OKAY, I’VE PUT UP WITH IT for a few years, trying to be a good soldier, tolerating the intolerable, learning the ropes, biding my time, swallowing my gall. No more interactive or web-developer crap for me, not unless the work conditions are very congenial, with good-looking and well-dressed people; and the “developer” side of the job has to be just an adjunct to the work, not the whole thing.
I just got out of a particularly ugly position at the magazine-publishing subsidiary of a megacorporation I worked for many years ago. It was fun for a year or two (this time around, I mean). Then it stopped being fun when the Good People left. Not coincidentally, the mutant who had been hired as the new ‘director’ of my department took a firm dislike to me. My impression was that this was because I was older, cuter, smarter, and had a far better background. Mr Mutant might have described it somewhat differently: I just didn’t fit in. I was not part of his swords-and-sorcery videogameboy subculture; I didn’t share his blue-collar computer-science mindset. A bigger factor was that our internal clients (or “editors,” as they are sometime called) did not like Mr Mutant. They wanted to get rid of him. Mr Mutant decided that their dislike of him was somehow due to me, and that together the editors and I were bad-mouthing him. So Mr Mutant took preemptive action. He harassed me for a few months, accusing me of obscure crimes, and telling all sorts of porkies to the HR functionaries. Then the day came when I was suddenly let go. The reason is unclear. I may have been fired, I may have been laid off; we may find out more when Arbitration kicks in.
AS I SAY, THE JOB WAS FUN (albeit stressful) for the first couple of years. We had some nice people and a nice collegial feeling. This wasn’t just luck. The higher-ups had made a huge outsourcing mistake a few years before, and now were struggling to climb out of it. Around 2007 they began to give half the development work to commoditized Asians. Some of the Asian workers were off in Hindustan; others got shipped in on work visas, and worked onsite, commuting in from nasty little accommodations an hour or two away in New Jersey. The Indian contractors were an inefficient solution to a problem that didn’t really exist. By using the Indians, we would save a bucket of money; that was the main idea. But in order to get that savings of (let’s say) $350,000 the company had to spend about $350,000 managing the Indians, and another million, perhaps, in loss of goodwill, institutional memory, and recruitment opportunities (because serious employees don’t want to work in a place where half the work is outsourced). Furthermore our Asians, whether onsite or offsite, couldn’t really communicate with our editors; they were nothing more than fungible pairs of hands, doing discrete tasks that had to be planned and delineated, and then thrown away and begun again. And again. And again.
The company learned its lesson and we gradually put together a nice in-house staff, including me. Then Mr Mutant comes in and reverses the process. He hires a half-dozen new developers. No Americans, no Caucasians, mostly third-worlders. The “good” people leave. Willy-nilly, we are soon back where we were two years before, wasting time and money. Morale goes down the drain. Last I heard, Mr Mutant was still in place, but he’ll undoubtedly be gone by the time you read this.
WHY DID I put myself put through all this? It’s not as though I couldn’t do a hundred other things, and do them better. I suppose it was like running the Boston Marathon: I easily qualified, but then found it wasn’t something I wished to do year after year. My bowels turn to jelly at the contemplation of ever doing it again.
So I should close down Developer Hell, where I’ve had to hide most of my posts anyway. Henceforth I’ll confine my workaday carping to something called margotdarby.com.