I quit my $370K job at Meta after having panic attacks and hitting the lowest point of my life. I just knew the job wasn’t right for me. – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

I quit my $370K job at Meta after having panic attacks and hitting the lowest point of my life. I just knew the job wasn’t right for me.

Eric Yu quit Meta after he was making $10,000 a month from house hacking.

Eric Yu

Eric Yu is a former software engineer at Meta who experienced panic attacks due to work pressure.
He brainstormed new ways to generate income because he wanted to quit his tech job.
He left his high-paying job once he tried house hacking and grew confident in real estate investing.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Eric Yu, a 28-year-old former software engineer at Meta. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

In 2016, after a series of back-to-back interviews with Google, Meta, and Palantir, I was on a flight back home when I received my software engineer offer letter from Facebook. At that very moment, I felt like I had reached the top of a mountain. A few days later, I also received an offer from Google.

Landing job offers like these had been a huge goal of mine. I worked hard during school, and it seemed like I finally had my life figured out. But I was pretty torn between Facebook and Google. At the time, Facebook seemed more like a startup and less “corporate” than Google. I also preferred its campus more, so I chose Facebook. 

The first year and a half at Facebook were pretty great. I was a new college grad who was starry-eyed and excited about my work. But around two and a half years in, I started experiencing anxiety.

Eric Yu and his fiancée Wanda.

Eric Yu

I had my first panic attack during work hours

My typical day started at 7 a.m. I worked until noon, had lunch and a couple of meetings, then dove back into intense coding blocks from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Even after work hours, I couldn’t turn work off — I kept thinking about the problems at work and what I needed to do. I think the pressure and the environment of working in tech made it incredibly hard for me to disconnect after work. 

In November 2019, I experienced my first panic attack while I was working from home. It was around 4 p.m. and my left pinky went completely numb. At first I ignored it, but it got worse: an hour in, my ears were ringing and my heart was beating really fast.

I was zoning out and felt intense thoughts — it felt like a water dam, like if too much water pushed against it, it might break and all the water would pour out. The more I tried to block my feelings away, the more it felt like bursting out all at once. Fortunately, my then-girlfriend (now fiancée) Wanda was there and recognized it as a panic attack.

I didn’t know what a panic attack was at the time, and I thought it was a one-off thing. But in the following months, it kept happening and got progressively worse. For six months, from March to September 2020, I was at the lowest point in my life. Every day felt like a grind: I didn’t know what I was doing or why I was still working. My performance started dropping — I couldn’t focus on my code or keep up with the deadlines.

I received tough comments from engineers

Meta has a pretty high bar when it comes to code quality, and the code reviews were tough. At other companies I’ve interned at, the code reviews were very lenient — someone quickly looked at my work and approved it. But at Meta, there’s a strong emphasis on writing code the right way and you have to follow specific design patterns and architecture styles. 

In these reviews, I collaborated with different teams to identify the best way to write the code. There was some tension at times, and I received tough feedback on how to fix the code after numerous reviews. It sometimes left me feeling bad.

Eric Yu quit his $370,000 tech job once he figured out other ways to make money.

Eric Yu

In my opinion, there’s a constructive way to give feedback: “Hey, I like the attempt you made here, and there might be opportunities to improve in this way.” But some engineers at Meta lacked tact and nuance: “This is really bad. You shouldn’t have written it like this.” This kind of feedback makes it sound like this is a black-and-white issue and it often overlooks the emotional aspect of communication.

I worked later than most of my team and even worked on weekends

Every time our team built a feature, we tested it out. Then, if the feature worked well, we rolled it out to the entire world. If it didn’t, we used those learnings to figure out what we’d want to build next.

I remember one month I was the only engineer on the Android team because people were either on vacation or taking mental health leave. I didn’t want my team to be held back because of me, so I felt pressured to perform. If I didn’t stay up to speed and get those learnings quickly, then I’d be delaying future work streams, which impacted the whole team’s progress.

So I went the extra mile to get things done: I worked until 8 p.m. (much later than most employees), and I also spent around four hours a day on the weekends just to make sure I was keeping up with the pace.

Looking back, my workload at that time was potentially unhealthy. I should have just told my manager that I couldn’t handle it and that I needed more people to help me out. 

The last straw was when my manager questioned my commit count

The process in which engineers write and add their code to the codebase is called “commits.” There was an internal dashboard where employees could see how much code each teammate had done over time.

I don’t think it was the healthiest thing to make it so public, and it was definitely stressful. I checked the dashboard every few weeks to see where I was relative to the team, to the broader organization, and at the company.

I remember when I had just switched over to a new team, my manager pulled me into a conversation and told me he was upset about my commit count — I was slightly below the average of most of my team.

But during my onboarding, the roadmap and vision of what this new team wanted to build wasn’t super obvious, so there weren’t a lot of clear projects that were being delegated to me. It was a big reason why my code count was a bit low.

It was frustrating that leadership was looking so closely at commit counts to gauge employee success. I believed that code quantity alone doesn’t prove anything — skills like mentorship, project management, and navigating interpersonal dependencies should also be valued. But my manager held a different perspective, and that conversation was one of the last straws that convinced me to leave Meta.

I set a personal goal to finally leave Meta

Eric and Wanda wrote down what their dream life would look like.

Eric Yu

By the end of 2020, Wanda and I thought about what our lives would look like in the next 10 years. We decided we needed exit plans, because neither of us wanted to work in tech for that much longer.

One night, we brainstormed every possible way to generate income on a whiteboard — drop shipping, brand affiliate marketing, and real estate. After evaluating risks and returns, we narrowed it down to real estate and Airbnb. But this was during the Covid-19 pandemic and we were unsure if we wanted to fully get into it.

Eric and Wanda brainstormed ways to make money because they wanted to get out of tech.

Eric Yu

So we started with house hacking, a lower-cost way of getting into real estate. We planned to buy a house, live in a part of it, and rent out the rest of the home to someone else. Our thought process was simple: we wanted to buy a property with a low down payment of 5% and have the mortgage payment be less than what we were paying in rent in San Francisco.

We bought a five-bedroom home in Redding, California, four hours north of San Francisco. While we lived in a 252-square-foot detached guest house in the backyard, our main house was bringing in around $8,000 a month in revenue on Airbnb.

Eric and Wanda lived in this 252-square-foot detached guest home while they rented out the main home.

Eric Yu

We were basically living for free and getting paid money every month. We grew confident in real estate and saw its potential. I even set a personal goal to quit Meta once I was making $10,000 a month from real estate.

We doubled down and bought two more properties in 2021, and by the end of that year, I reached that $10,000-a-month milestone. I then bought two more homes in 2022, and one more in 2023.

I quit when everyone was still working from home because of the pandemic

The experience was underwhelming. I was at home and didn’t see my coworkers in person; there was no farewell party or formal goodbye. After my last meeting, I closed my laptop and felt relieved: “Wow, I’m done.”

I know it sounds crazy to leave a $370,000 job, and staying at Meta for the rest of my life would have ensured financial security, but I knew it wasn’t right for me.

But earning passive income from real estate isn’t the endgame for me, either. It just provides me the time and space to explore what I actually want to do in life once I have my finances in order. I’m still exploring right now, but I know my purpose will be to build community and help others change their lives meaningfully, the same way I’ve changed mine.

Meta did not respond to a request for comment.

If you left your big tech job and would like to share your story, email Aria Yang at [email protected].

Read the original article on Business Insider
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