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Ask HN: Developer burnout – how to rediscover the passion, or new career?
148 points by docflabby 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 80 comments
I've been developing software for the last 15 years and I've stopped 3 months ago and just quit. It wasn't the job, it was one of the better companies I've worked for, the people were nice, the tech was cool and the money was great. Outside of work my life is pretty fulfilled, my first child was born last year, and although its been hard its also really awesome.

I've just lost the passion for developing software :(

I've taken 3 months off so far, but still can't bring myself to open up some code - I'm wondering now if I should think about changing career completely, what can an ex-developer retrain into?




I have been coding since the 90s. This year I finally felt really burnt out. It got so bad I was upset, miserable, and lost all passion for working. I have 6 kids and a wife with a chronic untreatable disorder so I couldn’t just quit. And I’m glad I didn’t, it turns out that wouldn’t have helped. Here’s what I did and what I would suggest:

1) after talking to my wife and my doctor I got a counselor. Well really a team of mental health professionals. My counselor and a psychiatrist to help with meds really helped. I started out by taking some medication and doing weekly one on one therapy. Over time I actually got off of medication and the therapy reduced to every other week and then monthly. I still see my counselor every month. He’s amazing. I am so glad I sucked up my pride and met and talked to him.

2) through therapy I realized that I didn’t have an identity outside of being a software developer. That’s what was burning me out. I wasn’t Tim the person who has a family and interests and develops software. I was Tim: software developer. The end. This turns out to be really bad. I had to remember who I am other than software developer. All I ever did was work or think about work or work on other things that were just like work.

3) in discovering who I am I remembered my other passions in life. I spent more time with my family and enjoy the time more. I spend a little time with just myself and that is ok too. I enjoy hobbies (mine are recreational math, reading legal briefings (I’m aware this is weird), crocheting, and writing short stories). I do these by myself or with my kids and wife. It’s nice.

4) now when I sit down to code it’s deliberate and I don’t feel passion towards it as much. I'm okay with that. Coding is work and pays bills and makes me happy in that way. And when I’m done with it for today I’m ok with that too.

Ironically enough I’m more successful in coding and business than I have been in many many years. It’s great. It hasn’t harmed me at all.

So I would suggest not giving up on coding. It pays the bills well and it’s a good career. I’d suggest going to talking to a professional. Figure out what the underlying issues are and fix those.

I’d be glad to answer any questions you have.


The point about seeking professional help is super underrated. Just in the past few months, I would have entered a similar thread on HN to see the OP being brigaded by posts telling him/her to always be coding and to just chug along. This kind of talk completely ignores other issues that may be present and can cause even further damage.


You're completely right. If you're really that suffering that you're burning out or getting otherwise mentally ill, getting professional help is probably the best thing you can do.

I assume it's because there is a bias on technology-focused communities such as HN. The bias of solving problems with technologies (be it languages, books, life hacks, ...), even if the problems are of a social or psychological nature.

You can't solve all problems with technology.


If I were to enter a complicated transaction without consulting a lawyer (raising funding for example) people would say I was crazy.

Yet somehow we think we should be able to work out personal issues (burnout, marriage issues, depression, etc) by ourselves. It's bizarre.

If you can afford help, get it. If you can't, often you can get a discount (sliding scale) or work something out.


It is not bizzare: we are used to do stuff other people cannot think to do...

... Like if it was a superpower.

Superheroes doesn't need advice. At least in the comics I read as a kid.

So this superhero syndrome, hurts more than having no superpower at all.


Fair enough. I wrote a blog post once about the arrogance of software developers[0]. So I get your point that sometimes because we can do one kind of hard thing, we think we can do most any type of hard thing. But we're wrong.

0. http://www.mooreds.com/wordpress/archives/134


> stuff other people cannot think to do

What are you talking about?


A lot if people has trouble with computers, technology, etc.

If you're able to understand or at least start troubleshooting computer relates stuff, you look like you hace a superpower to them.


Your second point has made me realize that not having identity outside of work is the biggest source of my anxiety. Thanks!

