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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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What is the most overworked you've ever been?

Tell us about a time you worked for an overbearing organization/management— or perhaps a time you brought it on yourself.

When have you been most over-extended in your dev career?

Discussion (47)

sunnysingh profile image
Sunny Singh

I had a client as a freelancer that kept changing the scope of a project. This was when I was still in college, so I was also overloaded with class projects and my own side development projects.

Worked 2 all-nighters to finish the project, which still ended up being not what they wanted, and worst of all I did not get paid for the 3 months of work.

Obviously it was my fault in not setting up a contract and requesting half payment up front. Lesson learned the hard way 😅

kmwill23 profile image
Kevin • Edited on

I had a similar situation that led to me not working with the client anymore. I delivered the product, working great, looking snappy.

His issue wasn't scope creep though. He complained constantly about pixels being in the wrong places, and wanted it exactly to spec. I had to explain to him that while webdev tools are great, the detail he was after would cost a lot more.

He at one point asked me what HTML is 😆

mon_ste_cat profile image
Monica Stevens

Ah that's the worst! Is it just me or are the pickiest clients also the ones who balk over paying the most?

I've learned that same lesson about taking payment up front from my husband's construction business. It must just be universal to contracting work.

pavelloz profile image
Paweł Kowalski

Yes, this seems to be true even when companies are "big" and price is smaller. There are ways to mitigate the risk though, like retainer (never fixed price, because scope is never fixed), pay per phase, higher price (this will discourage those who dont want to pay for quality in the first place).

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Yikes. I got myself into similar situations when I was freelancing early in my career. Learned a lot of valuable lessons about getting paid!

tammalee profile image
Tammy Lee

I started at a new job working on a pilot for a financial institution with a company who had never done anything that complicated before. Within weeks the owner of the company was screaming at us about how over budget we were. For something that had never been done before.

I stuck around (because it was interesting work!) and wound up being involved in the beta for the pilot. Again, doing something that had never been done before. The lead left for a month to get married and I was left trying to get this project into production. When he returned, he decided the project was now mine, wouldn't take over again, and quit shortly after.

Fast forward six months. I am put in charge of the final iteration of this project and given a team. Because I am trained as a programmer/systems analyst I end up doing all of the back and forth with the BA's instead of the PM, I am testing new tech ahead of my team then assigning tasks, I am pulling my own weight with coding, and four months in I've already banked all of the overtime I'm allowed and start getting it paid out.

Kudos to my team! We worked weekends, 12-16 hour days, whatever it took to get this project to completion. I bought so many bowls of pho for my coworkers and the boss gave us Starbux cards loaded with $200 at a time for our team. The client sent us a fruit bouquet to help prevent colds when we were in the final stretch. My original estimate turned out to be accurate and it cost nearly half a million dollars to create. I have never worked so hard or so focussed before in my life. Somewhere in my GitHub history, there is a stretch of 60 days in a row where I pushed code and not little snippets.

I hope I never get a project like this again. XD It was very satisfying to complete but it also took complete advantage of my mental health.

lmuzquiz profile image

this is a great story

tammalee profile image
Tammy Lee

FYI? We started this project in mid-April and it went live sometime in October/November/December of that same year. (Sorry, I don't remember exactly when it launched. My brain was mush by that time and my memories are mostly blurs.)

pavelloz profile image
Paweł Kowalski • Edited on

Yeah, trading health to increase chance of the projects success is a very very very bad deal. I learned that the hard way this year.

fergarram profile image
Fernando Garcia

It was the time I worked in a startup as the only "tech guy". I was literally living in the office back then, working about 10 - 12 hours a day for about a year in order to deliver two MVPs.

To maintain my health I would do intermittent fasting and meditated for 30 min a day. I learned so many things about software development and UI/UX design, but I was also really lonely — I would sometimes walk outside just to see other people to stay sane LoL.

I don't regret it but I would never do that again.

mon_ste_cat profile image
Monica Stevens

I was most over-extended when I was working full time and trying to get a new job.

For 5 months I constantly worked nights and weekends to either apply for jobs or keep up with my day job. And it seemed like every place I applied to had a 9 step interview process and a big coding project. 😵

I was a little under qualified and not in a position to be picky at the time, but in hindsight if a company's willing to work you like a dog for an interview they'll do the same once you're an employee. Lesson learned.

felipeloha profile image

That’s actually a good point!
Many company’s want you to do a lot of work only for the interviews which is almost impossible having a full time job

lmuzquiz profile image
lmuzquiz • Edited on

When i was working for a branding / web development project for a truck company client, i remember me trying to stay awake in front of the computer and going for a burrito and coffee at 3 am to my nearest 7-eleven. That lasted only for three days. (the overbearing amount of work). Thanks God.

