Help me, an aging web developer, plan my next career move

So I am a front end web developer, getting up there in age-- retirement age is 10 years out, give or take. I’ve traditionally been a crossover web designer / front end developer-- I started as a graphic designer and moved into web design and development.

At my current company, I do strictly front end dev- there are designers who give me mockups and back-end developers who do most of the functional work (I write some vanilla JS). I like taking a design and turning it into a responsive website that looks great in a variety of devices & viewing sizes.

But lately, I’ve had to learn to work in a veriety of CRM frameworks. And the company doesn’t give much if any time to learn them, it’s more like “we need X project to be built in Y framework, and we need it right away”. It’s stressful and unrealistic, and I’m not a damn Swiss army knife.

So I’m getting tired of constantly learning new things and feeling kind of obsolete. Other jobs in web dev seem to be moving toward more ‘full stack’ developers, and it seems to be all contract work these days. And, of course, it’s a very ‘ageist’ industry. I’m thinking of maybe a complete career switch for the remaining 10 years or so I need to keep working. The mortgage is paid off, debts are low, so I could do something for less money, as long as I still have benefits for me and my family (wife and 2 kids). I’m looking at these options:

  • Find a web dev job that sticks to one framework, so I can focus on that. But, I think I’m just tired of web dev altogether.
  • Become a ‘UX/UI’ developer, but, see above.
  • Go back to graphic design.
  • Get a job in an entirely different industry that has absolutely nothing to do with computers. Forest ranger? My friend who’s about the same age became a mail man later in life-- that sounds somewhat appealing- exercise, fresh air. But it takes a few years to get enough seniority to make decent money. And I understand the benefits aren’t as good as they used to be.

Anybody in the same position as me? Anybody made a similar transition, or thinking about it?

Move up to a administrative role?

All my previous managers started as hands on IT.

I’ve been slowly acquiring rental properties. They’re all homes in middle class neighborhoods. I fix them up and rent at a higher price point. I want a steady income when I retire from IT.

There are lots of companies that have websites built on the WordPress framework. You might look into getting up to speed with that and then you could work for one of those companies. Some of companies may be on the smallish side, so there could be both part time and full time opportunities. But that would be a way to stick with a single framework until retirement. If you know CSS and HTML, you likely will have no problem being a WordPress miracle worker.

For example, my kids swam on a team which used the SwimTopia software from this company to manage the team:

It’s built on WordPress. I’ve seen other companies who also have WordPress websites. You can look around for those companies and reach out to see if they are looking for front-end developers.

Mayyyybe…? I tried management years ago, and was not crazy about it. As frustrating and ever-changing as technology can be, I find that dealing with people is worse. My current company doesn’t really have a path for that right now.

When I was laid off from a previous job a few years ago and worked with job agencies, I did ask them about getting back into management and they said:

  1. Your former management experience is not current enough to sell you as an experienced manager
  2. Managers are not as numerous and in-demand as developers, so your best bet is to stay in dev
  3. Once you become a manager, your skills ossify and it’s difficult or impossible to get back into dev

They may have just been telling me all that because they had dev slots to fill though.

I’ve known people who do this, and have considered it. I’m pretty handy, and in fact my wife used to flip houses with a business partner before we got married. But I’ve heard a lot of horror stories related to flipping and renting. I hope it works out for you!

Renters always leave some damage. So far it hasn’t been too bad. I’m handling the maintenance calls myself. I do as much as possible and call the pros as needed.

I’ve thought about leaving IT. But really don’t want to start over in a new field.

I do have a fair amount of WP experience. As CMS /CRM frameworks go, it’s not as bad as some, though it’s still pretty slow and clunky. I suppose It wouldn’t be the worst framework to deal with if I had to choose one. Ideally, I prefer good old HTML5/CSS3/Javascript with a Bootstrap foundation.

I’ve tried to teach myself Angular just to keep my skills fresh, and I think I’d be good in Angular if I was required to use it, but it’s difficult to learn a framework in depth if you’re not using it for actual jobs. When I was looking for a job a few years ago I got close to being hired by an Angular shop. I sometimes wonder how things would have went if I had gotten the job.

The first question to ask is what is your dream job? Do you want to work full time for a big company or do you want to be a freelancer/consultant with the freedom to work as much or as little as you want? You have tons of highly-sought experience you can leverage and should be able to write your own ticket. You may live someplace where tech jobs are few and far between, or you may live in Silicon Valley, or Boston. I would take a week off and head to a sunny beach somewhere and think about all of the things you could do, and then settle on the thing that will make you happy. You don’t sound all that happy with where you are right now.

dolphinboy, I love your optimism. Dream job? At this stage of the game I just want a job less frustrating than my current one that puts food on the table, maybe a little extra for retirement, and benefits for me and my family (so freelancer/consultant is out because I don’t think I’d make enough doing that to cover my own benefits 100%).

