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Dealing with novel emotions as a new-born developer

eckhardtd profile image Eckhardt ・5 min read

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The honeymoon phase of software development

This stage is where the proverbial hook sets and you're spending most of your time doing courses, watching live streams or thinking about what cool thing you can build with your new-found love for this art that is software development.

Some are, at this point, already working as an intern / junior and others (most) aren't in the field professionally yet - but the experience is similar. It kind of feels like there's no limit to what you want to learn or build.

Hopefully here is where you have used your energy and motivation to employ your skills towards a goal of actually making a living from it. This is the best time to pivot, because you'll want to head each problem UNTIL you have figured it out. This trait is well sought out in this industry.

From novel to monotony

One day you're at the computer, looking at the same code that you've seen for the past few months. Repeating the same patterns, reporting to the same people - git add, git commit, git repeat.

The novelty of it all wanes and all of a sudden you're not watching your usual Youtube tutorial before bed, you're not waking up and sketching some idea that came to you. You're just going through the motions.

People around you don't really seem to get what you're doing either, they just assume you're in IT - so they assume that your dark circles and depressed attitude comes with the trade.

Burnout in software development

Then Finally it comes to the point of no return and you burn out. Suddenly there's no interest in something you once loved SO much. At this point I quit software for over a year and barely ever even opened an IDE. Some grind on, others quit and some handle it even worse.

Recovery from software burnout

This is where I hope to give some insights from my own experience, chances are not many are reading this post unless they feel like they have to. So if you feel that way - I hope the following advice from my personal experience can help you.

First of all if you're experiencing serious mental health problems in your career or life. Please seek professional help - there is no substitute for trained counseling.

(Prevention > cure) for burnout

Recognizing that you are losing vigor and a lust for life is one of the most important steps in preventing burnout. It is usually when I ignore the signs where it gets ugly. Take a 5 minute self-evaluation every day and ask yourself 'Am I ignoring things that I should be focusing on with regards to my health and energy?'.

This is not to make excuses to yourself about not really feeling like getting up or general life challenges. But be honest and ask whether you are still excited about your favorite aspects of software? Is something draining you and causing you to push away your love for the skill? Then work to address that thing as early as possible.

Evaluate the people you're working with

Sometimes it's not the work or mundane aspect of it all. It could be that a person is causing this pre-frontal cortex drain and sapping all valuable energy you could have employed into your work. This could be the absolute ***hole of a senior completely destroying your self-worth, by degrading your work through condescension, or on the flip-side, the junior who just isn't getting it and you have to keep fixing their problems.

Both these situations can be prepared for, by setting out time for work first and then preparing an hour of expected mental pressure from people around you. Accept that you and other people may sometimes suck, but prepare for addressing it structurally.

Ask members to respect your time when you're working and reserve critical interaction for planned spaces. In this time put on your 'Interacting with people hat' and when it's over, take it off again.

If a situation is dire and nothing you do or say is respected or you are being treated horribly - consider leaving, but plan for it first. In my case I basically just upped and left (which in hindsight may not have been the greatest decision financially).

For some hope to you, I have now found a team - Stillio - who I've been working with for the past few months and I can honestly now say that the right people around you is just as important as what project you're working or what your salary is. The people at Stillio have truly been amazing and shown that the industry does have great teams. You just need to find them.

Keep the fire for software lit

This sounds a little on the nose, almost like saying 'If you are sad, just be happy 🙄'.

The way I re-kindled the fire is to keep learning. This is what brought us into software in the first place and I think a lot of us forget that. There's a strange thing about motivation - where you think you need to find it first, before taking action. I found the reverse - that taking action towards learning even if there's little motivation, seems to bring that motivation back and suddenly work becomes exciting again.

Look after yourself in other areas

Finally, there is no discounting health and wellness. Software can rob us of time and if we're not careful we'll start replacing time for nutrition, exercise, sleep and family with more hours in front of the PC, because we just HAVE to fix the bug or meet the deadline.

These very things that we find unimportant in that moment will help us be better developers in the long run. Build a schedule that suites you that incorporates these elements. Remember that small changes compound over time.

for(let days = 0; days < endOfTime; days++) {
  if(iDoJustALittleBit) {
    itAddsUp();
  } else if (iDoNothing) {
    // I will
    break();
  }
}
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Conclusion

If you're struggling with this reality of burnout in software development. Self-analysis, planning difficult interactions with difficult people (Or planning to leave if the situation calls for it), keeping the student mindset alive and revisiting healthier habits in other areas could help you like it did me.

And as the adage goes: 'This too shall pass.' Be kind.


This post mentions Stillio, with whom I am affiliated. Stillio is a screenshot automation SaaS for brand management, SEO tracking and more. Check out what I'm working on by visiting them at https://www.stillio.com

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