I hate programming

I’ve been a dev for almost two decades now, and I stopped enjoying it at least four years ago. I tried to get into UX, spent a bunch of money on classes, and completely failed. I did manage to get a job for embarrassingly little money at a large tech company, where I was the only dev on most projects, that was mellow and tolerable, but I hated the company, their culture, the food, and just about everything else about it.

I recently took a dev job paying three times as much with the intention of sticking it out for ten years, and saving up enough money to just retire, but a few weeks in, and I can’t stand it. I just can’t hack a completely normal, possibly even good dev environment anymore. The people are fine, the pace is fine, the management is fine, but I just can’t cope with the frustrations of learning yet another new set of design patterns for displaying a fucking list of data. I don’t give a shit about whatever new thing you’re using to persist data. Two weeks in, and I’ve thought about jumping off the top of a parking garage (of which there are plenty downtown, most above ten stories, so survival would be unlikely) so many times. The worst, is when I fuck this up, I’m going to alienate a consulting company that has found me a ton of great work over the course of a decade.

This post hit the nail on the head:

20-year veterans are people who just get it done no matter what, and still have time to raise kids, keep a clean house, and have a life. They can do a code review of a multi-thousand line commit, understand everything about it, and have useful, relevant feedback, while I just spend hours staring, and finally just make a stupid comment about bracket placement.

I need the money to live. I have no other marketable skills. If I wash out of this, it’s off to the burger barn to flip patties, and I’ll seriously kill myself before that.

I have no idea what to do.


I’m in a similar spot. Also 20 years in, but am burned out when it comes to working in coding teams, and also on programming in itself, somewhat at least.

I’ve had many many days in the past 5 years where I haven’t been able to produce one single line of code.

I don’t know about you, but I got into coding because of the problem solving and beauty of writing cool algorithms, not really for coding business applications, Scrum meetings or maintaining other people’s code.

Is there something else you can see yourself doing besides programming? Maybe take a course to build up skills in something else? Sticking it out for 10 years is a long time, could you set a shorter goal?

I’ve been on a 4-month break from my last job but am looking at taking on an assignment again, if nothing else for the money…but I need to find a better long-term solution, maybe with some kind of part-time job.

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Is there something else you can see yourself doing besides programming? Maybe take a course to build up skills in something else? Sticking it out for 10 years is a long time, could you set a shorter goal?

I tried UX, to no avail. Took a course, applied for jobs, got nothing, and ran out of money, forcing me to go back to programming. I wanted to try UX because like you, it’s the problem solving that’s interesting, and I find that I enjoy the human part of it more than the algorithmic/mathematical part of it. I’ve always been better at figuring out how to write readable, well organized and documented code, rather than writing the fastest possible algorithm to solve something. Plus, I think I’d enjoy trying to build things that people enjoyed using, rather than tolerated using. But junior UX people make very little money, and very few companies are hiring junior designers right now. All the listings are for mid to senior level.

I’ve also thought about QA. I’ve always enjoyed finding really specific repro steps, and pinning down exactly what causes bugs. In some ways, I actually enjoy bugfixing more than writing the code in the first place. There again though, QA folks can be underpaid.

Then ten years figure was for saving up the amount needed to retire outright. If I can live on an amount, and I’m now making three times that, sticking the remaining two thirds in savings, then in an index fund or something isn’t too much of a challenge. Ten years, I’ll have my place paid off, and enough invested to live poorly, but without working, indefinitely. That just means surviving that long.

Sounds to me like the UX skills you attained ought to be useful in many developer jobs also. When I was on a smaller team we did everything from database design to designing user interfaces. UX knowhow would have been very valuable back then.

Come to think of it, that was probably when I was at my happiest job-wise. It’s later on when I’ve been pigeonholed that my motivation sank. I don’t know if that’s a trend in the industry, maybe jobs on products like that are hard to come by.

QA is surely still underrated, and I’m guessing the role can be very different between different companies. To me it seems a bit more stressful compared to a developer position, especially in crunch times.

Yes it sounds like you have a plan if you’re able to tolerate doing something you don’t enjoy for 10 years. For myself, I don’t think I could do that (anymore). Right now I’m thinking of finding assignments of 5-6 months and then taking large breaks inbetween, maybe working on apps or websites (or something else) on my own.

What does the job market look like where you are, right now?

The first thing you need to do, if you’re serious about thinking about jumping off that building and not just being flippant, is to get help. Any thoughts of suicide need to be taken seriously. If you won’t get help for yourself, then take it from me, when you feel rotten, you can make other people feel rotten too without knowing it.

