When I first dug into the data for my Year One analysis of DevRel Weekly back in January, I looked for obvious trends in the tags that I use to sort through the content every week. Which tags were no longer as popular? Which ones had plateaued? And which ones were spiking at particular times throughout the year?
It was no surprise to see that the "burnout" tag spiked in April and then again in October, carrying on through December. Given that the two heaviest conference seasons are mid-January through April and September through November, it makes perfect sense that burnout would rear its head during these times. There's nothing quite like being on the road for 2-3 months straight while also being expected to produce content, maintain relationships, assist other departments, and sustain lively social media accounts.
After getting hit hard with a bad case of burnout in 2015 and feeling like I was largely alone in my struggle, I'm grateful that more people are willing to talk about burnout these days, choosing to be vulnerable rather than struggling alone. But the fact that burnout is not only a common, but accepted part of Developer Relations is a huge concern to me, so much so that I dedicated a large part of a chapter of my book to the topic.
When I began thinking about these "Best Of" issues for the newsletter, burnout was one of the topics on the top of my list, but it's taken some extra care and thought in order to produce this issue. As you'll hear in Brandon West's video on burnout, burnout and depression are pathologically indistinguishable, which means for me, as a journalist, former DevRel professional, and business owner, to offer any sort of clinical suggestions on how to treat burnout, can be incredibly dangerous. I am not a medical professional in any sense of the word, and I'd strongly encourage you to seek professional help if you feel burned out or depressed in any way.
However, I do feel it's important for those of us who have experienced burnout ourselves and also attempted to build healthy and resilient teams to speak out about ways to prevent burnout and promote sustainable work in Developer Relations and across the tech industry in general.
So here's what I'm attempting to do in this issue:
* Give you tools to help both you and your teammates recognize burnout in yourselves and in those around you.
* Show examples of Developer Relations teams who have figured out how to make their day-to-day work more sustainable.
* Encourage conversations around burnout before it's a problem that we're running into at the end of conference season.
First, we'll walk through a few practical tips that can help you get through the day-to-day grind and prevent burnout from becoming an issue. Then, I'll highlight a few resources that give hands-on suggestions specific to individual contributors (ICs) before moving on to resources for managers who are looking to make their teams more resilient. I'll close out with two more comprehensive videos which will walk you through the clinical definitions of burnout as well as give you frameworks to understand burnout better.
As always, I'm happy to chat if you have any questions or concerns, or just need an empathetic ear. I'm not a doctor and will always encourage you to also see a trained professional for advice, but I've been in your shoes and will offer as many internet hugs as my network connection will allow. 🤗
Make the Investment
You'll want to carve out more time for these last two resources as they're not a quick skim.
I mentioned Brandon West's talk, Understanding Burnout, in the intro to this issue. It's a fantastic look at what burnout actually is, clinically speaking. He covers some of the most common causes of burnout and how they relate to DevRel, as well as a few frameworks that help us understand burnout better.
I started speaking about burnout a few years ago and have given several iterations of the talk since then, but this one, geared specifically toward DevRel professionals, was my favorite by far. We as DevRel professionals have a much higher tendency to burn out, given that we tend to be energetic, highly motivated individuals who are already community builders in our personal lives. This excitement can easily mask the burnout resulting from overwork, lack of personal community, and a mismatch of goals within the company. (Note: Want a summary of my talk to pass along? I wrote a blogpost version as well.)