|Don't ask to ask, just ask|
I've made some rumblings in the past about feeling "stuck" where I am, like I am not learning any more. Let me say that I've done a lot of thinking on this, and realized that what is going on is I have stopped learning as quickly as I did when I was first grasping the language. So I'm still progressing, and learning some new tricks.
My contract is coming up here soonish, and I'm faced with an interesting situation. I am at the top of my "field." In this case, I mean that I'm finding myself unchallenged, and I am unable to reasonably expect to make more money than I'm making now. I've ascertained this by checking out salary surveys on a national and local scale.
So call me snotty and ungrateful, call me what you will. I'm 23 now, and I don't see any window for progression unless I change careers. I don't want to make this much money and do this kind of work for the rest of my life. I want to move on and do more interesting stuff.
When I was in college, I studied engineering. I always liked the sciences, but I found that I was making much more money doing IS/IT/Programming stuff, and never bothered to finish my bachelors degree. I once read an article that complained about a shortage of college-educated IT people because they had all gone a similar route, but I digress.
So I've been thinking about what to do about this hypothetical "situation" I've found myself in. It occurs to me that the best way to get around this is to become skilled at something other than programming, and make perl/unix a useful facet of what I do, rather than my sole purpose for employment. The way I see it, scientists make more money, and have more opportunities for advancement.
That might seem like a gloomy prognosis -- go get a masters or doctorate in some field of science and become a perl-hacker-on-the-side... But the truth of the matter is, like any curious geek, I've always been interested in these things. Two of my major fields of interest are Bioinformatics and Nuclear Physics. This is neat, since those are probably two of the most high-tech fields to be a researcher in (let alone programmer for). ASCI White for example, is a nuke-simulator. One of the perl hackers I most admire out there, Lincoln Stein, is an MD/PhD scientist, who, as I understand it, also "hacks perl on the side." Furthermore, my current employer will pay me to go to school. So it seems I have the means to do it, even cheaply.
It seems that there are limited opportunities for advancement as a pure programmer. It also seems that there are opportunities to be a programmer out there that are actually facets of lucrative, challenging careers.
I'd like to hear from <!- everyone but you, tilly... -> both seasoned programmers who have been doing this for > 10-15 years, and also the scientists among us (Masem and merlyn come to mind). Does this seem to be an accurate assessment of our field? Is there some occupation (I have deliberately excluded management from possible career changes) involving programming I have missed?