I imagine that many of you are currently not in your dream job, although you may have aspirations that are not yet realized.

I'm interested in learning about the big things that developers look forward to in their career.

What goals would you consider the pinnacle of your programming career?

What steps are you taking to reach them?

(And if you already have your dream job, what makes it special to you?)


I would like to be my own boss. Make decisions about my software that will determine the course of my business.


Most of these answers are wrong.

Socrates already thought this stuff out. He even had Plato write it out for him in a book.

A lot of the answers here can be abstracted into one of the three things that drive the world... money, power, sex.

What we really (or at least should) want is happiness. And happiness isn't some crazy, hippy notion. It's defined as pursuing excellence. If you don't want to read the whole drab manual, the Oracle (not Larry Ellison's) even offers a somewhat relevant pithy synopsis:

  • know yourself, and nothing to excess

Find happiness by knowing your lot in life and making the most of it. Most of these answers are short sighted in that they focus on some concrete thing to want or have. Modern social scientists are putting metrics to the fact that getting these things doesn't make you happy.

As programmers, we probably share a lot of the same sentiments about what makes working tolerable or even fun:

  • being good at what we do
  • working with other people who are pleasant and good at what they do
  • having fun at work
  • once in a while, being intellectually challenged at what we do
  • making enough money to be comfortable

All of these things you can try to create in your work environment - no matter what title you have.


I've had jobs that are pretty close to dream jobs... but most of those work-environment factors like management, work-at-home, profits, etc are so ephemeral. Who will remember or care in a couple years about those things? I want my work to have a lasting, positive impact that really matters. When I finish my day, I want to know that my being there made a difference.

Working on the next iProfit to make someone else (or even my self) very rich isn't that satisfying...

The pinnacle of my career is knowing that my software helped to saved lives.


Figuring out how to program my computer using a Guitar Hero interface, so I could be a "rockstar developer".

  • Being my own boss
  • Working for NASA (doesn't matter if I code a calculator for them, it just sounds cool)
  • Being a game programmer in one of the big game studios (programming game engines and stuff sounds really fun)

If you are not already doing something close to your dream job then you had better ask yourself the question :

"Why am I wasting time in this job that is not really what I want to do?"

Time is passing !


Robotics programming would be neat.


I would like to develop something that gets deployed on a future Mars rover, or other cool NASA expedition.


Oddly, I've been doing programming long enough that I'm reaching the point where I want to try other things...

As a sideline hobby, I dabble in book publishing. It's fun, and it pays for itself, but it wouldn't pay the bills.

I've done most things already that people would want to apart from sell my own software product... I can tell you, working from home gets old after the first 18 months... You start to crave human contact.

Right now, I'm in a good spot... I do short term contracts (usually no more than 2 years), and keep things interesting by doing some side work as well as the book publishing. I also actively research things that interest me. This is about to turn a little more relevant as I'm about to start a PhD on the side... Hopefully I'll have enough spare time left over to eat/sleep/etc.


I want to get back into Geographic Information Systems at some point in my career. I'd also like a job where I can work at home much of the time - I like programming with my dog lying his head on my feet, and the coffee is better at home (my wife roasts her own).

Ideally, it should be something to do with aviation or outdoor recreation.


I would love to be able to stay home and program whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. And of course make money off of it. I'm almost in my dream job now. The only problem is that I still get told what to build. :)


What rewards me is knowing that the software I develop is used by people and is helpful. I'm lucky that my current job fulfils this aim, although I still get frustrated by management pressure, working with third parties who aren't entirely reliable and that sort of thing.

A dream job would be working on some skunkworks project for a company that really supports its employees, like the Google of old. Alternatively, I'd love to work for a respected games developer like Epic or Lionhead, but I know that my coding skills wouldn't be nearly l33t enough ;)


Programming Device drivers in Assembly Language.


I suppose my greatest imaginable achievement would be to write the MMORPG that kills World of Warcraft.

Failing that, I guess I could settle for something easier, like inventing a human-level artificial intelligence.

