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What do coding dinosaurs do?

 
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Glossary -
Coding dinosaurs: Fellow programmers who have been involved in coding for a long time and they are usually reluctant to get into management.



Well, I happen to be one. :-) I am a hands-on techie & actively involved in coding for last 14+ years. I am based in Pune (India) and for last few years, I have been on my own outside corporate culture and I have been working as a consultant for US/UK clients. I have stayed away from managerial roles out of choice so far and I am keen on technical development itself. Though I really enjoy coding & technical aspects of software development; at this stage of my career I am looking for roles beyond pure coding. For last several years, I have been working with organizations involved in product development, so I have had in-depth and thorough exposure to designing systems around few technologies (Primarily J2EE, Struts, Apache Velocity, Alfresco, Spring, Apache Solr & Android; and some exposure to PHP+Wordpess plug-ins recently) but I missed out on designing relatively smaller projects involving diverse technologies. I know what I know, and I know it quite well! Moreover I am also confident about picking up new stuff easily, but if I look for software architect roles here in India, they usually want somebody who has *already* used an arbitrary list of 50 odd technologies in his career. It might be possible in service/consulting organizations, but I do have my doubts about it. Moreover, after interacting with few so-called 'enterprise architects' from bigger companies, I am quite disappointed with that job profile. Anyway! In any case, I don't have that exposure, so frankly most software architect jobs don't make sense for me at this stage.

So I am trying to figure out what kind of opportunities exist for a technical person besides 100% coding roles. I would like to remain in technical role itself, but would like to move beyond purely coding role now. I am comfortable mentoring juniors technically or even facing clients or developing tasks from requirements, but not interested in man-management as such. What kind of roles are available for such people as regular full-time jobs? What do fellow techies do after they have 12+ years of experience? What options are there besides Management or S/W Architect roles?

Are there any consulting roles that you can do part-time and devote rest of the time to your other interests? The last option sounds pretty exciting to me, but not sure if that's feasible.

Would appreciate inputs from fellow ranchers.

TIA,
- Manish
 
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IMHO, if you want to stay a techie then architect role is the next logical role. Yet in companies the longer you are architect, you tend to do some project management (eg the business side of the project).

If not architect, consultant role. Depending on your definition of "consultant", the roles can vary depending on where the project life cycle is.

Either route, rather than coding, designing, testing, quality are probably your key tasks. These are what a Team Lead or System Analyst (SA) usually do. However, i think architect is somewhat higher than SA so more design I guess.
 
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14 years? If that makes you a dinosaur, what does that make me at 35 years?
 
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You can keep on coding forever. There's nothing wrong in coding forever. We had a contractor who has been developing for 20 years. He was making good money. He was learning new technology as he went along. He was happy. He just didn't want to be a manager/architect.

Or you could startup surf. Join a startup, help get it to be successful. If it's successful and someone buys you out, you get gobs of money and you retire and get to play Xbox all day. It's it's moderately successful, you take the moderate amount of money that you get in the buyout, put it in the bank, and move to next startup. If it's not successful, you just move to the next startup. The worst you do is that you get paid a good salary, which is good enough for me.

Startup surfing is what I'm doing right now. I'm on my third startup. The first one almost couldn't meet payroll when I jumped to the second one. The second one was bought by another company, and I got a moderate payout that I used as a downpayment on a house. The third one might give me a moderate payout too because I joined rather late. In the meantime, I'm open to architectural responsibilities. I got my TOGAF certification. I get fired/downsized and get sick of startups, I can always go work for the government. Certification will help me get into government.
 
Jayesh A Lalwani
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K. Tsang wrote:

Either route, rather than coding, designing, testing, quality are probably your key tasks. These are what a Team Lead or System Analyst (SA) usually do. However, i think architect is somewhat higher than SA so more design I guess.



Architect is a very broad term. It could mean anything from "the best developer in the team" to "the person who is involved in business development and proposing technical solutions to business problems". There is no consensus in the industry regarding what architect means. However, there is some sort of terminology emerging

The first tier of architects is
1) APplication architect - designs applications. Usually comes from a programming background and Is an expert in programming languages and can create good design that meets well-defined requirements.
2) Data architect - designs databases and schemas. Usually comes from a DBA background, and is an expert in databases
3) Infrastructure architect - designs hardware configuration. Usually comes from an IT operations background and is an expert in hardware/OS and network configuration
4) Business architect /System analyst - writes requirements. Is generally the business expert and is good at translating loosely defined requirement to system level requirements. These people might come from non-technical background, but are adept enough with technology to be able to talk to the other 3 architects. They act as a bridge between business and technology

