i am unknowing

The Cloud of Anxiety

June 02, 2022

I heard that a friend of mine recently left his job as a software engineer and went to go teach. As your typical burnt out SWE I had to hit him up and ask how he was liking the transition.

As a software engineer at an early stage B2B company there is quite a lot of responsibility. I’m working on a platform that is used by a lot of people and I’m constantly shipping code that has the potential to break everything.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Famously a team at AWS took down like half the internet for several hours last year. Facebook went down for over a day losing millions of dollars. Roblox had the longest outage I’ve ever heard of.

All of these issues were caused by humans. Humans with feelings, egos, and pride. Those mistakes shouldn’t have been possible to make with proper processes in place, but they still happened and shit still hit the fan. I doubt anyone got fired, but bet several people were shitting their pants thinking they were going to be.

Back to my friend. One of the main reasons he left his job as an engineer was due to what he described as a cloud of anxiety following him around. No matter what, there was always the chance something was going to break and he was going to have to fix it.

My mind exploded.

This is exactly the feeling I’ve had for years and could never really put a finger on it. This slight feeling of uneasiness towards work. The constant need to check Slack and/or have my computer close by.

I hate shipping bugs, but we all know they’re inevitable. Whenever something I write causes an issue I’m totally embarassed and extremely hard on myself. It hurts my pride.

The ability to never really “turn off” has led to me having pretty severe burnout. Even when I’m not writing or shipping code, I know there’s a chance that something I wrote is going to fail. I probably won’t have to fix it, but it’ll ultimately be my fault for moving too fast and not testing my software effectively.

I’m not sure what the answer is. I like programming, but I don’t like working on mission critical business software. It’s scary. But maybe that’s why we get paid so much?

I used to work in insurance sales and while I still had some of this anxiety over screwing up an account, it was just one account. Fixing the issue was as simple as calling the person, fessing up, and making it right. You can’t do that easily when you screw up thousands of people’s day.

I’ve thought about teaching as I really enjoyed it when I did a short stint of it at the coding bootcamp I attended 6 years ago. The money isn’t nearly as good and I feel the time commitment is larger, but maybe that will even out if I’m truly able to leave work at work.

I wish I could just not care about this stuff. I wish I didn’t have to hold myself to such a high standard. I wish I could just let stuff go and let this cloud of anxiety burn off.


I'm Carl and I'm just gonna write about my life

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