Also around three months ago, while working on a UI for a dashboard system for another client, something like that happened again, i actually got hospitalized on this one, during breakfast my wife noticed my face was pale green and i almost fainted. The doctor said i was dehydrated (i think i was drinking to much coffee, which in turn made me want to go to the bathroom often). Both costumers are very happy. But at the time my wife was not at all.

mon_ste_cat profile image
Monica Stevens

Both costumers are very happy. But at the time my wife was not at all.

Haha that's the real test of work life balance.

lmuzquiz profile image


zoltanhalasz profile image
Zoltan Halasz

Probably during my previous job as a management accountant, during month-end and quarter-end closing (6 days of very intensive and exhausting work). No stress during this transition year, while studying development and working during my projects.

integerman profile image
Matt Eland

I signed on as a senior dev for the first time in order to build a competitive alternative to a major product another company bought another company just to have in the first place. I had to do it in short order to win deals and stop attrition. It was just me on the project without QA and... I pulled it off! Quality was abysmal and my assumption was that the directive to go fast and build big things came with an expectation of bugs, but ... it did not. Communicating expectations is important!

kmwill23 profile image

I took a job for a startup once. I could stop there and most would understand 😁

We had funding enough for three devs, a project manager, and an IT guy. The product was completely viable, but it was in the advertising space, which is insanely crowded. Our first major partner was another startup, though I questioned it's viability. Our second partner was going to be the gold.

The first failed, and the second just went AWOL. We were left with doing random webdev jobs to survive. Soon I was the only employee, and worked all hours.

I didn't mind though, because I have this burning passion for code. Even did side gigs during all of this.

One day, paycheck didn't post. I draw a hard line there 😋

scrabill profile image
Shannon Crabill

Yikes, this is dipping into some dark times.

Looking back, I was overworked most of the time at my previous job. We were not accurately staffed for the amount of work that came in. Plus, our busy season almost doubled our number of tickets without any additional staffing. Plus. So. Many. Meetings. Plus, oh yeah, we're changing all of these systems and you now have mandatory training. But at least there's pizza?

I was in that role for 5+ years and was burnt out professionally. The day-to-day drama meant I was exhausted at the end of the day and didn't feel up like doing much else. I felt like I was in a loop of wanting to do something new, but not being able to do at work, and being too exhausted to do it on my own time.

That's not normal!

Being on the other side (accurately staffed, supportive culture, better work/life manager and my coworkers and boss are rad) makes me realize how bad it was.

khrome83 profile image
Zane Milakovic • Edited on

So I use to be a game developer. I can probably stop the explanation there...

I did work for a now-defunct studio where the CEO expected engineering to stay until 4 am on a Saturday without any notice. Everyone was exempt. I was the producer on the project and refused to keep the team for those types of hours.

That resulted in a 3 am call while I was driving home with my wife. Where he drunkenly chewed me out. The VP of the company called the next day to apologize for his behavior. Long story short, I gave notice the following day. I was just married and new in my career.

Little did I know I would spend the next 14 months unemployed and never end up back in the game industry. I had several years of experience at the time and even worked on some very large AAA titles in high valued roles.

Now I build websites. The same thing I have been doing since I was 13. All my years of student debt to get into the game industry, and my career ruined because of this man's drunken tirade.

This was a long time ago, but you don't forget how you were treated.

pavelloz profile image
Paweł Kowalski • Edited on

Had similar story, but much quicker resolved and less dramatic.

Im web dev, and when i was young, one dude got promoted to be IT chief in an agency and apparently he thought this company is one in a million and he can do whatever he wants to.

Friday, 5:30 PM, im leaving home, he tell me to stay longer to finish something.
I say, nope, i have plans.
He said if i leave now i can "bring papers" on monday. I dont know what this meant because i had no contract or anything (way to avoid taxes by companies, since im not an employee, there is no health plan, insurance, etc.).
Anyway, i came back monday, told them i quit in 2 weeks, just to finish ongoing project and introduce someone else. Then i had like 6 talks so that everybody have a shot on keeping me in the company, but this toxic behavior was too much.

People are not company property.

justsharkie profile image

For me, college was 100% the most overworked I've been.

