Is The Job of a Software Engineer Stressful? Reasons Why

Being a software engineer is an excellent career opportunity. It allows people to have an impact on many peoples’ life while getting benefits of a high salary and exclusive perks. Hearing much positive feedback about the career while doing your research can be both encouraging and concerning, as it sounds too good to be true, which makes anyone wonder about the stress level of this job.

Surprisingly, the job of a software engineer is relaxed and with low levels of stress despite the many challenges that come along in the profession such as working long hours, working on legacy code, dealing with bad managers, or having tough clients.

As you read through some of the challenges software engineers encounter, it seems a highly stressful career rather than a relaxing one. Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that are challenging to answer as it could go on one way or another, and both can be valid.

Why are we saying is being a software engineer is a low-stress career?

To better answer this question, we need to understand the reasons why software engineers have a relaxed, as well as a stressful job. Then, we are going to make an analysis of why it is a low-stress job.

Reasons why it is relaxed

It is important to not confuse the term relaxed with sitting on the couch watching TV all the time and not getting things done. By saying relaxed we are referring to not being stressed from working in the software industry.

Let’s first look at the reasons why software engineers have a relaxed job. While they change from person to person, in the overall scheme, engineers enjoy their career for the following reasons:

One of the Best Jobs

Being a software engineer is one of the best jobs, if not the best by many people in the profession. As a software engineer, I can confirm this. In my terms, it is the best career. However, any person can say they have the best profession. The reality is, it is not only me, but most of the population agrees with it.

At the moment writing this article, the job of software engineer/developer is ranked as the second job among the 100 best jobs in the US. Also, it is considered the best technology job and ranked number two for best STEM jobs, just below being physician assistant.

While being ranked in the top 10 best jobs is already good, being ranked first and second for different categories highly speaks about the level of satisfaction of the job, taking into consideration these rankings are measured by different factors such as salary, job market, future growth, work-life balance, and stress.

Exciting to Solve Challenging Problems

Learning how to code is part of the skills needed to become a software engineer. However, the main job of an engineer is to solve problems by being able to see the bigger picture of a problem and breaking it down into little pieces.

It doesn’t matter much what programming language or framework a software engineer uses, writing code is the equivalent of translating thoughts into repetitive operations that solve a specific problem. Feel free to check out why John Sonmez suggests why any software engineer should learn how to solve problems in the video below.

A good way to think about the job of a software engineer is to play a video game that you don’t know how to play. The more you play it, the better you get at it. Also, as you advance in the game, you get to a higher level. You get excited when you move to a different level. However, the game becomes more complex, but you keep playing as you want to increase your level every time and be the best at it.

This happens in a similar way in a software engineers’ career.

Knowing software engineers have to solve problems on a daily basis can be seen as a stressful activity. However, it is satisfying and rewarding for engineers when they are able to make things work, especially when they have no idea where to start, but find a way to solve a problem.

Flexible Job

All that software engineers need to do the job is the Internet and a computer. This provides with a world of opportunities that cannot be found in other professions such as working from home or from a coworking space.

On top of that, many tech companies give freedom to engineers to define their working hours, unless there are core hours. For example, if you were to work at an office, everyone in the office will have to show up from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm.

In the case of software engineers working for a company remotely, you could start working whenever you feel the most productive or whatever fits best your schedule. An example of this could look like the following:

  • Starting to work at 10:00 am
  • Finishing first part of working day at 3:00 pm
  • Returning to work at 6:00 pm
  • Finishing second part of the working day at 9:00 pm

Think about how many people could pick up their kids from school during typical working hours or don’t wake up early but prefer doing their job during the night, or any other activities you could think of as people have different lifestyles.

Excellent Benefits and Other Perks

Companies are constantly wanting to hire the best software engineers. Offering high salaries is not a benefit anymore, but instead, almost a requirement for software engineers to even take a look at a job description. On top of that, candidates give more weight to the software engineer job benefits than ever before, even up to the point when their decision to choose one employer comes down to the benefits besides the salary.

