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Lying on the bed I made

by ropey (Hermit)
on Jul 09, 2009 at 09:04 UTC ( #778512=perlmeditation: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

Dear fellow monks,

I need some advice, this time not for any regex I can’t figure out nor why my code is not working, its about the work/personal life balance or unbalance as my case may be.. I write this post as maybe some of you have been through a similar thing and can relate.

So in some ways I have a dream job, I am a contractor earning a daily wage well above what I should be earning. I am in a key man dependency role (not of my own doing may I add) and this lucrative contract has been going on for years and years with no obvious sign the company has any real will to look at replacing me (more on that later). With the money paid I saved for a deposit and bought a house a hour and a half outside of the city I work in, however luckily the company has no issue with me working from home which I do well almost all the time. I have a 1 year old son who I get to see all day every day (as I work from home) a lovely wife, am financially secure, what more could you ask?

And this is the problem – the lifestyle I mustn’t complain, but I have got to the point where I cannot stand the job I do. Don’t get me wrong once upon a time I loved it, however as with many companies we got taken over by a big US firm (no offence to the Americans on here) who decided that all the technology must be done in the US. Bit by bit all the decisions and majority of the development went to the US leaving just a few of us key developers (mainly contractors may I add). We were left as what we worked on was core technology and would have taken them several years to rewrite it (in Java). The business folks this side of the pond who once came up with great ideas for us to implement have lost their way and have to plead with our colleagues in the US for resource. And then the dreaded credit crunch kicked in, this had a major affect on our colleagues in the US, many of the dev’s lost their job and the big plans for the European outfit were put on hold. This basically left the few developers over here on effectively a maintenance cycle – it’s a funny situation even though they pay us well, we are not allowed to do any projects without support from the US (and this doesn’t come as that would need some resource allocation form the US which isn’t available). Therefore there is very very little to do and what there is so boring, Ironically nobody questions what I do, nor seems to care and they pay my invoices on time every month. So now the job I once loved I have now learned to hate, the director I report to is to say nicely a ‘muppet’ who doesn’t even know what I do, even though I have tried to explain the situation. That said he has no power to make any changes as he is mainly sidelined by the US. The business people who once drove the development are not motivated and the company is somewhat in freefall. Personally I feel I have become institutionalized, worked here too long and have lost my confidence in my abilities.

Now I know most people would say, well quit then if your not happy… However as I am sure you all know the job market is not so good right now, so I would likely to have to take a 30-40% pay cut – this isn’t so easy seeing as I have a massive mortgage (bought in the boom) and am the only ‘breadwinner’. More importantly any new role I get I am unlikely to have the same working freedom, and the precious time I have seeing my son grow up would be replaced by a 3hr a day commute to the capital city. So I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place – I don’t think there is anyone in the company who can change the situation and feel pretty lost – So anyone been in a similar situation, or can offer some constructive advice?

Comment on Lying on the bed I made
Re: Lying on the bed I made
by BrowserUk (Pope) on Jul 09, 2009 at 09:21 UTC

    If as it sounds, your main problem is boredom, then (subject to the permissivness of your contract), look for a second telecommute or get involved in a OSS project that fits your aspirations for extending your skill set.


    Examine what is said, not who speaks -- Silence betokens consent -- Love the truth but pardon error.
    "Science is about questioning the status quo. Questioning authority".
    In the absence of evidence, opinion is indistinguishable from prejudice.
Re: Lying on the bed I made
by hda (Hermit) on Jul 09, 2009 at 10:30 UTC
    Hi Ropey,

    Here are some ways you might consider for maximizing happiness in your (not so bad) situation:

    - continue to enjoy your family

    - participate in an OSS project (as previously suggested)

    - collaborate with some social project (helping drug addicts, or teach perl to jobless people!)

