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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Reader Mail #64 - Job Comments

There's one question I have now. Should I send a copy of my blog to the marketing owners of my former employer? My guess is "No. My correct attitude is '**** them!' If they can't manage their business properly, that's no longer my problem." If they decide they're serious about running a software company, then it's their job to contact me. I probably should ask some of them to be references.

There were so many comments regarding my work issues that I'm making a separate "Reader Mail" post just for this.

I'd already started actively looking for a job a week ago. I already have a bunch of interviews lined up for next week. Looking at Craigslist, there's a lot more postings compared to a couple of months ago. Plus, I'm qualified for more types of jobs now. I have more Java experience, and PHP experience. I didn't realize that most PHP jobs are listed as "LAMP". (Linux, Apache, mySql, Php) An idiot headhunter doing keyword screening, won't match "PHP" and "LAMP". Technically, I was using WAMP on my dev box (Windows + AMP), but LAMP for the production server.

I really need to find someone who'll do more than the typical headhunter "keyword screening". If you do a keyword screening, most headhunters say "Your 7 years of C/C++ experience has a market value of $0. We want a C#/.NET programmer." Some say "We're looking for a C++/UNIX programmer. Your C++/Windows experience is worth $0." In this manner, most idiot hiring managers are doing it wrong.

Seeing so much foolish behavior on the job market is a dead giveaway that the USA does not have a free market. In a true free market, someone with a clue would start their own company and clean out their competitors.

The idiot new manager orchestrated my firing. My direct bosses were the ones who pulled the trigger, but the idiot new manager manipulated it. I could tell the change in attitude over the past week or two. A lot more hostility was directed towards me.

This way, the idiot new manager has clean hands. He didn't make the decision to fire me, so it's not his fault. Now, the idiot manager can say "Rails sucks!", which he knows to be true since I was saying it! He's the type of guy who can singlehandedly wreck a company.

About 2 weeks ago, they had a meeting where the Rails advocate gave a demo of what had been accomplished so far, after 3 months of work. It was obviously a turd. The Rails advocate said "This is awesome!" The idiot new manager said "Looks good!" The marketing owners totally bought it. I couldn't figure out who was most pathetic, and couldn't stop laughing during the meeting. If that was all I accomplished in 3 months of work, I'd be totally embarrassed. I could have easily finished the whole thing by myself in 3 months, if I were allowed to use a language/platform that didn't suck. I'm thinking that ASP.NET/C# is the best choice.

Zargon has left a new comment on your post "Idiots vs Reality #2":

That's almost unbelievable. It would be sorely tempting to publicly call him out over it, but in the end, that only has the potential to benefit the owners, rather than you. You might mention it to the other intelligent employees, but as you said, the owners deserve what's coming to them.

Well, they deserve what they got.

I'm pretty sure that the idiot new manager arranged my firing, even though the Rails advocate pulled the trigger.

The idiot new manager is such a powerful evil force! I could literally see him changing the personality of other people. Before, my bosses were "40 hours/week is fine. We judge you solely by productivity." Now, their attitude was "Death march ahead! We don't care that you're our most productive programmer. We're firing you for not doing your fair share of work!"

If the idiot new manager is able to change people's personality towards evil/insane, then can I change people's personality towards good/sane?

Here's the evil truth. The current economic and political system is run by people like that idiot new manager. Psychopaths totally get their way, without resistance most of the time. They face isolated resistance from people like me, but people like me are easily discredited and discarded.

An interesting, though risky, option (should it even be feasible, given your practical & legal situation) is to write the website in your free time, and after you jump ship, give them a demo and make a standing offer of something like $1-5M for the website and optionally several hundred dollars an hour to maintain it as a consultant for some amount of time. If it's possible to write during a period of unemployment, that might be best.

It isn't worth the legal risk. If there's one thing marketing people know how to do, it's how to sue someone.

Suppose I made a working website on my PC at home. Suppose I demoed it to them. They could claim it's their property, citing my previous non-compete and non-disclosure agreement.

If I'm going to work on something in my spare time, I'd do something productive. I'd work on an agoristBay engine. I'd work on writing an XNA game. I'd work on my blog.

Financial software has a true economic value of $0. I'm wasting my time writing financial software.

Obviously, they'd laugh at you, and maybe threaten legal action to make you hand it over, which is why you would need to be damn sure of what your employment contract says, and store your work in a secure location anyways, but if their potential customers start realizing down the line they're all talk and no walk, they might get desperate. Or they might not, in which case you'd be out a month's worth of effort.

