DEV Community 👩‍💻👨‍💻

Cover image for What is a wrong turn you took your career?
Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

Posted on

What is a wrong turn you took your career?

What is a direction you took in your career that turned out to be the wrong direction, and you had to pivot or reverse course?

Perhaps you took the wrong promotion, or pursued the wrong focus? What is yours?

Top comments (53)

Collapse
kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman • Edited on

Taking a position to do a big-bang rewrite of a large system. Project was shelved after 2 years. I should have taken Gall's law to heart.

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked…A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.

  • John Gall

Agreeing/attempting a big-bang rewrite was definitely a mistake. But things turned out alright in the end. After the project was shelved, I used what I learned to make system improvements. Then led a team to make new cloud products. And we're still working on the legacy system. Carving off pieces to modernize one-at-a-time.

Taking the position was also a mistake if I had known the whole picture. But there was a change in leadership. And that changed the whole working environment and available opportunities.

So I guess you never know.

Collapse
mistval profile image
Randall

I had not heard of Gall's law, but it strikes me as very true. Thanks for that tidbit!

Collapse
luiz0x29a profile image
Real AI

That's basically a rite of passage for a programmer. Everyone tastes it in their career at least once.

Collapse
besworks profile image
Besworks

I used to be a Top Rated freelancer on Upwork taking my pick of fixed-price jobs. Last year I was lured into an hourly contract by an enticing offer. I ignored the (obvious in hindsight) red flags and ended up regretting it.

The client treated me like his employee, monopolized my time, ignored my advice, and altered the scope of our arrangement one too many times. I refused to bend over backwards any father and ended the contract. He left me a scathing review and my Job Success Score dropped significantly. Meanwhile, he's now in the process of hiring a 4th person to take on the tasks I was handling alone and has made essentially no progress in 2x the time.

Before that debacle I was at the top of my field, now over half of my proposals go unread and the rest get ignored. I should have forged ahead on my original path... I spent years building a stellar reputation and all of that was obliterated by one unreasonable client. I should not have let the temptation of steady income override my intuition. Taking on the role of Tech Lead for a startup has always ended up being a bad experience for me. If you're not a founding member of the company, you'll just be a tool for them to exploit as they see it.

Collapse
bikash9609 profile image
Bikash9609

Don't worry, everything will be fine soon. Keep it up

Collapse
besworks profile image
Besworks • Edited on

Thanks for the encouragement. I know I'll bounce back eventually. Perseverance is definitely one of my more well-exercised traits.

Collapse
mistval profile image
Randall

(Have never used Upwork so am curious) Why did one bad review cause so much damage? Wouldn't a lot of good reviews outweigh the one bad one?

Collapse
besworks profile image
Besworks

Well they don't fully disclose their algorithm but essentially extra weight is given to larger and more recent contracts. Since I generally do smaller fixed price jobs, this longer term one trumps everything else.

Thread Thread
mistval profile image
Randall

I see, that sucks, hope you can turn it around again!

Collapse
suchintan profile image
SUCHINTAN DAS

Ignored some opportunities thinking there will be better coming in future and I can skip them. Believe me life is something that always proves that it's uncertain no matter how good you are or how talented you are individually.

Never ignore an upcoming opportunities as when life gives you lemon make lemonade .

Collapse
genevievemasioni profile image
Geneviève Masioni

What made you ignore those opportunities though? There must have been red flags. How can we know if the offer is also good enough? It’s important to not be arrogant but also to make sure we are valued correctly. Where’s the balance?

Collapse
suchintan profile image
SUCHINTAN DAS

Geneviève, I am currently a student and that time when those opportunities came in the university, I had my curriculum ongoing and thus my thinking at that moment was to focus on my studies and wait for the right time with the right skills to apply for the opportunities ( just thinking I am not skilled enough to apply for the role ).

But YES that only landed me in a bad situation because during that time very few fellows used to apply for those opportunities so competition was marginally less, and just like me other's were also preparing themselves with better skills and knowledge.

That's why when I started applying for the opportunities , the competition got high and tough . I regret my decision and learned this lesson as life is irreversible so those opportunities with such less competition would hardly come back.