Jobs consume so much of our time that sometimes it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole other side of life too. What else do you enjoy? Having something to look forward to, having a goal, even if it’s just to make it to the weekend where you can do that one thing, might help a bit.

On my team, I have to wear all hats at the same time, infrastructure, dev, UX, QA, and everything all at once. Those positions are out there, and trust me you won’t get bored when you’re doing more than one role. For us, everyone is a programmer, a BA, a QA, and so on. If I want to focus more on QA, I do that for a little while. If I want to focus on UX, I think about that. It’s all about prioritizing. Do you know of a position where you could do something like that? It sounds like this consulting company trusts you… maybe they have something where you can start from the ground up, sit with a customer who says, “build this,” and then figure out how to do it. Or maybe you could freelance… do plugins on PHPBB or something, maybe bug bounties.

When’s the last time you took a vacation when you really enjoyed yourself?

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All the good things in the world won’t help. I took a great vacation a month ago. I had a great time. A few weeks ago, I noticed that the windows in this eighth story office had handles. I tested them to see how far they opened, and it wasn’t enough to squeeze through. The guy sitting next to me was like, “Yeah, it’s a nice day, isn’t it?”

Vacations and all the things outside of work don’t help. I can’t be a dev anymore at all. There’s no moving into management, I’ve been a contractor with a business license, and that was actually worse, since you had more paperwork to deal with. Basically, anything that requires me to touch code is bad, because I can’t even force myself to write anymore. The team I’m on isn’t bad, anyone else on the planet would be happy, but the part of my brain that enjoys dealing with code is gone. It left a sign saying, “Later, be back never. Have fun without me!”

I have a house that I’ve paid off most of, but without a tech job, I won’t be able to make payments at all, and I’ll lose something I’ve worked hard for. It’ll be gone and all the money I’ve put into it will disappear like it was never there. At that point, life really will be pointless.

Nobody has answers. I feel hopeless. There aren’t any answers for me. Lots of innocent creatures die every day, and there’s no guarantee that there’s a way out of this for me.

You need help. Now. Go see a doctor, community mental health center, or ER.

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You know several years ago I tried to end my life. I was at a very low point, even lower than today I guess, and thought that ending it all was the solution to all my problems. Police stopped me before I was able to throw myself under a train, and then I had to spend a week in a mental hospital, until they were sure I wouldn’t be a threat to myself or to others. Those were the worst days of my whole life! Being there felt like a life sentence. I wasn’t sure I would ever come out, and that’s the reason why no matter how low I am today I won’t try again, because I know I’d probably fail and end up in there again. This does make me feel more overwhelmed about life at times, though. I feel so strong about wanting to run away from it all, but I know there’s really not a way, not that way, at least, so I have to keep going.

Do try to find help. I’m looking for help myself. I can’t tell you that it gets better, because I have to believe it myself and right now I don’t, but you have to keep going.

I think you have anxiety right now. Be cool if possible go to a doctor for the counseling.

I just want to know how to get out of programming. Fuck everything else. I’m seeing a therapist, mental health is not the issue. The issue is getting the fuck out of programming without losing everything.

That’s it. Let me repeat that: Programming will kill me. Losing everything will kill me. How do I get out of programming without dying?

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In my experience, when I hated something I would start job hunting for something else. Without knowing what other skills you have, it’s hard to suggest anything else. Have you spoken to a career adviser? They could possibly help you find something else with the skills you have. You have said that you have no other marketable skills, however, a career adviser could see your claims in a different light.

Hi, “I hate programming.” I don’t have an answer. I wish I did, since I’m in the same boat. I do sympathize with you though. I’m sick of using awful technologies, like JavaScript and Go, to make awful products using awful processes, like Scrum, that are never implemented correctly in the first place, and working in awful open-office environments for awful, micro-managing, non-technical, idiot bosses to build products that nobody will give a pinch of shit for a few short years from now.

I spent over $60,000 to learn a new skill (one that I actually like, am really good at, and have a passion for), but I could not get anyone in that industry to hire me. I tried for a year to break through, but to no avail, so I had to fall back on the emotional anal sex that is the software industry.

Two years ago, I was in a paragliding accident, fell about 200 feet, and almost died. I knew what was going to happen before the fall and couldn’t do anything about it when the accident occurred. I wasn’t scared or panicked though. All I felt during the fall was joy that I’d never have to go to work again. No concern for my family, just peace that the hell of programming would finally be over. The only snag was I didn’t die when I smashed into the ground. After several weeks in the hospital, having to learn how to walk again, and a painful year-long recovery, I’m back in the hell of programming and want more than anything to get out.

