It has been two weeks now since my last article, but I really needed a break. Before starting, I would like to apologise with all the people who are following me and are reading my articles, I know I have been publishing new ones almost every day before but I hope what I will be writing below will at least help you understand my need for a moment of silence.
The 100 Days of SwiftUI
As you know if you have been following me lately, when Paul Hudson announced his 100 Days of SwiftUI series, I had promised myself not to fall again into this, regardless of all the positive things I had learnt in the first challenge. Unfortunately, I didn’t fulfil my promise and started the new path, learning very soon that it was a very bad idea.
During the first 100 days initiative I had already passed through a lot of moments of heavy frustration and anger because of how hard things were for someone like me who was doing that as a hobby after a full day of work. It was dreadful at times, with almost complete nervous breakdowns… but in the hardest and darkest moments, I found the strength to grow, to rise up to the challenge and to go on. That was because, in the end, UIKit and its friends had enough documentation and enough people willing to help because of their huge experience that I could find a way and so I completed the path, with distinction! It was not so for SwiftUI.
I started to develop my first app totally on my own, saying that, from that moment onward, I would dedicate two pomodoros (rounds of 25 minutes) to learning new stuffs (from books, tutorials etc…) and one to app building, all of which went beautifully well until this new initiative dropped.
I don’t know why I fell again, I really don’t know, but before I could realise, I was reviewing the first 15 days and then building my first apps in SwiftUI.
I recall meeting Paul in Bologna for Pragma Conference, taking a stroll with him and talking about my plans for a coding career, it was just great! He is such a lovely person (and when I say person I hear his voice saying “we create a
Person struct!”) and he was really encouraging me to start calling companies to have interviews with them.
I recall attending Daniel Steinberg great workshop on SwiftUI there in Bologna, ending the day in an almost stunned mental condition as everything was so new, so different from what I knew that I just wanted to drop out. He explained things really well, I already miss his drawings on the Calligraphy app, but something just didn’t click with me.
… but, what happened?
So, I told myself, come on, you need to face this: even if you don’t like it, this is the future, you cannot stay behind. And so I continued, with as much calm as I could, up to Day 34 and then… something broke. I had a nervous breakdown of sheer frustration because of those challenges.
As a music teacher at my 9th year of experience I know that challenges are good! They are so good that my just published book on Dotzauer’s scales for the cello adds challenges at the end of each chapter! The problem is that my challenges don’t ask students to go out and “google” the solution or “google” the way to learn what was not taught. NO! My challenges require a creative effort to use what was just learned to become more flexible and achieve greater things.
I already hear people saying: « But hey! Those coding challenges are exactly the same! » No they aren’t! Those challenges are mostly aimed at people who already know how to code and how to solve those kind of problems and just have to work out on the syntax, mostly by going on Stack Overflow to see if someone else has already solved it… bleah, disgusting… those challenges are not for someone who has no background in coding…
In that precise instant, when I solved challenge 3 of project 6 I guess (or 5?), I decided to take a break. I realised, in that moment, how much of my health was becoming compromised because of constantly forcing myself to code every day even when I had no energy, no time. I was ruining my life, I was risking to seriously hinder the job that is sustaining my family, and for what?
In that very second I realised how much bullshit I had been listening to since learning how to code: “oh yes, you can learn how to code in no time, one hour per day”… that’s not true! You cannot learn anything up to a good level with just one hour per day, just accept it and move on!
I mean, I know a lot of things for a total beginner with no background in Computer Science and I have had the chance to learn from the best in the field, but since February when I started, that is 10 months ago, I totalled about 500-600 hours of code-learning. That’s by no mean a little amount, but to get to a point where I would start to feel confident and able to publish something on the AppStore, I would need at least 2500-3000 hours. That’s not me making up statistics, great pedagogues have made these calculations before me and they are right1.
The only chance I have to keep learning programming in a healthy way is to it my way, at my conditions, with no pressure at all!
Sure, I am the one who has to put the hours but if there are no hours now, I really shouldn’t stress about it.
You keep talking but what’s your plan then?
The most accurate question would be… if you don’t have time, why did you start learning this in the first place?