Well, I’m more of a decently talented jack of all trades / utility player in web dev, whose skillset is getting outmoded and who is aging out of the industry, I fear.

But maybe I’m selling myself too short. I appreciate the pep talk dolphinboy!

Just want to make sure that you are referencing CRM frameworks (such as Salesforce or Dynamix) and not CMS frameworks (such as Tridion or Adobe Experience Manager).

It sounds like you work for a consulting firm that does this sort of thing for larger enterprise clients. If so and if it’s truly CRM, I’d take advantage of the opportunity and get REALLY good at one of the dominant ones, such as Salesforce. You’d be extremely valuable at that point and could probably do your own thing once you had a few contacts (and a lack of a non-compete).

If you’re truly tired, why not dip into the dark side and see if you like the back end more? I’m assuming you have at least some exposure through simple osmosis. Back in the day, I was a full-stack developer, but have since moved almost purely into the database and data science worlds.

Both, actually. For CRM, I’m currently working in Salesforce-- when I was given a SF project I literally had one week to go from no knowledge of it to producing content in a week. Adobe Experience Manager has been a CMS that’s been mentioned as the next thing I might need to learn immediately at some point.

This is great advice in theory, but I HATE Salesforce. Loath it with a passion. I think it’s a terrible, bloated, non-intuitive framework with not very good informational support on the internet, and their own documentation is terrible and inadequate.

I do like to dabble with Javascript, and I think I’ve done some cool stuff with it, but as mentioned, I lean more toward the design side of development. I’m not a programmer or DB admin; I’m more of a visual thinker than a logic thinker. I used to work in a shop with a bunch of amazingly talented programmers who were not just bad at front end, they hated it. So we complemented each other well.That’s why I mentioned maybe going back into some form of graphic design. Adobe Creative Suite changes too, but not nearly as fast or as radically as web dev platforms do.

Hard to disagree with you on Salesforce, as my opinion isn’t much different, but the money you could make, oh my! :slight_smile:

I’m going to throw something completely different out there as, based on your feedback, it might be both challenging (good) and appealing (really good). What about data visualization, using tools such as Tableau and an understanding of the visual design philosophies via people like Tufte and Few? While knowing SQL is extremely helpful (and a hell of a lot easier than anyone thinks), a large number of people just connect directly to tables and do all of the work in the tool itself. With your background, you’d definitely be far more likely to build interesting tools with it. Depending on which aspects you enjoy, you might even end up going down a more analytical path, but that’s up to you.

I know, but working with Salesforce 100% of the time would make me want to jam sharp things into my eyeballs. I do not understand why it’s such a popular CRM tool.

Hmmm…interesting, and definitely sounds like something to look into. I do know some SQL, though it’s rusty. Thanks!

If you want to play around, Tableau Public is free to use forever and has all of the functionality of the full version, minus saving locally (you publish to save) and some connection types. It even comes with several sample data sets. Figuring out if you like something without any monetary outlay is always nice.

I work in cybersecurity. We need a lot of people. And more people than that. Take a look at the web site of the Open Web Application Security Project® (OWASP) foundation at https://owasp.org/ and see if there are things you can do to help make web sites more secure. Web application security is not my area, but could become yours, if you’re interested.

My husband is a back-end web developer, and he’s managed to limit his work to Drupal. So it’s possible to pick a platform and stick with it. He’s currently full time in an all-remote Drupal shop. He seems to be enjoying it.

(He did go through several horrid jobs before landing some good ones.)

You used to be a graphic designer. How are your art skills? Do you think you have a chance of making it as a fine artist? I was a graphic designer/creative director, and at age 50 I started honing my art skills, and gradually weaned myself from my secure job. I became a fine artist, and made a decent living… until Covid hit and destroyed my market.

I am pretty good, and in fact a long time ago, back in the early 90s I got a job as an illustrator doing pen and ink drawings for ads that ran nationally in newspapers. But it’s been a long time since I did any serious artwork.

May I ask what type of fine art you made a living doing, panache45?

Have you considered becoming a dedicated UX tester/QA person? That way, you don’t have to do any dev yourself. Helps if you have good writing skills.

Heh, reminds me of a recent conversation I had when I ran into my next door neighbor. He’s some sort of a programmer, and he’s not young, though I think a few years younger than me. I asked him how his job was going and he said, with kind of an edge to his voice and a bit of an eyeroll “they got me doing 100% QA these days” as if to say “they put me out to pasture”. I just said “hey, QA is important”. And it is.

So yeah, I could probably do QA. I do like to catch and point out other peoples’ mistakes :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

The one issue with this is there is huge competition from offshore developers for WordPress sites and I can see rates being a race to the bottom.