Exactly. They're desperate and insane. I don't want a protracted legal struggle. Suppose they offer me $50k for my program, and I refuse. Do I want to be involved in a lawsuit? From their point of view, they'd be offended. "Why should we pay FSK 1% of our company, worth $5M, for 2 months of work?"

Courts tend to interpret non-disclosure and non-compete agreements favorably towards the employer. Especially facing an expensive attorney, the dispute would most likely be resolved in their favor.

Did you hear about the guy who wrote a killer Facebook application, and then a previous employer claimed it was their IP?

There are other productive things I can do with a month of time.

Mike has left a new comment on your post "Idiots vs Reality #2":

Find the new job, then tell them where to stuff it?

What actually transpired was "Get fired, tell them to stuff it on the way out."

Telling them to stuff it on the way out may not have been so bad. I got the wheels turning in the minds of the marketing owners. The odds of them hiring someone else who knows what they're doing are negligible, essentially zero.

Now that I'm gone, the iditos can spin it "FSK was a lousy employee. We're glad he's gone."

Also, the idiot new boss can now start arguing "Rails sucks!" If the idiot new boss said "Rails sucks!" while I was there, he would be providing support to me. Now, he can loudly say "Rails sucks!", he'll be right, and he won't be reinforcing me.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Idiots vs Reality #2":

I've been in almost exactly the same situaiton (schmuck boss who was literally a gradeschool teacher in his prior job, thinking he could lead engineers and lying thru his teeth the whole time.) I confronted the CEO with his actions, and found that he had been telling her tales about me to undermine my credibility.

There definitely was a noticeable change in other people's attitude since the idiot new boss arrived. There was a lot more hostility towards me. Previously, I would have been working on minor bugs. Then, I was working on "OMFG!!! MAJOR ISSUES!!! WHY WEREN'T THEY FIXED IN FIVE MINUTES??!!"

(I don't suffer fools lightly so it was probably obvious to him what I really thought of him, though I was trying.)

I didn't bother pretending I respected the idiot new manager. People like him can see through that sort of thing, anyway. The biggest threat to a professional faker is someone who knows what he's doing!

I confronted her with proof, but she was unwilling to consider the possibility. So, I went back to my office, ostensibly to work on my "plan for fixing the mess [that my boss caused]" which she'd asked me for... an hour later I walked into her office with some paper in my hand. She said "That was a lot quicker than I expected!" and I said "Its not what you expect". Handed her the resignation letter and walked out the front door. Fortunately, I had been figuring that this might happen for a couple weeks so my desk had already been cleaned out, etc. I just gave her the letter, and walked out of the building, letting the other engineers know that I'd resigned on the way out.

I'd mentally quit, rather than literally quit. I was avoiding working on the Rails project, knowing it was a disaster. I figured I would do fixes in the old Java system for a few more months, until they realized the Rails project was a disaster. I also started actively looking for a new job.

I can't tell you how much pleasure it was to see the shock on her face when I resigned (She thought I was like all the other interchangeable schmucks who would work for too little money and put up with broken promises.)

And I can't tell you how great it felt to fire that fucking company!

They didn't last more than 4-5 months after that.

I don't give these guys more than a few months either. They're going to blow through their seed funding. If they raise more money, they're giving up a bigger chunk of their company. Their valuation isn't going to increase, because they don't have a working product. At some point, their customers will lose interest if they don't have a product. With a website like theirs, the value of their website is O(n^2), where n is the number of customers. They already have a large number of interested customers, which is a huge hurdle and marketing accomplishment. They don't have a working product.

The sad part is that it really was an amazing opportunity. If they had a working website, their valuation would be $250M-$500M. The marketing guys really did do a great job of promoting their product and generating interest, even though it was mostly vaporware.

I actually feel relived that it's over.

In the future, use salary and options as a measure of the company. Seems you got neither, which means that the people making the offer were assholes. IF they aren't impressing you with how much they want you, either by how much they will pay you, or by the cut of the company (on a fully diluted basis, of course) that they're giving you, then don't take the job.

They gave vague promises of lucrative option grants. They never made a written offer. They said "We'll have a formal options plan in a month or two." I've been cheated by that *TWICE* now.

I didn't have a strong bargaining position, so I didn't press the issue.

If you're in the first couple of engineers at a startup, you should be getting at least %1 of the company, vested over 4 years or less. A worthwhile company will give you between %5 and %50 (depending on how early you are and how much of the total business is based on engineering, etc.)

This business was half-software, half-marketing. However, I was not the senior software guy. I was actually listed as "junior software engineer" in their HR database (with 10 years of experience!). In this case, 0.25%-0.5% probably would have been fair. If you consider a sale price of $500M, plus dilution as more capital is raised, that would still be a decent paycheck for 2-4 years of work.

