1 Comment

I remember making entire lists of every mistake I made and pushed to our QA, staging, or God forbid production. I tried to generalize these mistakes and have a checklist to go through every time I pushed a commit. I had a very condescending boss who thought he was helping us by calling out every mistake in front of the entire team and hoping the shame would motivate us not to make the same mistakes.

Rather, this tapped into the high level of perfectionism ADHDers have and I had such a long process just to push a small amount of code and still being plagued with inattention. I still made consistent and repetitive mistakes despite all the lists, and all the tests, and all the time I took to slow down to address it in future pull requests to avoid the shame.

At one point, my boss asked me how I had made it through the interview and if I had lied about getting a master’s degree in CS. It really made me question if I was in the right field, despite having such a passion for writing code. He threatened to put me on a PIP as he couldn’t manage me any more.

At some point, my therapist recommended I report this boss for workplace bullying. So I compiled all the conversations containing verbal abuse and forwarded it to HR. Once I was under another boss who nurtured my problem solving, gave me the autonomy to solve problems my way, and gave me the space to fail with the net to avoid these mistakes causing major damage, I quickly learned how to apply testing fundamentals that helped me catch mistakes I would inevitably make with ADHD. I ended up making the Engineering challenge, how do I catch myself from writing buggy code. It was always about applying my creativity through dreaming up all the ways a small unit of code could be misused. Though I didn’t know it at the time, applying the principles of modularity and through testing, it made the problems simpler for my ADHD brain to reason about. I went from nearly being on a PIP to getting promoted to senior software engineer and getting the highest possible pay increase each year. I led multiple efforts and even started working again for my old boss. This time he was impressed with my abilities and how far I had come along.

I’m still friends with that toxic boss today. Why? Sometimes it takes someone with neurodivergence to have empathy for someone else with neurodivergence. This boss would treat me so nicely outside of the context of work. They struggled with emotional regulation and struggled explaining their way of seeing the world. This disconnect was some level of autism and substance abuse, and this boss was trying their best with leading people without much of the ability to communicate effectively and with empathy.

I learned so much from this experience and despite it driving some depression, helped me learn so much about myself and what I need to be a functional developer.

Ultimately I agree with you, software engineering is a difficult field for ADHDers to game themselves into being interested in the mundane aspects of the job like testing. The good news is it can be games. In my case I moved to Developer Relations which is constantly context switching and keeps me entertained. However, it also has its own set of drawbacks.

Anyways loved the blog. We share a lot of experience here.

Expand full comment