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Dragos Nedelcu
Dragos Nedelcu

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at theseniordev.com

3 Programming Myths That Keep You Stuck, Frustrated And Underpaid 🔮

What if I told you that the reason you feel stuck in your developer career has nothing to do with your technical skills?

It has nothing to do with Data Structures, System Design, or Software Architecture.

But it has everything to do with how you think about programming as a whole.

You see, ever since you started coding you’ve been conditioned to believe certain myths about being a developer that are ruining your career. It is why you suffer impostor syndrome and doubt your skills. Keeping you stuck at the same level, frustrated and underpaid.

What’s worse, these beliefs are so embedded in our everyday lives as developers, that we take them as a given. We don’t even question them. Because we think they are reality.

When in fact, they are just myths perpetuated by the community.

Myths that haven’t been debunked yet. Partly because they sound good, on paper. In reality, they are dangerous biases holding you back from getting out there and building the kind of future you deserve.

In this article, we will debunk those myths one by one.

So you can free yourself from limiting beliefs, take action on your most important goals, and unleash your full potential as a developer.

Let’s start with the first programming myth that’s keeping you stuck…

1. The Myth Of Passion

Great developers are extremely passionate, the myth of passion says. They code in the evenings, and they code on the weekends. At night, they dream in code.

Such passionate programmers can code endless hours without end. And they don’t even notice it. Because, of course, they are so passionate.

If you are not passionate enough to eat, sleep, code, and repeat, then you should pack your bags and find something else to do. My friend, being a developer is not for you.

Go find something else to do. I heard McDonald's is hiring…

What a bad message to send, particularly to fresh developers just starting.

The myth of passion is perpetuated by both developers and software companies.

First by developers who are trying to sell themselves and get ahead. In part by showing how passionate they are. I don’t blame them. We all do that in some way or another. All I am pointing out is the negative consequence of that behaviour.

And secondly, the myth of passion has been promoted by companies.

Passionate people are very good for business. Because they are willing to sell their time cheaply. They spend hundreds of hours in the office making someone else rich. Because they are so passionate about what they do.

What do they get back in exchange for those unpaid hours?

I guess an emotional connection with their job. A feeling of belonging. Appreciation and purpose. Those are really powerful drugs.

But, guess what… You don’t need to give your time for free to some company claiming to be a family to get those feelings.

Image description

Give your time to your real family instead. The one that doesn’t kick you out the moment you don’t churn enough lines of code.

Have a balanced life where coding doesn’t take most of your time.

Make friends and have hobbies besides work. You will get the same kind of fulfilment. Besides getting your time back!

The myth of passion is dangerous because it is another way of telling you that first, you are not enough (not passionate enough in this case).

‍“Programming isn’t a “passion” or a “talent” but a collection of acquired skills.”

  • Jacob Kaplan-Moss (co-creator of Django, Python Framework)

The reason the myth of passion is so dangerous is that it taps into your biggest fear as a developer, particularly if you are self-taught.

The fear that “you are not enough”.

The second underlying message of the myth of passion is that you don’t work hard enough.

This makes you push more and more, ignoring your health and family, leading to burnout. It is why some companies are such toxic places to work for.

In reality, the best software developers out there are very lazy. That is why they try to engineer things and be more efficient rather than throw brute force at a problem.

In my experience, one sign of a developer being a Senior is not having to code on the weekends.

Senior Developers choose consistency over passion.

Steady progress over bursts of productivity. They know “passion” comes and goes. And too much passion leads to burnout.

When the clock ticks the time, the experienced developer puts the break on passion. They close the laptop and get out of the office.

The funny part?

By moving away from coding for a while, they will come back the next day much more fresh and eager to get their hands dirty.

If you want to reach your full potential as a developer, forget the myth of passion.

Focus on balance and consistency instead. As someone who’s been coding for more than a decade now, I can tell you a developer career is a marathon.

Now on to the second myth that is holding programmers back…

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior level with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy.🚨

2. The Myth of Experience

How do you get to Senior Developer? How do you get to Tech lead? How do you get more responsibility or a pay raise?

Traditional advice will tell you there is no magic pill. You just need more experience. So hang in there. When your eyes are wrinkled and your back is hurting, you might get there. Or you might not. We don’t know for sure.

Image description How reading developer job postings on LinkedIn makes you feel like. Image Credit: Reedit.

Although experience does matter, yet this myth is simply overused.

First of all, not all experience is created equal.

One can spend one year in a fast-paced startup and see it grow. Learning how to scale from a few hundred users to a few million.

