How One Senior Developer Bounced Back From a Mental Breakdown (S5E19)

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If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, you’re far from alone. As one survey shows, the majority of workers in America feel stressed on any given day. Overworking yourself can quickly lead to burnout and even full-blown a mental breakdown.

Seph CordovanoSenior developer Seph Cordovano has dealt with this firsthand, and decided that being open about mental struggles is crucial for removing stigma and connecting people with help. In today’s episode, he’s sharing his story and advice for coping with stress. Listen below.

This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.

Laurence Bradford 0:08
Hi, and welcome to the Learn to Code With Me podcast. Today we'll be exploring some important topics; mental health and the darker side of working in the tech industry. After a quick word about how you can support the show.

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Laurence Bradford 1:06
In today's episode I talk with Seph Cordovano. Seph has worked as a full stack engineer and lead developer. He also ran a web design business and a social media automation business. And not all at different times either. You'll hear more about how overworking has taken its toll on him in a minute. I reached out to Seth because from following him on Instagram, I saw that he'd been having a difficult time recently. And while it's fun to talk about all the great aspects of working in tech, I also think it's really important to explore the pressures and the difficulties that can come from working in the industry. So that's what we're going to be talking about today, the more difficult side of working in tech and startups, why working from home isn't always a good thing. The life altering experience Seph has gone through recently, and now how he's prioritizing his mental health. Seph gets really vulnerable in this conversation, which I really appreciate Hope you find it helpful wherever you are in your learning to code journey.

Laurence Bradford 2:07
Hey, Seph, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Seph Cordovano 2:10
Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Laurence Bradford 2:11
So you're another guest this season that I connected with on Instagram, as that's like the main social media network that I hang out now online. And I can't wait to chat with you and hear about your life and what's been going on recently. And any advice that you can share with the listeners?

Seph Cordovano 2:27
Yeah, I actually came across your podcast completely randomly, and then looked you up on Instagram because that's the main platform that I'm on and reached out that way. Because you You did a podcast with Rebecca Lima, who's a friend of mine.

Laurence Bradford 2:38
Yeah, yeah, I did earlier this season. I really loved that interview. Yeah. We had such a great talk. I love talking. We talked about imposter syndrome. For anyone who hasn't heard that interview who's listening and go back in. We'll make sure to link to that in the show notes. But getting into you and your journey, Seph before diving into like some of the stuff going on. Now. I would love if you could tell us a bit about your background and your journey. into tech, I know you do a lot of things, you worked at different companies, you started your own companies, you have a computer science degree, you also have a really popular Instagram account. So I would love to get share a bit of an overview of like, how you got to where you are today.

Seph Cordovano 3:13
Yeah, so, um, my journey kind of started like seven or eight years ago, I was really into branding and design. I was building WordPress sites at the time, because that's part of branding yourself and branding, you know, family members and friends who had businesses and just through the WordPress like having to change things that weren't within the theme, I'd have to go in and play with the PHP. And so that's actually where I started going to school for marketing and advertising. And then while I was doing that, somebody came to me and said something kind of along the lines of like, Oh, you don't want to try electrical engineering, it's too hard. So I switched to that like the next term, after looking into it and start doing that and the minor for that's actually computer science. So I was already kind of doing some computer programming in a sense on the side and so so just doing that, as the Minor just was like an instant switch for me just was super easy to make that transition. And from there, I just kind of found my passion.

Seph Cordovano 4:08
I was in Orlando at the time, I started like a small web design company with my buddy. He was doing all the design, I was doing all the websites and an attempt to bring more functionality for our clients. I started learning Ruby on Rails. Through that, we just started doing a little bit bigger, better websites. And I've been talking about moving to New York for like two years or so since I visited. And so I just realized that me and him didn't need to be in the same room. So one day I just said, You know, I think I want to move to New York. And then two weeks later, I had sold everything I owned and moved to New York without any real plan to try to make it in one of the hardest cities in the world for tech. So yeah, I basically just stayed with a buddy on his couch for a week then subletted an apartment and that turned into renting a place and then working in the service industry for a little while. All while I was going back to school, I decided to like go all in on one language to decide that Do Java. So I did in college, a Java course and then two advanced Java, advanced Java course that dropped you off at the front doorstep of like getting your Oracle certification.