(If we have to be realistic, I am currently in more-or-less my dream job as a freelancer. I love the autonomy and the variety of projects I work on. The primary thing that would improve on it would be to become well-enough known that I would be able to maintain a steady stream of work coming to me without having to take time away from programming to go find more work. I hate having to do sales/marketing.)


Sitting on a sailboat or a beach... - that is the pinnacle of a successful career for me.


want a job with a boss who understands how coding works, and that doesn't involve maintaining software written by someone who doesn't.


Architect would be nice in 10 years


I would like to code for living but without having all the stress on me (maybe having something on my own with other people that will have more responsibility). Having the pleasure to program in a place where it doesn't snow half the year! I think for both of that the only way is to have it's own venture.


The ultimate goal would be to get into game design and programming, but an equally attractive (albeit semi-unrelated) field would be a systems administrator. I like making things play nice together. :D


Work from home (20 acres of southern Oregon), work with a small team, have a product with social impact, have revenue tied directly to programming activity (more/better features = more revenue), and earn a reasonable living (fund retirement over ten years, pay off house, put kids through college).


I think pinnacle is relative. Right now, the pinnacle of my career is something that I cannot necessarily see and achieve. However, once that pinnacle comes into range it turns into a goal and another peak looms into view.

It's easy to read that as goal setting, but I think as programmers our natural tendency is to get to a "dream" place and then push ourselves further, to be better or work on more difficult problems. Which is one of the reasons I love what I do.

Currently for me the pinnacle is to see Computer Science used to benefit developing nations ala "Engineers Without Borders"


I'm pretty happy with the job that I have right now:

  1. My kids think my job is totally cool (all else pales in comparison!).
  2. My work is important. People count on the systems that we develop.
  3. Sensible hours + reasonable home life balance.
  4. I get to work with nearly any technology that I can make a case for (e.g., we're always on the edge of stable Java releases).
  5. I get to go all over the world and do things that I've never even imagined in other jobs.
  6. I work with people that I genuinely like and am proud to associate with.

I am in my dream job. I develop applications and solve technical problems for customers.

Sure that might not sound awesome to any graduates but I'm guessing you never worked in telesales or door to door sales for a few years.

Crap jobs help you appreciate the good ones. :)

But seriously, as long as I can continue building things that please others, solve technical challenges and keep scaling into more interesting things then i'm happy. Although.... I would be interested to work on a high-traffic web-site though after reading highscalability.com. oOo exciting stuff....


Working on something worthy of a Turing award, Fields medal or Abel prize would be nice. But more realistically I'd like a job where I get to push the academic boundary, but while still being in industry.

But after seeing how much sales and marketing work (and how little technical work) my boss has to do to I have to say that being my own boss doesn't seem fun in the slightest.


Run a Company thas help people preserve the environment by developing high end solutions based on Ubiquitous computing. programming on an AERON CHAIR in a keyboard less computer


I wanna do something like Rodney McKay (stargate atlantis).. Something way cooler and cutting edge than what people do now. Maybe some project in NSA that is declassified after 30 years (and am not even a US citizen so cant make that happen :( ).

Normally in the industry "what is profitable" is generally not "What is cooler". I want something that pays enough for me and my family to have a decent living standard and something good enough to make Mondays much more exciting.


Create the matrix machine and hook everybody up to it...

But i'll also settle for owning my own tech company, as i believe there's still a lot of room for improvement in terms of how technology can aid our daily lives. i just want to be involved in helping to shape the future when this happens.


Id like to work for a successful startup that makes it big. Where there's an emphasis on learning and trying new things. It has to be challenging and not silo you into a particular role.


I want to write open source software that gets used by commercial space travel companies. Maybe something simple, but... something that's actually used, and that's inspiring.

Also, there are some people who would make my year, easily, if they ever used and liked something I'd written.


I think the best job would simply be to be able to think of something that you need and instantly be able to code it, without constraint or worrying about budget or anything. That would truly be amazing.


It is better to develop a software for common people, for regular use purpose. Target application can be web application, daily use software etc. But in my view, Web is a best platform where people come to get help or get entertained. So, web applications & useful sites will be the future.


