Obsessive workaholism / work-life balance

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by 0002378, Dec 27, 2017.

  1. 0002378, Dec 27, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018

    0002378 Suspended

    0002378

    Joined:
    May 28, 2017
    #1
    I wanted to describe, briefly, my experience working in the tech field, including what went wrong, and want to see if anyone else here has experienced or observed anything similar. If so, please do share your opinions/experiences.

    P.S. I'm not asking for advice (I have it all figured out). I just wanna hear about what you have experienced.

    After studying Computer Science, I worked as a Software Engineer for roughly 8 years. Loved the work, love what computers can do (although not so much what people are making them do). Didn't so much like the tech-company culture of workaholism and big egos.

    I'm not the kind of guy who likes to go around showing people I'm right about something ... apart from it screaming insecurity, I find that to be a waste of time. On the job, I encountered a lot of folks who seem to derive a lot of enjoyment out of showing others how smart/right they are. Furthermore, they liked to impose their workaholic ways on those who aren't workaholics - like me. I felt this constant pressure to work overtime and not take care of my health. I steadfastly refused.

    I'm also not the kind of guy who wants to spend every second of every day with a machine. I value human interaction, and I value gaps in the stream of pointless and largely insane human activity. I like space to breathe ... space to be.

    As a programmer, I'd say I'm above average, with a lot of potential, but I always valued work-life balance as I have a ton of hobbies that I like to devote time to. So, while I found a lot of programmers spending a lot of their spare time programming personal projects and acquiring more knowledge, I spent that time at the gym or out hiking or wine tasting with friends.

    Anyway, after all those years, the obsessive workaholic tech culture became unbearable for me, and I had to quit my job.

    Anyone else go through or observe anything like this ? Would love to know.
     
  2. D.T. macrumors G3

    D.T.

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Location:
    Vilano Beach, FL
    #2
    I'm getting called by my little G to get a controller connected to her new machine, but I have some (read: a lot) of input on this having been in the tech sector for 25+ years in the development (and architecture/writer), might have some insight :) I'll try to catch back up later (maybe I'll use her machine :D)
     
  3. D.T. macrumors G3

    D.T.

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Location:
    Vilano Beach, FL
    #3
    Hey, so I didn't make it back :) Got caught up in a game with her, then [more] drinks and late-night-movie with the wife :D So just to frame this a little, and not JUST to post my CV (though in couple of other [unintentionally] comical threads, I thought it would help ... it didn't :D)

    Some of this is just kind of rambling just to let you know, there are people out here that totally understand. :)

    I've been working in the tech sector for a long time, started in infrastructure, quickly got into professional development (I had been writing code since I was a kid), also expanded my roles into architecture and writing (co-auth'ed a few chapters here and there, a few white papers that had some decent circulation).

    In terms of the work itself, I really dig on what I do. I've worked in dozens of different languages/frameworks, have done front/middle/back tier/UI/UX, client-server, web, native mobile, various architectures - and then in the last few years, I've been engaged in AR/VR work, including some computer vision projects, and machine learning. I'm mostly autonomous with regards to the tools and tech (recently I re-coded a small service in Go, and a more sizable API in Python, just because [1] )

    So all the above has kept the work - you know, what I deliver - really fresh and fun. It sounds like you have some enjoyment over this part of the job, though I'd still suggest continuing to grow your skill sets and interests, because it can grow stale - but the other reason is because it gives you more opportunities as a developer.

    I think the underlined is the key to resolving your recent unhappiness. If you liked my rambling about the various things I do, then a major part of a potential burnout isn't an issue. From my experience, I've seen plenty of people jump into the programming field because of some mixed (often wrong) perception of: huge salaries/bonuses, "glamorous" work environment (i.e., startups with $xxM funding [2], etc., but they don't really _like_ the work. They burnout quickly ... on the work itself, or just become a shambling, unhappy, pasty, cubicle zombie.

    That sounds nothing like how you've described yourself/your scenario. But it's not the nature of the work itself, so it's everything else, right?