Seph Cordovano 5:10
And a month before that before that last term ended, a company had found me a startup and offered me a job. Because if I was still in Florida, and I was signed to being the only remote employee, so that kind of started my career. On top of that, I was working on a side project that later turned into a business of mine called IAS, which was like a social media automation system. So yeah, I kind of dove right in headfirst. And like this weird way, Raj is going to school and all of a sudden I had my own business, my own like little startup of my own. And I was working for another company where the CTO was just so busy that I automatically just became a lead developer. So I kind of jumped right in to be in this like lead developer, and I skipped all like the junior and mid level stuff. So it was a really interesting way of doing things but also put a lot of stress on me, which I wasn't really prepared for because every company I worked for after that, I was only being interviewed for lead developer positions in like senior level positions, which not to bring up imposter syndrome. I don't think it was imposter syndrome. I just didn't feel like I was quite ready to do that.

Laurence Bradford 6:16
Yeah. Wow. That's really interesting. So you were you moved to New York City while you were still in college, and you were doing classes online?

Seph Cordovano 6:24
Yeah. So I actually never got my actual computer science degree because my college at the time UCF University of Central Florida would offer all the computer programming courses so I just decided to take those but they did not offer any of the higher maths so like calc one through three physics one through three differential equations. I couldn't take those online. They didn't offer them at the time. And going to school in New York is crazy expensive.

Laurence Bradford 6:49
Okay, so you took a bunch of courses but you never actually finished school and then you ended up getting a job anyway and then another job then another job and another job and starting your own business and all that So you just like, which I think totally makes sense. There's been other people on the show that have either left college or didn't go to college at all and work. You know, full time in tech, I think that's really awesome about like, tech is that you don't need a degree to have a job in tech, you know?

Seph Cordovano 7:18
Yeah, it's kind of like just a trait job. So like, you don't have to go to school, but if you do, it definitely helps. And it also depends on how you learn, like whether you need that structure, which I actually enjoyed. Cuz while I was going to school I was doing I was basically also working at a bar at the time, or I was running a bar, so I was managing it. And, and yeah, so I was basically doing like 36 hours on six hours off sleeping, and it was easy because I was so into what I was doing at the time, which was like learning all this advanced all these advanced Java topics and then going from there to working for this company that just had a lot for me to do, and was able to work on projects that were bigger than what I had done before.

Laurence Bradford 7:56
Yeah, and for context to like for myself and the listeners How long ago was When you like kind of started school and moved to New York and then left school and?

Seph Cordovano 8:05
So I've been on and off with school for quite some time, because I had been jumping around because I didn't know what I wanted to do. So when I came to, when I came to New York, I had actually stopped school because I was just trying to get on my feet. And I thought it would take six months and ended up taking about a year and a half or so to really get grounded. And, and, and yeah, by the time that happened, my buddy who I was running bridge with, which was our web design company, he had kind of gone off and done the same thing. He learned everything he needed to for me about like WordPress and stuff like that. So he just kind of started doing the same thing. But on his own, and I just kept managing all of our old clients. So from there -- what was the question? Sorry.

Laurence Bradford 8:49
I just want to know how long you were living in New York?

Seph Cordovano 8:52
Yeah, so I've been here for five this march will be five years.

Laurence Bradford 8:56
Okay, cool. So that's a pretty that's a pretty significant amount of time. I'd say, I've lived here for three years in July. It'll be so.

Seph Cordovano 9:06
It's really nice. I think like after Yeah, like by your two year mark, you kind of feel like a New Yorker, but when they say it's your five year mark when you're an actual official New Yorker, so I'm kind of excited to get that that pendant.

Laurence Bradford 9:16
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I can't. I mean, I love living here. Don't get me wrong. But yeah, I feel like, it'll feel a lot different, like five years in and then even beyond that, you'll really just like get your bearings and really feel used to the city. But what I would love to talk about and what you've been posting about recently on Instagram is this thing that happened to you a few months ago, and I would just love if you could talk about it, like in your own words, cuz I don't want to like shape the experience at all for the listeners. But it sounds like he went through a really big, like, I don't even like a life change, like things happen to at once. That really put a lot of stress and yeah, audio key. Yeah. Can you talk about that?

Seph Cordovano 9:57
Yeah, so we could call it Just a life altering his finger and some time to slow down and reflect and look at everything, or what I've kind of just been referring to it as what it most closely resembles from what i've looked into is like a mental breakdown. And long story short, that startup that I was talking about that I was working at, I was also running my business on the side. So I was working there, like, about 70 to 90 hours a week plus trying to keep my own business afloat. And I had employees and people that were working for me, who it just, it just took a lot out of me. So once that happened, I end up leaving the startup I was at, and trying to run my own business, but like one of the companies we mostly worked with, which was Instagram, was making lots of changes to stop kind of what we were doing, which was automating basically, your Instagram activity for small businesses.

