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The Almighty Buck

Do You Like Your Job? 1174

Posted by Cliff
from the employee-satisfaction dept.
G-shock asks: "I've worked for the government (NASA), large public companies, and small startups as a software engineer. They all have something in common. It seems like management at this company is just winging it. I find myself putting all my energy, both mental and emotional, into a project only to be disappointed by decisions made by management. I really feel like management at my current employer is disconnected from what is actually going on. They manage a project, but not the people. They also seem to lack any real vision. Direction is constantly changing and proper time is not given to engineer these changes correctly. This leads to mandated quick and dirty solutions that end up being maintained with great pain for long periods of time. All this leads to me feeling cynical about the work I'm doing. What I want to know is, how can I feel good about the work I'm doing if I don't have confidence in my management? How many of you are happy with your management? Why? Why not? What can I do about this? Thanks in advance for your insight." Considering that this seems to be a common problem in technology companies, and seeing as we have been producing software for basically half a century, do you think that managing software projects is a different beast than the management of anything else? How many of you have had this problem in your career and what did you do to adjust?
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Do You Like Your Job?

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  • The gods created managers to keep our species from competing with them.

  • heh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by r00tarded (553054) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:40PM (#3041997)
    i just got fired monday. they wanted a mission critical piece of an application. it was a protocol gateway, and one of the protocols was totally undocumented. i told them six weeks at best. they told me three i said no, they said you're fired.
    so, yes, somtimes they are crazy, and *you* need to decide if you want to be absorbed into the madness or retain your sanity. and the outcome aint always pretty. you got to decide what its worth.
    • Re:heh (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I would have taken the three weeks pay and then got fired!
    • by CrazyDuke (529195) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @01:46AM (#3042714)
      I've noticed, since being at Virginia Tech for a few years, that when the CS and CPE students fail, they transfer and graduate with a Management Science diploma. In, addition, the people that are just at college to party, but want something other than a Liberal Arts diploma also take this route.

      Anyone else find it funny that these are the people that end up managing the CS and CPE graduates when they get a job after college? Maybe this is the reason why management sucks so much.

      • by 4of12 (97621) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:55PM (#3045246) Homepage Journal

        It's funny if it's not you that's at the receiving end of bad management.

        The problem is that most tech types quickly learn that good management is a very hard job.

        I'm great with computers, but I know that I suck when it comes to dealing with people effectively. Generally, I see that very few good technical people are also good managers of people and projects, requiring certain kinds of interpersonal skills and organizational skills that programmers lack all too often.

        That said, there's nothings that prevents would-be managers from trying to fake it. I'd say about 85% of managers are less competent than I'd like to see. Also, really good managers are like gold. If it is at all possible for you to work for one of these, then do it.

  • by EvilJohn (17821) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:40PM (#3041998) Homepage
    ... at this point, I wish I had a job.
    • 1 year jobless San Jose.

      Has anyone else noticed how Pro GWB the jerry springer show has become? Guess the only one's with jobs are strippers and trailer park trash.
    • I graduated from a computer-oriented Magnet high school with a 4.2, worked at a junior programming job my senior year, got a 4-year CS degree at Georgia Tech in under 3 years, and fucking CompUSA won't even hire me. How humiliating is that?
      • Companies will talk to a college drop out that can talk about real projects over a CS grad with a 4-point if all he has to show for it is the b-tree program he wrote for his algorithms class.

        I'm consistently amazed at the number of CS/CprE grads that think the piece of paper means as much or more than real-world programming experience. It doesn't. I can't count the number of people I know with no degree that are making a lot more than I am.

        And don't give me the crap about never having a chance to get REAL experience. Download GCC and hack at a kernel...write some code for a design contest...build something outside of class. It doesn't have to be for a company or a school project.

        There are a lot of CS majors with 4-points that can't code their way out of a wet paper bag. Companies know this.
        • "Companies will talk to a college drop out that can talk about real projects over a CS grad with a 4-point if all he has to show for it is the b-tree program he wrote for his algorithms class."

          Absolutely right. I dropped out of college, got a sysadmin job, and now make more money in a year than my jobless college graduate friends spent going to college.

          A bit of advice to anyone working on any computer-related degree in school; spend time in that lab doing something other than class work. Volunteer to help out the administrators. Run your own web/ftp/mailservers. If you program well, join an open source effort, and help out with the management as well as the coding. Whatever you do, don't show up at an interview with your final project from some programming class as a crowning achievement.
  • sure I do! (Score:2, Funny)

    by I Want GNU! (556631)
    You ask me if I like my job? I absolutely love it! Being a garbageman is the best profession in the world! You wouldn't believe all the wonderful things have discarded, and I get them all, _for free_!! Plus, I get to see cute little racoons and bacteria and greet them every day at work. It is really fun when I find a discarded banana, then I get an extra special snack.

    Plus, being a garbageman gives me lots of time to think about the universe and discuss it with clients like Dilbert!
  • I'm a technical writer for a relatively stable software company. I work with computers *and* get paid. In this economy, that's a rare and wonderful thing.
    • I'm currently an intern at a telecommunications that competes with MaBell. I must say, it is a great opportunity!

      I get to format computer HDDs and stick Linux on them to be set up as Linux servers for useful things like SIP (VoIP stuff) and creating web servers. I've learn a ton of stuff about Linux and what's better is I get paid $9/hr! It's like paid training! Of course I do administer Windows2k Servers, but it's still good to learn other OSes. Also I get other benefits like free 2.7mbit DSL with 5 static IPs, and two domain names.

      I have only four complaints. First of all, I take it for granted all the time, and I need to realize that I'm truly lucky. Second, things can be a bit disorganized and the boss just wants things done, fast. Third, security isn't really big deal to them, but I think it is, of course this goes back to them just wanting things done. Finally, since it's a telecommunications company I have dealt with many co-workers getting laid off and it sucks. It sucks seeing hard working adults with families having to leave their jobs, while I'm still here and I don't *need* the job. What's worse, is that I've also gotten a job offer from another company (that I now also work with) that deals with wireless internet access.

      It's crazy having all these opportunities at 17, I just hope they're still here in the future. Of course I'm careful with my money (cheap) and I've saved most of my money that I've made. Unfortunately because of this (at least I think so) I don't have a girlfriend or a car (I'll wait.)

      So to keep this post ontopic, I would say I love my job (internship) and I agree management can be a pain in the ass if they don't know what they're doing, don't take input from workers, and become nazis. Basically, you should have the proper qualifications for the job.
  • by AntiPasto (168263) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:42PM (#3042012) Journal
    Look around, the phone system is a piece of crap, cell-phones are anything but perfect, and our goverment is an ever-changing fix for a bad idea ;p

    Actually, I just started a new job, and a co-worker, upon *my* realization of this sort of craziness, summed it up by saying "If it was any better, we all wouldn't have jobs."

    • by Ogerman (136333)
      If it was any better, we all wouldn't have jobs.

      And what would be wrong with that? I think roughly 100% of Americans would prefer to work less and reduce stress in their lives. Our economy is insanely inefficient, some suggest on the order of 1-2% efficiency as a ratio of "what you come home to" to "how much you work." Part of that's human nature. The other part is simply bad planning, bad management, too much bureacracy, etc.

      Want an answer? Go green. That's right, focus companies on ecological efficiency. The economics will fall in place naturally. For example: an almost paperless office with 90% natural lighting / climate control, efficient appliances, more organic work environment, etc. You just keep going down the line.. and eventually your employees are working half as much, producing better work. It just takes intelligence. Unfortunately, intelligence is in short supply. Fortunately, the free market will force adaptation to the most efficient way of doing business once enough people begin to innovate.
  • by Tigris666 (197729) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:42PM (#3042016) Homepage
    because they understand what is needed.