The company I work for isn’t the problem, even though my boss is an ignorant cunt. I can deal with that. It’s just that I would rather die than have to write another line of code.

I’m not trying to make this all about me. I only share my thoughts and experiences to illustrate that I understand where you’re coming from, maybe better than most. I hope you find something that you find rewarding and fulfilling that has nothing to do with technology. If I find a positive and fulfilling escape, you’ll be my first referral.

In a similar spot (still) as you @innocentoldguy.

I’m considering taking a year to learn a new, more practical, skill. Pity you couldn’t make use of yours. Is it not possible to break through by yourself on it?

Really sorry to hear about your accident.

Just want you to know that you’re not alone in this. I also have a non-technical boss making unrealistic demands. The Scrum process has turned what could be interesting discussions into totally meaningless standups.

I’m trying to think of when things started to go wrong. I enjoyed programming as a profession in the beginning, but I think it had much to do with being able to “lose myself” in the coding, and not paying attention to the less-than-optimal surroundings. I can’t really do that anymore, apart from my side projects (that have now been in the drawer for many years).

Which is why I think that doing something more hands-on could maybe make me “wake up” again. If I had the demand on me to produce something tangible each day I’d probably do it. With the current fuzzy demand of coding something good enough there are too many degrees of freedom to make me motivated or productive.

The dilema is that I (and many of us) could switch job to look for the “holy grail” but is it really there, and how many takes would it take to find it?

I interviewed for a consulting position last week, and what from the onset seemed like a clean-cut database programming job I soon discovered to be the usual mess of undecided clients, workspace issues and unclear technology choices.

I can understand you so much “I hate programming”. I recently migrated to Australia from India with my wife who does not have any marketable skill or even language skills here. I am the only bread and butter winner. I am not fully-groomed programmer. But I had had some experiences of working on this and that tech stack. Mostly I did managerial jobs. All the trendy product development frameworks appear to be like puzzles to me. So after coming here I started applying for Manager for BA jobs. Having applied for more than 250 places I got no reply at all. I started going mad. My money was running out. So I tried my luck in programming positions. I applied for about 16 places and out of only those 16 applications I got invitation for 5 interviews and got 1 job. The job is android development. So I started studying android but the more I study the more I seem to get lost. To the point that for last 6 weeks every morning I am waking up crying. I feel like this is going to be the last day at work. The environment with daily standups with most people that I have absolutely nothing to do is absolute hellish. I do not know for how long I shall be able to carry on. I have to escape route either. I am in a new country with wife. I have so much of expenses with no clear source of income. Going back to my country is not an option either as I left job and it is very expensive there as well and I have already burnt all my savings. I cry… Everyday I cry. Even my wife is now getting depression seeing my situation even though she can not understand. I have no idea no clue how I am going to continue with life…

Wow. I thought I was alone. Your post made my day. I’ve been programming for 20 years and while the career has afforded me a very nice lifestyle, I have hated practically every day of it. I would get out in a heartbeat if I knew of another option that would allow me the same standard of living. What a totally out of control rat race. Every day a new paradigm, a new “right” way and of course the scornful “old” ways. They’d have you raise your roof up on rotating hydraulic lifts and rotate the building structure in order to change a light bulb… because just screwing in a light bulb is just so 20th century old school. You post a question “how do i do X?” and you get 12 replies of “why would you want to do a dumb thing like X? You should be doing A+b/c^15-sqrt(infinity) + 2”. So many smug, self-satisfied experts telling you how everything you’ve ever learned is backward and wrong. I wonder how many times architects reinvented the door hinge before they settled on “door hinge”. I mean door hinges seem so outdated to me. Why isn’t there a better way?

I wish I had an answer for you other than just to say you’re not completely alone. I do not. I’ll go to work tomorrow and hate it even more than I did today.

Indeed @replica9. I’ve hated most days of it too. I agree about the changing frameworks, but I find it almost worse to deal with the “local frameworks/code bases” that have been developed by different people during a long time, sometimes in “smart” ways that make them very hard to understand and maintain.

At least for the major frameworks you can move forward on your own from searching the web. With the local ones you can only hope that some person can help you. I’ve gotten to the point where I have very very little patience for quirks and want to rewrite the whole thing. I freeze up. Why I am much more productive working on my own stuff.

I don’t know how to get out either. Maybe there could be a market for helping lost developers find some other career. I don’t know if a traditional career coach would help me much.

