The Long Term Plan

It’s time to think about a long term plan.

I’ve clearly got my shit together. I have a career and I’m reasonably well paid – well paid enough for a £1,438 a month mortgage and several holidays a year.

Also I’ve lost weight and I’ve had a quote to sort my teeth out. In 6-9 months time I might even feel comfortable enough to smile – and go onto dating apps.

Yet there is a cloud looming over the horizon.

Artificial intelligence.

Though with thanks to Google Photo’s AI for filtering my photos to find those of clouds.

Could AI Steal My Career?

ChatGPT was released 18 months ago. I rarely use it nowadays for work – I did at times, but I found the quality of results down-trended over time. However, Co-Pilot is so helpful. Mostly it just finishes the code I want to write, saving me a few seconds of typing. But sometimes I ask it to write something that I cannot be bothered to think about how to do – and it does it.

And occasionally it writes functions before I’ve even realised that is what I want to write. That’s scary. Just now I stopped writing this blog, expecting Co-Pilot to kick in and finish my sentence…obviously it doesn’t as this isn’t code, though an AI probably could do if trained on my writing style.

Co-Pilot has made me more productive, for sure.

Which means it will have made everyone else more productive, surely?

Also surely, this is only going to get better. At the moment, there’s no way Co-Pilot or any other AI could cope with the complexity of the codebases I work on at work, nor be able to translate designs/specs (and often the lack of them…just conversations) into code.

But if you had asked me 5 years ago whether an AI would be writing code for me before I even knew I wanted to write it myself, I’d be impressed. And possibly scared.

How long do I have left as a software engineer?

My guess is that I likely have 5 years left as a well paid software engineer. 10 years is certainly plausible – there was a time when I was learning web development that I saw the likes of Wix and Squarespace taking what I thought my market would be – but what I do now is exceptionally more complex than building a website for a plumber. And it is plausible that in 5 years time, AI does things that now I think are fairly complex, yet cannot do what software engineering has become in 2029…us engineers have a habit of complicating things further all in the name of a more performant web.

10 years would take me to my mid-50’s anyway – will I still be alert enough for the complexities in software engineering in my mid-50’s? Would I still want to spend 10 or so hours most weeks trying to upskill outside of work? Probably and maybe, but there’s no guarantee in life.

Even if AI doesn’t take my job, it’s plausible that the vast amount of bootcamp graduates and Computer Science graduates will do. Some graduates are scarily clever, I’ve worked with graduates that are beyond my level. Not many…but a couple.

So I need a plan.

What Is My Long Term Plan?

My long term plan isn’t fully formulated, but then again neither was becoming a software engineer – hell, I spent 6+ months learning Photoshop to great frustration at one point in the journey, thinking I had to know it to build a website. I didn’t.

Financially I have this figure in my head of saving £200,000.

It’s pretty arbitrary, but it feels like an amount that if shit really hit then fan, I couldn’t work as a software engineer any more for whatever reason, and therefore couldn’t pay my mortgage – at least I’d have enough money to buy somewhere else outright, some place cheaper than Croydon (hello Spain, also please can we re-join the EU), and survive with an ordinary job and afford to feed myself and have some life.

Of course, maybe I’d be able to convert my mortgage to buy-to-let, and rent it out and go live somewhere cheaper too. Not something I’ve looked into, though I have noticed that there are flats in this block on Airbnb at £100 a night.

Quite how I get to this figure of £200,000 is another matter. Stock market go boom? Hmmm. Feels like another blog post though.

Is There Another Career?

I’m going to take a wild guess that if I get to 55 I’m not going to want to study for another technical role that AI would do soon anyway. Robotics, the internet of things, real-world engineering – these are perhaps all areas that with significant study, I could apply current skills to.

Could.

But maybe to be AI-proof, I’d need to do something people-focused.

When I was younger, I wanted my own nightclub. Nowadays, I don’t, but the idea of having my own bar/restaurant has some appeal – assuming I have good enough teeth to do some front-of-house role. I certainly wouldn’t be a chef, I’d be the brains, the owner, the creator, maybe part-manager, maybe occasional barman. Whether it would be something silly like a Gravy restaurant, or a beach bar in Spain/Costa Del Croydon – who knows, though I’m not short of ideas. I’d have to spent some time learning the trade first, I guess.

The alternative, and preferred idea, would be to still earn money online – I have ideas but I never put much effort into them. Maybe I could monetise my roast dinners website a bit – interestingly Facebook have started paying me for my weather page, only $20 a month, but I guess they are also saying “hey create more content than two forecasts a week”. More realistically I do have ideas for websites to make, one is a holiday idea, one more London-based, one more cultural – and maybe they would be monetisable, but who knows. I don’t have much time to put into them, and only one I’ve started building – and that is like 1% done and I don’t actually have a working vision for it yet either.

It does feel a tad foreboding that my current career that I’ve put so much effort into might not last too many more years, almost certainly not until retirement.

But I’ve always believed that if I have a plan, if I have goals, then I will be alright. And this is the start of my formulation of a long term plan…and a bridge towards…retirement.

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