May 14, 2019

Why I Quit My Full Time Software Engineering Job

I recently quit my full-time Software Engineering job and for the stereotypical Millennial reason; to pursue a career I love and have a passion for. I didn’t want to work to only be about making money but about making something that was impactful in the ways that I find most important in life, and that is by telling stories. Storytelling has always been an essential part of the human experience whether through words or imagery and in my life when I was unable to put words to my emotions, watching or reading a story helped me locate feelings I buried deep inside.

But I quit without having a job lined up after so I am currently…

Fun-employed ✨🌈✨✨✨

I want to enter the entertainment industry somehow and I currently think it is through Virtual Reality (VR) development, so I shall be spending time working on projects, trying to become an Indie Game Developer.

I also must say I loved where I worked. The people I worked with were amazing. The company MyVest had amazing benefits, people managers and it felt like a family. I was employed at MyVest, my first job out of college, for 2.5 years and in that time I learned how to be a Software Engineer, how to work with other people and receive criticism on my code 🙄, how to ask the right questions and escalate issues I had been stuck on for too long, how to be a professional, how to handle life after college and how to make choices that will benefit me and my future.

MyVest’s VP of Engineering Joanne Pons gave me the best advice while discussing my departure.

She said to treat myself like I am my own startup. She told me that I should clearly map out my funds and make deadlines like a company would and to treat this time I spend working on my VR project idea as a full-time job versus free time. This was the most practical and helpful advice I got from anyone.

Now all that being said I have felt pretty miserable as a software engineer, and it all started in college. I graduated from UC Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) program in 2016 and it was rough. When I first started taking Computer Science classes in 2012 I had no idea what I was getting into. It was difficult and I found I didn’t quite like it as is, but I saw the possibilities of learning this tool so I thought I would do great things once I figured out what I wanted from this degree.

I wanted to work at Pixar.

Since going in I wanted to work at Pixar, that was my goal. I even joined a 3D animation student taught DeCal called UCBUGG (if you are currently at Cal check them out). I loved the art of creating 3D animated shorts to tell stories and if you want to see the short my group and I made in the advanced course CNM 190 check out BANDITS.

Ah but then came CS 184 Introduction to Computer Graphics taught by James O’Brien, the course that was the missing link to my education in Computer Science and my love for storytelling.

Ray Traced image from our CS 184 Ray Tracer project with project partner Katherine Chao.

And with that one class I felt like, “ok, all these CS classes I took were not for nothing”. It was also a perfect blend that included the application of linear algebra, physics, and art which were other subjects I enjoyed.

It was one semester of bliss and then it went back to normal CS classes. I realize now that anything I did that didn’t have a direct connection to storytelling felt like a step backward. I was constantly frustrated because I felt like I kept stepping further and further away from my goals. But it was all in my perspective.

Near graduation, I got an interview with MyVest after chatting with Joanne Pons at a Berkeley career fair. Then after interviewing I got the job and thank God because it was the only job offer I got. I started working and continued to feel like I was getting further away from my personal career goal. During those 2.5 years, I tried applying for other jobs or working on projects outside of work but coding full time and then trying to do more coding outside of work was too much for me 😐.

The transition from being a college student to a working adult was rough

The transition from being a college student to a working adult was rough all on its own. Consistently going to work at the right time meant I can’t stay up too late and I couldn’t just stay home and skip work because I wasn’t feeling up to it. And I didn’t get as much vacation time anymore. College students get like 5 weeks during winter and around 12 weeks during summer compared to the 3 weeks I got while working full-time. Now don’t get me wrong 3 weeks a year is A LOT of vacation time but compared to being a full-time student that’s 14 weeks less than I was used to. I was thinking about retirement 5 months into working as an adult.

On top of that, I got my own apartment for the first time in my life and I was living alone. It was nice but if you consider my depression and anxiety mixed with my introversion and the fact that I isolate myself more when I’m depressed and that I didn’t like my work which I spent most of my time doing, I wasn’t ready to live alone. I just wasn’t in a good place.

My situation outside of work changed and as time went on, with the help of friends and family I started to realize my perspective about life and my job was the cause of a lot of my pain. The most important things I learned while working full-time were:

  1. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean you can’t try your best. Ganbatte!
  2. If you have your mind set on hating something you might make the experience more miserable than it needs to be.

And I actually started doing better at work. I had the mentality I don’t like what I am doing and that is ok but I can still work and do my best. Now full disclosure, my best, when I am working on something I don’t really like, is nowhere as good as my best when I am working on something I am excited about. I was doing my best in the situation but it just wasn’t worth that turmoil anymore. I didn’t want to spend my energy working at something I wasn’t interested in. So I quit.

Existence is pain

I believed “Existence is pain” for a long time but I don’t think life is meant to be that way. So if life feels like that to you, maybe you should consider either a perspective change, situation change or both. Your feelings matter.

God, I just thank you for the people I have had in my life that have supported me and for the ability to take this time to learn about myself and love and value myself in a different way.

I’m out here y’all! I am ready to start creating and I am so excited about Virtual Reality for it is taking storytelling to an entirely new level.

Now all I need is a VR headset 😛

Ashley Collins

Artist, Developer and Virtual Reality enthusiast. Follow me for all things VR.

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