Career ponderings

March 14th, 2008

I have a new job. I wasn't even looking a new position, I was actually quite settled doing contract work for (working on a wxPython client for their Internet chess service). My new job is working for a startup, based in London, that is creating a big site with Django. I'm not sure if I can tell you much about the site itself yet, but I do think they have found a niche on the internet that isn't fully catered for.

Starting a new job has made me consider, what I laughingly call, my career. I started out in games, writing really low level code in assembler and eventually moved in to 3D graphics. Working in games can be a lot of fun, but I found that I was solving the same kind of problems over and over again. Partially because even cutting edge games must perform the same kind of tasks as ancient (> 10 years old) games, and partially because C++ doesn't deliver what it promises in terms of re-use of code. I also found I disliked working on massive projects because its hard to feel any sense of ownership in the project when you know you are a small cog in a big machine. Fortunately I manged to change the direction of my career by getting in to Python.

What I've realised recently is that my hobby projects drive my career. I got my first job in games by writing a 3D graphics demo,  subsequent games jobs were off the back of an AI life demo I wrote, and I'm sure that one of the reasons I got a job with was that I had already written a chess game in my spare time. Even this new job was probably helped by my most recent hobby project. So I would encourage anyone to take up some hobby projects or work on open source. I would also encourage programmers to go in to some niche technology area, rather than whatever technology is the most commercial at the time. Sooner or later any skill will become mainstream and the job market will be saturated. Better to have less common skills so that you will always be in demand. Seems to have worked for me so far.

That my self-indulgent post for this year. Back to the usual geeky stuff next post.

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© 2008 Will McGugan.

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