So, there’s this software developer asking advice on Slashdot about not to get burn-out in software development. Here are some interesting responds.
-Change job ..
Tau Neutrino writes:
Speaking from my personal experience (which is my only qualification to speak at all), keeping a steady stream of new and different jobs does the trick. I’ve been programming professionally for thirty-five years. I’ve never had a gig that lasted more than three. Some are “permanent”, some contracts, some on-site, some remote. Many of them have great promise at the start (“I could retire with this job”), but something always changes. The project is finished, or canceled, the company goes broke, or sees a major shift in direction, management changes and has different priorities than before. Some times it just doesn’t work out.
But the end result is that I’m in no danger of becoming complacent. There’s always new stuff to learn, new projects to pursue. I’m still having fun.
I 100% agree. It should take all of five minutes to find a new job, and jumping jobs is a great way to get more money. [stackexchange.com]
I agree with changing jobs.
At a certain point, you have to realize that you are in a no win situation and move on. The only way to affect change in your current organization is to leave. If enough people follow your lead, senior management will realize that your manager is a problem and deal with them. That will be too little, too late in your specific case, but the company will be better in the long run.
If you really are a good programmer, you can go to work anywhere. There is a serious shortage of good programmers in the world. By good programmers I mean people who inherently get programming. I do not mean people who happen to be able to develop apps in a single language.
Once you get burnt out with programming, aspire to be the manager or executive that you always wished that you could work for. Cultivate an environment in which other programmers can thrive and succeed. Find a company that needs good programmers and reap the rewards of being the person, or the team leader who builds the product that generates the revenue.
-Build your own business…
Anonymous Coward writes:
I’m 55, 25yrs experience, I’ve been the boss and don’t want to do it again, I work my contracted 8hrs because my employer is a mega-corp, not a charity. I may look burnt out to a 20-something but I certainly don’t feel it. My main gig is looking after the large cvs repository and automated build process I was hired to build ~10yrs ago. I’ve learned a whole bunch of scripting languages and tools in those 10yrs and forgotten a whole lot more. I make a comfortable living being the grumpy old fart sitting on the code repository, my pay is roughly twice the national full time average but still 10’s of thousands less per annum than in the the late 90’s.
Over the years I’ve observed that workload is like used disk space, it rapidly expands to fill the available hours. If you habitually work 12-16hr days when paid for 8 it becomes an expectation to the point where the boss will sometimes complain if you cut back to the contracted 8. If you work 8 and occasionally stay back to put out a serious fire, you are invariably thanked for the extra effort (and won’t burn out so quickly). Doesn’t matter who the boss is, this almost universal behaviour seems to be one of those strange social quirks we humans posses. Basically if you act like a “whore” people will (subconsciously) treat you like one.
Besides, I didn’t go to uni so that I could earn the same HOURLY rate as the factory shift work I was leaving behind.
-Seek new coding problem to solve (probably as side project)…
At its core, programming is about solving problems. But solving the same problem over and over is mind-numbing. Seek out interesting/challenging problems to solve and you’ll stay engaged and passionate.
-Here’s why a dev gets burn-out….
To stay on top as a developer, you need to learn new things every single day. As one gets older, that becomes harder – and for many people it eventually becomes more work than its worth. At that point a clock starts ticking. Three years…five years…at some point somebody who doesn’t learn something new about software every single day will get out of date. The other thing is something my dad warned me about decades ago – as one gets older, there’s a good chance that people problems become more interesting that software problems. If that’s the case, then lack of enthusiasm probably equates to boredom – and again, the clock starts ticking.
-Just food for thought..
Anonymous Coward writes:
I saw a talk on YouTube where a consultant was talking about the aging Microsoft and other tech companies. When he was there in the 1990s .. he went to a burger and movie with the guys – at about 9pm on a Friday after the movie they asked — “Are you going into work?” he asked why? and their answer “what else better is there to do?”
The consultant commented – this person now is in their 40s, has less energy, has a house, a wife, children and indeed some other things to do.
The big question is .. should a company encourage those 12 to 14 hour days? What happens when their staff ages and wants to do other things?
I know someone who is now rich changing those 80 hr weeks working for the man into working for himself. The wife mentioned he make more per hour flipping burgers. Some time later .. He also lost his wife. for obvious reasons.
Food for thought.
no easy answers.
