Pressure Makes Diamonds (but not in Technology)

After graduating from university, I was faced with the daunting task of finding a job and, by extension, determining what area of technology I wanted to spend the foreseeable future in. Landing a position in a graduate program is undeniably one of the strongest ways to kick-start your career. However, for anyone lucky enough to be offered one of these coveted positions, it often comes with an enormous amount of internalised pressure. As an Associate Developer at SEEK I was given the trust and freedom to drive my own learning. No one is monitoring how productive I am or what cards I’ve completed for the week. This is in stark contrast to a university environment where your progress is constantly measured and assessed.

Getting Crushed

At SEEK, I immediately found myself surrounded by high achieving, ambitious people at a similar point in their careers. With such an impressive cohort, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others -to benchmark your success in the program as a measure of your experience against theirs — “who is attending which seminar?”, “how much time do they spend being mentored?”, “how technical is the work they’re doing?”. In the blind pursuit of optimising the freedom I’d been granted, I quickly found myself overloaded with blogs, vlogs, talks, training, and volunteer initiatives. I was in and out of meeting rooms constantly, barely able to keep up with the volume of tasks I’d put on my shoulders. I began to feel like I was failing myself and SEEK.

Turn the Pressure Down

To alleviate some of this pressure, I dropped out of one of the internally run courses I’d signed up for. With more time on my hands, I managed to complete some tasks and get my code into people’s hands. With a small win under my belt, I felt an immediate sense of accomplishment — something I hadn’t realised I sorely needed at the time. I started to realise the importance of focusing on the core components of day to day life as a developer and how little time I’d left for them.

After unburdening myself from more of these self-imposed responsibilities, I began to enjoy my time in the office

I spent more time pair programming with knowledgeable developers, completed tasks that gave me a genuine sense of accomplishment, and was attending meetings that I was engaged in and able to contribute towards.

But it wasn’t until I saw my father fall ill to cancer that I truly appreciated how important it is to take the time to look after yourself, physically and psychologically. I learned about his illness early into the program and I masked my pain well. In some ways, I think I overburdened myself as a reaction to the news. But knowing something is not nearly as impactful as seeing it with your own eyes. Knowing that he doesn’t have long made me reflect on how little time I have as a graduate developer. At the same time, seeing him degrade made me realise that I have decades ahead of me and will always have opportunities to learn.

Looking on the Bright Side

Someone once told me:

to be truly happy, a person must live absolutely in the present, no thought of what’s gone before and no thought of what lies ahead

For many of us it is too easy to feel overwhelmed with opportunities and the desire to maximise the time you have — in your careers (academic or otherwise), in your social and professional lives, and everything in between. If you try to micromanage every aspect of your life — working towards some optimal path — you will miss out on the things that are right in front of you.

Take the time to digest your experiences and develop a deeper understanding of the various roles that you play in life and you will be better for it.

The only post-it notes worth keeping