I also can’t seem to stop thinking about work. Maybe it’s related to that point. I can’t enjoy anything since there is always “but you should be solving problem X” in the back of my mind. Maybe it’s the type of personality I have - if there is a problem, I can’t stop ruminating about it. It’s mostly work related since that’s why I do 95% of the time, but other problems too, especially when dealing with people.

I know I am not adding any value to the discussion - just wanted to thank you for your insights and to the person that asked the question.


I've had this problem too. It really does help to find other interests outside work - running or yoga, bowling, poker, video games, art, family time, whatever it is. For me, it was hard to feel okay doing something else. For some reason, I felt like I should always be thinking about work. But that's just not true - having a multi-faceted identity makes everything better.

It also has helped my mental toughness - if I have a bad day (or week, month, year) at work, I still have other things to fall back on, things that bring me joy and help define who I am as a person. Before, if something went wrong at work, it crushed me. Now I have more perspective, and work issues don't have as much weight as they used to.

Only took me a few decades to figure it out! Hope yours works out more quickly.


I get that feeling too that I can't enjoy anything until I get a problem done. Then I do that big thing, and for a few days I feel relief until another issue comes up that I have to do, but don't want to do or its hard and scary.


I get what you’re saying. I wish it were like that for me. I can’t get anything done. Maybe it’s the type of work. Upper management is always uhappy, users are hostile (for a reason), enormous technological debt paralizing all development. I am simply incompetent to deal with people, juggle the requests and politics. It’s been like this for more then ten years. I am sick to my stomack when thinking about our software product. I’m taking anxiety medication, have stress related heart condition. I don’t know why am writing this. I’m venting I guess. Not a place for that. I will stop now.


And my spelling sucks!


I think talking to a therapist is one way to deal with issues like this. Feeling overly anxious about your job doesn't help anything. Course it's easy to say that, harder to deal with it.


Just to glom on to this, if there are any engineers in the Bay Area in need of a good therapist, I have one I can recommend. My email is in my profile if anyone is interested.

Edit to add: The therapist I have in mind is a former engineer and engineering manager, and works almost exclusively with engineers and their spouses/families.


> through therapy I realized that I didn’t have an identity outside of being a software developer. That’s what was burning me out. I wasn’t Tim the person who has a family and interests and develops software. I was Tim: software developer. The end. This turns out to be really bad. I had to remember who I am other than software developer. All I ever did was work or think about work or work on other things that were just like work.

I feel like this is exactly my problem at the moment - how did you solve it?


Well, the number one way I solved this was by going to therapy every week for months. My counselor helped me to realize it and gave me assignments and had be follow up on those assignments to figure myself out. I had to ask myself a lot of questions. Why do I want to spend more time watching videos online than actually work? Why do I have a hard time opening up my code editor? Why do I not get enough done during my working hours and then come home and feel like I should work more? Why am I so guilty? How can I feel like I’m getting so little done and yet my employer is so happy with me? Do I even know what I’m doing?

Mindfulness helps with this so much. And very quickly problems started to go away and I felt so much better. I became significantly more productive. I was having fun. I felt relaxed. I felt confident. I’m absolutely amazing.

It wasn’t very easy and it wasn’t a fun process at all. But I am so glad I did it.


This exactly describes me. I need to get professional help!

On the other hand, I live in a country with high unemployment rate, people barely have enough to get by day to day. A friend complained to me recently that he did not get paid for 2 months (he works in the public health sector). Compared to him, I’m living a dream. But I feel misserable.


So a good friend of mine who is a psychologist told me that:

1) You find your job fulfilling, inspirational unto itself, or...

2) Your job enables you to enjoy other things.

Ideally you want friends and a hobby (and ideally friends who share the same hobby) -- a hobby that happens to not be primarily software.

If you don't know where to start, maybe look for a list of active meetups in the area.


One issue I see is that it seems like any mention of seeking the help of a counselor/psychologist/psychiatrist is SOOOOOO stigmatized that folks are repelled by the idea.

It's very counterproductive and stops many from doing something that has the potential to completely turn things around.


I honestly can’t agree more. My doctor basically had to say “I’m going to get you an appointment with a counselor or I’m going to lock you in my trunk and you’ll be stuck there until you see a counselor.” Her trunk was quite nice but after a while I let her drop me off at a counselor.