We had a term we nicknamed the "Semester from Hell", which basically involved a lot of all-nighters in our dedicated computer lab. And by a lot, I mean 3/7 days a week.

The other days I just worked until 3am at home.

During my Coop semester the year after I was so broken down and burned out I could barely concentrate. It was baddddd.

dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

I had some months of 60-80 hour weeks near the beginning of the decade, pitching and prototyping an integrated customer communications solution while simultaneously trying to keep a 10-12 person dev team operational, staffed, and shielded from an outsourcing-happy management chain.

Don't work in advertising.

manuelojeda profile image
Manuel Ojeda

Working from 9AM to 12 ~ 3 AM from Monday to Friday for 3 months in a row. That wasn't good to my mental health, luckily this didn't happen again since then.

Why I did work so much? I work at an Electoral Institution here where I live and in those day we were in election process. Just remembering those days makes me feel bad 😢

mvasigh profile image
Mehdi Vasigh • Edited on

Definitely during my career change into software development. I was working as a program coordinator for a nonprofit at the time. I was hired as the second paid staff, and my boss left for another position 4 months into my role. For the next 6 months I was the only paid staff, and the volunteer leadership for the org insisted that they had posted the job for a new director, though I knew that wasn't the truth (there was no trace of any activity on our Indeed account or anywhere else within our web presence). Eventually we did hire someone and she was great, but she was also completely fed up with the organization and quit shortly after I left.

While I wasn't verbally abused or anything like some of the replies here, those 6 months that I was the interim director were terrible. I still received the same low compensation, but had to handle and answer for every facet of the org's operations. This also meant 2 to 3 12-14 hour days every week. I was also trying to learn to code at the same time, which meant that I'd wake up every morning at 4 am, code for several hours before work, and often come home and code late into the night as well. I can't even imagine how someone with multiple jobs and children trying to make ends meet can make it work.

Anyway, I was only at that job for a year and it was well worth it because I managed to learn enough to land me my first full-time dev job in the process, and since then things have been great! Even the high-stress times at my current job don't really compare.

gvpmahesh profile image
vamsi pavan mahesh gunturu

In my first year of career, where I just started as a RoR developer. I found myself working from morning 9 to night 9 in office, and even at home I used to learn/understand/discuss/post in stackoverflow about the code that I have been working on.

Come to think of it, that is the worst thing I did to myself. I should have asked for a project manager, when there were not any. The client used to come to the developers directly and express his anger about why the project is going so slow.

Apparently the CTO promised the whole e-commerce project to be done in 2 weeks, but in retrospect, it was done in 6 months. With the engineers being fresh grads and requirements kept on adding. At this current situation, I am in with 4+ years experience, I would have made a promise like 2-3 months. But certainly not 2 weeks.

I got back pain
I resorted to smoking at least 3-4 cigarettes a day. While I smoked a little in college as a recreational thing. But it was not a habit in college. But it became a habit after I joined work professionally.
I was not mentally well, I used to get irritated and was not nice with colleagues. I used to cry sometimes in the night for no reason or some other reasons which can be coped with if I did not have stress at work.

I did not have any life other than work.

While the whole experience of working in this company made me better as a developer and land a job at double the pay. I just wish sometimes, it need not be done that way. I should just relaxed a little and maybe should have gotten the double pay after 2 years instead of one year since I was just 22 at that point in time.

Now I just work 10 - 5 or 6. I don't do work after office unless it's a prod issue. I am going to the gym 2-3 times a week and quit smoking. I wish someone was there to guide me better.

henriqueof profile image
Carlos Henrique

I am currenlty working as a full-time programmer at a relatively new company, the problem is that I as contracted to work as programmer but I do a lot besides programming, I reworked the entire data center infrastructure, deployed a full private cloud environment based on OpenStack, migrated services, deployed new services and developed some tool that spams many platforms, train new employees and help the NOC since their current leader is a complete imconpetent the is wonly thhere because he's the owner's friend.
My current job allowed me to learn a lot besides full stack programming but it feels like a nightmare now.

Currently looking for a full-time remote opportunity, if someone could help I would be very grateful. :)

dmahely profile image
Doaa Mahely • Edited on

Probably when I was in university, doing my graduation project.

It was me and another developer who worked quite slowly. We were really behind and I was determined to finish it before the finals so my last final would really be my last day.

I would know what I wanted to implement and how to implement it but with no time to do it because we just had that much to do. Every day I went to sleep late with my eyes burning and my back hurting. In the final stretch we had a 4-day weekend where I spent all day coding until both of my wrists hurt but I kept coding.

