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Old 05-14-2007, 08:32 AM
Athena is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: May 1999
Location: da UP, eh
Posts: 13,461

Does the organization you work for really care about the work?

I'm bitter about my last job, which I quit about 2 months ago. It was a small software startup, owned by a local nonprofit organization. The goal was to write software that would both serve the owning company, and be sold to other similar companies.

I put my heart into that job; I worked long hours, I worked smart. I really had high hopes for it, and I believed in what they did. About a year in, I started to have my doubts. I started to see that things were not happening like they did in the software companies I'd worked for in the past. We were far behind on our projects primarily because we had half the software engineers and testers that the original plan had called for, but no new tech people were being hired. Instead, we hired project managers and office managers and management consultants. We moved to a new office, but none of the engineers were consulted on what kind of environment was needed. We were slapped in cubes surrounded by people on the phone all the time; it was impossible to concentrate enough to write quality code.

After two years, I quit. I keep looking back trying to figure out what went wrong. And suddenly, it dawned on me: the people in charge simply are not interested in doing what we set out to do. They are building their own little empire, using grant money and money from the non-profit that own them to guarantee themselves an easy job. They hire "managers" who are either friends or yes-men. They hire "consultants" because that looks like they're doing something, too. Writing software? Oh, they'll have a few engineers so that it looks like they're doing something. But really, that doesn't matter.

And the thing is, this is far from the only company in this town that's doing the same thing. I talk to friends, and they tell me the same thing; their company is overloaded with "managers" who are really cronies of the boss, and doing the work they are paid to do is secondary to brown-nosing and covering their asses.

Maybe I was lucky to spend most of my working life in companies where the work was #1. Maybe it's just a symptom of small town life - the good ol' boys club is alive and well here, there's no doubt about that. Maybe the truth of the matter is that most people really are barely competent when it comes to producing actual work, so they do have to hire 3 people to do one smart person's job, and small towns with low job turnover is where the practice is most visible.

So what's it like where you work? Is your company dedicated to whatever it is you do, or is it mostly a means for the cronies to provide for themselves and their friends?
Old 05-14-2007, 10:00 AM
Eureka is offline
Join Date: Sep 1999
Posts: 5,365
My dad works for a major manufacturing company, and has for more than 30 years. His exact role has changed several times, and right now he's thinking seriously of retiring. (If he could cut back to working 40 hours a week with no on-call hours and a few extra weeks of vacation time, that would be even better, but that's not really the way that industry works. )

Something he has commented on, several times, is that when he was young, the plant managers were all grey-haired men who knew what their equipment and their employees could and couldn't accomplish, and if the Vice President of the Year asked the impossible, the plant manager would cross his arms, dig in his heels and refuse. And the plant manager would usually win.

Now, Dad's not young (he's 61). The Plant Mangers, however, are young and they are somewhere on the ladder, dreaming of being Vice President of the Year--perhaps for some other company. So when the Vice President of the Year asks the impossible, the Plant Manager promises to do his or her best, and then pushes the plant equipment and employees to do the impossible. Dad doesn't like this. He's getting tired of training new bosses and new Plant Managers.

And he doesn't like the number of decisions which seem to be being made by the accountants, rather than the technical people. It is easier to make a consistant product if you have consistant supplies. The accountants encourage buying the least expensive supplies, and not worrying about the details.

And then there's the scheduling thing, which gets on his nerves. Some of the lines at the plant can run 24/7. This involves 4 crews, working 12 hour shifts on a schedule which gives them 2 days on, 2 days off, 3 nights on, 3 nights off. Extra money for night, Sunday or Holiday shifts. That's ok--doesn't really involve Dad, he's salaried. The part which gets on his nerves is the part where the plant manager panics that the company might have to store finished product--bad-- because sales are down, then Wal-Mart puts in their order for the next 3 months worth of product, and the plant manager panics because they can't make enough product in time, etc. If they picked a steady rate to make product at, rather than switching back and forth in a panic, it would be less stressful to all involved.

My mom's peeve is that the company in question pampers its salemen, and treats the employees at headquarters pretty well, but doesn't do a whole lot for the people who make it possible for the salesmen to have product to sell.

I'm not sure that any of this answers your question. But I've typed it, and I think it's going to stay.
Old 05-15-2007, 06:58 AM
groo is offline
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 1,007
I recently finished working on a three-year project where virtually everybody was obsessed with putting out a quality project. We went above and beyond everybody's expectations and even pulled two all-nighters in the lab, something I hadn't done in the previous 15 years. I think we accomplished the near-impossible, and even when we were killing ourselves, the mood was very upbeat.