Seph Cordovano 10:47
And so we were constantly fighting the Instagram teams to like try to figure out what changes they were making and it was kind of slowly coming to a head where we knew we were going to shut down is and then from there once that finally And I was also interviewing for other companies. I poured everything I had financially into keeping the business alive and keeping my employees paid as long as I could. And so I was just like, I was very nonchalant. I was like, Alright, well, I'll just go get a job. And because of all my senior experience, I was only being interviewed for very, very senior level positions, we're talking like, most of them were like 150 to $180,000 a year. Granted, most of the stars I was working at before warm are like 70 to 80. Like, it was it was a very big job just because I had a lot of buzzwords on my resume.

Seph Cordovano 11:36
So I went through a couple waves of interviewing for a very senior level positions and was like, Okay, this is too senior for me. I kept just barely making it. So I was like, Alright, I'm gonna go look for like, Junior and mid level positions. But in New York, unless you're a front end engineer, there are no junior and mid level positions really because this is the second biggest tech up in the world. So everyone that comes here is senior So that just put a lot of stress and I was having a really hard time finding a job. And I was trying to actually get away from startup. So it was my goal to work for a company and get away from the stress of the startup culture. Because startup culture is very, like you work 70 to 90 hours a week, you do whatever. And then as soon as we don't need you, or your skills, or we can use that money a little bit differently somewhere else, then they just kind of drop you and move on. So I was kind of trying to get away from that and work for just like a bigger company, more stable culture, stuff like that. So I finally get offered a job working for a company that basically works in like the real estate space and was made it so similar brands could share space that was sitting on the market, commercial real estate, to use for share pop ups, and they were the only company making it so you could do share pop ups, other companies do but you could only rent the whole space, which was very expensive for smaller brands.

Seph Cordovano 12:54
So I took the job doing that and it was as a lead developer. They wanted me to come in as a CTO, but I took positions lead developer because of all the troubles I've already been having getting a job that's more in tune with my actual skill set. So I basically had to pull the entire app in from a third party consultancy agency rearchitected. For our resources, hire some subcontractors to do some, just some feature development, some SEO, all this other like little random stuff, did that for about three months, and then three months, like right before the three month mark of me just like killing myself and getting the job done. They realized that they could save a lot of money, because at the 90 day mark, they would have had to pay my recruitment company fee which was like $36,000 and written into our contract was that you couldn't end my employment without a 30 day notice. So what they were trying to do is and my appointment that day, like two days before that 90 day mark, not pay me for the next 30 days and then also not pay the recruitment company and basically hope that everyone would just go to court with them and settle for a lot less. And then they basically gave my job to one of the guys I've hired as a subcontractor because now they just needed somebody with his front end skill set of view, which he knew much better than I did, which is why I hired him. So, it was this whole thing where like all this had happened, I had just gone through the interview process for a few months, it was very stressful. And then, yeah, everything was just kind of going on all at once, and I wasn't ready to jump back in and start interviewing again.

Seph Cordovano 14:22
And the stress of all that just started really getting to me. So about a month after they, after all this happened is when it all kind of came to a head and I was just over that month after they let me go, just was progressively getting worse because I wasn't ready to interview. The stress of everything from the last year was just coming down all at once I was having relationship issues with my girlfriend who I was dating at the time. And yeah, it all just came to a head and I finally got to the point where for three days I didn't sleep or didn't eat and just couldn't, couldn't get my mind to stop racing having these really dark thoughts. So it's either going to be like check into a hospital because I was I had lost control of my own mental state, or just completely remove myself and go home. And so that's what I did. I just left everything where it was called my parents that morning, on the third day of not sleeping or eating, and was just like, I need to come home. And so they, they got helped me get a plane ticket. I was on a plane later that afternoon. I think removing myself from that situation was one of the better things I could have done. And just just kind of set the stress aside and just focus on starting to get better.

