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vivienneme sends brownie points to @zumruduanka :sparkles: :thumbsup: :sparkles:
@vivienneme the final choice is up to you, and it seems like a hard one to figure out! If the opportunity you currently have is already awesome and you see yourself being able to continue to work in that career year after year, I wouldn't see why you couldn't keep continuing down that path. When the career growth stops, are you happy with where it will be at? Are you ready to handle the stress of being in a new and potentially uncomfortable situation as you pursue a new career path and skillset?
I've been a front-end designer from the beginning, but during my free time I've been able to study and increase my programming skills. You can study programming in any job you're in that doesn't demand more than 12 hours a day out of you, haha. The best thing about programming is you can build and create anything you want outside of having a job tell you to, even if you don't currently work in a programming job.
As for a career in programming, it sounds exciting and it sounds awesome at times, but don't let all the unicorn glitter hide the realities. A developer's job is work, and is similar in many ways to any other job out there. There can be office politics, bending over backward (often) to the higher ups on business decisions, hours can be stressful since as a computer user, you don't get overtime and you can be expected to work long hours. Startups might be the easier path to get a foot in the door into the programming world, but it is not always as "exciting" as articles tell you it can be. You will deal with bullshit, you work 12 hours or more, you die slowly on the inside as you write terrible code to get things done, stress with trying to fix odd stuff, deal with hostile code-hoarding socially awkward programmers, and programs blowing up in your face.
But I just showed you the full dark side, not every office is like that, in fact it's few, but it's there. I started at one startup and stayed for three years, never got a raise (usually don't expect one in small companies) but I got to learn some Ruby on Rails. I got bored and switched to another startup that my friend's convinced me to join them. Three months in and we had to merge with another company to survive. Two months after that I was laid off in a down-sizing. A month later I got into another startup but much larger and slightly more stable. It's a little slower, progress can be boring at times compared to the last startups I was in, but it has a decent environment. It's also given me time to expand and grow my skills in the free time I've got now with less stress.
A lot of my experience comes from startups not in the Silicon Valley, I'm over on the East Coast :D One of my first corporate job was actually as a web designer in a full-blown non-startup standard company that's been around for 15 years or more. I was really the only "developer" there, I literally did nothing for the first four months I worked there because one of the guys there was keeping access to the website to himself for job security and I ended up also doing more powerpoint presentation designs for management. I left after six months. One thing that can be said is the web development world is huge and in need of people so it's not hard to find jobs.
It's been stressful as hell at times but it's been a fun ride so far. It's had its ups and downs but only time and experience will help you to learn along the developers career path which jobs you want to take and which to avoid.