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Norrick Bitches About His Career...Again

I was supposed to be a project manager by now.

Before I got laid off, I was being groomed to move out of my Technical Lead position in the Development business unit and into a Project Manager position in the Client Services business unit.  The schedule was that I'd be taking on my first project as a manager in April.

Then the business nearly bankrupted.  Management popped open a spreadsheet of employees and salaries, sorted the list from biggest salary to smallest, and started cutting people until they decided they had cut enough payroll expense to survive the quarter.  I was cut number 7 out of 8 people cut.  Damn that last raise!

It seems silly to complain about it now, but after a year (I got laid off exactly one year ago today), I still don't feel as though my career is back on track - if anything, it's like I've been put in a time machine and sent backwards 5 years.  I'm not making as much money as I was before (with the exception of this month, which is temporary), my projects are stone cold boring (why, yes Mr. Small Business Owner, I'd love to build yet *another* fucking billing system ), and the local market is neither technically sophisticated nor developed enough to have more than a minimal need for project management services.

The result is that I'm stuck in the role of code monkey.  And this is at a time when code monkey work is being shipped overseas at an alarming rate, AND new technologies being spawned make even the simplest tasks of the software developer vastly more complicated, which leaves the code monkey in the position of having to know 3 times as much just to be able to do half the stuff he used to do.

I was starting to feel burnt out on coding before I even got laid off - that's why I was so pleased to have won the slot of Project Manager in-training.  It was the opportunity I needed to flex new muscles and exercise my interests in business and process instead of just my interests in creation and logic.

But here I am, one year later.  Less money.  Less security.  Boring projects.  No visible career ladder to climb.  Diminishing prospects as the market moves to Hyderabad and the new technology requires you to write 5,000 lines of code just to validate some form input and pop up a fucking dialog box to tell the user they forgot to fill in a field on a screen someplace.

Arrrgh.  Arrrgh, I say.  This month and next I will make mucho dollars thanks to a couple of short-term projects that happen to have fallen into the same time frame.  But so what?  The overall picture is little better than it was the day after I got laid off. 

I'm a fortunate man in that I've been able to hang on this long, and that I'm still able to keep my family housed and fed.  But what's the end game?  Where is this taking me?  A year ago I would have said my career was taking me into Project Management, the Product Management, and then into the Executive ranks, perhaps with a stop-off in Sales.  But now?  As a self-employed person, I can technically give myself any title I want, but the only service I actually have to sell that the market is currently demanding is coding.  And although in 1999 the coder was king, coding takes a guy nowhere fast these days.

I feel like I'm treading water with ankle weights on. 

My name is Norrick, and I am a malcontent.

Norrick
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Sing it brother.  Two years ago I was the lead programmer for an enterprise software product that sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars a copy.  Worked for one of the top software companies -  unbelievable salary, benefits, bonuses, and stock.  We were being organized into our own product development division and I was in the process of setting up my own lab - in Florida no less.  There was even talk about spinning us off into our own company in a year or two with myself as CTO or Chief Scientist.  Well, after 9/11 everything faded away and I eventually got caught up in a mass layoff.  Now I'm working for a university hospital for less than half what I was making before, doing incredibly boring data warehousing work for an incredibly moronic boss, with absolutely no opportunity for advancement.  The one good thing about this job is that I can keep up with my coworkers even if I only work an hour or two a day -  the rest of the day I can focus on building my own software business.  I have one product ready for release and two more in the pipeline.  Thats the only thing keeping me going now - the hope that I can break free.  If I thought I would have to work 30 more years as a programmer for someone else I would take out a huge insurance policy for my family and then find a way to die without it looking like suicide.

MT
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Welcome to the new economy.

Sorry.


Saturday, February 14, 2004

"Welcome to the new economy.

Sorry. "

Heh.  Ain't that the truth. 

Lest my post be perceived as total negativism, I have to say - I'm not completely out of ideas yet.  Just a little frustrated and needing to blow off steam.

