I work as an independent consultant in the I.T industry. I specialize in Java Enterprise development and have been working in this industry for a decade now. I am compensated very well for doing what I do. I earn more than most of my friends and peers, I can afford most luxuries (within reason of course..no Carrera GT for me) in life. So why am I so despondent about my career?
Simply because I honestly have no faith that I can stay employed in this field and make a decent wage, til the age of retirement. It's not that I have no faith in my skills, my skills are totally irrelevant in this regards. What we produce is quickly becoming a commodity. In less than two decades, we've seen our trade go from a highly specialized one to a profession that has practically no barriers of entry.
A large part of this can be attributed to the ease of information exchange across the Internet. Without the ability to download entire development kits, without free technical support found in forums, witout mailing lists and newsgroups to find answers to our problems, we'd still be where we were a decade ago when vendors charged exorbitant amounts of money just to buy the tools to develop with and you had to PAY for help. I argue that this "free" phenomenom has tainted our workforce with less than competent people. Yes, there are many smart people who got their start by way of this free information but you'd be hardpressed to prove that those outnumber the number of incompetent programmers who rode in on the dot com wave. Programming isn't simply an exercise of using an API to write a program. There is the whole aspect of analytical skills and the discipline of problem solving that you don't obtain from the Internet. These skills are what separates the good programmers from the bad ones. Without a governing body to uphold standards, our workforce is watered down with people who lack these disciplines.
Ok so if I have these problem solving skills, etc. Why should I be afraid? Profit and greed that's why. Nowadays, companies are so enamoured with profits and short term stock prices that this addiction to short term wealth breeds a corporate culture that disregards long term planning for the well being of the company. Good products and building for the future is not the norm anymore. Cheap costs, high margins and speed to market are almighty. Ok ok ok, but why are you so paranoid about your job as a developer?!? Because greed means companies would rather hire a lower skilled, lower paid programmer to do the same job. Because lower pay means they can still screw up 3 times before getting it right and still save money in the end. Because I can't compete with the hordes of graduates coming out of school or offshore.
To exacerbate the problem, everyone one of us 30 something year olds thinks we should be the Architect or Technical Team Lead in our company. Well hate to inform you but, there aren't enough of those positions to go around.
So how much longer can we survive in a market with so many dynamics working against us? I'd like to switch vocations but I've already been spoiled and it'd be difficult to find a new career that rewards me so generously (even more difficult to realize that it might not happen and I would have to downgrade my lifestyle).