Questions to ask if you’re bored with your job

I left Intel 7 months ago. I took the voluntary separation package that was offered to a majority of the company. I was one of the few that took it. I was surprised how small the number was but I was also already thinking about making some sort of change.

Yesterday, I got an email from a friend asking for my thoughts on the change. He’s getting bored and is weighing his options. I haven’t asked him any follow-up questions but I found that I immediately had a bunch of questions rush into my mind. Enough so, that I decided to do a post on the topic. Note that these are heavily colored by my own opinions and experiences, but hopefully, they are more broadly relevant.

Are you bored or unhappy?

In my case, I was unhappy. I like programming 1. I like EDA2/CAD. I generally like the people I worked with. I miss much of it.

I was unhappy with the large corporate things that I saw happening in my world. Mediocrity was setting in, mostly in the manager ranks. There are small minded people who like wielding control while impeding progress. Clueless people who want to blaze new directions in domains they don’t understand. People who just blindly do as they’re asked. Most critical, the lack of adult supervision to stop or temper these problems.

Did I have to leave to deal with the political stuff? I fear that these problems are more pervasive at Intel. Where, within Intel, could I have gone? The best answer to this is likely to be part of the solution by switching to management.

I was also unhappy with the lack of time to pursue other interests, like my garden, tinkering,… and my kids.

How is your work/life balance?

Did I have to leave Intel to get more free time? I was surprised to discover the answer is no. I was already talking to my GL about reducing my hours to 60%, but such a drastic change is likely not required. As I was preparing to leave, I burned through my remaining vacation time in the form of 3 day weekends. This was more than a 50% improvement. Having Fridays off enabled me to resolve life’s overhead tasks before the weekend, enabling me to more fully enjoy the weekend.

What are you bored with?

This is important because it affects your next steps. In my case, I really like software development. I’m still doing it now in my time off. At the same time, many people get bored with their chosen career. I think I am a little bored with EDA and I’m thinking about either mobile (android) or embedded (Internet of things). Is this truly different? It’s still just for loops and if statements. I’m not bored with programming in general, but the time will come for that too, I imagine.

Years ago, I switched from doing “back end” to “front end”. Instead of physical VLSI issue (placement of wires, estimation of electrical behavior) I worked on the logical/behavioral stuff. In the end, the differences are not that large. It’s still CAD. I think things would have been more drastic, had I taken more time to learn actual design 3

Do you need an immediate job?

Do you have a spouse that can support your family or do you have enough saved at least for semi-retirement? Most of us feel compelled to be employed. 4. There are lots of things I’ve only come to terms with only with time and distance. Once I was gone, I experienced a level of resentment that surprised me. It’s like leaving a romantic relationship. We tell ourselves stories. We also have to be careful not to move to the next girl/boy too quickly.

If you can afford to take some time off, I recommend it as something to consider. I also think it’s important to take this time without looking for something else. Just goof off.

I never goofed off before. I graduated highschool and was in college three months later. After college, I spent the summer doing nothing and came to Intel. Once at Intel, I had two sabbaticals (3 months) and one personal leave (6 weeks). I’ve had a blessed life, but I’ve spent almost none of it wondering what the next step is.

The last 7 months have been spent with the kids, travelling to visit friends and family, projects,… and lots of thoughts about what is next. Small business, be a school teacher 5, android development, another big company, another small company?

What are your possible next steps?

My friend is worried that his skill set is out of date. Ruby, javascript, agile… Is he too old to be hired by someone else.

I think some of these questions reflect the biases of Intel. Intel discriminates based on age 6 but I know that many other companies, especially smaller ones value experience. They expect employees to already know the value of using revision control, nightly builds, regressions, documentation. How to keep yourself out of trouble.

On things like Ruby, how many Ruby jobs are there really out there? Javascript is much more common, but unless you’re looking for a web job, it doesn’t matter. 7

The big question is what job do you want to have and what are the qualifications for it? Where are your curiosities leading you? A job should be more than just a job. It may be available within your current organisation, it may be a career change, or it may not be a job at all.


  1. I continue to chair the SystemRDL committee in my own time

  2. Electronic Design Automation. CAD for semiconductor

  3. for example, I worked with the Haswell team from beginning to end yet I probably know less about it than tomshardware or anandtech. Same holds for Haswell based server and Skylake.

  4. I still feel weird when I tell people I’m not working. Am I retired? I don’t look old enough for that. Am I a poor unemployed soul?

  5. I’m strongly considering becoming a 9th grade math teacher at the local high school

  6. hiring managers must get special approval to hire anyone who is not a recent (18months) college graduate. I have a hard time seeing this as anything other than discrimination. Ironically, it’s also a great time to be an under-represented minority

  7. Javascript is a fun language once you get used to it. In particular, the way that objects are replaced with closures. I wonder how many recent grads really understand how to use that stuff.

2 thoughts on “Questions to ask if you’re bored with your job”

  1. This time, it is more serious stuff and looking back than before, simply don’t!
    Remember, it was top-down over-automatization, without any possibility of feedback and thus killing any creativity. It wasn’t only being bored, they were trying to turn you into robot.
    Wish the ORG to have good luck with hiring RCGs!

  2. The expiration date on jobs for me seem to be around 4 years. Sometimes there’s a specific problem our problems that makes me want to leave, but in general I find there’s a point of diminishing returns where I’ve learned as much as I’m going to in that particular place, with that particular set of people.

    I’m not seeing age discrimination in software at all. In the bay area it seems like the 90s again, you can’t leave the house without someone trying to hire you. There seems to be a lot of talk about women in technology nowadays which may also be amplifying things, I’m not sure.

    I highly recommend android development, some of the most pure fun I’ve had in a long time. I’d like to get more fluent in python, and I’d like to learn angular. I think the lines between web development and traditional software development are getting blurred, people write whole client applications that run in the browser.

    I love that you’re blogging again, it’s great to hear about your life and decisions!

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