    When I started at my current job, I was not sure what to expect, being under the assumption that management knows nothing. But later finding out that most of the management here has done some programming before. In fact one of the main managers was the only programmer here when the business started up.

    I believe this makes for the best workplace as a programmer because everyone above you knows how you are feeling. What to expect from you. What is hard/easy etc.

    Atleast that's my view on it anyways.

    • Although I'd like to agree with you, I'm not totally conviced a good developer makes a good manager, although they are complementary the skills required are somewhat different, that's why most of the project leaders I've seen so far don't have a clue about technical details.

      They have to lead a project team, that's why companies rather choose them by their ability to manage a team rather than by their ability to understand the internals of CORBA or of whatever technology you use.

      I would love to have managers understand development issues (more than the "manager level") though, that would be the beginning of the "managers" vs "techies" war...
      • by Aceticon (140883) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @06:08AM (#3043455)
        In some companies, there seems to be a point view that if you had technical training you're unlikelly to become a good manager while if you had management training you're likelly to become a good manager (managers seem especially guilty of thinking this way).

        Guess what? It's all bulls*it.

        Management in IT is not the same as managing an assembly line. In IT to accomplish something you need the cooperation of the developers/system admnistrators/designers/testers. Managing by decree will get you non/bad-working programs, long delays, high turnovers, no documentation and all this in an environment were there is no standard measure for productivity.

        To manage IT development you need to manage the developers.
        If the developers:
        - Are tired
        - Are demoralized
        - Don't trust you
        no ammount of project planning, coercion or shouting will make projects finish according to requirements and inside the deadline.

        Managing in IT mostly boils down to personality and people skills, and that can be found both in people with a technical background and people with a management background.

    • There are two problem with having a boss who does/ used to do what you are doing now:

      1: They are under the impression that if they think something is easy, then it is easy. This is even worse when they are brilliant, and you are merely adequate, and

      2: They know what you should be doing. It is a lot harder to fool your boss with 'Just stress-testing the network' (with Quake Deathmatch), when he used to do it too!

      But then, sometimes he joins in!
    • I'm not sure I agree with your statement. Ex-programmers certainly would seem to be great managers for current programmers, but are they really good managers? We give them high marks because they understand us and speak our language. They may even be a bit more reasonable about delivery dates and all.

      The problem is, that's not really what makes a good manager. A good manager is someone who motivates you, listens to you, fights for you, and is occasionally willing to tell you to go get stuffed. Management isn't just making your work day more fun, it's hopefully about making the company a little bit better.

      Probably the toughest thing a manager has to do is to kill ideas and projects. Especially ones that they find interesting. How many of us will willingly stop work on something that we are enjoying because it won't turn out how we originally planned?

      So, yeah, it's great to have a boss who understands you and even understands Dilbert. But in the end, that boss also has to be willing to go out there and fight for the department and the company and make the tough decisions.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2002 @04:55AM (#3043314)
      This, I hope, has been true in my case.

      Now, I'm no great code guru - but I worked as a programmer fo about 6 years before migrating into a lead programmer position, I now run my own company developing web based distributed applications. I run a small team, and still do a bit of coding - though I tend to just root about in whats been written to learn new techniques and add value (in roughly equal amounts - when I start learning more than I'm teling I think I'll probably stop pretending I'm playing a significant coding role and just get out my newtons cradle).

      The big risk is that you judge everyone by your own standards and over / under manage things on that basis. I've had people who have been a LOT faster and better than me who have told me 3 months in that they are bored titless.

      Equally, I've had guys say they feel swamped. At that point I juggle things and we play with hours, tasking, etc... to try and balance things up.

      But we are small. Being small I can do anything I like. I'm less focused on profit, at least for the next couple of years, than I am on reputation building. I'd rather have 12 guys working 30 hours a week and coming in buzzing to get things done, than 8 doing 60 hours a week feeling like shit.

      TIPS
      These things work for us.

      Pay the sods! We pay about 20% above market rate. Always have done, I think we always will. Why? I haven't used an agency to find someone yet - every one of my guys tells EVERYONE they know when a job is on the go. They don't want to work with losers, so they pre vet them for me. I save 20-30% of year 1 by avoiding the agency - I share this with the coder, which completes the cycle.

      We have a kick out time on Fridays of 3:30pm which is a HUGE success. People can head for the pub, can go home, can just sit outside watching the chicks from the office across the road on their smoke breaks, anything but sit playing Quake or reading /.

      Homework. We don't have an official homeworking policy, but we buy ADSL for everyone so that if they want to work from home they can. We discourage evening / weekend work, but are happy if people wake up and think - 'might work at home today'.

      Deadlines. We work to a weekly deadline round. This has its flaws, but on the whole everyone is pretty cool with it. Longer and you run the risk of getting lost, shorter just puts strain on things.

      Let 'em get on with it! Simple as that.

      Don't make decisions in isolation. As the boss, I have to steer the company. I hire people I think will help me get there. If I can't involve them in the decision making they are no use to me - so I get rid of them. I need to be able to raise ANY issue with the WHOLE TEAM and expect a constructive conversation.

      Open up. The business plan sits on the magazine rack. Anyone can open it up and read it. They see what the code team as a whole gets paid, they see what the management team gets paid. They see how much the water cooler and the coffee machine are costing. They see how much kit costs, insurance, how much profit was generated last year (none ;-) and how much we hope to earn next.

      God - thats long - I'll shaddap!
    • by igomaniac (409731) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @06:53AM (#3043550)
      My previous manager was once a programmer (a very bad programmer, I guess). This lead to him
      1. being totally lacking in people-skills.
      2. Thinking he could do every piece of code better than me.
      3. When I disagreed with him on point 2, he would call meetings with the other programmers to 'teach me how to do things'. These meetings tended to be three programmers spending three hours convincing him he was wrong to start with.
      4. He would check out my code when I wasn't looking and 'optimize' it -- that is making it run slower and introduce subtle bugs that I would spend days tracking down.
      5. Finally, when I pointed out his inadequacies as a manager, he got all vengeful and removed all resources from my project, hoping to kill it and get me fired.
      6. When the project succeeded anyway, he took all credit for it.
      7. Now tell me again that programmers make good managers, and I will laugh in your general direction. The best managers I've had knew nothing about programming, but they knew how to ask the right questions (when will it be done, what do you need to do it faster, how can I help you achieve your goals) and leave the programming to the experts.

    • by tedgyz (515156) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @10:24AM (#3044297) Homepage
      FUNNY STORY: I was working for a major Un*x vendor implementing 64 bit support in the dev tools.

      On a dare, one of our engineers messed with the manager:

      Engineer: "We tried hard, but could only get 63 bits to work."

      Manager: "That's ok. We can get that last bit in a patch."
  • by Drakula (222725) <tolliver@ie[ ]org ['ee.' in gap]> on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:42PM (#3042018) Homepage Journal
    Why does this apply to only tech companies?

    During my short history on this planet, every single place I have worked seems to have this problem. Not just tech companies.

    It seems to be human nature to not want to deal with the messy social part of management and handle only the relatively easy business part.

    Just my 2 cents I guess.

  • by jkakar (259880) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:43PM (#3042023)
    In the end I've been fortunate to have good managers... what have they had in common? They've become my friends outside of work. That isn't to say managers and employees must or should spend time away from work but working with people you LIKE really helps. In practice manager's I've liked have worked hard, valued by input and been able to contructively criticize me in a way that has helped me grow.