If they aren't offering significant upside, then its better to get a job at market wages at an insurance company, or some such-- no reason to take startup pressure with no upside!

Actually, it was pretty laid-back initially. When the Rails project started going off course, then the pressure intensified. I prefer a laid-back environment.

Regrettably, an insurance company or other big corporation won't hire me. First, I've switched jobs too often. Second, my experience is no longer in the "latest hot trendy thing". Third, I'm the type of person would would point out that the emperor is naked, which makes me unattractive to the typical nudist hiring manager.

Plus, as you have found out, the people who aren't worth working for are also the people who don't pay well. Good pay tells you that the working conditions are more likely to be decent.

Yes, I know. In this case, I'd been unemployed for a long time and didn't have a strong bargaining position. They seemed decent, so I accepted a raw deal. Their vague verbal promises of options were not fulfilled. I figured that I would at least get some experience (Java and PHP) that would help me find my next job.

Good luck! And remember, you don't owe them the next release. You don't owe them completion of the project.

You can walk out tomorrow with no regrets. But if another job is what you're doing next, line one up first. (I didn't in the case above, but wasn't on the market long.)

I was planning to give them my fair 2 weeks' notice when I found a new job and quit.

I didn't expect things to go downhill so quickly. I could tell they were headed in the wrong direction and the idiot new manager was angling to fire me. I didn't think they would move so quickly! I thought I was getting along well with the marketing owners, and I didn't get any "FSK is about to get fired" vibes from them. I wonder if the idiot managers fired me without consulting with the marketing owners first?

gyakusetsu has left a new comment on your post "Idiots vs Reality #2":

Code that P2P bartering program. I'd pay to see a copy.

I've been thinking about that. That would be a more effective use of my time than writing a website for my now-former employer.

How much? Should I solicit bids? I'll post a specification. I've been considering doing this. I think that a network of trustworthy trading partners is worth more than a piece of software.

"Write some software" is easy. The real work is trading with tangible in-person goods.

If I wrote my "agoristBay" engine, it would also be generally useful to find interesting content on the Internet. "Engine to find good agorist trading partners" and "generally good social networking engine" are almost equivalent.

Most social networking software falls short in the "trust metric" area. With agorists, trust is supremely important. With most social networking engines, the "friend" operation is boolean, and usually symmetric. Technically, it should be a float and non-symmetric. For example, you could say "I trust FSK. He has an awesome blog!" I could say "Who are you?" There's also a difference between "I trust FSK 10%" and "I trust FSK 90%".

BTW, my "Idiots vs. Reality" post series has been highly-plagiarized, according to Google. Some spam blogs have imported my RSS feed. The spam blogs are getting smarter. They're stripping out links back to my site. I'm not dignifying the spam blogs with a link, boosting their PageRank. Google "Idiots vs. Reality" if you want to see spam blogs plagiarizing me.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "FSK Got Fired!":

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

I hadn't heard that one before. It had zero references in Google.

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!

I'd already started looking. I have some interviews lined up next week. I have a really cool one lined up on Friday afternoon. (All my interviews next week are at 5:30. I thought I'd still be employed!) Ideally, "job" and "hanging out with idiots" would have no overlap.

Here's the way I look at it. My *REAL* job is "Get an agorist free market economy started." My "source of income" is writing useless software for idiots.

thomasblair has left a new comment on your post "FSK Got Fired!":

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.

That was suggested above.

First, there would be legal risk involved with doing that. I could give them a demo, and then they could sue me claiming it's their IP.

Second, I know I could do it without effort. I don't have to prove it. If they want it, they should do it with a formal contract.

Third, financial software has an economic value of $0. If I'm going to write software in my spare time, it should be something genuinely useful. I've been considering writing an "agoristBay" engine. It'd be cool to write an XNA game.

barry b. has left a new comment on your post "FSK Got Fired!":

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.

Getting fired is progress?

I don't have patience for fools anymore. If someone's intent on ruining their business, then why should I waste my time on them?

In this case, "speaking my mind" included several obvious things:
  1. Ruby on Rails sucks!
  2. The Rails project is badly mismanaged, in addition to the mistake of using Rails in the first place.
  3. I could write their website by myself in 1-2 months. Anyone with a clue about software could do this. The trick is "How does someone who knows nothing about software hire someone skilled instead of a con artist."
  4. The genius new manager was really an unqualified dishonest ****sucker. A startup does not need a "software architect" who can't write a single line of code himself. If you're a technical employee in a small software startup, then at least 50% of your time should be spent writing code or fixing bugs. They had the "too many chiefs, not enough indians" problem.
Surprisingly, recognizing someone as an unqualified dishonest ****sucker is a rare skill. Everyone else was totally snowed by this guy. He was a *GREAT* faker. He'd been doing it his whole career! He had an "excellent track record", because he always managed to deflect the blame for failure elsewhere.