As you probably know, I am a music engraver, or, well, that is the profession that keeps me alive and sustains me and my family (we are a couple with no children and no car!)! It is a wonderful profession, with an incredible tradition and a chance for a great relationship with your customers but, there is a big but… My customers are between 45 and 65 years old, that is to say that no composer under that age threshold is using an engraver for his works. No publisher printing their music is hiring an engraver anymore, but instead they are asking for the finished product from the composer. This results in a huge saving for the publisher, but also in a great drop in quality in the final products.
Why this? Aren’t composers able to engrave their works? They sure are if they apply enough but let me tell you this: I also composed some pieces in the past but I stopped because a) I wasn’t talented enough and b) I didn’t have enough time to dedicate to that as I had to earn my living. So, if a composer composes for 4-5 net hours per day, then they have to spend about as much engraving that on the computer. Some composers write directly on the computer but that is really counterproductive from a certain level of complexity going above.
There is just not enough time in the day for that if you also want to live a healthy life that is not only work, work and more work so your only choice will be to hire an engraver. Issue is that publishers and institutions commissioning works have more than halved their prizes so that, now, composers do not have a realistic budget to pay an engraver anymore.
Engraving softwares are getting better and better every year so I started to feel that, in 5-10 years time, my profession will just fade out of existence, exactly as the hand-music engraver profession just vanished completely at the beginning of the XXI century (I’m not kidding, I have a colleague who refused to move to engraving on a computer and he just lost his job, forever…).
My decision was then to start to learn something else among my passions: general graphic design, software support and … coding! I got passioned about that immediately, thanks also to the very aggressive marketing and, here I am, trying to scratch a single hour or a bit more out of my day to dedicate to programming.
Programmers are in high demand and in the next years the demand is expected to vastly outperform the offer, which made me think that I would have eventually found a job in that sector, should my profession have suddenly died out.
But then, – sigh -, I remembered where I was living: Italy… the most beautiful country ever, right? Well, not if you have to work out your living here. Programmers in Italy, at least at the beginning of their career, are paid less than elementary school teachers, that is about 1.000€ per month. They are called “the new labourers class”, and it is by no means a compliment.
Let me put this into a realistic perspective: if you live by yourself, as you should when you start to have a job, or have a family to support, let’s say without children yet as that would vastly increase the need, you are looking at about 2.000 to 2.500€ per month if you want to live normally, with a certain dignity, paying all your taxes and, oh yes, not having a car of your own. Of course if both of the couple making up the family have a job, you will not have good food at home because of the lack of time needed to cook (and to buy ingredients in a country where no 24h shop exists outside of the big cities), you will probably need some help keeping the house clean etc etc … so, clearly, the “Junior” level jobs are aimed at freshly graduated students that are still living with their parents and so they don’t need higher wages. After they stay 2-3 years in that limbo they will become “Senior” and start earning something serious. I am not trying to over-complain: when I talked with some companies they told me that I cannot be my level at 32 years of age… so, this is clear prejudice but fine…
I’m sure you can feel my anger while I write these words: but why am I angry? Because I won’t be able to ever accept a “Junior” job! I cannot accept to work 40 hours in a totally underpaid condition, abandoning all my other things for absolutely nothing! I will end up hating my life, my job, everything! And I don’t want that!
Paul told me that my first job in coding should be hired in a company as remote job will not teach you what you need but how can I do that? Come on, juniors in the US earn absurdly much more than this, but not only there, in Canada, UK, Northern Europe… everywhere but here… in Serbia, a country with an average wage of €350, junior programmers start with €1000 per month and go up to €2500 very fast!
Oh and please don’t you point your finger at me saying that I speak only of money! Money is a mean of exchange, nothing more! I give you my work, my time, my experience, and you give me something with which to sustain my life. According to the Italian constitution every Italian citizen should have a job that allows him/her to live with dignity… I said dignity! And this way is not dignity, it is slavery! Being forced to live with your parents until you are 30 years old or more is slavery, or you choose another word that most fits this situation.
The only chance I have if I want one day to work as an employed programmer is to reach Senior level on my own which, according to what I heard, is almost impossible because I will lack the team-work skills needed. Also, Italian companies ask for a degree in Computer Science, otherwise you are as good as garbage to process.