    Software development may be 50 years old... lots of things have changed and one could argue that the pace of change is only getting faster. What doesn't change is that development of any kind is a whole bunch of people individually developing themselves- the end result is (or isn't) some kind of product. Manager's that are technically-minded work best with software developers because developers are technically minded.

    Seems obvious but has not been the norm as far as I can tell.
  • by Emugamer (143719) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:43PM (#3042027) Homepage Journal
    I worked at .Bombs .Coms and .Profitable Motor Companies and a lot of other places as everything from Technical contractor to a "Scientist" to Director of New Business... I now work at a non profit and I have to say I never felt better. I hate the tedium of some of the stuff I do but everyone seems to care here. As soon as you take good old fashion $$$$ from the equation (I still get paid, just not at market rate), everything seems to work better. Human Service organizations are just great to work at mainly because getting a project done has something very visual and positive in its outcome... just my few cents (literally)
    • by rho (6063) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:07AM (#3042218) Homepage Journal

      This is probably the best advice ever.

      "Non-profit" is not neccessarily a pre-requisite; you can find satisfaction at any job where you are working towards a defined goal. I don't mean Vision Statement-type goals ("Enhance shareholder value!"--"Yeah, I'm enhancing shareholder value by surfing for pr0n with one hand while the other is...")

      I think this is part of the reason why people like to become contractors so much. You come in, you're handed a project with an end goal, and you drive towards that goal as fast as you can.

      If your job is a never-ending series of Total Quality meetings; staff reorgs; or learning new (yet ironically byzanntine) procedures for requisitioning a new toner cartridge, you will tire quickly and grow cynical even faster.

      This is why a mobile employment force is so powerful--you're free to find a job that satisfies you. Those jobs are almost never "get paid for doing nothing", because (most) humans desire to grow and learn. Satisfying jobs tend to be challenging, and the companies with those jobs tend to be good ones.

      • by zerocool^ (112121) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @01:14AM (#3042584) Homepage Journal
        Agreed.

        I'm working for a small web hosting company as a Unix network admin, 2 days a week, for $8/hr, while I go to school and work on my degree the other 3 days a week.

        For a network admin, that sucks. However, I love my job. There are only 5 employees, including the owner, and he's the oldest, being 27. We're all in college. I go to work wearing jeans, sandals, and a doors shirt. I answer the phone, fix people's stupid stuff (how does a .aliasmap file work? can you create a MySQL database for me?) and while it's silent, we work on improving our site's image (notice i'm not linking to it... this isn't because i'm trying to be noble and not shamelessly plug my company, i am, but i'm embarrassed by the current homepage).

        Anyway, before i got lost, my point was working for a small company is the way to go, even if it's less money. The relationship you have with your peers and the lack of red tape is worth it in terms of saving your sanity. Trust me, i used to work for the man [bestbuy.com].

        ~z
        • "and while it's silent, we work on improving our site's image (notice i'm not linking to it... this isn't because i'm trying to be noble and not shamelessly plug my company, i am, but i'm embarrassed by the current homepage). "

          Oh please, we all know its because you don't want it /.ed

        • this is slashdot. you're a network admin. the real reason is you don't want your pager to go off, telling you in shrill tones that every router you own has just gone Tits Up due to inbound traffic... ;-) You can be honest here, you're among friends.

          (And yeah, I agree with you, working in a casual atmosphere rules. It's worth the pay cut if you have to take it, to show up wearing what you want and know that you have a good chance of making it through the day without getting screamed at.)
        • by Anonymous Coward
          Working for a small company is great when you start off.

          Eventually you will want to work for a larger organisation, just to work on the larger more complex projects.

          Every single work environment has its ups and downs. You always go away from every situation having learnt something - especially on how to handle difficult/unreasonable people.

          In a larger project, you will, hopefully, gain some insigts as to what you would do differently if you were the project manager/systems architect (in management) or a senior technical leader.

          The most important thing I have learnt is recognise the warning signals of when I am being difficult or unreasonable.

  • I love my job. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by citroidSD (517889) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dsdiortic>> on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:43PM (#3042030)
    I'm a teacher. No middle management to deal with at all! Independent work environment, and I am helping develop our future!
  • by Q*bert (2134) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:43PM (#3042032)
    Maybe you should consider going into management yourself. If you're in touch with the technology, you're ahead of many managers already. If you can also bring to bear your sympathy for the plight of beleagured coders, well, you could do great good in the world. :)
    • by los furtive (232491) <ChrisLamothe@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday February 21, 2002 @01:49AM (#3042723) Homepage
      ...are always promoted to a level of incompetency. Employee A does a great job as an intern, is hired full time, does a good job for X years and is promoted to team leader, does an okay job as team leader but has an established reputation, gets promoted to management, doesn't have a clue as to what he is doing. It's not (entirely) the employee's fault, he was just climbing the ladder. It's just an inherent fault in the system. You want to reward those that do good, but by doing so you displace them from their element. The only way to avoid this is realize when it is happening to you.
  • happine$$ (Score:4, Insightful)

    by graveytrain (218936) <lynn@x.hjsoft.com> on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:45PM (#3042048) Homepage
    Know what pisses me off most? It isn't my boss or my coworkers or the clients... it's the perception of the industry in general. Mod this as offtopic if you must, but what's killing me are those damn MCSE commercials that make people think that anyone can better their life by going to school for 6 months to learn MS products. Talk about scams... they promise outragiously high salaries and give the impression that if YOU possess the urge and desire to better your life, then YES, ANYONE can learn this stuff... just another make-money-quick scheme.
  • Everywhere I've ever been has been like this except for one, and that's the company that went belly-up this past May. I don't know if there's a connection there or not, but it does seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

    The important thing to remember is that management personnel -- like everyone else -- do not get promoted because they do a good job. They get promoted because they managed to convince their superiors that it's to their advantage. Actually doing a good job is one way to do that, but so is ass-kissing, lying, intimidation, submission, being related to the boss, having good internal connections, making coffee and giving head. If you want to go far, you need to ignore the management propaganda that Arbeit macht frei and actually look around to see who gets promoted and why. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to give up your devotion to quality, but it does mean that you have to come to grips with the fact that you may be the only person concerned with the quality of your work and you need to figure out what your superiors are concerned with.
    • Re:Normal (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FFFish (7567)
      IMO, the important thing to remember is that for a lot of people, instability is exciting and thus desirable.

      When those sort of people get ahold of a company, look out! Planned growth, planned direction, heck planning at all -- it all goes out the window, because that shit's just "boring."

      It's a very exciting environment.

      And almost assuredly doomed to failure!
  • by Yorrike (322502) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:46PM (#3042061) Homepage Journal
    Though it would be unwise to tell my opinion of my managers, let's just say that most of them are morons^H^H^H^H^H^Hreally nice guys who pay me for doing nothing^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hworking extremely hard all day.

    God I hate them^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hbless them.

  • by GreyMatter (74748) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:46PM (#3042062)
    I've worked for quite a few different companies as well, and found much the same problems. The really competent managers (from a business point of view) make life dull (take no risks), and the ones that let you try interesting stuff can drive the business bankrupt.

    That seems to be why many professional programmers work on open source projects. You get to spread your technical wings without managers.

  • by tacocat (527354) <tallison1 AT twmi DOT rr DOT com> on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:46PM (#3042064)

    I work for a company that practices draconian software at it's finest. I have to fight for weeks, nay months, to get some improvement on the tools available. And the list goes on.