Now that I'm out of the picture, the unqualified idiot has no true enemies. (Declaring "FSK is my enemy!" is equivalent to saying "Reality is my enemy!") The bullseye is now squarely on the Rails advocate. The project is a disaster, and the genius new manager isn't going to take the blame. I was making decent progress with patches and bugfixes in the barely maintainable Java garbage. Good luck finding someone else qualified for the pittance they're offering! Besides, the unqualified idiot now has veto power over new hires. He's going to make sure they don't hire anyone good!

There are other good software engineers. The odds of landing one when you're offering almost no salary and "death march" conditions are negligible. If I were given a decent chunk of equity to promise new hires, I probably could get someone good. I could attract good resumes just by writing a job ad that didn't read like a keyword screening, "Need n years in language X."

I consider "disagreeing with FSK" to be equivalent to "disagreeing with reality". If you align your personal reality with anti-truth, then you won't like me. There's only one version of real reality. There are many different versions of anti-reality.

BTW, do you remember the incident in Idiots vs. Reality #2! The idiot new manager performed a successful mindwipe! I asked people about it again, and they said "The idiot new manager never tried to take credit for FSK's idea." He totally retconned it!

One of the skills I acquired during my "illness" was "The ability to prevent other people from altering my memories." I never realized that's a superpower!

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "FSK Got Fired!":

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...

I'm not interested in moving. Should I reveal where I live, in case I can get a job via my blog? If you've been paying attention carefully, you should be able to figure out where I live.

gilliganscorner has left a new comment on your post "FSK Got Fired!":

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.

At this point, I'd be more interested in "We're starting a brand new business" rather than "bail out their sorry asses". The idiot new manager invested a chunk of his own money in my now-former employer. If I make the business worth $500M, then I'm also making a fortune for the idiot new manager!

I gave them my E-Mail. If they're interested, they'll contact me. In a few more months, when they don't have a working product, they might be more sympathetic. In order to have a better bargaining position, I should wait for them to contact me. Perhaps, I should send them a goodbye E-Mail, along with "BTW, here's a link to my blog."? On the other hand, perhaps leaving without another word is probably best.

I thought of sending my blog to the marketing guys. Should I? I still have the work E-Mail addresses!

Right now, I'll focus on looking for a new job.

There are lots of people who could singlehandedly write their website in 1-2 months. The problem is "Who do you hire?" If you're a marketing specialist with zero knowledge of software, you're almost definitely going to hire a con artist instead of a genuine software engineer. If you hire a software engineer based on their marketing ability, that's almost exactly the wrong approach.

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?

Based on their current approach, they will have a working product NEVER. That's my fair and unbiased estimate. It would take me 1-2 months. I'd probably use ASP.NET/C#. I'd also consider PHP, but there are back-end tasks that can't be written in PHP.

Even if they had a $1B budget, the idiot new manager would find a way to squander it.

Maybe they'll succeed in getting the Rails project to work. If I could buy put options on their business, I would.

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.

Of all the people in the software group, I'm the only one who really understood the business logic.

There's a couple of important software principles.

First, if you pick a good design, making changes is trivial. Don't go for 100% perfection on the first try. Get for something that mostly works, show it to the users, get feedback, and make changes.

If I'm not currently working there, I'm cut out of the "show it to the users, get feedback, make changes" loop. However, I still understand their product better than anyone else.

Second, what the users ask for isn't always right. If they ask for something slightly wrong, do what you think is right instead. You can always make changes later. Usually, the correct feature is somewhere inbetween both. If you have a working prototype to demo, and your design isn't stupid, then changes are easy. It's much easier for a non-software-expert to comment on a feature when he has a working demo.

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.

My parents are not supportive of me. They are giving financial support, but not emotional support. They are saying "FSK got fired because FSK is a loser!" That's the wrong attitude, but they're too old to change. By default, they assume that all the bad things that have happened to me are a direct result of a mistake I made. They don't even get "The 'chemical imbalance' theory of mental illness is nonsense."

Realistically, I can't work on my own business while stuck here. My first goal is interpersonal freedom, which includes getting my own apartment. To appease my parents, I must get a regular slave job for now. (That sucks, but my freedom is restricted due to my illness. If I can avoid relapsing for another year and have a steady job, then I can justify moving out. I'd move out today if I could manage it without resistance from them.)