Or spend one year maintaining some legacy enterprise software in a corporation. Learning little besides sending nicely formatted emails and office politics.

Note: The opposite can also happen. You learn nothing in the startup because the product never gets traction and you learn a lot in corporate because they already have the scale.

Experience expressed as years writing code is a poor indicator of developer Seniority. Time alone doesn’t translate to learning. It is what you do with that time that matters.

While there might be no magic pill for getting to Senior, there are patterns.

If a developer emulates those patterns, they can dramatically accelerate their growth. This is why you find developers with 3 years of experience making 6-figure salaries while some Senior devs are still struggling to pay bills at the end of the month.

This myth of experience is holding you back because the message is the same: you are not enough (in the shape of you don’t have enough).

Am I saying you can get ahead without experience? That you can get to Senior Developer without any of it?

No.

But don’t overestimate the value of time. What you should value instead is execution. The boat moves faster when you row than when you just wait for the current.

There are two main reasons for perpetuating the myth of experience.

Number 1. Lack of knowledge.

When you ask a Senior developer what it would take you to get to the next level, and they don’t know the exact technical and soft skills needed, they will simply defer to the years of experience and not look stupid.

Number 2. Insecurity.

If a Senior developer sees that you are trying to move faster than they did, the ugly part of the human spirit kicks in. Jealousy is very common in an industry that claims to be so open and friendly. Very smart people like software developers are usually very ambitious as well.

Software development is a very competitive industry.

We all collaborate and compete at the same time. And that’s okay as long as we make sure that competition is fair and don’t lie to ourselves saying otherwise.

The myth of experience is an unfair way of competition. Instead of looking at people’s talent and skills, we pay more attention to an arbitrary number on their CV.

Image description That chicken and egg problem. Image Credits: theSeniorDev

To escape the experience myth, shift your focus. Be more worried about your skills than about the time you spend at a certain job.

If someone uses the argument of not having enough “years of experience” when you ask for something, don’t let them discourage you. Polish your CV and skills, start doing technical interviews, and let the market decide.

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior level with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy.🚨

3. The Myth Of AI

It is 2024 and there is no point in your learning how to code. Or how to become a better developer. Soon, AI will replace all of us! The end of coding is near, so why bother at all?

The Myth Of AI has been around for a few decades. But it’s never been so present until the release of ChatGPT and Github Copilot.

So, why bother to become a better developer in the first place?

Image description

Software development was already very hard, and now you have the perfect excuse to drop it.

It won’t even be considered a failure. You can blame it on Open AI.

Not so fast.

I will give you two reasons why you should still bother.

The #1 reason to keep on coding is because of the “meta” skills you are learning. Those are the skills behind the skills.

When you are learning how to code you are learning how to think. To think in a structured way. You are learning how to model business requirements into step-by-step instructions. You are learning how to focus, how to filter information, and how to work in a team.

Even if machines themselves will do the implementation and coding soon, those “meta-skills” are highly valuable.

The #2 reason to keep crunching the keyboard is because from what we’ve seen so far, AI tools make many mistakes. They are prediction machines. They can’t think. Human reasoning is still in demand.

Will those AI tools get smarter?

Probably.

Will they replace humans in the near future? Probably not.

Guess what, if you replace reading paranoid articles about how AI will replace you with actually getting better at software development, you will most likely never get replaced.

Or, by the time that happens, you will already be retired on some exotic beach.

The old age analogy.

Imagine you are 50 years old. The machines won. They automated everything. But, you kept on learning, adapting, and learning new skills. Making good money, investing for old age. You are now pretty smart and already retired.

Let’s say instead that you gave into the AI paranoia going on right now. You gave up coding. You went and did something labeled as AI immune (don’t know if that exists, but construction jobs were top on the list).

You made some money but didn’t learn much and ruined your body in the meantime. You are now old and you want a desk job. Something remote ideally.

You have zero knowledge of how to make that happen. Your developer buddies who kept on coding are well off playing golf.

Giving into fear ruined your life.

Don’t give in fear. Don’t ever stop learning and improving.

Image description Image Credits: theSeniorDev

Keep on getting better. Upskill across the stack. Get familiar with AI. In a matter of months, you will catch up and be so grateful you didn’t give up.

Why are these programming myths so effective?

Because they tap into one of your biggest fears as a developer.

The fear that you are not enough. Not enough to get that job. Not enough to get that pull request approved. Not enough to be a “real developer”.

