Developer Guilt

It is ok to have a work/life balance!  I read an article today by Dan Kim titled “Eat, Sleep, code, repeat is such bullshit“.and he wrote on how it is ok to have a life outside of software development. The notion that all that matters is writing code is as he says is BS.

I worked for a long time basically eating, sleeping, coding.  I am a self-taught developer.  I was voracious in the amount of information I was taking in to learn this craft.  I spent almost all of my time reading about programming, programming and dreaming about programming.

I followed this cycle for the better part of a decade, but I hit a wall about 2 years ago.  My role at the time was as the development manager.  There is a side story here, but I will leave that for another time.  I was a big believer that one of the components of leadership is to not ask the team to do anything that you are not willing to do yourself.

Well…We were having challenges getting our work done on time and our deployment were becoming more and more fragile.  We starting working later and the deployments were starting to take longer and the amount of post-deployment support was out of control.

I think one of the challenges that I had as a manager was realizing that leadership by example is only one of the tools…and it was not working.  I found myself doing the deployments with another manager without the team on deck. In my mind at the time it made more sense because we were the more senior members and would be best suited to make critical decisions and fix any serious issues.

We spent too many deployments where we met the team the next morning without having left the building.  I think this is where I saw that leading by example was not working.  I didn’t feel empathy from the team which was grinding on me, since it was not my code being deployed.  That last part sounds crappy since it was my team and our work product.

Let’s pause here for a second.  The team was and still is the best team that I have ever worked with.  We had out issues, but every team does.  There are many reasons why we had these challenges.

It was the end of the day on a Friday (end of sprint) where I finally said, I am going home.  I left the team at work to sort of their issues to close the sprint.  I told my boss that they will figure it out and I left the building.

Immediately the guilt started to set in.  “Shouldn’t I be there” was circling in my brain all of the way home.  I started to feel really guilty about leaving, but I had enough.  From then on I started to leave at a reasonable time.  I felt guilty for a long time after that night, but it was not healthy for me anymore and it had to stop.  I found myself not wanting to use the computer when I was home which felt unfamiliar and frankly uncomfortable.

There are many side stories that fan out, but I wanted to keep this short (yeah right). Now I am able to come home and veg out and maybe do some work on non-work projects.  I rarely remote in to do some work.  I try to get it all done that day, but I am ok if I can’t which is something that I was not good at.

I think that night on a Friday has changed me quite a bit looking back.  I am ok with leaving after an honest days work, even though I get snarky remarks as I was out the door.  Even with that I still love this team :). Dan is right.  The perception that all we are is a group of monkeys heads down coding with an IV drop of mountain dew and a colostomy bag so that we don’t have to abandon our task of writing awesome code is ridiculous (That sentence was funny to me).  Finding that balance was important for me and when others learn that it is ok to have a life outside of development it will be important to them.




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