    - martial arts (I can seriously recommend this one)

    - write your own papers/books

    - learn one/several foreign languages

    - .... and the list might grow to infinity



    cheers
Re: Lying on the bed I made
by Gavin (Canon) on Jul 09, 2009 at 10:30 UTC

    The way I see it is similar to BrowserUk

  • Take the money and put up with the lack of occupational satisfaction, but think on the benifits that that job gives you, income and free time.
  • Look for a job that gives satisfaction and then leave.
  • Thirdly what I think a lot of us would do given the freedom of your position, put up with the job and use the freetime and money to do something that will give you the satisfaction that you desire. Get a second job doing something that you want to do, use the free time to help others with Open Source projects or the like or get a hobby / pastime that fulfills your needs.
Re: Lying on the bed I made
by Polyglot (Monk) on Jul 09, 2009 at 11:02 UTC
    Yes, I have been in a similar situation. I work in a technical field, but it has no programming involved. I have offered to minimally create a website for our company, but they say "What do we need that for?" Perhaps they don't want to buy a small server upon which to place said website, but then they are willing enough to hire it out elsewhere, and pay rather significantly. They have stuck me with a rather tedious and monotonous task (repetitious) which bores me, but they do pay me, as you have said, fairly well and on time every month. I have made them a database which could be implemented throughout the company with a bare minimum of training, but, though they've talked about it a time or two, have simply never "gotten 'round to it." I feel I wasted my time on it (a few weeks' worth of work).

    I was on the verge of quitting, just to find something more fulfilling elsewhere. But then I found a "second job" (volunteer work) which pays nothing but which allows me to put my creative skills to good use. I am now employing my Perl coding skills for the benefit of a translation center which is working on cross-language, cross-platform computer programs that will make textual materials available in a variety of formats to a broad base of people.

    This has kept me very busy, but it has been rewarding. Helping others can make one feel useful and successful in a way nothing else can. If you would like to help in some useful programming projects, putting your Perl skills and creative talent to good use, I am sure that some here could provide you with some suggestions, as I could also.

    Many people, like you suggested, probably don't understand why you would be dissatisfied with having such a "comfortable" situation. But there is more to life than mere comfort, and there is a restlessness of heart that is harder to bear than other problems sometimes. For me, volunteering on these non-profit projects has given me the sense of fulfillment that I was looking for.

    Blessings,

    ~Polyglot~

Re: Lying on the bed I made
by ELISHEVA (Prior) on Jul 09, 2009 at 11:16 UTC

    Ouch.

    What worries me most in what you wrote is "have lost my confidence in my abilities". This is not good. A few years back I was involved in a start-up. Boredom was not the problem. The work itself was interesting, but few people challenged me and slowly but surely I began to question my own worth. For some reason, being top man (or woman) isn't enough to keep the confidence engines going. Maybe we need people to tell us we are wrong or to distrust our work a little so that we believe them when they appreciate us. Or maybe we just need people outside of our normal circles because familiarity breeds contempt, even for compliments.

    I don't know that this is really about the job as much as it is about 'community of reference'. We all need a group of people who appreciate our worth while still pushing us to see more and bigger things about ourselves. For me, Perl Monks, has played a big role in helping me see myself outside of the work/family bubble. So has my husband (even though he counts as family), a couple of kids I am close to, and attending various professional networking events. The question is, what will work for you?

    My first suggestion is to figure out how to find communities of reference that would work for you. An open source project might be good. So might a volunteer project having *nothing* to do with your technical skills (there are other skills we need to develop as we mature professionally - e.g. management/people/business/organizational skills). Or maybe you have an innovative idea of something that meets a market need and would fit your personal skill set and passions? Or maybe it is time to go back to school in a part-time degree program? But whatever you choose, focus on what it will give you in terms of self-confidence. If that goes, your ability to look for another job will be undermined in ways that matter more than the economy.

    Once you see some things you would like to try, make sure you have a solid understanding of the limits of the NDA, non-compete, and work-for-hire clauses in your employement contract. If something is in the way (e.g. overly aggressive wording), see if you can renegotiate some breathing room for yourself. It might not work, but then again it might. Many companies these days go to great lengths to retain workers. In Israel several companies have cut down to four day work weeks just to keep employees during down times. You might be able to find similar flexibility on IP issues provided that you can reassure them that there will be no drain on their resources or risks to their strategy.

