We all share stories about how we found a job, got hired, etc...why not a couple on how we quit a job, dealt with a layoff, got fired?

Oh I've been fired a lot of times--it's got to be at least close to the most anyone in CS has ever been fired. Anonymously I will tell you my story.

In the old days things were rougher for people entering the CS industry. It is still a relatively new profession and was even newer 15 years ago when I was fresh out of college entering the workforce with a concentration in Computer Science clutched in my hand. Please note that I did not have an actual degree in Computer Science and so was not well-versed in many topics nor had an internship or anything like that.

At the time employers were desperate for help and the concentration alone was enough to get me my first job, programming Java, even though I had never seen Java and barely knew programming in general. They put me in a cube with a Java book and a lot of legacy code and told me to learn, and I had anxiety and worried for the next 9 months so much so that I was unable to do any actual reading or learning, until they let me go.

Almost every time I have been let go it has happened in the same way. It is always on a Friday. There has always been weeks of radio silence from my supervisor(s) in the time leading up to this. In my defense, I wasn't the best programming learner/employee but they weren't the best employers either. To just throw a newbie in a uncommunicative team of other nerds with no established training or guidance and kind of leave it up to them to figure out how to fit in is asking a lot of a person and was certainly well beyond my limited social skills back then.

So I was let go and was able to collect unemployment insurance because I had left the job due to no fault of my own. (Being unable to perform job duties is not seen as your fault) I was very upset about this. I had left college with a plan on becoming this rich programmer but it did not turn out that way. Fortunately I had the motivating factor of being broke as hell and needing to pay rent that got me back out there looking immediately. In a few weeks I had found my second job, again as a Java programmer for a startup run by young cool guys who thankfully didn't check references.

Again I was unable to participate in the coding. I hadn't learned much at my first job and this team was doing work way above my level and had little time or energy to put into training me. They basically worked around me and were as kind as they could be to me but after less than a year again I was let go, which was again heartbreaking to me. I never have been good at learning on my own. These days if I was put in that position again I would be a better advocate for myself, asking for online training courses, etc, whatever it took to get me up to speed. I am a lot more confident and a little pushier these days.

So after another Friday meeting I was back on unemployment. The startup tried to contest that I was getting unemployment, but they lost the contest and I was awarded unemployment. This time it took a couple months I think until I found my third job, again as a Java programmer for a small programming department lead by a boss who did not call references. It used to be that almost nobody called references, although these days almost everyone seems to. (Maybe I am getting a better class of job these days)

The boss there did take some time to work with me and show me things, and I was able to actually contribute a bit to our work. I'm not saying it was great work, but I wrote some code that was actually used I believe for the first time. This was before there were any environments except production. But it was not great work and I was not a great employee, often arriving late and leaving early. I was really bored by the job but did not think I could look elsewhere and even though I wanted to stay employed, at some point I just kind of stopped participating in the coding and waited to be fired, much like the other jobs. For all of them, I left them no choice but to let me go.

Thus came the lowest point of my life. My 4-year relationship ended (not by my choice). I had a lot of student loans, rent, and car payments to make and was not quite able to make them all on unemployment. Talk about feeling like a fraud, I KNEW I was a fraud and that all I could ever hope to do in this profession was trick companies into hiring me and try to fly under the radar for as long as possible until I was fired again. I seriously considered suicide.

It was some tough love that got me moving again, where I would complain about how bad I felt and my loved ones would yell somewhat meanly at me to get off my ass and do something about it. I found a therapist who helped me slowly stop with the self-hate. I actually got medicated for my severe ADD that certainly hadn't helped in the work world. And I know it is unthinkable but I decided I had to keep trying to work in computer science at least until all the student loans I had taken out were paid off. And if that meant I had to be a fraud then so be it, I didn't feel like I had a lot of options.

And so after 6 months I found yet another job, not in Java this time, in a specialized language for a small department. I worked for a special Boss who took the time to really work with me and handed off to me everything he knew. After three years there I was bored and applied to another job that offered me a 50% increase in salary and was able to transition into a new programming job without being fired for the first time ever.

One quick note about that fourth job--I had mostly been doing web development all this time and it was at this fourth job and five years into my career that I first remember finally realizing what people meant when they talked about different "browsers". This is amazing to me now, that even though I had been using it all the time I hadn't realized exactly what a browser was or the variety they came in. When other people said browser to me I just kind of skipped by it without understand. That is just one small example of how ignorant I was.

From that point on I've gone through a lot more programming jobs and I have been fired from a couple although it was more for impulsive/poor behavior and judgement calls rather than not being able to do the job. I guess you don't have to hear every story in detail although they are all pretty much the same.

By the time I had paid off my student loans, I had kind of figured out what I was doing technically and was no longer an active fraud and contributing to the teams and so far I have remained in development, although ironically I am considering leaving now that I am financially comfortable. I am not in tech because I love it or am good at it; I am only in this field because I am a lucky and stubborn asshole who keeps going when any reasonable person would have quit. I am thinking about getting an MBA and going into management. As my current partner says, nobody can spot a bullshitter like another bullshitter.

/r/cscareerquestions Thread