    Many hours are spent on something that is casually swept aside by some new marketing spin

    What do I do about it? I don't care that much really. Call me apathetic, call me brilliant. But I do the work, learn some stuff and get paid for it. I am not interested in running the company and the company is not interested in what I see as important or useful. We co-exist in a symbiotic relationship with both sides agreeing not to have too many conversations. Management and Code do not easily mix. Especially in the typical management environment

    I recent left a job however, that had one good manager that knew how to balance these projects out. The one's that he saw as important where prioritized, and the one's that had hype where given a somewhat longer schedule. That way, then the ship had to do an about turn, there wasn't as much mass to move.

    I think it's a matter of following the important projects with more zeal than the hyped projects and leaving at all behind you, no matter what, when you walk out the door. I get paid so that I can run my own server at home and play PlayStation. I enjoy both -- but to think that my work is all that important that it won't get cast aside in a moment is folly.

  • by pOs*x (254850) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:49PM (#3042086)
    I'm going to come along and ask you shift yourself into positive mode, mmmkay?

    If you could plow through those TPS reports, that'd be great... Yeah, okay, and I'm gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Saturday, mmmkay, greaaaaat...
  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:49PM (#3042088) Homepage
    what did you do to adjust?
    I became cynical. Then I became a consultant.
  • by tf23 (27474) <tf23&lottadot,com> on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:50PM (#3042094) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, the longer I've worked, the more I've come to realize that *many* (too many) companies are run exactly like this.

    Infact, I've not yet worked for one, or contracted for one, that wasn't.

    It's frustrating to work for these places. Sometimes degrading, but most of all back breaking. Nothing's ever finished 100%, there's no time for proper design, nor implementation. And sometimes you just have to wonder what the fuck goes on behind the door in those management meetings!!

    I think I'm slowly giving up. I'd always hoped that I'd find that "one place" where things were done *right*. Each job I take, I get a little closer. But I'm not there yet.

    Luckily I'm approaching that middle-management-age, so at the right place, I may be able to change things for the better (for the developers). That'd be a huge accomplishment, because at most places all the other department's (publications, marketing) are hindered with similar management/policy/timeframe problems. Except they sometimes get a sense of finality - when a print publication is printed and sent - they can sigh in relief. Ours - well, there's always something that needs to be changed on one of the websites, the code, the network, security policy, servers, hardware... just add it to the to-do list. It's the neverending beast.

  • by forehead (1874) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:50PM (#3042096)
    I've found that if you are in an engineering field, competent former engineers make the best managers. They have first hand experience about what it takes to do a job and do it correctly. Of course, not all engineers make good managers, but most good managers were at one point a good engineer. This applies equally well to other diciplines, of course.

    The reason for this is because they have good working knowledge from both sides of the fence. They are aware of the buisiness concerns (time schedules, money, the competition) and engineering concerns. For instance, they can take the long view and recognize that putting a little more design and documentation work up front usually results in a better, more maintainable project. It also keeps the engineers happy (and by extention more productive) which is better for the company.

    However, there are occasions where it does make better business sense to kill or rush a project. Former engineers are much more capable of conveying this to the workforce in a manner that they can accept.
  • by woodix (167920) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:51PM (#3042099) Journal
    I've been out of college less than a year and I'm on my second Tech Job. Both have been professionally satisfying, but like many others will probably say, management seems to be constantly 10 or more steps behind. I'm too inexperienced to speculate why, but it seems to me that rather than let the specialists take 5 minutes to plan and prepare to tackle whatever the critical error of the moment is, management wants results NOW NOW NOW.

    It's like I overheard the other day: do something now and apologize for it later. Even if it was a joke (which it was), I feel it's a rather good way to describe the situation--not only where I work but all over the place in IT. It seems everyone's just a bit crazy to me, but hey, they pay us to play with computers. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

    Maybe I'm wrong.
  • Wherever you go... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by c_dog (219987) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:54PM (#3042124) Homepage
    Unfortunately, your comment on the commonality of "missed-management" is not limited to your experiences. This phenomenon is sadly common.

    I used to know a retired Army Airborne Lt. Col. The words he used to describe both the problem and the solution were, "Managers manage things. Leaders lead people".

    This inspired me, a Sr. Network Admin, to pursue my MBA just so I could speak the language of business. Luckily I was able to skip the class where they performed the labotomies, so I think I managed to hold on to my grip on reality (relatively speaking, of course).

    In short (too late), my degree has given me some credibility to implement change. The old saying, "Wherever you go, there you are", doesn't exactly apply...you aren't the problem. You will, unfortunately, find the problem wherever you go...unless you take strides to make change where you can and learn to live with the areas where you can't.

    Probably not very helpful, huh? Is it at least practical?

    In answer to your original question: Yes, I love my job...but only since I started speaking my mind, nicely, of course (and in my MBA voice), and helping decision makers identify the bobbles.

    Regards...
  • Bigger Picture (Score:4, Insightful)

    by paulywog (114255) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:55PM (#3042130)
    Did you ever stop to consider that maybe, just maybe, the reason that you disagree with the decisions managers make is because you simply don't have the same perspective on the issues surrounding the project and its context within the entire corporation?

    That being said, you're probably right that most managers are just winging it. I often have the same kind of feelings about management where I've worked, but I try to give people the benefit of the doubt that they're not as dumb as I think. Maybe they are.
    • Sometimes it's not the managers, sometimes it's life that sucks. The managers are trying to make business run in a chaotic world. Economies, the competitors, the shareholders, the investors, the ceos etc are constantly throwing curveballs at you. The engineers and the rest of the geeks would like to be shielded from all that but it's just not possible.
  • by dinotrac (18304) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:57PM (#3042144) Journal
    Lately, I've been on a soapbox about company politics to every young techie I can find.

    It's not the rant you think.

    When I was young, I looked down on politics, figured I didn't need to deal with it, etc.

    By the time I finally started to understand it, most of my working life was gone.

    The thing to know is that politics is more than a game: it is the essence of working with and through other people to get things done. You don't have to become Machiavelli and you don't have to stab backs. Learning what people -- even managers -- cherish, and understanding the real power subordinates have over their bosses will lead to a lot more "wins" and a lot more sensible decisions than doing the typical "I don't care about politics" schtick.

    What's sad is that we don't have to be as good at it as the managers are, though some of us do have tremendous potential.

    We just have to be smart enough to listen and get listened to.

    Techies will never win them all, or even all of the ones we should. Nice to win some, though.

  • by sam_handelman (519767) <skh2003@columbi a . e du> on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @11:59PM (#3042165) Homepage Journal
    There's a skill you must have to enjoy investing yourself in a complicated, demanding, intellectual job - and I wish I had advice for developing this skill, but I don't - you have to be able to tell who's a competent, visionary administrator (yes, such people do exist, god bless them) and who is, to be frank, an idiot (lots of those, as I'm sure you've all noticed.)

    So, before you take a job, go and meet the management. Even if it means taking a pay cut, my advice is to work for smart people, and enjoy your work.

    If you don't have the luxury (I'm a computational biologist, so I do) of choosing your employer / PI (that's what a scientist's boss is called) / project manager / what have you, then, well, you can't expect to be happy at your job. Most people are in the position of taking whatever job they can get, and they're unhappy with what they end up with. So, if you're one of the few people with the luxury of choosing where to work, get your priorities straight and at least consider the competence (to say nothing of worthiness) of the prospective co-workers, in addition to the economics.

