Ask HN: Life after corporate job

18 points by throwawaymlc 6 months ago

I’m a guy, late 30s, 20+ years of programming experience. Active developer in C++, C, Python, Java presently (also Perl, Javascript, PostScript, Clojure, PHP, Fortran, build systems, Linux).

I’ve been in big corporate (investment bank) environments for 10+ years. Overall, it has been great, I learnt a lot about large-scale systems and governance, traveled the word, all that stuff. I have realized that I’m approaching the end of the road with this line of work, and I want to get back to actual hacking on something more manageable again.

I want to be building up something of long-term value (to me) over time. I have had a few little side-projects carved out over the years where I can just work on one well-defined thing, like rewrite an old system with the same interfaces but 10x faster, and I did well with those projects.

How can I start, or be involved in, something more rewarding? I did start an ecommerce based side-business a few years ago, I learnt a lot, but I think dealing with consumer-facing things, marketing, and customer service issues is not for me.

These are small companies I’m aware of that have an very niche problem that they are the best solution for, and license to bigger companies that deal with all the issues of building and supporting a product for consumers / end user.

I do see problems in my day job that could be solved more efficiently, but not things that seem buildable by an individual or small team. Unfortunately, I’ve been in massive corporates for so long that the only ideas I get from my day-job are for various kinds of “enterprise software”.

I would love to hear about anyone that has made this transition themselves. Perhaps you have an idea you can’t pursue yourself, but might suit me. Also, if anyone thinks they can benefit from my knowledge / experience from a corporate environment for their projects in anyway, let me know.

quickthrower2 6 months ago

I've started on a journey like this, and I have settled on the idea of writing short eBooks, guides and eventually full length books. However I am also learning about digital marketing (encompassing social media / SEO etc.) so that I have a chance of seeing some success and sales. I am taking this a step at a time, so I am creating an information site for a popular programming language. I am already finding writing challenging, because I now know a bit more about marketing and I want to make sure I don't just create content, but that people read it! That means that unlike this comment, I will be writing and rewriting and crafting blog posts.

I am finding this exciting because it is different from coding, but I get to use and share my coding knowledge and help other people. Even if I make little or no money, doing this kind of work might help position myself in a better role the next time I need to look for a new job, or help me advance in my current job. So I see it as a form of hedging - I might make an income to quit the job, or if not it will still help me in my career, by improving my written communication and my understanding of programming. The reason it will improve my programming is because you have to really understand something well to write about it.

  • throwawaymlc 6 months ago

    That's cool, I hope it works out for you! I've thought about this kind of thing too.

    I think for most mainstream programming languages, the market for books, blogs, tutorials, youtube channels is pretty much saturated. However, I have worked with several proprietary / vendor products over the years that have perfunctory documentation, not much in the way of a user community, where serious users end up having to experiment + reverse engineer things to get it working well.

    I think it could be interesting to become a third party "expert" for such a product, blog about tips and tricks, offer training and consulting, write books, etc. I guess it's the same as what you're doing, just not for a "popular programming language", but for something slightly specialized but still actively used.

    • quickthrower2 6 months ago

      Yes indeed, while the market for say Python books is saturated, there might be room for a Python for X, where X is some shared characteristic. E.g. Python lessons to prepare for a coding Bootcamp.

      The vendor product idea sounds good. I think the money there is from consulting or software products, as the book won’t sell in volume. However the book can position you as the expert so people buy other things from you.

CyberFonic 6 months ago

I have a comparable background to yours. More in the architecture / engineering / BPR space. Most of my programming experience came from the earlier days before I worked my way up the ranks. Nevertheless, at first I had similar problems adjusting to not thinking along enterprise systems lines.

I ended up teaching university masters level courses as an adjunct. There is a lack of lecturers with extensive industry experience, especially at enterprise scale. Being in that space has also opened up some interesting consulting opportunities.

  • throwawaymlc 6 months ago

    Yes, I have thought about trying my hand at some teaching / mentoring.

    How did you get into being an adjunct? I have absolutely no idea how to approach something that, but I would be pretty interested to try it. I don't actually have a CS degree / academic background, would that be much of a problem?

    The only things I've seen like this when I've looked have been coding bootcamp or high school level stuff, which doesn't really appeal to me.

    • CyberFonic 6 months ago

      I have a computer engineering degree and have worked for several multinational companies. And I have previously lectured CS whilst doing a part-time masters - which I didn't complete.

      I have no knowledge of what it would take for somebody without some academic credentials to teach. But there is no harm in giving it a go. Universities, in general, are keen to build links with industry.

      Your skills, knowledge and experience are far above the level at which boot camp courses are taught. It is very hard for people with advanced knowledge to teach entry level learners, there is just too much that we take for granted.

CaliforniaKarl 6 months ago

Try looking in the Higher Ed space.

I have a BS in CS&E. My first eight years of employment after college were at a US publicly-traded company. After that, I moved to my current position.

Although the Higher Ed space does not lack the politics that you find in the corporate world, I enjoy the knowledge that you are likely serving a greater good, while still maintaining a steady income. It's also fun going to campus events, and in general watching undergraduate antics from the sidelines (such as

For example, check out this position: It's probably too limiting for you, but I know the group that has this position open, and they fill a very enterprise-y need: Taking feeds from multiple "I am the authoritative record of a person" sources, and merging it into an _actual_ source of truth for people and accounts (computer accounts) records.

zapperdapper 6 months ago

> How can I start, or be involved in, something more rewarding?

Absolutely fascinating question, but sadly not one I personally have the answer to, because I think only you do.

EDG looks very interesting - but I wonder how much business they actually do though? I also notice they do work with Dinkumware ( - God that is a blast from the past!

I guess just keep trying small projects and following interesting ideas and companies - something will grab you in the end.