends on who you work for and who you work with.

I ask myself daily "What if we're still doing this when we're 50?"

My collegue always responds with, "Would be nice to have that kind of job security."

9/29/2006 2:39 PM  
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