    I'm happy at my job, by the way.
    • by CharlieG (34950)
      You are so right - but not ONLY management - shop for the job, NOT the pay

      5 years ago, I was working for a consulting company - the hours sucked (if you were at the office less than 55-60 hours a week, you were a slacker - mind you, we were salaried, but billing by the hour), and management were assholes

      We parted company, and I came to my current job. I took a cut in pay, and the office space isn't as nice, I'm happier here than I've been in 10 years (I got forced out of defense electronics by the cuts of the late 80s/early 90s). It took 3 years for my pay to get back to where it was. Most weeks I put in 40-45 hours, but there are weeks that go 80 hours. The thing is, when those 80 hour weeks occur, there is a reason - a REAL reason, management doesn't even have to ask, we KNOW ( I support the News division of a major network - when it's election time, or 9/11 occurs, we work LONG hours, but I think even the readers here can understand why). Otherwise, management lets us do our jobs

      So yeah, I signed "Mostly Happy" - heck, it's not perfect (I can't get one of the admins to fix an incorrect DNS entry for 3 weeks now, and it's holding up a rollout, and I could use a new chair), but no job is. Thing is, I like what I'm doing, and the work has a use
  • Old Job :: New Job (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Wakko Warner (324) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:01AM (#3042175) Homepage Journal
    A month and a week ago, I was laid off from here [divine.com]. I've been at my new job now for three weeks; I've had a little bit of time to get my bearings and I can already see striking differences.

    At my old job, management (not my boss, but management) was abysmal. We were constantly being handed something that needed to be done yesterday, being told to get it done ASAP and drop everything else we were doing to come up with a solution given inadequate resources. We were always short on machines, manpower, time, budget, and respect. In the midst of the latest Hot Project, management would walk in and tell us there was something else we should be doing instead, and why the hell weren't we doing that?

    At my new job, there are a few levels of management. I'm only really directly affected by the level directly above me. This is similar to my old job, but with one important difference: so far, my boss has sheltered us from most of the crap raining down from above (the raining of crap is to be expected anywhere, really.)

    We actually have money to get our tasks done. We have the time to get them done in (more or less). We also aren't reassigned all over the fucking place because management fucked something up.

    I like it so far. Plus I got free money from my old job, w00t!

    - A.P.
  • by kootch (81702) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:10AM (#3042236) Homepage
    I think the problem always comes from two separate issues:

    1. mutual respect
    2. communication

    It's not about management, the design team, the tech team, the marketing team, etc. It's about each group and their ability to work with another group that has a slightly different mindset.

    Okay, so I hated management at my last company. But I think management is just another group in the makeup of a company. Bottom line is, each group needs to UNDERSTAND what the other group does, needs to RESPECT what they do, and needs to COMMUNICATE their needs effectively.

    It sounds like a relationship gone bad, and it often is... which is where problems arise like designers handing off design on the last day possible, management telling you that you have 1 day to do a 10 day project, and the tech team getting even by refusing and shooting down all proposals that they know they can't do.

    All in all, I've seen it a dozen times. At my last company, I had the *privledge* of spending time to create a new project workflow. This workflow instead of having a linear project timeline, had a timeline that involved the majority of the groups working at the same time. This forced groups to collaborate... at which point it seemed to flow better (after some initial confusion). And when management tried to mix things up a bit or the client wanted changes, the whole TEAM could work on the problem instead of the problem being forced on ONE small group (ie tech).
  • by iotaborg (167569) <exa@@@softhome...net> on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:15AM (#3042269) Homepage
    I'm a research assistant/student in a biochemistry laboratory, so not exactly "tech" in the terms you put it (software, computers, etc). Do I like my "job"? Yes, I do, very much.

    Research in situations such as mine in academic institutions is very different from work elsewhere... you work usually by yourself and just with the higher ups (really, only the professor) and get a lot of work done, by yourself. Thus, there is a self achievement factor involved that motivates you, and a "I must do this so I can figure out if this works and I discover this" driving you to work. You are not slowed down because you are not dependant on other's (directly that is) so you know everything that is happening on your part of the project. Such factors motivate me and even allows me to not even worry about money, but just the work. Setting your hours is another plus, it is a very flexible environment really, and I would not mind research in my future (though, in a slightly more engineering field for myself).

    Also, everyone in these workplaces, like academic instututions, are all smart (at least at Yale University); "management" is good and everyone is happy and is willing. What one can do about poor management is something I'm not sure about, without getting yourself fired that is. A new job in a different place/field may help, or getting the courage to do something radically differrent (be creative) may also help. Really, you need to find a job that you will like with management you will like and not move out of it once you find it... little idealistic, but it is possible. Maybe a company is simply not the workplace for you.

  • by CoolGopher (142933) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:17AM (#3042283)
    I had exactly the same problem at my last job (which I quit partly because of exactly this).

    In that job, I ended up being the jack of all trades, running around and patching things up (not so much code, but design decisions, manager awareness, team skills, etc). And even though I put in a considerable amount of effort, the project still ended up slipping the dead line by a long shot (which was waaaaay too tight in the first place).

    All throughout I constantly tried to look ahead and warn the project manager of dangers and difficulties that lay ahead that could endanger the project. Only to not be taken seriously, or simply being too late for management to be able to do something about.

    To me it appears that management doesn't know the software development process very well. They expect things to be easy, quick, and impactless. Documentation is required, but no real time set aside for it. Design before coding is of course mandatory, but if we get any time at all that's a real surprise (in my experience). Getting the development environment set up with daily builds, automated regression test (and integration tests where possible) is given no attention. In my last project we were four weeks into the coding before we got a semi-working development environment. Go figure.

    So well, my experience is that most project managers simply lack awareness of what is involved in a software development project.

    One of my goals is to get around to writing a book; "The software development process explained" (or something) targeted directly at managers to help them get an understanding of what's involved and how it all interacts. And no, it won't be a tome, I'm hoping to keeping it to 2-300 pages, so a manager doesn't feel too intimidated by it.

    As a bottom note, I am now employed doing second line global technical support, and while dealing with some customers can be quite frustrating and painful, the management here has a good idea of what they are doing. It makes a world of a difference. Even though I'm more or less on call 24/7, the stress levels are nowhere near what I had in my last development position.
  • by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:17AM (#3042285)
    I've been working for myself since 1989.

    I always found it incredibly difficult to suffer the incompetence of "managers" who, more often than not, get paid far too much money to do far too little work -- at least that's what I thought.

    Since becoming self-employed however, I have a much greater respect for the time, effort and skill required to "manage" a business.

    In fact, I've deliberately kept my own operations small whenever possible so as to avoid getting caught in the inevitable drift towards management that occurs when you start expanding and employing others. I'd rather remain down and dirty at the coalface.

    One unfortunate side-effect of being self-employed in a fast-moving and highly competitive industry is that you can find yourself working 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    I haven't had a vacation for over a decade and most years Christmas passed by almost without me noticing.

    This type of thing is okay when you're young and you can survive on 4 hours sleep a night with a constant diet of Coke and pizza -- but I'm knocking on 50 now and it's getting bloody hard.

    Sometimes I dream of retiring to become just another employee. Let someone else worry about paying my salary, keeping the overdraft topped up and filing endless government forms -- I'll just pop in for 8-9 hours a day and go fishing on the weekends.

    If you're thinking of bitching about management, don't forget the old saying "never judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes."

    There are some real asshole managers out there -- but then again, there are also some real asshole employees.

    If you're really ticked off -- break away and start your own corporation.
  • by nick_davison (217681) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:18AM (#3042288)
    The problem with IT is there are two completely distinct types of manager.

    Type 1 are the people who are trained to be managers. The problem with them is that they have no clue what they are talking about when it comes to the technology.

    Type 2 are the techies who have been promoted up. They may have been forced, kicking and screaming, to go to an afternoon management seminar or two, but they ignored it anyway. The problem with them is that they have no clue what they are talking about when it comes to the management.