I suspect that if 90% of the work I'm doing weren't subcontract work that requires me to take half my usual rate, I'd be at least a *little* less frustrated.  ;)

Norrick
Saturday, February 14, 2004

OK, Norrick, while those are tough breaks, at least it sounds like you're working.

My question: exactly *how* do you find the opportunity to build "another fucking billing system"? I would be overjoyed to find mundane, low profile work like that on a consistent basis. And look at it this way: you're building your own image, not your boss-man's ego and new mansion.

>> the new technology requires you to write 5,000 lines of code just to validate some form input and pop up a fucking dialog box

Do you mean .Net, something else in particular, or are you just bitching about new platforms in general?

Bored Bystander
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Jobs are like relationships - you either have one or you don't, you're in one you like or you aren't, and there is no way to see the transition coming.

In August of last year I was in a losing contract, hating life, trying to convince myself I could make it work. Then a friend said "hey would you like me to put your resume in to Microsoft" and now here I am.

My point is that you have no way of knowing what tomorrow may bring. You can do things to improve your odds, but at the end it's like predicting which two atoms will fuse - you can't; you just have to watch and see.

Open the paths you need, keep an open mind, and be optimistic - that will get you farther than anything.

Best of luck.

Philo

Philo
Saturday, February 14, 2004

BB - right now most of the work I'm getting is coming through a local guy who does outsourced network tech work for a bunch of small businesses.  I'm subcontracting through him to build software for his clients.  I wanted to set up a flat-fee referral arrangement with him, but he wouldn't go for it, and at the time it was either get some work RIGHT NOW or file bankruptcy.  I chose to get some work right now.

I know, I know...I should be happy just to have any work.  I am.  I'm just frustrated that I don't currently have any opportunities to do work that is more interesting.  Which bring me to...

Philo - I agree wholeheartedly with you.  Part of the problem with posting a bitchy, blowing off steam post is that people think those bitchy sentiments are the only ones the poster has.  So let me assure you, I'm definitely staying optimistic and open and I'm always trying to cultivate market presence so that new (hopefully better paying and more interesting) opportunities come my way.

At the same time, I can't help but roll my eyes, punch my heavybag and proclaim "where the fuck is all the interesting work?!?!" every so often.  I think it's healthy.

Mmmm...Microsoft.  That would be my dream employer.  Congrats on the new gig.  I remember your "contract of death" but didn't know you had jumped to MS.

Norrick
Saturday, February 14, 2004

>> Lest my post be perceived as total negativism, I have to say - I'm not completely out of ideas yet

Precisely. In the markets in which you've worked, there must some that weren't well taken care of, whether due to prices (big company = big expenses), big and complicated software (small companies = small means), bad service and support (one of the strong points of OSS = problems are solved faster because you can reach developers directly, instead of wasting time with support monkeys), etc.

FWIW, my dad has been doing very well in the health software business for over 20 years, and it all started because he meant some manager who was looking for business software. A great nice market.

Working on his own for a long time, customers could reach and ask him directly for features they needed, he could sell his software for much lower prices that his (small) competitition since he didn't have high expenses, and he always took care to write small, fast applications that could run on older computers (where his competitors often required upgrading to the late$t and greate$t computers.)

I'm not positive, but I think Joel wrote an article recently about the fact that by far, most business are not started based on a brand new, smashing idea, but rather, on studying a market well, and providing better output, whether it's the product and/or the service.

>> My name is Norrick, and I am a malcontent.

Great quote :-)

FredF
Saturday, February 14, 2004

"Precisely. In the markets in which you've worked, there must some that weren't well taken care of, whether due to prices (big company = big expenses), big and complicated software (small companies = small means), bad service and support (one of the strong points of OSS = problems are solved faster because you can reach developers directly, instead of wasting time with support monkeys), etc."