Working as an agorist while living with my parents is infeasible, because they'd say "OMFG!! That's illegal!" They'd be the first ones testifying against me in the event of an IRS audit.

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.

I'm not sure that would work. If they specifically hired me to do it, I'd consider it. I should wait a few months until they're more desperate.

I'm concerned about the legal risk. If I gave them a working demo, then they could sue me, claiming it was their IP.

The marketing guys did seem like genuinely nice guys. However, they picked total fools/scumbags to run their technology group. That reflects badly on them. I can't believe they started a software company without knowing a competent programmer to hire as co-founder.

Here's another important point. If you're starting a software business, then one of the co-founders *MUST* be someone who can write most of the prototype/first version by himself in a few months. If you don't know someone qualified to do this, then you have no business starting a software company.

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.

They also have other people telling them "I can manage your software project." These other people are much more skilled at marketing/bull****. Now that I'm gone, those people can whisper "FSK was a bad employee! We're glad he's gone!"

Two of the software engineers are in college. For them, a part-time job helps pay the bills. They aren't going to bail yet. One is an H1-B visa. She can't quit without getting kicked out of the country. If she's smart, she's looking for a new job.

Yes, the other software engineers do have a clue. They can at least tell that I know what I'm doing. Seeing me get fired should be raising "Time to leave!" warnings. Some of the marketers may be jumping on the "Time to leave!" bandwagon. You can't sell something that doesn't exist!

I don't know if the Rails advocate is looking for a new job. For him, managing a software project is a big deal. He can't code. Almost half my bugfixes were really fixing things he broke. Did he ever think of running the application before checking in a code change? He can't open a can of soda without spilling half of it, much less manage a software project.

This is the Rails advocate's first full-time job after graduating from college. He's now managing a relatively large project. By itself, that is not automatically bad. However, you've got to make sure that your measuring progress and getting progress. However, I expect him to succeed on future job interviews. He will say "I managed a successful Ruby on Rails project!" and say it with a straight face. The Rails advocate is pursuing the path of anti-truth. He holds the idiot new manager as his role model, rather than me.

The idiot new manager summed up the evil of the State. "The further you are from doing actual work, the more you get paid. I never do any actual programming. Therefore, I'm a superstar employee. You should be grateful I'm here to manage things." The role model of the current corrupt system is a manager who does no actual work himself, and lacks the skill of deciding what employees to hire or how to manage them.

A manager who knows which employees to hire and properly manage them is truly worth a fortune. However, that is the exception, and not the norm. In the corporate world, the fakers are in firm control.

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.

They've already accepted VC funding, so I'd have to agree to whatever standard terms the VCs offer. "Fire the Rails advocate and fire the idiot new manager" is absolutely mandatory. They should do that even if they don't hire me back. The only really negotiable bit would be "what % of the company do I get in options". Someone pointed out I should demand accelerated vesting in the event of a buyout, but also agree to stay on to help with the software transition. When you consider that the company would be worth $500M with a working website, even 1%-2% becomes very lucrative for me.

"Fire the new idiot manager" isn't feasible. He has connections with them going back years. He has a "great track record". In other words, he's taken credit for every success, and blame for every failure was deflected elsewhere. He's an excellent faker. He's probably been ruining projects for years, but he's politically savvy enough to avoid getting blamed. (I have another post queued of "idiot manager tricks" that I wrote before getting fired.)

The idiot new manager is the type of person who can singlehandedly wreck a company. I'm embarrassed to be technically the same species as him. Someone that dishonest is doing it strategically on purpose. The example cited in Idiots vs. Reality #2 was too strategic to be an accident. He erased other people's memories and retconned it after he got caught.

If there's one thing you must learn, it's DON'T LET OTHER PEOPLE ALTER YOUR MEMORIES!

The current economic and political system is run by people like the idiot new manager.

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.

I'm not sure. I'll shop around. My now-former employer needs a few more months of go-nowhere software development before they'll seriously reconsider me. From their point of view "We just hired the idiot new manager! All our problems will be solved!" They need 3-6 more months of trainwreck before they'll be ready for enlightenment.

The idiot new manager accomplished his first major goal. The only person who knew he was a total fraud got fired. He has everyone else totally snowed. He could kick "Evil Dr. Will"'s ass. (winner on season #2 of Big Brother, one of the best reality show players ever)

I did my best. I tried to warn them. I'm not responsible for the failure of their business. Besides, they never offered me any options or equity. I'm not personally losing $500M. It would be nice to build their website and take a small slice of that!

