Pedro Piñera

Home 🏚
Journal 📝
About 👨‍💻
Speaking 🎤
Photos 📸
Open Source 🐙
Lens 🔍
Wiki 📝
Books 📚

Where does the stress come from?

5 April 2019

Are you an software engineer and the stress is killing you? Is this something that you think it might have some connection with working with software? It should not surprise you that being a software engineer exposes us to many sources of stress, those for which we most of the time we find a workaround or a patch. This blog post is an introspection on what I think are some common root causes of many softwares engineers suffering from stress nowadays:

The more we swallow the more professional we are 📚

Can we swallow more food than our digestive system is able to process? Why do we think our brain is any different to any other system of our body? We force ourselves to read all kinds of books, blog posts, and watch talks to stay competent in the industry. Because we need to know about functional programming, how to write clean code, systems design, the latest shiny Javascript framework, a new book on how to write proper Swift. It's insane for our brains, on top of that it's something that we probably don't need. No one teaches us to be comfortable with not knowing everything. Conversely, we are taught to be competent, to be a swiss army of software engineering. Two things that I'd add here that helped me a lot to change this mindset:

  • Knowing more is not synonymous of being competent, but of being an incompetent on many areas.
  • There'll always be something new and it's ok for you to not know about it.
  • If you need to read/learn about something, you'd stumble on it. That's the right moment to do so.

Personal branding 👨‍💻

Being on the Internet and being anonymous is pretty uncomfortable. We, developers, have traditionally been seen as geeks that are working in a cave building something that people might not need at all. Things are changing and nowadays and being a software engineer is becoming cool. Social networks like Twitter, or platforms like GitHub and the open source revolution, are opening us the door to expose ourselves and tell everyone around us how cool we are. I think it's called ego 🤔. More and more, we strive to have a decent online presence, and that requires an insane amount of energy to:

  • Participate on discussions on Twitter.
  • Write open source software that we can share with others.
  • Join Slack groups where all the cool developers are.
  • Attend conferences.
  • Write blog posts and share them with our followers.
  • Record a weekly podcast because our followers might be eager to listen to it.

Let's stop for a moment. What's the point on doing all that (and I include myself here)? Helping the community or feeding our ego? Unless we are an altruistic person (like techies whose sole goal is making the world a better place), we are covering up our ego to not feel bad.

I love to create and share content with the community. I love the community.

Unless it's someone's full time selling its brand on the internet, doing this on the spare time is exhausting and pointless. This is probably the one I'm struggling the most with because as all of us, I also have an inner ego. The day I don't feel like having to do any of those, I'll have a significantly more relaxed life.

Open source & side projects 📦

It's hard to say where all this started to normalize in our industry, but have you seen in any other industry people feeling like they have to work on things on the side? You are pretty much seen as the ugly ducking if you don't do open source nor have side projects.

My family has a cafe, they work 8 hours a day like many of us. You probably know how the profession looks: you prepare coffee, serve clients, be nice with them. I have never seen my parents working on side projects after work. Nor have I seen them attending conferences organized by Starbucks to learn the latest skills to prepare coffee. They have no problem to disconnect, and have their hobbies and things to do that have nothing to do with work.

I'm struggling to have and enjoy hobbies nowadays. It's an odd feeling when I'm doing something other than work, open source, or side projects. It's like wasting my time. How did I end up like this? I certainly like it, but then work has become the most part of my time.

It's another source of stress, especially when we struggle to balance that with working 8 hours for our employer. It's not surprising to see software engineers sharing tips and tricks, and writing posts about how to be more productive and have more time to work more.


Those are three sources of stress that I think explain pretty much where my stress came from. I haven't fully controlled them, but I'm working hard on it. That doesn't mean that they might be yours as well but, but I'm sure some will resonate with you, either because you have suffered them, or you have seem them in people around you.

Mental health is a serious problem to which many of us are contributing (unconsciously) and for which some are trying to find patches and workarounds. It's something I believe should be tackled from the roots, even if that means confronting cruel truths about our personality.