Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Has to

One of the things I've come to hate when it comes to jobs is when the boss says "it has to be done by …". Whenever I hear that, I see red. Seriously. What does that even mean? The world will end if that task is not done in time? Global warming, zombie invasion, what?

As far as I can tell, what it actually means is "I / someone made a booboo and promised the customer that it will be done by … Can you save my / their ass?" Now, this makes sense. A mistake was made (not by me) and I am being asked to fix it. The mistake might actually be costly - the company might lose a hundred thousand dollars if the task is not done on time.

Which leads me to the second problem: why is it that, when someone else makes the mistake and I am supposed to fix it, I never get any of the benefits? Why is this problem never put as "I've made a mistake that is going to cost the company $100K unless you finish the job by Friday. However, if you do, I'll give you a $30K bonus"?

This has actually happened to me. I worked for a company that bought another one for its flagship product. Only, they forgot to pay attention to the fine print and discovered that the source code for the product was not included in the sale - they could run it but couldn't see / change what it did. (I mean, really, who does that?) Anyway, me and a colleague stayed at the office and wrote that product, from scratch, in two days. (We never left for home until it was finished.) We didn't even get a "good job", let alone a bonus.

Of course, if I "dare" to restate the problem this way, what usually happens is that I'm being told that my reward is keeping my job. Which is doubly stupid - firing me won't make the problem get solved any faster, so either you can't do it or the problem wasn't that big in the first place.

Anyway… I was reading Scott's list and one of the comments triggered this rant. As for the list itself, if I knew all that - as in "always have it in memory", not "knows how to look it up when needed" I would probably ask for a salary at Anders Hejlsberg's level. In fact, Atwood has a great response to that list: "Memorizing the answers to difficult technical questions won't save our jobs."

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