    Clearly, you're in a bad a startup-like environment and I totally agree, that's not for many people. I'd say, it's mostly not for people who want to try to have a decent work<>life balance (like you and me). I'm talking a _real_ outside of work capacity to do things not work related - I've been engaged with some companies where people are doing 16+ hours and taking bike rides/swims during the "work day", no thanks. Some of these environments also foster an unhealthy competitiveness: who can stay later, who can be the BSD and the most right (at the expense of any kind of positive team dynamic).

    From an early age I realized I like technology, wanted to be involved in a professional capacity, had a real intuitiveness about it - but didn't want too much of a formal structure around my life, in terms of how, when and why (as long as it exceeded expectations). So since my early days of college, I've pretty much rolled my own: freelance, contractor and when I did decide I wanted to be engaged in business, it was my _own_.

    Like you, my personal time is very valuable, and I don't mind 65+ hour weeks WHEN it's offset by taking off at 12pm during the week because our little G has a short day at school or there are some killer waves hitting and surfing makes me better, my work better, my life better. My life really mirrors my work in the sense that I use every minute to be productive, on my own schedule - even if being productive is doing absolutely nothing :) I got a financial situation that allows me to be selective and very much in control - I make critical business decisions based on the entirety of my life, to the point where clients that are just bringing me down (old tech, poor engagement style), I just let go.

    Whew, OK, I had some down time this morning so figured I'd write a novel length post (we're kind of, sort of "closed" between Christmas and New Year, though I am releasing an app today for a customer).

    Some final thoughts - assuming you want to stay in the tech sector [3]:

    - Sounds like you're a solid developer, you're not into an all consuming programmer lifestyle, but you enjoy it as an occupation

    - The best developers are often not just those with a high degree of technical sophistication, but who are easy to work with, communicate well, are _liked_ by clients

    - While you might not want to be spend too many off hour cycles, keep an eye out for skills driven opps (I picked up Unity development, got an incredible gig for a few months)

    - Your W<>L balance is important, so that should factor into every professional choice you make, given your profession/skills, you have plenty of options (more than you might think)

    - Think about your skills, look around, talk to people, get a sense of where there are vacuums you could fill, and in a capacity that allows for you to be more in control of things

    - Depending on your financial situation, take some cycles to get realigned, maybe look into just a short term gig to retain a revenue channel

    - Ask around, you might be surprised at some peers, friends, who are where you're at now, and are concerned going it alone, but as a small team of 2-3 developers, might be way more effective

    - As I get older, the time not working has become so important, so in the last decade I haven't been afraid to choose: no commute/"boss"/fixed hours over salary


    [1] The real reason is because Node.js is a pit of despair ...

    [2] See Silicon Valley S3

    [3] I have a friend, long term developer/author, bright guy, called it quits in the tech sector after 20+ years, opened a B&B, and started a high end dessert eatery that's going great
     
  4. ActionableMango macrumors G3

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #4
    What you are describing is very common in hungry startups and ultra-competitive companies, but it is not what all software engineering firms are like. Different workplaces have different work cultures. I've worked at several companies and I've seen that, but it doesn't occur with my current employer.

    You don't have to leave your field. When you interview, ask your own questions about the company, check Glassdoor reviews, and try to get a feel for the company culture.
     
  5. 0002378 thread starter Suspended

    0002378

    Joined:
    May 28, 2017
    #5
    Wow, DT, thank you so much for the detailed and thoughtful response ! I need some time to digest everything you wrote and respond meaningfully.

    For now, I just want to say that it's really nice to know that others here understand what I'm talking about. I really admire your ability to distance yourself from work and see the bigger picture (of life), despite obviously having a great passion for your work. I say this because most people I encountered weren't able to do that, even though they had families at home ! Most of them just didn't have a W-L balance.

    And thanks a lot for sharing !
    --- Post Merged, Dec 28, 2017 ---
    Thanks for your response. It's good to know that this problem is not omnipresent.

    You've given me some good suggestions and points for me to consider.
     
  6. jeyf macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    #6
    i would encourage every tech person to have a none related 2nd employment situation totally off the tech grid. 4example own a local restaurant or a consignment shop. Aspire to own the whole thing including the building. own the whole block and lease the apartments on the 2nd floor.

    while still employed i spent all my money buying residential real estate. Now I manage these properties; do the taxes, leasing, and do the plumbing, drywall, tile...

