How I spent 3 months on a task and failed in the end: A tutorial

Imagine. You got your dream job at a well-established company that works with all the cool technologies you always wanted to work with. You get your first real task and are excitedly shining with all the colors of the rainbow, asking yourself, “What did I do to deserve this blissful gift from the universe?” You are ready to fight, learn, and show your colleagues you are reliable and worthy of their trust.

Nikola is a junior software engineer in Infobip with experience in education, and a passion for music & arts.

Nikola Pavkovic

Nikola is a junior software engineer in Infobip with experience in education, and a passion for music & arts.

Then reality hits you like a double-decker bus doing 120 mph in Nürburgring, and you end up in a while(true) loop of stubbornness, self-doubt, and nightmares in which you are continually sentenced to life in engineering prison for being an impostor. I want to welcome you to my story of the endless task—an homage to stubbornness.

In the beginning… beginging… Beginning!

Let me give you a brief overview: It was a classic 2 story point frontend task that increased in complexity with every step. Every day, I got closer to finding the solution, but every other day, the task check-mated me with another small bug, which, when solved, generated at minimum two other bugs. 

I started dreaming about the solution like Mendeleev dreamt about the periodic table. Every morning, I had a new idea and a novel approach, thinking that the “me” from yesterday was somehow more foolish (not to say more stupid) than “me” today.

The task became an internal joke after one sprint, and even though my mentors and teammates advised me to stop working on it since it was becoming more unsolvable by the day, I marched on, thinking things would change with time. I was in false perception hell, and it took me over three months to close the task as “won’t do.”

Fighting my ego

The most challenging part when facing an issue like this is identifying what the problem actually is. Much to my surprise, it turned out that the task was never the problem.

The problem is always how one handles different situations, challenges, and problems. This fact is something you can regularly see quoted on Instagram by pop-philosophy accounts, but when you feel it on your skin, the realization that it’s as real as a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s results in unparalleled fear and insecurity. 

That fear and insecurity is your ego finally making space for you to start thinking without worrying about what others think about you, whether they think you are stupid or if this job is actually for you. Cherish this moment even though it can be painful. It is the pain you feel because your character is growing, much like the pain you felt when your first teeth came out as a child. You are finally becoming sincere with yourself.

Even though the moment of realization that the task is never the problem is always welcome, it is of utmost importance to realize this as soon as possible to keep your sanity, productivity, and motivation at an acceptable level. Fortunately, I prepared a recipe for, hopefully, tackling this problem. Let’s take a look!

The recipe

One teaspoon of understanding that it’s okay not to know everything

A pinch or two of listening to advice from people with more experience

2-3 cloves of sitting down and taking your time to understand the code you are working on completely

Marinate your brain by not thinking about the task or problem for at least 4-6 hours a day. Let the marinated brain rest overnight and continue cooking at a medium temperature during work hours while checking the cook of the brain at regular intervals.

Use the beautifully cooked and marinated brain to close the task in a normal timespan. It is important to keep your company’s priorities in mind when choosing what to do with a complex task or breaking the scope. Ask your teammates and manager for help. And for the sake of God, communicate! I promise they will appreciate this and won’t be condescending.

It’s as easy as remembering all the digits of the PI

Following this recipe might seem like a walk in the park, but I assure you there will be challenges along the way. It’s important to always calm down and look at things objectively in order to understand your role in the team and company priorities. Every part of this recipe is a separate character-building story that will result in better teamwork skills and benefit you as a person.

There is nothing to lose – just experience to gain. You only need to give yourself time, invest some effort, and approach things analytically and slowly. Good luck!

Jan 9th, 2024
4 min read
Nikola is a junior software engineer in Infobip with experience in education, and a passion for music & arts.

Nikola Pavkovic

Nikola is a junior software engineer in Infobip with experience in education, and a passion for music & arts.