The marketing owners say that this is the most promising opportunity of their career. That is probably true. However, *THEY NEED A WORKING WEBSITE*. Starting a software company without a qualified software engineer was a real boneheaded move. There are plenty of people they could have picked. When you know nothing about software, you'll probably get a professional con artist instead of someone who knows what they're doing.

If the marketing owners couldn't hire someone competent to write their software, then that reflects very poorly on them.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "FSK Got Fired!":

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.

This is trolling.

I disagree with "CEOs have skills that are useful in a true free market." CEOs excel at lobbying Wall Street and the State for favors. CEOs lead a communist/corporate/State bureaucracy. CEOs are great at political maneuvering, like the idiot new manager.

In a true free market, a manager who excelled at hiring decisions and managing people would be incredibly valuable. That is the exception rather than the norm in the present.

The world is run by people like the idiot new manager. Maybe that's the best argument for "There's no Supreme Leader of Humanity." The current corrupt system is totally the result of dishonest incompetent ****suckers giving each other favors, via the State.

Was firing me a good move politically? If you're running around without any clothes on, do you fire the guy who says you're naked? They bought themselves a few more months to continue the Rails trainwreck. The idiot new manager removed the person who knows he's a fake. In a large corporation, such gross incompetence can be covered up for years.

This is a small startup! They need working software. There's no room for political maneuvering and empire building in a small startup on a shoestring budget!

Could they hire someone else as good as me? Maybe, but it's really unlikely considering their situation. The idiot new manager is going to make sure nobody qualified is hired. With me out of the picture, the next confrontation is between the idiot new manager and the Rails advocate. The Rails project really is a disaster, so that should be an easy win for the idiot new manager.

I tried careful, logical arguments. The new owners said "We know nothing about software. Why are you asking us?" They brought in the idiot new manager. Let's see what he says! I tried convincing the Rails advocate that it was a disaster, but he sincerely believes that he's a brilliant genius manager. Since he sincerely believes the project is a smashing success, he isn't technically lying! When the marketing owners judge him by body language, the Rails advocate is able to con them. The Rails advocate succeeds at lying because he sincerely believes he's telling the truth. The idiot new manager succeeds at lying, because that's his only useful skill.

A blind person gets an exaggerated sense of sound and other senses. Similarly, an idiot manager with no useful skills acquires an exaggerated skill at dishonesty. I never considered dishonesty to be a useful skill, which put me at a huge handicap when dealing with scumbags. To compensate for my handicap (lacking dishonesty), I wound up with an extreme sense of proper logical reasoning.

Careful, logical arguments can backfire. The idiot new manager has the ability to mindwipe and alter people's memories. You can't win via logic when your opponent can alter people's memories! What are you going to say then, "The idiot new manager has the ability to alter your memories!" Nobody would believe that! I only believe it because I've seen it many times before! The shock of discovering "mindwipes occur" is severe enough to cause a mental break!

tomofindiana has left a new comment on your post "FSK Got Fired!":

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.

I thought I marketed myself very well to the owners. All the feedback I got from them was that I was doing well. One of the marketers decided to start doing QA, and I was getting a lot of bugfixes and features done in their old Java system. I wonder if the Rails advocate fired me without consulting with the marketing owners first? Now that I'm not there, it's very easy to spin things so that "FSK sucks!"

I'm not sure. If I'm going to work on other projects, I'd work on my blog or an agoristBay engine. Financial software has an economic value of $0. I also have been considering writing an XNA or XBox Live Arcade game.

It is a very tough job market for software engineers. Most companies are run by people like the idiot new manager. As Zed Shaw said, "In an industry dominated by stupid, smart is unemployed." If you're an idiot manager, the *LAST* thing you want to do is hire someone like me. When interviewing, I screen for idiot managers as much as managers are screening me.

If I'm going to start my own business, it'd be something agorism-related. I'll stay in the slave economy for a few more years. I need to work on my interpersonal freedom.

eagledove9 has left a new comment on your post "FSK Got Fired!":

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.

I was looking forward to trying that. In all my previous jobsearches, I was unemployed at the time. I'd have a better negotiating position while employed.

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.

Things were definitely falling apart. I'd already decided I was bailing as soon as something better came up. For the first month or two of my job search, I'll try to be more picky.

They really lowballed me on salary, and weren't offering me any equity. That's a bad sign.

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.

They didn't have enough money to squander. They're operating out of one guy's apartment, in a mixed residential/commercial building. Some of the market owners were selling off personal possessions to sink more money in the company. (No! Don't sell your airplane or boat! Things are going down the toilet anyway!) Most of the marketing employees were paid in equity, with very little cash.