Being my own boss. Simply to use the tool and language I like. I am a .Net developer in my resume and will continue to be simply because "real" experience is what count when they hire you. It very hard to escape this once your started...

I wish I could put the bread on the table programming Ruby and various other tools as needed. Doing a product I like and care about. I am a bit sick of doing software so people can produce/sale more, when we already live in a overconsumption/overproduction world.


Electronic Design Automation


I would like to be self-employed and work out of a low-population location in the Rockies like western Montana. The idea of being able to be my own boss and live in a rural area yet still do what I'm good at is extremely appealing.


I want to be a game programmer, i love 3D and want to increase my skills in programming so that i can complement my artistic abilities

  • Being my own boss and choosing the projects I want to work on and how they should be done
  • If I had the know how, I would code against miniature devices and have them do my bidding. Make home automation cheap and efficient for all families to use and save money by.
  • Working from home where home is out west in the mountains.

I would like to develop software that inspires the students and learners of tomorrow. I'd like to create "discovery" software that will inspire people to become scientists, explorers, inventors, and communicators.


Fog Creek of course!


I'm currently a web developer but I also develop small client-side tools which do large jobs. I use a wide array of technologies and languages which has given me great experience, but indeed it's not my "dream" job, but to get to my "dream" job I must work hard to get there and show my worth.

Ultimately I'd like to get developing real-time applications in C++, but I'm not experienced enough for that yet. I think it's important to differentiate between what you'd like to do, to what you're capable of doing. If we all landed our dream job there's a good chance that we wouldn't be as good as it as the people who currently hold our dream job.

  1. having fun with your commitments
  2. having enough money to dinner out 2/3 times a week with your girlfriend
  3. having 1 month vacations
  4. working 6hs
  5. funding something like 37signals

I would eventually would like to be my own boss, achieving my own dreams. Who doesn't?


Programming robots with AI, using Lisp.


I have a pretty sweet deal right now. I make my own hours, can work from home when I want to, get to work on all the fun projects and have a great variety of types of apps to work on. I really can't complain.

I would love to have a bit more free time so that I could write code for not-for-profit groups. Find a local group that interests me and makes a difference and just walk in and ask "what application would really help your efforts" and then build it.


My dream job would be blue sky research, preferably working with embedded devices of some sort. A friend of mine helps design guidance systems for uncoupled (un tethered) deep sea exploration robots. His job pays well, he's always working on something new and cool that many would do as a hobby and he's literally writing his own micro kernels.

Working for one of the private space companies would also be a dream .. getting my code on something that will actually leave earth just seems awesome.

Writing desktop & web apps is getting really, really dull. While I do find some enjoyment tinkering with device drivers and system services, that's also getting kind of boring.

Something in a real lab would definitely be welcome :)


A good programming job would be not to program. :)


One dream job is one which pay you alot money at the end of month, but inside you, you are angry about all peoples you work for and everythig else. And you like to kill all of them.

One dream job is one which doesnt pay you a lot money, but you can live as usualy with that money, all peoples are nice to you and you have alot fun while doing you job.

Which one of them would you be?


Mainframe advisor.


Working on something so revolutionary/innovative/world-changing that I will be remembered for that.

One hypothesis: the 'inventors' and philosophers of the past that we admire in today's world would be programmers. Most likely. Not all of them. But many.

So, given also that no matter what you build (in the physical world) will sooner or later fall apart, if you decide to pursue the "being remembered" path you have to consider leaving your contribution in the immaterial world of ideas. There are two options here that relate to being a coder:

  • DNA manipulation (also known as "having kids" or "fork()"): you'll leave your own DNA "code" around, and it might very likely generate new individuals (and new ideas) that will be remembered. Thus, you are generating a potential
  • If you're brave, you can try either mathematics, or pure computer science, or something revolutionary in terms of software itself: again, you'll leave your code (bits of information) around.

My ideal job is programming developer tools. One of my previous employers made a developer-targeted tool and it is such a different experience supporting developers vs end users.


Weapons systems programming.


I wanna devise a virus and bring dire straights to your environment. Crush the corporations with a mild touch and make the world revert back to papyrus.