Laurence Bradford 15:30
Yeah, oh my gosh, well, first of all, like, thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing all that. And that was one of the reasons why, like, I mean, I want to have you on for other reasons, of course, but I saw you posting on Instagram and you've like this huge following, and you're talking about, like having this mental breakdown and picking up the pieces and like going back home and all this stuff. And I just think like, it's awesome. Like I love that you're just so transparent and vulnerable and telling the world about this and you're someone that Look from the outside looking in, like people who you know, listen to the show, like they're all just starting out in tech for the most part. I don't want this call the wrong way. But it's kind of reassuring that someone who like has it so together is a senior developer is being considered for positions being paid $108,000 a year is having these struggles like it's kind of like, I don't know, like it's just, it just love because it's shows that like, we're all servicing no matter where you are in the ladder, like whether you're further ahead, whether you're just starting out, like these are things that like everyone goes through.

Seph Cordovano 16:30
Yeah, I actually originally built my Instagram off being like this, like well put together developer who is all about, you know, just shut up and do the job. Like, like, stop talking about it. Stop whining, just put in the hours. And that's how you that's how you get to where you want to be. And at the time, I think that served me really well when I was doing like 36 hours on six hours off, going to school, managing a bar and also working on side projects. But over time, I became less of like, this guy who was like letting my life Up top on fire and putting in the snow and making cooler jokes or whatever to be in like somebody who, like you said is just very transparent about how hard this whole process is. And how much more important I think it is to understand yourself than it is to act like you have it all together.

Seph Cordovano 17:17
You know, we live in this culture were this Instagram culture where it's like, show your best hide the rest. And I just started realizing that I was feeling all these things and the stresses, and nobody else was talking about it. And and as I started speaking about it, more and more people were commending me and, and saying, you know, I felt this too, or I went through this recently and I had other big developers, people at work at Facebook and other big companies who reached out to me and said, I went through this recently and this is how I handled it. I had to you know, I went home and I took I took all this time off and I did this and that and some of these people are kind of were my saving grace because this is uncharted territory for me, I didn't know what to do. So getting finding out what they did really helped and And reading a lot outside. Like, as the as developers, we're really good at learning the things we don't know. Especially when you get used to working for startups and you have to wear a lot of hats. So I was like, Alright, well, what do I do from here? How do I how do I start to fix this or figure out what's going on?

Seph Cordovano 18:16
So I just started getting books on everything. I think within like six weeks, I had read or listened to on audiobook like more books than I had read the entire previous year. And I just I went through like eight or nine books, I listened to one book like three times by David Goggins, because he's all about just like, kind of embracing the suck. And and yeah, started journaling and meditating more in appreciation. I had realized that I stopped being appreciative for like the small things like enjoying my cup of coffee in the morning. You just you start to lose all those things. You get caught up in the stress of everything. started making sure I was exercising and taking baby steps and journaling and asking myself lots of questions and doing a lot of introspection and, and just questioning everything in my life and And why it's important to me and why I was doing it wasn't to impress other people because I had built this identity on Instagram as being a developer. I mean, my, my Instagram name is dv LPR. And so I even just debated changing that to my actual name and kind of like rebranding myself as, as me as a person instead of just someone who's a developer.

Laurence Bradford 19:20
Yeah. Oh, my goodness, I love all this that you're sharing. Thank you so much. And I don't want to like dig in it too much. But I do think it's really interesting that you said these other top developers at top companies that may be on the outside really look like they have it all together, we're going through similar things. Do you mean more so or maybe it's office but do you mean more so like, the stress of not feeling like they could do the job like they were the phrase that that people used to either lead like it was like, too difficult to solve these problems or work with these people or management or something? Or was it just like overworking?

Seph Cordovano 19:55
I think it was more from the few that I spoke to more or less Just being completely overwhelmed with with work. The one friend in particular who worked at Facebook, she was telling me a story about how she just had this boss on this project that she was working on, that was just working her to death didn't have any regard for how many hours she was having to put in. She was having to like, learn a lot. And it all just got to her. And yes, she's the one that gave me the idea to go home because I was talking. I mean, for almost like a year, I just basically stopped posting on Instagram. And then all of a sudden, I come back, I'm like, Alright, I'm back. And I'm just now I'm just kind of talking about like, how I'm having kind of a hard time and how our going through these things that nobody else is, seems to be talking about a feeling and I seem to be the only one. And as soon as I do that I have these other people reach out to me, who also never said anything on Instagram also just kind of disappeared while they're going through it.