    I cant say life is any easier, i think i work much harder for my self.
     
  7. 0002378 thread starter Suspended

    0002378

    Joined:
    May 28, 2017
    #7
    Thanks. That's not an option for me, but interesting to hear your viewpoint nonetheless.
     
  8. jeyf macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    #8
    Tech jobs no one is your friend. I really really enjoyed the t-shirts & jeans going over code all day with earphones on. take the earphones off and the job sux.
     
  9. USAFA2008 Suspended

    USAFA2008

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2017
    #9
    While I am not a computer programmer I have been burned out on the job which resulted in me getting off active duty only to be recalled later. To be clear this is the 2nd field I have been in after I graduated from the Academy. The way I look at it now is I am half way to a pension and that makes it easier to swallow. But honestly some days I love it and wouldn't trade it for anything and other days I keep reminding myself about the pension.
     
  10. LizKat macrumors 68040

    LizKat

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2004
    Location:
    Catskill Mountains
    #10
    Ya my pension helped me see things "differently" a few times at the last job I had in 35 years of working IT mostly in NYC. I was telecommuting in the last decade, which helped keep burnout at arm's length... 160 miles' worth of arm's length... although it didn't keep one guy from screaming at me on a cellphone while he drove along the Jersey Turnpike missing his exit out of rage over not getting root privileges on some setup he wanted to "just fix real quick".

    But it took more than the pension to keep me mellow enough to work. On the wall in my library there's an image of the Buddha with an empty red bowl at his side. All the stuff I didn't want to store rent free in my head about that job, I'd mentally stick it in that red bowl at day's end. Every day a clean slate. Worked for me.
     
  11. ApplePersonFreak macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2016
    #11
    I’m not a programmer, but I have a passion for tech. I used to work in tech (selling electronics, phones, etc) and I loved it at first, but after awhile, it got old and it burned me out. I now work in banking, a way different field and industry that I could imagine and tech is only my hobby now, but it makes me realize how much I love it and it makes me want to pursue it even more. I think we all need a break from our fields every once in awhile.
     
  12. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #12
    I've been in the IS field now for some 30+ years, started as a computer operator, to a mainframe programer using COBOL. A lot of has changed, and there were plenty of times that I was burnt out. Usually because of a given high pressure/high priority project. One thing I try to keep is a decent work/life balance. I make sure I walk away from the computer and spend time doing other things. For instance I'm involved in karate, both in teaching it to kids and taking it myself. I understand at during that those high intensity times, my time is limited and I'll not be able to step away, but afterwards its important.
     
  13. BarracksSi Suspended

    BarracksSi

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2015
    #13
    If I hadn't taken a detour into music for nearly thirty years (the last half was military music), I'd probably be working down the road at NASA.

    But I've retired from the music profession (for now, I suppose) and decided to get into computer stuff with the idea that maybe I'd get to work down the road at NASA like I hoped to waaaaay back in junior high.

    Took a coding boot camp for Web development in early 2016, landed a contractor job that Fall, and I'm still here. It's government work, so it's not startup-paced, but it's a lot more personally isolated than I was used to.

    Over in the music side, chasing perfection was the usual mindset. You didn't want to give anything but your best for the audience who might see you only once in their lives. We took our time off, though, to the tune of four weeks per year, plus one Monday off per month to help take care of things at home; and we had enough challenges working with each other and training/mentoring new personnel. We didn't have cubicals, but we had wall lockers (basically freestanding wardrobes). Not many of us needed email every day, either. But we were "on call" at any time, whether it was to go perform services at a memorial or pick up a junior guy who was found drunk in Georgetown.

    We had quite the support network, too. Whether it was helping one of our guys with a divorce (or helping him avoid a divorce) or talking about where to buy car tires for a good price, we had each other's backs. Some people complained that the tendency to get into personal affairs was too much, but those same people, after leaving active duty, have often said that they felt alone and disconnected in the "real world" and missed the camaraderie.

    This new job is sooooo different. I'm really trying to adjust to this simple 9-to-5 routine. I have the luxury of teleworking, too, but sometimes I want to get into the office and have personal interactions over tasks every day.