-Man/woman up and embrace the burn-out…
Anonymous Coward writes:
Accept the burnout with open arms. Embrace it. Know it and love it. Take your other 16 hours per day and do things that profit you instead of your task masters.
-Not necessarily complacent…
I’ve got almost 20 years in IT, mostly in various aspects of security. I don’t consider myself complacent at all, but at the same time I’d much rather work the 9-5 M-F then put in lots of hours. In my 20’s I thought that the more hours you worked, the more it showed the company that you were valuable. Sure I got top ratings but I was only focused on my career. These days I consider it a source of pride that my overtime for last year was less than 10%. I’d rather spend time with my wife, with my friends, doing things that are fun. I stopped working to work and now work to enjoy life. I’m so much happier and the hours I put in our more productive, after about 10 hours pretty much everyone is better off calling it a day.
Jason Levine writes:
I grew up watching my father leave for work at 5am, come home at 6pm with a stack of work, do work at nights, and do more work on the weekends. His excuse was that his bosses saw him producing a certain level of output and he needed to keep it up. He’s retired now. Do you know what all that extra work got him? Laid off when someone else with better connections wanted his job.
When I first started my job, I made it clear that I wasn’t going to do this. I’m willing to remote in if there’s a problem that can’t wait until morning, but that’s the exception, not the rule. I get into work at 8am, leave at 4:30pm, and stop thinking about work the minute I leave the doors. Granted, I love what I do – web development – so I’ll often freelance or work on my own stuff on the side, but that’s my choice. I’ll also put that stuff on the side to teach my boys how to ride their bikes or to watch Doctor Who with them.
I enjoy my job, but part of what keeps me enjoying it is that I don’t let it take over my life.
-OP is most definitely isn’t alone on this problem..
I’m 32. I didn’t really get a “real job” as a developer until I was 27. I’ve been coding for fun since I was 13. Now I daydream about doing anything other than writing code.
I don’t know how it happened. All I know is that I went from having fun coding for free to hating coding for money. Perhaps the moral of the story is to never get a job doing what you love, because it will turn your love into hate. Or maybe the moral of the story is that Java kinda sucks, but Spring causes suicidal tendencies.
My job consists of figuring out a way to solve problems with Spring MVC. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, Spring MVC is the answer. It doesn’t matter if you can produce a solution using 5 lines of perl, Spring MVC is the only answer. If this is what development has become, I weep tears of nostalgia for the days of assembly language.
Recently purchased Kerrisk’s “The Linux Programming Interface”, Bovet’s “Understanding the Linux Kernel”, and Corbet’s “Linux Device Drivers” hoping that delving into the guts of awesomeness will counteract some of the stupid that I’ve had to endure. Let’s hope.
–It just won’t matter after 15 or 20 years..
… you start to realize that there are other things to life and living than spending more than half your day developing software.
Don’t fight it. Look at it as growing in a different direction.
-9-5 isn’t always “burn-out”…
As the dad of two young kids, just finding time to work, spend a reasonable amount of time being there for them, doing the daily chores around the house and (maybe) sleeping is a miracle some days. Older people who work 9-5 and have families want to keep them. Especially if their spouse/partner also works, there’s _never_ enough time to do anything. I used to be able to do whatever crazy crunch project (I’m in systems engineering, not development, but it’s not that dissimilar.) Now, I’m finding that there really has to be a justification for spending the extra effort. It is a trade off – even if I wanted to, which I don’t, I couldn’t go work for a start-up and pull back to back 90 hour weeks. Being a dad and doing it right is a massive time commitment. Whenever I hear about anyone who is having a kid soon, I frankly tell them that they need to go and do everything they wanted to do in the next few months…because sometimes it seems like there’s zero free time. And when you do have downtime, you’re so wiped out that you can’t do anything other than crash.
That said, as one gets older and more experienced, they’re less likely to make the mistakes that require the constant 90 hour weeks. And what you may see as burnout may just be people getting wise to the fact that it’s not worth slaving over a job. You owe it to the company to work hard while you’re there, I grant you that. But people who have lives outside of work really need that work/life split that everyone keeps trying to get rid of. My strategy for dealing with this is as follows – I know I have to keep my skills at least somewhat fresh in case I’m unexpectedly unemployed. So I try to add myself to just about anything new at work (and usually succeed.) That covers a lot of the skill building. And yes, I do have to spend a fair amount of time reading and tinkering outside of work, but that’s been severely curtailed. I think it’ll get better once the kiddies can do more things for themselves, but for now it’s a real challenge.
