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tl;dr: I am miserable at my current programming job due to management and endless mandatory overtime. I have an opportunity in RPA but love programming, is it feasible to take a break from programming career-wise and then potentially return to it?

Backstory: I am a junior level engineer working on a project in C# (for frontend) and in C (for backend). Job duties include research, writing a design specification, programming, delivering it to quality assurance, and then fixing bugs. I've been working at the company for two years and am making $62,400. Pretty low for the state I live in, partly because I was hired as a Front End Developer... This is my first job after college (other jobs I've had are two internships, first one being in IT as an administrator and the second being in C# over my senior year Summer).

Recently, due to fairly poor management choices, the loss of two resources, and no senior level engineers, my team has had to work 3 hours of extra mandatory overtime (so 8:30AM-8PM) every day except Friday. Management has no end date for this overtime and has said "this will continue until we get out of this hole". Management has also restricted working from home unless you get direct approval and explain what you will be working on and then demonstrate the next day what you've achieved. The situation is a bit more complex but that's the gist of it. Since we are salaried, the only compensation we get is free dinner within a budget. Interesting side note is that when I was hired in 2017, the director told me that they were doubling the team in size by the end of the year. It's two years later and all that happened was we lost two senior resources and gained two junior resources.

This has triggered me to start job hunting and wanting to get out of there urgently, which proves to be a bit harder when you're working mandatory overtime.

Note: I understand that I will never escape overtime. The reason for me leaving is that the overtime will go on for an unspecified duration (could be months), management has handled the situation very poorly, and the highest ranking member has stated, numerous times, that "if you don't like it here, then leave".

I have an interview next week with a large Fortune 500 company for an RPA developer role. I have reason to believe that there is a high chance for me to get an offer, and that the salary that has been decided is $72,800 ($10,400 more than my current position). This job likely barely involves any programming and instead just designing/building automation bots in software like BluePrism and UIPath. The job is contract to hire (1 year contract) and I was told that after being hired, my salary would range from $75K-$85K.

I love programming... so my plan was to take the job, start hobby programming a lot more, and just do a great job designing bots in RPA. My entire career has been in automation anyway. Within that year contract, I can constantly do additional job hunting for a more solid programming position, but am scared that I will spend too much time away from professional programming to be considered for any true programming position. A bonus to taking the job is that I can finally move in with my SO as it is much closer to where she lives.

Question: Is this a bad move? Do I just battle through the endless overtime and hope it ends soon? Do I go along with my plan?

closed as off-topic by gnat, Philip Kendall, Mister Positive, motosubatsu, Dukeling Feb 14 at 18:37

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions asking for advice on a specific choice, such as what job to take or what skills to learn, are difficult to answer objectively and are rarely useful for anyone else. Instead of asking which decision to make, try asking how to make the decision, or for more specific details about one element of the decision. (More information)" – gnat, Philip Kendall, Mister Positive, motosubatsu, Dukeling
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Just as a sidenote: if you live in a country where you have regular and free elections, maybe try to elect people that work on better labor laws. The fact that a company can make you work 3 hours overtime per day and without compensation is ridiculous. That would break at least 3 laws where I live and I'm not even a lawyer to pick out all the details. – nvoigt Feb 14 at 7:20
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    A standard work day is, what, 8 hours? So with the extra 3 hours you'll have back - plus the extra money - you could do 37% of the coding you're doing now but on any project you want and with no oversight. – Adam Hopkinson Feb 14 at 9:54
  • The close votes here are totally silly. It's a very specific question about a classic problem in software careers. – Fattie Feb 14 at 13:28
  • Welcome new user. Could you help me understand why you work 1 minute more than the work day? It's not a rhetorical question - I am trying to understand why you or anyone would do that. In simple terms, why do you do this? – Fattie Feb 14 at 16:45
  • It seems to me you are underestimating RPA. Sure - it doesn't feel like coding C#, but it does involve some challenges. I've been working as one for the past year (UiPath) and recently moved positions to an API developer, and I can assure you it's far from a golf-caddy position. – bruno_cw Feb 14 at 17:46
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There are many paths through one's career that may lead to software engineering jobs. Anyone who won't hire someone because they have or had a position as an automator/tester/golf caddy, isn't worth working with. Some of the best engineers I've worked with come from nontraditional backgrounds. I hire for future potential, not prior pedigree.