Some of the benefits you can find offered to software engineers are:

  • Vision, dental, health, and even pet insurance
  • Health savings accounts
  • Unlimited paid time off
  • Free food or allowance to spend on food
  • Maternity and paternity leaves
  • 401k Matching up to 6% of the salary
  • Signing bonuses
  • Life insurance
  • Home Office Stipends
  • Virtual Office

You might wonder why benefits have to do with not being stressed at the job. The reality is having the peace of mind that your loved ones have health insurance covered 100% or almost 100% by a company without using much of your salary is ideal for those who have a financial debt to take care of.

Whenever there are fewer things a person needs to worry about, they can focus more on what they are doing at their job, especially for software engineers who constantly need a clear mind to solve problems and avoid thinking about external problems.

Reasons why it is stressful

There are software engineers who will have reasons why being in their profession is highly stressful. I found an old funny picture I decided to share in my Twitter account about a person who looks old at the age of 26 and working as a developer.

Feel free to share your thoughts if you are a software engineer by clicking reply in the tweet below.

While that image from “John” certainly can scare those who are not in the industry and are thinking about becoming software engineers or developers at some point, the reality is being a software engineer can be hectic at times and tough to deal with.

There are multiple reasons why being a software engineer can be stressful up to the point that is not sustainable in the long run as well as becoming a reason to change jobs. Let’s see what are those

Tight Deadlines

Any person who has worked in the tech field has experienced stress due to trying to deliver work within a tight deadline. One of the main factors of having tight deadlines is determining how long it takes to build software is a guess.

Software engineers constantly have to estimate how long it takes to add new functionality or existing bugs. It is hard and oftentimes, we fail to estimate correctly, leading to delays on top of challenging deadlines established during the planning process. One reason for this poor estimation is to have an optimistic mentality of thinking you can deliver things on time when there are no roadblocks preventing the smooth development.

Poor estimation is not the only reason for tight deadlines as not all the time engineers have the ability to define those deadlines in the first place. Sometimes, tight deadlines are defined by upper management without taking into consideration their software engineers’ thoughts with regards to all the features that need to be implemented in a project.

Crash in Production

In software engineering, there can be multiple environments for software ranging from a local environment to a production environment. The local environment is another way to say that the software is being developed in the software engineer’s machine and nobody else can have access to it. On the other hand, the production environment is defined as the live version of a product.

When saying there is a crash in production, it is referred to as the discovery of a bug or a critical problem in a production environment affecting users of a product. When this happens a large portion of engineers have to quickly react to make the live version work again in the shortest amount of time possible, which is stressful enough.

Production crashes can happen at any time of the day, during work, during the middle of the night, during time off, during the weekends, etc. That’s why it is critical to establish action plans to mitigate the risk when a crash happens in a production environment. Depending on the quality of the software and actions plans, this can or not be a reason for engineers to worry about.

Factors not considered

You might find it surprising not to find other factors impacting how stressful the job of a software engineer can be such as:

  • Bad managers
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Tech Debt
  • Working on legacy systems
  • Bad coworkers
  • Micromanagement
  • Too many meetings and not enough coding
  • Toxic culture

If you think about it, these are all factors that vary from one company to another. Yes, software engineers can have bad managers, poor work-life balance, or work in a toxic culture. However, this happens not just in the software development and the tech industry, but in any other field.

Also, it is not like that all the time, but instead, it is related to a company’s way to work with software engineers, whether it is good or not.

As a senior software engineer, I have experienced several of these factors, becoming highly stressful in my life up to the point I was seriously considering whether I should continue working in the industry. The reality is some of these problems can be avoided by asking the proper questions when looking for a job.

All of these factors are rather reasons why software engineers decide to look for another job, not necessarily change careers. The fact is, things change quickly in technology. You might think things are going well within the first six months of working with a company. Nevertheless, sudden changes can happen that can create stressful moments in your career.

Conclusion

Even though there can be multiple reasons why being a software engineer can be stressful, the reality is the job of software engineer provides opportunities and benefits that are to find in other careers while working on exciting work and making a living by coding which is considered by many as a hobby.

Stress can be part of anyone’s job regardless of the profession. The same way happens to software engineers. However, most of this stress comes due to external factors that can’t be controlled.

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