There comes a point in every programmers career where they must make the decision to change up their career or face burnout, skill rot, boredom, and fatigue. I call them the four horsemen of programming, and I faced them all. I always stubbornly found a way around them or fought through it for years.
Finally, shit converged in 2014 and I knew that this time I could no longer fight through it.
Always working against the clock, a figurative ‘gun to the head’ style of “we must hit budget or go broke” mentality finally wore me down enough to where my body could no longer accept it. The last thing I remember is being made to work over Christmas through New Years Day, after the office was promised mandated vacation from December 25th through January 5th.
I never saw any of that vacation.
No, instead, I was on call almost 24/7 via phone and email direct to a client, all on my own with a workload fit for at least three or four people. No one was there to help, nor being assigned to help. I pulled 43 hours working through Sunday to Wednesday, not really seeing any friends or family or enjoying the holidays - and then I realized how stupid it had all became. I was not being paid anywhere near enough the point to care nor anything close to the national average for someone of my skill set.
I couldn’t even lift the lid to my laptop or check my text/email on my phone without feeling severely anxious. That’s when I knew I needed to make a drastic change, and that this was no longer working for me.
My body shut down from the mental exhaustion by New Years, at which point I slept almost 20 hours straight - only to find messages about an impromptu meeting to be had that morning between the client.
For weeks leading up to December I had asked for assistance and/or a break, it was denied. I was the only one working on what should have been a 3-4 person project, instead, I had a junior frontend developer and a total mountain of backend work. Despite throwing everything I had towards it, there was no way to stay in control and keep things on a relatively good track.
It wasn’t a bad project, except no one was in control. It was a locomotive without engineers, and we were going off the rails.
I figured it was in my best interests, damn all else, to move on.
I asked everyone I knew, including previous employees, for their input to get other perspectives on it. Maybe this was normal in all careers, maybe I was overreacting.
Everyone confirmed what I already knew - it was time to go.
I prepared my resignation letter New Years Day (thats a hell of a resolution) to submit the next morning. I had no job lined up nor did I know what I would do, or where I would go.
My resignation was neither accepted or rejected to the best of my knowledge, what followed is only what I could relate to a toy being taken away from an angry child. For a place that held sway and control over me for so many years, I was now in control.
There was never any what or why, or concessions to make improvements to make things better from the employer. Their Fuck You Parade™ had left the station; confetti and balloons rained down on main street. My well being was not a concern, it was all about the bottom line.
Shortly after, I had to fight to get back paychecks for time already worked, ADP had reversed pay for checks that had cleared for over a week. The gloves were off. Despite this being highly illegal (ask any lawyer), no one bothered to stop it. Not only that, but my Drupal.org account was compromised and wiped, which I obtained back through the proper channels- and then my credibility online was attacked in various petty and malicious ways. There is a whole list of things people could call me, but I do not have the reputation of being a liar. It took 6-8 weeks to reverse or clear the injustices enacted against me.
The striking thing was the length they were willing to go to hurt or impede my chance at finding new employment. You can’t interfere with people like that. It’s unethical and petty.
It took two full months to disconnect and clear my head to go back to work again. It was the best two month vacation I ever had, and well earned. I clearly had made the right decision. All the previous employees I consulted with? Their reasons for quitting were all the same as mine - I let them tell me before I told them. It was a sick cycle of burnout, skill rot, boredom, and fatigue.
I am now a senior developer and starting a new team within the company. It is most refreshing to have real budgets, real projects, exceptionally skilled people across the entire tech spectrum, and proper structure in place to keep a company running and more importantly, growing. I got myself out of Delaware, which for people in tech, is basically a dead end state for career growth. I now live in Boston, one of the hottest tech hubs in the nation.
Never be afraid to take a leap into the unknown and boost your career. Opportunity is out there, you have to go find it.