Few things are as satisfying to me than creating something that thousands if not millions of people use. I started my career as a back-end PHP developer. Yes, I know PHP gets a lot of hate, but frankly its a really quick way to learn to develop web applications and it has a large community behind it. I moved to Austin and quickly found what was one of my best jobs ever. I was working with as the only developer on a project that had already been started. This forced me to learn concepts and patterns very quickly. It was fail hard or sink fast. Luckily I had a patient project manager.
After a year there I quickly discovered that companies needed people like me and moved on several times. Every time essentially looking for higher pay. Along with higher pay I was learning at break neck speed. But, it felt empty. I never got that sense of accomplishment because nothing I did could be explained to my wife or friends. I was creating these back-end systems that usually integrated with some other archaic system for inventory or pricing, or I was working on some legacy product and just keeping it running.
Higher pay doesn’t always mean a more enjoyable job. I learned this very quickly. My advice to any junior or mid-level developers is to meet the team and try to get a sense of how they like to work and how you would fit in. If you are the type who likes to collect a pay check, great. Find a team where that is the culture. If you enjoy making friends with your co-workers, great! Find a team that is cohesive and spends time outside of work together.
I quit my “high paying” PHP Lead job and started contracting as a UX developer. I helped create some really great visual websites like http://www.somedaystartsnow.com/ and http://www.pugetsoundstartshere.org/. While I did none of the visual design for these sites. I found it was extremely rewarding to be able to show people, look at this I made it.
Because I was doing UX development now and doing it as a consultant, I had to keep my ear to the ground for new jobs and damn the market is hot! I decided to keep down the path and its been really rewarding. I love being able to create “things” that lots of people use. Beautiful things that are easy and intuitive to the end user.
Even though there is a large UX community in Austin, there is a shortage of people like myself. Luckily for me, being in such high demand has allowed me to choose where I would like to join a team! Like a said before its all about who you work with and what their values are. I start my next venture at http://www.outboundengine.com on Monday. I am leaving behind a great team at http://www.avention.com they are doing great things, but the draw of working at a start-up again was too much to resists. Here’s to new adventures and continuous learning!