We finished on time, in about 2 months. I never doubt my ability to finish something on a tight deadline anymore but I seriously consider it before agreeing.

patryktech profile image

Doing cellular network optimization work for a Mexican company.

I was a consultant for a Swedish firm, and it was a very sweet gig... I automated most of my work, so we had a tool with decent automation, and I often had a very chill schedule.

At other times, data wasn't available when we needed it, scripts ran for hours (processing hundreds of millions of call and sms records)... When things went bad, they went terrible.

I was young and in fairly good shape (mentally and physically) - enough that the occasional 20 hours shifts or 80 hour days weren't a problem (and even today, I can easily do 60+ hours when I'm passionate about the problem I'm solving).

No regrets. Loved living in Mexico, and I learned a lot.

alextremp profile image
Alex Castells

At my previous job the company took the compromise to teach an insurance company devs about the new architecture that was being implanted.
I was the noob (but senior) there so I was the man to give the sessions.
What I found:

  • Nobody documented the new architecture.
  • Nobody knew the old architecture.
  • The insurance company was expecting sessions about the old, the new, and general Java EE architectures for 8 teams of distinct development skills, and also practical/workshop sessions, 20h per team.
  • I was having 2 weeks to investigate and prepare all that shit 😂

So I ended sleeping 3h per day during 2 months.
When I realized what the problem was (and know why nobody else wanted to do that) I told my manager that I would do because I took the compromise, but after that I would leave the company. And I did 😂💪

albertobn profile image
Alberto Bar-Noy

Taking on code at a homeland security oriented company that was developed at a software house during 3 years by 10 different people, sorting it out, debugging, rewriting, supporting current clients and building and managing a team. After 3 years I was almost burned out and close to seeking professional help.

fyodorio profile image

I had an occasional client and a well-paid project with tight deadline at the beginning of my freelance life. One day I needed to work for 14 hours without a break. It caused me serious back problems and I had spent about a month in a hospital. This client hadn’t even paid me the full agreed amount of money.
These days I never work without breaks and for more than 6 hours a day.

jrop profile image
Jonathan Apodaca

Worked for a professor at my University, doing undergrad research for him, whilst taking one of his classes. Spent 90% of Thanksgiving break hacking on a Java project with a fellow student. It was miserable, albeit short-lived!

eddysims profile image
Eddy Sims

I worked for a Marketing company that was just getting into web development. When I joined I was the only developer and designer. They told me that they needed to launch 5 custom WordPress sites a month to make the web development branch of the business work.

After 10 months of over exerting myself there I booked a vacation. A few days before I left on my vacation I was told I couldn't go because we were too busy. Needless to say I left on my vacation and found a new job when I came back.

andrejnaumovski profile image
Andrej Naumovski • Edited on

I was senior year in university. Parallel to my studies and exams I also had some classes as an undergraduate teaching assistant in Advanced Algorithms and Data Structures. I also landed my first dev job which was part time (20hrs/week) and on top of that I had a freelance project I did with a friend. I needed the money at that time cause my parents weren't doing real good, and I worked 12-16h days for about an entire semester, even on weekends. Was burned out for about 2-3 months following that. I even wrote a post here on about it.

codedgar profile image

Earlier this year a friend of my best friend contacted me, he said he wanted a website, so we arranged the price and everything was going smooth. But some weeks went by and I didn't get responses from him, I thought it was weird but didn't care that much.

So once he stopped talking for 1 week and I didn't know what to do, so I just waited for him to get to me back and he did, he told me he had a child, I congratulated him and what not. And then, 2 weeks later, he stopped answering at all. The project was almost finished and I didn't know what was going on, wrote him, call him, nothing seemed to work.

After 6 fricking months he contacted me again, he designed (By himself, without telling or asking me) 2 more subpages, he wanted the page ready in 1 week I told him that I couldn't do that, since it would be a lot of work for me. He insisted but I told him it was unfair to add more work and do it in such a small time.

Another guy contacted me saying he's the first guy's boss (???) and that he wants to continue the work talking directly to me, we talked to the client, told her that we will one change existing things on the website and this guy's boss told me that he also wanted it in one week.

I made the mistake of doing all the things in time, but there were resources (images, content) missing, I emailed him and he answered days late telling me to change that quickly and later blamed it on me.