    The Type 1s get employed because the Type 2s are so bad at managing. The Type 2s get employed because the Type 1s are so bad at understanding the issues.

    In most other careers it is accepted that while you work your way up the ranks, you also go and get MBAs, take management classes, are judged on your demonstrated managerial abilities, etc. In IT it is accepted that you are one or the other and that's just the way the world is.

    Fortunately there are a few Type 1s who at least try to learn and can also accept that there are some things that they don't understand and they ask the opinions of those who do. There are also a few Type 2s that realize IT management is screwed up and want to make it better so actually buy and, more amazingly, read books like the One Minute Manager, talk to other people from other industries about improving their abilities, etc. Unfortunately there aren't that many of either sub-group. Fortunately, that does seem to be changing.

    Don't get me wrong, I largely agree with the comments that say, "You don't understand - management is a whole lot more complicated than you realize, you just don't see it all." But, while that is also true, it doesn't make the two "Types" issue any less real.
  • by infiniti99 (219973) <justin@affinix.com> on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:37AM (#3042395) Homepage
    This only really applies to free software developers, but say you have a day job doing one thing, and by night (or weekend or what have you) you put time into a free programming project. Since you actually work two jobs, you could say either one is your "true" job.

    It doesn't matter what your day job is. You could be a waiter or a pr0nstar or a programmer in a cubicle. If you enjoy your night job more, then consider that your true job. After all, your "job" is nothing more than simply doing your part in society. If you consider free software to be more of a calling than your day job, then so be it. It is even possible that your free software project is better for society. The downside is that it may not be the job that is bringing in the money, but it is your job nonetheless. Think about it this way: if you had to choose between losing your job or losing your free software project (the latter is sort of impossible, so lets just say that it disappears in a puff of smoke), which would you choose? Which is more important?

    So before you tell your friend that your job sucks, or tell your uncle at the family party that you work at a dead-end computer job, why don't you say you work on free software instead? It's a much more enjoyable job, isn't it? It also reflects what you truly want to do, and because of the impact it makes, is a much better candidate to represent your place in society.

    Anyway, I got into this discussion with one of my friends the other day. I am a free software developer, but I have not finished college, and my day job sucks. He said something along the lines of: "What do your parents think about this? Are they angry you have not aspired to more? What greater plans do you have?" And to that I answer: "Greater plans? I'm doing exactly what I want to do _right now_. How can it get any better? Maybe I can improve my day job, but my night job is where the fun is."

    -Justin
    • This falls apart if you work for a company (like mine) where the standard pre-nuptial states pretty clearly that all your code are belong to them. Of course they showed me this document *after* I quit my other job.. I would take a 5k paycut, easy, just to get rid of that stipulation. 10k if I was actually working on something.

      The real bitch is when you find yourself re-implementing the same generally-useful routines you did at home for work. Then you're like, "if I ever *did* actually release project X, would company Y sue me because some of the code looks superficially the same?"

      • by Jeremi (14640) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @02:41AM (#3042924) Homepage
        One of the best things about my company [lcsaudio.com] (and probably the #1 reason I'm still with them) is that they let me release some of my code [lcscanada.com] as open source. This has several nice benefits:
        1. I get to use the same code for my own 'side projects', and will get to use it even after I leave the company. I'll never have to rewrite it! :^)
        2. Having the public see my code encourages me to keep it in tip-top shape, as a matter of pride
        3. The code now functions as a public resume for my skills (better than a resume, because it is actual proof, not just my say-so)
        4. Other people help me debug :^)


        I realize this post mostly just reiterates the parent post, but from the opposite directions.... but I have to say, I'm very happy with the situation.

  • Differences (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Arandir (19206) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:38AM (#3042404) Homepage Journal
    I think one major difference between managers at tech companies and those elsewhere is that at the tech companies they don't understand their domain. You can be an effective manager at Ford or Chrysler without knowing any automotive engineering, but same does not hold for a software company. The reason for this is that software is a new and evolving field. It needs to settle out before the managers can get a grasp on it, but in the meantime the domain keeps changing on a yearly basis.

    The stereotypical software manager will want to use Windows, because that's all he knows. For some applications that's an appropriate choice, but for a great many is certainly is not. Where we work we build embedded realtime invasive medical diagnostic equipment. Management made the braindead decision to base all of our new products on a piece of medical workstation software developed at another division.

    Another problem, whose source I haven't discovered, is the strange idea that you can create a quality software product in one or two years. Go look at any other industry and you'll see that it takes around five years to get a product from initial idea to the sales floor. Everyone in the automotive industry knows that new designs don't magically appear, but I've seen too many managers in software that think I can magically pull a feature out of my ass on a moment's notice.

    These problems will go away, but I don't expect them to for another ten years at least. But there are companies that are on the ball. Some listen to their engineers. Some send their managers to software engineering classes. Some are in niches where the industry has settled down somewhat.
  • by blamanj (253811) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:39AM (#3042411)
    You describe "management" as an issue, but you aren't specific. I can think of at least three things that the managerment should be doing that can be problems.
    1) Process management - there's no excuse for a problem here. If the manager(s) don't understand the software development cycle, it's bad news.
    2) People management - this is very much a personality issue. Some people are great at personal interaction, keeping up team morale, recognized personnel problems before they happen, etc. Others aren't. Depending on the situation, it can range from heaven to hell, with all variations in between.
    3) Product management - this is the one where you have to give the most leeway. Yes, direction will change, after all, you are trying to sell something, and you've got to provide what the customers want and to do so, you're either anticipating their needs in advance, or trying to interpret them. If #1 and #2 are solid, you can live with some uncertainty here.
    All that said, someone who's truly horrible in any of the categories above can do a lot of damage. If you're lucky, you get someone who's excellent in one category and can get by in the other two. Mostly, however, you get people who are just muddling along in all three.
  • by crovira (10242) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:43AM (#3042435) Homepage
    I've been working for twenty five years for people that I wouldn't trust to know which end of a [expletive deleted] to suck.

    I have come to the realization that the ONLY people I ever worked for who had a clue as to what management is about, what projects are about and what the deliverable was supposed to be were in the military.

    Not that they were all that great but you could count on them not to try to 'fix' the steering on truck while its careening around a curve and heading for a cliff.

    That's why a military toilet seat costs six hundred bucks. Because you can at least be sure that your ass will fit, that its over a latrine and that it will have a hole in it.

    With civilian (mis-)management, they'd skip cutting out the hole and justify it as cutting out the cost. And there'd be shit everywhere.

    Read "systemantics." It'll clue you in on why things are so screwed up. It won't help a damn but at least you'll know why you're getting reamed.

  • by andaru (535590) <andaru2@onebox.com> on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:45AM (#3042447) Homepage
    At one of my previous jobs, I was part of a very successfull experiment in engineering self-management. The engineers communicated directly with marketing to formulate a plan which took into account the market's desire for features and fixes, but was also grounded in the reality of what would be possible, and when.

    Both teams provided visibility on what they were doing to the execs, so the execs only had to step into the details when they thought that there was a problem. This way, the execs could treat the various departments more like black box units, and deal more with steering the ship.

    It helped that the engineers were all good friends and the head of marketing for the project was smart AND reasonable....

  • by Gus (2568) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:45AM (#3042452) Homepage
    I think I see the problem here.

    "I find myself putting all my energy, both mental and emotional, into a project only to be disappointed by decisions made by management."

