Reflection as a software engineer in Sydney during COVID-19

Now (July 2020) that life is starting to phased into the “new normal” in Sydney, it’s a good time for me to reflect on how my life has been affected by COVID-19 in the past few months.

Health Anxiety

For maybe the 2nd time of life, I felt really anxious.

The anxiety was already building even before the Australia government imposing lock down on the 20th of March. A week before the lockdown, we have kept the kids from going to school and have avoided venturing out the house unnecessarily.

My peak of anxiety was Monday, 16th of March, when I had to come to the office. Around this time there has been a number of colleagues who decided not to come, so office was actually much more quieter than usual. But I was really anxious seeing people on the street, in the office, anywhere.

That day I told my manager, that I won’t be coming to the office anymore - I just don’t want to put my family in harm. Luckily, the government lockdown was announced few days later.

Financial Anxiety

Health anxiety was quickly soon followed by financial anxiety.

I work for Scentre Group, a company that its core business is serving the retail sector, one of the industry that is severely impacted by the lockdown.

In addition, I have been hearing tech people getting laid off here, there and everywhere. This included people of high stature in the tech community.

I was really anxious about my job security, given that I have been with the company for less than a year.

There was a lot of fluidity on work, priorities being shuffled around, people being shuffled to different teams etc.

I think the situation was stabilising around April. Also around that time, the business gave us clarity on our employment status which gave all of us a lot of relief.

I told my family, if we can keep 2 things during this period, we should consider ourselves extremely blessed: health and job.


WFH is nice, prior to the pandemic, our department has already on the “remote-first” mentality - we kind of have to, as we have a sister engineering team in Manila. The Sydney team is allowed to WFH 2-3 days a week - which one of the strong points on my joining.

WFH with the kids is .. well, I have a conflicting feeling about this. On one hand, I really love being around my kids but on the other hand they can be quite distracting too.

The work life boundaries are blurred. I felt guilty for taking walk breaks, checking on my kids and helping them out with something. Then I compensated it by finishing work later.

Productivity wise, I am confidend that I am more productive WFH.

COVID purchase

Two things that I missed from the office setup:

  • Aeron chair
  • Standing desk

I couldn’t get a good 2nd hand Aeron chair with reasonable price tag, however I did buy a Varidesk standing desk which I really loved.

Now that I no longer sitting less, a super nice chair becomes less of a neccessity.

The standing desk was then follwed by a manitor arm to complete the sweet home office setup.

Online meeting burnout is real

I was involved in vendor assessment process during the last few months, which entails a lot of meetings - both internally and externally.

And some of these meetings go on for hours. This has left me felt really tired after work.

Thankfully that assessment phase is done.

I feel in person meeting wouldn’t be as taxing.


Twitter, SMH and AFR were my daily staples.

They had been very distracting work wise and contributed to my early anxiety. Thank God, it’s better now.

Making most of the opportunities

Earlier, there was a period of limbo, where the company tried to work things out, this translated to a relatively quiet few weeks in terms of work.

I was quite happy to manage getting some upskilling done - especially in React and modern Javascript.

Some resources that I used and highly recommend:

What I thought

I fantasied that I would read heaps of books during lockdown, well it stays a fantasy. As mentioned above, my news and social media consumption went through the roof, which is really a shame.

I have also finally subscribed to Netflix which contribute to less time to read and do productive things. It does provide some good distractions from all the negativity, so I think that’s OK for a period of time.


I have zero desire to drink alcohol and haven’t drank since. I was offered a beer when visiting my church friend after the lockdown easing - even then I still feel it is not a time to drink. Maybe one day I will drink again, perhaps when the world is free of COVID.

My coffee consumption however is really ramping up. Really enjoying making long blacks from different beans. I made my coffee using my trusty Wacaco Nanopresso (my treasured possession). Beans mainly supplied by Sample Coffee Roaster (my colleague is co-owner :) ) , my recommendation is their Pacemaker blend.

I really really tired of the word unprecedented


COVID has turned my life upside down, it has been tough period to navigate, especially mentally.

It has taught me humility. I have to admit, I am blessed to be working in IT, where under normal circumtance, the demand for my skills exceeds the supply. This means, I have long not felt the fear of losing a job nor the fear of not being able to next job if ever lose one. Well COVID changed that.

It won’t be right not to mention what (or who) have helped me going through this time.

As a person with Christian faith:

  • I know life is temporary and there is something to look forward to beyond this life.
  • I can turn to God, humbly acknowledging I am not strong and lean on His strength and grace.
  • COVID has reminded me that I am not in control, but God is.

This is certainly period time that I won’t forget.

I wish I have a remote control to fast forward this period, I just want to get to the end.