Thread Thread
genevievemasioni profile image
Geneviève Masioni

I understand. I would argue that you’re better equipped now; both in terms of skill set and life experience. So you should be able to compete with others on the tech market. We tend to forget that even if there are a lot of candidates for a job offer, most of them are not qualified. So the people we genuinely compete with for a role are a few dozens or even less. And to win against those people, prioritizing your skill set is not a bad strategy. It pays off very well in the long term. It leads to higher quality roles. If you only recently started your career, you will have a lot more opportunities coming your way! Good luck. 😁

Thread Thread
genevievemasioni profile image
Geneviève Masioni

Also, interviewing is a skill in itself. Unfortunately there’s no better way to get good at it than to practice on the field.

Thread Thread
suchintan profile image
SUCHINTAN DAS • Edited on

Thanks, Geneviève, yes you are right of course I am now a better version of myself and have acquired much more skills and knowledge. But I would like to point out that ignoring those opportunities was really not a good take in my life. And got to learn that you should always keep yourself open to opportunities and don't wait for the right moment. There will always be this thing in every exam of life that we feel, we could have done better no matter how much effort we put into it.

At least from college, I understood one major lesson The earlier you are the better you will achieve. Just a small example, Google Meet today date is mostly used for all meeting calls, but it would not have been into this market if they wouldn't release it during the pandemic. Just like Zoom and other services did, so time matters a lot, even in business if you release the right product at the right time it would succeed.

The same product was not successful pre-pandemic and will not be able to capture much in this post-pandemic.

So, yes with the same quality many things only work when the right time comes and if you miss that opportunity then no matter how better the quality is, it doesn't matter. You will not get the same opportunity again.

Collapse
katafrakt profile image
Paweł Świątkowski

Perhaps not exactly what you mean, but I have history of pretty poor choices regarding what technology to focus on between two that seemed to have similar chances to become popular. For example:

  • Textile vs Markdown - I bet on Textile, not no one remembers about it
  • D vs Rust - D seemed to be much more natural choice and Rust too complicated to become mainstream. Well...
  • Rails vs Merb - Merb was just better. Was.
  • DataMapper vs ActiveRecord - I think you can guess at this point
  • Pylons vs Django
  • Mootols vs JQuery
  • Ractive vs React
Collapse
janmpeterka profile image
Jan Peterka

Wait, I thought both DataMapper and ActiveRecord approaches for ORMs are alive. I'm I wrong?

Collapse
katafrakt profile image
Paweł Świątkowski

Yeah, approaches are alive. I was talking about specific Ruby libraries that were creatively named like that ;) And DataMapper is dead for years. Sorry, I should have been more specific.

Thread Thread
janmpeterka profile image
Jan Peterka

Thanks for clarification :)

Collapse
dinerdas profile image
Diner Das

Tried management — really wasn't for me.

Collapse
rdrahuldhiman profile image
Rahul Dhiman

Stopped learning after I got the my first Job as a Front End Developer. Should've not stopped the learning and updating myself. Now I'm starting again after a year and a month to learn/ trying to build something for fun.

Collapse
eljayadobe profile image
Eljay-Adobe

After a re-org I was reporting to a boss that I did not get along with, and vice versa. I stuck it out for 6 months before I started looking, took 3 months to find another position within the company (internal lateral moves take far longer than being hired off the street), and 3 more months of transition time. In hindsight, I should have started looking right away.

Lesson learned.

A decade later I was in a similar situation, and put in my resignation right away. Did not have a new job in hand, just was not going be in that untenable unbearable soul-crushing position again. Not worth the emotional trauma and mental well-being. Felt like the best course of action, and everything turned out alright.

I think fear of the unknown and one's own comfort level (and optimistic hope that things in that bad situation will get better... but they won't and don't) may keep a person chained to a bad situation for much longer than warranted.

Collapse
a_mujthaba profile image
Ali Mujthaba

I once dropped out of my IT degree thinking I would not get a job. There always a lot of chatter around me that IT was a bad career. It was one of the worst decision of my career. So after a two years I started the degree again and completed it. I have been a software developer for 5 years and counting. So don't give up on something you're passionate about.

Collapse
genevievemasioni profile image
Geneviève Masioni

Wow it’s the first time I hear people think IT is a bad career choice. Where I’m from, people think you’ll never run out of a job and will crawl under job opportunities. (Which not entirely false.)

Collapse
eljayadobe profile image
Eljay-Adobe

Another wrong turn, much earlier in my career. I worked as an employee doing software development consulting work for a consulting company. The company wanted to train in other consultants to do OS/2 software development, since at the time there was a big demand for OS/2 developers.

