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Luke Bonaccorsi
Press Start

Fired

Friday the 7th September 2012 was a bad day for me. That was the day that I was fired from my first development job. It was the beginning of a 7 month unemployment period where I struggled with depression, impostor syndrome and I asked myself some tough questions.

The Lead-Up

I’d been at the job for 15 months when I was fired and had spent a chunk of that time going through the disciplinary process for working too slow and not working to an expected quality.

Looking back, the situation was pretty ridiculous. I’d been hired as a junior developer (having never worked in the industry and having been completely self-taught), I was expected to work on projects completely on my own (including testing my own work) and I was turned down whenever I asked for help. I’d stayed late evenings and weekends to work on projects, trying to get them finished and to the level of quality that was expected, but it didn’t help.

Throughout the disciplinary process, I was told that I needed to work faster and improve the quality of my work, but was never given the help I needed to do this. This eventually led to me being fired.

The Aftermath

Immediately after being told I was fired, I collected my things. I couldn’t face my now ex-coworkers and rushed my way through the office, out to my car and left.

I drove for about 15 minutes before deciding to stop off at a supermarket. The second I parked up and switched the engine off, I broke down and started crying. I’d fucked up, I was a failure.

When I finally got home, I told my housemate, friends and parents what had happened. I felt super low and afterwards, I just sat on the sofa, watched TV and ate junk food.

My friends helped me that evening, we hung out and got drunk. The support was hugely appreciated.

The Months Following

In the following months, depression hit me hard. I was burning through my savings to support myself and I was applying for any job I felt that I could do, but I was getting rejected from everything.

I had nothing to do during the day besides look for jobs. My life was empty. This meant that I started going to bed later and waking up later. Eventually, I got to the stage that I was going to bed at 6am and waking up at 1pm.

Impostor syndrome added itself to the mix. I’d been discovered as a fraud and had been fired. The question of whether I should keep trying to be a professional developer weighed heavy on my mind.

The interviews that I did get were tough. It’s really difficult to convince someone to hire you when you’re plagued by impostor syndrome. It’s also really hard to be honest about being fired, so I tried to avoid it and talk around it. Looking back, this probably didn’t work in my favour and was likely a mark against me.

Christmas

I was really fortunate that my parents offered to take my sister, her fiancé and I on holiday to Cyprus for Christmas that year. It was great to get a bit of a break and to focus on relaxing a little.

It was also an opportunity for me to reflect. I seriously considered my future and what I wanted to do. I came to the decision that I truly enjoyed development and wanted to keep trying to make a career out of it. I still felt like a fraud, but I didn’t know what else I was any good at.

New Year

In the new year, I took some steps to get my life back on track. After spending months living only off my savings, I’d run out of money. I signed up for unemployment benefit and housing benefit.

I pushed myself to apply for development jobs and got a few interviews, but I was still struggling to be open and honest about being fired. When I did start being honest about it, I was surprised by the reaction. Nobody felt that firing me was the right way to go about things, which made me feel more comfortable about speaking about it.

After a few more months of job searching and interviewing, I finally managed to get a job offer. The hiring manager throughout the process made me feel super comfortable and that meant I could be completely honest.

Career Attempt 2

I started my new job on the 2nd of April 2013, just under 7 months from when I’d been fired. The impostor syndrome was still strong, but I had a second attempt at my career.

I’d managed to join a company with a very supportive development team. From the first day, I was learning and growing with the help of my colleagues. I stayed at that company for over 3 years and it really helped me develop my career.

Looking back, I’d have never thought I’d be where I am now. I’m working for a great company with a fantastic team, I’m speaking at conferences all over the world and I’m helping push the JavaScript community in Leeds forward by running LeedsJS. I still struggle with impostor syndrome every now and then, but I’m leaps and bounds beyond where I thought I’d be.

Reflections

Overall I think it was a pretty ridiculous situation. I nearly ended up taking a completely different career path, although I have no idea what that might have been. I struggled with some deep depression and impostor syndrome. I completely destroyed my sleeping patterns. It was a life-changing situation, but in the end, it all worked out for me. I’m incredibly lucky.

I hope you never have to go through this experience, but if you do then please know that you’re not the first. Many of us have experienced this and made it through, you can too.

Although it really fucking sucks.