Webdev or Embedded Systems?

Hey all, just registered for the forum, although using FCC for self-study already quite some time.

Let me shortly summarize my situation: 42 years old, German, with an unusual path into software development.
Studied electrical engineering (remote learning), got a bachelor degree, at 40. Discovered still during studies that I prefer software much over hardware, so I worked a few months at two internships in the field of Embedded Programming for microcontrollers (C / C++). Then I started looking into Webdev, started self studying html, css, some JS, some PHP. I liked it, and seriously considered following it as a carrer path, but then things happened faster than expected.

3 weeks after being an engineer I was offered a job through a recruiting agency in the field of automation technology (PLC), also C++ mainly, and couldn t say no to that chance. Although it was 250 km away from home and I drove seeing my wife and my son only for the weekends. After a year the company decided I m not good enough and I lost that job. Difficult to see the honest reasons. Don t know if I m lacking talent or if the project was in fact just too big and challenging for a newbie like me.
That was in October last year.

5 months unemployed, using my time in addition to some personal things in parallel for job applying (in parallel to Embedded Systems Jobs and Webdev jobs) and for further self-studying of Webdev. Very disappointing results especially from the Webdev side, but not too surprising as my self studies were not far enough and especially I didn t have yet the time to build a portfolio and show off what I learned.

Then on 1 March I got again an embedded job in the automotive industry I couldn t refuse. Not bad paid for my experience. Again a 60 km commute one way every day. Quite big company. Honestly haven t done anything productive in the first month, and many more months to come, they say training could well be more than a year until being fully productive. And it s pretty boring. I can t really understand why they hired me and how the chances are the ywill keep me after the 6 month trial period. And I don t know if I really want to stay there.

But probably I should make the decision myself instead waiting for them. Embedded Systems or web development?

For better understanding me I should state my goals what I want out of life: I am not the typical office guy. I don t want the same 9 to 5 job for the rest of my life. I want more flexibility. Some breaks for personal stuff and travelling, either by changing jobs or a stable job which allows this. Or as a long term goal even a remote job or freelancing while travelling. I hate the time waists and the distractions of a cubicle office. I want too much? Well, that s my dreams, don t know if it all becomes true, but I want to try all possible I can do.

The really difficult decision I have to make now: Stick to the technical path (Embedded Systems, C / C++) or turn to Webdev, means quitting that job as soon as possible, devote 2 or 3 months fulltime to learning via FCC and other resources, building a portfolio and then applying for webdev jobs.

Pluses of Embedded Systems:

  • Good Pay
  • High Demand (after good years of experience)
  • already invested too much into this
  • in the longterm I might become really good in that field and be able to dictate my work conditions and have freedom. But unsure when and if ever this happens.

Pluses of WebDev:

  • probably a much quicker path ( I m not the youngest and want to enjoy life in the next few years and not in 15 years). SEveral people said in Embedded Systems it would take min 3 or 4 or 5 more years until I am really “good” in that field and can to some degree dictate the work cicumstances I want.
    In WebDev some success stories suggest you can get in within 6 months and become good in 2 years.

  • l like it. I like the fact that I can do things on my own, see results, overview a complete project, solve problems on myself with help of google, FCC, StackOverflow and thousands of wonderful understandable tutorials and Youtube videos, whereas in Tech you re always dependent on some technical documentation, written by some tech nerds and often enough not understandable.

  • Independence of complicated hardware or really expensive specalized software. In fact I think for WebDev in most cases I really just need my Laptop and nothing else, right?

  • The field of WebDev is much more unconventional, while the Embedded World, especially in Germany, is quite conservative. It s in WebDev where freelancing, remote work, non-standard working agreements and a hands-on mentality (show me what you can do, I don t care about your CV) are at home. Right?

How would you decide?

Anybody here working in the more technical software development?

Anybody here who “threw away” an electric engineering degree plus first entry steps in favor of the possibilities of a WebDev career?

Thanks a lot for reading and maybe replying.