I had no idea what it would be like. I was honestly scared to death to see someone. I was a fool. Rich, my counselor, is a kind, intelligent, and friendly man. I said “what are we doing?” And he said “you’re paying me by the hour to be your best friend. Just let me help guide you into a happy relationship.” He did. I complained. I cried. I got mad. We laughed our asses off. And honestly it helped. He made me feel like I was normal for my feelings. He let me know when I was wrong and how to rethink things. He let me vent. He smacked me emotionally. It is fantastic. It helped almost immediately.


What worked for me was to tell my employer that I was taking the time off to get allergy shots.


I've been a web developer since 1995 but because where I live developers have 0 social status I haven't been able to start a family. So when I burned out I went to live on a commune for 11 months. Ironically I wound up working with webrtc for the commune which landed me into a different area now where I'm working for a larger company and out of the grind of being a startup employee. Now I own my own side project but I work at it at my own pace and not having to put in 100 hours a week for 40 hours pay. At least in startups for the last 8 years there had been some amazing expectations when it came to unpaid overtime. The equity always turned out to be worthless but that didn't stop them from calling me at 3am on a Sunday over something that could have been handled Monday morning. Being in a larger company we don't do more than 8 hours unless its a genuine emergency like the database failing out in production. Working only 8 hours a day for the last year I find myself slowly regaining my health. I had to drop down to working 4 hours a day for a commune because after working in startups since 1995 my health was able to fully fail at age 44. I was lucky I had my student loans paid and no family so I could drop out for almost a year without a problem and then I was able to effectively drop back into a much better situation.


Most stock turns out to be worthless. The things articles never mention.


Burnout is usually not caused by exhaustion, but by lack of progress. Progress isn't just about money or working with a good team. It's about doing something worthwhile.

I quit software a few times.

The first was because of low income. I started a cafe. But someone offered me about 5x the money I was making to get back in, and I did.

The second time I was a freelancer. I kept building all these shitty apps that nobody used, that were backed by bad teams and didn't make any money. So I started my own startup to do something worthwhile.

The third one was after I sold my startup. It was doing okay, at 5% weekly growth. But I was tired of people in the "startup community". I was working 100+ hour weeks. I couldn't get any funding even with significant traction, while some fools got lots of funding without even a product. I felt like a failure as a CEO, sold the company and retired for about a year.

Resting did nothing at all to cure burnout. What really helped was when someone asked me to go around the country, training teachers and students in advanced programming techniques.

It was giving back that really helped me out of burnout. If you've been in the industry for a long time, mentoring helps a lot.


my first child was born last year, and although its been hard its also really awesome.

Most new parents seem to be perpetually short of sleep and exhausted for the first two years. Being exhausted can make intellectually challenging things just too hard to cope with.

I will suggest that it is possible you are just tired and should consider finding employment that is less mentally taxing for now. Consider the possibility that when things settle down, you may want to go back to coding.


This is definitely it. I've got kids and I was also unprepared for the amount of time that they will take. Usually as a developer one has a lot of time to explore wider area of topics (playful exploration). That keeps the mind energized.

So: get plenty of sleep (a golden rule is when the child sleeps the parent should also sleep), then invest in some topic that's not in your comfort zone (e.g. working on CRUDs? Learn embedded programming with Rust).


> Learn embedded programming

Yes, this.

I'm currently learning electronics, with the Arduino environment, and I think I never had so much fun with programming since the days I learned to do some ActionScript 2.0 with Flash MX, back in the days. Not a very glamorous example, but I genuinely enjoyed the simple fact of programmatically moving stuff on the screen. Now, with Arduino, I get to programmatically move things in the physical world.

Pure fun.


> Pure fun.

Well... that gets quite different when you do it in a professional context. I'd say there is more pressure than in pure software development.

1. The deadlines are harder. You cannot really ship a half-baked product and tell yourself you'll ship an update every week after. This is of course even more true if you are on the hardware side.

2. The pressure is higher. Because of point 1, you have more pressure to get things right on the first launch. You also have to deal with the intertwined timeline of the hardware design and manufacturing. And the money involved is arguably higher, so a failure can represent a big hit for the company.

