When I realized I Was Not a Software Developer

A few years ago at the beginning of my 3-year freelancing journey, I just joined a project at a big, international marketing agency in Düsseldorf as a Business Intelligence Developer. This required me to stay in Düsseldorf Monday through Friday (at the time, WFH was not yet a thing) for 6 months. Back in Hamburg at almost the same time, someone I know asked me if I could help her optimizing and adding a few features on her website. No big deal, I thought.

But I should have seen the problems immediately: I would not have the time to finish the requirements on her website. Secondly, I did not really have the skills and knowledge of the technology being used. In short, my arrogance underestimated the effort of the website project. Additionally the marketing agency project had always been my first priority.

Here is when the mistake begins

So I took the website project with me to Düsseldorf from Hamburg, thinking that I would do it after my long, work day at the marketing agency. Emphasize on long day. After having a long day crunching numbers, planning and writing some SQL, I did not have the energy anymore to do anything else other than just lying in the bed or watching TV or having a drink with new people. I guess I was not that young anymore, like in the college time.

To make it worse, I actually did not have the skills of the tech stack on which the website was built. So I could not just open my laptop and  finish the task, even if I wanted to. My arrogance told me that I could learn the language on the fly and was all set. How I was wrong. It took me 2-3 weeks after the agreement to start the project at all, and another 2-3 weeks learning the stack. I still did not get it right and couldn’t make one single function work, let alone meet the requirements. That was when I realized I was not really a software developer.

Lessons Learned

By the time I had to admit that I would not be able to finish the project, it was already too late. The bridge was already burned. Two months went by with no results. She was very disappointed in me and the professional relationship we had went all of a sudden. I have to live with that.
Lessons learned:

  • Think hard before taking any extra project
  • Never underestimate a project, however small you think it is
  • Do not take any project you don’t have skills in
  • Be transparent on your situation and communicate early

Conclusion: do not eat more than you can chew.


Photo by Fernando Hernandez on Unsplash

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