How can I become the equivalent of a tenured professor...by next year or so?
October 31, 2007 10:27 PM Subscribe
What is the (probably software related) job that I want called, and how can I get that job now rather than later? Obscenely lengthy explanation inside.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I am currently a programmer, pretty much fresh out of college. However, I find the day to day work of programming pretty tedious a lot of the time. I knew this coming in, but I find most things you could do right out of college vastly more tedious, so I figured this was as good as any and here I am. However, right now I'm trying to formulate some ambitions, and I just need to figure out what direction I want to point myself in order to get what I want out of a job with maximal efficiency.
What I really love is thinking about really hard problems and trying to figure out ways to implement solutions. This makes it sound like programming is the perfect job for me, except that I want someone else to actually do the implementation. I hate thinking about the details, and it's clear from looking at my code; I am careless when it comes to small things, and anyone who knows about programming knows that those small things are what separate the men from the boys. So what I desire is to have a job where I think about the big things, and move the small things to someone else.
For example, right now I'm looking at an extremely short term project for a one-off activity day, where my group is trying to drastically improve one part of a workflow in a way that requires some technical expertise that I happen to have due to my schooling (yes, very specific, I know). Right now I feel incredibly energized about this project because I am throwing around all kinds of round numbers, brainstorming ways to reduce the product space to create a prototype, reading papers about other ways this has been done, and so forth. At the same time, the implementation phase is coming any day now and I face it with total dread, because I'm going to have to be down there in the trenches, and for sure I'm going to throw down some incredibly wrong code or something that will tank us. This is not me being modest, this is me speaking from experience. Even when it's something I know incredibly well, and even when the ideas behind my code are sound, I am shockingly bad at turning out good code.
[As an aside, this lack of detail oriented thinking makes me very, very bad at interviews for programming jobs because the whiteboard coding problems typically require that you get things mostly right on the first try, and your syntax needs to make some amount of sense. I lean heavily on my compiler and unit tests, shockingly enough. Advice on overcoming this career liability is also welcome.]
I know of one job that sounds like what I want to do, which is to be a professor and delegate the details to grad students. I also suspect that people with titles like "architect" and "product manager" do some of what I want. However, I would have to go through either years of grad school, then the mad dash to get an actual professorship (eesh), or even more years of this same programming job and then maybe an MBA too, in order to get there. Is there a way I can have a job like the one I describe now, or soon? I do not require being in the software industry, although that is where my technical knowledge is so it's probably the easiest place to start with. How can I short circuit this process so I don't spend all my youthful vim and vigor working on the parts of problems I find brain-deadening?
I recognize that this question sounds like "How can I skip paying my dues and get a fun, inspiring job right now?" I mean it to be more "What kinds of jobs are there for someone with entry-level experience that play to my strengths and not my weaknesses? If any?"
I also welcome the reality check of "crinklebat, everyone wants the job you describe, but only the brilliant get it and you really do just have to pay your dues and work really hard for the next ten to fifteen years in order to get anywhere close." That would be a helpful data point in my quest for jobly fulfillment and probably would be in line with my current beliefs (if not my current hopes). I honestly have no idea whether the job I want is one that everyone would want.
So, um, tl;dr but I hope someone knows what I'm talking about and can offer insights and all that.