To close it out, 2 weeks passed and the guy's boss, told me that he was going to return the money, and he needed the money he gave me. I refuse and tell him that it was 6 months ago and I didn't had that money anymore. He just blocked me, and the first guy wrote me a message calling me irresponsable. I talked to him back saying that this was the first time that something so stupid like this happened to me, and that I've worked with around 30 people creating websites.

He emailed me a big letter telling me irresponsible in various ways and in the end he told me "If you have worked with so many people why aren't you in Silicon Valley you dumb f*ck?".

I was tired, didn't get paid complete, and angry. Never answering clients after so much time anymore.

mike_harley profile image
Mike Harley

I'm still new to the industry. But i'd say everyday😂😂😂. Weather it's because it's a new framework or something I forgot about one I've used in the past. But I feel a lot of my time is spent searching Google for url's that lead me back to to learn or relearn things I should have already known. 😂😂😂

keevcodes profile image
Andrew McKeever

32 hours by Wednesday morning plus worked that Saturday. Client tossed our design at the last minute, but still wanted the product by the deadline.

Agency life allows you to learn a lot, but can be draining. Thankfully I was given extra vacation for the effort.

tfutada profile image
Takashi Futada

I am a Japanese and Japan used to be a society where people voluntary or coercively worked overtime. The situation, however, thanks to shortage of IT engineers got improved. In my case, i work remotely, in fact i am in Shenzhen now. Just one condition, you got to study cutting edge techs such as AI, blockchain, Flutter Firebase, GCP and Chinese;-)

meatboy profile image
Meat Boy

Some time ago when I worked for freelance and have a fresh, new daily job. I underestimate a freelance project and because of the deadline, I worked for almost all days, sleeping for 4 hours per day or less each day. After a week I have been so exhausted, stressed and anxious, I took day off and re-design my work-life balance.

krkd profile image

I can't pinpoint a specific timeframe when it happened, but some period in my last job made it so that when I finally left it last fall I was paid out more than three months in leftover vacation days and overtime. I'm still struggling with the effects on my mental and physical health. Hindsight, I wish I had quit sooner.

The most overworked I've ever been physically was when I was still an apprentice at a datacenter facility. Because of mismanagement there was a situation that required the 'evacuation' of a part of the datacenter within 72h. That meant scheduling, planing and moving roughly fifty customer-owned server-racks with the least amount of downtime possible. Did I mention that it was me (just to remind you, an apprentice) and a coworker? That's it. Luckily we were able to utilize the help of an electrician we had friendly ties with, so at least the electrical wiring was something we did not have to take care of. Still.

I don't remember exactly how much, or how little, I slept, but in those 72h it was probably less than eight hours. By the end of it my coworker and I didn't even make it home, we slept in the office for an hour first.

I learned a lot in those three days, not just knowledge-wise, but about my own limits, about working as a team under immense pressure, and that if I ever reach a role that involves "management" that I'll never let my people experience the same thing.

Also I'm not ever doing such a thing again, I'd rather quit.

mshambharkar profile image
Mahindra Shambharkar

Multiple times:

  1. Fixing bug and delivering requirements overnight and working other day,because reporting manager was in mindset of typical service providing organization.
  2. When I was fresher: tried to deliver a solution till 2 a.m., which I was not able to deliver due to my limited technical knowledge.
lietux profile image
Janne "Lietu" Enberg

I used to work several back to back 300+h/mo months on a regular basis every time there was another "crisis" in a project because some idiot manager promised more than they should've, typically about 12-14h/day for 6-7 days a week.

It was stupid, the results were awful, and the pay wasn't good enough anyway. People need to not be proud of such things and find a better job when their managers treat them like that.

Nowadays I put a lot of effort into trying to not overwork myself so every hour I do work, I am at peak performance. I deliver much better value for the time and money spent, and when there's a crisis I can stretch a bit.

lietux profile image
Janne "Lietu" Enberg

The worst was when one of the managers hung out at the office "to join us" and all they had to do to spend their time was browse Facebook and Youtube, yet they had to be there to piss the rest of us off.

leob profile image

Literally pulling an all-nighter helping to fix a major system calamity while afterwards not receiving due credits (credits went to the boss' nephew and some other colleague, nepotism to the max). Crazy episode and definitely not worth it.

xanderyzwich profile image
Corey McCarty

I was working 10 hour days and worked Saturday activities (beyond the 50 hour m-f) for 8 weeks straight.

mohit355 profile image
Mohit Raj

When selected for the first Hackathon of my student life.
Hackathon Name: Hack Off v2.0 2019
Project Link: