Depressed, Procrastinating, and Stuck on a Project


#1

Hello everyone. Brace yourself for a wall of text.

I work at a corporation that works in manufacturing and at our corporate office there is a small team of software developers that build and manage a suite of 20 or so custom built applications. I started working with this company about five years ago. I had just finished college and getting work was hard at the time so I took a job as a clerk at one of our company’s divisions. As time passed I was officially hired and I then worked in multiple departments over the next four years (Project Management, Purchasing, and IT) I was a jack of all trades and I tried to learn everything I could about the departments I worked in. Working with computers had always been a hobby of mine. I’m a PC gamer at heart so I toyed with my computer at home pretty often, so it was natural for me to take over as System Admin when the previous one left. I went back to school and finished a two year degree in Network Management so I would have some basic education in hardware, software, and everything else associated with managing the network. That year and a half of being the System Admin was awesome. The location I worked at contained an office along with a steel fabrication plant, so one day I might be removing a virus on Jane Doe’s computer and the next I would be installing Wifi access points in the roof of the paint shop. Every day was different and I really enjoyed it. So a year ago I was offered a job at our Corporate office to help with the rewrite of all of our current software, and of course to stay on and support the software we produced. It is a big deal to be asked to moved to our corporate office in this company. The old software was written with Visual Fox Pro and they wanted to update to C# since FoxPro was no longer supported by Microsoft.

So anyway, I was basically shoved in an empty office and told to teach myself C # and start development on a piece of inventory software that I had used in the past. It was difficult because I had never really written code before. Sure I had built websites with HTML/CSS but this was a different ball game. The other developer working with me was a few months ahead, but he was also learning C # ( He has 15 years experience in FoxPro, and he helped write the previous incarnations of our software). So, getting any assistance was always a gamble with my co-worker. Regardless, I finished my first piece of software within a few months and after running it through beta testing I finally polished it off and released it. I was then assigned the project that I am currently on now. It is an estimating program used to price fabrication projects. I have never worked in that department before so I was having to write while using the old code that I could barely understand as a reference.

Anyway long story short, I have become deeply depressed and anxious because I can’t seem to get this project moving. I feel like a total fraud because I can’t program like the other developers. Coding isn’t fluent for me yet, I normally work off previously created work in order to understand what the code is doing so I can replicate it. But the problem is that this project has components in it that none of the other developers have dealt with yet, and I’ve had problems finding the right solutions online. This program has 10X the SQL tables of my first program and it’s a piece of software I have no experience in. My first program I was able to write by using my own experiences with it. I knew what needed to be improved and what needed to stay the same. With this project I am so lost.
It does not help that I hate asking questions. I feel like an idiot if I have to ask the other devs anything, but if I don’t then I get bogged down for weeks. Every time I hear someone talking to my boss in the office next door I am terrified they are talking about me, about my lack of work. I have developed substantial paranoia that rears its heads every day I go to work. I’ve always been told that I am smart, and that coding will be easy for me, but in this case I am failing. It’s not like I don’t like coding, but I feel like I was given a project I was not ready to handle.
My due date for my project is coming up and I am in a blind panic. I’m terrified of being fired. I’ve been seeing a therapist for two months but I am more anxious and depressed than ever before. I am so afraid to let my boss know that I am so far behind; I feel frozen. I want to belong here, and feel like I am good at my job again. I know from reading some of you guy’s stories that some of you have felt this way before. Please give me any advise you can because I’m desperate.


#2

Hi Stephanie,

I also experienced almost similar situation. And it all stemmed from being compared to other programmer, either in same company or from somewhere out there in the internet. And worst of all, it was myself that did comparison. And I kept beating myself saying I should have done better, I could done better, and not accepting the reality that in programming it takes long time to be proficient and everyone is growing on their own pace.

Looking back, my fear of getting fired seems irrelevant. No one in my experience got fired for missing deadlines. Those got fired either due to insubordination or making deliberate disastrous mistake. I used to see myself as a fraud, and now I think to get over it is start to see myself as human and not superstar programmer. I need time to learn, and as long I put maximum effort in what I do, I should not worry about the outcome for I have done my best.