Seph Cordovano 20:51
And instead of sharing, they just Yeah, they just kind of took a step back. But then they're coming to me now saying, hey, this happened to me too. And so That was kind of reassurance that like, if other big developers are going through the same thing that that means small developers, new developers, I have got to be going through this well, and that's most of my following. And I've always just tried to be the guy on Instagram who's kind of more of a realist, like, I'm the guy who will be like, no, not everyone needs to be a developer. Like I'm a huge Developer Advocate. But this job isn't for everybody. I know that most everyone else would say that I'm crazy that like being developer presents all these possibilities and changes everyone's life and all this stuff. But yeah, I've always been the one who's like, I don't know, maybe it's not for everyone. It's really hard. It takes a lot of hours, a lot of dedication.

Laurence Bradford 21:41
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Laurence Bradford 24:05
Yeah, yeah. Well, thanks again for like talking a bit more about that. But I kinda wanna switch gears a little to the recovery and what you've been doing. So, you mentioned that you went back home. Home is Florida, correct? Yeah, Orlando. Okay, cool. Orlando. So you went back there, and then you were reading books and like, doing some of these, like, I'm gonna call them self care kind of things, rediscovering yourself. Could you share like what's happened since then? And like, Yeah, kind of where you're at now?

Seph Cordovano 24:34
Yeah. So when I went home, I went home for about three weeks. And then when I got back, it was end of November. I went right at the very beginning November. It was the end of November, I decided to stay through Thanksgiving and through my birthday, which was Black Friday. And so yeah, I was there for about three, three and a half weeks. Get back and now it's completely no higher season for developers for all of December and at least January and probably some of February. And now that we're actually in February, I'm sorry. Notice that I'm getting a lot of interview requests coming in. But yeah, basically, there's no higher season. So I was like, Alright, well, what do I, let's, let's just break this down. Let's start from the very beginning. Let's take ego out of it. Let's Let's, what do I need to do right now I need to pay rent. So let me go get a job doing anything that I can. And so I went in, went back to bartending and just got a job bartending and figured as long as that covers the bills, I can take as much time as I need to figure out whatever I need to figure out and make whatever changes I want to make.

Seph Cordovano 25:29
Because like I said, I don't want to work for startups anymore. And all of my experience, mostly with Ruby and Rails is only used in startups. So how do I make that change? I was really good with like architecture and like the DevOps side of things and like the CI CD or continuous integration, development, and that I really like that stuff. So I decided to just go back to bartending, do that three days a week, and then that buys me four days a week to just study. You know, to just get much better with like Docker. in Kubernetes, and cloud formation and get my AWS certification, and learn, go and like do all these things. So I can make the transition from being a web developer building features for a company or doing lead development to working DevOps, which is what I've kind of decided over time and have thought about for the last year has been my actual passion over feature development for websites. So I've just been doing that.

Laurence Bradford 26:23
Okay, awesome. So you went from? Okay, so doing web development, Ruby on Rails, and now, well, you've learned this over the last several months, but you want to transition into DevOps. And so you've been taking this time to get these certifications. I think that's really awesome. So you're only working like about three days a week now, and kind of studying and reinventing yourself for the other four days?

Seph Cordovano 26:46
Yeah, I would. That's a good way to put it ran. You're just kind of redefining my career path. Yeah.

Laurence Bradford 26:51
Yeah, that's, that's awesome. And so like, what does your day look like in a bit more detail like the days that You're not working in the days that you're studying and doing other things like for yourself.

Seph Cordovano 27:06
So I'm just kind of starting out with getting into like the studying pattern stuff. I'm just sort of starting that this week. Actually, I took some time off because I did start working at a bar. And it just wasn't really my scene had some issues like, the managers didn't really like how they were running the place and how they're treating employees. So I worked there doing training for two weeks. And then as soon as training was over, I left and went got another one. And so I was just like, super busy for all of January doing training for two weeks at this bar, and then the one that I'm at now, and and yeah, for the most part, I was also just trying to take some time to enjoy myself, the same time I was going through, what I finally realized was the what needed to be the end of a relationship. Because the girl that I was dating when all this was going on, she was there for the good times, but not when things got hard. She would just pull away and, and so once things kind of got better. I had to really think about that. If that if I was going to afford that so part of what's been going on in January's us ending our relationship.

