Does anyone else find software engineering boring and meaningless?

Apple ToddSteve
Nov 25, 2018 57 Comments

I came from a reputable university. Worked really hard in my computer science program, graduated nearly top among my peers. Was planning to do a PhD but decided to work since I got a job from G.

Was really frustrated by politics and the environment and jumped to Apple to join a friend’s team. Team is okay but now I am seeing the same old BS again. Saw a lot of people who got promoted because they were outspoken and close to management and don’t have much real technical skills.

Summary of the software industry:
1) grunt work done by new graduates who don’t know any better
2) people drinking koolaid pretending they are helping the world when in reality, the main reason for joining FANG is because it sounds prestigious and pays well.
3) most jobs are mostly boring. In G, the general perception is we are just moving protobuf around.
4) most code are badly written and waiting to be deprecated. Little incentives to fix them especially since people tend to join new teams or join new companies after 2 years
5) lack of rigor in the tech industry in general. Just look at number of boot camp graduates getting full time jobs and so called data scientists without a strong stats background. Break things and move fast? Yes. Thanks FB for making everyone so short sighted.
6) weak management everywhere pretending to care for you but they are just hypocrites and don’t really give a hoot about your well being. Those who rise fast are not surprisingly more focused on their own career profession than yours
7) startups might be more interesting but only in theory. In actual reality, your stock options are too little to worth the risk. In successful cases, founders get everything while you slave hard for peanuts

I am thinking of doing a PhD but I know academia has its equal shares of its problems too. Sure it might be more intellectually challenging but the pay is too low to justify it. Plus, there is little point in doing a PhD for 6 years and rejoining google as a lowly t4 or t5. However I can’t bear the thought of working as a mediocre engineer for another few years of my life.

Anyone has the same thoughts?

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TOP 57 Comments
  • Oracle / Eng
    pycharm

    Oracle Eng

    PRE
    Stealth Worker
    BIO
    Control over your own life is an illusion.
    pycharmmore
    I came in wanting to disagree with you but you make good points.
    Nov 25, 2018 0
  • AMD / Eng Zootaxy
    Academia has way more politics and BS than industry. It is a nasty environment full of pricks. And you will be treat as a slave.
    Nov 25, 2018 9
    • Google / Eng YFvq18
      I don't know about other fields, but in the top ML conferences (e.g. ICLR, ICML, NIPS), the review process is double-blind, so the reviewers don't know what university you are from or who your advisor is.
      Nov 25, 2018
    • New / Eng RhpJ71
      It's not blind to the program committee. They are the ones who choose 2 from 10-20 A- papers.
      Nov 25, 2018
    • New / Eng RhpJ71
      Publication is one a small piece of the overall politics. Other angles: funding, citation, promotion, University resources, TA positions for students, .... It's a very long list.
      Nov 25, 2018
    • AMD / Eng Zootaxy
      @Google, I am talking about program committee, they know everything and use that to choose papers. Lots of horror stories in PC meetings.
      Nov 25, 2018
    • Google LockUnlock
      Also, people talk to PC members about their work in advance, so the reviews are not really double blind.
      Nov 28, 2018
  • Facebook zuckyzuck
    Have you ever experienced software engineering elsewhere? You don't know how good you've got it.
    Nov 25, 2018 3
    • Apple ToddSteve
      OP
      Knowing how poor some people in south Africa are doesn’t make me feel any richer :(
      Nov 25, 2018
    • Facebook / Other
      ParrotBug

      Facebook Other

      PRE
      Google
      ParrotBugmore
      Dude... You should visit South Africa (of Africa, for that matter) sometime. People have more fulfilling lives and they probably never get to ask why their lives suck or why are they meaningless - because they aren't. They have it much better than we are.
      Nov 25, 2018
    • Unless you’re a white farmer.
      Nov 26, 2018
  • OpenTable Meliodas
    Your view is skewed, because you are junior and have only worked for monopolies.

    Consider profitable companies with roles where your role has impact and can actually move the revenue needle.
    Nov 25, 2018 1
    • Amazon pi hff fgj
      Like what? OP mentioned startups as well. Other companies don't really pay as much as FANG.
      Nov 25, 2018
  • Uber / Eng
    ksksnebb

