Performance anxiety vs. underperformance, commitment vs. overdoing it


#1

Hey everyone, I am reaching out to anyone who feel as if they want to and can help me, as I am at a loss as to what I am currently doing wrong. I’ll try to keep it relatively simple (although I tend to be verbose):

Worked for a year at my current (first, and only) job: compiler development.

Was hired for a 3-month project developing a server-API to the compiler’s API. Turns out the compiler team needs a new guy and I somehow managed to impress someone; got a 6-month test period and was brought on for real after that.
I made my master’s thesis developing an algorithm framework for the compiler (thesis finished, framework is not in trunk).

Due to a shortage of resources I did not really get a mentor, but have spent the year dragging team members to my side and prodding them for help. Not that they don’t want to help, but they have their own shit to do. As it was my first job it was my first experience with a huge code base with several very different sections (compilation, optimization, flattening, code generation, runtime, et.c…). Needless to say I feel as if I have been racing to be able to produce anything since I first started. Every day feels like a struggle and I am constantly wracked by

After a year I am still quite slow in comparison to my co-workers (three of them, 4-7 years of experience), and I don’t think I have completed any issue given even double the estimated time. I have not ever been responsible for any real development either (thank the heavens) but rather small extensions, modifications, or (dread) bug fixes. I am becoming a bit more stand-alone each day, but am still very slow.

I do keep a TODO fresh each day, but due to testing being dependent on rebuilding the compiler most of the time (3-4 minutes) it is impossible to stay effective working on just one thing at a time. The way I have tried to compensate for this is by working at home (without extra pay) so I am often putting in 50+ hours per week, just to stay afloat. However, this is killing me slowly, and my suicidal thoughts and SH fits are raining more and more often*.

I can’t really lose this job either since they have agreed to let me work while commuting (two hours a day); something other companies would be reluctant to match. I live a bit away from where most developer jobs are since me and my wife chose to settle in our home town.

*I am seeing a therapist on a weekly basis. I have been struggling with anorexia nervosa for two years (it came into full bloom once I transitioned from a student to a worker). However, it just feels like everyone just assumes I have too high expectations of myself. I feel so angry at every each and one of them (even my wife). I mean they are not there when I work, they don’t hear the sighs or feel the disappointment in the replies to your questions. They all seem to have had easy transitions into their jobs, easily finding themselves a mentor or maybe they were just actually good at their jobs.

Most of the time I really feel like I just want an easier job. A cashier or something. A job I can go to that I do not feel as if I need to bring home (mentally) everyday, something where I have a set of things to do each day that won’t bite me in the arse down the line. Shit. It’s just all with the student loans and stuff as well, and I do not want to let my wife down by bringing in a lousy salary compared to her. Gah, well. Sorry for rambling.


#2

Trust me that doesn’t work.

I’ve done that for the last year - putting 50-60 hours a week - nights and sometimes weekends - and now I feel completely burn out. I’ve submitted my resignation yesterday.

It sounds like you’re doing good even though your not getting the support you need. Schedule a 1 on 1 with your manager just to talk about how things are going. If they don’t know you put 10 hours extra per week, then they can’t adjust and help you out.

If they don’t give a sh!t about you logging 10 extra hours a week then it’s time to look at other options elsewhere.

Yeah me too. My brother is a postman and the thought of working in the “real world”, outside, providing a (somewhat obsolete) service to people, sounds a lot more normal.


#3

Hi Vicissitude,

Any update? Did things get any better? Going from school to work is extremely difficult. In school you have doable projects with reasonable deadlines laid out for you. In the ‘professional’ world you can be totally set up to fail.

Don’t forget that if you fail outside of school, sometimes it really isn’t your fault. I’ve seen plenty of managers give people work they knew was impossible but did it anyway. Try to remember it’s just a job and not your life. Make a promise to yourself to not work overtime one week and see how you feel. Keep a list of accomplishments you make every day, even if they’re small ones.

Good luck!


#4

I can relate with the OP. Putting in the extra hours sucks but in my experience it eventually eases off once I’ve built a bedrock of experience.

At the same time though, being in an environment where it’s OK to say to your colleagues and management that don’t yet understand certain things and that it’s going to impact your delivery speed is very important. OPs current employers should be accommodating if they don’t have the resources to properly train him/her.

Vicissitude, I hope things have got better for you recently. By now you’ve probably got knowledge which other team members haven’t. Do you have retrospective sessions on your team? Why not make the point that you think the team would benefit from more pair programming on certain tasks? That way you’re not “distracting” other developers as that other developer is also focussed on the same task and you’re breaking down information silos. You’ll learn things in 1 hour which you’d have spent 10 hours doing on your own. Again, if your employer isn’t willing to invest that way in their employee’s development then they only have themselves to blame for slow delivery. Don’t beat yourself up over it, it’s not your fault.


#5

I’ve talked about my situation before, so I’ll try not to repeat too much of it, but I watched something the other day which I think is relevant to you.

My boss who is very controlling, and, surprisingly, technically sound, with severe OCD, pretty much wrecked a trainer from one of our vendors. The guy was sent in to kind of set up an overview, do some generic stuff, and my boss ran him over the coals over something really minor. The result was several people leaving with the thought, “this guy sucks”.

No, he doesn’t suck, he’s exactly what he’s supposed to be, someone who can do an overview, understands the system and, hopefully, can shoot things upward to get help. HE’S NOT SUPPOSED TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING!!!

And neither are you! You aren’t the guy they pay to know everything and that’s just fine.

I’ve dealt with this for 3 years (I think it’s finally going to change) and it’s horrifying. You are always wrong, every idea, decision should have been something else and nothing, really, is ever good enough. I got it externally from my boss and internally because how could you not be affected?

I know it’s hard not to think this way. I went home after that meeting thinking I was going to have to learn every possible thing about this product. It’s the only possible way to hold my own. I know I can do that because I’ve done it. I also know it wouldn’t matter because this is literally about knowing everything about everything, which, to my surprise, it turns out I’m not actually capable of doing. And you know what, “they don’t pay me to know everything”.

This was a long way of saying, “I suspect you are probably fine and probably do decent work”. Maybe it’s not exceptional, or perfect, but your salary, like mine, is probably telling you something that your mind has a hard time hearing.

Good luck with everything.