Friday, April 12, 2013

What Adrian has been up to...

Sorry for the massive delay - to those who've asked and have been wondering how things have turned out. My "career life" took some massive twists and turns over the past two years - which I couldn't quite explain in terms of what happened with the burnout, so I didn't have anything coherent to say here. I still don't really, but I'll take a stab at it anyway...

I had an epiphany during late 2011 that maybe one of the reasons I burned out with programming was that I'm generally better at analysis than "synthesis". And I definitely am. My brain simply functions better in the direction of analysing something that's already there, rather than building something up. Programming requires both of course, but since I lack patience with synthesis, I started looking into more purely-analysis-based work, such as QA.

After a few months of no success finding such work, I went on a totally different tangent - I found a job as a kitchen assistant and then considered becoming a chef, of all things. A big part of me thought that I needed to get away from office work altogether, to truly leave behind what happened during my burnout years. This led to further explorations of more "hands-on" type occupations. I don't have too much to show for this now, except for a truck license, forklift license, and a construction site OHS qualification. But it's been an interesting experience. And who knows when those qualifications might come in handy. Life is a funny thing that way.

But anyhow, long story short, I'm back into looking at getting into some more analysis-based IT work now. I went out and got the ISEB-ISTQB certificate in Software Testing, and have started looking for whatever kind of QA work I can find. I don't expect it to be easy to get, but at the moment it seems like the best option.

I guess the reason why I had nothing special to say on this blog for all this time is that the direction I took isn't so much related to my burning out, as much as to identifying a personal interest and talent which takes me away from programming and into another specialisation. If that hadn't happened, I'd probably be back into programming by now, and loving it.

In other words: I don't think there is much of a generalised lesson to be learned here. Except maybe that sometimes burnout may be partly caused by a real issue of subtly not being a good fit for a particular line of work. But it's a sliding scale, so I don't want to generalise this too much and put people off. If things were only slightly differently aligned in my head, the break would have worked, and about 6 months off would have been all it took.


  1. Hey Adrian.
    If you are looking for QA work, the company I work at (Multimedia Games) is hiring and has some QA analyst positions -

    Not sure where you are located or if you are interested in re-locating, but we're in Austin (Texas). (I think relocation is possible, they've relocated a bunch of programmers and artists who've been recently hired).

    (I'm an artist there at the game dev department, your blog was in my RSS feed:)

    1. Hi Natasha,

      Thanks for your reply.

      I'm in Australia, and probably not in the position to re-locate at the moment. Actually, I probably would be willing if I found a company who sponsored it all, but I doubt I'm at the level of specialisation that's in enough demand for that.

      Thanks anyway. :)


  2. Very interesting to read your blog, helps me sort through some things in my head. I've been through a journey similar to yours. Worked 14 years as an employed software dev, then starting my own business as a contractor, and have had a few contracts. But still experience the burnout symptoms.

    I must commend you on actually getting into another career, that is awesome. I often think that I need some hands-on job to get better. I'm at a point right now where it takes a lot of effort just to write a single line of code at work. Gardening, landscaping or woodworking have come to mind. I think part of the problem is that the results are way too abstract right now.

    Your comment about analysing vs building is spot on. Where I am right now some very intelligent people have spent 10 years building a system from scratch, and it's very hard for me to get into as the system in a way shows the way they are thinking, which is not aligned with the way I would have done it myself.

    I spent more than a year on a sort-of break where I lived on savings and developed code (mobile apps) in the way I wanted to, settings my own deadlines etc. If that had taken off better (only made a few dollars per day) and it hadn't been so lonely it would have been a very good occupation for me.

    Wishing you all the best, keep on posting!

  3. Hi Adrian,
    I am in similar situation now. I resigned my job for getting me out of the routine 9-to-5 life for few months and meanwhile to try some alternative jobs/business plans near my hometown. The reality I faced is a bitter experience. I felt like I could not fit myself into any business locally in my hometown. Only option now is to go back to my good old software career. Now I am seeking software job again. But the problem now is the technology I worked is less wanted and is getting out of field. So I even find it difficult to get a job now.

  4. Hey Bobby Tables,

    I found your blog through your programmer SEN profile and I was looking for you to request you to read my answer to your question with much care, if you can:

    I find the current accepted answer just terrible in many aspects - except it is all good advice for your usage case.

    That being said...

    I, like 3 other commenters here, identify myself a lot with your case. Am I assuming right that you're also from Brazil? (although you do say you live now in Australia).

    I've started living from programming more than 15 years ago. Along that path, I've also gave up and got my sabbatic year, or years. But nothing planned. I even studied to work as flight attendant, because I enjoy flying but didn't want any technical work (such as a pilot). A lot of same reasoning you did.

    Then I went back to programming - because at least I found a job outside Sao Paulo, my home city which I hate. And eventually I found out about Unity 3D. And that have been moving me on programming for the past 5 years or so.

    I would also love to work with QA or maybe some kind of support, but I never could find an opportunity there. Meanwhile, what I'm trying to say is that maybe, for your case, finding a good environment you might still very well enjoy life while working with codes.

    I hope you can read this! :)

  5. Hi Adrian,
    I came across your blog whilst googling burnout. Not something you google less you're in it or had it, so that's my reason. I'd really like to know how things have worked out for you. I hope you've found your way.

  6. Hi Adrian,

    I've burned out twice. The last time had quite severe physical consequences , pneumonia amongst other things and mental consequences too. When you push yourself beyond the limit all kinds of shit can break loose. I understand that numb feeling too, when you've been in that bad situation so long the you've stopped feeling anything. I used to pride myself on being able to "run on empty" (my words for numb), now I realise that I should have seen that as a warning sign.

    That was 7 years ago. Since then I've been eeking out a living doing bits and pieces of websites, IT support that sort of thing , earning 20% of what I was earning as a "real" software developer. I did driving jobs for a while when the tech work dried up. There's something about the easy work like driving that allowed me to be human because my brains wasn't consumed with the work. I liked being a human at work, I like people.

    The persuit of my last job 7 years ago was what burned me out. I had a goal, a dream that investment banking would be that job that would satisfy me.It took me 3 years but I got it, worked there for a few months , hated it with a passion and left , determined never to return to the traditional work place as a software engineer. I've drifted ever since. Alcohol has become my mortal enemy purporting to be my friend. I think it's something a lot of lost people find.

    The joke with my friends is that I've been saying for the last 4 years that I'll go back, but something keeps stopping me. I must say my working life now is little better, it lacks the intellectual fullfillment I got when I was a "real" developer, and if I've learned anything is that I did it all to myself. Sometimes our good work ethic can be our worst enemy. My naivety allowed me to let bad working cultures dictate how I should work. My sense of responsibility towards what I was working on worked against me because I didn't balance it with a responsibility towards my own well being and happiness. The solution I believe is having the balls to work like you don't need the money/job, because if the company you're working for are incompetent or bad cultured then you know you can get a job elsewhere.I say this in the comfort of my own retreat, so it must be taken with a pinch of salt. I'll report back here if/when I manage to put my fighting talk into action.

    Don't forget us other wondering souls that have read your story and wish you the best.

    Kind Regards

    Rich (again)