Depression and the Software Developer: Smiling in the Piss Pot

Happy Smiley Face from Urine Samples
Photo © 2011 CC BY 2.0
Click here for original image.

Developing software is supposed to be one of the best jobs available, because it uses creativity, and it requires professional independence. And those software jobs are out there. But some of us are not currently working one of those jobs.

In early 2009, I wrote a post entitled “7 Best Things About Being a Consulting Software Developer.” In that post, I talked about how the world does not end just because I had one really, really bad job (or a whole string of them, as the case was). I should have listened to myself. That project I talked about in that post was the NOKWID project, which I told about in the previous part of this series. (So named because No One Knew What It Did.) This is the project that threw me into a deep depression, a hopeless depression, the straw that broke this camel’s back, which no amount of positive thinking could make up for. Continue reading

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Software Development: a Love-Hate Relationship

Photo © 2011 Dennis Skley CC BY-ND 2.0
Click here for the original photo.

I wasn’t intending to post anything today. But catching up on blog comments, I read a comment thread between Darryl (whom I don’t think I know) and David (whom I do know, in real life), comments on a post about what’s wrong with the software industry.

And I began writing a short follow-up to their comments. And I discovered that I had used up over an hour, and it was turning into a 500-word post of its own– I so miss writing! But I also am discovering that I still love software development, when it’s done right. Continue reading

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Depression and the Software Developer: The Last Straw (Conclusion)

Photo © 2007 Jason Eppink CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Another part of this series of posts, “Depression and the Software Developer.” This latest story I started on Monday, part 4 of “Depression and the Software Developer”.

[Note: You can read the story from the beginning in order to catch up.]

No client or employer will ever admit to you that he doesn’t want to deal with reality. What he really wants is for you to just deliver what he needs, with zero effort on his part, in zero time, for zero dollars. If he gives you any more than that, it is only in grudging acceptance of the fact that you are not the omnipotent God. But a surprising number of project managers still act as though developers are superhuman, even if they accept that we are not divine. And a surprising number of developers are willing to accept that they are superhuman, even if they can’t deliver the actual goods.

And that was the case with this project. So I had no idea what made up the NOKWID feature that I was supposed to be developing (called NOKWID, because No One Knew What It Did), and Pointy-Hair 1 (the developer-turned-manager) and Pointy-Hair A (the manager-turned-developer) both seemed to be going out of their way to keep me in the dark.

If I were a voice talent, it would be like giving me a stack of ill-digested notes scribbled on sticky pads and saying, “Okay. Here’s the voice-over script. We need this by Thursday. When can you have it recorded?”

Needless to say, it stressed me out. Continue reading

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Depression and the Software Developer: The Last Straw

Photo © 2007 Jason Eppink CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Here’s a story I’ve been keeping on the back burner for almost a year now. I haven’t published it until now, because it still hit too close to home. But this week, I’ve scheduled an interview with Sharon Cathcart, author of In the Eye of the Beholder, which I am currently reading, and a memoir Les Pensées Dangereuses. And parts of her story reminded me of certain elements of my story.

This is the story of the software-development project that plunged me into a deep depression (a continuation from part 3 of “Depression and the Software Developer”).

[Note: You can read the story from the beginning in order to catch up.]

It was only a couple months long, but it was the straw that broke this developer’s back. It was the project that made me realize how much I enjoyed making a difference, as I did in my first job after college. It made me realize how important it was to make a difference, rather than just being a cog in a useless, corporate, perpetual-motion machine. Most development managers simply don’t know how to let their developers make a difference, possibly because they’ve never known themselves what it feels like. And to this day, the memory of this painful project keeps me from taking the software-development industry seriously.

The project itself wasn’t that bad. I joined it as a consulting developer, along with a couple other consulting developers. The client had been desperate for short-term help, and I took on the project as a favor for a friend, who was already hip-deep in it. They were also on a limited budget, and so I offered a reduced rate, again as a favor to my friend. That was Idiotic Decision #1. Continue reading

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Looking for Smart Software Developers

Aaron Edwards is a-Job Huntin’! (© 2006 Aaron Edwards CC BY-NC 2.0)

A lot of companies were looking for Drupal and WordPress consultants this week, and you know what that means: another batch of funny job ads! No, really, I’m really excited about this week’s funny job ads, and I think you’ll agree. Because who doesn’t just LOVE funny job ads?!

Like this real-life job ad from CraigsList, which I swear is completely true, which is looking for “Smart Software Developers,” as opposed to the stupid variety. (And if you’re not a smart software developer, I’m sure they might still accept your application, as long as you’re at least a technical rockstar.) Continue reading

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So THIS Is Why I Can’t Find Work

Angry Vampire

I hope you get as big a kick out of this as I did. Here are a couple of recent craigslist ads I did not reply to. I mean, yeah, there’s getting work just to make money. But then, there’s getting work just so you can make fun of your new client.

So, maybe I might have tried to get on one of these projects, just so that I could get some Dibert-esque, “You gotta be kidding!?” blog posts out of them. But I didn’t want to have to deal with the headaches, hypertension, gastritis, and murderous impulses. So I figured instead I’d just write about them here. That should help guarantee that they never hire me. (Whew!)

First up, a startup company advertising for a Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP developer. Hey, that’s right up my alley! But… Uh… I can only imagine that they’re actually serious. Frankly, this reads like a joke to me. (I added the yellow highlighting below, so that you’ll see what I mean.) Continue reading

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10 Things I Hate About Software Development

This blog post is intended to sabotage any chance that I’ll get a “normal” software-engineering job, because I don’t think I could ever go back to a “normal” job. Continue reading

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Why I No Longer Belong in a Dilbert Cube

The biggest block of time in my software-development career I spent working in an extraordinary job, a very special place to work, with a very special group of people, for 14 years. Throughout the dot-com boom, I stayed there, ignoring the promises of exciting work and increased salary.

But before I worked there, I tried to work at a supermarket, like my very first job. Continue reading

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Depression and the Software Developer (part 3)

(This is a continuation from part 2 of “Depression and the Software Developer”.)

[Note: This is a recounting of an experience from several years ago. Read the story from the beginning in order to catch up.]

According to psychologist Joe Griffin, the cycle of depression starts when innate needs are not being met. Among these are a sense of achievement and knowing that we are valuable to others. Setbacks like this, however, are just a part of life. What turns setbacks into depression is when they dominate one’s thoughts, they overwhelm him, and he loses hope.

Unfortunately, if my previous work situation epitomized camaraderie, this one did the opposite: Continue reading

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Depression and the Software Developer (part 2)

(This is a continuation from part 1 of “Depression and the Software Developer”.)

If one of the most powerful weapons against depression is hope, one of its most powerful fuels is hopelessness.

I attacked my next job with gusto and enthusiasm. The company had previously outsourced a project to an offshore contractor, and now that the fit had hit the shan, they were looking to bring it back in-house. The product was a stand-alone box with embedded software, and they hired me to take over the hardware diagnostics, which are used to ensure that the units sent to customers actually work.

Somewhere, I read that it takes six months for a new employee to become situated in a new job. But I did it in four. And then I crashed. Hard. Continue reading

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