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"If you're an employee, you're s***" - true?

Something that occured to me lately. A class distinction: if you are seen as employee material in this industry, you are viewed almost as a lowlife. You know nothing, you are subversive, and you are scrutinized as though you are lying at all times.

But if you are "independent" (even if you are making zilch) and your relation to the other party is not as employee fodder, your stock is MUCH higher.

Context #1: I am looking for someone to do phone surveys for my business. I found a college student to do this. I called his graduate advisor as a reference check, and it was clear when I identified myself to him as a business owner that I was a "peer" and was treated as such. It was a cordial conversation.

Context #2: a recruiter called me from my listing apparently to pitch a contract in another city. I maintain a resume at scguild that is absolutely divorced from my small business dealings - it looks and smells like a normal contractor's resume. In talking to the recruiter I stated that I was married, so that working all week in that city (100+ mi away) was out of the question. He says "we can get you back home on the weekends" like I'm a 5 yr old at summer camp. I said "well, I have an office I rent, I would be willing to work part time up there and the rest down here". He says "hrumph, no the client will NEVER go for this, with the Patriot act in place and national security and so forth.". I say, is this DOD? He is taken aback and says "hrumph, well, no, the client is a major company and takes security VERY seriously". The clear vibe was that I was the surrogate "child", he was the adult. I bade him a good day as insincerely as possible and ended the call.

In EVERY dealing I've had with a time wasting, shallow HR dumbass, they always do this "we adult, you child" crap. It's implied or even explicit.

A friend I had lunch with a couple of months ago said the same thing. He makes well into 6 figures and is treated like a mechanic by the office secretary. But even a pauperized small businessperson (who is independent) will be accorded every diplomatic immunity in his office. As long as he doesn't say that he is looking for a job...

Why are IT people such a bunch of blatant pussies as to allow this noxious and demeaning pattern of behavior to exist in our business?

Tired of pompous @ssholes in HR
Thursday, May 6, 2004

Two thoughts:

1)  You're extrapolating from your dealings with the recruiter (which were normal for a recruiter) and your dealings with a normal person (which were normal for a normal person).  This isn't a case of business owners vs. programmers and how they allow themselves to be treated; it's recruiters vs. everyone else in the world in terms of how they treat people.  To recruiters, people are products or services, and they treat them as such.

2)  "Why are IT people such a bunch of blatant pussies as to allow this noxious and demeaning pattern of behavior to exist in our business?"

Can't answer that question, but I am inclined to ask why you would use such a noxious term which rather blatantly demeans the female IT people and developers who inhabit these parts.

Thursday, May 6, 2004

If I need to be able to hire, fire, and replace you then I want to feel like you are one step up from "Would you like fries with that."  As developers are not a collective, we are treated as individuals.  When an individual comes looking for a job, they are the equivalent of Oliver asking "more please."    A business does the "how low can we go" routine, and developers characteristically dig "deep."  So they learn that individuals are greater in number, and replaceable.  (How many companies would actually go under if a single employee left?)

This leaves business to run with there own internal rules.

Rule 1: Business thinks more of itself than individuals.  Don't take it personally, they think the same of their clients.  That why most do cost/benefit analysis to determine what issues they should be concerned with. Do we really expect MS to spend $2 billion making longhorn virus proof?  Their cost/benefit says no.

Rule 2: Businesses hire people.  So if you are a business, even a small one, you may some day need help.  I don't want to pee in your pool or someday you will make me clean it.  OR to put it more positively, I may want to work for you one day.  So we watch out for each other.

Rule 3: Businesses don't need businesses.  In a business to business arrangement, we are both looking for something and if it works or does not, that is just business.  If you push me too hard, my cost/benefit numbers tell me to leave. 

Is this true for all individuals and all companies?  Of course not.  But it is true for such a great number of them that the behavior comes like prejudice.  Those with it do not even realize they have it.  Or perhaps more accurately, once individuals step into the position of power, they want to use it too.

Thursday, May 6, 2004

Kyralessa, if I call you a dick, am I demeaning all male IT professionals?  How is it any different?

Thursday, May 6, 2004

Contemptuous treatment is more common in IT because:

1) programmers are not taught to recognise and defend their own interests as part of their courses. By comparison, lawyers and accountants continually get told how valuable they are and that only dills provide free advice, and their training equips them to challenge dodgy treatment and contracts. Recruiters have much less business in accounting and law.

2) most other professional roles have clear barriers to entry, which give the candidates a useful amount of bargaining power. If you've qualified as a lawyer or accountant, you have an important bargaining chip. The recruiter has to be nice to you because he can't go and get 2,000 of you from India, or hire someone with an MCSE instead.

Thursday, May 6, 2004

It's better to earn a little money from a lot of people than a lot of money from one person.

My experience is:

The more people you work for, the less leverage EACH has over you. And they KNOW it.

If you're an employee, your boss might feel he can use you as an emotional punching bag. (Has happened to me).

As an contractor, I had  5 or 10 employers. They  treat you a lot better because they know they have very little leverage.

As a software company owner, I have thousands of employers. I still get the occassional demanding/insulting customer (maybe one every few months). These people THINK they have some leverage over me, but they don't. And *I* know it.  So they aren't a problem.


Mr. Analogy
Thursday, May 6, 2004

"As  ??"

Ignore the As above.

Mr. Analogy
Thursday, May 6, 2004

Admittedly (nod to Kyralessa) my post was something of a rorschach of my own internal demons and insecurities.  As far as your comments, Kyralessa: true, I'm extrapolating two episodes, but they are similar to dozens more in my past.

You guys are making excellent sense. Thanks for the analysis, esp. Mr. Analogy and  MSHack.

I have just always believed that developers tend to remain in the "asskissing graduate student jumping eagerly through hoops for respectability" emotional role well past youth.  Between our ears we're philosopher-kings. Externally we're a nonunionized form of blue collar wage slave.  Most of us accept it as a necessary given. It's friggin' tragic in its own way.

Tired of pompous @ssholes in HR
Thursday, May 6, 2004


No, because I'm male, so in that case you're just being a jerk.  But if I were female, then yes, that comment would be demeaning to males (and you would still be a jerk).  Thanks for requesting the clarification; I hope it helps.


I think the attitude you're talking about comes from the lack of a clear line that one crosses to be a professional developer.  You pass the bar (or whatever), and you're a lawyer; you get through med school and internship and you're a doctor.  I don't know all the specifics, but certainly those who are in those fields are aware of a particular point after which you're a real lawyer or doctor, and not just an aspiring one.  You may not even be a very good one, but you're still different from a law school student or college biology major.

I don't think in programming we have anything comparable to that; the only thing you can point to is your experience.  Hence the insecurity, especially for people who don't feel that their experience is worth much: the fact that other people can't program doesn't stop you (who can) from thinking the programs you wrote in your last job were piddly.  (Kind of like while lots of people can't play the piano and think the stuff I can make up is incredible, I myself know it's just playing with chords and ornaments; I have enough knowledge to know where I'm lacking.)  Add to this the fact that part of the nerd persona (as documented in Sandra Boynton's "Don't Let the Turkeys Get You Down", for instance) is a lack of self-confidence and an excessive desire to please.  (Turkeys, she says, are the exact opposite.)

For me, what's helped is learning salary scales so I don't undervalue myself, going through interviews where I'm told "not enough experience" and then studying those areas where I was lacking, and in general doing more programming practice so that I'm less likely to be doing task XYZ for the first time.

Thursday, May 6, 2004

Completely out of topic:

Why did you feel like shit has to be toned down to s*** while pussy and dick gets to be viewed in their full glory?

I hate that when the media does it too.. You are not allowed to say the 's' word or the 'f' word, but you can say everything else that remotely or closely means the same thing.

Of course as long as you cover the butt crack and the nipples, you can show everything else... Not to mention it is ok to see people's spilled guts in Iraq in the paper and on TV.  Very nice censorship!

As an adult, I am being treated like a 2 year old who has never seen anything. I wonder where this censorship mentality comes from.

Thursday, May 6, 2004

Do you wear clothes to work, grunt, or are you censored there too?

Thursday, May 6, 2004

Clothes are good as long as they are selected tastefully and they fit the body they are worn on.  Too bad the fashion trends ignore the fact that there are quite a bit of overwieght people living in this country who cannot and should not wear hip huggers and tummy show-ers...

Thursday, May 6, 2004

Hm.  I think a look at payscales in other professions might be refreshing here.  Someone mentioned college biology majors who become doctors.... but what about those who are going into research?

If you're treated badly as a software engineering employee, at least you're getting paid.  Try grad school in the biological sciences:  take 6 years to get a PhD, working 70-80 hour weeks on $14K/year salary (summers included, no chance to get outside work), being treated as slave labor by the professor who controls the entire future of your career.  Then when you graduate you are now a postdoc, which means the same except your salary goes up to $30K/year and you are expected to work 80-90 hr weeks with no benefits, no union, no HR (basically no defense against the professor that hires you), and no job security.

It's not the same as passing the bar -- it takes a heck of a lot more time to get a PhD, for one thing -- but the "barrier to entry" in this case does not at all prevent low wages and exploitation.

If you don't like the way you're being treated as a software engineer, take a look at your next pay stub and ask how much over $30K you're making....

Biotech coder
Thursday, May 6, 2004

Biotech, the plight of post-docs has been well documented by Matloff, as another example of how H1-B's have been used to reduce wages. In your case it's for research assistants, post-docs and teaching assistants.

Universities, like business, have big promoters of "shortages."

Friday, May 7, 2004

>If you've qualified as a lawyer or accountant, you have an important bargaining chip. The recruiter has to be nice to you because he can't go and get 2,000 of you from India, or hire someone with an MCSE instead.<

As a matter of fact, the accounting community is just as worried about offshoring as we are. See here:

Data Miner
Sunday, May 9, 2004

Accountants aren't worried to the same extent, or likely to be affected as badly. That's because accounts have to be signed off by registered local auditors and so on.

Accounting firms are actually among those who have been offshoring IT jobs.

Monday, May 10, 2004

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