Published: Fri Feb 16 2024Updated: Tue Feb 20 2024
Man in corner looking unfulfilled

Being a Software Developer can be a very satisfying and rewarding career. You are essentially taking an idea and turning it into reality.This concept is quite exciting and is why I enjoy working on a lot of projects.

However, there may come a time where you are starting to feel unfulfillment in your career. This could come from workplace factors such as work politics or even personal factors such as not enjoying the tech stack you're working in.

In this article, I will go into detail about the varying factors of unfulfillment that I've faced in my career and how I went about resolving them.

What is Fulfillment?

The feeling of fulfillment will vary amongst different people and each person's understanding will be different.

To me, feeling fulfilled means that i'm satisfied and enjoying the things that I'm doing. By nature, I crave satisfaction. Not just in my working life but also in my personal life. Satisfaction doesn't have to be big things like salary increases or big holidays. Satisfaction could be small wins like enjoying the project you've been assigned to or spending some time with your kids.

On the otherhand, feelings of unfulfillment can bring dread and anxiety. In a career that I have a strong passion and desire for, the first signs of feeling unfulfilled was not looking forward to going into work. Sometimes this sign can be missed and tossed aside as we probably all get sick of having to work occasionally which is a normal feeling to have. However, these feelings are different and grow into a much bigger problem where it starts affecting your personal life like coming home moody.

The next few sections will look into the various factors that can lead to unfulfillment and how I managed to get out of the hole I found myself in.

What can Factor into Unfulfillment?

To maintain a fair separation between work reasons and personal reasons, the factors discussed will be categorized into work and personal factors.

Unfulfillment as an Employee

For some of you this section may not be as relevant, especially if you find yourself a freelancer or working for yourself.

Office Politics

Every workplace is different but quite often than not, you will have to deal with office politics one way or another. Office politics are usually down to procedures and policies passed down from management or a misalignment in goals and how things should be done between the development team and the managerial team. This can lead to you not being able to do your job as efficiently as you could.

In the case that I experienced, it was down to a misalignment and misunderstanding between the managers and development team.

One of the companies that I worked for, had no one in management from a technical background. This meant we had to present a really hard business case to get anything done. We often found ourselves lacking support for industry-standard software development tools such as using Git for version control.

We presented a hard case for why using version control is necessary for software development. However, the only benefit management saw in using Git was to hold people liable for mistakes or issues.

This was very frustrating as it showed that the management team didn't trust us as developers or didn't think they could trust us to manage issues on our own.

Another development problem related to office politics that we came across was proper testing procedures for the software that we made. The only testing that we did was regression testing. Quite often, issues would occur on production sites which unit tests would of easily solved but management didn't see the value in it.

As a software developer, these decisions within the office were a big frustration as it impeded progress which in turn helped to contribute to my feelings of unfulfillment.

Negativity in the Workplace

Team moral plays a big part in work fulfillment. When moral is low, it can rub off on the whole team which turns the workplace into a very negative place to work.

There was a time where I was working and moral was at an all-time low. People were getting fed up and leaving, others could see the potential and growth of the company and didn't want to leave.

You are likely to meet some negativity in the workplace at some point as not everyone will agree with decisions and that's normal but sustained negativity over a long time can bring you down and was a contributing factor for not wanting to go into work each day.

No Sense of Progression

One of the biggest factors to feeling fulfillment in my career as a software developer is to feel a sense of progression. I have a need to feel like everything that I do is contributing to my growth as a software developer. It can be very demoralising to work hard and continue learning when it results in no career growth.

When working at a company, there can be meaning causes for this lack of sense of progression. Some of these causes I've experienced personally have been:

These factors can lead to an eventual sense of being stuck in a hole which can feel very unfulfilling at times especially when you've devoted a lot of time into your work.

Salary Expectations

This one is very common amongst all industries and can happen in a lot of workplaces. You start off at a good rate but overtime, you find your raises get less and you get overtaken. This leads to feelings of unfulfillment because it seems that no matter how much knowledge you gain or how much you contribute, you don't end up going anywhere.

Personal Factors

While there are many work factors that can lead to feeling unfulfilled as a software developer there can be personal reasons as well. I will be detailing the personal reasons of why I felt unfulfilled.

Tech Stack

Like many others, when I started out as a software developer, I wasn't quite sure what area I wanted to head into. So I just took on a generic web developer role. The stack we used was a typical LAMP stack so using PHP on the backend running on an Apache server running Linux. Our front end just used regular HTML & CSS with jQuery thrown in there.

In my spare time, I enjoyed working on my own projects, trying to learn more software development tools and programming languages to extend my knowledge. This lead me to discovering frontend frameworks like React which I l thoroughly enjoyed working with a lot more than jQuery.

I also liked the concept of Node.JS allowing you to write JavaScript on the backend, keeping the majority of the code base in a single language.

At this point, I was a few years into my software development career and I was starting to think about what areas I really wanted to nail down and build towards. I came to the realisation that I enjoyed working with all aspects of the development process e.g frontend, backend, databases and server side processes. This prompted me to want to focus more on being a Full Stack Developer.

Over time this lead to feelings of unfulfillment as professionally we were mainly doing frontend work with a little bit of backend PHP thrown in.

Work & Life Balance

At some point you get sick of the status quo and want to mix up that work and life balance. Post COVID-19, the option to work from home as become quite popular. While some companies are still grasping to the past enforcing a strict non-working from home policy, some companies are embracing it by giving the choice to work from home or in the office.

The software development industry excels at this working agreements due to the way we work. We have a ton of communication tools to allow this.

Working at a company that had a strict working policy led me to feel more thoughts of unfulfillment because it seemed like we were missing out on a great new way of working.

How I Resolved my Unfulfillment Issues?

You have read through some of the factors that can affect your feelings of unfulfillment as a software developer. Sometimes you can feel trapped and drowning but there is a way out. Here is what I did to put myself back on the path to feeling fulfillment out of my software development career.

How I got myself unstuck

When in comes to office politics, sometimes you just need to learn when to quit. It's not always about trying to fix things because at some point you realise your efforts are for nothing which leads to unfulfillment.

I was never the one for being the first to do something. Overtime, my colleagues began to leave, moving on to other companies. Their feedback from working at these new companies was great. Proper processes, a sense of progression and accomplishment.

Around this time, I was also doing personal projects and discovering things about myself like my new found passion to be a full stack developer. Due to all that was going on, I decided that I needed to take ownership of my unfulfillment and started weighing down my options. I interviewed for a promising company and eventually got accepted as a full stack developer.

This new position brought a great amount of fulfillment and satisfaction. We utilised a stack that I was interested in with a good balance of frontend and backend work that overlaps with database changes. Being in an enterprise setting, there was a lot of exposure with cloud computing platforms like AWS.

In addition to these, this new position also fulfilled the work and life balance that I so desired. We were open to managing our own time so could easily allow life to get a bit in the way and make back time later.


This was another avenue that I didn't consider at the time but is becoming a lot more common in the modern world. As a software developer, we can use our skills to help out companies or clients without committing to them long term, bringing in a diverse workload. It allows us to manage our own goals and achievements. This can bring a great deal of accomplished as you are building your portfolio.

This is definitely an area that I'll be looking more into in the future.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading through this article. I hope it's been a great help in your own software development careers or has given you some insights into what can happen.

Feeling unfulfillment in your career isn't great and when you've invested a lot of time into it to get no where, it can definitely bring you down.

See you next time,

Kaleb Cooper

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