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Burnout to Balance: A QA Manager’s Story

April 19, 2023

With over 12 years of quality assurance under his belt, Hưng Lê Tan – also known as Hugo, has poked, prodded, tested, coded, fixed, and streamlined just about anything and everything related to QA. But, his most valuable experiment thus far? His unique approach to work!

Having experienced the dreaded “tech burnout,” Hugo is now an advocate for work-life balance and actively encourages both his Vietnamese and international peers to find the right balance between their professional and personal lives.

Long, long, long hours

Forced overtime, working three days straight, burnout, and having no time for a life outside of work are all stereotypical tropes of software engineering.
Whilst Hugo feels that he is now at a stage where he has greatly improved his work-life balance, getting there was not easy! He reflects on some of his earlier working experiences at prior companies:

The mindset of “long hours equate to great work” was (and unfortunately still is) a dominant mindset in a great portion of the industry we are in. In previous positions held at other companies, there were multiple occasions where I would sleep at the office for days just to get the job done; then without rest, plunge onto the next one immediately. Although I did a lot of optimizations and enhancements for the project I was working on, the list of to-do items just kept on growing and growing. Until one day, I realized, I haven’t gone on a road trip for a good few years, even though it is one of the many things that I enjoy doing even to this day. That was when I asked myself, “What was I doing with my life?” and “Is this how I want to be in the next five years?”. And so, I changed my work and lifestyle, which is for the better so far.

After identifying the problem, Hugo took steps to address it by experimenting with different strategies to overcome the dreaded tech drain. The following tips are what worked well for Hugo, which we believe could also be helpful to you too!

Tip #1 Optimize your work processes

There are several ways to improve work-life balance, and the approach should be tailored to each person and the problems that they are facing in having a work-life balance. In my case, the primary issue was my workload, so I focused on optimizing it by – changing the processes, implementing enhancements, and removing redundant items.

Tip #2 Say “No”

Stop making promises that you cannot keep, or that come at the cost of your own well-being. The longer you continue to do this, the more damage you cause to yourself, so it’s important to learn to say no when appropriate.

Tip #3 Emotionally log-out

For most of us, we spend half of our awake time at work and the other half with our families, friends, and loved ones. For me, work-life balance means that the time I spend on work should not affect the energy that I bring to the other half of my life. To that end, I try to make sure that the time I spend at work is effective and optimized. This way, once I conclude my working day, there will be no “what ifs” bothering me in the back of my mind.

Tip #4 Literally log-out

After wrapping up my work for the day, I make sure that I leave it all at the office. For me, I choose to put every method of work communication on mute until the next workday. During my personal time, I prefer to spend it doing things that I value most (be it simply lazing on the couch with my wife, gaming, or traveling). Recently, I got another phone number to separate work and personal life, and I often turn off the work number when traveling with my wife.

Tip #5 If all else fails, do as Steve Jobs did

Finding idols and mentors is a great way to move forward toward your goals. They can help guide you when the objective is clear, but the path may not be.

The late Steve Jobs was widely considered the most renowned workaholic of all time. While this may sound counter-intuitive, Mr. Jobs had a remarkably balanced work-life dedicating his life to pursuing what he was passionate about, while still finding the time to connect with and care for his family. While he worked long hours to the extreme, when it came to the time to disconnect from work and spend quality time with his family, Mr. Jobs was fully disconnected and never let work interfere with his personal life.

Engineering happiness at Inspectorio

 

Hugo joined Inspectorio in 2019 as a Senior Quality Assurance Engineer, based in the Vietnam office.

Working at Inspectorio means that you work together with a team of super-talented people, in a very fast-paced industry. In my 3.5 years working here, I learned more than I had in my entire professional career up until Inspectorio, and there is always something new every day.

Since his time at Inspectorio, one important learning was the joy of remote work! He got his first taste shortly after being promoted to Lead Quality Assurance Engineer, just before the pandemic. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, he traveled down the coast of Vietnam, from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh whilst settling into his new role.

Now, as the Quality Assurance Manager, Hugo is interested in managing the efficiency of quality control for his team of seven quality assurance engineers.

Consider optimizing your work and effort, rather than grinding. A good engineer spends eight hours getting the job done, while a great one would spend seven hours doing their work and one hour making the next seven hours better. This could range from implementing a more efficient working process or automation.

Some still see working long hours as a sign of “great work”. I see it as a sign of poor time management and a lack of work-life balance. I make sure that this principle is remembered by my team members.

Cultivating fun

While efficiency and work processes are a priority, he hasn’t forgotten the importance of work-life balance that he has diligently worked towards. As an official member of the Inspectorio Culture Committee, he ensures that his team can benefit from the work-life balance lessons he’s acquired over his twelve-year career.

I often remind my team that no matter how important the deadline is, no amount of work is worth trading in your mental health.

Hugo regularly enjoys catching up with his colleagues – which may or may not involve a beer or two, and questionable dance moves. Outside of this, apparently synchronized diving is something they also enjoy.

But, nothing beats a good trip!

A memorable trip was my first company trip together with Inspectorio when I first joined. I felt warm and welcomed, and the trip felt more like a trip with friends rather than an “actual” company trip. We drank, danced, sang, and most importantly, had fun all together as a big group.

Or a team trip!

Recently, some close work friends and I visited Dalat, a beautiful city in the valley of Lam Dong province, Vietnam. This is one of the things I love about working at Inspectorio – meeting a lot of awesome, super friendly, and open people! We might have constructive disagreements related to work, but when a trip is called, we all come together as friends.

 

Or a romantic trip! A theme is emerging here…

One of my favorite trips was made possible by Inspectorio’s unlimited leave and work-from-anywhere policy. My wife and I spent nine days traveling across regions of Vietnam and had loads of fun on the road together.

Where to next?

 

From experiencing typical software burnout to optimizing his personal mix of work-life balance and now mentoring his team to do the same – Hugo has truly ridden the rollercoaster of QA. But now, there’s one very big and important new facet that he needs to balance with work.

I’m now preparing to become a father for the first time, and I hope that I can be a good dad for my child’s sake. With that said, no amount of preparation is considered “enough” for this, so aside from the excitement, it also causes me a huge amount of anxiety. Raising a child is a huge responsibility, and with so many unknown variables in its way, the engineering part of me is excited about this journey, while the “me” part is hoping that I can do it justice.

Hugo, we are sure you will be an amazing father! On behalf of the Inspectorio team, congratulations on your amazing four years (and counting) at Inspectorio, and most importantly, on your soon-to-be expanding family. We can’t wait to see how you will enjoy spending your time next!

Want to join Hugo in the Product and Engineering team? Check out our Engineering roles!

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