Dealing with Burnout During Internships

Burnout was something I didn’t believe in until I had zero motivation to wake up in the morning and open Xcode. I interned at three places last year during the pandemic. It was tricky handling the new stressful work from home environment. The internships worked as a distraction from online college life. But I worked more to escape reality. And hence, the burnout.

Deadline of a day

I worked in a client/product startup in February 2020. It was all going fine, handling the client work, working on their main app, and physical college. Then, around mid-March, I got an interview opportunity from Apple, and I started preparing for that as well. Unfortunately, Covid hit my country at this time, and my college declared holidays.

I cleared the first round of interviews and started preparing harder for the next. Breathing Leetcode day in, day out. I also worked on the proposal for Google Summer of Code. A deadline for the product was approaching, and I had to finish the rewrite of a major screen in SwiftUI. This literally took me the whole day to wrap up, and I was exhausted like anything.

I took a break of few days from work to focus on preparing for the interview. The situation was confusing, as we had no idea how long the lockdown will stay and how our college will proceed. Neither did I get any mail from the recruiter to schedule the second round. So now I had to give my all in the GSoC proposal.

A few days later, I had zero motivation to wake up in the morning and open Xcode. I just couldn’t get myself to write a single line of code. This state of emotional exhaustion was something I had never dealt with before. I had filled my plate with too many expectations and disappointed myself with every opportunity thrown my way.

My manager was extremely nice to understand my situation and gave me a week of break, that too during a critical release for the client. I needed this break. To go and enjoy myself.

The first thing was to understand the reason for the burnout.

Was I enjoying what I was working on? Yes. Was I overdoing it? Yes. Why was I overdoing it? To give my best and get recognition for it.

The middle one was relatively easier to solve. I kept strict work timings and didn’t work after 11 PM. For the last one, I gave my best and recognized and appreciated my own SwiftUI code.

I submitted the proposal with everything I had done till then. Fortunately, the recruiter reverted back that they’re offering me a position, and that was a fresh breath of relief. I played games all day long and explored all kinds of good music. This helped me deal with my first tech burnout, and I was back to shipping code!

Creating an Amazing Presentation

I joined the internship at Apple late due to some issues, so I had some work to cover up to finish my project. I also had to give a presentation about the work done during the tenure. According to my experience, I felt that presentation-driven development was significant. Unfortunately, by the time I was 25% done with my work, I had faced a fast-approaching deadline for the presentation.

My initial presentation to the team was the worst one I have ever given in my life. After this, I realized I had to work exceptionally hard to improve my communication skills, and my manager realized that as well. We worked almost every other day to improve my presentation, created a script and I used to present to him.

Somewhere inside, I didn’t want to disappoint my manager by not presenting up to Apple’s standards. So I started working early morning and late nights on my speech. And all this while trying to finish 75% of my project. Working remotely vs. working from home due to a pandemic were utterly different scenarios.

The presentation day came, and somehow, I managed to give my best performance, and I was incredibly proud of myself.

But here comes the catch. I was tired and drained of energy to complete the whole project. So my initial reaction was to be unproductive all day and play games.

And then another burnout followed. I did not feel like opening the laptop, but I still had to update the work completed. Again, my co-worker was tremendously understanding (the best person I have worked it), and we started making minute goals to finish over the month. This strategy worked, as with every mini task I was ticking off from the to-do list, I was gaining confidence to get rolling again!

Struggle with Managing Time

After I finished the Apple internship, I joined a product startup to work on their iOS and watchOS app. It was going lovely in the first three months of the internship. It had a relaxed environment where I could experiment with code and manage college as well. But, in January, the company gave me a significant feature to work on. This was the first time I was creating a backend-driven UI.

As much I was excited about it, I knew this would take a lot of energy. So, as the deadline was approaching, I started putting in more hours to finish the work on time. And this included weekends as well.

By the time I successfully shipped this feature, I was almost done with software development. I realized this isn’t my cup of tea, and I will do it as a hobby in the future and not for a living.

Even though this story was supposed to have a happy ending dealing with burnout, I simply quit this time. And after few months of living the freelancer life, I think I made the best decision.

Conclusion

If I had to go back and avoid burnouts altogether, I would probably start learning to say no. No to my expectations and others’ expectations from me. Understanding my own limits is something I failed to do last year, and slowly improving upon it this year.

Thanks for reading this post!