Original question from Quora:

Why does everyone want to become a developer?

My Answer:

Fundamentally, not everyone wants to become a developer. When you look at numbers overall, very few people want to become developers. I’ve been writing code for like twenty years and far fewer friends and family want to be developers than say teachers, doctors, etc.

Very few people that I went to school with wanted to become or actually became software developers.

However, I can answer why it seems like so many people want to become a developer. But first, a history lesson.

Have you ever heard about the Klondike gold rush? It is a fascinating thing.

In 1896 gold was discovered in the Yukon territory. It’s located near the eastern border of Alaska. Look up Dawson City, Canada on Google maps to get an idea of where it is.

There is almost nothing up in that part of the world. It’s cold, rough mountain country. It was a horribly long and difficult journey.

But, they discovered gold there.

Once gold was discovered, over 100,000 prospectors showed up to strike it rich. Along the way hundreds, maybe thousands of people, horses, etc. died in the pursuit of gold. People uprooted their entire lives in hopes of finding that shiny golden metal.

The pursuit of fortune has a strong pull. It makes people do crazy things, even traveling hundreds or thousands of miles through harsh terrain on foot or on horse just to find some tiny bits of precious metal.

Consider how bizarre that is. People will risk life and limb for valuable metal. It’s deeply irrational. Yet, we don’t consider it odd in the least. Of course gold miners would travel over some of the worst possible conditions in search for gold, right?

Well, only a small handful of people ever really struck it rich in the Klondike gold rush and a few years later most of the people who survived left and went to the next gold rush elsewhere.

And well, if that sounds familiar to you it should. For the last couple decades, Silicon Valley is the world’s gold rush. We’ve replaced gold with startup stock options, but it’s the same basic human behavior.

It is believed that if you get in early on the right company, you will “strike it rich” and never have to work again. It’s Willy Wonka’s golden ticket played out in real life.

The truth is, only a small group of people become millionaires or billionaires from the startup gold rush. Most Silicon Valley companies fail. For every Google and Facebook, there are hundreds if not thousands of startups that shut down after a year or two.

For those who want in on the gold rush, instead of pickaxes and shovels, they acquire programming skills at code schools. It’s the quick path to riches.

I was around when writing code was nerdy and not appreciated. In a few years, that will probably be the case again. Almost every field has some “white hot” period where everyone wants to be in the game. Over time it passes.

In five or ten years, you’ll be surprised to find that the software field is struggling to find talented developers as some new gold rush arrives and the prospectors leave town.

It’s nothing new, it’s the same cycle of human behavior that’s happened for thousands of years.


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