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Juniors and overtime

skylerdevops profile image Skyler ・1 min read

Junior and overtime seem to go together these days. I see a lot of people encouraging "staying in the office" (well, staying to your desk at home, more likely) because that's how you will get noticed, right?

I realise many people tell me "they don't have a choice". I wanted to write an article about my experience on the subject, being a young person in the field for now 2 years. I would be curious to learn more about people’s point of view before doing so.

What is your opinion on juniors and overtime? Did you do it for your career? Did it help?

But mainly... Do you regret doing it?

Disclaimer: This is a safe space. I am not here to make fun of your experience or belittle you. I am genuinely curious as to what push people to accept repeated overtimes. :)

Discussion

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Though I'm not a junior, I do lead teams with junior developers.
I feel *excessive overtime * in software development has been a huge problem for decades and I have been totally burnt out by it. My regret is letting myself be burnt out and not saying "no more".

I think there's a difference between overtime 'work' and self learning/improvement. Though that's a tricky subject...I feel your workplace should give you enough time to learn and grow. At the same time, there are limits, and I don't expect my employer to pay for my personal projects.

Regarding overtime work, I do think some overtime is unavoidable in development (especially in certain kinds of roles and companies), but junior developers should feel comfortable to stand up to managers and say no.

They should feel comfortable in setting certain boundaries and push back when they feel they are working excessive overtime. I do believe this takes experience and practice. It's hard to push back the first few times, but now, I don't think twice about it. My health is of primary concern. This doesn't mean I never do overtime, but I know my limits and will not cross it.

As a lead, I personally get concerned if I find a junior dev on my team is constantly working late hours to get their tasks done or always volunteering for overtime work. I feel it is part of the management and tech-leadership to step in and have a discussion about why a particular developer feels they have to work so much overtime.

The discussions are helpful because sometimes junior developers have fears that they are i) underperforming and ii) feel that simply putting in more hours to 'make up' for their slowness is the right thing to do. Those are just two of many examples I've come across.

Did it help my career? To be fully honest, I think there were some short term gains but in the long run I don't think it had a meaningful impact.

 

Thanks for answering! If that's fine, I have a couple of questions on some things you mention:

  • "Regarding overtime work, I do think some overtime is unavoidable in development (especially in certain kinds of roles and companies)" what kind of roles and companies did you have in mind?
  • As a lead, do you feel they perform well and have good quality code when they overwork?
 

Thanks for answering! If that's fine, I have a couple of questions on some things you mention

No problem, I'm happy to answer other questions :)

Regarding companies with unavoidable overtime

hmm what I meant about 'unavoidable overtime' is that the kind of company, their business, and team structure all effect the chance a junior (or any level) developer will encounter overtime.

For example, consulting companies and agencies can have some very tight deadlines, managers stressed out on P&L targets, and angry clients. In addition, the work load tends to be cyclical (busy trying to get the client transitions to a nice work routine transitions into a mad rush trying to get the job done by the deadline).

Some projects have very strict SLAs, which might mean overtime work too. But it all depends on the individual company and a host of different factors.

As a lead, do you feel they perform well and have good quality code when they overwork?

I don't think all overtime hours are homogeneous. I generally don't see a drop in quality if a project requires a small amount of occasional overtime. But...

When overtime is excessive or frequent (even in small amounts) or deemed unjustified, I very quickly see a drop in morale (both individual and in the team). Developers as a whole write less tests, do less testing, and code reviews become rubber stamps - just so tasks can be marked done.

Senior devs can become very jaded, less open minded about listening to different ways to solve solutions, and often loose their eagerness to mentor junior developers. This has a impact on junior members on the team as they can loose their enthusiasm and willingness to improve - especially when they feel they can no longer ask questions or if their input is constantly discounted.

But each person and team have their own individual limits...which change over time.

Thank you for taking the time to answer, I really appreciate your input as a dev (or tech) lead. :)
It's a very fair point that a couple of extra hours here and there don't have a bad impact on the quality (with precautions taken), but crunch becomes a serious issue really quick.