–Complacent or more realistic priorities?..
When you’re in your 20s, you feel like you have time to play with fun stuff like code.
When you’re in your late 50s, and the cancer has come and gone, and your parents have died, and getting up and moving is a daily exercise in pain, and your wife has started having strokes and you’re both in fear of the next one, and your cat/dog of 20 years is going to die of old age soon and so are you, probably in the next 20-30 years, believe you me, new software falls WAY down the list of important things to think about. Try mortality. Try meaning. Try the poignancy of life.
Code can be fun, sure, but it’s not *important* at all.
-OP’s question is assuming 9-5 wrong….
Anonymous Coward writes:
To avoid burnout do exactly this: 9 to 5, plus gym after work. Work hard, but avoid overtime by all means. Stay focused, but don’t think about work after 9. Balance is the secret to productive lifestyle. If you feel burnout its better to go to a gym than force yourself to work. Never check emails during weekends or vacation. However 9 to 5 is time when every minute counts. No stupid websites. No distractions. Work hard, but stop at 5 pm as 19-century factory. If you value your time you will organize your work better. You will design your code better. You will focus on results, not play. Don’t compromise family, personal, social life for work.
– Some devs coding passion is as high as always…
My passion is as high as always, only the world has changed and I’ve become wiser. Mind you, I’ve still broken my personal record in job-switching in the last 2 years, despite being in my mid-40ies. If anything, with age I’ve become *more* nimble but less annoyingly eager – at least on the outside.
Here’s some advice:
1.) Switch your job. Don’t worry, you’ll live. And if only it is to find out that you had the best job in the world. Ok them, *now* you know. Look for the next one like that. Sometimes a bit of job-hopping is required to find out what you want and what you don’t want. Practice job-hopping and interviewing. Not to make it a habit, but to get used to looking until you’ve found a place where you are valued. Going freelance is a variant to that. If you’re scared of going freelance even though you’d like to: Go freelance! Again: You’ll live. And you’ll never look back at your old life with anything other than pity.
2.) More experienced people in our field – like me – would rather do nothing than work with a shitty team unwilling to learn or toil away on something that can’t work or only will work with extreme stress and effort, because someone in sales or PM wasn’t listening and didn’t do his homework. Contrary to my younger colleagues, I, like most other experienced in our field, smell a project doomed to fail from 10 miles away. They might think I’m not passionate or that I’m complacent. Until three weeks later they’ve wasted 50hrs trying to get something to work that simply can’t under the given circumstances. When the project finally runs against the wall and the crew and the problem has everyone’s attention, the boss turns to me. I say: “We need A, B and C. Otherwise this won’t work. End of Story.” Optionally, depending on the situation, I add in “…. As I said 3 months ago.”. Side note: I always *did* say it 3 months ago, but sometimes it’s wiser not to rub it in. Also a thing experienced devs have learned.
Then we get what we need – which usually is simply a phone number of someone who we need to talk to and the mandate to do freely as we will, as long it stays within budget and solves the problem. Then I fix the problem by working a few hours of overtime – which I do gladly, because I, at this point, don’t have to deal with any bullshit and I feel like getting something done. Just happened again yesterday, btw. Stayed till half past eight and did all the scaffolding and on Monday morning finally everybody is going to hush and listen how we’re going to do the last fixes.
3.) There’s life beyond computers. I ditched my internet connection at home. Capped mobile data and Inet caffees are enough for regular E-Mail or getting your surfing fix in-between. I’ve got enough of that at work, and I try not to spend 12 hours at the keyboard each day as I used to. It’s lost its excitement. Mind you, I still pick up new stuff each day and make technology decisions 5 times a week at a minimum – but I’ve gotten way better and faster at dropping ideas. I try not to run in circles on the web anymore. I’m slowly building my Idea Immune System, and try to avoid getting all worked up within minutes about every new tech-fad that comes along. I’ve also got other things to do before I grow old. When my joints start aching, then I can go back to surfing and trying new web-toolkit 24/7, until then I want to get better at things I’m not that good at yet. Meeting women, cooking (moving away from fast-food), martial arts, exercising, traveling, dancing and perhaps even going back to playing guitar.
You should think about stuff like that too.
