Whenever you hear about programmers and coding, you eventually end up hearing about working remotely from your bed in your pajamas while a fat paycheck lands on your doorstep every 2 weeks or so. I'll say this, some people can make that work. Some people. Just find yourself a few clients on the side, and then do their work wherever it is that you wish. Not that difficult.
But there's one thing that you will never get from your bedroom in your pajamas, and that is real-life experience. You'll be comfortable sure, because more than likely the work won't be anything overly complex. Maybe you'll design a few landing pages or set up a few email campaigns and get paid well enough to pay your rent and your bills and have some pocket money on the side. But that will only propel you so far. Life has a funny way of demanding more out of us as we get older, in the form of increased cost of living or family units. And the more time we spend in the comfortable zone, the least prepared we will be for what is to follow.
There are many things that happen in the corporate world that can't be seen anywhere else. For one, this is where other people that do what you do are located. This is where your network begins to form and to expand and this is super important early on if you ever wish to really make an impact in your field. This one is not so important for the more senior person who has been in the game for a while, but if you are just starting off then getting your name out there can definitely prove beneficial.
More so than just the potential future business connections, interacting with other same-aged individuals is vastly important from a personal growth standpoint. Being a functioning human in our society is not a free ride. There are things to say and not to say and different contexts and nuances to each of those, and the only way to get good at this human thing is to be constantly exposed to it.
Pay is usually better
Secondly, the pay is probably much better in the corporate world than in your own freelance projects. If you'd like, feel free to read up on my software developer salary for the past few years to get an idea. If I were to share my freelancing earnings, you would not be so impressed. And this is for a few simple reasons, but mainly that large corporations have much higher cash flow than say, your neighborhood deli who needs a menu on a web page. Most corporate entities are not really losing money by hiring you, particularly if you are skilled at what you do. More than likely the product that you will be working on pays for your salary and then some.
This is also where you begin to play around with the idea of having a title, which might not really mean anything in the grand scheme of things, but it can dictate your future salaries and pay rates going forward into your career.
And I'll specify here, that this mostly applies to those developers that are looking to grow in the technical field. Those that want to go on to become CEO's and CTO's and to run tech companies at some point in their career. If your goal is none of those things, then building your freelance portfolio might definitely be much more up your alley.
Working on complex problems
Thirdly, things are vastly much more complex in the corporate world than in the public sector. You'll get to work on things that you won't otherwise even hear about in outside life. In my own corporate work, I have been responsible for websites that generate tens of millions of dollars in yearly revenue and that receive millions of monthly unique visitors and all of this is knowledge that I get to use in my own life. Learning how to deal with technology on that scale is not something that you will readily get anywhere else.
This also has much to do with the fact that many corporations have years upon years of structuring and innovating. Hundreds of people have come together to help build up this entity, and that brings with it levels of complexity as well. If you change a line of code and need it deployed soon, there is probably a process in place to do so with the minimal of chances of error. If you were left to your own devices, you are probably just copy and pasting some files on some directories. Things might or might not go awry.
So that you quit eventually
And fourthly, to end on a strong point here, you should work in corporate America so that you can get tired of it eventually. That's the goal. To go in, do your work, learn and earn a living, and to eventually have seen and done everything and realize that it is time to branch off on your own. Is it difficult? You bet it is. It's stressful and some days you'll want to give up halfway. But when you don't, and you continue forward and get over that hurdle, you can say that you did it. And that you learned something new. Maybe not something that will make sense in the moment, but one day when you need this bit of knowledge it will be right there waiting for you.
I see far too many people these days over-glamorize the possibility of being able to work from their home, without ever even having spent a day in an office. You were born into a world with other people for a reason. And that is to communicate, co-exist and to build things together. And to earn a decent living while you do it. So don't knock it until you try it as corny as it sounds.
If you are like me however, who's spent the past decade sitting behind a cubicle, then maybe it's time to step outside of that as well and go into the next phase, which is beyond both working at home and beyond working in an office environment.
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Walter G. is a software engineer, startup co-founder, former CTO of several tech companies and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He has been blogging for the past 5 years and is an avid BMX rider, bio-hacker
and performance enthusiast.