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.

I've had bits of such jobs from time to time. It is nice to work on a software project and have it actually work.

My now-ex boss seemed reasonable when I first started. After he made the commitment to Rails and started mismanaging things, that was the end.

Getting fired is better than getting dragged along on a death march! I would have absolutely refused unpaid overtime, so they had to fire me.

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.

The content wasn't duplicated. I consistently use "FSK" as my online ID.

Their seed capital was invested personal savings. They may have had angel investors. They accepted some VC at a pretty impressive valuation for a company whose product was vaporware. It's not just that the investors want a working product. Pretty soon, they'll blow through their capital and they won't be able to raise more money.

One of the marketers explained it. Customers implies higher valuation implies more capital. What they're missing is "Working website implies customers". Did they screw up a minor annoying detail? Did they screw up a major component of their business?

If I knew what VC they were using, I'd send a copy of my blog to them!

The Rails advocate is saying "Let's hire a bunch more Rails developers and make them work 80 hours/week each! That'll solve all our problems!" In this manner, their cash burn rate is increasing. Further, the idiot new manager is saying "Let's outsource!" There's more money wasted.

sunni has left a new comment on your post "FSK Got Fired!":

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.

Actually, a consultant is just a different class of slave. If you're still billing your hourly wage, your income is limited. Plus, most consultants work at large corporate clients.

I'm not interested in traveling. I live in a city big enough to have many potential customers. However, I don't fit their "profile", so I'm excluded from these jobs. I really should start lying on my resume. Yes, I really do have 20 years of C# experience. Isn't that what your advertisement demanded?

I'm more interested in the free market agorism approach than sucking the corporate teat.

"Consultant" and "true free market worker" are nearly completely different.

Zargon has left a new comment on your post "FSK Got Fired!":

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.

I don't think it pays to start doing that unless there's a formal agreement. The conditions would have to be something like:
  1. Get paid a decent base salary for time spent, no matter whether they decide to use it or not. I'd give them updates starting at 2 weeks and then every week, if they want to check the progress.
  2. If they decide to use it as their product, then I'm brought on as co-founder with a specific % of the company. Only a few % would be very lucrative, considering their company would be worth $500M if they had a working website.
  3. If they decide to use my version as their product, then the Rails advocate and idiot new manager are fired. The other technical employees actually were decent/average, so they'd be worth keeping.

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.

That isn't the approach I would have taken. I would have refused to work the extra unpaid overtime and dared them to fire me. Quite frankly, it was a volunteer job to begin with. I was paid practically nothing and had no equity/options.

BTW, Monday is a holiday in the USA. It's Labor Day!

I have some promising interviews lined up, along with the usual batch of clueless headhunters. I'm rolling the dice and hoping to work for someone with a clue!

Anyone who makes me take an online programming test is clueless. Everyone who's ever offered me a BrainBench test had no clue. Similarly, programming assignments are a waste of my time. If you can't spare someone to talk to me for 15-30 minutes to figure out if I know anything, then why am I wasting my time with you?

At my current job, my direct boss seemed initially relatively decent. However, he went off the deep end when he made a wrong "bet the business" decision on Ruby on Rails. There were broken promises of stock options. "Accept a lower salary. We'll have a written options plan in a few weeks." seemed believable, although I've been fooled by that twice now. (I had a weak bargaining position, so I didn't press the issue.) The idiot new boss is totally urinating over everything. It was a promising opportunity. If they kept their verbal promise regarding options and took a non-idiot development strategy, it could have been lucrative.

Some people are saying "Write a P2P agoristBay program, FSK!" I guess I should. If you want something done right, do it yourself! I've given specifications here, but probably nobody would implement it as well as me.

6 comments:

sunni said...

Actually, a consultant is just a different class of slave. If you're still billing your hourly wage, your income is limited. Plus, most consultants work at large corporate clients.

True. That's why I wrote exactly what I did: the beginning of a more voluntaryist approach (or something very close to that; I didn't recheck before starting this comment). Your parents would presumably not have issues with a consulting job, right? It might be a way to get from where you are to where you want to be.

Anonymous said...

"Here's the way I look at it. My *REAL* job is "Get an agorist free market economy started." My "source of income" is writing useless software for idiots."

