Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Joining the Circus

Ok, I'm not actually joining the circus.  I couldn't handle any of their tricks and would end up being the guy who shovels the elephant poo.

The reason for this post is to write out my thoughts on what I'm going to do for a career in the next couple of years.  At the moment, I'm committed to my current job as a developer.  I basically get to do a wide variety of tasks, some fun and some not.  As my role is fairly low on the totem pole, I have little seniority, even though I've been there longer than some people with 'better' titles.  On the plus side (sort of), I get called to handle some emergency tasks (especially when I'm on vacation), which means that a lot of people know who I am.  If I get promoted this year (we have yearly opportunities), my actual role likely won't change.

I would like a more concrete job, where I know exactly where I stand.  I'm not sure what domain that job will be in, or if I would make a career out of it, but I need something different.

That is where this post comes in.  I have a list of jobs/careers that I am considering or considered in the future.  I'm writing here to both get my thoughts out and get feedback.  I know I am the one who has to make the final decision, but the more perspectives I have, the better I'll feel about my choice(s).

This is what most of my education was in.  Despite my lack of recent experience in coding, I still feel drawn to its possibilities.  Many of the projects I would enjoy working on are basically programming projects.  The problem is that most of the programmers out there will have a leg up on me with their more extensive experience.  Granted, I could get caught up in the next 18 months and become an above average programmer, 'simply' by working on some of my projects and focusing on the quality of my code.  Many programmers simply go with the flow and don't continue to improve themselves after getting a job.

Design Lead
This is part coding and part leading.  While this is really a step beyond my choice of coding, I could take steps to speed up the process of getting there.  And I wouldn't have to code as much.  I think of this as the 'Management Lite' option.

Software Architect
Coding can also lead me in this direction.  I could work on the overall design on software systems.  Similar to the design lead position, it's far more 'leadery' oriented than just coding.

This is a bit of a long shot, with little job security if I get in.  With my MS, it would have to be at a community college.  Given the rarity of openings, this is not at the top of my list.

JET Program
Japan's JET program is a very interesting opportunity that I've been thinking about off and on for a while.  Now I'm starting to seriously consider it again.  It's a year-long commitment, but a good one.  It also gives me more incentive to learn Japanese and more time to consider what I will do after it's over.  I wouldn't be getting a house for a bit longer, but I think it would be worth it.

Independent IT Guy
This is a difficult one if I start over somewhere new; I would have no contacts to help me get jobs.  It's also a bit different from what I have done, and I would need to set myself up for this role.

Private Tutor
This is a lot like the teaching career, but one-on-one.  It's also difficult to get into, and I would need a larger city for the number of clients I would need to stay viable. 

I have a science fiction book series in my head, some of which has been fleshed out with some detail.  I would really enjoy getting the book out.  I just don't know if I'm up for the challenge.  Not that it's stopped many writers from getting published.

If my cousin can make a life-long career out of this, why can't I?

Artificial Intelligence Programmer
This is a more specialized area of coding that I think I would still enjoy, but would have a difficult time getting in to.  The general 'AI coding techniques' are more or less mainstream these days, so it's not too much different from being a regular coder.

System Internationalization Consultant
This is a recent idea I had about working with Unicode, UTC, imperial/metric conversion, and such.  Internationalization is a big things these days, and a lot of corporations pay big money for specialists.  The downside is that it would require constant travel to where those companies would want me.  If I'm going to settle down somewhere, I want to actually settle down.  The other alternative is to live in a place where those companies are located, which typically are places I don't want to live.  The best option for this is to live near Washington DC and commute into work.  There are plenty of neighborhoods that I would like nearby, and the metro system would allow me to get around.  I'll have to think about it a bit more.  Maybe.

Some of these I can do in parallel, such as writing in my free time.  Others, like the JET program, I don't even know if I would be accepted to.  A few don't appeal to me as much as they used to, but could again in the future.  Many of them require more coding experience.  I think I'll continue to work on that.  I'll also apply to the JET program, if only to see if I get accepted.  Maybe I'll even go if I am!  And I'll see about my writing, leadership, and entrepreneurship skills to keep my options open.  If I do that, I'll be well positioned for most anything I choose.  I'll leave being a slacker to my cousin.

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