What do i want to do when i grow up?

Where are the cool innovations of the next decade happening so i can find a job working on them?

I am starting to look for a job and for the first time in many years i am not sure what sort of job i want. I have made a good career being on the bleeding edge of web development. I believed in the superiority and inevitability of the web long before most people. I have advocated for hypermedia APIs to bring many of the web’s benefits to application integration. These beliefs allowed me to work in some of the most innovative communities in existence, the ones around Rails, Ruby and web APIs.

The web was once untested, immature and respectably revolutionary. That has all changed. Web applications are now the norm, as are the technologies that grew up with it. More recently hypermedia APIs have gained real traction. This is a good thing but it makes me nostalgic. I don’t find implementing “best practices” using “proven technology” all that appealing. Marginal improvements are good — great, even — but the are not particularly inspiring.

I need to find a new revolution to join. But finding nascent revolutions is not easy. They are by definition small and hard to see. I am not even sure if i am looking for a revolution in technology, or a revolution in an important domain that is enabled by technology.

Big data?

On the revolution in technology side, one possibility is data science and big data. These are getting a lot of hype these days and the tools seem pretty immature over there. The immaturity is very appealing; the hype not so much. The fact that it is heavily hyped might mean that it is close to peaking. Joining a revolution that is already over is no fun.


Cloud technologies feel similar to big data to me, just further along. Lots of good ideas but the heavy lifting is already done. Pretty much everyone accepts that cloud anything is a good idea and most of the important capabilities already exist. Obviously there are tons of improvements to be made but from the outside they all seem pretty incremental.

Specific problem domain?

Another possibility is to focus on a problem domain, rather than a technology set. Finding the right domain is a huge challenge, though. I would want the domain to be one that was ripe for some drastic innovation and could make the world a much better place. I think that means either a new, immature sector or a industry that has stagnated for many years. Education and energy spring to mind immediately but i am sure there are others.

I really don’t know what to focus on. The more i think about it the more i like the idea of working on a problem domain but how do i decide which one? I need to decide pretty quickly, not having a long term direction makes it hard to take immediate steps. If you have any thoughts or advice i’d love to hear them.

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