Question: do you like coding but hate your job?

If your answer is yes, I wonder how many people this applies to. I loved coding in college and have had times where I’ve enjoyed my work, but over the course or about 20 years, I’d say I’ve disliked at least half. Some years, it’s been bad enough to make me want to do something else, like become a plumber or something.

I don’t know if most careers are like this, but it seems to me, if you enjoy your work, then you would enjoy your job more than I do. Yet it doesn’t feel like that is the case with most of the people I have worked with.

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One thing that stands out to me is that during education, things seem a lot more promising than the job might actually be like. In my case I studied computer architecture, compiler theory, AI etc. Maybe for a couple of weeks total in a more than 20 year long career have I worked on something equally interesting.

Probably some people are able to find more interesting jobs in this sector, but they sure don’t seem to grow on trees.

When you’re an apprentice plumber you pretty much see what the job is going to be like.


The first job I ever did out of college was awful. I quit after 3 months. The thing is, if I had stayed, gotten a handful of promotions over the years, I’d have a couple of million dollars in a 401K now. It was a fortune 500 company, not one of the terribly ethical one’s either, but it payed well and had a fantastic 401K match. I wouldn’t be able to retire but I’d be able to take a job that I wanted as long as it had benefits.

And, I’d have spent 30 years of misery in a job.

Now, I work in government, pretty much the same deal as the first job, a bit more interesting, and while I won’t retire with that much money, I’ll have a decent pension. I just gotta stick it out a bit longer and the end is visible, although not here, yet.

My job, now, isn’t too bad. I can live with it. It was pretty awful for the first two years though. And that’s kind of the deal, if you can detach from the job, treat it as a job, and it checks other boxes, then why not do it? If something is fun, really fun, people wind up doing it on the cheap, and the other boxes don’t get checked.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this unless you are pretty gifted and get lucky enough to find the right niche. I like the idea of “follow your bliss” I just never figured out how to do that.


When I first got a software development job, I was ecstatic. I like to code, and now I will be getting paid to code, I thought.

I don’t think I understood myself well enough. I didn’t like to code, I liked making things.

Coding for a living ironically deprives me of the ability to make things. For the most part it’s tracking down bugs, adding a field to a form, making minor modifications to existing workflows. And even when I do get a chance to be creative, I essentially only sell off that creativity and never see it again, it’s not really mine, and they only care about it as far as it generates revenue. The money aspect of things is another burden, not being able to necessarily create the best thing, or sometimes even a truly adequate thing, because it would take so many hours and the budget is X.

As someone creatively minded I also have to take into account that I can’t even think about what I want to think about during the day because one’s job hijacks your entire brain for 40 hours a week. It’s actually kind of depressing as I think about it.

By my second job, I realized that I was miserable. Worse, I realized I was going to keep being miserable. I want to roll out of bed excited to do work. Right now I feel like I would give anything to care about what I was doing. I don’t care about the money anymore, I just want some kind of purpose. When I look at job postings for the most part I think, maybe this will be alright, maybe I can last about 6 months here before the dread starts to set in.


Reading what you write here makes me think about how I feel about my current job. This is by far the best job I’ve ever had in terms of pay and benefits and the company is great, but I feel like I don’t enjoy my role as much because I’m not really free. Much of what I do day in and day out is fix bugs and write features according to other people’s design. Even when I come up with a clever solution for a difficult problem it can still easily get discarded because so and so didn’t agree with it or want it done his own way. I’ve been thinking perhaps having a side project could help; something completely unrelated to what I do for work, but by the time I’m done with my day I’m so exhausted and drained that getting into code is the last thing I want to do.


It’s recently hit me that coding for fun and doing college projects is usually very very different than most coding jobs. Early on there is no legacy code to deal with, codebases are small, and you generally are working on interesting stuff you have some degree of choice in what you work on.

I made video games, used cool languages like Python and Haskell, and coding was super fun. When I got my first college summer job and had to deal with a large legacy codebase in VB.NET, I was struck with how much less fun this all was.

10 years later I now realized I’ve got some degree of ADHD-like tendencies, and for better or worse resolved to never have a normal 9-5 job. I’d freelance to pay the bills until I could build my own software startup, having recently at the time discovered Paul Graham and the idea of building my own business.

At this point I have been able to successfully build a pretty solid career as a freelance web developer. All my work is remote and all my clients are pretty hands-off. Much of the work is small(er) codebases and some is even greenfield, probably way more greenfield than the average dev job.

But even still, I haven’t figured out a way to get traction in my own startup. That stuff is hard! I’ve been blocked not only from not fully understanding how business works (build something that actually solves a real problem people will pay for, build an audience instead of coding in a dark corner, etc etc etc), but also from latent ADHD which has made it really hard to just get client work done, much less make progress on completely open-ended client work.

But, at this point, I’m pretty much all in. I still have it as my goal to run my own small one person software startup. It’s the only way I can see to really live the coding ideal of a codebase I fully control, where I can make all of the decisions, where I don’t have to compromise my own ideals.

Working with both mental health therapists to address the ADHD and business coaches to address the business acumen have me closer now than I ever have been, and I’m super optimistic about being able to finally crack the blocks I’ve had for the last 10 years.

This is certainly not an easy path, and not even really one I’d recommend to most people. A number of my friends have been able to find much better employment after searching around and learning some job hunting skills (there exist job hunting coaches who might be worth looking into!), and that may be all it takes. But if you have that idealism that won’t go away, perhaps you’d have the resolve to do what it takes to do something like this. I’d be happy to talk further about what has actually worked for me, though I freely admit this isn’t a silver bullet and I’m definitely still learning.

Thanks for your question @lordranbound, and know you are not alone in feeling this way. Work is such a huge part of life and that feeling of being stuck is one I’m intimately familiar with, even with freelance work.


I feel a little excluded here — I had a coding job(-ish) when I was 16… Went on to becoming an very well educated member of the Graphic Communications/Printing industry, only buried by the truth that what I see as due diligence and hard work needed to be had (like studying hard) was not what my prospective employers cared for as they hired peers that lied on their resumes and gloated about — one even asked me to teach the the focus area I occupied for 5 yrs doing my masters because they were hired to do the job and they only had 15 minutes to be caught up.

I coded before I was even a teen, because it made sense when the world kept telling it should make sense, when clearly sense made apparent that unlike code, it does not.

I coded when I was a student, because it was the only way I was able to compensate and even outdo my peers on things asked of me I did not simply prefer to not do as told.

I coded as an adult, because I was too depressed to want to go back into a world that is full of at least innocent hypocrisy, and where gullible be who at least wondered, and burdened be who by no choice of their own is not designed to be able to brush it off and accept.

I never coded because I had a job, but I have seen enough of friends that did, and I know that hating your job for someone like me — designed to function well under very specific conditions and absolutely useless otherwise — it is the outcome I could not longer afford to (like most others) fake until I get over.

I’ve been job hunting, not the usual way, where my so called peers will easily fake their credentials and sign up to do everything exactly not what they read on that almost random job posting of 100s they templated over, and be randomly :heart:ed by agents of employe unequipped to figure out what they are hiring, or management too busy counting cheques than to actually wonder if they could be doing better with so called funny-people (ie awkward folks like myself) who failed to elicit trust by handshake or look them in the eye long enough like two dogs staring to claim the bone.

So while I never coded because I had a job, I am certain, that kind of job, I would have hated, and have suffered a long and lonely journey trying to change that dynamic to find the one I would not hate!

Update: Please feel free to take me up on this attempt for maybe Affecting Change.