Instant Lessons From Quitting My First Coding Job

Instant Lessons From Quitting My First Coding Job

I am now four months into my new programming job, living and loving life, this and that side of the work-life river. I’m still getting used to having a regular job and a regular life, you wouldn’t believe how much I struggle with the lack of struggle.

Over the past year my life has drastically changed, to the point where I sit here writing about the lessons from eight and a half years of living a hectic life, and loving that, too. Because I did, part of me misses the daily insanity, the good people I worked with and the bad people that I worked against. It’s been a ride and I miss it, despite the new job being a good ride as well. So here are my takeaways after the dust of leaving my first ever coding job has settled, and I get a better picture of everything that happened in almost a decade of my life.

I should have left long before, but I’m glad that I didn’t

I was aware from an early stage that I was not in the perfect place, for a variety of reasons. My apprenticeship was pretty much me googling things and watching YouTube videos on my own time (since we weren’t allowed to at work at the time) and then getting yelled at for not doing the things right that had never been explained to me.

Afterward I was an underpaid junior dev being tasked with a system that was too large for me to handle, but the other developers kept quitting (or getting fired) and so I was pretty much doing it myself, constantly under fire as well. I spent the next five years like that, until eventually I left at the hight of my game, with the system under control and me a valuable contributor to large-scale projects.

And that is the the reason why I’m glad that I did not leave much sooner as I honestly should have, this way I got to see the results of my hard work and went from blame to fame, and got to enjoy all the great parts of the corporate life. By the end I had so much freedom and responsibility, far more than you would place on anyone as young as me in most places. I worked long hours and weekends together with some great people, and I got the cocktail parties, the empty office floors at night, glass and chrome and hardwood tables.

I doubt that I will have a job like this again for the rest of my life, the responsibility and freedom of being solely responsible for my work alone is something that you don’t really get in most places. When I left I was called into my boss’s office who applauded me for taking on end to end responsibility as he called it in fancy speech, and tried to convince me to stay. And for the year and a half that preceded that I did not even have a boss or anyone overseeing my work, that is another thing you won’t find that easily.

I learned so much, and frankly the last two years or so healed a portion of my distrust towards people, turned the dysfunctional depressed guy into a functioning cynic and now I’m suddenly a guy who thrives at parties and in social life situations, however that happened.

So I stayed on precisely long enough to get some much needed perspective on what could have also been a traumatising experience of working too hard for too little money. This way, it was strangely fun and I learned too much to be bitter about anything.

Leaving is weird

I remember the day that I walked the enchanted halls for the last time, turned in my hardware, said some good-byes and had the obligatory good-bye-party as an online call full of reminiscing about the days gone by, and the people we met along the way. Then I signed off, for good this time, and now I no longer have a key that bleeps when I put it against the doorlock, and no longer get to buy discounted specialty food or drink lemonade with the people of old.

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It is now four months later, of living an arguably simpler life, and I am still an emotional mess every time that I think about old stories. I have an ex coworker visiting me next week and I look forward to the nostalgia as much as I fear the possibility of just melting down and crying in a corner. Weird, that.

Problems are the same, just different

I switched jobs, but not work if I’m honest, down to having nearly exactly the same tech stack. And that leads to the funny realization that the problems of old are the problems of new when it comes to communication, planning, organization and all that overhead.

Problems on a technical level change around a bit, but they are really too similar to truly call them different. Timeouts and storage issues, weird issues and unexplainable issues – and of course the expectedly stupid things that we should have seen right away, but instead spent days on.

Apparently I’m a real coder all of a sudden

Growing up inside a system means that you’ll always stay the guy that everyone once knew, in this case the guy who knew nothing when he started and fought an uphill battle ever since. Sure, I did not end a complete idiot, but I sure started as one, having written like ten lines of code by the time I started working there.

Literally a month later I am suddenly in a new job, sharing experiences and joining discussions, and being asked for input. Struggling, sure, but not a complete mess and not a complete idiot, and finding my way into workflows and systems, working on things that resemble actual work. Making an impact, as my old boss would have said in his fancy speech. This seems weird, after it took me pretty much six or seven years to reach this point in my first job.

Apparently I’m a complete idiot all of a sudden

I live through this confusing dissonance of my internal and external perception right now where I am seen as a programmer and feel like a script kiddie. I guess they call it impostor syndrome, but my way sounds fancier so I’ll use that, thank you.

I have googled things that I should definitely know, hit brick walls that took just a five minute solution, and failed my way upwards to a frightening degree. Of course, I come out better and stronger, but I dearly wish that I would not feel so awkwardly out of place all the time.

I love the lack of routine

Back in the old job, there was routine, even though it was all a chaotic mess. I knew the system, knew the game and knew the players. I had a shortcut to call the people who saw a problem and knew the solution, and I knew the problems that would arise ahead of time. I was integrated into the rumors and the routine cycles of news and olds, and it sure felt great. I was in a place that had early access to all major news and events, and my team was involved in pretty much all major projects – it was great.

And now I hardly know anyone outside my team, have no clue what the abbreviations mean, or where to look if there are error reports from users. I am so fresh-faced that each day at the office means getting to know new walk-ins, and every task that is assigned to me throws me for a loop and a minor identity crisis as I don’t even know where to start.

And boy, is it fun.

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