    I have a little saying I like to use in meetings or with co-workers who are taking things too seriously: "we're not curing cancer here". (needless to say, I'm not working in cancer research). Work is work - it's something I do to pay my rent, keep food on the table, and support my other interests. If you find yourself putting all your emotional energy into work, you should seriously re-evaluate the priorities in your life. I am fortunate in that I generally like what I do, but I will not drain myself emotionally for any job - the sum of money required to turn me into an emotional wreck far exceeds the market's willingness to compensate me.

  • by wytcld (179112) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @01:41AM (#3042693) Homepage
    There are some good managers out there, and I've worked for a few. Being a good manager means they recognize the talents of their staff and deploy them effectively. It also means they find ways to lubricate the politics with others at and above their level (a rarer skill perhaps). Anyway, there are such animals.

    But there are plenty more cases where management is bad. That's why there's such a rise in chain and franchise operations in retailing - there's such a shortage of people with real management skills at the local level that a cookie-cutter approximation of a solution can actually perform better on average than a solution based on intimate knowledge of a particular market - the franchise operation retains the cookie-cutter while cutting down on peer-level conflicts between managers. If management talent were thick on the ground local ownership would do best, followed by larger organizations with good internal communications and local autonomy, and franchises would be dead last.

    Bad management is also rife in non-profits and educational settings - it's not just the profit motive that brings it out.

    Is there an "as above, so below" aspect to it? Are so many people bad managers of other people because they are not doing so well at "managing" themselves? In my experience, the best managers are the least neurotic; and we're in a society, as Freud noted, in which most everyone is neurotic (although there's a shift to borderline disorder since his time). Can our culture increase the numbers of capable managers without somehow finding a way to increase the incidence of psychological roundedness that's required to be a capable person, period?

    And would shifting the culture out of the prevalence of neurotic incapability threaten social systems which somewhat depend on neurosis as a point-of-leverage for social control?

    ____

  • by ellem (147712) <ellem52NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday February 21, 2002 @02:00AM (#3042750) Homepage Journal
    how can I feel good about the work I'm doing if I don't have confidence in my management?

    First ask your self these questions?

    1 -- Who the Hell am I to judge Management? As brilliant as I am did I have the fortitude and cash to start a company that employs enough people to have managers?

    2 -- Why do I need to _feel good_ about my work in a non quantifable way? Why can't I simply be satisfied in the work I accomplish? Do I honestly believe that that every person who has a job _feels good_ about their work? Do taxi drivers; warehousemen; burger flippers; lumberjacks; DCMA lawyers; Senators; sys admins need to _feel good_ about their work or can they just get it done? Can knowing you're good be enough satisfaction? Can doing your job to the best of your abilities be the bronze ring?

    3 -- Other than the deadline and some parameters; what do I really need to know?

    4 -- When the economy totally tanks and no one is wiling to pay me to manipulate text in a way that a computer can understand it; will I care about _feeling good_ about my work or will the fact that i haven't had to sell any organs this week to make my mortgage be enough?

    5 -- Am I insane to be caring about how I feel about managers in this economy?

    See how those five questions get answered and then Q-Tip the shit out of your brain and get a job.

  • by wheatis (469020) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @02:53AM (#3042979)
    What I want to know is, how can I feel good about the work I'm doing if I don't have confidence in my management?

    I was in your position about nine months ago. I had worked at a university for about 10 years, in IT. Dilbert applies there as much as it does anywhere. I was paid relatively well, but it wasn't enough to make up for the amazingly shallow human drama that our management was hellbent on creating. I felt that my soul was being siphoned out of my existence, one tedious day at a time.

    After spending way too much time (years) pondering what to do, I quit. I gave them a generous notice, then left. I don't miss it and I feel like a relevant human being again.

    Now that I've had time to reflect, I've come to believe that:

    • while it is a noble and romantic notion, attempting to find meaning in one's IT work is really hard and potentially dangerous for your mental stability, because
    • the IT work force is filled with people who occupy the middle of the bell curve and who just don't give a hoot.
    If you want to make a difference in the world, don't figure on doing it through your employment. I think our generation has been brought up with the idea that the road to happiness is found by loving your work and doing work you love. That's a pretty picture, but the real world doesn't make that a goal that one can really achieve.

    Today's work place, probably any work place actually, it's like playing on your grade school class' PE kickball team. You don't have a team of the best players; you have a team with every player of every skill level and interest. What's the point of being concerned about the quality of your work when you're just one of a few people who could give a shit? Now, if you're playing on a team/working in a job where everyone wants to do their personal best, solving problems and kicking ass, it would be different (kind of like Star Trek...).

    You asked how can you feel good about your work when you don't have confidence in management? That's the wrong question. How you feel about your work doesn't hinge on what you think of management? They're probably not qualified to really judge your work anyway. Your management is as smart as they're ever going to be. They're doing the best that they can. It may not be the best possible job; it probably isn't what you would do, if you were the manager. But that's not the point of the exercise. You're not supposed to do the best work that you're capable of; nor are you supposed to expect that management wants you to do this! Rarely is one rewarded for being smart or clever. Getting from point A to point B in the shortest or most efficient way? Not relevant.

    You'll have a hell of a time changing the people in your work place. It's a lot easier to change yourself. If you think your management is clueless, they probably are. If it is important to you that you work with people who aren't clueless and actually share your values about work, you'll probably have to bail on this job eventually and seek out an employer who better fits your idea of reality. Or, you can change your own point of view about work. Yield and conquer. Let work be the place that supplies you with cash so that you can live life with people who actually care about the things that you do. It's definitely easier to find a group of people who'll share your passion about something outside of work than within it. Especially IT work.

    I've learned that the best use for employment is as a spigot for cash to fuel a stylish, mysterious, and dangerous life. Fill a position, show up, cash the paycheck. Use the cash to go out and build a fulfilling life. Don't look for meaning or personal fulfillment at the work place. It's not there to be found.

    I quit my soul-reaping IT job to write my own software, on my own terms. That makes me happy, but hasn't made me rich yet. I also started playing music and discovered a community of people that I really enjoy spending time, some of whom also equally share my passion. Now that's cool and fulfilling. That's the hokey-pokey. You probably won't find the hokey-pokey in the workplace. Work is work and life is something different. If I ever go back to employee situation again, especially in IT, I'm going to keep this foremost in mind.

    Do the best work that the situation permits. You'll not be able to do any better and wasting cycles worrying about it is futile. It may not be spiritually satisfying, but you'll earn the same pay in any case. When the day's over, go off and live your real life.

  • by Moderation abuser (184013) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @05:54AM (#3043426)
    They wouldn't *be* middle managers if they had drive, vision and talent.

    Leave. Become a consultant and read Dilbert.

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @09:03AM (#3043887) Homepage Journal
    It's scary how well the story captured my own feelings about work.

    I thing the major reason tech companies are like this is the environment they "grew up" in. Consider:

    Most tech companies started in the 1960's to 1980's. While there were some downturns during this time, the overall pattern was growth growth growth. So, no matter how incompetent the company management, many companies survived just because the environment wouldn't let them fail.

    Now, your typical manager will feel that all successes were due to his decisions (and, by the way, so will the average tech, or indeed the average human). So, consider a company that is still around today - the manager will feel that he must be doing something right.

    Now, consider the rate of change in the tech field. It is almost impossible to have any foresight in this biz without a GREAT DEAL of technical knowledge. Being able to see the 3-5 years down the road to be able to make good plans is just about beyond the average manager. Instead, they focus on making plans 6-12 months down the road.

    When times are good, this is enough.

    Times are less than good now.

    So, companies that have been able to survive are starting to die off. The managers are frantic - get me something NOW, OR ELSE!

    It's like animals - when times are good, even the sick, lame and stupid can survive, can get enough to eat and avoid being eaten in turn.

    Then the drought hits. The animals ALL get frantic about finding food.