 

Yep. I do a lot of overtime that I feel is needed to 'compensate' my lack of experience, learn stuff etc. Logically I get that it is overtime, that it is work. But the inner pressure still makes me do this to try to deliver at the same pace as all the other developers.

 

Thank you for answering :)!
Do you think your productivity, or the quality of your work, is better after overtime?
Have you discussed the way you feel about this situation with a manager?

 

I get to learn things 'faster' and for that deliver things faster. I talked a bit with my manager and for that, they always tell me to be less hard on myself.

 

I do overtime like, alot. Mainly because I'm the boss but also because I love my work. Do I regret that? Yes, because I think I should spend more time with family as well. Sometimes you have to make adjustments and changes and constantly try to balance things out.

Here is my take on over time: I appreciate people who are passionate about what they do. Most people just work for the money, they don't care about learning new things, perfecting their skills, etc. For them, work is just something you do to be able to "do the work you hate so you can enjoy the life you love" kind of mentality. That is fine. But if you are the boss, who do you want to promote to higher position?

I like to work with passionate people. These people keep improving themselves at incredible short amount of time. They are not satisfied with their current level and constantly seek out knowledge to grow.

Overtime is not the best indicator for that, but it is an easy-to-see kind of "evidence" for it. I think to be passionate about something is to be willingly and happily spend your time outside of paid work hours to learn, to experiment, to grow your skills. One may argue that some people do overtime because they are not productive during the working hours, or because they just want to show off to the boss. That is true. At the same time, if you do good deeds without saying so it's hard to tell right? A junior does not have to stay overtime to show his or her passion and dedication of course. They can ask questions, give opinions, contribute to internal discussion to show that they are actually actively improving their skills outside of work as well.

In short, I think it's completely normal to hate and refuse overtime (in the end it's fair to work only for the amount of compensation you get). However, if you are really passionate about your work then do spend some extra time perhaps at home to improve yourself. And do try to get noticed for your growth.

 

Thank you for sharing your opinion! I have a couple of question...

  • "I like to work with passionate people. These people keep improving themselves at incredible short amount of time. They are not satisfied with their current level and constantly seek out knowledge to grow." What makes you think that someone that consider this as a "normal job" (or at least, is closed to overtime) would not have the same opinion? ie perfecting themselves, reviewing their work to see if they could have done things better or not, ...
  • Have you compared the quality of code from a "normal job" person and a "passionate overtime" person?
 

Hello, to answer your questions:

  1. You mean people who do not work overtime are also passionate? Absolutely. As I pointed out in my answer, using overtime as an indicator is flawed. However, it's kind of an easy to see, in your face "evidence" that sadly we still rely on. That's why I mentioned that you have to proactively prove yourself.

  2. It should be clarified that when I said working overtime, it may not mean real work. It means spending the extra time either at the office or at home on work or work related knowledge. And yes those people generally have way better code quality and grow at very fast rate.

Thank you for clarifying!
I thought, initially, that overtime just meant = working on company projects after your working hours. I haven't considered that reading tech articles or such during your free time could be considered as extra work... Great point!

 

Personally I don't work overtime unless it's for something urgent , and this must not be frequent. Sometimes I like to work on ideas I have for my company that I'm passionate about and not part of ongoing tasks.
Working for extra hours is very common thing in software development. While you always have new clients' requests, bugs to fix, documents to made, or code to refactor, sometimes you feel forced to work for overtime either by your employer or by yourself. My advice for anyone feels forced by his\her employer to work for extra hours and very frequently that this isn't the right place to work for because there's something more wrong about the management and the company itself. Don't work for many extra hours and don't let yourself hates your job, just try to be more productive in your official working hours.
Don't lose your personal success while trying to achieve your professional one.

 

I really appreciate your answer, you do mention cons and pros which are both very valid! Thanks for sharing :)

 

This thread probably requires anonymous replies...

 

That's a very valid point!
I'm pretty new to dev.to. Do you know if that is possible or you have to put down your username no matter what...?