Programmers — Stop faking your passion. Instead, run for the money
Recently I came across story of a Nigerian soft drink seller named Crypto Shaolin. Living in poverty, he came to know about Bounty0x from one of his acquaintances. The platform offered crypto money in exchange of social media marketing tasks for startups.
The man ended up earning $50K annually working 15–20 hours / week — far from his original job chasing tourists with his ice box in the heat of Africa.
This article is not about investing in Crypto and dream about waking up a millionaire. It’s about lifting oneself out of grueling routines.
It’s about preparing for tomorrow that doesn’t have to involve exchanging your time for paying bills.
It’s not about leaving your passions, but about avoiding to submerge yourself under swamp topped up by lotuses posing as passions.
It is also about postponing your genuine passions for a time with better control of the situation.
If you are lagging in your financial goals due to your passion for product / technology, think twice:
A lot of us are in this industry due to sheer passion for computing.
Majority developers are genuine geeks professing love for mother knowledge, but haven’t asked themselves one really important question:
Am I ready to forever to exchange my time until I retire with N times (starting salary) at the age of 60?
(On average inflationary statistics worldwide, N could be 2–4)
It is high time you ask this yourself.
And for those, who do not possess passion for tech / product they are working on — it’s even worse:
The bigger lot, who just happened to have nothing else to do. Despite lack of passion for tech they are working on, they slog over, simply because they need to be employed. Examples?
- Hacking enthusiasts working on data science since it’s good pay even though not quite at the start
- Application programmers making UI designs because company cannot afford to hire UI designer
They contribute significantly in their company’s growth, following whichever tech stack is thrown at them. Despite delivering much more than what they are paid for, they remain undervalued.
The only reason for their slogging is the fact that they never actively drive their careers.
But passion is what got you hired in tech, isn’t it?
Bracing your software career upon some company’s passion for technology (or product being built) really sells nowadays.
The only reason for maintaining this passion quo, unfortunately, is: That’s what gets one hired.
The passion advice was an ingenious invention of career coaches as something that gets you through the pearly gates of heaven (which you anyway qualified for, because God, like multi-billion software companies, doesn’t play dice).
You got there because of your Karma (CV, published work, success in the interview rounds), but you really get inside by committing yourself to company goals that include infinite love for the product and tech stack. While this might not be completely fulfilled by you, lack of it doesn’t necessarily say you are worthless.
Even after joining the company, there is constant invisible pressure built around you to prove your passion — in the form of meetups, hackathons and knowledge sharing sessions that lead to no innovation being materialized in company’s own roadmap.
People with genuine passion for those techs continue organizing such events, roping in other dev’s efforts, and sometimes punishing / rewarding them based on the engagements. For those other devs, the ordeal becomes like repeatedly chanting an anthem without any patriotic emotions within their hearts.
But it is an unsustainable business, mainly because:
- Parameters that triggered your original passion for joining the industry can be completely altered a.k.a. obsolescence by technology is always looming (they might even be non-existing. Come on — you needed a job to pay your student loans, what else you could do?)
- Company caring about you irrespective of your skillset curve is a high-risk bet, unless it is your spouse / parent / sibling running the show (your kids are more likely to fire you than you might think)
- With your skill curve being 110% in line with that of your company / boss, there are looming threats over your company’s existence as well. Never take your present job as granted.
So how can you build the website / run the business / write the book of your dreams?
Technology has infused enormous financial ease into startup founding ecosystem. It is much more rewarding to leave 9–5 work and set up your own show.
Same is not possible being within the company ecosystem — especially if you are super-committed to company’s vision (passion notwithstanding) of making its product great.
Barring founding time equity that could click at every Jupiter eclipse to make millionaires out of CTOs, there is no path for well-contributing programmers to follow their genuine passion.
Thousands of youtube video’s or Tim Ferris’ 5 bullet Friday seem like a clickbait, but it’s reality:
The only solution to be able to work on your nostalgic, amateurish or contemporary passion is:
The only proven & time-tasted way to make enough money in software development so that you can retire early, is to make the right kind of career jumps.
Your present employer always undervalues you unless you have perfect chemistry as founding partners, and the ship keep sailing smoothly. If lucky, you would be better off selling your little enterprise and build that one thing that really excites you.
If not, again, keep hopping. And the possibilities are endless.
Art is what you believe in first. Craft is what you learn later. Here goes the 3-point list.
Get certified into high paying technology where pay-rise is guaranteed
There is something called Certification Gold Rush in software world. (if you can’t google it, credit me 🙂).
Certification Gold Rush happens when a skill is relatively new, mostly proprietary high cost software tool / framework. There aren’t enough qualified professionals around. The industry entry is super-easy because even employers rarely know what to ask in interviews.
AWS and its friends (GCP and Azure) were Certification Gold Rush around 4 years ago. That changed. Today they come close 2nd. Yet, the demand is enough and increasing every day — you will never regret being a cloud developer.
SAP, Siebel, BizTalk, Sharepoint, Peoplesoft and similar enterprise suits all enjoyed the Gold Rush status, though in a limited way couple of decades ago. They are still in demand in their low volume segments.
#1 can be Information Security — according to the survey. While this doesn’t top the salary figures list, less number of people training vouches for less competition. Looking at the crypto-centric world of tomorrow, Ethical Hackers will become valuable commodity to enterprises that are too big to fail.
We are also excluding PMP certification because our scope is limited to tech skills only.
Keep working, keep saving money for your retirement:
If you want early retirement and / or bootstrapping money for your grand life dream, this is more than obvious.
Go lean. Do not spend more than you absolutely need. Remember, you are still a highly paid slave in a job that you may not be loving. Do not decide to settle.
Go work in a location with lower living costs, go thrifty investing in housing etc.
Caveat: One of the prominent challenges of this phase is to communicate your goals across your relationships. Who knows, your partner could halve your slog while you work in high paying tech that you hate.
Unless you can make it meaningful for everyone you care about, chances are you are headed for fatal burnout or breakdown.
Do not forget: you have mortgaged your passion for money.
Keep your eyes and ears open for learning and partnerships:
Since you have financial runway fully laid up, it is time for takeoff. Do not make your first company your final destination. Keep learning, nurture your creativity by reading beyond technical stuff. There is a strong possibility that by staying in this more challenging game, you end up creating better version of your own dreams when you quit for good.
Keep your eyes and ears open for potential new opportunities around. Keep hopping to get more for your time. If you are out of options, keep negotiating with your present employer by offering willingness to learn and do more.
Make Friday parties your launchpad to find new partners for your future dream enterprise. If not, at least spot your future employers that could pay you higher than your current role.
In short, keep the journey alive.
Taking the hard work — high reward route suppressing your passions may sound counter intuitive at first. You need a lot of time to convince yourself why leaving your passion (read: comfort zone) maybe devastating in short run, but compulsory on a day you can’t predict.
Anyone can harbor passions. Indulging them in your favorite idyllic beach-house / cottage, however, requires much more control over the situation.
So far, money has been the most proven control-wielding device.
That’s why Crypto Shaolin makes sense.