3. The final product is a bit more likely to have a real use. That gives a better sense of purpose, but it can come with a greater moral responsibility (it depends on individuals, of course). You may not carry the same weight for the Nth rewrite of a random advertising webapp and for a critical safety related device (to take extreme examples).

And now after you've overcome all this, you get thanked by being paid half what the advertising software developers get ;-)


> > Pure fun.

> Well... that gets quite different when you do it in a professional context.

Isn't this true with everything? That's why it's important to have something that is not related to work and by extension you can play around with it without the pressure of doing it "professionally".

Actually, that's what I think leads to burn out: no time to play around with stuff without pressure of "doing it one true way" or with "business value".


When I was going through a bit of what I'll call "Coder's Writer's block" this is also what helped get me out of it. I got an arduino, a keyswitch tester, soldered the keyswitch tester to the arduino and wrote some code to use the keyswitch tester as an actual extension for media keys.

Silly things, but had a fun time doing that, and got motivated to code again :)


It really does take about two years to get back to your old self in terms of energy, focus, passion for work. Having a new baby is exhausting, and you don't realize just how much it takes out of you until later when you finally start getting enough sleep and aren't consumed by the everyday stresses of keeping another human alive.

That isn't to say there isn't something else going on (seeing a professional counselor/therapist is never a bad idea!), but seems entirely reasonable that this is a contributing factor. And the good news is, this part gets better!


Congratulations on retaining your passion for so long.

I got myself fired at least once before I realized that what I'm passionate about in programming is not the thing that pays the bills.

My point being: It's a job. You receive money for doing it because it's either hard or impossible for your employer to do it themselves. Most of the time there's really nothing to be passionate about here.

It's enough that you're in the 1% of people who made an effort to learn all this. The vast majority of the population consider our line of work to be immensely boring - so much so that even our relatively high salaries don't attract them that much.

Cold professionalism and tinkering after-hours[1] are the things that I would recommend.

[1] That is - once you'll have the time and energy for that. Currently, you clearly don't.


I've taken to extended breaks in my career, reduced my expenses to dollars a month and pretty much focused on something else entirely. The first time it was learning taijiquan and reconnecting with my body through walking and physical labor. The second time is was to play video games and build a community. At the end of both sessions my energy was revitalized around software engineering because in each instance i came back around to using the computer to solve the actual problems I wanted to solve for my real goal. Each time I needed to relearn the tools which was also a nice experience as it allowed me to fix lingering problems. I highly recommend these types of breaks, especially if you have a first principals understanding of computers, as that's critical for saying, "I know this is a problem I can solve with math and computers."


Extended career breaks work magic for me too. I recently took six months away from work and it was sheer bliss. I was doing some techie stuff - but only things I really wanted to do and didn't force myself. I did a lot of sleeping, walking, eating good food and generally relaxing. Worked like a charm and I went back to work reinvigorated.

I do think though if you are significantly burnt out then a year off might be necessary in order to fully recover.


When I felt the same way I actually went the opposite way and started to write code every day - the code I want to write. I got back the passion and enjoyment I had from writing code. Even if it's just a line in a readme, I do something every day. I'm a lot happier now because of it, I've learnt a lot, and I'm a better developer all round.


Funnily enough this can work - but you have to be careful you don't burn yourself even more.

If you find something that just captures your imagination then go with the flow.

By coincidence it was a video linked to here on HackerNews that gave me the impetus for the tech project on my last career break. It was the video of the guy who fixed a ten year old bug in Guitar Hero without the source code. It turned out to be a memory allocation failure. I found that so interesting I spent quite a bit of my 6 month career break investigating memory allocators, memory debug tools, and even wrote a couple of my own experimental allocators - absolutely fascinating stuff. Really miss those days!


This is a great idea.

How do you find code you want to write?


What is a problem you face regularly? Write code to solve it, there's probably a market for the solution.


When you start thinking of bringing something to market, it already adds stress to the 'just coding' part to me. When I write something for fun I don't want to have to think about making it usable for other people and everything that comes with that


Exactly this. I don't write code to make useful things I could sell (that's the day job). Code I write in my "coding every day" thing is more often toys, games or art.


