Monthly Archives: December 2018

What’s BurnOps?


In about every five years or so there is a new term born for a tech job role or function. We have seen this on all levels of engineering jobs as well as other business roles. Here, I want to share some thoughts on another term called BurnOpsThis isn’t a job role or title but it’s a consequence of having one of those technical roles. Do not mix it with Firefighting this is actually being burned of off unbearable work.

In the operation world of most administration jobs a.k.a admin jobs (network, system, database), the names were correlated with the area of interest. When the Dev team also responsible for Operational tasks it’s called DevOps. This way they also do hold pager and respond to incidents thus support issues to solve. This may also be referred to as the only ProdOps and it goes like that.

When the tasks of operations or software engineer become overwhelmingly stressful it turns into BurnOpsThe consequence of BurnOps is generally a loss of a job.

Let’s take a look at the main contributing factors what leads to BurnOps:

  • Life events and pressures
  • Poor leadership at work
  • Unrealistic work expectations
  • Skills mismatch
  • Chaotic workplace
  • Work/Life/School balance

As the order of contributing factors may vary by every person, in my opinion, top one reason to BurnOps is the surrounding life events and pressures they come with an added bonus. To be perfectly honest if there is a “Poor Leadership” at your workplace is not the case this will still stand out as number one.

In the career planning people mostly tend to be in relationships in their most productive age. These relationships usually result with marriage or other long-term commitments which involves having children and relations to extended family members. For those who are not in this category please move onto the next assessment. These life events followed with financial commitments such as a new house or car loan, overspending for a new place, gifts, travel and more can cause such turmoil that eventually can cause BurnOps while committing other operational tasks under pressure.  I suggest re-evaluating the priorities if you find yourself in this situation.

Poor leadership is a number one cause of employee depression in the workplace. This combined with any other factor listed above can immediately cause BurnOpsI don’t want to repeat the fact that “People don’t leave companies, they leave managers” analogy here still poor leadership that impacts the employees most to reach their BurnOps thresholds fast. Leaders can help employees to hump through their difficulties by changing some priorities and bringing some extra help with proper planning.

Unrealistic work expectations both from employer and employee side are a very common cause of BurnOps. As I mentioned earlier operational tasks are not only risky also pretty stressful to execute. Some of the tasks are so risky that outcome can cause major outages, loss of data and even legal problems. Combined with long working hours and coverage commitments shifted work weeks, timezone differences, multi-tasking duties as well as policies and procedures are all things needs to align. Ideally, proper resourcing and planning can easily overcome to avoid finding yourself in this situation.

Skills mismatch is another leading cause of BurnOpsWhile it can be assumed the responsibility of leadership, planning sometimes you’ll find yourself into a job that you aren’t cut for it. Often times it’s referred to as taking a challenge. This challenge can be so big that it leads you up to BurnOpsThe ideal solution for this is to asses the challenge and ask your mentor to discuss before getting into. If you have already taken the challenge and find yourself in BurnOps situation, plan for a change immediately.

A chaotic workplace is for real. You can never imagine ending up with one of those places where you have no intention to be part of past problems. Several companies in the past with great talent turned into a chaotic workplace after some changes in business, market conditions and other factors such as executive leadership changes. You may be in a chaotic workplace and literally trying everything but still, find yourself in BurnOps situation there’s always for another alternate job elsewhere. Look for one.

Work/Life/School balance is another leading cause of BurnOps. Let’s start with work/life balance and what that means. It simply means that you spend enough time with your family and friends along with the personal time that’s much needed to be successful at work. Start with a personal time that’s needed. Ask yourself this question “Do I have enough time for myself?“. If the answer is negative please refer to my earlier posts about Are you a workaholic? and Is 24x7x365 days+6 hours and leap seconds availability possible? In our long-term planning, there are times you may need to revisit academic career or some sort of certification which will bring additional stress to work/life balance. Life is too short to miss this train to find work/life balance.

We also need to acknowledge Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) role that helps us remove the toil and build new features efficiently in a scalable manner. The goal is to remove the recurring issues with a satisfaction which should help work/life balance in return.

In conclusion, BurnOps is a reality you may face in some parts of our career. As long as it’s short-lived with minimal damage it’s okay to learn some lessons from it. Taking a long break, changing locations and focus area, as well as employers, are other options to overcome this outcome.