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When I joined the tech industry in my early 20s and for years after, I noticed that many in their 30s or older seemed burned out. It didn't make much sense to me, because to become a tech worker takes drive and ambition and how would you just lose that one day? Now, 12 years on I can definitely see how burnout is so prevalent.

It's like living in the desert and hearing about people drowning. You'd ask yourself, "how is that even possible?" But now I feel as if I've moved to the beach, and can easily see the waves and how it's a real problem. I don't think I'm burned out, but I'm conscious enough of the possibility to keep an eye on the tide.




I had the exact experience.

My tech career started at around 22. Everyone past the 28 mark seemed to have a generally apathetic vibe to work (compared to my 22 year old excitement). I had no idea how that could happen. Tech was awesome!!!!!!

I'm almost 30 now. Fuck tech. Fuck clients. Fuck management. And especially fuck 22 year olds. I want to put on my headphones, finish my 8 hours of sludge, and run for the exit.


For me it's a bit similar to how I felt as a kid playing with legos. Who wouldn't want to play with legos many hours a day, most days every week? It never occurred to me that there'd come a point where I wanted to know that my work genuinely improved lives. It turns out that being good at something and getting paid for it isn't always enough. It's hard to avoid the question of meaning forever.


It's something I hear almost every day now.

1) 20 something not willing to live office or blue collar job lives and go for driven passion

2) realize how any regular obligation will lose the art/passion side and will become a system ..

3) realize that a job is a job

4) many wants to improve lives of others.

I think our generation (I suppose we're both from the 70/80s) was pushed too long into pupil mindset (leaving college at 23 if not more) and too focused about our passions. Adult life is adult life and there's no cutting corners, the previous generation didn't really have a choice and learned it earlier.

Also 'improving lives of others' is somehow a metaphor for having a society being a large team. There's a weird pivotal time where we lose this trait.. we want to make it, become anxious.. and then realize 'success' would just be making something useful for the group.


I'm also at 12 years now, extrapolating to 25 years in the industry is actually pretty difficult to imagine.


Personal experience, FWIW: Once you have enough experience and a large enough network to generally not worry about jobs/starving, it makes sense to find more fulfilling jobs. There are plenty in tech, and if you are good, you can be selective. If you are really good, your former colleagues will constantly be telling you about new opportunities and you can be very selective.

I ended up doing a startup full time (3yrs) for a cause I liked (diagnosing TB, with the goal of giving away the product to lower income nations.) Product success, market failure, but personal success and i'm very happy I did it.

I was very selective with my current employer as well -- I really chose an engineering team I could respect and learn from and I'm happy about that.

I realize not everyone has the ability to be selective (perhaps luck, skillset, geography), but if you do, you can be very happy.


The drive and ambition have a funny tech-related spin to them, too. Emotional or relational problems are cast in technical terms as if the solution is to file a bug report on one's own software, even in cases where it makes most sense just to get together and push back on the project / boss / client.

Plus you can only hear about e.g. responsiveness concerns like latency so much from the same team / project before you realize: The people themselves are attempting to work more like, and to become more like, machines. They are also thinking about "my latency" as a way of becoming as responsive as possible. If that's true of the group, you're lucky if the burnout isn't already so well entrenched as to be celebrated.


Did you talk to these dudes ? I remember a few guys being quite dull my internship. I think that old big corps are too removed from reality in a way. You make products and portfolios.. rewrite some shit in <platform of the day> that is clearly not or not clearly an improvement. After some point maybe you just throw in the towel and just coast along for the check.

Also one guy did actually lose it and was now the official monster behind a cubicle. AFAIK he was still there because of years of service and probably some deep system know-how lockdown that nobody wants to touch so he's in charge.


Heh, it rings so true. I remember being an intern and feeling a bit ashamed that I was being paid for tinkering with stuff all day. It was all novel back then and very low-pressure (of course, that's because intern-level tasks are not exactly the most important ones). And there was this 'senior developer' guy whom I of course looked up to. But soon I noticed that he was incredibly checked out and just did the bare minimum of work and browsed facebook the rest of the time. I was seriously confused.


I burnt out 3 years in - just wanted too much, too soon instead of enjoying the process. May have come down to the employers. Have taken it easy these last 5 years, working not for a FAANG but very close and I've never been less stressed. Lucky my employer was acquired, because it sounds like the culture pre-acquisition was much, much more toxic.


Same here, and your analogy was great.

Also, thanks for the laugh re: your username.




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