I had the most depressing realization last night after I spent a good chunk of the day answering questions on Stack Overflow.

I can usually understand their code, I often understand their questions, and I know how to help and when to recommend that they completely change direction. I'm effectively trying to mentor total strangers using a few code samples and paragraphs. I'm happy to do that, and I'm good at it.

Then I realized - these people all have programming challenges of their own to solve. I work for a so-called "consulting" agency where I sit around for weeks because they have nowhere to put me. When they do find me a client it's some company that has no idea how to develop software and no interest in how I can help. They just want to add another developer into the giant mess they've created to keep doing what they're already doing. I'm still using any of the skills I put to work all day long helping people on Stack Overflow.

In other words, the people who need my help figuring out how to write code actually have the jobs writing code, and I don't. Clearly I'm doing something wrong.

Ironically, when I go to one of these companies with a lead developer who doesn't know how to write a unit test or put together three lines of coherent code, that person tells me to just follow what everyone else is doing without making any improvements. Then he goes on Stack Overflow to figure out how to do his job, and chances are I'm the one answering his questions.

As my wife always reminds me, I work in air conditioning so I shouldn't complain. It's a stable company with nice people and it pays the bills. But I sure would like to develop some software in my software development job instead of treating it like a personal hobby.

  • 9
    you sir, make the world a little better one stack overflow answer at a time. You should be proud of your selfless effort. I applaud to you.
  • 4
    Sincerely thank you for helping the community! 😊
  • 3
    Don't you think that by working as a dev you could kill your passion for coding?
  • 2
    Thank you very much sir for mentoring people in SO! You have made big impacts in people's lives, including me. (^_^)d
    I wish I could also someday be able to mentor someone.
  • 2
    As someone that desperately needs StackOverflow for a couple things here and there sometimes, I am super thankful for the people that put time and love into some well written answers.

    Problem is that a lot of companies don't find this side task, browsing and helping people on SO to be "work".

    Imo it should be mandatory that you have atleast 2 hours per week where you contribute and read on SO.
  • 3
    Thank you so much for the positive feedback. I really wasn't expecting that and I appreciate it very much! Related, here's an article about why it's beneficial to try answering questions on SO. https://dev.to/scotthannen/...
  • 3
    I have a programming job in a company that is not a software house and honestly, I find browsing SO and answering questions soothing. When I feel overwhelmed/bored/tired, instead of watching youtube, browsing facebook, whatever, I either learn or teach on SO!
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