These 4 architects are generally considered peers, and in many companies, you might even see the same person wear more than one of these hats

The second tier is
Solution Architect - This person is mainly responsible for assembling solutions together from components, or defining a component well enough that the next tier of architects can take it and flesh out a detailed design. THis person might come from any of the above backgrounds, and generally has some architecture experience

The last one is
Enterprise Architect - This person is more or less the CTO. S/he is more or less setting goals, and also keeping track of trends in the market and how they relate to the business. This is ultimately what technical people can grow into, but is primarily non-technical.. or I'd rather say beyond-technical. You need to be of a technical background to do this, but once you are here you are operating at a strategic and abstract level that technology doesn't matter

Going from Team lead to EA is a long and winding path, and you don't neccesarily have to walk the entire route. If you are technical, and want to grow, you can grow upto SOlution Architect and still stay technical.
 
K. Tsang
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Totally agree with you Jayesh. I am aware there are several levels of architect. And the higher up towards EA technology and business simply merge
 
Manish Hatwalne
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14 years? If that makes you a dinosaur, what does that make me at 35 years?
- Bear Bibeault



Well, grandpa dinosaur maybe? :P

Seriously, both these terms: 'Consultant' and 'Architect' are rather broad and somewhat vague. They mean different things in different organizations. I agree with you @Jayesh - start-ups are good places but not sure if they'd pay well. My earlier discussions with couple of start-ups here didn’t go ahead as they were not ready to pay industry standard payment for my role. Start-ups or working on my own ideas is definitely on my mind, but need some time before I take the plunge.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in coding, and I'd even consider doing it forever. But as I have seen, there are not enough lucrative opportunities, exciting roles for coders in India after 10 years of experience.

I don't mind being an architect, but as of now can't think of myself being fit for any other type besides 'Application architect' though 'Business architect /System analyst' role looks equally interesting as I am quite comfortable with getting somewhat vague requirements converted to SRS. But I am not sure how would I get in given that I was away from corporate jobs for quite some time now while working on my own. Besides - it would mean a full-time job, and I am trying to stay away from it for at least few more months/years as far as possible.

I'd certainly like consultant role, but not sure how would I fit in if not as an individual contributor. In that case, it is again going to be a purely coding role and I am not really keen on that at this stage. Moreover, again most companies do not pay well. Maybe I need to get into some niche technology/domain to become more in-demand consultant! Any pointers?

In the long run, I'd like to see myself in a role of Consultant + Solution Architect as an outside consultant to the organization. Is that possible? How to proceed in that direction?

rgds,
- Manish

BTW, the designation 'Enterprise Architect' I have seen in many big companies here in India is far from CTO. They are close to Sr. Software Engineers working on EAI or Application architects at most.
 
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Even I have been thinking about it for quite some time now. It is almost 10 years for me into coding and I can only see that my interest to do technical stuff increases day by day. Some of my friends are already managers and when I run through any sort of technical discussions with them, I can see that they are completely clueless and I wonder what would you manage when you can't speak technology. I certainly do not want to be one like them. I however very rarely see multi-faceted people who still dedicate 50% of their time coding and the rest managing a team. I would aim for such a role may be in the future.
 
Jayesh A Lalwani
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Manish Hatwalne wrote:
In the long run, I'd like to see myself in a role of Consultant + Solution Architect as an outside consultant to the organization. Is that possible? How to proceed in that direction?



You are probably better off getting into a niche technology like Microstrategy or SAP or something like that. However, you will be probably hitching your wagon to a particular product, and you live and die by that product.
 
Manish Hatwalne
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Jayesh A Lalwani wrote:

Manish Hatwalne wrote:
In the long run, I'd like to see myself in a role of Consultant + Solution Architect as an outside consultant to the organization. Is that possible? How to proceed in that direction?



You are probably better off getting into a niche technology like Microstrategy or SAP or something like that. However, you will be probably hitching your wagon to a particular product, and you live and die by that product.



Nah - not keen on SAP and not much exposure to Microstrategy or BI for that matter. I guess I need to figure out my own strategy.
BTW, I am curious to know what kind of roles other senior techies here have taken up.
 
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Keep doing what you like and look at other avenues like blogging, authoring books, social networking, etc to spice up your career. I have blogged about this and recently have published a book entitled "how to open more doors as a software engineer?".
 
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