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Friday, August 29, 2008

FSK Got Fired!

I got fired today! I was slightly worried, because I could tell the new boss was trash-talking me behind my back. Still, I couldn't believe they were that stupid! I was the only one getting any work done!

I was doing bugfixes in their old Java system, while the Rails people were spinning their wheels and wasting time. I assumed that would continue for a few more months, until they realized the Rails project was a disaster (or I found a new job).

They got tired of me saying "Rails sucks!", so they got rid of me.

Actually, it's not much loss. They're entering "death march" mode. They're imposing "mandatory 80 hour workweeks". That's one way to guarantee failure, in addition to the ones they've already implemented. It was the idiot new manager's idea to start a death march. "People who work less than 80 hours per week aren't pulling their weight!"

I did get a bit angry. I said "YOU HAVE NO ****ING CLUE ABOUT WRITING SOFTWARE!! YOU WILL NEVER HAVE A WORKING PRODUCT!!"

After I left, two of the marketing owners came out to say goodbye. They asked me what went wrong. They did seem genuinely concerned that their $500M business opportunity is being flushed down the toilet. I told them to give me a call if they're ever serious about running a software company. They left open the possibility of bringing me back in a few months when they realize the people currently managing their software can't deliver. Hopefully, I'll have a new job by then. Firing the Rails advocate and the idiot new boss would be the baseline negotiating point, if they were serious. I should also demand a few % of the company in options.

I feel bad for the marketing owners. Some of them seemed sincerely nice. I feel bad that they got screwed over. I did my best. I'm not responsible for the failure of their business, or the squandering of their $500M-$1B opportunity.

Seriously, their company would be worth $200M-$500M if they had a website that worked. I could write it by myself in a month or two. I could name at least 10 other people who could do the same thing. Seeing them struggle to develop their product makes me realize that I'm more valuable than I thought! It's one thing to have an idea and promote it. It's another thing to have a website that runs.

In the financial industry, the vast majority of managers are faking it. The CEOs are definitely faking it, and the fakers follow on down the hierarchy. Someone who's faking it will almost never hire someone who really knows what he's doing. The Rails advocate was actually above-average by boss standards, but below-average by software engineer standards.

Seeing them struggle to get a simple website developed makes me realize that a good technical person is much more valuable that I think. It's one thing for a bunch of "marketing wizards" to start a company. It's another thing to have a working website.

From my point of view, hiring someone competent who can write your website is trivial. I can name at least 10 people I've worked with in my career who could do it as well as me, or better. The difficult part is "Which 10 people would you choose, of the 100 people I've worked with?" From my point of view, the choice is obvious. However, that's not the choice other people would make!

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

The phrase "trimming flowers and cultivating weeds" comes to mind here.

Oh, well, take a few weeks and decompress. Don't even start looking for a job - would be my advice. If you wanna write some code, great-- but see this as a well deserved vacation from idiocy!

thomasblair said...

Write the code for the website yourself and shop it to the two marketing guys who really seems to give a shit about their business opportunity.

If they've got a $200M-$500M company on their hands as long as they have a working site, you've got a $1M-$5M plus options opportunity knocking at your door if you do it yourself and present them with a working product.

barry b. said...

Hey FSK,

Good work and glad to see you are making progress. Most people never have the nerve (balls) to say what they really think to the powers that be. I'm glad to see that you not only speak your mind here - but in the 'real' world as well.... always a fan.

Barry B

Anonymous said...

Come work for us at FINCAD. We need great developers for our financial system. That is, if you don't mind coming to Vancouver, BC...

PJM said...

I was where you were once before. I do write some S/W, but I would not call myself an S/W engineer. Don't get angry or cynical. I did. It is a waste of time. You potentially have a *HUGE* opportunity in front of you. Stop thinking like a slave.

You said that two of the marketing owners seemed a bit sympathetic to you and you left it open with them to give you a call. This is the beginning of your marketing connections - something you said was lacking.