Hopefully, after reading this article, you will be able to see those myths for what they are. Pure misconceptions that are holding you back.

Don’t give into fear and keep improving your skills.

Until the next one,

Dragos

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior level with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy.🚨

Top comments (34)

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webjose profile image
José Pablo Ramírez Vargas

There are 2 major problems with this post.

1. Seniority

While it is true that "experience" doesn't really contribute towards becoming a senior, it is, unfortunately, what companies use to try to measure, and there's a good reason behind it.

Companies tend to use experience (time in the job) as a measure of seniority because under normal circumstances, experience and knowledge/skills/expertise directly correlate: The more experience, the more skill.

However, this isn't always true, as talent is a real thing, whether or not people want to acknowledge its existence. Talented people require less experience to acquire the same amount of skill/expertise than the regular developers.

This brings me to the second problem.

2. Passion

To negate the fact that passion makes better programmers is the same as trying to eclipse the sun with one finger. Why? Passionate developers read and learn for entertainment. It is actually not a chore, not work, not a must, but a desire.

Second, passion leads to practice/experimentation, which is the same as "experience", which directly correlates to growth, as seen in the previous point. This means that passionate developers tend to increase their skills at a (much) faster rate than the average.

So is passion a myth? Not at all. It is a cold hard fact. Is it unfair to others not so passionate? Yes. Is it the passionate's fault? Hell, no. This is the real world, and if you don't like it you might be among the younger generation that were raised to think that anything is possible by just wanting it. It's not going to happen.

So if you are a not-so-passionate developer, or a not-so-talented developer that wants to compete for seniority, better positions and recognition, the reality is that you must work harder to accomplish the feats the passionate and the talented achieve more easily.

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dragosnedelcu profile image
Dragos Nedelcu • Edited

passion is a very effective career advancement strategy, particularly the image of passion, the more passionate you look the better you will do, virtue signalling + unpaid work all with the goal of establishing a reputation

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webjose profile image
José Pablo Ramírez Vargas

I'm sorry to break it to you, but passion is entertainment. This is what passion-less people can't understand: Passionate people do it for fun. If they end up getting paid or promoted, is just a plus. Accept it or not, this the reality.

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mjablecnik profile image
Martin Jablečník

I cannot agree with you. When you do some work without passion, you must be a very sad person, and you should go do some other work that is more fitting for you because the current work probably is not for you.
Passion is not entertainment. It is an emotion that makes you happy during some activity, and then you do it faster than somebody without passion..

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webjose profile image
José Pablo Ramírez Vargas

Passion can feel different to different people, but it generally is a good thing. Call it entertainment, call it happiness. How is this invalidating the argument? It feels good so you do it. Some would do it even if no money is involved (open source projects).

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miketalbot profile image
Mike Talbot ⭐

Well said, was thinking something close to this as I read. In fact I'd say the AI argument in this article is espousing retaining what I consider to be passion in the face of the rise of AI.

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cmgustin profile image
Chris Gustin

Very well articulated, especially about passion. Something I see way too often, especially on Reddit programming subs, is a lot of pushback around companies looking to hire devs who code in their free time, or ask about projects you’ve worked on outside of work as part of an interview. The prevailing attitude seems to be “coding is how I pay the bills, my work ends at 5pm and I go home, end of discussion.”

It’s absolutely ok to have that boundary, but I also suspect it’s often held by senior folk who don’t have to face consequences for enforcing that boundary since their experience gives them significant leverage.

If you’re more junior, or starting out, or inexperienced, follow that advice at your own risk. You don’t have the same leverage, you may have to jump through some hoops to get where you want to be, and while you don’t have to code in your free time if you don’t want, the dev space is super competitive and there’s a chance you’ll get beat out for jobs by people who not only code in their free time, but find great enjoyment from it and have a strong portfolio of personal projects to showcase their skills.

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brense profile image
Rense Bakker • Edited

Let's talk again after your first burnout 😛

Having boundaries is essential in life. When you are young and don't have any real major problems yet that are mentally demanding, that's great, I hope it lasts forever for you, but the vast majority of people face a lot of challenges in life as they get older and especially after their physical health starts to deteriorate rapidly from sitting in a chair all day.

Setting boundaries is not a sign that you are not passionate about your job, its a sign that you are human and not a robot or slave.

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webjose profile image
José Pablo Ramírez Vargas

If you're depending on others burning out to level the field... good luck. That's all I can say. I've been working for 20 years, I'm 49 years old and still going. And there's probably many more just like that.