Read this: https://avichal.com/2011/12/16/focus-on-building-10x-teams-not-on-hiring-10x-developers/

  • Dangerous advice. OP has said they'll be trying to get a programming job from that automation job. The hirer will have a pile of programmer CVs in front of them. Then, there will be one CV from our OP saying: "I want to be a programmer". – Fattie Feb 14 at 15:13
  • Note that non-traditional backgrounds (guitarist, etc) are a totally different issue from someone who is working in the field but as a non-programmer. – Fattie Feb 14 at 15:13
  • Finally, the 10x article is just remarkably off-base. The idea that a "star" programmer would at one point step back to UIPath or testing, is really not a sensible thought - and it does not help our OP in any way in the actual situation described. – Fattie Feb 14 at 15:15
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Your plan is fine. Because of the absurd work hours you are doing, it is important that you find a new job ASAP, even if it is not what you want to be doing in the long term.

I once knew someone who was a professional musician for ten years before becoming a programmer. A few months/years not doing programming professionally is not going to bar you from a career in programming forever.

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The simple answer to your question is

YES, IT WILL RUIN YOUR CAREER.

Once you're a caddy, you can never be a player on the PGA tour.

Nothing more needs to be said about that.

Now, three important points emerge in your described situation:

  1. The overwhelming point is it seems you are working more than 7.5 hours a day.

You have to stop doing that as of today. It's madness.

  1. If you don't like your current job, get a new job for sure. But

  2. You seem fixated on this particular support job you mention. An incredible number of opportunities are available, move on

Once again, to answer your direct question

I am scared that I will spend too much time away from professional programming to be considered for any true programming position...

That is absolutely correct.

If you drop back to a support-type role, you're screwed forever.

You'll won't "live it down", and won't get back to programming per se.

You won't get a programming job, from, that position.

When there's a pile - a huge pile - of CVs from actual programmers your CV will be a thing saying you're a tester but you'd really like to be a programmer.

(Again though - there is no reason to consider that particular job: a huge wealth of opportunities await you.)

  • There are many paths through one's career that may lead to software engineering jobs. Anyone who won't hire someone because they have or had a position as an automator/tester/golf caddy, isn't worth working with. Some of the best engineers I've worked with come from nontraditional backgrounds. I hire for future potential, not prior pedigree. – Glen Pierce Feb 14 at 15:02
  • OP has said they'll be trying to get a programming job from that automation job. The hirer will have a pile of programmer CVs in front of them, and, one from our OP saying "I want to be a programmer". – Fattie Feb 14 at 15:12
  • So OP would have to find some other way to convince a potential employer that they'd make a good programmer than that another employer has recently had them employed in a very similar position. Just like everyone trying to break into the field fresh out of college (or with even less formal education under their belt). It's an obstacle, yes; but to say "that cannot possibly ever happen, no matter the circumstances" seems a bit excessive. – a CVn Feb 14 at 15:35
  • @aCVn - you can't "convince" anyone of anything. The next hirer will have 50, 100, 500 CVs coming in from programmers. Any cv saying "I'm a tester but I'd honestly like to be a programmer" will just be dismissed. – Fattie Feb 14 at 16:35
  • By that reasoning, nobody could ever possibly change career tracks, let alone fields. Since people clearly do just that from time to time, it seems to me that there must be more to it than what this answer of yours (and your comments on it) claims. Just because you, or your company, won't hire as a programmer someone with only testing experience in the work experience section of their CV doesn't mean another company wouldn't hire, say, an experienced tester with a solid record of open-source project contributions as a junior programmer. – a CVn Feb 14 at 20:01

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