    It's also different from the startup-like atmosphere of the coding boot camp. That was exciting, on fire, tons of information every day -- but also like I was dangling off the precipice. It was good for the mission, you could say, but I've been hoping for some stability and security.

    Maybe I've got the chance at job stability now. If so, I'm extremely lucky. Still, nearly two years after my military retirement, I feel close to professional upheaval, and I don't like it that much.

    </ramble>
     
  14. USAFA2008 Suspended

    USAFA2008

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2017
    #14
    My pension does help me see things differently. While I still invest in an IRA and have since I graduated from the Academy it would be foolish of me to leave when I am half way to my pension.
    That is the pension that has me counting down the days until 2018! Even though I invest in an IRA at the half way mark I am not giving up a 50% pension. The pension is a good and bad thing though. Employers know that it can keep employees and employers also know that they can get rid of an employee before their pension is vested and not have to pay the employee anything.
     
  15. D.T. macrumors G3

    D.T.

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Location:
    Vilano Beach, FL
    #15
    You went from a code camp to a professional developer in a few months and retained that position for over a year, outstanding!
     
  16. USAFA2008 Suspended

    USAFA2008

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2017
    #16
    That is pretty good!
     
  17. bruinsrme, Jan 2, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018

    bruinsrme macrumors 603

    bruinsrme

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2008
    #17
    Not a programmer
    Tech writer.
    Yes burnt out.
    Surely not as sharp and creative as in the past.
    Writing everyday has taken it’s toll, not on the passion side but surely productivity.
    I have a break coming up to reset. Hoping it helps.
     
  18. 0002378 thread starter Suspended

    0002378

    Joined:
    May 28, 2017
    #18
    Of everything you said, this is what grabbed my attention. I'd like to hear more about this.

    Would you consider yourself a spiritual person ? Have you heard of someone named Eckhart Tolle ?
    --- Post Merged, Jan 2, 2018 ---
    Martial arts is great. I did Kenpo for a little while before my broken back stopped me.
    --- Post Merged, Jan 2, 2018 ---
    Every schedule has its pros and cons. I personally loved 9-5, because that structure allowed me to make plans outside of work.

    For instance, if I know I'm getting off at 5, I can make plans to meet friends at 6. Plus, as a fitness junkie, all my meals and workouts were strictly timed and measured.

    Flexibility, on the other hand, can be great if you have kids or have another side project / business that you're running.
    --- Post Merged, Jan 2, 2018 ---
    It always does.
     
  19. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #19
    Yep, I'm a second degree black belt (Nidan rank) in Kempo (its roots are from Shaolin Kempo). Both the physical conditioning and learning new techniques and katas are a fresh alternative to sitting at a computer. Plus teaching the kids can be fun if not challenging at times :)
     
  20. 0002378, Jan 2, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018

    0002378 thread starter Suspended

    0002378

    Joined:
    May 28, 2017
    #20
    Yep, and apart from all that, it also gives you a certain level of confidence when you're out in public (esp. at night), knowing that you can defend yourself should the need arise. (In my own life, that need did arise once, and I was totally unprepared)

    Even though I was only in it for 6 months, I know how to deflect a punch and break free from a basic hold. At least the theory of it :) If all else fails, break a knee :p

    P.S. Can you share a bit about the gun/knife defense training you received ? And, in your sparring, have you defended against either ?
     
  21. TheGenerous macrumors 6502a

    TheGenerous

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2010
    Location:
    I'm an Austronaut
    #21
    Marihuana is now legal in California, you may find in it the comfort you need
     
  22. 0002378, Jan 2, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018

    0002378 thread starter Suspended

    0002378

    Joined:
    May 28, 2017
    #22
    For now, I'm sticking to red wine ... it works wonders :) But yes, it's great to have MJ legalized.

    P.S. How did you know that I live in California ?
    --- Post Merged, Jan 2, 2018 ---
    Right, I love the subject matter (computers, programming), but it is all else that really drains me in a work environment - the politics, the big egos, workaholism, and yes, also bullying, and people's inability to realize that at the end of the day, it is just a ph ucking job.

    Chill the F out, it is just a job ! People don't get it. And that toxic negative energy really got to me. Everybody running around like frightened chickens, stressed to the bone, just totally obsessed.