No need to be afraid to ask for guidance if necessary. Some companies even give out mandatory training to their employees. There are limits for self learning. And by asking other programmers, you are showing you putting effort.

Final word, due date has been used by project manager to induce fear as stick in project management. But unfortunately such management style is a double edged sword for people with depression tendency like us. And working alone, without any team member with equal knowledge is the worst for us.

It is hard, but hang in there. Just keep doing your best.


#3

It’s so good to hear that I am not alone, and it’s good to hear that I shouldn’t worry too much about the deadline. To be fair, the only reason our IT Manager had to set one was because upper management wanted to know when things would be done. We guessed that this re-write of all the software will take 5 years to complete, but management is trying to compress it into 2 years.

I’ve always been really bad about burying my head in the sand when I encounter something that I’m not able to master within a short amount of time, so I shut down. Not to mention, our IT/Development department consists of 4 people and there is no structure; no one really checks in on each other. I normally enjoy working alone, but I wish my boss and the department manager did a little more to steer the ship. There are weeks we literally never see each other, even though all our offices are next to each other.


#4

Finally spoke to my boss after months of fear and depression. He was very understanding and helped relieve a lot of my worries. I’m still hard on myself but at least now I know I have some more time to develop my skills. Thanks for the feedback.


#5

Hi @Stephanie1217,

First I just wanted to say that reading your story I think you’ve been doing an amazing job so far. For someone with little formal education in computers you’ve accomplished a lot and learned a lot in a very short amount of time. I hope your employer and your colleagues understand how valuable of an employee you are. Being expected to port a legacy application to a new language and framework would be a big job for anyone, and it seems like you’ve been trying hard and making progress so far.

From reading your story, there seems to be two main problems. First, you’re being expected to learn a new language and related tools all your own, as well as port a new application to it. To tackle that issue, it might be a good to invest some time and effort in just learning C# and .NET first. If there is some leeway in when the project is due, it might be a good idea to sit down with a C# book, or an online course and get a feel for that first. Then you can apply what you’ve learned to your application.

Second, it seems like there is a general lack of communication in your company. It really should be management’s job to ensure that there is clear communication between all parties involved, but since it seems like that isn’t happening, you may need to stand up and take the lead. I really think you need to get comfortable with asking questions. That is an important skill for a computer professional at any level. If that is something that makes you uncomfortable, then definitely talk to your therapist about it. You could also try keeping a notebook of the problems you run into, and then ask one coworker one question each day to get more comfortable asking.

Finally, depending on the personalities of the other people in the group, maybe you can suggest having regular meetings? Even if you have a half-hour meeting every other day, that would give everyone a chance to get on the same page, ask each other questions and maybe even think through complicated problems together. Just to be clear, I understand that this might be a socially troublesome situation, but it’s also possible that your colleagues or superiors will be impressed with how you take initiative and give you the help you need.

Good luck, and take care!


#6

Thank you for your response Vibranium. Things have gotten so much better in the past week since I finally told my boss about my problems. I no longer have a time limit on my project and it feels like so much pressure has been lifted. We have a new hire that specializes in coding who was brought in to give support and help educate us. Once he learns the business I’m sure he can give me the help I need.
Thank you all for your support. It’s because of you guys that I had the courage to go speak with my boss and get the help I needed.

-Stephanie


#7

Thanks for sharing and helping people know your problem and if there is someone that can help.


#9

So I wanted to update everyone on my current status. I quit my job a little over four weeks ago. I was getting suicidal in the last two months at my old job and even therapy and medication was doing little to help. Things became worse this year when a new developer was brought on staff who was supposed to be bringing expertise and knowledge to the table so that we could learn from him. This individual ending up knowing less than me about coding and never completed a single project in the 8 months he was there. He was assigned a small program with only two forms and a few grids and combo boxes and he never finished in all that time. This coworker was condescending yet never provided any teaching or expertise to the team. Not to mention he was 30-45 minutes late most mornings. I’m now and IT admin and analyst and I’m much happier in this role. Thanks everyone for your advice and support.


#10

@Stephanie1217 - It is really nice to hear that your new shift and transition is already so much better than your previous environment. Good for you for being so pro-active - that isn’t easy when you’re feeling so down and out circumstance-wise. Thanks for posting an update!