Very interesting. I'm currently writing useful software for a broad spectrum of people towards the ultimate goal of building agorist software. If it were a few months later, I'd probably be in a position to offer you a job (I'm building a business here and am competing in a fast growing 400M market)

I would recommend that you don't use headhunters. They are clueless, as you've discovered. You'll do much better finding individuals and talking to them. I don't know what city you're in so I don't know what the software scene is like, but in many cities they have startup organizations -like ones where founders meet investors (angel forums and VC forums) they also have "start your own company" type forums and groups-- excellent places to find decent people. You have strong opinions and a strong perspective, if your engineering matches your writing, then I think you should be %50 of a company with some guy you meet at one of these such forums, and the two of you should be going out and getting investment (or better yet, going to market without taking any investment- food is cheap and software doesn't require a lot of capital, just effort.)

Find the founders and the managers of the companies you want to work for- thru linkedin , facebook, the above mentioned forums etc. The jobs you see in craigslist and on boards are generally the worse jobs- the ones where they are looking for cogs. You're not a junior software engineer, you're a senior software engineer (based on 10 years experience.) So if your interview don't pan out, start directly targeting the best prospects and getting to know them. They will not resent the opportunity to get to know and engineer that can help them bring their vision to reality.

Also, never be "unemployed"... always work on something. Even if its not something that can be profitable, make an open source app or something and you can put that on your resume. Shows you learning new skills. Even better, start a small company. There's lots of small businesses one could start and be essentially instantly profitable. Makes a good thing to fall back on when you find yourself in this situation.

Sorry I keep giving you advice- I'm constantly telling you what to do. I think this is because I've been in very much the same situation, and it took me several years to get the right perspective. I hope I don't come across as patronizing at all. But I wasted several years dealing with headhunters before I realized I didn't need them, and found I got better offers for better jobs without them.....

Anonymous said...

BTW, if your employer has VC funding, then they already have a stock plan in place. Promising to give you options when they got the plan in place means either that they want to create a second plan for "regular employees" (and deny them access to the same terms as the founders) or they were just shining you on and never intended to give you options. IF you had that promise in writing, it would be actionable legally...

I once got hired by a company that gave me options and then let me go when they hired someone cheaper to replace me... they did this before vesting started, so I got no options at all. As early a stage as the company you were working for, you should have gotten them and had them vesting right away.

A lot of companies like to do no vesting for the first year or 6 months, and its unfortunate that engineers let them get away with this...

Zargon said...

My parents are not supportive of me. They are giving financial support, but not emotional support. They are saying "FSK got fired because FSK is a loser!" That's the wrong attitude, but they're too old to change. By default, they assume that all the bad things that have happened to me are a direct result of a mistake I made. They don't even get "The 'chemical imbalance' theory of mental illness is nonsense."

Realistically, I can't work on my own business while stuck here. My first goal is interpersonal freedom, which includes getting my own apartment. To appease my parents, I must get a regular slave job for now. (That sucks, but my freedom is restricted due to my illness. If I can avoid relapsing for another year and have a steady job, then I can justify moving out. I'd move out today if I could manage it without resistance from them.)

Working as an agorist while living with my parents is infeasible, because they'd say "OMFG!! That's illegal!" They'd be the first ones testifying against me in the event of an IRS audit.


Do your parents have some state-enforced power over you due to your illness? It sounds as though you'd be better off leaving and never talking to them again, and them being ready and willing to call some goons with guns to imprison you for your own good is about the only reason I can think of that you haven't done that already.

If they do indeed have that power over you, then perhaps getting an out of town job would work in your favor. You could pitch moving out as necessary for your new slave job, because there aren't any good jobs in the area (they don't know otherwise) and you need to avoid another unemployment streak on your resume. (That assumes living with your parents isn't required by court order for the next year, which is entirely possible. That also assumes you aren't staying for other personal reasons).

Revealing where you live for the purposes of getting a job seems reasonable. It's a huge longshot, but any job you got by doing so would likely be at least above-average. It's not as though you would be posting your full name with picture, either. I can't imagine anyone can't figure out who you are now would be able to figure out who you were if they knew the city.

Mike said...

Should I reveal where I live, in case I can get a job via my blog?
This is actually a chance to consider attaching your real identity to your blogging identity, since the primary risk you faced previously in revealing who you are has just cut the cord.

That might make obtaining future jobs in the corporate slave world more difficult. One might view that as a good thing, however, a useful filter to deflect you away from "opportunities" for further suffering at the hands of nitwits.

That said, sorry to hear you got fired. Not so much for the fact you don't have the job anymore as for the fact that getting fired is always a shock, and a psychological blow. As someone else wrote, I also suggest taking a few weeks to really just do nothing before charging out in search of a new master again.

Anonymous said...

i wouldn't send them a copy of your blog. May come back to haunt you...

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