I’m so relieved to know that I’m not the only one in this situation, 8 months ago I was in a very nice project enjoying every single day of coding but due to some shitty and toxic wife that stressed me out so badly I simply stopped enjoying development. She didn’t have a job and wasn’t doing any significant effort to get one so all the income was on me, and I couldn’t handle all her complaints and responsibility of the project at the same time. Suddenly I burned out and I was every day wishing to not wake up anymore. I started drinking everyday and going to work with an “amazing” hangover. In the end we got a divorce and now I’m living with my parents and working remotely. I know it sounds a off-topic but what I want to say is. Check if there is any other thing on your life happening which is contributing to your burnout. I also decide after this episode that I wouldn’t get any anchors and things that might be the source of my stress for example: an expensive car or a nice house since they require you to work harder to keep it and you might not be willing to do it. I would ask myself if it is an option to downsize your lifestyle and try to get rid of excessive material things that are stressing you out. In my case this is what I did and now I have more time and space in my mind to think about changing my career or to try something new in IT since I still can’t enjoy anymore(but I’ve been failing miserably). But now I acknowledge that this will be a long process and we have to deal with failure everyday. I remember I had a friend that lost everything and he told me that the day he lost everything was the day he felt relieved. I’m not sure if this will be helpful for you but a phrase that helps me a lot is “memento mori” which means in Latin ( Remember , one day you will die). In the end nothing matters that much. I’m also reading a book “The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User’s Manual” which might be helpful.

Sorry for my bad English I’m not a native speaker.

Best regards,

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I also find it hard to break out from the IT industry.

I have a Bsc degree in Business IT(as the name implies it does NOT teach programming too much, rather the business background) and an Msc in Management. Almost all my job applications to non-it positions went like this: no reply or recruiter or hr tried to sell me some IT position in their company instead of the junoir graduate, administrative, BD etc job I originally applied. If I applied to IT positions, after the usual number’s game despite of being young and recently out of school, I got one. In my region, if they see that if you have some basic grasp of IT, they will try to sqeeze you in that box:
You applied to junior manager program? Why don’t you go to our SAP position instead?
Basic reporting? Why not try out this developer level reporting job with VBA and SQL and lot of data cleansing instead? Come on it will be fun, you already have IT experience, how do you expect to work in anything else?
Despite my management studies as well, all I see is IT jobs everywhere. I want to switch to management or to consultancy or bd or anything really, but the market won’t let me.
I do not enjoy daily sprints, maintaining other’s code, user’s don’t even know what they are doing, they just press a button and dont even know the business backgound part.

Some say after few years you get a management role, but in many orgs I do not see that happening, trhe roles and positions are locked in, no openings. Meanwhile I see my friends from my second (management) major with no IT experience getting PM, PO, BD and Scrum Master positions and wonder what I am doing wrong…

My plan now is to apply to smaller, less pickier companies who might “settle” with me in a role which does not involve code, due to the current circumstances of the virus and the facts above, not much luck yet.

Same here. 15 years in the industry. I never wanted to be a programmer. I did the degree because my dad said it was a good idea and everyone said that just getting any degree would open the doors to all kinds of job, not just programming. I convinced myself that it was a good idea and pushed myself through the degree. Originally I had thought there would be content I would be interested in, that I now realise are more to do with philosophy or really deep physics. Computer science was the worst possible choice for me, I have no interest in coding.
I’ve struggled through for 15 years just hoping that a management position would open up. Do you know how many people I have seen promoted into management in 15 years at 7 different companies. None. Zero. No one. People do not get promoted out of developer positions, it just doesn’t happen outside of FAANG companies.
Computer science is a tar pit degree. Once you start on this path there is no escape from programming. For the love of God don’t do it unless you want to be a programmer.
I’ve been suicidal from the misery and the stress and the pain of doing something you hate day after day, year after year. I’ve applied for what must be literally thousands of jobs in other areas - no deal. And I know that I’m well presented, articulate and come across well. I’m pleasant, have a good sense of humour and get on with people. But once you stink of programming no one wants you for anything else.
Even going to get an MBA wouldn’t help me.
I’ve been burnt out for 5 months sitting at home, trying to come up with some other way of making money. Burning through savings and now I’m facing the horrifying reality that I’m going to have to program again. I can’t even kill myself, I have young kids.

Just as a follow-up, I lucked out into a job that’s let me do a decent amount of technical writing. It turns out, I’m pretty decent at it, and I don’t hate it. It doesn’t require as much squinting at other people’s terrible code, as much as just talking to people, and understanding how the end user sees things.

I feel much, much better now that I haven’t touched production code in quite a long time.

The drawback, is that getting my current job was complete luck, and I have no idea how to help anyone else go from dev to technical writing. I want to take an actual class in the future, so I guess that would be one way.

To sum up, technical writing uses some of the same skills that made me good at programming, and is far less stressful.