That is a *great* point.  In fact, when I got laid off the first thing I did was go after some of my old employer's client whom I knew to be unhappy with the service, etc.

Sadly, none of them wanted anything to do with a one-man show.  I think I should have done some image work first, so I didn't *look* like a one-man show.  But that's neither here nor there.

You make a cogent point about finding underserved or poorly served niches.  But remember that when you try to serve people that have been poorly served in the past, you sometimes have a steep hill to climb in overcoming their negative perceptions about development firms and developers in general- after all, if all developers are equally bad, why not hire the cheapest you can find?

That said, I'll tell you that 90% of the work I'm doing right now is remediating work that was screwed up by a pervious programmer.  There is definitely money to be made in serving the poorly served, if you can get them to get over their jitters long enough to give you a shot. 

Norrick
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Norrick, I'm sure that in the medium run and long run you'll make it.  Your comments and rants are informative and actually helpful. Thanks for posting.

Bored Bystander
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Second Philo

Enterprise software absolutely sucked in every way, the big $$$ was the only thing keeping me going.  After getting laid off from a very high-paying job, I fell into a deep depression thinking I had to return to something I hate, never making nearly as much money as I was making before.

Graphics had been a hobby of mine, and I had always wondered if there was a way to sneak into professional game development.  I continued to work on my own engine.  I then purchased a commercial engine and got together with some artists in trying to get a small shareware game project going.  Then a small startup studio needed my skills so I joined up with them, and then I followed one of their former employees on to a large studio owned by Infogrames/Atari. 

The pay isn't great, but the culture is.  It's stable (game development more stable than enterprise software??? Go figure) and the work is very interesting.  Generally, life is pretty good. 

But anyways, my point is the same as Philo's.
Look at any and all possible paths, look at your current positives, and be optimistic.  Very true, the current economy is absolute crap so it's going to take a lot of patience too. 

New beginning
Saturday, February 14, 2004

>> Sadly, none of them wanted anything to do with a one-man show. [....] But remember that when you try to serve people that have been poorly served in the past, you sometimes have a steep hill to climb in overcoming their negative perceptions about development firms and developers in general- after all, if all developers are equally bad, why not hire the cheapest you can find?

Right. Trust is a very important factor when choosing a provider, especially in something as central and abstract as software, a field that most managers are totally clueless, which, understandably, creates some dependance that they resent.

They don't like us software people because
- they only consider the _cost_ of buying software, not the _benefits_ they get out of it (just unplug the computer for a couple of days, and see how your business operates, my friend...)
- they know that, save the most basic applications, replacing a software program with another is co$tly

... hence the need for you to address this issue. Considering he was working on his own for a over a decade before my bro and I joined in, one of the questions that my dad had to answer regularly, was, what happened if he got in a car accident? He got to dodge this because he's a niche market, provides better service along with customizations at a better price than his few competitors, but it's true that it's an important question you must address.

What about

1. using widely-used tools (so that taking over your code will be less difficult than if you're using stuff you developed yourself)

2. teaming up with a developer you really get along with? I insist on the _really_, as it's so common for small shops to go out of business because the developers didn't get along, and they split. Not an easy problem to address.

FredF
Saturday, February 14, 2004

FreF...all good points.  I do think about these things.  First off, I am a meticulous documenter.  No code gets written without spec, and no spec gets written without a functional spec that the user has signed off on.  Any developer with sufficient experience could take over my projects and kow where everything was, where everything stands, and where everytihg is headed.

WRT tools, I work in VB, ASP, SQL Server and sometimes Access.  It doesn't get much more widely-used than that.  My value-add is that I have successful project management and technical leadership experience that many developers lack. 

I'll never be the best coder in the room, nor do I care to be - but I am a capable coder who knows how to run a project in such a way that the customer's objectives will be met.  That's the selling point.

When I can find customers, that is.  ;)  I suspect that living in the heart of CA's farm country isn't helping me any.

