Archive for January, 2012

Stability or creative chaos?

January 4, 2012

Last night I joined Karthik Hariharan, Curtis Summers, and Greg Vaughn on the very low-tech bar stools at the front of the Dallas Ruby Brigade‘s monthly meeting. We, the panel, were there to discuss our versions of “The Path to Ruby”–topic courtesy of super-organizer Mark McSpadden.

Among the many interesting topics to emerge was the differing circumstances in which each of us were launched into our careers, post-university.

To over-simplify, I found myself contrasting my work-force entry roughly 20 years before my co-panelists.

1980s:

Stable but deadly?

  • Small-ish number of large employers
  • High demand for programmers: have Computer Science degree? Welcome aboard!
  • Nascent start-up/venture capital ecosystem (so as to be pretty much invisible to new grads)
  • Seemingly clear traditional career path
  • Well-defined, and narrowly defined, roles for CS grads

Early 2000s (ignoring for the moment the post-dot-com, post-9/11 meltdown):

Burning out of control?

  • Large number of small- and medium-sized employers
  • High demand for “rock star” programmers
  • Start-up/VC culture in full bloom
  • Many more career path options
  • “Programmers” often expected to double/dabble in stuff you didn’t learn in school, like visual design

Couple this with the rise of open source software, the ubiquity of the blog-twit-IM-chat-osphere, the trend toward shorter job tenures and multiple careers, and my younger co-panelists have spent their early careers in an environment radically different than the one I found post-university.

Which is better?

Depends.

We’re all different. From some of my colleagues last night, I heard a little yearning for a more stable work life. Understandable, particularly when you’re young and perhaps starting a family.

Call me a glass-half-full guy, but as much as I appreciated being in demand post-graduation, I also very much like today’s more dynamic, more creative environment. Never before in history have “hackers” been able to be so creative, to bring so much value into the world, as they are right now.

How about you? Pick your mix. What blend of stability vs creative chaos would you pick? 50/50? 75% stability, with a dash of chaos? Vice versa?

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