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Cover image for I've been at this a long time and I have nothing to show for it.

I've been at this a long time and I have nothing to show for it.

nandoblanco profile image Nando ・2 min read

Except a good job with great benefits, 12+ years of professional experience and all the knowledge and skills that came with that experience. I’ve also worked with some great people, my peers respect my professional opinion and I can even call some lifelong friends. I’ve been at this a long time and it’s not that I don’t have anything to show for it (as stated above) I just don’t have what I wish I could show for it. I don’t have an app, I don’t have a popular blog, I don’t have an active community or large email list and that’s ok. I’m ok. I enjoy what I do and I get paid to do it, I’m more than ok - I’m one of the lucky ones.

My name is Fernando Blanco but most people call me Nando. I’m a father, husband and professional web developer. Although the title’s a bit clickbaity, I honestly feel that way sometimes and I bet some of you do as well. It’s hard not to want to release something when it feels like everyone and their mother has a service, framework and/or library. It’s easy to feel inadequate because you’re not using the latest web technology that happens to be the focus of every article in your feed. I understand! The dev world moves so fast you can easily feel left behind by enjoying a weekend without your phone.

I've been at this a long time and I DO have something to show for it.. And so do you! If you’re just starting, at minimum, you have the drive (or you wouldn’t be starting). If you’ve been at it for a couple of years, you have a project or 2 that you’re really proud of or that really challenged you to become a better developer. Career devs, we got it good: we’re in the field that we love and we get paid regularly - FANTASTIC!

If you honestly feel that you have absolutely NOTHING to show for it, not even a drive to continue… then why are you doing it? Personally, being a web developer isn’t only my profession, it’s my passion. I know it may sound a bit corny but I’m serious. I love this stuff. I used to come home after work and get right back on the computer to work on some side project or finish some work stuff that had me excited. I still would if the wife wouldn’t kill me and kids would let me. If I’m reading an article on my phone, 9/10 times its dev related. I frequently forward articles to coworkers after hours and sometimes get comments like “you know it’s after hours right?”. Yes but the article was interesting and I wanted to share!

Anyways, I sometimes feel crappy about just developing at work and/or not coming out with something cool and useful but that's going to stop. This article is step 1 of my plan. :)

Discussion (20)

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pim profile image
Pim Brouwers

With respect to how I have been feeling lately and at times in the past, this article could not have been posted at a more apt time. It's almost a little creepy, that's how close it is for me.

Anywhooo, I could not agree more with literally everything you've said in this post. I find myself feeling the same way, almost on a perfect on/off cycle. I'll have a few good months, where I feel competent, sane and productive. Which seems to always be followed by some acute period of serious self-doubt, poor sleep, high stress and what I refer to as "voyeur syndrome" (i.e. negatively comparing oneself to others).

During this downtime, it seems my go to behaviour is to enter learn- & burn-mode. Where I try to overcome my feelings of inadequacy by trying to get better. Cramming as it were. Luckily, I tend to eventually come to something that catches my attention enough that it serves as an antacid for the situation. And the cycle reset.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying, well said, and I'm with you brother.

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kaelscion

I know exactly how you feel. I'm a self taught developer and have been mostly a lone Wolf my entire career. I've built some amazing things (or so I've been told), but the self doubt always creeps back. My issue send to be the aforementioned "voyuer syndrome" as well. My work is typically super specialized in that I build smart bots, it web crawlers that learn at a rudimentary level (typically when it comes to defending themselves from being blocked). But my GitHub profile is pretty much bare and my thought is always "If my work is so specialized, and if I am such an expert at it, why can't I seem to create and release an open source rce project based around it? Would this stuff even be impressive to other developers, or does it only seem like magic science because my clients are executives and marketing people who don't know any better?" The fact that I have no degree is also a constant nagging in the back of my head. First world problems right? I swear somebody should open a bug tracker for Dev Life. "ISSUES 41861: DEVELOPER CANNOT SEEM TO TURN BRAIN OFF ENOUGH TO SLEEP EVEN THOUGH PROJECT DEADLINE IS STILL 6 WEEKS AWAY". "COMMENTS: devman337: "any update on a fix to this? It's been three weeks and I'm starting to see dancing bananas in my kitchen..."

Much love to you man. We're all here in this boat with you!😁😁

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jonrgrover

"My work is typically super specialized in that I build smart bots, it web crawlers that learn at a rudimentary level"

If nothing else, you can probably just clean up your code enough to put a library of useful things out on git hub. You have probably done nearly enough cleanup and genericizing to do this already. I would like to see what you've got.

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kaelscion profile image
kaelscion

Is that a thing? Honestly I feel like I don't even know how this works. I always look at GitHub and see teams of people with stars up the wazoo and a ton of commits where everything is documented and vetted and is just plug and play. Then I'm over here like "I know most of you like the multiprocessing module in python better, but I use multithreadong because the bots are better suited for concurrency than true parallelism." But it's been so long that I've worked with a team that I'm unsure if anybody would even understand what my code was doing. Then there's the idea of deployment with Docker (which I love btw. Containerization is the balls. No hypervisor = good). But it all relates back to that fear mentioned by the OP of inadequacy and comparison to others etc. Thank you for replying to me though!