Norrick
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Please forgive the spelling errors.  My son is tugging at my sleeve!

Norrick
Saturday, February 14, 2004

>> First off, I am a meticulous documenter.  No code gets written without spec, and no spec gets written without a functional spec that the user has signed off on

Good point. I assume having an independ shop audit your code and the way you operate would be too expensive, but combined with the tools you work with, it should help prospects be willing to take the risk of working with your tools. Do put some quotes about VB et al., and show prospects that those are very common tools (read: The risk is a bit lower than if the guy wrote the whole thing himself.)

>> When I can find customers, that is.  ;)  I suspect that living in the heart of CA's farm country isn't helping me any.

Thanks to the Net, this is a bit less of an issue. Remember to either make your dedicated application connected oriented (eg. auto-update so as to lower the support cost of keeping your customers up to date, and/or move the logic to a server on the Net via XMLRPC/SOAP), or write it as an ActiveX control that is embedded in a web page. I know the latter solution looks dated... but we just have two guinear pigs currently playing with our very first application written this way, one of them working with a computer for the very first time... and so far, they're thrilled. Just launch your favorite browser, display the application, and get some work done. You can even disconnect if you're using dial-up, as long as you keep the browser window open. Cool :-)

>> Please forgive the spelling errors.  My son is tugging at my sleeve!

There, you just found your partner in crime for your new business :-)

FredF
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Norrick, good luck with things. You've got a family and you're looking after them, so you're ahead on that score at least.

However your main point is certainly true. I think a lot of staffers just don't get it until they get sacked, and then they discover that lack of jobs means they don't get a job. It is a hard new reality.

It actually took me a long time to accept the facts, because I also am a top developer and top PM, and I rationalised that it was simply taking a bit longer than normal for my next job to come along.

Get involved in the political process and get even with the bastards who are responsible for the suffering they've caused you, your family and your child.

Realist
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Even if one truly believed that project management was a superior role to software development (I personally consider it a parallel role, and if a coder moves to project management it's usually the Peter Principal rather than anything else -- they were probably a piss poor coder rather than a really good coder who they thought was so good they should instead make MS Project Gannt charts and status reports), why would project management in the technical realm be any less succeptible to offshoring than software development? It isn't. Yeah I know people imagine a imaginary world where the only change with offshoring is that the coders are overseas, but in most realities the offshoring companies basically bring in their own project managers to interact with the business, to do the status reports and gannt charts, etc.

.
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Actually what happens is that there is usually a project manager from the offshore company PLUS an in-house employee project manager.  Plus a project manager at the offshore site.

That all cuts in to the savings but they don't care.  They hide the additional on-site costs and hype up the "savings" achieved by having X number of programmers offshore.

NoName
Saturday, February 14, 2004

What does a Project Manager do, anyway? Why don't developers write their own status reports and Gannt charts?

http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=5407

Christopher Wells
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Just think it could be worse.

At least you like programming in the abstract, even if not your current project.

On the other hand, I've come to the realisation that I have never actually liked programming. I liked what I could do with the skill, it's just that I enjoy the end result not the process. I've never really analysed it until recently when I was trying to work out why I hated my job so much.

So I've wasted years doing what I'm skilled at and trying to like it, rather than doing what I like and trying to become skilled at it. :(

So look on the bright side, at least you know what you're aiming for and are qualified to do it, even if the oppourtunities aren't there right at the moment. But things change, and maybe the oppourtunity will come tomorrow. You know what you want, that's half the battle already won.

Sum Dum Gai
Saturday, February 14, 2004

"Even if one truly believed that project management was a superior role to software development"

I can't let this one just go by. 

The issue is not one of superiority or inferiority.  The issue is that I was hungry for a different type of role, a chance to flex some different muscles.  And I still am.  It's not a qualitative thing - it is a differential thing.

And if you don't know what value a project manager adds to a project, you haven't worked with any good project managers.  And please don't let the lack of nuance inherent in message board posts lead you to think that's a knock on you - few of us have had good project manager experiences.

