I’m a bad programmer; where do I get a job?

I’m a bad programmer.

I did everything in my power not to be. I read widely in the field. I read blogs. I read texts. I read programming language manuals. I read code. I studied ancillary fields like discrete math and electrical engineering. I took challenging courses. I took Steve Yegge’s trifecta of compilers AND operating systems AND machine learning. I learned several programming languages, including an imperative language (C), some object-oriented languages (Java, C++, Python, Ruby, Visual Basic.Net), a functional language (Clojure), a prototype-based language (JavaScript), an assembly language (x86, with MASM). I did side projects. Not huge ones, but I wasn’t spending my summers playing D&D or anything.

I still ended up a bad programmer.

I’m honestly puzzled that it turned out this way. Sometimes I think that maybe I wasn’t meant to be a programmer. But the evidence is mostly against that; even though I discovered programming relatively late (22 years old), I turned out to have so many of the common traits of programmers—a pedantic, nitpicky attitude; a comfort with abstraction; a lifelong interest in computers and technology—that it almost seems like destiny wanted me to be a programmer, and I just screwed it up somehow.

So, fine. I’m a bad programmer. I’d still like to work as a programmer. I don’t have the temperament to be a manager or a sales rep, nor the education to be in marketing. I’m no good at working with my hands, and I’m not the kind of person who’s interested in building up a business. My grades were too mediocre to get me into graduate school (because I took challenging classes as a bad programmer), so I can’t be a professor or a lecturer. So I’d like to work as a programmer. There’s just one problem: I can’t figure out where bad programmers get jobs.

I know they get jobs. The Daily WTF is full of stories about bad programmers who got jobs, and left behind awful code to torment future good programmers. While I feel somewhat bad when I think of all the innocent good programmers I’ll unknowingly torment in the future if I do get a job, I can quash those feelings. My current job involves handling the excrement or vomit of random strangers on a daily basis. To get away from that, I’ll let the howling wails of a few good programmers, seeping across time from the future, fall upon deaf ears in the present.

I tried applying to companies that were looking for good programmers, hoping maybe I could fool someone. So far, no one has been fooled. The irksome thing is, only one company so far has actually outed me as a bad programmer. The rest knocked me out because of years-of-experience requirements which weren’t even on the job ad, or because I don’t know Spring MVC when it wasn’t even on the job ad, or some other thing that wasn’t even on the job ad. If your interview process is able to uncover what an awful programmer I am, I guess I can accept my defeat. But most of these guys didn’t even give me the chance to trick them. It’s pretty annoying; for all they knew, I was a good programmer. For all they knew, I was the best programmer ever. They didn’t bother to find out.

But bad programmers must get jobs. There are too many stories on The Daily WTF. They can’t all be good programmers who just missed their morning coffee the day they wrote that five hundred-line quintuply nested switch statement, or whose dog died the day before they wrote those preprocessor macros to make C look like Pascal. Bad programmers are working somewhere. I need to find out where that is. I need to figure out how to get a job at Bad Programmer Central, writing awful code, using mind-numbing technologies to solve boring problems, coming in to work at nine and leaving at five and giving not a single thought to code except when I’m at the office. These mythical people must exist; they’ve been mentioned too many times on The Daily WTF and Coding Horror and Joel on Software and Scott Hanselman’s blog not to exist. Scott Hanselman attributed something negative (I don’t remember what) to these people on Hanselminutes once. He wouldn’t do that if they didn’t exist, right? That would be like Charlie Rose attributing problems in the Middle East to Bigfoot, right?

So tell me. Tell me where bad programmers get jobs. Because I’m a bad programmer, and I need a job. If you tell me now, I’ll swear never to work at the same company as you. Then you won’t be the one howling with anguish at the awful code I leave behind, and you can feel good about helping out a bad programmer in an hour of darkness.

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3 thoughts on “I’m a bad programmer; where do I get a job?

  1. I am a bad programmer too. I have a horrible resume because I have nothing on it other than self employment, college and the website I wrote over 3 million lines of code to create http://www.enterfan.com

    However even though I am clearly talented as a Web Developer/Programmer/Software Engineer, since my resume sucks I can’t even get a single fucking interview for a simple ENTRY LEVEL Web Development job. All because my resume sucks balls.

    So even though I engineered an entire Social networking website system, including designing the 200 table relational MySQL database, and writing 3 million+ lines of CSS, HTML, Javascript, PHP and Linux Shell scripts, I am not smart enough to do a simple entry level Web Developer job. NOOOOOPE I am too damn stupid for that kind of job.

    I don’t know how garbage like Drupal or Zend framework works. Why? Because when you use other people Garbage code you get garbage back. Sure I used 3rd party libraries like jQuery, CkEditor, SwiftMailer, HTMLPurifier etc. BUT I only used them to save some minor time. It sucks because I have to keep up with each and their changes and download, install, configure etc. constantly. I hate using 3rd party code.

    • You might want to consider learning to use bootstrap or ui kits, also learn more about css. I believe you are getting too overconfident in saying you are a profession skilled web developer. It’s not hard to create a database and structure them with tables, it’s being able to do more than what one would expect. Do some projects that will impress employers, something that hasn’t been done before, like a social network.. I believe you can develop even greater skills in doing so that will benefit you in the long run 🙂

  2. This is great. I am bad programmer too. I have no discipline and am interested in everything, which results in me trying everything then getting overwhelmed and not getting very far. I’m trying to commit to making a game engine now, but I still need a job. I should have kept my last one lol.

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