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kaelscion profile image
kaelscion

Oh and, if you like, I'll put up my basic bot on GitHub. It's the standard build I tend to use as a template for the rest. I call it my Pydra (Hydra built in python, adorable I know). That just had basic proxy cycling, useragent cycling and request throttling etc. Since I'm very new to tensorflow and scikit, I haven't deployed any with the learning algorithms I've trained because I'm not sure they provide clean data yet. I'll link it here later and let me know what you think!

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jonrgroverlib profile image
jonrgrover

I'm not sure if it's a thing. I live in a world I don't understand, and so I tend to put stuff out there and see what sticks. My real benefit is that the process of putting things out there sharpens my own understanding of what I'm doing and brings the benefits of clearer vision back into my work.

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Adam Gerthel

It really sounds like you should start working with or at least hanging out with a couple of fellow developers. Especially developers that work with open source community. If you don't have anyone to talk to about these things it will probably never get easer. There's SO much you can do! :)

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Adam Crockett

I'm a new father and after hours app maker, I can relate. I had hoped that my nothing to show for it feeling would be mitigated if I teach my son as soon as he can sit up. Okay so honestly you have nothing to worry about, if a pulopular application is what you crave make sure it's simple. I personally tend to keep making prototype node cms's but I know in the end I can't maintain them. Anyway nice to hear this sort of thing isn't just me.

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Alfredo Rivera

I've been struggling with something very similar. Most of my work in under NDA and I can't use it as references. I worked over 4 years for a company as the lead developer and had very little time left for side projects. I'm now trying to work remotely, but it's very hard for me to proof my experience. My bosses are more than happy to cover for me, but interviews usually never reach that point. It's frustrating to say the least. I'm going to work on my GitHub just to see if things get a little better. We all need a job.

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Thomas R. Koll

Stackoverflow is a good place to show your expertise. Sure, it has it's negative sides but I really enjoy digging up answers for interesting questions and I include the link to my profile in my resume.

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jonrgroverlib profile image
jonrgrover

Your criterion for success seems to be to have one of: 1)an app, 2)a popular blog, 3)an active community, 4)a large email list, 5)a service, 6)a framework, 7)a library.

I have a library. It took me 40 years of pounding away at code to get there. I started building my library concretely about 15 years ago. The way I did it was to always program and think in terms of simple generic re-use. Then I carted my library from job to job increasing/improving it a bit at each place, and also using it at home. I also did a whole lot of software development theorizing. Then finally I had a breakthrough big enough to make the library potentially useful for others.

You could do the same if the library criterion is the one you want most for success. If you care more about one of the other criteria, there are people who have done those things and you could ask their advice too. What you want can be done. You can do it with God's help.

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Jonathan

Building a library or app that becomes popular and successful isn't just about effort or will power. You need to have the right idea at the right time (and know it), you need suitable distribution channels and you probably need a big network of fans/followers to get it off the ground. Plus it has to be unique or novel enough that there isn't a good competitor already on the market.

It's like becoming a TV or movie star – millions will dream about it, but it'll only really happen for a tiny number of people. Many completely suitable people won't get it because they weren't in the right place / right time.

Simply put: many many factors have to go right for you to get a library or app launched and a significant audience actually using it.

Compare that to getting a job or pleasing your client or learning a new skill. Those things are way easier and way more likely to occur.

  • Getting a job: there are many jobs and a shortage of good candidates, so you have a better chance of scoring.
  • Pleasing your client: it's a smaller audience and they already know you and you know them, so it's easier to figure out what they want and give it to them.
  • Learning a new skill: there's no shortage of books, courses and online communities to learn new skills from.

So while it's good to keep an eye out for opportunities in open-source or entrepreneurship, you shouldn't be beating yourself up over not being able to find one.

Instead, put your time and energy into SMART goals:

  • Simple
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound
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Ric Roney

Dude that was a good read! I am just starting in this career(just finished full stack bootcamp) and this is going to be helpful for me as I know it will come to pass in my mind as well. I'm still struggling to get that 1st job but I know when I get it I'll still work on sude projects too. This stuff isn't for everybody but the one's that it is for really enjoy it!

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Nando Author

holy moly

I was NOT expecting all this action on my first article, thank you so much!

To everyone that relates, we got this!

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Willard R Colebank

Need help building an app for people like myself who have Alzheimer's disease and memory loss

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Mervin

Nice. Maybe I could help :D

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Jason C. McDonald

This is me. Thanks for the pick-me-up!

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michael-andreuzza

...quality, not quantity...which is what it matters in life. I agree with you...

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Anton

You probably have some pain points in your workflow. But you probably have solutions. Start with them and share your solutions.