The best managers are neither controllers nor commanders; rather, they are passionate advocates for their developers.  In my (admittedly arrogant and idealistic) opinion, the chief role of any manager should be to set some goals for his team with their input as a reality check, then do everything he can to eliminate the obstacles that stand between his team and their goal.  Let's face it - any manager that feels the need to micromanage people in this day and age  is just admitting that the hiring policies of his company stink. 

I've met few managers like that, true.  But the fact remains that a) the challenges of the project manger are different enough, and enough in line with my lesser-used aptitudes that it is an attractive role to me, and b) a good project manager (as oppoed to one who wakes up 5 months into the project) is a joy to work with - and that's the kind of project manager I aspire to be.

Norrick
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Norrick,


I would like to comment on your very first post in this thread. I guess the techie business is really not as stable as it used to be. Perhaps it never was. It looks like most jobs these days are not very secure in general. Especially when you look at companies like Enron, MCI and the others in the pile. How can you possibly feel secure?  Even when you have everything (seemingly). Unless you are at the top of the chain, there is always doubt.

Maybe you would like to approach your situation a little differently from a different perspective.. At least for just a few moment.

At one point in my life, I was in a frustrating, painful and hurtful situation that made me feel very insecure, hopeless, helpless and angry. I said "Why me damn it? I work hard, I  have a brain, I have passion... Why me but not the moron over there?". When I got laid off a few years ago, on my way to home from work for the last time, I got stuck in traffic. At that moment in the car, I felt so insignificant, so tiny, so worthless, so alone and so damn angry. Ever felt that way? Maybe not...

Which brings me to my point. I would recommend you (and anyone else who might have tuned in) to read this book:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0399142789/qid=1076826502//ref=pd_ka_1/103-3311853-5474231?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

Before you read the back of the book, or start commenting
about the title, you need to leave all your prejudice at the door for just a little bit. I know it is very tempting to judge. I can't blame you. I did my share of judging until I get passed the first few chapters. On the other hand, it presents a different perspective which might be what you need.

I came across it myself almost by accident, and it changed everything for me. It may or may not do the same for you. It all depends I guess.

Be warned. You do need an open mind. As I said you will need to shut your brain up for a little, and get passed the symbolism in the book. I am sure you are busy (perhaps not), but your time might be well spent reading it. What have you got to lose?  This moment kinda reminds me of the "blue pill" "red pill" moment. Which will you choose?  ;)

If you like this book, there is 4 more in the series with plenty of food for thought. I am sure you can even get it at a local library if you don't want to spend your money.

Good luck with everything.

New Perspective
Sunday, February 15, 2004

From the Amazon page about that book
-----------------------------------

Look for similar books by subject:

Browse for books in:

Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > New Age > General
Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > New Age > Mysticism
Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > General
Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( W ) > Walsch, Neale Donald

------------------------------------

..
Sunday, February 15, 2004

Proselytizing on JOS is in semi-poor taste. I think.

my_opinion
Sunday, February 15, 2004

$100 says it is the author trying to sell his book.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/14/technology/14AMAZ.html?ex=1392094800&en=183dc1d16a0c7b4c&ei=5007

Prakash S
Sunday, February 15, 2004

That's a great article. Goes to show ya, not only does it happen, but Amazon knows it's going on as well. Any system that can be subverted for a profit will be, including reviewers who you've come to know and trust if the price is right.

Now where do I sign up for some of that sellout money?

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, February 15, 2004

I'm going to take the less cynical path and say this:

New Perspective, thank you for attempting to share your faith and the related reading material in an attempt to help.  That said, I am a semi-practicing Buddhist and feel completely satisfied with that spiritual paradigm, and will probably not include that book in my reading rotation.

Thanks again.

