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Why I Left My Developer Internship After Two Months

Introduction 👋🏼

In Summer 2019, I started an Industrial Placement, due to last 12 months, as part of my BSc Computer Science degree. It was my first ever experience as a Software Developer. Unfortunately, I decided to leave the position after two months, taking the rest of the academic year (2019-20) as a gap year. In this article, I want to talk about the things which led me to leave so early on.
Disclaimer: This is not a post where I bash my previous employer, but rather, the things which I experienced which were too much for me, a newbie to the industry who suffers from anxiety. The purpose of this article is to help anybody out there in a similar position to me.

So, what happened?

Burning Out

After two months, I believe I reached a point of burnout. If you haven't heard of this before, I've included a definition below:

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands - HelpGuide

A lot of people may reach this point because they have too much to do. In my case, I felt I had too much to get to grips with in a short space of time, rather than an excessive workload, and for this reason I believe I burned out.

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Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

Due to the working environment I was in, it was fast paced from day one. I had a lot of knowledge and working practices to get to grips with, and believe me when I say, I was giving it my all every single day. I can remember getting up each morning and putting on a positive, brave face to try and make progress with my day. However my anxiety would, more often than not, catch up to me. I'd often wake up to a new day thinking: "I can't do this". Did this stop me from going in to work? It actually did on two days where I called in sick. I've worked before this job and never felt like taking a day off like this, so I knew this wasn't a good sign for me. (Note: nothing wrong with taking days off when you don't feel like your best self, it just wasn't ever a thing I had to do before!)

Back to the point I'm trying to make here, I just didn't feel good enough. The work environment I was in meant I needed to be more bold and confident in my work, and I wasn't quite there yet as a new developer.

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Needing More Support

Due to how new I am to the development world, the work environment I was in wasn't supportive enough for me. There was often tons of things going on, meaning I had to grapple with everything that came my way, with little breathing room. This just added on to my anxiety as I felt I was holding back my employers in the work that they were trying to achieve.

Personal Expectations

I wanted to be perfect from day one. Read that again. I wanted to be perfect from day one. Is this even possible for a brand new developer? In most cases, no (unless you're that super genius kid we all want to be). Was I going in with this expectation of myself each day? Yes. I wasn't comfortable with making mistakes and being vulnerable, and that hindered me a lot. I was giving myself undue stress which wasn't necessary - this itself will have impacted my performance and ability to do my role.

What Have I Learned From the Experience?

Leaving the placement so early on made me feel like a complete failure, and sometimes still does. However if anything, that was the best decision I could've made for my own mental sanity. If I didn't think of my mental health first, who knows how I would've ended up a few more months down the line. Leaving something for the sake of looking after yourself doesn't equate to failure - we just like to make ourselves feel like we've failed because...we're human.

Below are some points regarding what I learned from my experience:

  • Put your mental health first before anything, and talk to someone about what you're going through;
  • Don't aim to be perfect in a new role, but be open to failing and learning from said failure, working to ensure it doesn't happen again;
  • Talk to your management team sooner rather than later, your workplace may be more accommodating than you think!
  • When job searching, try and imagine if the environment you're looking into is the best fit for you. You could spot a bad environment for you before you accept any prospective offer. desc

Summary

This was a quick overview of my first developer experience as a student, purposefully kept quite brief. It has taken me a while to pluck up the courage to sit and write about my first ever developer experience, being that of one that wasn't quite as planned. However, I've learned and grown from the experience, and actually picked up some team leading skills this year (on my gap year) as I was a Team Leader at M&S Foodhall - during a global pandemic! The soft skills gained this year are invaluable and I look forward to applying them to my next future developer role, which I hope to find for 2021 (hope to finish my Computer Science degree by then!)

I hope you find this article useful, and if you're interested in following my student and developer journey, just tap on the links below:
▶️ Instagram - yusufcodes
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▶️ LinkedIn

Discussion (6)

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melisky profile image
Mike Melisky

Thanks for sharing Yusuf! The industry can be tough sometimes. Things move fast, and often things are on fire that have to be put out. It can be demanding but always speak up and raise concerns now and in the future. It's not uncommon to express to your leadership that you're spread too thin or feel burnt out. That's a sign that you have too much on your plate, not inexperience. Best of luck in your next role!!

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yusufcodes profile image
yusufcodes Author

Thank you for reading Mike. Reassuring to know it isn’t uncommon😊. Thank you I do hope my next role is a better fit for me🙏🏽

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clairecodes profile image
Claire Parker-Jones

Thankyou for sharing this!! I definitely agree with speaking to management - I've been in jobs before where I was struggling but didn't let anyone know and I suffered because of this. No one can help you if they don't know you need help!

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yusufcodes profile image
yusufcodes Author

Thanks for reading🤩. I’ve learned that and will hopefully apply this in any future roles🙏🏽

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afzal97 profile image
Afzal Muhammad • Edited on

I am also a student dev who started its internship in the summer of 2019. My experience resonates a lot with the points you've made. There were moments where I felt that management, especially the one that doesn't know anything about tech but likes to manage it, wanted a full software engineer for the price & experience of an intern. It was exhausting.

I often forgot that I was there to make mistakes and ask stupid questions. If I already knew about software dev why should I be there? But more often then not I tried to impress management and took more work on my plate then I could handle. Which led late nights local dev & mental health issues. This thought me 3 things:

  1. Stop trying to impress others.
  2. Stand up for yourself and learn to say no (or ask if you could pair on it with someone else). You are not there to replace senior software engineer resources.
  3. And most importantly, management has no idea of the skillset with in the team. You would expect that the people who are managing the team at least understand who's good at what.

Fortunately, I was placed under a great tech lead. Who was able to speak back to management when things became too much and he always put people, collaboration, and knowledge sharing first. Under his leadership, over time the team saw me as an asset to develop & mature, rather than a Full Stack developer with 15 years of experience.

Hope my rambling can provide some empathy.

Good luck with your final year. See you on the other end :).

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yusufcodes profile image
yusufcodes Author

Ah this is some amazing advice. Glad you could somewhat relate, I guess my experience isn’t too uncommon! Good luck to you on your final year too🤩