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Good day, all!

At the dawn of this new year I left seminary studies to return to the world of software, where I had previously worked for over 8 years. But rather than returning directly and immediately to the 9-to-5 scene, I've been working diligently on a project of my own with very strong commercial prospects that I would like to pursue; during the fall semester I couldn't get the project off my mind, so I decided to go all-out with it. The project consists of a vast number of incremental solutions and improvements to a well-known technology that I aspire to build into a language unto itself. I like to say I am applying the healing touch of a thousand stitches. I find the overall project to be an engrossing exercise for the technical aspects as well as the commercial possibilities. For the time being, it's the best situation I can imagine being in.

But my sense of prudence leads me to the following question:

Let us suppose (against all odds!) that the project does not go as planned, for whatever reason, and I decide to return to the traditional software job market. Would there be any reason for concern about the path I am currently taking?

My own intuition is that I should be fine. Even though I'm doing something unconventional, It's a deep immersion in software problem-solving (among many other things). At the very least my project testifies to my expertise. (I am also working on a technical paper and a video demo that would help to clarify my achievements.) In a job-seeking scenario I believe the project would help stimulate fruitful conversations and provide a welcome alternative to the stereotypical software interview unpleasantness we all know too well.

Not that I anticipate any of this being necessary! My top priority for the time being is the project itself in its business and technical aspects. I'm just trying to be circumspect about the future.

So am I being realistic about this?

closed as off-topic by gnat, Mister Positive, sf02, motosubatsu, Blrfl Feb 21 at 19:21

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, motosubatsu, Blrfl
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  • 4
    As it is written, your question sounds a lot like "should I", which don't tend to get good answers. If you're actually settled on your current plan, but if you are looking for help with a Plan B, a better question is a simple "how to turn a failed commercial venture into a positive talking point in interviews". – HorusKol Feb 19 at 20:27
  • Good luck with your project, though. I left full-time employment last year to embark on my own venture, too, so I'm in a similar boat. – HorusKol Feb 19 at 20:28
  • What is the commercial viability of the project? What is the outcome if you do happen to fail in this outcome? Is there any reason you couldn’t have employment and do this project? – UnhandledExcepSean Feb 20 at 13:08
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Welcome aboard.

I don't want to question your “sense of prudence”, but in the real world, you ought to leave the "not" out of "Let us suppose (against all odds!) that the project does not go as planned", and plan accordingly.

Your hubris may well explain the downvotes.

And

a vast number of incremental solutions and improvements to a well-known technology that I aspire to build into a language unto itself

does not sound promising.

Just about every programming language I know “borrows” features from others (look at C++ recently adding lambdas and promises), so that they all end up looking like each other anyway.

The project consists of a vast number of incremental solutions and improvements to a well-known technology

Personally, I would rather buy one whizz-bang thingamajig, than a Swiss army knife collection of teensy “nice bits” (YKmMV).

a project of my own with very strong commercial prospects How do you know this?

Do you have a business plan? Have you shown it to anyone? Maybe an accountant? Would a bank manager be willing to lend you money on the strength of it?

At the very least my project testifies to my expertise

And

In a job-seeking scenario I believe the project would help stimulate fruitful conversations

But, it is unlikely in the extreme to

provide a welcome alternative to the stereotypical software interview unpleasantness we all know too well

Interviewers have a game plan and are unlikely to change it, even for Mark Zuckerberg and his next project (slight exaggeration)

Not that I anticipate any of this being necessary

Of course, you don’t, you are too wrapped up in your baby

So am I being realistic about this?

In a word: NO

Your project is unlikely to succeed, just as most projects, heck most new businesses, do not succeed.

From your question, we only have your opinion of the project's greatness, and it is impossible to avoid personal bias.

If you have canvassed technical opinion, you should have included that in your question as it is germane.

Also, even the technically greatest idea may not be commercially viable. You have not stated that you have done any commercial research. If you have, it ought to have been in the question.

You do not tell us of your finances, but you have already taken two months off, unpaid, and again, you do not give us an estimate of how long the project would take to complete.

And, don’t forget Hofstadter's law:

It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.


Tl;dr you don’t give us enough data to enable us to help you, and your hubris seems to be blinding you to the likelihood of failure.

Perhaps you ought to find a paying job and work on your project at evenings & on weekends? I find 30+ hours a week to do so.

  • I've not come across Hofstadter's law before. It verbalises the difficulty of planning pretty excellently. Thanks! – P. Hopkinson Feb 21 at 13:40
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Been where you are (precisely, except for my own project).

You're asking about re-entering the development world after time spent elsewhere. How can you convince your would-be employer you're serious about that?

  1. Work out a personal story (explanation) of your shift. You've been in seminary; you probably have done versions of this at least 500 times. Do it once again, and use it in your interviews.
  2. Get some stuff on your public Github account showing recent work.
  3. Do your research on your potential employer carefully. When you prepare for your interview, be ready to explain how your experience and skills solve their specific problems.

As for re-entering the salaried workforce after launching (trying to launch) a business: Fear not: entrepreneurial experience is surpassingly valuable to you and your potential employer.

Work out a personal story about what you learned from the experience, looking at failures and successes. And put the project on your resume. It will help you get interviews and get hired.

  • While I agree that "entrepreneurial experience is surpassingly valuable to ... your potential employer", my experience is that entrepreneurial spirit is an interview killer (YKmMV) – Mawg says reinstate Monica Feb 21 at 14:01
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So, the first thing to realize is that you're not coming directly from a software background. You're coming from seminary. That means that you start out super-rusty, and anything programming-related that you're doing in the interim is good as far as getting yourself back into being more current. Being able to demonstrate that you're self-motivated can also help.

The second thing to realize is that your project is likely to fail... or, specifically, that your project, as currently described, is not likely to produce significant amounts of money for you. If you want it to produce significant amounts of money for you, you're essentially going to have to start a business to support it, and that involves an enormous investment of time, effort, and money, in places you have not yet begun to spend time, effort, or money, and ways that have nothing to do with programming. It's also (by the numbers) pretty likely to fail even so. If you want to go that route, that's great, and you should look into what it takes to start your own company, but you need to understand what you're setting yourself up for.

If you're talking about some sort of open source give-it-away-for-free thing, then the chances that you'll be able to make it into a success at some level are much higher... but it won't pay the bills. Alternately, if it's the sort of thing you can sell on an app store, that could work (after some effort to get it up there)... but it doesn't really sound like that sort of thing by the way you describe it.

Regardless, it's likely to be a good thing overall for your job prospects if you can sell it right, and if you can find the right sort of employer. Just as with all job applications, you need to tell a story. Look at it from the employer's perspective. Take the question of "why do I want this guy working for me" and answer it using the elements at hand, then present that answer. With a bit of presentation, it'll likely do more good than harm.

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