iPhone as a Career

Prashant P. wrote me recently asking some questions that I thought I’d answer here. First, can iPhone development be full time job, and second, will it help him get into a “mainstream job” in Java, .NET, etc. As he notes, most of the iPhone development he’s seen has been a part-time rather than full-time job; a side-line rather than a career.I’ll start with the second question first: iPhone is not a gateway to other platforms except Mac. But even that would be foolish. If you want to work on Mac, work on Mac. If you want to work on .NET, work on .NET. Java and C# have a lot in common, but there’s no reason to learn C# hoping to get a job in Java. If you love Java, then work in Java. If you love C#, work in C#. There are tons of projects to help on for most platforms, and plenty of room to create new ones (open or commercial). Get involved.

I’m a full-time Mac and iPhone developer today. I got here because I taught myself Mac development because I wanted a Pandora player that didn’t take over my browser. I read a book, started building my own, discovered PandoraBoy, joined that project and eventually took it over. Then a job opened up for a Mac developer, and because I’d just been doing what I love to do, I had the background to get that job. When iPhone became a big thing, we Mac developers had a huge head start on Cocoa, so we became iPhone developers. This is how careers can be built by just doing what you love and keeping an eye out for opportunities. I never had to quit my old job to pursue development; I just worked on Mac stuff in the evenings because it interested me. When a career showed up, I was ready.

If you love Java, then work on Eclipse or any of the other Java projects. If you love .NET, there’s plenty of opportunities to build things there. Don’t tell employers what you’d like to be paid for; show them the kind of work you do even when no one is paying you. I’ve interviewed a lot of people, and this is what I always look for.

To the question of whether iPhone can be a career, I know many people who have made it one and do quite well, and some who have made it one and barely scrape by. But in any case, it’s more a question of whether you have a passion for it. Follow your passion first and let the career follow. In software development we have the incredible flexibility of pursuing our passion without quitting our day jobs. We can work anywhere, any time, our materials are cheap once you have a computer, and we don’t have to set up a storefront to sell our goods. Embrace that.

Watch the job postings at Jobcoin. They come up quite often. Take on freelance work a piece at a time, or start a small commercial product of your own and see where it takes you. Use LinkedIn. Recruiters contact me there regularly, so there are definitely jobs out there. Write a blog. But most importantly, keep producing, whether someone is paying you or not. If producing is a chore, you’re probably chasing the wrong dream.