The full-time developer ‘curse’

November 22, 2023

Some time ago I wrote an article with my advice to (junior) developers about their career.  One of the things I explained was that by the word “young” I meant all developer who feel young so it doesn’t matter how many years of experience you’re carrying on your back.  You’re still “young”!

A few days ago, I came back from two-weeks of vacations and I realized that during this period I had plenty of time to apply at least once all these little advice (learn new things, promote yourself, be part of an opensource project etc. ) That was really cool. And the funniest of all is that I spent no more than 2-3 hours  a day. Amazing!  But very quickly I realized also, that the only reason I managed to do it, was the fact that I was in vacations. Why I can’t do all these nice things every week, every month? The answer is really simple.

I work as a full-time developer : This practically means that I spend 9 hours daily working with legacy code, existing or new products of a specific domain. The technologies could be considered modern but they’re not state-of-the art so my learning curve is dropping down. My main responsibility is to delivery product value based on customer requirements and occasionally trouble-shot software issues. I love my job and I feel very creative with what I do but I still feel that something’s missing.  I don’t have spare time (in my working hours) to  learn new languages or new tools / frameworks etc. so I try to fill the blanks in my free time. However, do I have any free time?

Let me explain my thoughts : Add to the 9 hours I commit to work one more hour to get prepared in the morning and rest for a while when I get back. So far 10 hours of the day are out. Add 8 hours of sleep needed and what’s left? 6 hours / weekday . One could argue that this is fair enough for all the other activities I’m suggesting. Well, I partially agree but…. You need some time to hangout with your friends, some time to relax by yourself, to do some housekeeping tasks. Now imagine you’re married with kids. Kids need (at least) your attention so 1-2 hours are clearly dedicated to them, and trust me this is the happiest time of the day, no matter how tired you are or how many problems jump in your mind.

Now do the maths and you’ll see that nothing’s left during the week days. And my calculations were very rough. Some people are committing  more than 10 hours / day and spend more than 2 hours for preparation and going to work. So the root cause of the problem is that I’m a full-time developer!! Right, yeah!

Wouldn’t be great if I had to work only 4 hours/day? Then I would have the required free time for the rest of my tasks and activities.  But what about my salary? Probably if I work less I will be paid less but then I will have difficulties with my loan, my every day expenses. So, thank God, I’m a full-time developer. Or not? For me the ideal scenario would be the following :

– Part time developer ( 4 hours/day )
– Enough free time for my other activities that generate some income to cover the missing salary.

Am I asking too much? I don’t know but what I know for sure is that I’m cursed and blessed for being a full-time developer. You?