Norrick
Sunday, February 15, 2004

I just had a thought.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but this came to me in an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em moment".  What if I invested in some corporate image and started soliciting projects not as a one-man show, but as a company?  The distinction in identity is fine, but non-trivial when it comes to marketing.

Hellfire, I could even offshore my *own* work to Hyderabad, give myself a Project Manager title, and use my coding ability to reality-check the code produced by the third-party developers.  As long as my clients were kept happy, it'd be great.

I'm only half joking.

My name is Norrick, and I will sell out if it means keeping my family fed.

Norrick
Sunday, February 15, 2004

"I'm only half joking."

dont be joking at all.

Its _not_ selling out, its making a living.

Make yourself a company, get the work and find a few reliable indian, chinese or whatever programmers to do the actual coding.

Use the profit you make to hire more salespeople, thereby gaining even more work.


_everyone_ wins.

including you )

FullNameRequired
Sunday, February 15, 2004

Remember one thing...even when I am dead serious, *everything* I say has a dash of sarcasm thrown in.  I've tried to fight the tendency, but it's as natural as the morning for me.  ;)

Norrick
Sunday, February 15, 2004

My own pie-in-the-sky take is that the "Age of Companies"
is coming to an end, as the underlying assumption that an
employee once had that one could rely on a company to
show them some level of loyalty is now completely gone.
A company is different from a simple corporate entity in
that a company is a group of people organized to do
something.  A corporation is just an accounting and legal
entity that bears no relationship to the people doing the
work inside it.  Businesses nowadays, particularly
big ones, are corporations, not companies.

(An aside:  I'd expect lots more people embezzling from
corporations and generally doing unethical things as it
becomes clear that there's little to be gained by being
a good, solid worker bee anymore...)

For better or worse, we're now in an age of free-agency
and entrepreneurship, in which one is exposed to
"entrepreneural risk" whether one is an entrepreneur
or not.  So, the best choice is to be entrepreneurial about
one's career, keep the skills up, the rolodex fat, and
be as close to external delivery of service to customers
as possible.  I expect most professionals will end up
being entrepreneurs at some point in their lives, whether
they want to or not.

Another key is to have a big enough bank account to get
through a couple of lean years while transitioning if
things go badly, and keeping one's personal burn rate
low.  This may mean no fancy SUV's and no McMansions,
but gives one the flexibility to transition out of a
career path that may be dying.

Yet another aspect of "enterpreneurial age survival" is
a "Bail Out Completely" strategy, hopefully with a
funding plan.  This would typically involve either going
back to school, or starting one's own business.  More
schooling isn't interesting unless you are planning to be
an employee or consultant.  For me, being 40something,
I'm more interested the biz option, and we've got enough
savings that we could buy a reasonable small business
now, and we're purposely living small and shoveling
money in the bank.

x
Sunday, February 15, 2004

I've known a number of people who have implemented your "Bail Out Completely" plan, although they seem to refer to it as their "Aw, Fuck It" plan.  One guy who was a DBA now runs a small print shop, another guy took a job designing skateboards and another laid-off software engineer I used to work with is now a firearms instructor. 

There are others.  This stuff isn't pretty.

Some people really are giving up and dropping out of the industry entirely.  I frequently hear the sentiment that only the poorly-skilled are being flushed out, but the cream does not necessarily rise to the top.  These are two solid guys, and they simply got tired of the strees that goes along with frequent volatility and an ever-changing technical landscape. 

Things are a-changing, indeed.  But I believe in myself and in the marketplace, at least in the long-term sense.  I think there still is an will continue to be enough abundance in the world that a guy with some brains and hustle can grab a little piece of it.

If only it didn't have to be so mind-numbingly uninteresting...

*goes back to building Yet Another Billing System*

Norrick
Sunday, February 15, 2004

P.S.  And don't think it didn't occur to me to bail out as well.  I'm a fairly sharp boxer, I could always find some work as a sparring partner at a gym someplace.  ;)  We all have our dreams...

