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?


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It could be done if the following were satisfied:

-if some how you can manage to balance your family’s income, either by having a very well paid part time job or by using the safety net of other sources of income.
– if you live and work in a blooming market, that is offering lots of interesting part time missions, so you dont get bored.

Both of the in Greece at the time being, do not look or sound doable :/

yet another full time developer…

Maybe the first one is doable but you need to try a lot and it has a significant amount of risk, but I feel it worth the effort.

I actually feel the same way as you.
Work 8 hours a day and sometimes work over time to rush for a project.
I barely have time to do my own thing.

Kinda right on! I feel the same way as you do many times. I do my hours at work, I do my time getting to and from work, housekeeping and so on.
But what I’m trying to do in my work, is to go on conferences, for example BUILD. If I can do that once a year and maybe go to usergroups nearby my town once a month, I acctully get that little satisfaction I’m looking for 🙂
It dosent matter if you are married has kids or want to go out with friends, once in a while you will get that extra time and It’s that moment that seperates pepole, either you take that time to do something, or you take that time so surf facebook and watch tv.

For example, I’m one of those guys who like to have alittle extra time sitting on the toilet. Actully, during that time I’m reading articles or a book. When I’m going with public transport I’m lissening on podcasts or reading, in the car podcasts or something els interesting.
Everyday you get 86.000 seconds to spend, let every second count!

So here is a Question that opened my eyes, do I do all I can to be the person I want to be? When I say all, I mean all. Do I?

(I hope I’m not offending anyone, IF I did, it wasent meaning to do it)

Thanks a lot for your comment Andreas. I loved the toilet thing 🙂 I’m pretty sure you’re not the only one. And clearly you haven’t offended anyone. Keep walking!

Dionisis Petrakopoulos

I agree with the guys in almost everything.

I also try to spend some time every day on reading something new or strengthening areas that I feel I am weak.

Public transport is a good way to do that if you spend considerable amount of time going to work for example. I spend aprox 2 hours every day to go to work and back home so I am trying to take advantage of that reading books, watching videos from conferences etc. Of course you can’t do that every day because may be you haven’t slept good at night (I have two kids 😀 :D). But it is an opportunity nevertheless and I try to take advantage of it.

When I am at home I try to devote some time to kids as Patroklos said so this is not an option for me especially in weekdays.

Weekends maybe..?

I also suffer from the “time is not enough for my activities” syndrome – like many people, I guess. Surely, making use of every second, with the tricks described by Andreas, Dionisis, and others described, is a plus. Still, commuting does not foster for quality learning. I personally commute at least 3,5 hours per day, and I feel that trains and buses are too noisy to study, due to machinery noise, loud and vivid discussions, etc.

Could one root of the problem be the fact that some cities are simply too big? In Athens, for example, nobody knows the whole city, but only parts of it. So, what is the point of a really big city? Do cities evolve having in mind the quality of life of the citizens?

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