How long would it take them to build a working product, now that FSK has left? You seem pretty confident that they won't. How long would it take *YOU* to write it, using the language/technologies of your choice?

You know what their vision is. That is crucial. If you really think they have a company that would be worth $200-500M and that is contingent on what what you were building.

You live at home w/ your parents. Financially, they may be willing to carry you while you write this thing. You may NEVER have the chance in your lifetime again to have someone else foot the bills while you do this. Oh, you can still look for a job , but you can focus on the product in the meantime. Leave your blog alone for while, if necessary.

So write it. Write it in the language and technologies you know are correct. Make notes of ideas enhancements along the way, but only implement the features needed to house their vision. Make notes of "nice to haves". Slap your stuff on VMWare Server (it's free), if you need to. After you have a working prototype, call up the two marketing owners to meet with them offsite, as having the Rails people around may distract you and the owners.

Show them your work. You want them to salivate. Keep it friendly and be excited but relaxed when you present. FSK is going to put on the marketing hat. Explain business value and advantages to your technical decisions (not too technical though). Your job is to translate everything to business value. Watch their body language. One thing I noticed about marketing guys - they are attuned to bullshit as they have dished enough of it out. If they ask lots of questions, that's good. If they get quiet but you have their rapt attention, that is *REALLY* good.

The marketing owners are the decision makers, right? FSK has a working product. What do they have? Death march/80 hour per week employees scrambling to produce a product with skills they don't have? FSK, you can bet whatever remains of their development group are polishing their resumes and looking to bail at the first opportunity - except for the new manager you describe, of course.

If the marketing owners bite, then you can negotiate terms. Ask to be CTO. Fire the new manager ;). Ensure you get a stake/share in the company with clear "trigger events" defined . For example, if company IPOs within X timeframe, triggers A, B, and C fire. If it DOESN'T IPO, triggers, D, E, and F fire. Define payout schedules and handcuff clauses. Anyway, I am probably getting ahead of myself.

You may be sitting on a HUGE potential, FSK. Think it through. Don't be pissed off and run to another corporate wage slave job, without thinking this one through. I broke out of that 10 years ago and contract/consult for a living now under my own company. My boss is an asshole. Oh wait, that's me. :)

I would like you to do well.

gilliganscorner said...

I was where you were once before. I do write some S/W, but I would not call myself an S/W engineer. Don't get angry or cynical. I did. It is a waste of time. You potentially have a *HUGE* opportunity in front of you. Stop thinking like a slave.

You said that two of the marketing owners seemed a bit sympathetic to you and you left it open with them to give you a call. This is the beginning of your marketing connections - something you said was lacking.

How long would it take them to build a working product, now that FSK has left? You seem pretty confident that they won't. How long would it take *YOU* to write it, using the language/technologies of your choice?

You know what their vision is. That is crucial. If you really think they have a company that would be worth $200-500M and that is contingent on what what you were building.

You live at home w/ your parents. Financially, they may be willing to carry you while you write this thing. You may NEVER have the chance in your lifetime again to have someone else foot the bills while you do this. Oh, you can still look for a job , but you can focus on the product in the meantime. Leave your blog alone for while, if necessary.

So write it. Write it in the language and technologies you know are correct. Make notes of ideas enhancements along the way, but only implement the features needed to house their vision. Make notes of "nice to haves". Slap your stuff on VMWare Server (it's free), if you need to. After you have a working prototype, call up the two marketing owners to meet with them offsite, as having the Rails people around may distract you and the owners.

Show them your work. You want them to salivate. Keep it friendly and be excited but relaxed when you present. FSK is going to put on the marketing hat. Explain business value and advantages to your technical decisions (not too technical though). Your job is to translate everything to business value. Watch their body language. One thing I noticed about marketing guys - they are attuned to bullshit as they have dished enough of it out. If they ask lots of questions, that's good. If they get quiet but you have their rapt attention, that is *REALLY* good.

