What are the most exciting programming jobs out there?
May 22, 2014 9:37 AM   Subscribe

I'm not thrilled by my corporate consulting job and someday want to work for or with organizations that contribute to the world in some way or that develop bleeding edge technology. What are they?

"Exciting" in this question is very much up for interpretation, but I'm thinking of things like:

-organizations with world or market changing missions (NASA, for example)
-groups that produce truly bleeding edge technology
-groups with unusual, interesting work environments or practice areas

I'm still developing my skills so I'm not asking about jobs that I can apply to tomorrow, but rather the sort of work that I could target or build towards in the coming years. This is a general question about the most interesting (however you choose to define that) niches in the field.
posted by wansac to Work & Money (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My fiancé really likes working at mid-stage start-ups. With a smaller team, he has a lot more say in what he's working on and influence in overall product development. We recently relocated to the Bay Area, and it's basically the world is your oyster, if you are a fairly competent/experienced programmer. Depending on what technology you are interested in, there is probably a least one start-up trying to make a go of monetizing it. It probably depends a lot on your personality - but if you are not so happy in a corporate situation, you might like the more freeform nature of startup culture. A lot of them also hire remotely, so you could give that a shot too, if you wanted to stay in your current area. Passion for the idea is pretty important, so it would be helpful if you could find something that blends with your existing interests.

I imagine that this concern is probably where this question is coming from, but it might help if you were a little more specific. How would you like to impact the world? Better people's lives? Find new discoveries? Make new things? Disrupt existing cultural practices? Acquire power and influence? What gets you excited? I think your clarification of "exciting" is still too broad, and I think excitement is more of a personal/idiosyncratic thing than something that someone else can give to you. Rather than asking other people what they find exciting, maybe it might help to pay attention to what you like about your current job, and what do you feel is lacking. Then who are you jealous of when you hear what they're doing? What technologies / areas / disciplines do you like reading about for fun? What kinds of problems do you like thinking about / working on? If you could imagine your ideal day - Where are you (location / work environment)? What would you be doing? Who would you be working with? When you have more clarity on these things, I think you'll be in a better position to find a new situation. Basically as you take an interest in yourself and learn to know yourself better, the question of "What do I want to do?" becomes easier!
posted by amileighs at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2014

I think amileighs has a good point - one person's exciting might not be another's.

But I'm in Bioinformatics and I think it's sort of exciting. NASA or astronomy would be cool, though. Bitcoins? Robotics?
posted by mgogol at 10:57 AM on May 22, 2014

Response by poster: @amileighs, thanks for the response. I did work at a start-up, and enjoyed it. I'm looking a little more field/practice area specific with this question, since I'm not going to be passionate about or a good fit for every start-up.

Exciting for me is very much tied to improving people's lives and/or creating new technology. But I also want to hear what other people are excited by, since there's a lot out there that I may never think of myself.
posted by wansac at 11:32 AM on May 22, 2014

Since you mention NASA, you may be interested in their Asteroid Grand Challenge Series. It's an open competition you can participate in right now, and more importantly may give you an idea of skills you want to develop, or assess if it's really the kind of thing you want to do.
posted by philipy at 11:36 AM on May 22, 2014

The video game industry is a lot of fun to work in, with weird, creative people. It has a huge hunger for excellent programmers. Game companies are always trying to come up with new things they can make computers and consoles do. I don't know if video games are changing the world (though there are some that try), but it certainly would be a new thing to do.
posted by musofire at 11:53 AM on May 22, 2014

Applications open up on 1 June for Code for America fellowships.
posted by evoque at 12:02 PM on May 22, 2014

Software as a service, particularly cloud-based videoconferencing. WebRTC is pretty bleedy these days. Everyone is all atwitter about it but nobody that I know is making any serious money from it.
posted by ostranenie at 6:36 PM on May 22, 2014

I work in water informatics and software development. It's a really fun field with huge policy implications and hard questions, and a need for more people with an information science- focused mind (I actually have an MSLIS, not a computer science background). You can see my projects post for an example of what I work on. Feel free to memail me if you have more questions.
posted by rockindata at 11:49 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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