Since I had just done a big single-developer job with ISDN integration on OS/2 platform in C++, they asked me to train in other co-worker consultants at the company.

I naïvely thought, "Sure, sounds like fun!" Hoo-boy, I didn't realize that I had jumped into the deep end of a cold pool. I had a week to prepare.

What I came to appreciate is:

  • teaching is a skill, and I have zero experience in that skill
  • preparing a curriculum is a huge undertaking
  • teaching a subject needs to be laid out and presented such that it is a logical progression, so the students can consume and digest the information
  • people can be categorized by the way that they learn; not everyone learns in the same one way (I learn by following along with tutorial books, and futzing around, and branching out to do other things extrapolating from what I had learned)
  • trying to teach "How to program in OS/2" using C++, to a class of smart consultants who do not know C++ and have no programming experience on personal computers is not a recipe for success

Fortunately, that wrong turn gave me a bitter taste of my own limitations. I'm good at one-on-one mentoring, I'm not good at classroom teaching.

Alas, I regret having floundered in front of my co-workers, and burning a week of their time and two weeks of my time. The embarrassment still stings.

Collapse
genevievemasioni profile image
Geneviève Masioni • Edited on

Please don’t be too hard on yourself. Teaching is a job in itself. One-on-one tutoring and classroom teaching are almost polar opposites. It baffles me how companies think they can use one employee to teach others without providing any (teaching) materials or support (prior training in teaching for example) and think that everything will go smoothly.

Collapse
theaccordance profile image
Joe Mainwaring

Not sure I would call this a wrong turn, rather I just hit a dead end.

I started my technology career at the ripe age of 15 with an apprentiship at my local school district. I would continue down that path through college and into my first FTE role at a non-profit org in Chicago. It was there I realized my growth prospects were limited, I could not make significant changes to my responsibilities that would translate into meaningful comp adjustments. When I worked my ass off, I only received a cost of living adjustment (COLA) and when slacked off, I received the same adjustment. This led to apathy and with it, a decline in performance.

Knowing I was thirsty for a greater lifestyle, I began the painstaking process of transitioning career paths, this time into engineering. This was before things like Bootcamps were common and popular, so I spent about 18 months self-teaching myself to the point where I could get hired for contract work. A few successful contracts later and I was once again getting hired for FTE roles, but this time with real growth prospects. I've since tripled my earning potential and I'm no where near the upper limits of what I can do with my current skillset.

Collapse
moose_said profile image
Mostafa Said

I was planning to get into tech right after I finish my mandatory army time. After finishing it, I thought of working as a call center agent to get passive income while learning. I got promoted to become aeam leader super fast and got completely distracted by my goal chasing other goals in management while coding was my main passion.

Collapse
baenencalin profile image
Calin Baenen

Probably trying to work on too many things at once.
I wanted to dish out a game and a few libraries, but it really got to be a lot.

Now I'm jammed and still working on my fabled game.

Collapse
steinbring profile image
Joe Steinbring

The biggest regret of my career is taking a job out of desperation.

I was working for a small agency (~75% of its income came from two clients) and the boss pulled me into his office on a Friday and said that he had to let me go because we weren't getting enough business in. I freaked out a little and ended up getting a job at a shop that paid less pretty much just because their stack matched what I was familiar with. Since then, I both started putting money into an emergency fund (three months of expenses) and started diversifying my skills. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to do the first thing but the second is pretty universally doable.

Collapse
mellen profile image
Matt Ellen

A couple of times I've tried being freelance, but I just can't sell myself.

The first time, I wanted to pivot away from financial services and into a field I hate less, but I didn't know anyone outside financial services, so I had to find a regular job.

The second time I just couldn't take the struggle of finding clients while at the same time doing work.

At the precusor to my career, when I was in uni, I thought I wanted to do AI, I studied psychology and then interactive intelligent systems, but I couldn't get my head around the maths involved, so I changed course to being a regular developer.

Collapse
jaredcwhite profile image
Jared White

I tried to spearhead a web design agency inside of an established consulting company that did not operate in that space…twice in the span of 6 years! Yeah, I know, what the heck was I thinking. Ended up going nowhere both times. But at least now I know how to run my own studio and it's gone so much better!