    Wait until after the drought, then look for the survivors that are healthy. Work for them.
  • AOL (Score:3, Funny)

    by JohnHegarty (453016) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @11:03AM (#3044523) Homepage
    I work for AOL.... need say no more... ggghhhhh
  • by argv (36682) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @11:23AM (#3044633)
    As a software development manager and programmer, I'll throw in some ideas:

    1. Your real "job" is to feed, clothe, and shelter yourself and your family the best way you can. This is most often done by working for a company.

    2. Your real "job" at the company is to do whatever it takes to maintain the short and long term growth and profitability of the organization. Sometimes this means hacking together some crap to close a deal which will make enough money to keep you and your coworkers employed a bit longer.

    3. Your real "job" as a programmer is to put together the absolute best product you can given the constraints of time and money. Don't assume you understand all of the constraints, or the implications of the constraints.

    Finally, while you are doing the best job you can, it is in your and the company's best interests to always try and make your manager aware of the downsides of his decisions in a polite and intelligent way.
  • by Nelson (1275) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @12:00PM (#3044840)
    If you don't know you won't be happy.


    Then you have to ask some hard questions. Can you get what you want working for someone else? For real? Are there decisions that are typically or likely going to be made that will ruin your dream?


    Lastly, what's it worth? Do you have the tools to do it?


    I worked at IBM. It's a great company. You can very easily get in to a nice routine there, never need to work a lot of overtime. Put your 40 in, get a decent raise every year, pick up your spec and churn out the code, show up to some meetings, go home raise some kids and a dog, buy that house with the picket fence.. It's safe and tame. You won't get fired but you probably won't work on really sexy stuff either. At age 23, after 5 years as a regular employee there (yes, I was a salaried software engineer for them) I wanted something more exciting.


    I went to a medium sized company with hands off managment. It's awesome in ways. We have a goal and some deadlines and complete freedom to build the product. And it's linux based. It's a dream come true, or is it? It takes radically different skills to work in that environment, you can't have team member who simply want a spec and a dark office with no interaction, team dynamics are critical. You need people who take initiative. You need bold people who are good communicators. With just a few "roll players" who want that 40 hours, pick-up-spec-drop-off-code-never-talk-to-anyone job, it becomes nearly impossible to make it work. Likewise, you can't work 40 hours a week, it's not enough time to "do it the right way" you find yourself working 50-60 hours a week and still not having enough time becuase you've got complete engineering freedom and you want to make it perfect as you see it. It's hard, it has it's rewards, but it takes a lot way from life also.
    After 2 years of that I walked away from that and started my own business.


    Running your own gig is different. There is a lot of work that has to get done before you can do the work. It's a lot of work. It has its moments and rewards, there are also times when I'd love to be back at IBM working my safe little 40 every week watching the stock options earn value. Is it worth it? I can't say yet. I can say that if I go back in to the corporate world it will be a safe and tame 40 so that I can easily put 10-15 in to something else outside of that.


    You'll never be completely fullfilled building someone else's dream or vision. Remember that. There will always be decisions and tough choices to make and ultimately they are going to want some return on their investment in you and the dream they have. As cool as the product may be, if you're not calling the shots then there are probably going to be times when things are going to upset you. It's also supposed to be work and you're supposed to have a life outside of that.

  • by Tomster (5075) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @01:17PM (#3045443) Homepage Journal
    First off: management is just as difficult as coding. There are lots of people writing code who are just 'winging it', you likely know a few where you are right now. The consequence of their mistakes is usually visible only to them or a handful of people on the development team (they or someone has to fix the bug, rework the code). Mistakes or poor choices at the management level are often visible throughout the organization.

    You want to feel that you are contributing towards a greater good, i.e. the successful completion of a useful application/system/product. That's a pretty normal desire. It looks like you're not getting this desire, or expectation, fulfilled at your present job. You never (or too rarely) get the sense of satisfaction and pride of finishing a project that's well designed and coded. What to do?

    One solution is to find a company where you can get those expectations met. Use your network of friends, find out who's working for "clueful" management.

    Another solution is to revise your expectations at your current job. If you are constantly disappointed by management decisions, quit expecting management to make decisions you like. Find another focus where you can derive satisfaction. Maybe you can become a mentor to those around you. Maybe you can find a project outside work to focus on, or a hobby. Maybe you can get satisfaction out of the code you write, and ignore whether it actually goes to production.

    These are just suggestions to get you thinking. Your answer will come from introspecting, thinking about what really satisfies you and motivates you. And then you have to figure out how to get it, in spite of your present situation at work, or again, by finding a new job.

    I do wish you good fortune in finding a place/way to be happier. It's difficult to do something when you aren't feeling motivated or rewarded.

    Regards,
    Thomas
  • Paradox? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spinality (214521) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @01:18PM (#3045449) Homepage
    From reading the posts here, it's clear that (nearly) all managers are idiots and (nearly) all companies are mismanaged. Therefore, to make a bazillion bucks, all you need to do is put together a business with smart managers instead of dumb ones, so that all the techs will be tickled pink to go to work, and product quality will soar. Right?

    Well, basically that's true, but if this were easy to do, everybody would be doing it. Companies don't deliberately make themselves inefficient. As a few posts have reminded us, management is not a precise science. Training can help but only to a certain extent (and the best training is probably running a Boy Scout troop rather than going to B-school). It's hard to be a good manager, hard to measure management performance, hard to balance the competing priorities that most managers face, and hard not to wind up shooting yourself in the foot.

    Which is not to excuse stupidity nor to discourage you from ridiculing morons; but just remember that if YOU were doing that job, you'd probably screw it up just as much, and maybe more.
  • by Paul Johnson (33553) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @05:01PM (#3047355) Homepage
    Part of my MSc (which also has a chunk of MBA-ish stuff thrown in).


    One of the key things is this: there is always a trade-off between cost, time and functionality (including quality). Furthermore in most cases it is better to be 50% over budget or missing 50% of your functionality than 10% over schedule. This varies according to situation of course, and there are plenty of counter-examples (e.g. air traffic control). But most project managers know that the success of their project rests in getting it in on time regardless of cost and quality.


    And they are right.


    If you miss a market window your potential market share starts to drop exponentially as competitors take the lead. But of course all your competitors know that too, and are desperately trying to hit the market window defined by your launch date.


    So when the PM comes down and tells you to get it shipped by Friday no matter how buggy it is, its not because he doesn't know his business, its because he does.


    Paul.

  • by reverend0 (560833) on Thursday February 21, 2002 @05:24PM (#3047522) Homepage Journal
    I think that many people feel that a technical manager is better, but I disagree. I don't totally disagree, but I do to some degree.

    A technical manager is good iff they know the limit to their knowledge. They shouldn't make decisions outside of their knowledge.

    A manager is good iff they support their employees to do their job (aka run interference).

    There are many qualities that make for a bad manager so we should best leave those alone.

    int main() {
    while (Manager_EMPLOYED) {
    for (int i=0; iDIRECT_REPORTS; i++) {
    if (employee[i] != HAPPY) {
    root = findRootProblem();
    correctProblem(root);
    }
    for (int i=0; iDIRECT_REPORTS; i++) {
    if (employee[i] == jobComplete) {
    giveRaise(employee[i]);
    }
    else {
    if (employee[i] == blocked) {
    runInterference(employee[i]);
    }
    else if (employee[i] == resourceStrapped) {
    realignProjectPlan();
    }
    }
    }
    doProjectPlan();
    doBudget();
    hire();
    fire();
    }
    }

    Probably needs some work but it is at least better than most I've worked with.
    rev

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