I would love to hear or see more about the 'art' part if you don't mind sharing that. Or just explaining what kind ot the things it are :)


It comes down to whether this thing you're making for fun is profit or for pleasure (of course it can be both in some cases for some people, see last paragraph).

If you have a day job and need an escape, then don't bother with making it robust, polished and feature complete - just have fun doing it regardless of what the world may think of it, only thing that matters is what you think and what you get out of it.

If you don't have a day job and your next project is going to be your source of income, then I think my original statement applies.

What many do is turn the fun side project into a day job by focusing all their attention on it once they see potential in it and then start polishing, making it robust and feature complete.


When a software engineer burns out he or she always identifies the same set of problems: I don’t like my job anymore, I can’t code anymore, but there’s nothing else I can do. I will never be able to make the same amount of money doing something else.

To me, it’s a lifestyle issue. Coding has nothing special to it. It is something that a machine can do a million time better and faster than us, humans. Also, you don’t want to lose your salary as a developer because you’ve probably set up your lifestyle around that kind of money. Most of us go even beyond that, by getting into debts. That’s the real problem in my opinion. Your job is what keeps your current lifestyle up and running. You put all your eggs into one basket like most of us do. Life is too short, you shouldn’t put work in the center of your life. Are you a software developer? Yeah? Well, stop putting yourself into that bucket. “Yeah but it pays the bills”... what bills? who set up the bills? You or your work? You should try to disconnect your lifestyle as much as possible from your day to day job. It has to become “loosely coupled”. Does it sound familiar? ;) At the end of the day, a normal job is a dollar amount (or whatever currency you use) and you are in charge of setting up that amount.

Make it as low as possible and reprioritize things in your life. The ultimate thing you can do in life is to live for free... why? Because you could be free like a bird and do anything you want. It’s technically impossible, but your mission in life is to get as close as possible. Good luck.


I quit my FE engineering job and bought a hotel. I don't think I can go back to what I used to do.

I still love writing code. Now I just build stuff for myself.


Recently was in Philippines for a month and met a guy there who was a former software engineer who owns and runs a resort. He'd been there 7 years and was really doing well. Really nice Swiss guy. Resort was magical too - we had a cold spring in the back garden of our bungalow... sigh...


Ah that should be some alternative trend for Show HN - showing some tech to IRL transformation success stories!


Hey! Would love to hear more of your story. Can you email me at a at abinoda.com?


I don't know what the solution is, just know that you're not alone. It's been 7 months since my last job and I still don't have any desire to go back. Not sure what I'll do going forward though. There are things I enjoy doing, but as soon as I have to do it for money it no longer becomes enjoyable.


3 months are not enough to revert the impact of 15 years. It's like having 3 hours of weekend, after 6 days and 21 hours of workweek -- you wouldn't feel refreshed either. If you can afford it, give it more time: a year or two.

In the meanwhile, try other things. Do you have hobbies? If no, did you have any when you were a child? Or just experiment with new stuff.

Or perhaps try finding a place where your computer skills will be useful, but you wouldn't be doing the classical kind of development. For example, you could help some people in their work by creating a spreadsheet with automatically calculated results. Or try writing documentation for open-source software. Teach kids programming or using the computer.

Without knowing more about you I can't give a better advice. But the main message is that after 15 years of doing something, 3 months of break do not mean anything. Especially if you spent them taking care about a small child; that is not the same as having a break fully for yourself.


Absolutely agree - 3 months is really the minimum for a career break. I was thinking a year off in this case might do the trick. There could be other issues at play here though of course...

Also agree with your advice to do other things. Simply walking for an hour in the fresh air is vastly underrated in these days of back-to-back ultra-marathons.


I have been a Hardware Engineer for the past decade or so. After jumping around a bit this year I got an easy job just so that I can practice coding at work. Go figure. I realized that I have nothing more to do with schematics and PCBs and made a decision one fine day on a leap of faith. Haven't looked back. By the end of this year I hope to start solving Leetcode medium to hard and go through the riggamarole of coding interviews. Long story all of us go through the "developer" burnout. How we deal with it is whats important. In my case my spouse has been super helpful and I have family commitments which are a major source of motivation for me pivot careers midlife and purse something that I have developed passion for just recently. Maybe you should try a different field all together. Art, woodworking,machine shop might not pay you well and benifits suck but could very well get your motivation back. Good Luck!


