Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Detour into a New World

For awhile there you might have thought that this fun little Blog had died a grisly death. What has it been, about 2 months and I've posted nary a word? The silence has been deafening.

Fortunately, I've held off the saliva-dripping hounds gnawing at my ankles and have escaped with my dignity and my tootsies intact. Well, at least my tootsies. Reclaiming my dignity may take some time. You see, I've made one of those major life-altering decisions to leave my current full-time job as a micro ISV owner (not entirely, as my tiny software development company will live on as a part-time gig), and return to working full-time in Corporate America.

There are several reasons why I'm making this move, but the overriding consideration is a purely financial one. Despite pouring lots of time, money, creativity, software development skill, patience, and hard work into my micro business, it has never become the money-maker that I had originally hoped it would become. Developing a great product and providing top-notch customer support for it isn't nearly enough to succeed. You've got to out-market and out-sell a large portion of your competitors. That's extremely difficult to do when your biggest competition can spend $1,000 for every $1 that you spend to promote your product. Eventually, you have to confront reality and admit that you're not going to win every fight.

There have been successes and accomplishments to be extremely proud of, and many new friends made along the way, but in the end the reality is that except for a few very fortunate software entrepreneurs, working for someone else pays a helluva lot better.

So I'm in the midst of re-assimilating into the world of "working for somebody else". On one hand, it really sucks. I will sorely miss the benefit of choosing my own projects to work on; projects that I'm intensely passionate about. I'll miss picking my own development tools to use, and implementing my own personal procedures and methodologies. I'll miss setting my own work-schedule. But I won't miss being underpaid, working mostly in isolation and anonymity, working lots of nights & weekends, and frequently feeling completely overwhelmed by the sheer variety of tasks that need to be done to keep a micro ISV running to even a mild degree of success. I've "worked for the man" before. Let me say that it is a much easier job and usually less-stressful than running your own business.

What's hardest for me to deal with right now is the loss of dignity that comes with moving from full-time self-employment to hunting for a position working for somebody else. Most of the people who you'll interview with have absolutely no concept of what it takes to run a small software development business or all the things you do to make it happen. They don't realize all the hats you've had to wear and all the things you've had to learn entirely on your own.

The simple truth is that you come from a totally different world than they do and they don't really value it like they should. If they want a VB.Net developer and you've been using PowerBuilder or Java for years, they scoff and kick you to the curb. If it's NOT EXACTLY what they want, they move on. It doesn't matter whether you've designed software for 20 years and can probably run circles around them as an analyst & developer, or can learn the language well enough to be teaching it to new programming recruits by next year. Nope. They want what they want; who cares if you actually ran your own company or not? I'm slowly learning to swallow my pride, like it or not.

Working for someone else will probably always be "just a job" to me. It helps pay the bills, but it's unlikely to become something that I'm completely passionate about. Who knows, maybe I'll catch lightning in a bottle? But I kinda doubt it. Most people just aren't that lucky.

That's why I'm keeping my business around as a part-time hobby gig. That will be one way to satisfy my personal desires, to work on stuff that I truly love. I can dabble in what I enjoy and will no longer need to worry about whether it's a big financial success or not.

I'll see how it all works out. Until then, I'm taking a detour into a New World; one with bosses, co-workers, time-sheets, business attire, rush-hour traffic, meetings, and office politics, but most of all, one with health benefits, regular vacation, and a steady paycheck. Wish me luck!