Software Engineering is Toxic now

Stefan Haas
Published in
5 min readAug 11, 2022


Swamp vector created by upklyak

Let’s stop pretending that the software engineering industry still is this peaceful industry full of like-minded people. It may have been like that once, but the illusion is bursting like a bubble. Things have changed and we are heading towards a hustle culture that demands us to do programming not only as a job, but also as a hobby. We are expected to do side projects, know the hottest blazing fast frameworks, contribute to open-source projects and go through several interview rounds for a job.


We all have heard, and some may even have experienced it firsthand, what the interview process is like in big companies like Google, Meta, Microsoft, etc. They might do multiple interview rounds, a behavioural one, a technical one, another technical one, then a manager one, which obviously is draining the interviewees, which put in a lot of time and effort, and then don’t even know if it pays off or not. And if you think that 5 interview rounds is not enough time spent on an interview process, imagine having to compete with hundreds of other top-notch software engineers which all want the same role, so you go the extra mile and put in months of work preparing and studying for the interview.

The typical technical interview has little commonalities with normal day-to-day software engineering, but is just a test on Data Structures and Algorithms. Because most software engineers don’t use these concepts on a daily basis and therefore don’t know them by heart, they have to study a lot. Usually, people will signup for LeetCode, an online interview learning platform, and prepare for months. Otherwise, the chances of getting a job at such a company is low.

And to be honest, this on its own is not that big of an issue, since many many software engineers just work at smaller medium sized companies and don’t even try to get into those Big Five companies. But here’s the deal: The big five are trend setters, thus, smaller companies are adopting their interview process. Therefore, we get more and more companies, that demand those things and it is becoming a norm.

For example, I once applied for a junior role at a small startup with roughly 10 developers and their interview process consisted of five rounds. Whereas the second round I would have been given a take-home exercise that would have been discussed in the next round in a code review session. Do you want to know what I did? After they told me that I had to go through those barriers, I lost all interest in that company and stopped right there.

Hustle Culture

The software engineering industry is an ever-changing one with a huge landscape of technologies. Keeping up with the latest patterns and technologies is a hassle, but also a necessity to an extent. When you decide to become a software engineer, you basically have to signup to a career in which you for sure will have times, in which you need to study new things. That’s all okay.

But what’s not okay, is the expectation towards software engineers, that they must know all the newest hottest frameworks, do programming in their leisure time and contribute to at least 10 open source projects. Sounds crazy?

Yes? Thank god you are on the same page as I am and that you understand what work-life-balance means.

No? Okay, no problem, but let me explain, why this is an astronomical issue. It is okay for people to do side projects, but it has become an expectation at this point and in many interviews I have even been demanded to show off side projects. I work 40 hours a week and work on a closed-source software and when I come home I want to focus on myself, do things I enjoy besides work, and be a balanced person.

Would you ever ask an accountant in an interview, if the accountant does free accounting in his leisure time as a hobby? Probably not, and so we should not either.

Even from the point of view of a company, it should be obvious that having employees with a good work-life-balance is great. We need people that aren’t workaholics and burn themselves out. We need healthy people, that do not only work on code projects, but also on themselves, their hobbies and their personality. We work with machines and we must not become machines ourselves.


Almost every week, I come across something that is totally new to me. Something I have to learn in a short period of time and apply to my project. This is obviously not trivial at all, and therefore it is not rare that bugs occur or I am just lost. So what do I do? I make a Stackoverflow post hoping that someone out there can help me out of my situation.

But badly, Stackoverflow has become the forum where the most toxic software engineers gather to collectively down vote and disregard other software engineers questions. Of course, there are many not so good questions out there, but instead of just down voting and silencing questions, the community should focus on spreading positivity by being friendly, which could mean giving a helpful heads-up.

By the way, a great alternative to Stackoverflow, which I have been using lately, is Reddit and GitHub. Search for the right Sub-Reddit and create a post, or create a GitHub issue on the project repository page. I will promise you that the people in those communities will be much more helpful and uplifting.


Even though this hustle culture is growing bigger and bigger, I still love software engineering as a career, because of the creativity involved in it. I will still recommend many people to get into it, but I will say, that we as the community must watch out and advocate for work-life balance and health.



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Stefan Haas
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