My current plan is now to stick with the job I have and that I love, publishing some musical scores of mine with the quality I seek and then, slowly but steadily, study programming until my level will be enough to publish some serious apps on the AppStore. For that I will need to learn how to create assets on my own using creative tools, how to draw an icon, how to market my apps, all alone and on my own. This was another disappointment because… what do you do when you have a working app? You need a design for that and… who is going to teach you that? Yourself, buddy! No one else!
It will be hard, but I really can’t wait to start this new phase of my life and of my learning. I will start tomorrow, probably starting over from Day 35 of the 100 Days of SwiftUI. I really want to do this but I do not want any pressure anymore, I want it to be a pleasure to learn and to enjoy the new things.
If something good will come out of this, very well, but if not, I will have at least spent the time choosing what to do and not forced by the circumstances.
What about my music job?
I am currently working on a huge project for the Danish Royal Orchestra which will keep me most busy until at least February 2020 and I already have a 42-minutes string quartet to finish engraving after that. The full score is done and is awaiting corrections, but parts are not and they will be challenging!
I am writing a new book that should be available by the end of the year, all being well, and I am curating a couple of editions that I would really like to ship by Christmas or a bit before if possible.
I have started adding my scores already present on Gumroad, Sheetmusicplus and ScoreExchange on the Apple Books Store and I would like to insert a couple of stores more by the end of the year, if possible.
So you see, there is plenty to do beyond coding but I do not want to abandon it. Just I need to be realistic and use my energies in a clever way.
I would really like to find a mentor to guide my learning but I have been having a hard time understanding how this works. If you have any idea about this, I would really appreciate any guidance.
I am sorry that all this article has been a great complaint but I was really disappointed about the situation of programmers in Italy.
I was at the Swift Heroes conference two days ago (so you see, I am really putting in the efforts as no company is financing this, apart from Bologna for which I got a scholarship) and most of companies are looking for full time applicants, possible already at senior level and, if possible, with a freelancer status so they don’t have to hire them. Only one company was interested in remote work and I really look forward to hearing back from them in the next weeks.
There were 6 companies there looking for applicants, three of which representing insuring companies, one dedicated to banking, another to a phoning service and the other one was the organiser, with which I had a preliminary interview last year and… they just forgot to tell me something as they were busy. Yes, sure… ahah! I am not sure I could ever work for an insurance company… I get shivers thinking about that.
Overall I didn’t like this conference as much as I had liked it last year and I think I have to stop attending for the near future and concentrate on my learning. I met some wonderful people in Bologna and I want to deepen my relationship with them. I also spent this Friday at Swift Heroes with a freelance developer from the northeast of Italy and I really appreciated his being much more realistic than the average people found there. Once you have to care about your life you start seeing things in a different way!
I think I have written everything I wanted to say tonight, but it had to be said. I don’t want to become disillusioned about things that don’t exist! Changing job is hard and it will be in any case a double-work for a long period but things should not be rushed.
Oh yes, as everyone is talking about this I also need to say my own: I went to the Apple Store in Torino today and tried the new MacBook Pro… I don’t like it!, regardless of how powerful it is, the smaller keys and the bigger space between the keys make it look ridiculously old compared to the previous generation! Also, the keys are so much harder than before, I was missing letters because I wasn’t pressing hard enough. I really wish all this had never happened, that the scissors mechanism had remained… they had fixed it in the 2019 model… why not leave the option to choose? Now for at least 3 years we will be stuck with that.
And I am angry … oh really? Yes I am! Because my 2016 model is starting to age and I wanted to change it now that my AppleCare is expiring but… to exchange it for this one? Oh please no… I now have to cross my fingers that I will not have any issue until a new MacBook Pro drops, possibly with ARM processors and another kind of keyboard as I really don’t want this one… I don’t like it…
Please do not listen to overbiased journalists telling you this new keyboard is good, it is not… maybe it is safer? More reliable? The only good thing is the coming back of the escape key, but the design is just ugly compared to before. I really hope my model survives a few years more.
But let me know what you think about this and if you plan to buy one right now.
That’s it for today!
Thank you for reading!
I hope to write something tomorrow!
Good night world!
- Please read this book for a bit of enlightenment on the subject: Geoff Colvin, Talent is Overrated. ↩
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Till the next one!