The Path to Financial Success for Developers
Starting off as a developer, I know where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going. If you’re a junior-to-mid-level developer, you’ll read through this article and brush it off. After-all, you’re going to be a lifelong developer, learning new programming languages along the way from now till the time you retire, while working on open-source projects for fun, possibly making an app in the meantime, and growing old, rich and happy.
It was nice to be in that stage; everything was fun. Work was not stressful and working till midnight was awesome. You’ll probably go through this stage. Make sure to have fun with it.
Years pass by and you move up and you get that senior level position. It’s what you wanted. All of a sudden, the tasks become significantly more difficult. You don’t struggle with them much since you’ve worked hard to be able to call yourself a senior developer. You know what to do.
It’s usually around this time that things don’t make much sense anymore. Why is the company going in this direction? Why am I creating this application this way? I could create this so much better if I took this approach. You present your case and it starts getting shut down, frequently. You start to feel more and more frustrated. Finally, it seems that every time you write code, there’s someone or something that bugs you and you can’t figure out exactly why.
You hear that developers in other companies are having more fun, and you decide to change jobs. You move and quickly realize that the grass is not greener on the other side; more often than not, it’s worse.
You finally come to the conclusion that your code doesn’t matter. You have two types of code-reviewers: the ones that want to show off and the ones that just press merge.
The applications that you’re creating are not going to change the world. You check your calendar and sure enough, you’re in your 30s. You start remembering that you’ve seen a significant amount of individuals in leadership positions when they hit 35 years of age. You always asked yourself why? You now know. You’re tired of the tasks. You’re tired of listening to people complain. You’re tired of your code not meaning anything. You make the leap into a software related role that is completely hands off code. It starts off great…
This is the path that most developers follow. I decided not to take that path, but I worked with a bunch of developers that went through it and I saw the pain.
Without getting into every single detail of it, I started off as a developer. I was privileged enough to work with the business side and saw how little they valued developers. All they cared about was getting the product out the door as quickly as possible. They didn’t care what your code looked like, what programming language or framework you used, how optimized it was, as long as it functioned and looked good.
I was able to get that senior level position in my early 20s. I wanted nothing with it. I wanted to be on the business end. So, I pushed hard to get the company that I worked for to a new level from a technology perspective. I always emphasized the money factor. I found a secondary job and started getting dual income. This was my leverage. I wanted to open up an e-commerce business but I needed funding. I knew that if I approached my employer and told them that I was leaving that we could negotiate something. I was ready to leave if the outcome wasn’t how I envisioned it. It was.
I opened an e-commerce business with 3 investors/partners. Those investors became increasingly more involved in the business once we started doing about a million in sales per month. That was the downfall. Their tactics were dated to say the least. They outvoted me on most issues. Finally, they decided to stop our $40k/month SEM budget. This in the end destroyed the company.
During the e-commerce business, I looked for other opportunities. I knew that the distribution business had close ties with various different vendors. I networked on an entirely new level. Finally, I was able to lead the Web/SEO/SEM teams for those 3 companies. This lasted for years.
While the e-commerce business was falling, I decided to change my mindset again. This time, I didn’t want to pursue a business in the traditional sense. After detailing out a decision tree on the whiteboard, I settled on 3 options:
- Get a PhD and teach Computer Science. I really do love the subject.
- Aggressively push my way up through corporate America in the IT sector.
- Start a new software development company myself.
Instead of settling on just one, I decided to go with options 2 and 3. Up until now, I’ve made a significant amount of money but always had high dreams; I was always my biggest critic. Whenever my circle of friends told me “man, you made it!” my response was always “unless I’m making a million/year I don’t find that successful.”
The First Shift In Mindset
I had a pretty ambitious goal. Get to Head of IT in a decently sized company within one-to-two years. The preparation started. I decided to market myself extensively. I opened up a Medium account and started writing on programming, created a YouTube channel on Programming, wrote a book on Algorithms, and built my LinkedIn network. When I was satisfied with the amount of content I had, I spoke to my other 3 partners and we closed the business down. I still worked for them as IT Director but needed to move on. I found a new job as Dev-Manager and negotiated a hefty retainer with the previous company.
The reason that the new company hired me was in fact due to the amount of content I had created online. It happened to align with the work they performed. After 9 months, I was approached by the CEO and we discussed a role change in the next 3–4 months: Director of Software Engineering. I knew that this was the next logical step up, but I wondered if I could leap above that. There was nothing to lose. A company in BioTech reached out to me and offered me the Head of IT position within it. Considering that I had a Biology minor, it seemed like the next logical step, so I took it.
The Next Mindset Shift
When you move through the positions like I have, you realize that stress is always going to be a part of your life. We’re working in IT. We are problem solvers and people do not know how to handle their frustrations with calmness. Everything is always on fire and the tickets submitted are always labeled “High” and “Extreme” in severity. The more you move up, the more you’re dealing with people higher up, and when things go wrong, you’re the one that has to talk to the board. Most of us will be experts in stress-management; I think I could teach a class on it.
I knew that something wasn’t completely right when I said “I can’t wait to one day close my computer, throw my phone off a cliff, and become a farmer.” I said it jokingly, but something about it seemed so appealing. A couple of months later I met another guy in the same position and he almost verbatim reiterated my sentiment. That’s when I knew that there was something I was striving for but didn’t know exactly what.
It finally hit me. I wanted what everyone wanted: full financial independence. I want my assets to start producing me the kind of income so that my work is done for leisure, not for necessity. Throughout my time dabbling in YouTube, Medium, and Book Writing, I actually started making a little bit of money from those channels. I also always invested in my 401k and saw the money rising. I went back to the white-board and came up with something interesting: whereas before I used those mediums (writing, YouTube, etc.) to help me advance my career, I want to use my career now to help me advance those mediums.
My career brings in more money than I could have ever hopped for. I have all of the time in the world to advance my passions now:
- Programming Tutorials on my Dino Programming channel
- Car Modification Videos on my CarModGuy channel
- Article creation on Medium
- Book Writing. I’m writing 5 concurrently right now.
- Creation of a Software Development Business: My Auto System.
- Investment into equity and real-estate.
My bet is on the last one, but I have a solid plan for each of the bullet points above. This all falls in play with my passion for learning. You have to become educated on each subject before you start diving into them. I’ve given myself a break from the aggressive pursuit in career advancement for now while I give these options a chance. That should make my employer happy and to be honest, it’s a great employer to work for. By shifting my mindset, I’m having fun again.