Alternative Jobs For Bored Web/App Developers

I’ve recently seen a spate of engineers declaring boredom and/or dissatisfaction with their current roles and responsibilities, which leads them to openly question what options are available.  Perhaps building accounting software products or maintaining the web presence of an insurance firm just isn’t inspiring you to get out of bed anymore.  This problem isn’t unique to the software industry (and based on a 2003 Joel On Software post, not necessarily new), but whenever a professional invests years of their life getting an education and honing their skills, it can be daunting to think that the time was somewhat wasted.

Thankfully, if you are losing your passion for typical web or software development, your training and experience have at least in part prepared you for several alternative roles that perhaps you have not considered.  It seems that frustrated developers tend to weigh their options as stay in development or leave the industry, without considering the fact that these other alternatives exist.  If the source of discontentment is tied to the role of app or web dev work (and not the overall tech industry), there are some relatively new roles that have become more in demand that may satisfy the itch you have.

This information may also be useful to new entrants into the market and grads that are wondering what they can do with their computer science degree other than just stereotypical development roles.

Here are some examples (some have crossover and similarity):

Performance Engineer - This role isn’t about building a product, but rather improving speed, scalability and reliability.  Performance engineers may be thinking about databases or monitoring tools one day and hardware or operating systems the next.  It is a highly technical and specialized role with increasing market demand.

QA Automation Engineer – QA is one discipline that seems to have gone through some significant changes over the course of my career (15 years).  In the late 90′s, QA meant large teams of manual testers and high demand mostly attributed to the Y2K scare (history lesson for the young).  At some point thereafter it became the norm to outsource QA overseas, making QA a lost art in the US and thus making QA talent significantly harder to find.  Over the past couple years, there seems to be some resurgence of demand for QA to be performed domestically, and hires typically will be expected to have some automation and scripting experience.

DevOps Engineer – This  is another role that has been growing due to the number of shops that like to deploy frequently.  As the trend in delivery will not be changing anytime soon, the ability to automate the process will continue to be in demand.

Configuration, Release, or Build Manager/Engineer – As the look of development teams has progressed from crowded shops to remote employees, combined with the popularity of cloud-based computing, the concept of configuration management is changing.  Demand for talent in these areas is relatively steady.

Embedded Systems and Firmware Engineer – Although the transition from your typical app or web developer position may be a bit more complex, one should expect growth in embedded systems to continue as the variety and sheer number of devices continues to increase.  The concepts of ubiquitous computing and the Internet of Things are getting one step closer to reality every day, and engineering talent with a unique set of skills will be required.

Project Manager, Technical Writer, Business Analyst – Having a coding background can make the move into any of these jobs a bit easier, and your appreciation for development should maximize your shot at being successful.

Before abandoning the years you have invested in learning how to code, consider whether or not you may be happy in a different role that enables you to reuse many of the skills you have already developed.

My ebook Job Tips For Geeks: The Job Search has been released and is now available in most formats.  See the book page for details.

3 comments

  1. RM

    Performance Engineer, Automation Engineer, Build Manager etc. are roles that are not new and some of those are considered, in some places, to be a demotion for an application developer. How about Product Manager? How about Pre Sales/Post Sales advisor ? How about finding a cool idea of your own and starting a startup (probably most developers would do that with a partner who has more business orientation, but still) ? From this post, it seems your opinion is that developers are blue collar workers that can switch between one bits and bytes role and another but not become something bigger, something of their own.

    Perhaps this can be a nice subject for a future post on whether or not developers breaking this glass ceiling is something that can happen, other than in unique isolated cases.

    • fecak

      Thanks for the comment. Calling the roles ‘new’ might have been worded better, but I’d certainly say that the demand for them is a bit new. In my first 10 years, I never saw any demand for performance engineers or build managers, but I’ve seen several since. Whether or not those roles would be seen as a demotion is up to the individuals involved, but if someone is not happy in their current job they typically aren’t performing at a high level and may welcome a change regardless of whether it is considered a demotion.

      I could certainly have mentioned product management and sales. I almost mentioned recruiting, but I wanted to keep it more technical.

      I’m a firm believer in developers becoming entrepreneurs, and encourage it regularly when giving advice.

      I think you may be reading into this post a bit too much if you gathered that I feel developers are ‘blue collar workers’ that can’t become something bigger on their own. That seems a bit presumptive to read one piece and try to make a knee-jerk judgement on my feelings toward developers. If you’d like to read a bit further on my opinions about entrepreneurship for developers, my recent AMA on Reddit might help you understand my opinions better (http://www.reddit.com/r/cscareerquestions/comments/1gc4rm/im_dave_fecak_recruiter_and_authorblogger_behind/).

  2. Morgan

    Thanks for sharing this article. I will surely recommend this article to all my friends who are working in the field of software development and are experiencing dissatisfaction in their present roles.

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