The Full-Time Developer ‘Curse’

Some time ago I wrote an article with my advice to (junior) developers about their career.  One of the things I explained was that by the word “young” I meant all developer who feel young so it doesn’t matter how many years of experience you’re carrying on your back.  You’re still “young”!

A few days ago, I came back from two-weeks of vacations and I realized that during this period I had plenty of time to apply at least once all these little advice (learn new things, promote yourself, be part of an opensource project, etc). That was really cool. And the funniest of all is that I spent no more than 2-3 hours  a day. Amazing! But very quickly I realized also, that the only reason I managed to do it, was the fact that I was in vacations. Why I can’t do all these nice things every week, every month? The answer is really simple.

I work as a full-time developer : This practically means that I spend 9 hours daily working with legacy code, existing or new products of a specific domain. The technologies could be considered modern but they’re not state-of-the art so my learning curve is dropping down. My main responsibility is to delivery product value based on customer requirements and occasionally trouble-shot software issues. I love my job and I feel very creative with what I do but I still feel that something’s missing. I don’t have spare time (in my working hours) to  learn new languages or new tools / frameworks etc. so I try to fill the blanks in my free time. However, do I have any free time?

Let me explain my thoughts : Add to the 9 hours I commit to work one more hour to get prepared in the morning and rest for a while when I get back. So far 10 hours of the day are out. Add 8 hours of sleep needed and what’s left? 6 hours / weekday. One could argue that this is fair enough for all the other activities I’m suggesting. Well, I partially agree but… You need some time to hangout with your friends, some time to relax by yourself, to do some housekeeping tasks. Now imagine you’re married with kids. Kids need (at least) your attention so 1-2 hours are clearly dedicated to them, and trust me this is the happiest time of the day, no matter how tired you are or how many problems jump in your mind.

Now do the maths and you’ll see that nothing’s left during the week days. And my calculations were very rough. Some people are committing  more than 10 hours / day and spend more than 2 hours for preparation and going to work. So the root cause of the problem is that I’m a full-time developer!! Right, yeah!

Wouldn’t be great if I had to work only 4 hours/day? Then I would have the required free time for the rest of my tasks and activities.  But what about my salary? Probably if I work less I will be paid less but then I will have difficulties with my loan, my every day expenses. So, thank God, I’m a full-time developer. Or not? For me the ideal scenario would be the following :

  • Part time developer ( 4 hours/day )
  • Enough free time for my other activities that generate some income to cover the missing salary.

Am I asking too much? I don’t know but what I know for sure is that I’m cursed and blessed for being a full-time developer. You?

Reference: The Full-Time Developer ‘Curse’ from our JCG partner Patroklos Papapetrou at the Only Software matters blog.

Patroklos Papapetrou

Patroklos is an experienced JavaEE Software Engineer and an Agile enthusiast seeking excellence in software quality. He is also co-Author of the Sonar in Action book, and contributor of several Sonar plugins.
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9 years ago

i am in the same problem.
i go to the job “Android Developer” in the morning at 7 AM
1 hour for transportation
reach at 8 AM
9 hours work and 1 hour break so i finished at 5 PM
from 5 PM to 7 PM
i can read two hours
then i leave and reach home at 8 PM
at 10.30 PM i can study again to 12 PM
Friday and Saturday is free

9 years ago

glad to read this article….I also share the same views. Being a full time developer gives very little time to explore your personal tech interests…but salary also matters as most of us will have financial/family priorities.

Some employers do allow to take breaks from projects and spend hrs in learning as per personal interests but I feel those are very few…only way I try is to manage my daily time better and follow my tech interests and try to find good projects with my employer which will align my tech interests.

9 years ago

I often feel this way. Working 9 hours a day on legacy code, dealing with client issues regarding existing products or working on ‘new’ projects which necessarily build on older libraries and codebases leaves little time for exploring more cutting edge development tools, practices and languages etc. What I try to do is nudge the new coding out of the bounds of what the company had been used to (extending the role of Java EE for example, or introducing more TDD which hasn’t particularly featured in the company’s best practices). I subscribe to various newsletters which I scan daily to… Read more »

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