My general advice on this is:
You should at least have one regular thing in your life that fulfills you with deep inner satisfaction that has nothing to do with your job or other parts of your life. That can be a religion, any form or art or some outdoor activity or something along those lines. It should be that you can say to yourself: OK, even if I lose my job tomorrow, go broke, have my wife running away and my house burn to the ground, there’s still that thing I can do that is fun and gives my life true meaning.
Hope I could help.
–Some perspective is in order ..
Sources – 18 years of experience doing all kind of stuff, Java, C, C++, DevOps, Enterprisey stuff, Embedded, for commercial and defense sectors. 45 years old, married, two little kids and going back to grad school a third time.
<quote>Next year will be the start of my 10th year as a software developer. For the last nice years I’ve worked for a variety of companies, large and small, on projects of varying sizes. During my career, I have noticed that many of the older software developers are burnt out. They would rather do their 9-5, get paid, and go home.<endquote>
Family does that. Specially kids. I need to be home early to be with them, read to them, help them eat, clean themselves, let them see me (and feel and understand I actually give a shit). When I was single I would work at any hour. Not anymore. That does not mean, however, that my work is strictly 9-5. I wake up at 5AM to get myself ready, log in, do some work, then get ready (and help my wife get my kids ready). Then I log back to work via VPN from 9 to 10, sometimes going to bed till midnight… with just 5 hours to go sleep to start again.
I easily make 55a week just like that. More if I do work on weekends. But 9-5 is the strict window I use to be in the office.
A lot of 9-5’ers are like that, and in addition to all that, we see the same shit repeating itself again and again, from one employer to the next. So what you call “lack of passion” might actually be work-related pragmatism combined with some physical exhaustion and simply the necessary notgiveashitis gene kicking off to save your brain from dying after witnessing the same inane shit rendering itself at work for the millionth time.
The passion is there, is just that we move it out of work and into other things, like family and career (which is distinct from work.)
<quote>They have little, if any, passion left, and I constantly wonder how they became this way.<endquote>
Life. Life will happen and will change your perspective and priorities. YOU. WILL. SEE.
<quote>This contradicts my way of thinking; I consider myself to have some level of passion for what I do, and I enjoy going home knowing I made some kind of difference.<endquote>
But that is the thing. You are projecting. How do you know that other people are not made some kind of difference? They are likely making a difference *somewhere else*.
Also, as we get older we become more efficient with our time. I can do a lot more know with less time than what I could do when I had 10 years of experience (and certainly much more when I started my career.) We burn a lot of hours thinking it is necessary, we do not know how to prioritize or say no to crazy demands. We freak out, and we go into a professional-related frenzy, willing to burn the midnight oil to compensate for a lot of things.
We have a lot of energy when we start. But energy is not necessarily passion. And not all forms of professional passions are constructive. As we get older, family or not, we learn to pick our battles and seek out the lowest hanging fruits, the 20% that make up the 80%. It is then when we begin to be true engineers, not just berserker hackers.
<quote>Needless to say, I think I am starting to see the effects of complacency. In my current job,<endquote>
Unless you are developing the ultimate shit, or have a wonderful work experience with your managers, or are developing your own business, never, ever, be passionate about your job. Be passionate about your career, but not your job. Your job is the conduct by which you make money using your career. Display work ethics, and be willing to go the extra mile when needed. But don’t confuse that with passion. That’s just work ethics, which we should all display.
<quote>I have a development manager who is difficult to deal with on a technical level. He possesses little technical knowledge of basic JavaEE concepts, nor has kept up on any programming in the last 10 years. There is a push from the upper echelon of the business to develop a new, more scalable system, but they don’t realize that my manager is the bottleneck. Our team is constantly trying to get him to agree on software industry standards/best practices, but he doesn’t get it and often times won’t budge.<endquote>
Life. I told ya.
<quote>I’m starting to feel the effects of becoming complacent.<endquote>
That is not being complacent. That is becoming burned out. That is your mind and body telling you the situation is not conductive to your mental, emotional and professional development.
<quote>What is your advice? <endquote>
GTFO. Get another job that you like. Rinse and repeat as needed. Learn to be effective with your
I forgot to mention. Get a hobby, do shit outside of work and be passionate about it. Be passionate about life, not work! I look back into my early years how “passionate” I was about work (not knowing the difference between career and work.) That wasn’t passion, that was energy inefficiency combined with not knowing WTF I was doing (or how to do it better, faster and more economically.)