My wife was diagnosed with a rare and difficult to treat cancer. I became a full time caregiver and was out of work for a year. I left a role as a staff level (one above senior) software developer at a major company, and when going back to work, I took an automation role at a small company - it was very hard even finding a position after taking that time off.

I've helped with pretty much everything this company, I put together their first two build systems from scratch. I learned their legacy product and their new platform and have supported both in production with production clients, often overseas clients at 2AM in the morning. I have solved severe database problems with production clients that were dead in the water that no one else could or would fix. I have written a lot of test automation, process automation, alerting automation, fixed bad code, test tools, reporting tools, written production code ... I'm not even touching on all the things I have done or delivered over the past four and a half years.

They hired another person in a role similar to mine and she has a tiny fraction of the experience that I have, has never solved any production problems, does not understand our product, produces extremely brittle tests that I often fix and suggest different approaches for that end up producing superior results. She also takes a lot of time off in what I can only describe is abuse of the company's unlimited time off policy.

After less than a year she was promoted to a senior position where I've never been promoted, but I'm working at least two levels below where was I before. Now that my wife has recovered, I've been able to really bring my skill set to bear. At this point, though, I feel like I need to get promoted by job hopping. That's rough when you're older because it is absolute hell jumping from one medical policy to another and ACA plans are vastly worse and more expensive than employer provided plans. However, I was in a senior role in 2006 and there is nothing I enjoy about my job at this point.

Note that I'm also in a huge amount of medical debt because our health care system is crumbling in every way (you notice if you've spent as much time with it as I have over the past seven years).

So my options are limited.

Am I wrong thinking that where I'm at is never going to get better and that I need to do some hopping?

Is there something I should be doing to salvage my experience at my current employer?

  • Welcome to the stack Easy Ranger! Thanks for the details. You may want to slightly reword your headline question to include a little more of the details you have in the body. You will attract higher-quality answers with a catchy headline. Something like "How can I restart my software career after a year off and a downgrade in position?" Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 19:23
  • 2
    Keep in mind it's not your technical skills that get you promoted, many times it can be the lack of them that is the reason why you get promoted."we will try to let you work with less technical tasks, so you can be more productive" this can be extra visible when it's a big pressure to choose people based on their gender for certain roles.
    – CrazyFrog
    Commented Nov 3, 2023 at 7:54

2 Answers 2


First of all. I am sorry for your difficult life circumstances.

It's never easy giving up career progress to take care of loved ones, but I believe it's always the right choice.

Getting back into the workplace at all can be sometimes challenging, so congratulations on landing a full-time job and showing you have the grit to stick with it!

It can always be rough seeing a newer hire get promoted ahead of us, but "comparison is the thief of joy." Try not to take it personally, as that will only cloud your judgment and distract you from your real purpose, which is securing a promotion for yourself.

It's well understood now that in most fields, software development included, it's easier to land a promotion by finding a new company than by sticking with the one you have. There's a whole ecosystem of forces that are out of our control that created this economic environment, so it's better not to worry too much about that which we cannot control.

I'd encourage you to take a hard look at your own skill set as it relates to the current job market. While you've demonstrated to yourself, and probably internally to your current employer, that you have advanced skills, this alone is not enough to secure a promotion. Do you have an updated portfolio, resume, GitHub, etc. that demonstrates these skills? Are you practicing your interview skills? Are you reaching out to old contacts to explore network opportunities?

Understand we are headed into the holidays and hiring is always slow during the end of the year in Q4. Also, the market as a whole is slowing down and possibly heading into a recession in 2024. CEO confidence in the economy is very low right now and that means slow hiring across the board.

With that in mind, you might find an "end of year" chat with your management is probably in the cards. It never hurts to approach management with a positive line of "Hey boss, I've been here for a while now, and I know you liked what I did on project x and project y. Can we have a chat about my future here at the company? I want to talk about how I can improve the business and how we can partner over the next few years to accelerate our plans."

I've always been pretty upfront with my management that I want promotions and raises. I always phrase it as a win for both of us. I say things like "I want to do everything I can to be promotion-worthy because that means I'm giving it my all." Or "It's important to me that I understand what outcomes are really valuable to the company so that I can contribute and be highly considered when bonuses and raises are going out."

If you look objectively at all your accomplishments so far, what were the real successes for the business, not just you personally? Come into the conversation with your management with those examples, and ask for opportunities to contribute even more to the bottom line.

A lot of people coast on jobs, so if you are seen as someone who is always asking for business objectives and how you can improve the money, you'll stand way above many others.


I am glad your wife has recovered from cancer. Congratulations.

Am I wrong thinking that where I'm at is never going to get better?

Things will get better for you at your current workplace now that you can focus more time and energy in your work. This will improve your performance, and the boss will notice it favorably.

Do I need to do some job hopping ?

This is not a bad option. The reality is that most people get a bigger salary raise from job hopping than from the annual raise at their current company.

When you have a new job offer, you can look at their health insurance, and other benefits along with the salary raise to see if you get a better deal than your current package at your current company.

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