    Uber Eng

    PRE
    Google
    ksksnebbmore
    Spot on. I left G to work at a startup and after a year it started sucking in the same ways. I just gave up trying to find meaning in work and now try to find the highest TC: hours ratio possible, take lots of vacation time, and freely spend money on my hobbies.
    Nov 25, 2018 0
  • Amazon momoChon
    You make a lot of good of points but whenever you make such broad generalizations you are doomed to lose the argument
    Nov 25, 2018 2
    • Apple ToddSteve
      OP
      I am not trying to win an argument. Just trying to see how many people feel the same.
      Nov 25, 2018
    • Amazon momoChon
      I agree with you on a lot of points but making statements as "all the code is sh*t" or "all managers are hypocrites" has no room in a constructive discussion
      Nov 25, 2018
  • Apple Okidoki
    Replace “software industry” in your post with pretty much every industry and you are spot on. It is luck to get on a team that does innovative work, has no politics and pays well, especially if you are junior in your career. Good news is you are not bound by family and can change teams as often as you want until you find the place you are satisfied with.
    Nov 25, 2018 3
    • Microsoft uss
      So the best way is to start your own company or work as freelancer so you get to set ur own directions
      Nov 25, 2018
    • Facebook TioViejo
      Every successful team has someone doing the politics. Even if it's just keeping the douchebags away. If the Juniors are unaware it exists, then there's some epic motherfucker running the show.
      Nov 25, 2018
    • VMware BobbleHat
      +20 FB
      Nov 25, 2018
  • Amazon / Eng IAmJob
    Pretty spot on. Took me many years in industry to feel this.

    Our job is very similar to a doctors. We study hard, work our way to becoming senior. Then the learning flat lines. Most problems we have seen before and know how to solve. It's rare to see challenging problems. Maybe a few times a year.

    I have thought of going to management, but I hate politics and game playing.

    For the time being I am getting paid very well. I have branched my interests beyond software and focusing on family and that helps.

    Regarding academia. Most publications are trash. One off use cases that aren't practical. Very few professors are making true impact. You would need to be one of those top guys to be getting paid high.

    So when a company tells you "we are working on hard problems and are looking for really smart people" its probably bullshit.
    Nov 25, 2018 0
  • Facebook TioViejo
    You have somehow managed to not notice where new ideas come from. Yes, the young are ground down while they learn how to computer. Then they start coming up with ideas. That is inherently political, it involves conversations with actual people. A single person can't make an iPhone update. If you don't want to talk to people, then, yup your prospects are limited... WTF did you expect? Magically you'd make a new Google by yourself?
    Nov 25, 2018 0
  • Amazon pi hff fgj
    Good, so it's not just me feeling this way.
    Nov 25, 2018 0
  • You have many good points but you never worked in startups so your view is skewed.

    I interviewed many FANG engineers. Most of them are really good but doing shitty work because they don’t get the chance to work in an interesting project. It’s a big waste of talent.

    If you want impact, join an early stage startup but you need to let go your high TC.

    Tough choice, right?
    Nov 25, 2018 1
    • Apple ToddSteve
      OP
      I didn’t disagree with you. I mentioned that startups are possible but be prepared to get low TC.
      Nov 26, 2018
  • Facebook Low-TC
    Came from academia. It is even more nasty. All problems above apply in a worse way.
    Nov 25, 2018 0
  • WillowTree beasty
    Your points are very valid. This is why I moved to a smaller company with less layers of management.
    Nov 28, 2018 0
  • PeerStreet / Other
    JmnG16wb

    PeerStreet Other

    PRE
    Amazon
    JmnG16wbmore
    What did you expect OP? The world is a brutal tournament, the opportunities to work on important problems and get paid are slim and hyper-competitive.

    If you are diligent in your career you will get those opportunities. You sound like a typical millennial who has no concept of putting the time in. Learn to be patient and those opportunities will come.
    Nov 27, 2018 0
  • Facebook Rdfrt
    It's a job. That's how it's been since the beginning of jobs. After many years, it's rare for it to be too exciting. Maybe your expectations were incorrect. However you could try a change.
    Nov 25, 2018 0
  • Intuit dumb@ss
    Agree with OP (and others who chimed in) on many points raised here. I am finding myself in the same place and looking to make a change that allows me to do something more meaningful with my skills that will benefit others less fortunate and in need somehow more directly. Just chasing job title/money no longer excites or challenges me.
    Nov 25, 2018 0
  • Facebook public2
    Switch industries?
    Nov 25, 2018 2
    • Microsoft uss
      To which industry?
      Nov 25, 2018
    • Facebook public2
      To one op enjoys. Life is too short to spend so much time in a place you don't enjoy.
      Nov 25, 2018
  • This comment was deleted by original commenter.

    • Apple ToddSteve
      OP
      Yes I can imagine that life is equally or even better even if these companies are not around. I don’t see why you assume life can only be worse without them.
      Nov 25, 2018
  • New / Product Hunt-er
    If you are constantly coding the same way that will be boring. No doubt software engineering will become a commodity in the future, except the emerging areas such as AI, Blockchain, etc. Even for the emerging technologies, once a scalable/replicable solution is found companies will work to convert it into a "monkey job".
    Nov 27, 2018 0
  • Amazon PAxv45
    How about starting your own company or at lease your own side projects?
    Nov 25, 2018 0

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