Seph Cordovano 28:06
And so yeah, so I'm just kind of getting around to it. But yeah, generally speaking, I have about four days a week. I tried to get up kind of early, but when you're bartending and getting out at three in the morning, sometimes that throws off your schedule. But yeah, I try to get as early as I can and just just pump out some courses on like Udemy or go through the docs for like, go. And then at some point in the middle of the day, I'll go to the gym, and then I'll come back and keep studying and I'll usually study until like, maybe like eight or nine, and then I'll just kind of break and an end for the night and then probably just watch the TV and go to bed. I don't know. But yeah, I work from home, working for startups and doing my own startup or whatever. I've worked from home for like two or three years now. So like, I've kind of got the process down for for that.

Laurence Bradford 28:52
And be like, working from home like has that always been something you want to do?

Seph Cordovano 28:57
It was always the goal of As I think it is, for a lot of people, you think that you're going to start working from home and then you're just going to be able to travel the world and do all these things. But really what ends up happening is you're super busy and don't have time for anything. And the line just kind of get blurred between work and pleasure. Because especially like for me, like I live in, in New York, New York apartment is you know, they're not that that big. So most people don't have a separate office for our separate room for their office, your your room is your office or your dining room is your office. And so for me, that became really toxic.

Seph Cordovano 29:34
And actually, before I went and start working the last job, the last startup or whatever, I had said, I only want to work for a bigger company because I want to have an office to go into. I don't want to be working from home and now kind of where I'm at as I don't I wouldn't mind having that option a few days a week but I do still want to have an office and have to go in and see people and and do like actual like some sort of like Scrum development or something like that where you're on like a planet. A week and you know exactly what needs to be done, where you should get the end of the week, etc and then just have that like structure. I do a lot better with structure. I do just fine without it, but I just do a lot better with.

Laurence Bradford 30:10
Yes, me to 100% my day is extremely, is extremely structured, even though I like work for myself now and I don't have like a boss. But I also can totally relate with the office to go to I that was probably the hardest thing when I left my full time job like over the summer and began working for myself was transitioning from being in an office around coworkers that I liked. And it was kind of like this built in social interaction, which I never really realized. And then once I was working alone, I was like, Oh my gosh, like, I feel so lonely and isolated. But I started to then go to a we work I only go maybe four times a week and only for like five or six hours per time. But just being around other people is really helpful. I think it's just like mentally, like it's nice to get out of the house and be with other people.

Seph Cordovano 30:58
I think working from home for As long as I did was a huge contributing factor to like everything that happened when when all the stress hit at once, um, because I was not only working from home, but I was working a lot. So I had, I was the guy who you would text three different times. And finally be like, I know you're seeing this respond, and you're trying to just get drinks with me and do something that I would love to do. But I was just so busy that I, I just kind of pushed, I just kind of let my support system break down. And that was a big part of it and working from home, like you said, Yeah, you feel very isolated and lonely. And you don't realize, yeah, that forced interaction that you get from going to a job plays a big part in your day and not needing to have that huge social impact, like maybe at the end of the night and going out for drinks because you kind of get that during the day while you're working.

Seph Cordovano 31:47
Yeah, I also had ended up getting a we were like when I was working for the first startup. I decided to go get my own wework office. So a friend of mine who moved here from Florida and she was doing she was like Manager for like a modeling agency. So she had like a we work and she's like, I'm only in my like two days a week do I share? So yeah, I just started working down in the financial district and doing that and just paying for out of pocket because it gave me like a place to go every day, and gave me a separation of splitting up where I work and where I sleep.

Laurence Bradford 32:17
Yes, yes. 100% when I first was transitioning back into, like working for myself and not going to an office. It was really yeah, I get it was really hard. There were some days especially by the end of the week, where I would feel so lonely and like hurt. Like, I don't know if you've ever experienced that, but I've never really experienced that. And I was like No, like it actually physically like hurts. That's how lonely I feel. And it's totally worth it. Yeah, it's totally worth it to spend the money I think on the lyric like for me, I I'm in like a shared office. So it's like a big office with a bunch of people with their own desk that have a dedicated desk, but it's like maybe 50 people in the room. And even if I'm yeah, even if I'm not talking to these, all these people and maybe just small interactions, just like having a place to go be around other humans feeling like even though you're not working on the same stuff, it's very different from an office, but you're still there working together --

Seph Cordovano 33:07
And also getting anything out of your apartment. Like that's one of the other things I realized, like I would go days without even leaving my apartment. And that's extremely unhealthy. And so one of the things that kind of helped because I don't have the money or really the care to go get a we work right now especially just while I'm like interviewing or whatever. I'm just going to the gym every day like making sure I was getting out and leaving for a little bit and then also bartending like that. The reason I specifically want to go to bartending so I'm very big extrovert, especially for compared to most people in like computer science and and people who sit behind a screen all day like this just doing development. I'm very much more extroverted than most people I meet in the field. And, and yeah, so the first thing that popped in my mind was like yeah, go back to bartending like a super social you get to meet people. You know, you you know, you just Just need people, people of the opposite sex to make friends like, you know, it's just like a much more social environment. And that really helped too.

