Going nowhere quickly

So I don’t know whether I’m writing this to try and get advice or just to vent but I really need to write. I’m stuck and feel like I’ve been in limbo for a long while now with no idea of where to go. I am a computer engineering graduate. Software wasn’t really the focus of the degree, but it was always what I should have done. Originally I wanted to get into an Intel or an Nvidia to work on the hardware side of things, but after finally taking my first course for it in third year it quickly became apparent that I didn’t possess the interest or aptitude to go anywhere.

So I decided software was the direction I wanted to go and somehow managed to get a 16 month internship with BlackBerry during the development of BB10 working on stacks for streaming protocols. Long story short, I bombed the opportunities I had during the internship. In all fairness, my team weren’t exactly the best mentors (my team lead especially) and the immensely hectic environment in the company at the time didn’t help either. But I wasted so many opportunities to ask questions, to try and get more meaningful projects and to better my skill set. After awhile I mostly stopped caring about it beyond the paycheque. I left 2 years ago and went back to finish my fourth year of school before ultimately graduating in April 2014.

I had decent grades through university and once I got out I started applying like mad for jobs. However, every interview I went to was the same. The character portions generally went pretty smoothly with maybe a few minor hiccups here and there. Come the technical side though and I would get shredded. It took me two and a half months to figure out that my fundamentals weren’t where they needed to be. Databases? Nope. Web development? Nope. Algorithms and data structures? Weak. OO design? Terrible. I’d get to the second interview and be presented with problems that I would come up with some BS answer to or just flat out couldn’t answer to begin with. We’re talking basic stuff here (“What’s an efficient way to sort this?”, “What does making a method virtual mean?”, “What’s the difference between an abstract class and an interface?”).

In light of that I set myself to learning more. I started taking Coursera courses and would go to the library every day to work. Things were actually going alright for awhile. I still didn’t have a job but at least I had direction, you know? Somehow I ended up getting a position with a small reseller of AutoCAD who wanted to branch out into providing services for automation development. When I got the offer I was excited. Sure, they were small but they sounded like they were maybe a place I could learn a lot from. Turns out, they hired me and another new grad to spearhead all of it. My boss, while a nice guy, isn’t someone who I think will be able to mentor me very much.

I’ve been here for 8 months now and I hate it more and more everyday. The AutoCAD plugin market is chalk full of those types of people who just want to make a quick buck with a crappy little app that they think makes them a developer. The major project I’ve been working on for the vast majority of my time here is the epitome of that. It’s a port of an old VBA toolkit that is just amazingly terrible. We’re talking thousands of lines of unnecessary commented code in a file. UIs so bizarre you can’t help but laugh. Code without any semblance of structure or thought to it beyond throwing it into a file and calling it a day. Please don’t take this as me trying to put myself above other people, but even with my own incompetence I can see how bad it is. But again, between having people down my throat for a product and just not caring anymore my code is terrible in it’s own way.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the company and I like the people I work with for the most part. But this is a dead end job that is going to take me nowhere. I have no guidance and no idea of where to go. Everything is self-learning with almost no opportunity for people more knowledgeable than I to tell me where I’m going wrong. I want to do some projects on my own to try and get more experience but I never have any ideas and 99% of the stuff on GitHub either scares me off or isn’t interesting. I order books but can’t find the motivation to even start them I just… I don’t know where to go. I know I want a proper development position somewhere, but I have no idea how to get there anymore or if it’s even possible in my situation.

I feel like an absolute fraud and failure. Sorry for the late night ramble.

Just wanted to say that I hear you and empathize with the situation. The quote above, along with several other things you’ve said, could definitely apply to me as well. And I know the feeling of having a great book, but trying to get the motivation to learn after you get home from a soul-crushing day at work.

One thing I try to do is sit down, grab a beer, and put on a development-related podcast. I don’t have to pay attention, I don’t have to take time away from other things, but I find it often inspires me to crack open the book or actually pay attention to the podcast and learn something. Short podcasts like Developer Tea aren’t a huge time commitment, and can be inspiring or informational. Hope this helps some. We’re all in this together.