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Does it get lonely working as a software engineer?

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Data Scientist at Apple8 months ago

I come from a non-Computer Science background, and I'm exploring other paths in tech, one of which is software engineering.

I have a vision of a software engineer working on the same piece of logic daily: Is that what it's like and if so, can that get lonely? Or is that actually what most SWE love and find exciting?

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  • Alex Chiou
    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    8 months ago
    • The scenario outlined here can definitely happen, and it can definitely get lonely, especially in the age of covid-induced remote work. I've known (past tense as they're largely out of these scenarios) a couple engineers in situations like these (doing the same kind of work on the same component every day), and they all hated it.
    • However, there's a big variable here: Variety and depth of work. I'll use myself as an experience down below.
    • I worked on a pretty specific part of Instagram for 3 years: Instagram Story Ads. However, I had a lot of fun during this time, despite working on the same thing for ~1000 days. It's because I had impact on this product through a large variety of methods:
      • I mentored other engineers who would then carry out my vision on the product for me
      • I fixed bugs, a lot of which were SEVs. I got really good at it and came to enjoy these exercises as a game of detective.
      • I added features, putting new pixels on screen (this one's the most obvious one)
      • I led efforts to improve the process and culture the team overall used to write new code for this product. This manifested as refactors, testing efforts, revamping the oncall system, and a lot of other workstreams.
    • Since I was able to do so many different things to ultimately made the code for this product better, I was able to grow a huge variety of skills and I was pretty much never bored.
    • Zooming out, this is another thing that's more dependent on team/company. Weak teams/companies will have weak collaboration culture and treat software engineers more as "code monkeys", where they just kind of code in their corner for 8 hours a day. Stronger teams/companies will find ways to provide more autonomy and variety for their software engineers similar to what I experienced at Instagram, which leads to less lonely software engineers who are just happier overall.
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