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Should I Stay or Should I go?

Today my boss asked me to not only be a programmer but also to go on business trips and teach people how to use the software.  The software as it stands isn't the greatest and I would have to probably lie to get people to believe that it is actually working (I think that's how he sells the crap).  It really needs more work.  That and I'm not a salesman or a teacher.  I was hired to program not to teach or sell.  He basically said do it or else.  What should I do?

Lost
Monday, June 16, 2003


No offense, but why are you asking us? Only you know what you want to do with your life.

If you don't want to do it, keep the job until you find a new one. You're not doing yourself or your employer and good if you'd rather be doing something else.

DingBat
Monday, June 16, 2003

Else !!

@+
Monday, June 16, 2003

Do it. Sales experience gives you one more thing to fall back on when you have to find a job.

Meanwhile, monster.com, dice.com, computerjobs.com...

Philo

Philo
Monday, June 16, 2003

I agree -

It wouldn't hurt to have the experience.

In the meantime start planing your next move.

DJ
Monday, June 16, 2003

Why don't you take it as a compliment and give it a go?  There is more to life than programming and you might actually enjoy it!  It might even improve your programming by giving you more focus and motivation.

Does your boss really lie to people, or do those people he sells to in fact care about different aspects of the software then ones you are concerned about?

cheers,
Peter

Peter McKenzie
Monday, June 16, 2003

Your career is going to take you places you didn't expect when you walked in the door. Go with the flow. It's possible you will like it and besides, perhaps your boss sees something in you that he thinks will work well in that arena.

If you are no good at either selling or teaching, it'll show and they'll pull you out of it quickly. But don't try too hard to be bad at it or the pull-out will be right out the door.

old_timer
Monday, June 16, 2003

Dear Mr. Dingbat:

Yesterday, while playing baseball with some friends, it occured to me that sometimes people not so eloquent as I am post questions on the JOS forum to get different views of a situation.  Thus enabling them to make a somewhat more informed decision.  Wow! I exclaimed.  I am a genius.  A true genius.  The world is a better place with me in it because I am not like those scrubs who can't figure out what the hell they're doing or where the hell they're at.  At any rate, I must get back to my work.

Your best friend in the whole wide world,

AnyMouse


P.S.  You think I'm joking.  I'm not.

AnyMouse
Monday, June 16, 2003


Dear Mr. Mouse,

Would you really base an important decision in your life on advice gleaned from an online forum?

Interesting.

P.S. I'm just joking. Or am I?

DingBat
Monday, June 16, 2003

> I was hired to program not to teach or sell.

Wrong!  You were hired because it was thought that your skills may help the company realize higher profits.

If the company is having trouble meeting their needs, be glad that they are asking for your help.

Why should you be glad?  The alternative could be that they hide the problems from the "masses", and then 30-90% of you get pink slips when you DO go under.

Instead of that rosy situation, they have asked for your help.  And now you want to leave?

Turn this around. Tell them that you would be glad to help.  Ask for something in return.

--
ee

eclectic_echidna
Monday, June 16, 2003

Wow, if I were in your shoes I would jump at the opportunity. Few things make for better software than truly understanding the needs of your customers. A programmer who did this with a humble attitude toward the product -- you're there to teach, but also to learn and take feedback to help improve the software -- would be an incredible asset to the company.

John C.
Monday, June 16, 2003

Dear Mr. DingBat:

You input has really helped speed this project along.  We don't know where we'd be without you.  As a token of our appreciation, we're going to give you a balloon ride over the city.  You'll have at least a 10,000 foot view of everything around you.  Spectacular!  We sincerely hope that you'll accept this gift.

Your comrade in arms,

AnyMouse

P.S.  I'm not joking.  Would you like me to?

AnyMouse
Monday, June 16, 2003

I suggest you should try that new activity at least for a while.

It might not solve all your current emproyer's problems, but it will be very useful to you.

I have found that interacting with the users is a lot more rewarding than I believed.

You will learn a lot about how users think, and will improve the way you think about how software must be made.

In the end, It is our duty as software developers, to deliver products that make the user's life easier. You will be amazed at how little you knew your user's life.

My two cents

The one who should be doing other things
Monday, June 16, 2003

You are being given a chance to learn something new.  I think your employer is doing you a favor.  Jump at it.

PS.  But don't lie to your customers.

Eric W. Sink
Monday, June 16, 2003

Jump at this opportunity.  Your boss favors you, seize the moment.

    
Monday, June 16, 2003

Hey "Lost",

I tend to agree with everyone else on this one. Try out the new duties and view it as an opportunity to grow a little beyond what you've been doing.

