5 Truths About the Working World for Zambian Programmers
1. You can’t run away from mundane hardware problems
Yeah, we get it. You spent 4 years slaving for your qualifications. You can write code that can bring down NASA. The only person who understands codes better than you is God himself.
But its impossible for Zambians to look at anything IT and not see hardware problem solver. You will be asked to lift a thousand CPUs a day because only someone with IT skills has the special hands to do that. You will be called to fix paper jams and blamed when the internet is down or when a specific webpage won’t load.
Its frustrating but there’s really no escaping it. You can kick and scream but you will never run away from it. Use it as an opportunity to learn something new. Get to know more people, how they work, how they think. Build a network. Most of all, work with a smile on your face and rush back to the real stuff.
2. There’s a weird obsession with PHP
When it comes to web development, PHP is pretty much the standard in Zambia. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an established and powerful scripting language that makes great web applications. But I’ve seen people use it for EVERYTHING. And it does have its limits.
Languages like Python and Ruby are known to make efficient applications and depending on your requirements, may be a better option. But good luck getting anyone to understand that. My advice? If you want to be a developer in Zambia, you can go far knowing PHP alone.
3. There will be an unrealistic workload
I think this is true for programmers everywhere. The thing with coding is that it’s meant to look easy. All an end user sees is a Submit button and they have no appreciation for how many lines of code are behind making that button work correctly.
What gets annoying is when it’s your manager who has no appreciation for the amount of work it takes for great code. So they start to think the work they give you is too easy and go on to dump ridiculous loads of work on you with even more ridiculous deadlines.
The pressure will tempt you to cut corners and cheat your way through tasks. You just won’t have the time to test fully or write quality code. It’s going to be hard to avoid the ‘as long as it runs’ attitude. Don’t let the pressure get to you.
4. You’ll make more money in freelance
If making a lot of money is your main priority and you also actually want to code, formal employment is really not where you ought to be. Honestly. There’s enough non-coding technology jobs that will get you paid well but the programming ones are not quite there yet financially.
That’s not to say you can’t be a broke freelancer. But if you play your cards right, there’s a lot of money to be made from freelancing. However, formal employment does provide a unique experience that you really can’t get from freelancing. So ask yourself, what exactly are you looking for out of a job, experience or money?
5. Smaller companies are better than bigger ones
There aren’t many big companies that do a lot of real programming in Zambia. You would mainly find yourself maintaining existing systems without much creativity of your own.
It’s tempting to want to work for the big name companies that look great on your CV. And if that’s your priority, go for it. But for actual software development experience that will build your programming skills, smaller is better.
What has your experience been as a programmer or programming enthusiast in Zambia’s working world? Do you agree with my truths? I’d like to hear your thoughts!