Norrick
Sunday, February 15, 2004

As I said in another thread, I think that the best will be some of the first to go, not the last like people seem to assume.

If you're good, chances are you're pretty bright and have other skills that you can make use of in other industries. So why would you hang around on a ship that may be sinking? Even if the ship isn't sinking, the salaries seem likely to.

So if the outsourcing trend continues, I wouldn't be surprised to see more of the best and brightest look further afield.

I for one don't think it would be much fun left working with only the idiots, so I hope I'm wrong.

Sum Dum Gai
Sunday, February 15, 2004


I think programming as a role has been systematically devalued.

Corporate arseholes have now succeeded in getting their programmers to be $50,000 boot lickers. The people hanging around for that are not the bright people.

I am now going to enjoy those same corporate arseholes feel the blowtorch as the public starts to demand higher standards from those responsible, such as anonymous identities NOT being accidentally revealed on the web.

me
Sunday, February 15, 2004

Hi Norrick,

PM jobs can be just as unstable and unrewarding as programming. That being said, you seem to have the right attitude about project management work which is trying to use such a position as stepping stone to something bigger and better. Most of the good project managers that I have worked with have all had the same attitude and done the same thing.

Like BB, I would love to be able to find mind-numbingly uninteresting work on a consistent basis. The holy grail for most graybeards in this industry is to be able to spend the rest of their working lives building yet another f*cking billing system. Steady work along with a steady paycheck is what most pragmatist such as myself really want. Interesting project work is all well and fine when you are twenty something, have no family, don't mind traveling, and are able to work long hours on a consistent basis.

Good luck and feel free to keep us updated on what comes next for you.

One Programmer's Opinion
Sunday, February 15, 2004

Norrick,

If a project is boring, maybe it is because you are not abstracting it to a high enough level. I have a theory that there really are no boring programming projects. If you are doing one boring small business billing system after another, write a piece of software that automates or assists in writing boring small business billing systems. This will be an interesting piece of software to write. In addition, you can then hire non-programmers, who know the business domain, to configure billing systems for small businesses.  Better yet, you can develop templates for specific business types and now sell or lease a product rather than wait around for consulting gigs. 

Just an idea....

Best of luck, and I hope things get better. 

alberti
Sunday, February 15, 2004

Sorry, I have to ask.  Why are you 'writing' one billing system after another?  Are they so different? Why don't you have one system and SELL one billing system after another (with mods)?  There's the change you're looking for.
David

David Freeman
Sunday, February 15, 2004

One of the problems is that each business thinks they're a special little flower that needs their very own billing system.

This is where the middleware vendors make a killing. They play on that, so they'll sell you the middleware, but their real profits come from screwing you will millions of dollars of consulting work to customise the system for you.

In my opinion, it's one of the reasons companies get such poor returns on their IT investment. They expect the It to come to them. However, this always involves building new things, constant requirements changes, and so on, that means it will come in overtime and overbudget. If companies were willing to adjust to fit the IT, they may find that it is infact a lot more economical to make changes at the flexible human level, rather than the rigid computer level.

Unfortunately, such philosophy offends the sensibilities of people who feel the computer should work for them. When in reality, if you accomodate the way computers work in your thinking, you'll find it's much easier to make them work for you, rather than trying to make them be "human" and having a system that is an incomprehensible mess, and you end up having to think like the program to understand what the hell is going on.

Sum Dum Gai
Sunday, February 15, 2004

"One of the problems is that each business thinks they're a special little flower that needs their very own billing system."

Exactly.

Norrick
Sunday, February 15, 2004

"If companies were willing to adjust to fit the IT, they may find that it is infact a lot more economical to make changes at the flexible human level, rather than the rigid computer level."

Isn't that what ERP and customizing off-the-shelf software is all about?


Monday, February 16, 2004

ERP is a scam though. It usually ends up costing more to customise it than to just build the system from scratch!

Sum Dum Gai
Monday, February 16, 2004

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