    BTW, I was not in a startup. I was in a huge corporation (x,000 employees) that's known worldwide and has offices on pretty much every continent. Not everyone was a workaholic, but I was fortunate enough :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: to be stuck with those who were.

    Actually, to be honest, my reasons for leaving went far beyond just work environment and the field of computer science. I was at a point in my life when I took a step back and realized that living like this is insane. I didn't need to hit the pause button, I needed to hit the "STOP and chill the F out" button.

    It was more than just a career change for me. I really began to re-evaluate my life as a whole and ask myself the questions that actually matter. I've always been the type of person to need a reason to question the endless bull$#!t cycle of work, eat, sleep, repeat. And finally, it became clear that working in the tech field with largely insane people is not what I want out of life.
     
  23. TheGenerous macrumors 6502a

    TheGenerous

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2010
    Location:
    I'm an Austronaut
    #23
    Cuz I'm a hacker ;)

    I remember burning out as a physics grad student but it wasn't because of the culture around it but because of the task itself. On the other hand, like you I also have hobbies unrelated to my job, so my personal projects don't make me more involved with work or science. I guess it depends on how we grew up because I never had the interest in disassembling a radio to see how it worked and I ended up becoming a scientist
     
  24. LizKat macrumors 68040

    LizKat

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2004
    Location:
    Catskill Mountains
    #24
    Spiritual yes, orthodox any-religion no, although I am so rooted in Anglican beliefs and traditions via music and liking for the architecture of the cathedrals in which it's still sung that it would be hard for me to unravel all of that completely even if I wanted to.

    I've heard of Tolle. I have not read his works, probably because I was put off them by a friend's at one time incessant references to them --which sounded sort of derivative of eastern religions to me anyway-- even if Tolle's transformative experiences were genuine and even if his writings have helped people sort themselves out. I guess you could say I have a kind of second-hand appreciation of his ability to help people, since my friend did regain a feeling of being centered in his work/life balances (and stopped talking so much about Tolle, which Tolle himself might even find perfectly acceptable).

    I'm not a practicing Buddhist any more than a practicing Anglican. I'm in long term recovery from alcoholism however, and figure I cannot afford to let resentments build up to the point where I forget that and lose the by now very comfortable mantle of my sobriety. In my continuously trying to design a life that's a good mix of challenges and recreations, the Buddha painting came in very handy for me while I was dealing with high-pressure infotech-centered jobs.

    That red bowl got some workout, since my colleagues in turn were under pressure and so sometimes pressured me past my authority to help them resolve their task issues. "No means no" I used to say... and I meant it, and then had to be able to accept with equanimity the fact that a senior VP could and did sometimes override my decisions, if the pressure not to let security issues obstruct conduct of business became enough of a game changer.

    The red bowl was a reminder to me that I had the option and maybe the obligation to surrender to the fact that I don't have to run the world --even if I'm occasionally inclined to think so-- and that anyway I don't have the power to control other people's behavior. It was never my job to punish someone who managed to get some exec to take risks I was not allowed to take. So my best option when I lost one of those battles was stick my recollection of a bad day in that red bowl. Next time that colleague and I locked horns, the subject of the new discussion was always and only about whatever was the new issue. Keeping it "in the now" really matters in situations like that.

    The red bowl was definitely where I mentally put resentments when something went wrong on one of those "do it anyway" gigs and the exec later then blamed me for something like "not making it clear what the downside could be," etc, etc. This after maybe I had given up 45 minutes of sleep to be on the phone with him at 2am outlining the downsides and offering alternatives.

    Life is short (even if some moments are way, way longer than others) and the great thing about life is that it does just leaf out one day at a time. It always offers a natural path towards starting over: to rest, sleep, let a new morning be a clean slate.

    The cool thing about the red bowl in that painting is that it never overflows.
     
  25. hawkeye_a macrumors 6502a

    hawkeye_a

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2016
    #25
    I was debating starting a similar thread. CompSci and SoftwareEng grad here with ~10yrs experience.

    Burnout? Definitely (for pretty much the same reasons in the original post; will elaborate some other time)
     

Share This Page