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A job, a career, or a business?

April 5th, 2008 at 10:31 pm

I've been doing software contracting since last August, 20 hours a week, for a small firm that in turn gets contracts from larger engineering companies in the area. I've been thinking about whether I should regard this as a job, a career, or a business.

Currently, I'd say it's really just a job. I've been on a single project the whole time, and it looks like it will last another 3-4 months. The company has 3 active contracts currently, and the president keeps us up to date on other possibilities that come and go. Hopefully when this project is done there will be another one they can use me on, but there are no guarantees.

I'm hoping to get pregnant and take a year or two off with our second child, but mother nature is taking her sweet time, so I'm kind of in a holding pattern. It makes it difficult to plan much beyond the immediate future.

Could I turn this job into a career with this company? Possibly. I like working from home and setting my own hours, and I can see this would be a good situation when the kid(s) are in elementary school. The downside is that the work itself isn't the most interesting -- mostly telecommunications and defense. I'm currently adding a new extension to a 10 year old protocol, on a piece of legacy equipment that is getting a new board to extend its life. Not exactly cutting-edge stuff.

For this to truly be my own business, I'd need to be like the president of the company -- going out and finding the contracts. He's been in the industry here for probably 20 or 25 years, and seems to know a lot of people. My contacts are more limited -- I can count maybe 7 or 8 companies where my old coworkers have landed. Perhaps once I got a couple of contracts I could make a name for myself and widen that circle, but it does seem that might be difficult to do on a part-time basis.

If I were to go back to full-time work a few years from now, I don't think I'd be happy to stay a programmer. I was pretty sick of coding before, and was trying to figure out how to become a project manager, a software group manager, or a software architect. (I actually did land a job as a project lead/software manager a month before I became pregnant the first time, but chose to become a SAHM because the software director said that doing it part-time was not an option. I decided I'd rather not work than do coding part time or have the stress of a 50 hr/wk job while caring for a newborn.) It's still a puzzle to me how to make that transition happen -- and an even greater difficulty (perhaps impossible) to do it while working on a part-time basis.

Sometimes I toy with the idea of going back for a PhD, just to get into more interesting work, but I am reluctant to ask my DH to support me for 4-6 years of school when I could be bringing a substantial income into the family. (A PhD in software would be unlikely to boost my earning capacity much beyond current levels.) Perhaps the answer is to find a job or contract with a company making a product I find more appealing. It would be cool to work on assistive devices for the handicapped, for instance.

It's a bit frustrating, having these long-range thoughts, but watching time ticking away as I wait for shorter-term plans to come to fruition. The time I want to devote to my children definitely has priority for me.

4 Responses to “A job, a career, or a business?”

  1. Broken Arrow Says:

    Always thought you did well, but didn't realize that you were a millionaire. Big Grin

    Well, here's to your hopes of being a mommy. Wink

  2. Carolina Bound Says:

    I think it's pretty typical to find your work boring. I think only the lucky few really love their work.

  3. monkeymama Says:

    Tough choices all working moms face.

    I disagree about work being boring. But yeah, all of the interesting opportunities I could see being much more time consuming.

    I appreciate the ability to have a career and interesting work in my field, while not having terribly high aspirations or having to work long hours. From talks with other moms, I find my own position very rare. Likewise, I always keep in mind that it could be fleeting. It hasn't been this way terribly long (just since I decided to have kids; talk about luck). But just wanted to say you are not alone!

  4. zetta Says:

    The sad thing is that I was really excited by software when I was in school and for the first few years of working. My enthusiasm has just been gradually beaten out of me by the grind. I'd say my DH feels much the same about his work...

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