I’ve been writing code since I was 11. That’s going on 21 years. I started off with an old Packard Bell 286 with Dos 3.22. I learned all the commands in just over a week. I was getting bored with nothing else to do and I wondered how I could make the computer do what I wanted it to do. I called my uncle and he told me to look into something called C++.
I went down to the bookstore (OK, I got a ride from my grandpa) and picked out “C for Dummies”. My grandma was more than happy to buy it for me. I immediately started reading it when I got home. Unfortunately for me, I had to write code on paper for a little over a year and compile it in my head. Eventually I got an upgrade, a custom built 386 with Windows 3.11 and I was able to grab Turbo C from a BBS (Bulletin Board System). Finally! I could compile and run my “Goodbye, cruel world!” program (the “for Dummies” version of “Hello, World”). Bliss!
From there I wrote all kinds of programs. I spent 18 hours a day writing code during the summer and almost as many hours during the school year. I dabbled in graphics, manually drawing pixels on the screen and then eventually using the Allegro library. I tried to move to C++ but I really wanted to build GUI’s and move away from DOS.
I started doing DHTML with VB6 but not for long because I went over to Active Server Pages (Classic ASP for you kids). One day while working on an eCommerce site for a company, a customer called in with a problem. During the conversation he asked me why wasn’t I building the site in PHP? That day I went to Barnes and Noble and got a shiny new PHP book. It was awesome! The very next day I started converting the entire site to PHP & MySQL (with the boss’s permission of course). I wrote PHP up until around 2007 (when I finally learned about ASP.NET).
Having always wanted to make a games, I started back up with C++ and OpenGL. I spent a lot of time on NeHe.gamedev.net (in fact, I still have some code over there). I built quite a few things but nothing that I ever finished. No idea why, but I just never did. ADD maybe?
Anyone remember Planet-Source-Code.com? I spent years posting code to that site. Won several awards too (6 to be exact).
Around 2004 I decided that I wanted to build applications with updated visuals and VB6 was looking dated. I got a copy of Visual Studio.NET (That’s VS 2003) and quickly realized VB6 didn’t jive. Back to the book store. I ended up getting C# for dummies and blowing through that in a week. I had done MFC in Visual Studio 6 and I was a bit hesitant that C# would have a similar experience. Thankfully I was wrong.
I started working as a developer for a company that used ASP.NET. Not long after I realized that I was a jack-of-all trades and it was seriously hindering my learning and growth. Trying to keep up with multiple technologies & stacks as well as the IT side of things (yes, I spent a lot of time as a tech doing IT work). I decided that I would only bother with being a developer and my focus would be the Microsoft stack.
I skyrocketed from that point on. I advanced in so many ways. I was lucky enough to have a really good .NET developer mentor me. He helped me realize that code isn’t just code and that consideration has to go into what you write and how you write it. I was becoming a real developer.
Shortly after, .NET 3.5 came out and holy crap! I was in heaven! Linq, WCF, WF, WPF, etc, etc. I learned them all and it didn’t stop there. I learned about MVC and started playing with it (staring with beta 4 when it still had code behind!) and my world was changed. I grasped it immediately. Throw Entity Framework in there and I was ecstatic to be developing software.
I had heard about user groups and nerd dinners from a developer friend and finally decided to check them out. I started attending the Inland Empire User’s group. Wow! An entire room full of eager and talented developers. It was like a utopia. I met and befriended many great people. I was awarded Most Valuable Member 3 years in a row. Today I am on the board of directors for the group.
The user group is how my public speaking was started. I gave a presentation on RedGate’s Ants profiler in exchange for a free licence. It was scary but exhilarating and I went on to do more talks at different events. The first time I ever attended a code camp down in San Diego, I presented two sessions. This snowballed into 22 talks around Southern California in 2011 alone.
A software company from Europe heard that I was presenting on their product and contacted me to sponsor my talks. I ended up evangelizing for them for some time. I still do.
I was getting noticed in the community. People knew my name and I didn’t know them first. It was strange but exciting. Then Pluralsight contacted me and asked me to do a course for them. Of course I will! I felt elite being among talent like John Papa, Scott Allen and John Sonmez. I ended up doing 3 courses for them (you can watch for free if you want, just email me).
All of this caught the attention of Microsoft and I was awarded an MVP (Most Valuable Professional). I’ve been renewed twice and I’m hoping to be renewed for the 3rd time this April. I felt like I had arrived.
And that’s when things started going south.
Things in the community were great. My career was moving along on the fast track as well. I frequently changed companies and hustled my skills to get where I wanted to be. My goal was never to work for a prestigious company like Microsoft or Google (although I wouldn’t mind), but to earn a specific annual dollar amount. In only a few short years I achieved that goal and today I’ve achieved near double. I have an income and lifestyle that provides comfort and plenty of extras for me and my family.
So I’ve come to a point where I feel like I have arrived. I’ve accomplished my career goals. People recognize me. Twice I’ve interviewed with someone who had watched one of my Pluralsight courses. Who wouldn’t think that’s awesome? Heck, I never have to look for a job. I rarely have to interview beyond meeting the management. But what does it all mean? What is it worth?
I find it increasingly difficult to get excited about development and code like I used to. Except for running some automated tasks, my workstation at home sits idle. My laptops have dead batteries and my Surface is used as a decoration.
All I think about is retiring and changing careers and I’m only 32 years old (in August). While I have other skill-sets, none of them are good enough to earn an equivalent income. I’ve burned out a few times before and I’ve taken a hiatus, but I’ve been able to find something to reignite that spark. I’ve been trying for 6 months to find that thing to being me back, but nothing.
I feel like I’m in some kind of limbo. How do I get out? As someone who naturally grasps development, code and concepts I find it depressing that I’ve lost the drive to do it.
Where do I go from here?