    Best of luck, beth

Re: Lying on the bed I made
by targetsmart (Curate) on Jul 09, 2009 at 13:37 UTC
    IMHO you need mental peace.
    just try to do some meditation, or focus on spirituality like Advaita_Vedanta, Ramana_Maharishi, Ramesh_Balsekar.If I am in your position I will keep myself busy with all these stuff.


    Vivek
    -- 'I' am not the body, 'I' am the 'soul', which has no beginning or no end, no attachment or no aversion, nothing to attain or lose.
Re: Lying on the bed I made
by dHarry (Abbot) on Jul 09, 2009 at 14:25 UTC

    High five brother! If I do some substitutions/minor updates in your post I could have written it. We were taken over by a huge Italian company, instead of 500 I have some 80.000 colleagues now. The once nice to work for company has turned into a "body shop". I have actually four! "Muppets" and none of them really knows what I'm doing. They don't seem to care too. Sure every now and then they jell jump and I ask how high, put out a fire somewhere and it’s business as usual.

    I also got used to the money and have mortgage and other obligations. It will probably be difficult to make the same money elsewhere. Sure I could go back to my contractors job in the Netherlands and spend 3,5 hours per day in the traffic jam to work on some boring finance job in Amsterdam...

    My workaround is try to stress the positive things and make use of them as much as possible. For me that means: I get to work in Spain, learn the language/culture/food:-) It's a 5 minutes drive to work, this gives me lots of extra free time to do fun stuff. I can work on my personal development during working hours, this helps me to keep in shape work wise like learning new technologies or refreshing old ones. Hell I am allowed to spend some 20% of my time on "research". From time to time people are actually quite happy with what I do and thank me for solving their little problem. etc. etc.

Re: Lying on the bed I made
by zentara (Archbishop) on Jul 09, 2009 at 15:18 UTC
    You can live like a king if you live in a tent and eat only popcorn....... :-)

    I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth.
    Old Perl Programmer Haiku
Re: Lying on the bed I made
by Your Mother (Canon) on Jul 09, 2009 at 15:21 UTC

    There is a related discussion here: "Chuck Norris"-ing code. Something I wrote in response applies to your situation, I think-

    Being paid to do nothing, or even being paid to do a bad job in spite of offering good work instead, is not good for one's psychology.

    You've got some good advice already. I'd spend the extra time resume building, writing articles, learning new kits, trying to fix open bugs in things you use, and looking for new work. Don't feel pressured to leave but work on it at least passively. Do feel pressured to stay busy. It will help with your spirits. Having a long time to find a new job is a luxury and you may end up with something you love again. You have the time now to build skills and work samples to help you be ready if a dream job does appear.

Re: Lying on the bed I made
by Limbic~Region (Chancellor) on Jul 09, 2009 at 15:27 UTC
    ropey,
    I went through a similar situation a few years ago. The advice that everyone has given through this thread won't work. Ok, I hope that caught your attention. Now I need to be fair. All these ideas can work but that heavily depends on you. In my situation, my job defined who I was. It took a paradigm change in how I looked at things. Work was who I was - so doing fun and interesting things outside of work didn't make the gnawing feeling of despair inside me any better.

    In my situation, I quit. Through the years I took on more and more responsibilities, worked tireless hours and had a passion for work that bordered on the obsessive. People had come to expect and assume that I would do things and I knew there was no real effective way I could just go back to being a normal employee. I doubt making such a dramatic break will be necessary given your description of the problem.

    A job is just a job. That is what I had to accept before I could be happy when my job wasn't satisfying. Don't get me wrong, it is still far more pleasant to work at a challenging and interesting environment but I no longer need that to feel complete. I have joined the perl community, worked on open source projects, solve difficult brain teasers and satiate the need for mental stimulation elsewhere. Don't get me wrong, a job is important and we should care about it and make it the best we can. I just needed to accept (for me) was that it was a source of income and not defining point in my life. If it turned crappy but was bearable (for that me, that meant not bubbling over into my personal life outside of work) and the alternative was worse, I decided I could in fact live with it.

