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In September 2019, I will complete 5 years in the Software Engineering industry. Prior to this, I completed lots of personal projects during my undergrad days. I have lived with the code for the last 8.5 years (4 years of my undergrad) and have always felt a very fond connection with coding.

But from some time, I have started to dislike what I am doing. It just feels like I am repeatedly doing the same thing but just in a different context.

I no longer have the pride of a coder. I feel like an object, that is just supporting the fast-paced and ever-changing business, doing what makes the clients happy. It has made me compromise the quality, ethics and standards. Suddenly, I feel disconnected from the Software Community.

I have been mainly coding the backend for products, occasionally also working on the client part of the code. I am not sure if that is because I am confined to the web domain and web technologies.

Initially, I thought, I must involve myself into a personal project (may be that brings back the motivation back) but this job leaves me with no personal time. With each passing day, I feel like I am deteriorating.

At the moment, I have no idea how to handle this. I would want to have the advice from the community. Has anyone felt the same? How would / did you handle this? How should I revamp?

  • Have you considered moving to a job with better work life balance and more interesting projects? – Homerothompson Mar 15 at 18:27
  • The software industry exists to sell products, not allow software engineers to use the coolest new technologies or write perfect code. Weird customer requirements and time constraints can make us write code that's downright embarrassing. It's a harsh reality but that's the business we're a part of. Try limiting your work time to the hours that are required of you and cut down any overtime to focus on yourself. – Egg Mar 15 at 18:28
  • @Egg It seems close to impossible to cut down any overtime. The customer/sales team sells what has not been developed and agrees to the shipment date before ever discussing with the development team. – Suhail Gupta Mar 15 at 18:35
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    @SuhailGupta It may not be possible in your organization, but that sounds like somebody needs to make that the Sales team's problem and not yours. Do you have a product manager to act as an intermediary? Suffering in silence is never a good idea. If you think it's worth it, you can try to be a change agent to improve your organization. If not, start looking for a better employer. – Egg Mar 15 at 18:40
  • I feel like an object, that is just supporting the fast-paced and ever-changing business, doing what makes the clients happy. - Welcome to the world of working for a living. – joeqwerty Mar 15 at 21:12
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Burnout is a real problem in the software industry. If you can’t find or make time outside of work for personally rewarding projects, try discussing with your management the needs for you to spend a half day or day a week learning something new. Even if they allow it, you might want to seriously think about going to a new company for a few reasons:

  1. A change of scenery can be nice; you’d be learning all new systems and meeting new people. This is exciting stuff!
  2. Your current employer doesn’t seem to be interested in your continuing education. Many, if not most, employers actively push work time learning to keep employees engaged.
  3. The new company might value work life balance more than your current employer
  • I downvoted because I think this is a matter of motivation and not excesive amount of work (which is my definition of burnout) – Homerothompson Mar 15 at 18:28
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    @Homerothompson “this job leaves me with no personal time” sounds like overworked to me – UnhandledExcepSean Mar 15 at 18:31
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    +1 sounds like OP has burnout and is beginning to feel depressed because OP has had to compromise on quality and no longer has pride in the products he delivers. – my_mistakes Mar 15 at 18:49
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    I'd also recommend a vacation to go along with this. Sounds like he needs a break. I'd also recommend avoiding personal projects for a while. Leave coding at work, and enjoy other hobbies at home. This will allow you to enjoy what your do at work more. Very few programmers regularly do personal projects after a decade, those who did tended to burn out quicker. Life needs balance. – Gabe Sechan Mar 17 at 7:58
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These restless and wistful feelings you are experiencing in your career are perfectly normal - this comes as a sign that it is time for you to progress to the next part of your journey!

Contrary to much of what we post and read on this site, you do not necessarily require specific, well-articulated reasons for moving on. While you may choose to take on a different role internally or leave your job altogether, I doubt you will find a way to make peace with these feelings while staying in your current position. This does not reflect poorly on you, your work, or your workplace; it's simply part of what it means to grow personally and professionally.

Ask yourself this: when you graduated and started this job, what were your goals? Have you accomplished what you initially set out to do? If the answer is no, then perhaps you need to spend some more time reflecting on why you feel this way; however, if the answer is yes, then these feelings could very well be the result of a need for renewed direction and purpose.

A material journey has come to its conclusion and a spiritual journey is about to begin. Celebrate how much you have grown and seek inspiration from new and unexplored areas in your life. Take this as an opportunity to do things that you would otherwise be unable to do such as teaching, community service, or applications of your skills outside of the business context. You are much more experienced now - making money and the pursuit of these interests is not mutually exclusive.

Take some time off work if you can afford it and start to plan out your next big move. Seek spiritual fulfillment over money in this next phase. Best of luck!

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You just realized:
You're a cog in the machine.

Welcome to the harsh realities of the business world.

You do what works, you finish it as fast as possible and according to client demands.

No time and money for elegant, even beautyful code, the newest shiniest toys or ego stroking (unless it's the clients or CEO's).

If you're unhappy and can afford to, change positions, companies, cities, countries or even industry and find something you love again.

Maybe start your own thing, if you're one of the very few lucky ones, you could even get a living out of your company (at least for a while).

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These are some of the possible reasons that might happen at the same time. But for me, it sounds a lot like getting used to work and life, therefore having a bit of an existential crisis.

The longer you have worked or lived the more seldom you meet new challenges. The changes are you have done something similar previously. Humanity has tackled the same problems again and again. When one gets older they start to see these cyclical patterns. Your solutions are not eternal; most of the time you just do the same thing but just a little better with newer tools and the more time invested since the beginning of humanity. Sometimes the work has only in-house value, such as a replacement of something that would cost a lot or a way around intellectual property rights.

You are not that important and there is no real impact to society in what you do, just doing your little improvements worth a bit more than your salary. A normal persons work per year is not worth much more than a car. The car has no huge impact that everyone would see and tell the car factory workers that they did a great job making that one car.

Many works are management such as quality management. People verifying codes and just giving feedback that the code could be more elegant and that it does as it should, which is often considered obvious by the programmers oblivious to the details, which is why we have so many bugs. The work that seems mundane but when there are thousands of people coding their work matters.

Many engineers like to give their all to the project; the project is life, the project is love. It is not needed. And as your relative experience to others increases, you find yourself more often waiting for some other people to do their jobs, like answering the e-mail or verifying your code. You are maybe responsible for just 1% of the work in the project; not a rock-star. So even if you do your really best pushing yourself to the limits, it does not really matter much for the project and you just have a burnout. Even the management can feel like not having an impact due to the fact they are not contributing a lot, maybe make your 1% a 1% more efficient.

So, you have time to notice that you are a piece in machinery pushing to make it just a little better. The solutions are many from having a family to finding something new and challenging. The challenge could be within your company or not. Coding has more things. You could become a coach to your juniors or enrichen you work somehow else like taking more responsibility about designing the architecture or such.

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