I tried to shift into landscape design and park maintenance. I had 2 training periods. I was supposed to work on sites or supervise those works. After a few weeks or months, I ended up drawing AutoCAD plans in the 1st one, and I started developing an interface for a database of green spaces of the local government in the 2nd; so each time it was not long before I was back in an office in front of a computer :-/

Some of us are leopards who cannot change their spot...


Identify _why_ you have lost passion for developing software. I can think of dozens of reasons _why_ you could reach this point, but the answer will direct you toward the next destination.


I'm not burned out but my reason for moving away from coding is simple. It's not fun in a open office environment with "agile" way of working. I got tired of feeling like a factory worker.


Sounds a lot like why I don't like being a working software developer any longer as well. That combined with the short-term memory of the industry where new fads boom and bust constantly. If you enjoy building software still, just not the environment, then perhaps look at other ways to apply your skills. For me that means freelancing, where I can control for my environment and how much project BS I'll stand.


I found working in an agile shop for a few months burned me out as well. Agile takes away the art of programming and daily standups forced me to do only work I can summarize quickly.


Agile methods improved things for a while in my book. Because the old style was WAY worse. Long projects that were designed by people who knew little about the problem or the complexities involved. Everything was under bid and it resulted in every project going through at least 1 death March period. But I think SCRUM has made things too formulaic and it causes bad decisions in project management. I still think it is better than waterfall.


FWIW: there are some great consulting gigs out there in the world for someone with a technical background. You might find you have greater latitude and respect for your skills in that kind of capacity. Some involve a lot of travel though and as a parent I understand that dilemma.


I can't help but chuckle when I hear management banging on about "agile".

Here's their reality:

1. It's all top priority. 2. It all needs to be done yesterday.

:)

No wonder we get stressed!


Learn a whole new paradigm of programming. For me, starting out as a CRUD web app developer, getting into game development was a huge eye opener. It blew my mind to realize that programming isn't all about object hierarchies and application structure. It can be fun and expressive. There is no single right way to do things, and there is always something new to learn.

It's so important to remember that "programming" is a skill roughly equivalent to "writing". It's not one specific "thing", but a generalized tool for solving problems in life. There are styles and domains of programming that would feel like almost a completely different occupation from each other.


See a therapist.

Do explore a bit. Play with your baby. Pick up some hobbies. Particularly creative ones. Make music, art, sing, dance, act, etc.

Re "my first child was born in the past year"... If you're like any other new parent I know, you've been running on fumes, and I lose all ability to produce code when I don't sleep.

You don't need passion to be a successful, productive, professional developer. many have it (and many of those passionate people drive me batshit crazy with their protecting their passion and making software-crafting an intolerable place to be).

For me, I've burned out of it several times. One of the things that brought me back was realizing "the tools suck, and whenever I'm doing something else, I end up drawn back in by the need for better tools".

Writing code isn't the end. I don't particularly enjoy the act writing code. But I really hate working with crappy tools. And while writing code isn't particularly fun, it helps me deal with other shit. It's a damn powerful skill to have, even if the major output isn't "software".

As to what you can retrain into? Anything you want. Find out what matters to you, though, then figure out how to get there. One of the great things about being a developer is you can usually make enough cash happen in such a way that you can find a path anywhere you want to be.


I work as a developer now. Over the past couple years, I helped launch a few different really cool products, which you may have used or heard about. These two years have been a constant high with insanely busy work weeks but I loved every minute of it.

I'm currently in a phase where I still get satisfaction from design and coding but the things I have to work on right now just aren't that interesting.

I'm not feeling a high from my current work. It seems trivial, boring, reducing tech debt that I just don't find interesting at this point in my career.

The dopamine release isn't there and my previous work was giving that to me daily in large quantities.

I'm considering changing teams.

At some level though, I am in the same boat as you. I don't want to just write lines of code. I want a bit more.