    Unfortunately, I can't give you any advice on how to actually make that paradigm change. For me I went through a really unhealthy time before I made the break. It wasn't slow and gradual and I am glad I did it before I was married with a family because I think it would have been harder on them than it was on me. It wasn't enough for me to tell myself I would change. I did try that but eventually would find myself falling back into the same ruts.

    Some people find going to a therapist or a life coach helpful (not to be confused with a psychoanalyst). I personally feel that they don't really give advice any different then friends and family but because you are paying for it, it seems more valuable and it helps. Some people that is - not me. I have one final recommendation for you but would prefer to discuss it in private via /msg. If you (or anyone else reading) is interested, feel free to ping me.

    Cheers - L~R

      I'm going to back up Limbic~Region with a slightly different take.

      A few years ago, I also went through something similar. But, I made a critical mistake. I stuck it out without really trying to look for another job. We had some good people at work. And none of us wanted to leave the others behind. (Add a new house and little one mixed in with the fun.)

      Despite being the senior technical guy left on staff, I was still laid off. Not long after that, I stumbled into a temporary contract doing SVG in Java. I had been playing with SVG to try and inject a little more interest into my technical life. Unfortunately, that didn't last.

      I found myself unemployed during one of the worst job markets in my field in my area. (Literally 3 months with no job openings in my field in a major city.) I eventually ended up taking an entry-level Java position a long drive from my house. despite well over a decade in the field.

      It took a few years, but I've worked my way back up to a similar level of income.

      Lessons I learned in addition to what Limbic~Region spells out includes:

      • that you may not get to choose when you leave (even if you are the senior go-to guy left)
      • You never know what technical skills you pick up on the side will help you out.
      • the loss of income was painful (and the loss of savings that covered the other), but it wasn't as fatal as I had previously assumed.

      This experience really solidified for me the guiding principal that I've held since. I can control my skillset and experience, but I can't control my job. The job can be pulled out from under you no matter how much you've worked and sacrificed for the company. But, they can't take away your skills and knowledge.

      G. Wade

      I went through the same situation last year and the advice I, and others, gave earlier did work1. Ok, I hope my use of contradictory bold text wasn't insulting. :) I think you make good points. I do believe that what one does for money is tied to one's psychology and I don't think that's bad or something to try to lose with therapy or chanting or whatever. Pride, and food for the children2, comes from what we do. It's natural and right. I'd say you did exactly the right thing as difficult as it was. Quitting stops being "exactly the right thing" when there are deep commitments (house, kids, etc).

      1 ...mostly. The "dream job" has turned out to be less "modern Perl + best practices" and more piling the spaghetti higher on a frustratingly bad and tangled decade old codebase. Honest work though, unlike the last gig, and with a nice team and room to look around for someone who is really doing Perl right.

      2 Accidental reference to an awesome HeavyMetal piece from... well, a very long time ago.

        Your Mother,
        Ok, I hope my use of contradictory bold text wasn't insulting.

        Not at all. Just a few sentences later I say "All these ideas can work but that heavily depends on you". I made the assumption that ropey, who has been a PerlMonk since 2001, probably had heard or thought of this advice before but - like me, didn't find it worked. Of course it all did work for me after the paradigm change. I could very well be wrong about my assumption. I suffered for years before some pretty intense soul searching made me realize that what worked for others but not for me wasn't because I was broken. I know my post will only be appropriate for a small number of readers and I should have explicitly stated the starting assumption - but if I could save even one person from the misery I went through it was worth it :-)

        Cheers - L~R

Re: Lying on the bed I made
by ruzam (Curate) on Jul 10, 2009 at 02:45 UTC

    Well, I won't say I lived your life.