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brense profile image
Rense Bakker

One day your attitude and the way you treat others is going to hit you in the face, is all I can say to that.

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webjose profile image
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José Pablo Ramírez Vargas • Edited

Where's the attitude? I just tell you facts. Are facts hurting in any way? I am 49 years old, I program day and night and I do it for pleasure. I get paid too, so that's a plus. Should I hide these facts in favor of people's false sense of security on things that aren't true? Please explain.

Oh, I also moderate @ Microsoft Q&A, and have been a long-standing moderator of the now defunct MSDN forums. All for free. All because I love this gig. All this is true. I just present empiric evidence of what people state because I regard them as incorrect. Are people now intolerant to being corrected? What generation are you?

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brense profile image
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Rense Bakker

If you're depending on others burning out to level the field... good luck

That attitude of dismissing people who have had a tough time.
That attitude of telling people they should just give up.
That attitude of always thinking you are better than everyone else.

Kindly go fuck yourself sir :)

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dragosnedelcu profile image
Dragos Nedelcu

well said Rense

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mjablecnik profile image
Martin Jablečník

I absolutely agree with you :)

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sreno77 profile image
Scott Reno • Edited

I think one thing to always remember is that you have to keep improving your skills. I know developers with YEARS of experience but they code like juniors because they never took the time to learn best practices and aren't willing to listen to others and try better ways to program. In my opinion, if you're the smartest person in the room you should find another room because you'll stop learning.

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shinzudev profile image
shinzu

Thanks for this post! I'm just starting with frontend and when asking Seniors for advice regarding job and skills, most of them defaulted to years of experience. It was a boomer bc that wasn't really helpful, but now I understand why. Oh well, I'll just keep coding 😂

Cheers, mate.

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markb88 profile image
Marco Vinicio

_1. The myth of experience : _

I fell into the myth of experience at my previous job as well. For a long time I had been a freelancer and finally hired as a full time employee, and I fell into this myth because this was my first time working on a team. So naturally I wanted to show respect and also willingness at the same time. Long story short, the person that apparently had more experience than me knew less than me.

I don't know if this is the same world wide, but in Latin America, unfortunately it's more about how much you are liked in your current role, or basically who you know or if you had buddies that went with you to the same university.

I was basically the odd man out because I was with a group of people that held university titles while I am self taught, and also in a country that wasn't my home land. So I was basically the black sheep of the team, the most underpaid and most disrespected.

_2. The myth about passion : _

Yes, absolutely you need to have passion in what you do, all the way, otherwise you should have studied Business Administration if you really don't care.

But let me be clear about what type of passion. You must have passion in the work you do for yourself. The things that you create that change your life or personal projects that make you some type of income or revenue.

As a man who has spent several years making corporations millions of dollars, with my time and experience, and whose only compensation was about 10% of the total amount of revenue that those corporations made from my lines of code, no, I don't really feel "passionate" about that. Sorry.

And I'm pretty sure that the most experienced Software Engineers would agree, who can really feel passionate about working long hours and not being correctly compensated for your work?

You should consider the following for this article, and you don't have to agree with me, but I feel like it's worth mentioning.

For the people just starting out, don't make the same mistakes that I did. Don't just blindly accept an offer for the sake of getting into the industry.

Study the trends of your country and learn to understand your real value. Don't make the mistake of doing twice the work for half the pay, just because you want to change into another career.

And when you do finally get your first break, use it to learn as much as possible, because your first job won't be the only one you will ever have. And when you go out and look for another opportunity, you will be able to negotiate a better offer.

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alvesjessica profile image
Jessica Alves

Omg, thanks for this post! 🙌🏼 Hahahah the myth of passion is the best! I laughed out loud.

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dragosnedelcu profile image
Dragos Nedelcu

You are welcome @alvesjessica

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bharathkumar profile image
Bharath Kumar

The AI part was well motivating and helping !!

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ichwansh profile image
Ichwan Sholihin

Nice article. Thanks for sharing Dragos.

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Isaac Klutse

Great article

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shafayetjamil profile image
Shafayet Jamil

Great, Thanks for Sharing

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emmascript profile image
Emma

Other ways to demystify the role of a developer:

  1. Passion vs balance
  2. Experience vs skills and exposure to different situations
  3. AI: Job replacement vs support

In conclusion, embracing a balanced approach, recognizing the value of skills and experience, and viewing AI as a supportive tool rather than a replacement, pave the way for a nuanced understanding of the developer's role.

As always, these are very interesting conversations! ☺️

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Debra-Kaye Elliott

Great article!

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