Since this started happening, I've enrolled in courses on Coursera and Khan Academy. I'm leaning about deep neural networks and machine learning. The amount of information is staggering.

I have one stream on just relearning or newly learning some of the math. I have another stream just watching ML and neural net tutorials and articles to become as familiar as I can. Then, there's a third stream of actually coding through some exercises.

Motivation comes and goes. Stay disciplined and find something that really excites you.

If you're just done with development, maybe consider a step into management.


Management is the obvious answer.

Or if you like to travel frequently, look at becoming a sales engineer.

Or do consulting, become self employed, start a company, etc.

Lots of options, but you have to find something that inspires you. Take another few months off if you can afford it, travel around, get involved in things that interest you in and out of the industry, engage in hobbies, eventually something will strike your fancy.


There are a lot of good comments that probably hit a lot closer to the root cause that what I can supply. But I just wanted to chime in with reading either "Deep work" or "Flow". (A third contender could be "So good they can't ignore you").

I am not overly passionate about programming, but I really like the feeling of reaching flow-state. And programming is especially good at this - if I let it.

I will move away from programming, but until I have a clear alternative I might as well enjoy the feeling of reaching flow while also getting paid heftily for it.


What about moving into a field within the meta of what you used to do?

Organisations of differing sizes benefit in a huge way (and pay for the privilege) to hear stories, “war” or not, relating to their current problem set, and the various ways those problems can be solved, from an experiential aspect. Just to hear the various woes you faced and how you tackled them, is valuable to upstarts in the field.

Aside from being cathartic to anonymise and relay your experience, you could possibly help an organisation focus or see what they’re doing right, or wrong, in their current initiative.

Your 15 years of stories are something new companies almost _need_ to hear.


To me, burnout is a symptom of always feeling hopelessly behind. My identity as an employee was always in knowing what was going on, where trends headed, new projects, side work, etc. I now have 3 kids and just navigating the whole parent scene takes up the time I would have spent keeping up. It makes me feel like, if I sit down and watch a TV show it was time wasted so I feel guilty about it. That has really had a negative impact on my own enjoyment in programming.


Yes, I do think "overwhelm" is a huge problem in the industry. I recently started a new job and not been there 3 months yet and it felt like been caught up in an avalanche.

GTD can help. I get a sense of control from simply opening up my GTD spreadsheet and tackling the 'next action' for a project. If you chunk it correctly it really helps.


> I'm wondering now if I should think about changing career completely, what can an ex-developer retrain into?

Been asking myself that question for 16 years - I wish I had the answer. My solution was to go contracting and take extended career breaks. It sort of worked. I would like to move out of the industry permanently, but always run into the "but what else would I do" question.


I personally turn to travel to re-energize the passion. I have terminated a job 2 times to spend time abroad doing something different (learning a language or working as a contractor for a startup). While doing so, you meet up new set of folks, interact with new cultures (I was in Thailand and later in Russia). Works wonders!


Anything that does not require separete degree.

But, if you want to keep it close, you can do analytic or managemnt work. Analysts with development bacground have advantage.

Or maybe don't code yet, just read about theory - math, engineering, organization and soft skills for a bit. Maybe you will start to get feel for coding after you do related but different activities for a while.


My question is how would you know if a new thing is not going to turn out the same way? (not that I have an answer)


Burnout is entirely different from disinterest or loss of passion.

If you're suffering from a real burnout, you need to seek professional help.

If the latter, do some self reflection and figure out what it is that truly interests you and see if you can change your life in ways that would allow you to do more of that.


It'll probably take at least a full year to recover, if not longer. Read this: https://jacquesmattheij.com/dealing-with-burn-out


Wish I knew. Hit the point this year where I seriously considered quitting tech forever.


You are not alone!


Have you thought about what you originally liked about software development that allowed you to work on it for 15 years?

What have you not liked?

Are there aspects of it you still have not mastered?

Have you tried mentoring a someone?


Thank you for all the comments and advise, I think I can see a way forward now, its been an eye-opener, I really didn't expect this many responses.


Maybe marketing? But you would start at a much lower salary than before.


Retire before burnout.

After meeting many successful tech startup founders I realized, they retired before having their first serious burnout.




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