    I had a brain dead job on a more or less permanent contract, that paid outrageously. I didn't get to work from home but I did get to walk to work, which is almost as good, and the money more than made up for the pointlessness of the work. It was generally accepted that the contract would continue indefinitely, but like so many unexpected turns in life, the company decided to axe all contractors with 30 days notice (no exceptions). My debt load was well beyond 'reasonable' and after 6 years contracting in the same position, my work skills had stagnated into very specific and locally un-marketable areas of expertise. I would have, should have, done many things different and I'm still paying for the loss.

    It sounds to me like you have the financial and personal freedom to do what ever the heck you want. Complaining about what you don't like does nothing but steal valuable time away from those freedoms. Life's short. If you can live on nothing at all then by all means quit. But if you can't live without the money then stop obsessing over the crappy job and just keep pushing the button. Nobody likes to hear the guy driving the Porshe go on about how much his job sucks.

    Oh, and if you really think an OSS project will do you some good send me a pm. I need help on my project, and you obviously need something to fill up the spare time you've been wasting hating your job.

Re: Lying on the bed I made
by hangon (Deacon) on Jul 10, 2009 at 03:09 UTC
    ... the company has no issue with me working from home ... I have a 1 year old son who I get to see all day every day ... a lovely wife, am financially secure ... I cannot stand the job I do.

    Well cry me a river. The reality is that most people don't love their jobs, but would love to be in your situation. Most working parents don't get to spend all day with their children. They just try to put in their eight hours of tedium and idiotic bosses, then fight rush hour to get back home to their families. I don't mean to sound harsh, but you do need a reality check. Right now, how much you dislike your job doesn't matter. Your real problem is that your family is in a precarious financial situation. To wit:

    • Your recurring expenses (mortgage etc) are based on your salary, which is significantly above the norm. Thus your living expenses are as much as 67% too high. Extra income above the norm for your profession & experience should never be used to increase your recurring expenses. Take a vacation instead, or save it for your son's college.

    • You bought a house while real estate was overpriced. Now you're stuck with it as it would likely take several years before you can sell it and break even.

    • The comute, should you actually have to travel to work, would cost three hours of productive time per day.

    • You are assuming (by lack of admission) that your job situation will last indefinitely. However, it appears your employer has achieved bastard stepchild status with the parent company, so don't count on it.

    My guess is that you're fairly young, because these are typical mistakes made by people who don't have the benefit of hindsight. You are lucky enough to have extra time on your hands - Use It! You can further your education, pick up additional work, start a business or whatever. Just be sure it has a payoff, you are not presently in a situation where you can afford to do volunteer work. You need to start working on increasing your income and reducing your expenses before the axe falls. Consider this your greatest challenge, to create a foundation for long term financial stability for your family. Once that's done, you will have better opportunities to do satisfying work.

Re: Lying on the bed I made
by cdarke (Prior) on Jul 10, 2009 at 11:04 UTC
    Been there, more than once. The first time it happened I did an OU degree.

    Second time I actually contributed to the project. What I did was to document the system from a support and coder's viewpoint. I was not looking for bugs, but to document the code profile, test coverage, how and where all the functions were called, and all the little tricks and querks needed to maintain and keep the thing going. Sure, much of that was already known to many people, but it was not documented in one place, and much of the info was out of date. Along the way I learnt a lot, found a few bugs, and areas for improvement. Thereafter, when work picked-up, the document was worth its weight in gold.
Re: Lying on the bed I made
by raisputin (Scribe) on Jul 10, 2009 at 19:12 UTC
    Take up skydiving :) Great fun and, at least in my case, I never fail to be smiling and just simply don't care about any dull things for a while after I jump :) Now if I can get the proper amount of jumps in next year, that will be fantastic :)
Re: Lying on the bed I made
by apl (Monsignor) on Jul 13, 2009 at 14:19 UTC
    I am in a key man dependency role (not of my own doing may I add)
    Be very, very careful. I speak from personal experience when I say those can easily be the first to be eliminated.
Re: Lying on the bed I made
by Anonymous Monk on Jul 14, 2009 at 23:38 UTC
    ++hangon
Reaped: Re: Lying on the bed I made
by NodeReaper (Curate) on Jul 22, 2009 at 20:16 UTC

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