Laurence Bradford 34:06
Oh, yeah, that's like that's like a job that has, like social like things built right into because you have to interact with people to talk to people and all that. So yeah, that must be really helpful. I want to ask, like, what have you learned about yourself during this whole process?

Seph Cordovano 34:22
I would say that the biggest thing that I learned through doing like all this introspection, and journaling, um, well, one, I would say the biggest thing that I learned is like having a to do list of what I need to do with my day, makes the biggest difference. Like that was one of the things that helped me the most to get back on track was I read this book called The unbeatable mind. And in there, he just goes through this whole like, kind of process for like project planning. He's like, it's very simple. You write it down, you do it. And I was like, it really is it simple. So I started, just like, generally everyone likes something. Everyone talks all the time. It's it's kinda hard. Do like actually just get into with a lot easier, it seems harder than it is. So I just started like journaling writing down questions I have for the day. My ambitions for the day, like what I wanted how I want it to go after the day, like, like Sunday's I would just be like, Be courageous, you know, and be yourself.

Seph Cordovano 35:18
Little stuff, like if I would write down everything, if I was going to shave that day, I was going to make my bed or clean the apartment or do anything, I would write all that down, and I just had this huge list of things and whatever I didn't get done that day, I would carry over to the next day. If I didn't even that wasn't the list, I'd come back, I'd write it down and cross it off. And that was probably the single biggest thing that helped me stay focused and get back on track. Um, other than that, I think just like looking at everything. I just learned that if you're going through a bad season, or you're going through a moment of weakness or failure, or whatever, that doesn't make you weak and that doesn't make you a failure, just because you've gone Through those things. And that was probably a really big one for me, because I'm kind of a perfectionist and I can be very black and white about things. And either it's done or it's not, it's right or wrong, you're good enough or you're not.

Seph Cordovano 36:12
And that was one of the things where I was able to see like, just because you fail doesn't make you a failure, and that the most successful people have failed more than than the less successful people. And that's how you get there by going through those hard times and overcoming those situations. And so I started looking at the situation within as a test, a test for an opportunity for me to be stronger and better and more well built and prepared than the people that haven't gone through that so that when something else hard comes up later, I have the skills and the tools of how to overcome it. So I can help myself or help others going through it.

Laurence Bradford 36:51
Yes, I love that like mentality that's just going to prepare you for things in the future. You're going to be stronger because of it. I always say Gosh, am I gonna get this right now? The things that try to break you lead to your biggest breakthrough?

Seph Cordovano 37:06
Oh, that's nice. I like that.

Laurence Bradford 37:07
Yeah, I actually have that like on a little like no on my computer screen. It's not visible right now. So I can't see it. But yeah, I have little like, things like that random because I do really believe I feel like as you said, it's a test like things that try to break you. And if you can push through them, it's gonna lead to the biggest breakthroughs. And then, as you mentioned, you can help more people than with that by sharing your own story or doing other things to like, give back to others who are at that point in time.

Seph Cordovano 37:35
Yeah, yeah, in your own life. Yeah. And I would say like all the biggest best things that have ever happened to me in life have come directly after me putting myself in a really hard position. Like I've always been the guy who's who's seeked out the hardest situations to test myself. And sometimes as when I was younger, that would come in, in the form of getting in trouble and stuff like that. But as I got older, it became like, act like moving to New York without any money or knowing anybody or having anything And just you know, making a decision and two weeks later being on a plane, and there's figured saying I'll figure it out, like I'll either make it or I won't, stuff like that. Um, so the only difference between all those situations I would put myself in in the past intentionally and this situation was that I didn't intentionally put myself in this situation.

