Anyone tried taking non-dev roles for mental health improvements?

Pardon me if this has already been asked, just impressed with all the real and relevant answers on this forum. So hopefully any inputs here would be helpful.

I’m asked this question on /r/cscareerquestions on reddit, but the general gist is that to get better at this career, you should keep pushing on harder jobs and learn more.

Just wondering if anyone here has positive experience moving out of corporate / startup companies? Right now I am in a place where I have spent 2 years working at toxic work environments (ops heavy team at Amazon, Startups) to force myself to deal with stress and anxiety. (exposure therapy)

After those experiences, I am definitely better at dealing with stress and handling anxiety in a way, but the burnout and having to cut off from people to focus on the career wrecked havoc on my personal life. Now the depression is worse, friends calling me a robot, and the stress-coping has basically turned into apathy to the job.

The mid size company I’ve talked to uses a bit older tech and is more service oriented than tech based. Though this is a DevOps position instead of a Dev one, the career switch scares me.

The views from /r/cscareeradvice were mostly to not take it.

I have always preferred the harder job since it forced you out of your comfort zone and forces you to learn a lot. Later on in your career (10 - 15 years), it might be better to have an easier job when you might have interests outside of your career.

If you want to be a dev I would work as a dev. If you’re struggling with things (and a lot of people think they are but it’s not as bad as they think) moving to a job where you do it less isn’t the answer.

Do the senior devs here at OMSI have a different view point on this?

I’ve thought about this a lot in the last 6 months. I’ve been working with startups for the last 10 years (web dev for 15 years) and 6 months ago I was let go.

I seriously thought about a career change. After some careful considerations, I decided to accept an offer from another startup mostly because of the salary… which was by far the best I’ve ever had.

The stress/anxiety has been really hard to deal with even though I’m seeing a therapist. Yeah I’m more challenged and it’s harder than anything i’ve done before … and I’ve learned at lot… but sometimes I feel like buying a plane ticket to the other side of the world and just quit by email.

Don’t really have any advice for you, just wanted to say I’m in the same boat.

Yeah I know what you mean there. You start out saying that you are only doing this for a while until you learn enough to move on to take an easier job…

So until you learn enough, go have a mini - breakdown, complain to everyone about wanting quitting your job, but then don’t do it because there is more to learn around the corner. Feel better at all the cool stuff you are doing, and then repeat the process when the next big deadline hits. :frowning:

I’m only doing this for 2 years and its tiring, I can’t believe you have been doing this for 10 :sweat_smile:

Though for the first 5 years out of 15 it seemed like you worked non-startup? Was it just as taxing or something more mild? If say its not a devOps job, but an easier dev job, did having 5 years before jumping into startups help out with building a support network?

I’m not a senior dev so can’t speak from that perspective, but I know several people who have made the switch from working in developer roles to other related roles (scrum master, DevOps, etc.) to much success. (That being said, I don’t know if they have plans to transition back or continue to mix it up.)

I think being challenged to learn more + pick up new skills is a positive but if it is in a way that is detrimental to you over the long term, it might not be worth it. Having those skills won’t be valuable if you burn out from stress/anxiety, y’know?

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From 2000-2005, I worked mostly with web agencies using ASP/IIS or PHP/LAMP stack. Github and a lot of tools/frameworks I use now didn’t exist.

My anxiety at that time was mostly related to keeping my head above water. The web was evolving so fast. What was good practice one day was obsolete 3 months later. My communication skills were also poor.

Now my anxiety is more related to information overload, tight deadlines and complicated system ops.
The tools/frameworks are better but the expectations are much higher.

15 years ago, the main challenges on my projects were content management and browser compatibility.

Now my challenges are related to…

  • API’s
  • Mobile applications
  • Web applications
  • Responsive design and support for a sh!t load of devices and screen sizes
  • Continuous integration and testing
  • Payment processing
  • Not going crazy with the continuous chatter on Slack (our company is running 24/7)

To go back to your question, personally I’m not passionate about CS anymore. I used to go to meetups and read ebooks about CS but now I just don’t have the energy/drive. I like the company and the team but I’m definitely not motivated about learning new tech.


Good point, been debating this for a while. Its good to see that there are others who have did well from taking a tangent.

@monkeypatching Yeah, the way office communication is 24/7 is designed for those social media and txt addicts. It sucks that it is now standard practice and expected, my brain can’t handle the constant noise either.

Again, thanks for sharing, I’m still amazed at the grit you have. I don’t think you are just tired of the new stuff, but its just reinventing the wheel again most of the time. Sometimes you have to actually get work done, instead of always starting new with something ‘bleeding edge’.

I wanted to chime in on this one as this sounds similar to the crossroads I’m experiencing myself. I’ve been in web development for 5+ yrs with “fast paced” agencies and am at a point where I’m not sure if the stress/anxiety is worth staying in the field either. For me, I felt like the best and only way to find out is to take that leap, and try something new. You can also try changing the place of work to a healthier culture - the last place I worked had the best work/life balance and benefits thus far, so I was much happier there, but in general, it’s still tough to keep up with the increasing demand and ever changing technologies.

I also have a lot of things going on in my personal life as well so having stress in both areas of my life is not ideal. So I’m currently thinking of trying a related field, like you, where I’m not totally abandoning tech, but it’s not the usual developer role I’m used to. The place I’m interviewing for has great benefits, the employees seem happy there, and although I’ll take a salary cut due to “changing careers” - I feel like it might be worth it. So I’m going to find out. And nothing’s stopping me from tinkering with code on my free time while I explore other areas and am hoping in a few months, I’ll really know how much I “love code” and whether I want to return to it.

Yes it’s true, the more you stick with it, the more you’ll improve, but in my case, I thought to myself - at what price? And so with the stress and unhealthy work/life balance at some places, after this many years in the field, it made sense for my health for me to give it a try. I know so many people that have done lots of different things in their career - you never have to feel obligated to stay on one track, especially if you’re unhappy.

Hope this helps a bit and good luck! :slight_smile:

I’m not a senior dev, but I am graduate student in Computer Science, and I have similar experiences. I have to learn and apply new things constantly, I’m always failing, or having ideas not work out and then having to figure out different approaches and test possible solutions. It is exhilarating, and can be a rush in a lot of ways, but it is also easy to be really close to burn out. I think the best to survive and thrive is to make an effort to have some amount of balance in your life. The amount of balance you need to live a good life, varies from person to person, and you’ll need to experiment a little to fight how much you need in your life.

Personally, I work best in focused sprints. I can concentrate on a problem for hours at a time, but at the end of it I need to put it down, go work out and eat a good meal. I can also work for a month for a paper deadline, but at the end of that I need to go take a vacation for a week. The best way for me to function is to be focused on a problem for some time, and then completely disconnect for a while.

If your working in environments where you can’t disconnect from work (either because things need your attention all the time, or it’s not socially acceptable), I don’t think that’s something that can be sustained for long periods of time. If things are failing all the time, the team needs to work on building better solutions. If it’s not socially acceptable to disconnect, that’s a toxic environment that needs to be changed or left.

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I saw this post earlier but this time something triggered about the comments from the career advice forum. It’s sometimes hard to get advice from people who are immersed in the problem. What I mean is that someone working 16 hour days might not have the best perspective on why maybe that isn’t a good idea for you.

I’m not saying their advice is wrong, or not well-meaning, just that they would have a specific perspective based on choices they’ve made and that their strengths/weaknesses might be better suited than yours for that lifestyle.

It’s really hard to know what to do and to get it right. If it were easy we’d all be in great jobs.