Hahah… “threw away”… Yes, I have an electronics engineering degree, but pretty much after college I worked in software/programming (actually, mainframe programming, banking/finance industry). But working in banking software is a soul-crushing job-- no freedom at all, monitored everything you do, every code you write, reviewed, endless user testing and acceptance testing…

Then I worked in an electrical engineering company, and during my downtime/lunch-time I dabbled/learned LISP programming (because I found some LISP manuals and realized that the CAD software we’re using can be customized/programmed using LISP). So I made a few programs to automate my work, made me more efficient, so I can go home early and not stay late babysitting some process.

Word spread around, and soon pretty much every engineer in the company was using my set of utility programs… my boss and management found out, and well… decided I’m saving them so much money from not having to pay others overtime pay, that I was kinda made the software developer for the whole company… “Groupware” was the big thing back then, so I made apps in Lotus Notes and also continued making software/utilities to integrate with our CAD system, and make every engineer’s life a bit easier/faster.

Then the Internet happened big, when its been opened to the public and by that time, I am now the company’s Network Administrator. I again setup the whole company with FTP, giving each and every person in the company a dedicated email address (via Lotus Notes messaging) and then setting up a company website. This is a rarity back then. It was the very early days of the Internet. Like the days of SLIP and PPP prototcols.

It is at this point that I became enamored with web development, because it seems a combination of art/design and technical/programming chops. And I was certainly hooked by it. So after work, I’d go home, eat dinner, and spend the rest of the night learning more about graphics/design, programming, html, etc. I began taking side work, developing websites for small businesses at night after my day job and during weekends. Pretty soon, I’m making more money in these web dev side jobs than in my actual day job. By this time, the dot-com boom was in full swing.

Fast forward 2 years, and I’m quitting my day job to devote myself 100% fully to web development and running my own web/internet business.

Same… my wife said I can’t stand doing the same thing for 2-3 yrs in a row. I get antsy and want to move on and do something different. From the sound of it, it seems like you running your own business and doing what you want to do, when you want to do, where you want to do, is the perfect job for you.

That’s what basically I did after quitting my engineering day job… work from home, 100% full time in my own business, doing web dev work and other stuff. Doing this now for 19yrs. running.

About 8 years into doing web development, I decided to diversify (or maybe I became antsy again) and guess which field I picked to be my 2nd source of income? Yeah… Electronics. I became an electronics designer/manufacturer… selling my own stuff. At this point in time, the “maker” movement was in full swing.

And this year, guess where am i at? I’m doing embedded electronics. LOL. Designing my own electronics hardware, designing and writing the embedded firmware for it, while still continuing my web dev work. (My web dev is still my bread and butter income… but hope that this new project of mine will let me make money while doing not much except fulfilling and shipping orders. Maybe I’m becoming antsy again…)

IOT is big nowadays, and maybe there’s a way to make money off my hardware/software and website skills… we’ll see.

So yes, what you’re dreaming is possible. – but word of warning, it won’t be easy. It’s basically choosing to be a business owner vs. an employee. There are no guarantees in being a biz owner. There are no 100% guaranteed paycheck at the end of the month. It will be hard and lots of work. There are months when you are overflowing with money, and months when you are barely scraping by. There will be months where you will be making the equivalent of almost half your annual salary at your previous day job. And months where the guy at McDonald’s seems like making more than you! And you don’t have control over it! Feast or Famine… but looking back, it’s worth it for me and my family. There’s more upsides to it than downsides. Some of it financial/tangible, some of it intangibles… like my daughter grew up from baby to leaving for college, and she’s always had one or both parents in the house, or just in the next room…

My advice to you will be (take it FWIW), learn web dev after work, and during weekends and when you think you know enough, apply for web dev jobs. Keep your day job for now, until you know you have a “next step” to jump into. You have a wife and family too, so it’s not to be taken lightly jumping from one to the next, without a safety net. But really think hard about whether you want to be an employee again in the new web dev job. Do you really think it will be more flexible vs. your current job? Anyways, I can’t answer those questions for you. I think you and your wife need the talk on what’s best for the family, while at the same time giving your dream a chance.

Good luck!


HI @DevinSmith!

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