The marketing owners are the decision makers, right? FSK has a working product. What do they have? Death march/80 hour per week employees scrambling to produce a product with skills they don't have? FSK, you can bet whatever remains of their development group are polishing their resumes and looking to bail at the first opportunity - except for the new manager you describe, of course.

If the marketing owners bite, then you can negotiate terms. Ask to be CTO. Fire the new manager ;). Ensure you get a stake/share in the company with clear "trigger events" defined . For example, if company IPOs within X timeframe, triggers A, B, and C fire. If it DOESN'T IPO, triggers, D, E, and F fire. Define payout schedules and handcuff clauses. Anyway, I am probably getting ahead of myself.

You may be sitting on a HUGE potential, FSK. Think it through. Don't be pissed off and run to another corporate wage slave job, without thinking this one through. I broke out of that 10 years ago and contract/consult for a living now under my own company. My boss is an asshole. Oh wait, that's me. :)

I would like you to do well.

Anonymous said...

jobs are very seldom about technical merit. CEOs and the rest arent faking it, they succeeded by mastering a different set of skills. no one ever said the world was supposed to go forward, or that all projects should get built. in some cases i've seen firing a good dev was the best political move for the manager, and they did well from it. The best devs i've seen very rarely get into arguments, they put their case clearly, technically and relate it all to the business objectives... if that fails... they get a new job asap and go were the odds are more in their favour. IT is all about the odds, as is finance, as is life.

tomofindiana said...

FSK,
I am new to your blog, but enjoy your diverse commentary. I agree with "PJM". You self admittedly are not a "Marketing Guy", so maybe part of the problem is you may not have marketed yourself enough to management? I know from recent experience that it is a tough job market for most coders and almost not worth being a slave. If you have the luxury of taking some time off and living at home affords you the opportunity to be entrepreneurial, go for it! You should think about the project while it is fresh in your head and possibly appeal to the marketing owners as a viable project maybe even done in parallel by you at home if you can single handedly beat the rails camp. Good luck and keep us posted.

eagledove9 said...

My first response to that was "Oh no!" It would have been easier in some ways if you could hunt for a second job while still working at your first one.

Somehow, it is always humiliating to get fired, even if the place was falling apart and you were getting ready to leave anyway. You can't help wishing that they would come to their senses: you said several times that the website could still have been built if it were done some other way that didn't use Rails.

This is just a theory, but I wonder if they were going bankrupt for some reason that had nothing to do with their website or any other projects? Maybe in the background, they were speculating on some stocks, or something, and lost a lot of money during the chaos going on in the financial industry? And it had nothing to do with the actual legitimate activities of the company? If that happened, it might explain why the company went into self-destruct mode. They might have lost so much money speculating that they couldn't think clearly anymore to actually keep running the business and trying to continue like everything was normal. Like I said, just a theory. There are lots of other theories for why they got so messed up.

It would be great if you worked someplace doing a job you enjoyed with people who were really cooperating with you. There are people who value the work you do and care about whether you're happy.

gilliganscorner said...

BTW,

One last thing. Where did the two marketing guys get their seed capital from? The clock must be ticking. How long before the sugar daddies want to see ROI?

BTW, PJM is an old handle of mine. Sorry about the double post.

sunni said...

Congratulations! Perhaps this can be the beginning of a more voluntaryist way of supporting yourself—from what I've seen, being a consultant has the potential of a fat hourly wage, travel perks (if you want to do that), and various ways to tweak your pay so that you're taxed less.

Good luck with whatever path you choose from here.

Zargon said...

It seems that those two owners are aware of at least the possibility they're getting duped by the new manager, given their actions.

That will clearly be valuable if you decide to write their website on your own and sell it to them.

With the beginning of 80 hour work weeks, would you really have been going back there on Monday anyways? I know I'd be cleaning out my desk as soon as I heard that announcement.

This Blog Has Moved!

My blog has moved. Check out my new blog at realfreemarket.org.