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Idle Hands And All That


Being out of employment just now has taught me a lot about myself, and it’s only week three. A lot of people I know who hate their jobs complain that they either have to deal with irate people all day or don’t get the chance to use their brains or both. They complain about a mundane existence where they do the same thing day in day out, never feel any kind of progress or achievement and seem to be trapped in a rut and they hate knowing that.

Up until now I’ve been pretty lucky. As a software engineer I get to be creative. To solve problems and overcome challenges. I get to work towards objectives and feel an enormous (or not-so-enormous) sense of satisfaction when a software release goes out or a customer gets to use a new piece of functionality that I’ve written that makes their life 10 times easier. I could pick up a new tool or technology and apply it to something I’m working on and feel I’ve progressed. It’s mostly an intellectual challenge but being part of a motivated team working on the same product gives a sense of community and spirit that – despite impossible time-scales, irate customers or pointy haired bosses (been lucky with those too) – makes the whole thing worthwhile. The fact that I’m always learning helps to keep my brain going too.

However now that I’m out of work I don’t have any of that. But after many years of doing the job, it’s become as much a part of me as my hair and teeth. I don’t feel that my job or having a job provides my identity (for instance, if I won the lottery I would have no qualms about never working again), but I’ve quickly come to realise that without purpose I’m a bit lost.

I can’t just sit around all day watching interior design programmes. I can’t surf the net all day for porn, gossip, news or music (even with a broadband connection – who says Yorkshire is in the dark ages?). I can’t wander around shops for hours looking for nothing in particular. And I definitely can’t sit on the sofa drinking myself away to oblivion. I need something more than that. I need a reason.

It’s only now I realise that to be a halfway decent software engineer you have to be highly motivated and self-driven and love problem solving. You need to be able to work on your own as well as part of a team. You need to be constantly trying to learn and improve. And you have to be determined, have phenomenal attention to detail and be able to hold lots of things in your head at the same time. Or at least I do. In essence, you have to really be the person you describe on your CV (that’s resume for you North Americans). It’s not bullshit after all, it’s only now that I’ve been taken away from my job that I can really appreciate what drives me and why I enjoy it.

So until I can persuade the right company that I am as good as I say I am (which is another story entirely) I need to keep doing what I’ve been doing for all these years. I need to write some software. I was writing software long before I chose it as a career and will probably be doing it long after I finish. Oh, if only I’d had this drive for football I might be rich by now! Okay, I admit that’s pretty unlikely.

So as well as job hunting I’m going to write some web-based software I’ve fancied having a shot at for a while but never had the chance. If nothing else it’ll keep me away from watching House Invaders, To Buy or Not To Buy, Big Strong BoysTrading Up, Cash In The Attic, Countdown and all the rest…

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

9 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Nice monitor. Nice mouse. Nice keyboard. Nice PC. Nice chair. They look famililar!


  2. Crikey – I forgot you were “without job”. I seem to remember being te exact same position 12 months ago and it’s not the best time of year to be out on your ear.

    Still, if it’s any consolation, there’s certainly more stuff coming through from agencies now than then, so I’m sure a man of your calibre should be ok – so long as you show them the photo of you on top of the world.

    Your description of Software Engineering baffled me…. you missed out all the pointless waiting around for decisions, meetings with clients who can’t make their mind up, then change it once they had mde their minds up, the little tweaks people want that invoke a massive re-write… all that comes with it too! In fact, I reckon less than 10% of my time is writing code these days. The gubbins surrounding it takes the rest of the day. And the bigger the company, the worse it gets…..

    Rant over

    Shall have to do a DVD/beer night next week? Forgotten what you look like (is that a bad thing????…..). Get the old boys together etc.


  3. Good stuff.

    My philosophy on the IT industry, and the only thing that keeps me sane being in it, is….

    “It’s better than goin’ down t’pit”

    Make it your personal mantra

    Bob over and check out the new camera if you fancy – very snazzy and BIG… (EOS 300D)

    there’s a few examples on – though there are broken links which I can’t fix as Freeserve have stuffed up my account at the mo.



  4. Broadband in Yorkshire???

    So is it true that you have to pay for your time on the Net? While this is unfathomable to me, my friends and family are trying convince me this is so. I think that they have to just trying freak me out…


  5. Now that I have broadband I pay a fixed charge and can surf as often as I like. But without broadband, yes, you do have to pay for your time on the net either as a fixed charge or per minute. Nothing’s free over here!


  6. That is pure robbery! Of course, nobody has accused the UK of not being expensive on any level.

    I just bought a picture phone and was extremely upset that they charge $.50 per picture after my two months of free pictures, or a flat fee of $15 month. I found this detail of charging very upsetting.


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