On my burnout

Most people believe burnout happens due to excessive workload or overworking. While that is certainly a reason, it is often not the only or the biggest reason of burnout. You can have normal workload and still experience burnout.

My burnout happened as I lost respect for what I did for a living. I woke up way too many days wondering why I am doing what I’m doing and I simply could not find an answer.

I worked in the tech industry as a front-end engineer, a role still new to the industry on the arc of time and a role sandwiched between other more established roles. On a good day, its a tremendous opportunity and polymaths prosper in such a hybrid, inter-disciplinary role. But in my case bad days started to outnumber the good ones.

First, let’s talk about losing respect for what I did for a living. Front end engineering is a highly vulnerable role to this in my opinion. The perception that it is not real engineering is still alive. Html/Css is not code, JavaScript is not a real programming language etc etc. Fighting this notion for 10years took its toll on me and it eventually seeped into my mindset as well.

I actually agree that the role is not -real- just engineering. It is such a frightening mix of engineering, design, marketing and product that no wonder it is very hard to level off. Even in large software engineering heavy orgs where an engineering career trajectory is often well designed, I have found that the career path for this role is completely forgotten.

What is funny to me is that even the management track in engineering teams is largely dominated by people who come from backend engineering, people who wrote real code. In my personal observation, I am yet to see managers who wrote front-end code back when they were ICs. Admittedly, part of this is from the relatively recent origin of the role and I anticipate this will change in the future.