Collapse
atulcodex profile image
Atul Prajapati

Addiction of bad habits 😔 which is a big reason of my all failures 🤞and I am still fighting with them.

Collapse
agupta1989 profile image
Aman Gupta

Switching to front end from backend development job.. now lost touch and unable to go back to backend development job again.

Collapse
bikash9609 profile image
Bikash9609

You never loose the touch, just be patience and spend some time it with when you are ready. Theres always something in the menu you love, which is hidden.

Collapse
yuridevat profile image
𝕁𝕦𝕝𝕚𝕒 👩🏻‍💻

I really like this question because I think I would answer it differently depending on the situation.

If I were unhappy with my current situation, I might say, "If I had done this or that differently, then maybe..." .

Since I am very happy with how my life has turned out in the last 2 years, I can say that everything had to happen exactly the way it did to get to where I am now.

At the end of the day, we never know if things would be better or worse, just different (but maybe just as shitty), that's for sure.

Collapse
archonic profile image
Archonic

Frustrated by how stagnating one of my positions was, I left to find work at a studio and get experience on a team. It was the right decision in that situation but I didn't do enough research about the studio.

It was dreadful. They would charge clients $120/hr, pay the developer a maximum of $30/hr, inevitably disappoint the client, then try to make it right by getting the developer to work with no additional pay. They also ran a scam of a technical college that was associated with the studio and they failed to tell me that it was mandatory to teach at the technical college when working as a developer. They also failed to mention that instructors were responsible for course content until literally the night before the first lesson.

I left in a full-time capacity and continued on a contract basis. When I was working alone and responsible for client communication, that was the only time a project went well. I eventually got in the door at a successful SaaS right as they were starting to scale and that was a great experience.

Lesson learned: do your research on a new workplace before accepting, preferably before applying. Some employers are a great deal less competent than you are, even if you don't think of yourself as that competent. Use Glassdoor, use LinkedIn, do what you need to to have a conversation with an employee and be upfront about looking for red flags. It'll certainly be worth the cost of a coffee for the sake of your career path.

Collapse
devronsoft profile image
Ryan

Diving into a 'lone wolf' project which propelled me into bad practices, a tonne of stress, and a narrow specialism.

Around 5 - 6 years ago I was the only developer within a finance team - I just did ad hoc developments around the finance system, few integrations - basically it was a stop gap job as I was going to be moving countries in 6 months time, it was pretty chilled and a good location.

When the time came to leave and move - I was encouraged to stay, to embark on a big project to build a completely custom Purchasing system. Big pay uplift, complete freedom to design and develop, it sounded great. It was not great.

No colleagues, no support, no proper processes... essentially I was a one-man Product owner, Developer, Lead Developer, QA... the project lasted almost 2 years. I worked 90 hour weeks and developed stress induced alopecia. It was never going to succeed but I didn't see that at the time. The system did go live. But by that time I was super specialised being tied in to the Finance/ERP package that the system was built on. I tried applying for general dev jobs but I was too out of touch.

I did get out - I was able to join a consultancy that specialised in the Finance/ERP package, and joined a project working within a large development department that was implementing that package into their event driven architecture. They offered me a full time role as a developer and in exchange for my specialised knowledge on the package, I was able to enjoy a huge learning curve, getting back into 'normal' development practices - CI/CD, code reviews, colleagues, varying languages and frameworks. NB: I took a significant pay-cut for this and do not regret it one bit, although I appreciate not everyone has the luxury to do that - I don't yet have a family.

I've been there 2 years now, pay already increased to where I was when I took the cut, and am at the point where I could apply for general dev jobs again. (And finally make that country move!)

Collapse
kyleljohnson profile image
Kyle Johnson

Didn't stay long enough at a good company. Chased money.
Didn't pursue jobs at big product companies earlier in my career. They are different.

Collapse
genevievemasioni profile image
Geneviève Masioni

Could you please elaborate on that? How long is not long enough? And why wasn’t it long enough? Did you miss out on compensations because of leaving too early? Why wasn’t the better paying job a good choice? And how do you mean big companies are different? Why should we pursue them early in our careers?

Collapse
kyleljohnson profile image
Kyle Johnson

Great question.

When you're at a company where the assignments are challenging and people respect you, you need to stay there. I know sometimes promotions can take awhile but in the long run staying will pay off.