OK, you don't consider yourself a sales person. And I doubt that your boss does either. But EVERYONE has to sell themselves - even to get a regular job you have to do some selling of yourself.

The same with training. Being around end users will help you appreciate the usefulness of your product more.

However, beware unreasonable expectations. If he expects you to go on the road with a laptop and program your brains out at night after spending all day with users, that's a no-go unless you're being paid for your overtime...

Bored Bystander
Monday, June 16, 2003

Doing user training for decent software is probably quite fun.

Doing user training for crummy software (or software that doesn't do everything the customer thinks it does because the salesman lied to them) is a special kind of hell.

Andrew Reid
Monday, June 16, 2003

I agree with the above comment -- if the software isn't finished or isn't as finished as the customer thinks it should be, you'll spend a lot of time apologizing.  The phrase that I learned to parrot repeatedly in that situation is "yes, that's on the roadmap." 

Colin Evans
Monday, June 16, 2003

Thanks for all of the replies.  I agree with the last two comments.  This software is crummy.  No where near finished and the salesman must've lied to sell the stuff.  No one in their right mind would buy software that was half complete if they knew about it.

My boss said the customer tried it and liked it.  Heh.  Yea right, the customer is not computer literate, they call and ask our support how to install windows.  Besides, If I have to go train them, how could they know it works?  I doubt they even tried anything past what the admittedly fake demo does.

I may accept the assignment, just to keep my job until I can get a new one, but then I'll have to move on.  Something just doesn't seem right about the whole situation.

Lost
Monday, June 16, 2003

I wonder if the theme of early replies selects for subsequent replies and thus biasses the responses in these forums?

I disagree with most of the advice in this thread. Sales is a generic, low-skill activity compared with software development.

The original poster is justified in being concerned that the move would damage his career. I think it would, if it's with a small company.

I would suggest moving.

Must be manager
Monday, June 16, 2003

"Sales is a generic, low-skill activity compared with software development."

I generally disagree with this statement. Taken as an absolute, I think it's dead wrong.

Philo

Philo
Monday, June 16, 2003

"Sales is a generic, low-skill activity compared with software development."

Yeah, but it pays a helluva lot better.

    
Monday, June 16, 2003

I agree with Philo. Go on the trips and learn to market and sell. You might think it's absurd in the beginning but you'll find your sales skill getting better and you'll be thought of as a better programmer. Ask your boss if you could bring along a nice looking assistant to help with the presentation. Learn from me, Tony Little, Miss Cleo, and the rest of the gang.

Tom Vu
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Sales ?

"Today my boss asked me to not only be a programmer but also to go on business trips and teach people how to use the software.  "

It sounds a lot more related to analysis, user support, an oportunity to learn something practical about usability, than with sales.

For a developer I think it could be a chance to improve his skills by observing the way users work.

The one who should be doing other things
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

The worst position I have ever been in required me to sell stuff by lying. Needless to say, I quit. I am sure some people can do this, see it as a great challenge, outfox the customer etc. It just did not gell with my personality.
This does not mean this would apply in your case. Maybe your product does have some features that are beneficial to the user community, and you have to make an effort to find these. Maybe then you can be honest about the deficiencies when confronted with them, but also highlight those benefits (in my case I tried hard but there realy was nothing that could be highlighted as a plus that not even the most greenhorn customer saw through in a second)?
Give it a try, if it does not fit, keep the job while looking for something else.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

I have been in pretty much the same situation.  A programmer asked to fly around the world doing some sales stuff.  Like you I knew our product was crummy, it crashed all the time, features x,y, & z were broken, etc. etc.

But you know what I found when I got out there?  Customers weren't using x,y, & z.  They were using a,b, & c  which allowed them to do things they just couldn't do before.  They were astounded by what this product could do for them in their jobs.  I even did a demo once when a real life emergency happened, and they used our software to help solve the problem.  It was frankly amazing to see this thing that I thought was crummy and full of bugs actually making a big difference to people.  It gave me a whole new insight into how customers used the product, and what was important to them.

So overall I got to see the world (on expenses!), gain a new appreciation of how good our product actually was, understand a bit more about how difficult the sales guys' job actually is, and possibly most importantly, gained a much better understanding of our customers and thus how to make our next product much easier to use.

So my recommendation?  Go for it!  You will learn a lot, improve your product design skills, and get a chance to broaden your horizons (or CV if that is more important right now!)

Farrago
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Go for it! You will come out tops either ways.