Seph Cordovano 38:20
But all the other aspects of it were the same, it was a very hard task or test in front of me and I had the opportunity to become stronger by getting through it instead of trying to avoid it. And I had everyone at home saying just come home, you know, you've been there five years. It's time for you to take it easier like come here and relax and you can you can you can attack it from here. And I had everything here like I was three months behind on rent about to get evicted and like all this stuff was going on and and I was breaking up with my girlfriend and like all this crazy stuff. So it would have been really easy to go home and I thought about it a lot. And then every time I was like, I'm going to be less happy. If I go home. Then if I Then if I actually go through the, the trouble on the hard work of overcoming this, and I just knew myself I knew that I wouldn't be happy unless I overcame it. So going home as easy as it sounded permanently wasn't an option.

Laurence Bradford 39:14
Awesome i love that. Well thank you so much for coming on the show for sharing all this I really think this is going to help a lot of people just starting out to hear like what you've gone through and you're someone who you know studied computer science somewhat in college or you know, to courses who had the senior developer job and different jobs and great job offers is to be like so reassuring helpful for others. Thanks again for sharing. Where can people find you online?

Seph Cordovano 39:40
So I mostly just, I'm on Instagram is my big one. I started building my screen like four years ago, but um, yeah, it's just @dvlp.r. And that's basically just developer without the vowels. and a dot, the middle in this random spot and in the Yes, has most of my other stuff. It's mostly just, I just set my website up like a little link tree to like the different things that I do. Yeah, and I'm gonna start posting about my journey right now building a basically like an employee management app for this like time that we're in, which is like the gig culture for like managing a lot of contract employees with a lot of different skills with a lot of different jobs or events that you might have going on and pairing the two up, and that's called shifty. So you can just find that @shyfti.

Laurence Bradford 40:34
Awesome, thanks. We'll definitely include links to all those in the show notes. And thanks again for coming on the show.

Seph Cordovano 40:38
Thanks so much for having me. It was really good.

Laurence Bradford 40:46
Thanks for listening. If you want a recap of this episode, you can find the show notes at From there you can browse through recent episodes for find old favorites using the search icon in the right corner. If you enjoyed this episode, you can subscribe to my show on whichever podcast player you use. For more free tech related resources, tips and recommendations, visit my website and blog at Tune in again next week for a new episode of the Learn to Code With Me podcast. See you then.

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Key Takeaways

1. When you’re overwhelmed with stress, actively make your mental health a priority

Caring for mental health is a very individual thing, so it looks different for different people. It might be attending therapy, forcing yourself to make time for hobbies or socialization, or simply removing yourself from the source of stress.

overwhelmed with stress

For Seph’s situation, that last option proved healing. “I finally got to the point where for three days I didn’t sleep or didn’t eat and just couldn’t couldn’t get my mind to stop racing and having these really dark thoughts,” he says. “So it was either check into a hospital because I had lost control of my own mental state, or remove myself and go home. And so that’s what I did. I think removing myself from that situation was one of the better things I could have done. Just kind of set the stress aside and focus on starting to get better.”

2. Everyone struggles, regardless of what they share on social media

“We live in this Instagram culture where you show your best, hide the rest,” Seph explains. “And I just started realizing that I was feeling all these stresses and nobody else was talking about it. As I started speaking about it, more and more people, including other big developers at big companies, were commending me and saying ‘I felt this too’ or ‘I went through this recently.’ Some of these people kind of were my saving grace because this was uncharted territory. ”


3. If you work in an isolated environment, make it a point to get out

“I think working from home for as long as I did was a huge contributing factor to everything that happened when all the stress hit at once,” Seph says. “Because I was not only working from home, but I was working a lot. I just kind of let my support system break down. You don’t realize, but that forced interaction that you get from going to a job plays a big part in your day. I would go days without even leaving my apartment. And that’s extremely unhealthy.”

work from home

4. A to-do list can help you stay mentally organized and on track

If you feel stressed or overwhelmed to the point where you feel that you’re losing control, Seph has a simple tip to help. “I would say the biggest thing that I learned is like having a to-do list of what I need to do with my day makes the biggest difference,” he says. “That was one of the things that helped me the most to get back on track. I started journaling, writing down questions I have for the day, my ambitions for the day. It helped me stay focused and get back on track.”

to-do list

5. Going through a hard time doesn’t make you a failure

Reminding yourself that you’re only human is so important when you’re beating yourself up over not being perfect. “If you’re going through a bad season, or you’re going through a moment of weakness, that doesn’t make you weak,” Seph says. “And that doesn’t make you a failure, just because you’ve gone through those things. The most successful people have failed the most.”

going through hard time

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