Beyond Burnout: Mental Health and Neurodiversity in Engineering

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 - 10:55 am11:35 am

James Meickle, Quantopian


In 2018, most of us understand what burnout is and why it's an occupational hazard for site reliability engineers. But while we're aware of how toil can sneak up on us, or how losing sleep to pages can destroy our productivity, we aren't always as cognizant that we're all starting from different baselines. Finding space in SRE can be challenging for people who struggle to read documentation quickly, or to speak up during meetings, or even have a face to face conversation at all. Even worse, well-meaning attempts at accommodation can stifle personal growth or become career-limiting.

But those of us with unusual deficits have gotten where we are by leveraging our strengths. The trauma we live with can also teach us coping skills, seeing the world a different way can lead to unique insights, and being anxious can lead to triple-checking configurations that everyone else only double-checks. The time is right to draw on lessons from the "mad pride" movement and learn to embrace difference on your team by providing tangible support without othering or being paternalistic, because one of the most ethical ways your organization can retain the best talent is by rejecting sanity as a requirement.

James Meickle, Quantopian

James is a site reliability engineer at Quantopian, a Boston startup making algorithmic trading accessible to everyone. Past roles have seen him responsible for processing MRI scans at the Center for Brain Science at Harvard University, sales engineering and developer evangelism at AppNeta, and release engineering during the Romney for President 2012 campaign. Between NYSE trading days, he organizes DevOpsDays Boston and conducts Ansible trainings on O'Reilly's Safari platform. What free time remains is dedicated to cooking, sci-fi, permadeath video games, and Satanism.

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@conference {213062,
author = {James Meickle},
title = {Beyond Burnout: Mental Health and Neurodiversity in Engineering},
year = {2018},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = mar

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