1. The good
You discover, as Farrago said, you could find that customers don't care about the x, y and z features that don't work, but about a, b, c which you took for granted.

2.  The bad
Being out on the road could confirm your fears that your firm is selling cr*p software. This time around though, it is the voice of the customer speaking.

Like a few people have said, you will find out the true uses, or failure therof, of the software by the clients.

Document religiously. Quote folk by name. Take an audio recorder if possible. Do lots of screen captures.

At the end of it all, give you document a dossier chronicling your findings. You do it right, an this will be the requirements spec for the next version of the software.

In most cases, your boss will let you run the project, since you have this thorough grasp of the domain problem.

More responsibility = more $$ which is always a good thing (tm)

tapiwa
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

"Sales is a generic, low-skill activity compared with software development."

Too true - most companies are outsourcing their sales staff these days - and this work is being moved overseas.  Not a very strategic role at all.  And besides, most software developers have better people skills than sales people. <sarcasm off>

anony12
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

>> "Sales is a generic, low-skill activity compared with software development."

What a generic, techie-promulgated load of bias...

It appears to me that everyone on this thread who is agreeing with this statement is lumping *all* sales activities together. I thought JOS readers were brighter than that.

Telemarketing - outbound calling of customers on the phone by someone who is calling someone by surprise and interrupting their day - *IS* a generic, low skill activity, and a numbers game.  It's conducted at a bit higher level for business to business than it is for the idiots that interrupt your dinner at home, but it's still pretty generic and subject to outsourcing.

But real time person to person "sales" covers a broad spectrum.

My wife and I got roped into a condominium "presentation" in St. Thomas VI on our honeymoon. That was pure used-car, high pressure, superficiality-bullshit, "make the big score" sales all the way.
Pre-sale technical support (of the kind that "Lost" is being asked/told to do) is CONSIDERABLY different. You're simply answering questions, responding to inquiries with overviews and walk throughs of functional areas, and finessing the current "challenges" in the product.

*This* kind of sales activity mirrors real life - nothing sold is perfect. OK, so this software is a pile of crap. Regardless, if it sells, then the users have something to show *you* as to why they consider it worth spending money on.

Twiddling bits *isn't* life.  And without sales, nobody works.

Get real, people... the entire economy is sales based. You know who NEVER has to sell? The super-rich, the retired, and the person in the homeless shelter or on the street.

The rest of us MUST sell for survival's sake.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

I should clarify my comments about the sales role. First, it seems the original poster is interested in a software development career.

Second, the sales role he describes sounds more like a support role, where he's traipsing around behind the owner setting up power cords and so on. That type of role will not extend his career at all. He is much better to concentrate on hard stuff.

Third, it is always possible that he could have a valid career becoming a trusted partner in this business, and forget about real programming. However my reading of the context suggests that's not what being offered.

If the guy does the support role, he's heading down a different road than software development. All you people who think going on the road builds better software - it doesn't. Building better software takes time and expertise. That's why we have software developers, and why Joe ambitious can't build his money-making program in his spare time back at the office.

Must be a manager
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Also, sales != marketing.

Must be a manager
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Fair enough, but I still think that a little bit of experience outside coding is a good thing. The role you're describing is sh*t work, agreed. But it's probably not that bad. If it were, the boss wouldn't be paying a programmer to do custodial work on a long term basis. And maybe he (the boss) just needs some help in order to get over a hump.

I think that "Lost" really should try it out to see what it's like. If it's a raw deal he can look for another job. And it may be that his boss is bluffing - although that kind of a bluff is a good reason for anyone to say "sayonara".

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

I'd say beat him with a sack of rusty doorknobs!

Guy Incognito
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

And then tell him your sleeping with his wife.

Guy Incognito
Tuesday, June 17, 2003


Make sure your compensated for it and it's strategic for your career before you say yes.  IMHO travelling sucks most of the time.  Short trips can be fun but not if your out of town every week. 

My two cents after 14 years in the biz.

#1. Is the $ good?

That's number one.  If your not happy with the cash and they are asking you to do more that's leverage for negotiation.

#2. Do you like being at your desk most of the day?

Chances are you won't like your new assignment then as you'll be meeting/talking with people a lot.  Most of us technies prefer to look at a monitor at least half of the day (myself included).

#3. As a consultant I would say is it strategic?

The people you are going to work with are they strategic in perhaps lining you up with future work or presenting you new career opportunities?

James Nicoll
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Design your own software that you know works well and sell it to your boss.

Stew L
Thursday, April 15, 2004

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