My current project is in bad shape -- over-promised and underfunded. They recently "loaned out" half of the software team (including me, the software tech lead) to another project that's in terrible shape, so my main project is languishing while our schedule risk just keeps rising. The mood is completely different and I basically feel like I'm just putting in my hours. If I weren't mentoring a junior engineer (to whom I feel very responsible) I'd probably be demanding to transfer to a better-managed program. But it's not clear to me that there are other programs at the moment. However, in my experience, things come in cycles, and I expect that things will correct themselves (after a couple more reorgs).
Old 05-15-2007, 07:07 AM
Aspidistra is online now
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 5,539
The company I currently work for is now in its seventh year of operation. I have been employed there for about six and a half of those years.

Six months before I joined, "the company" was basically the two founders, in the front room of one of their houses, with a telephone, drumming up interest from investors.

We are now operational in about 20 countries (and counting), and will probably put on our 200th employee some time next month. We pretty much invented the field we're operating in - to the best of my knowledge nobody was making a serious attempt at doing the kind of stuff we do before we started doing it.

Everyone's pretty serious about what we do. And we have fun too, a lot of the time.

I ain't looking for a new job any time soon...
Old 05-15-2007, 08:01 AM
don't ask is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Australia
Posts: 18,299
The problem is that everyone only cares about what will get them a pat on the back. In my years as a QA manager I learned that the analysts and the programmers only cared about producing good product that actually worked. However the Project Managers only cared about pretending that the project was on schedule so they fucked up the work of the analysts and programmers and tried to impinge on the work of my staff.

I got sick of my solo campaign to get people to be honest about the progress of the project and simply swore off project work.
Old 05-15-2007, 08:29 AM
fishbicycle is offline
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 5,514
It's a radio station. The finished product is #1. There is an unspoken understanding that there must be a minimum standard of excellence below which we cannot go. So they hire people who know how to accomplish excellence, and let us go away and do it. We are not micromanaged, in fact we are hardly managed at all. We who make the sound that comes out of the speakers are unbothered by the other folks who run the place. That's where all the office politics are carried on without our participation. They don't know how to do our jobs; they hire people who already have that skill set and trust us to make them look good.

Over in Operations, we police ourselves. Our goal is not to make any mistakes, because all our mistakes are public. We are at the mercy of complicated automation software, which sometimes screws up, not only due to human input error, but some paramater of the program we haven't discovered was wrong in the first place until it's happened. And we are at the mercy of the mistakes of other producers and content providers. If they make bad radio and it goes out over our airwaves, it sounds like we're making bad radio. The public can't tell that it isn't our fault.

So yes, the management cares very much about the product. We made them #1 in the market because we know what we're doing, and they know it. It's win-win.
Old 05-15-2007, 04:49 PM
phouka is offline
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Escondido, CA
Posts: 6,731
My story:

I was laid off last week from my full time job as internal tech support. (S'okay, I have other things lined up.) I came there from a public school teaching position, so I felt like I had a lot to offer, especially when it came to training new employees both in my department and out at the stores our company owned.

It's not like I was a wet-behind-the-ears newbie. I had some of the best stats in the department by my third month there. I picked up the software quickly, and I've always had strong customer service skills.

I emailed my team manager and his boss offering to:

- rewrite the department training curriculum so that it took two weeks to get an employee phone-ready instead of three weeks
- re-organize the online tech library so that it had consistent key words, format, indexing, and cross-indexing
- write up some sort of webpage/hand out/what have you for the store level employees so they would know what info they needed when they called in to request a port security change, a workstation reimage, or whatever else
- survey store managers to discover what their specific tech training needs were
- anything else anyone could think of to help my department and the company work more efficiently.

All I got back was the sound of crickets chirping.

At my six month review, I pointed out that I'd taken the initiative in several different directions. At the "weekly" (more like semi-annual) team meetings, my boss asked me to stay after and explained to me that I would not be allowed to work any extra projects because "it wasn't fair to the employees who didn't feel comfortable asking for more work."

Fuck me! I thought this was a for-profit company, not some fake-PC pre-school.

Now I'm teaching at a small private school where the principal is thrilled and delighted that I have suggestions and I'm willing to take on extra work.


My mom's story:

My parents moved out to California, and my mom left behind a rewarding job teaching nursing students at a small, very rigorous private hospital school. She did find a job as the head of a small, private school in southern California. That's where the similarities stopped.

At her former workplace, heads rolled if the percentage of graduating students passing the Nursing Bar Exam went below 95%. At the new school, they Just Didn't Care. The only way my mom finally got them to start acknowledging that they needed to increase the pass rate was to point out that they might find themselves the subject of a class action lawsuit by the students AND the board of nursing examiners would shut down the school if they didn't get the pass rate up to at least 80%.

She never was able to convince them to get accredidation.

After five years of battle after fight after struggle, she gave up, and my mom does not give up easily.

She quit and took a job as a regular RN at Disneyland.

Whatever else you may say about Das Maus, that shit runs on time, and it better damn well be good. She likes them, they like her. The world is as the world should be.


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