That being said, you should be able to pretty much tell what your future is at any place after 3 years. I would at least stay somewhere 3 years unless the place is just toxic.

Thread Thread
genevievemasioni profile image
Geneviève Masioni

Noted, thanks!

Collapse
timoye profile image
Timothy Soladoye

Not a wrong turn per say...
I opted out of applying to Microverse. Today, I am a software engineer, but sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had joined Microverse

Collapse
gvescu profile image
Gustavo Vera Scuderi

I was in the final stages of getting a remote position through a recruiter agency... And took an offer from a local company (which had a lot of benefits like retirement fund and healthcare) only for the company to be liquidated 3 months in.

Also in my country long term contracts have a "trial period" in which any part can finish the contract scott-free... Well, I was still under that trial when the contract ended, so no parachute for me.

Collapse
devoskar profile image
Oskar Pietrucha

Back at the beginning and my first serious company as a Frontend Developer. The company agreed to hire me and gave me a choice if I want to join team Angular or team SAP UI5. I chose the UI5, because I thought later on it will be much more profitable as it isn't that popular.
Well the point regarding money was true, but I wasn't aware back then that using UI5 will make me a frontend n00b and now when I want to make switch to the React, I can only apply for Junior roles as I don't know nothing about really big scalable, customizable applications.

Collapse
frankfont profile image
Frank Font

Early in my career I thought I needed to shift away from designing and building software systems to become a hands-off project manager.

I was wrong.

Best way to grow is to do what you love which people are also willing to pay you to do. And I love getting my hands dirty while leading teams to do more than they thought was possible.

Collapse
baenencalin profile image
Calin Baenen

Not using þorn and eð sooner.

Collapse
eljayadobe profile image
Eljay-Adobe • Edited on

We should start a movement to revitalize those characters!

English Alphabet Erstwhile List
 1. LONG S    ſ    s
 2. AND      &    "and"     shorthand letter for "and"; capital? small?; originally "Et" combination/shorthand
 3. THORN   Þ þ    TH       soft "TH", like THIN
 4. THAT    Ꝥ ꝥ   "that"    shorthand letter for "that"; THORN with a stroke
 5. ETH     Ð ð    TH       hard "TH", like THEM
 6. ASH     Æ æ    A or E   sound between A and E, like as in CAT
 7. ETHEL   Œ œ    OE       words with a LONG E, like FOETUS
 8. WYNN    Ƿ ƿ    W        proposed character for "w" sound, before the "w" character was created
 9. YOGH    Ȝ ȝ    GH or Z  pronounced /yawg/ (extra-hard G); as in BACH or LOCH Ness Monster
10. ENG     Ŋ ŋ    NG       Alexander Gill the Elder (1690)
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode
Collapse
baenencalin profile image
Calin Baenen

I'm in favor for replacing most normal cases of 'a' wiþ 'æ' and 'u', since ðat's all it does, rarely ever makes ðe sound in "Ðe letter A". - I'd accept ENG, but ðat's cutting it close.
But oðer ðan ðat, ðe characters you listed are kinda useless. Sorry.

We don't need "THAT", we have a word.
Wynn is useless since 'w' makes ðe same sound.
Ampersand everyone knows of, and we use it in writing, but I don't þink it needs a special place in ðe alphabet anymore.

Collapse
thunderstroke profile image
Levin

When I was in university, I hope to becomes a machine learning engineer after graduated. But it seems to difficult to get job from companies and I decided to do freelancing first. In these 3 years, I have been worked on several hand-on AI projects and successfully completed freelancing tasks. But I spent most time on non-AI projects (because there is only few AI freelancing tasks). Being I can't get general intuition and fundamental approach of implement AI technical from just freelancing tasks, until now I don't have confident to perform companies job. So I am going to apply to companies job since now.

I recommend to apply companies jobs rather than freelancing.
Thanks

Collapse
andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

Staying too long in a role that had no career progression. I had to re-learn JavaScript from scratch.

Collapse
scottshipp profile image
scottshipp

Every turn is a wrong turn. It's a maze with no solution. :)

Collapse
shimuls26266525 profile image
Shimul shimul

Ghh

Find what you were looking for? Join hundreds of thousands of developers on DEV so you can:

 
🌚 Enable dark mode
🔠 Change your default font
📚 Adjust your experience level to see more relevant content