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One thrird maginal life rate

So last week, I'm frustrated. Looking where our small company's vision and growth is heading, I am rather dismayed that once we were an innovator, and the future looks like we're going to aim at being "an integrator".  Taking peices of software from others and gluing them together - perpetually.

I hate this crap.  PM's abound, milling around, talking on phones, all asking if something is "done yet".  In a company of 60, we have 6 product developers, 2 automated (awesome) test developers, and 2 manual testers who cannot find a light switch with written instructions.  The rest of the "technical" community here act like moths in their PM role. Fluttering around projects like they were light bulbs, accomplishing nothing other than high priced babysitting.

I could spend 8 hours of my days helping to shovel this crap here and there.  My pay is good, but I don't think I can honestly say that I'd thrive in the new world. Eventually something has got to give. I'm already starting to maintain an edge with my conversations with anyone non-technical.  Feeling like pecking a fight [sic], I am perpetually hostile.

We had a meeting where my boss showed his powerpoint previously targeted at our VCs.  One one slide, was the following issue:

* Trouble attracting cost effective, qualified engineers.

Later, when going around the room, introducing ourselves and what we do.  I said "I'm hoser and I'm a cost effective engineer."

My boss said something aking to WTF? Face getting red. I said "on the slide, ..."

Also, we hired a new Java guy, who makes factless weird comments which come out of nowhere.  My nickname for him is "brick", like Jethro Tull's "Thick as a brick".  Whenever he starts in on his stupid ass comment, I start whistling or humming the tune.

So, I pulled the trigger Thursday and handed out my resume to a recruiter.  To my surprise, the embedded market in Seattle is booming. Perhaps merely booming with respect to my own depressed expectations. But - no, really vigorous.  Who woulda thought.  Had myr first phone screen friday which now leads to an interview Tuesday. Working on getting all the possibilities worked up. Seemingly lots of options.

I'm posting alot to JoS lately.  A clear indication that its probably a good time to move on.  Ramble on...

Monday, June 21, 2004

Good luck finding a new gig. I hope it works out for you.

The larger the organization, the more it's run by business people, the more they need someone who will fit a specific job role. The smaller the organization, the more you get a chance to do a little bit of everything.

Obviously the latter is preferable, you accomplish things, and feel good about going to work. You're not a cog in the machine, you're building the machine. Try to find something small where you can really sink your teeth in. You know, like your work environment was before you got there.

You should be able to tell easily which kind it is.
Monday, June 21, 2004

Way to go, hoser. 

It's strange about the "cost-effective engineer" thing, isn't it. They never talk about having trouble finding cost effective lawyers. It all translates to them thinking they can get engineering skill cheap.

I decided years ago I am not cheap and will never be cheap.

Monday, June 21, 2004


I find my situation remarkably similar to yours.  I work for a medium size software company in the embedded/mobile space (differenct country though).

Our company is a little bigger (100 vs 60) and is quite project manager heavy.  All of our projects and prospective projects are either integration, maintenance or documenting.

I am thinking of doing exactly what you did, although I haven't even started passivly looking yet.  I hope your interviews go well and your skills haven't become too rusty from not doing new development work.

Way to go, brother.

Furious George
Monday, June 21, 2004

hoser - I think your experience/situation is pretty common. The last couple of years have been bad because the job market was tight, now there are a lot of people ready to move on. Good luck.

Anony Coward
Monday, June 21, 2004

It's everywhere brother.

Congrats on finding a thriving niche in your area that may offer some challenges.

Not to sound political, but I feel this is natural fallout from Reagan-Bush with the emphasis on education as "training" ("sit, Ubu, sit") and Yale-style "professional managers can manage anything."  It's not a partisan issue, both faces of our system are polluted in this manner at this point, and boy does it ever trickle down.

Scary signs?  It's even at the Federal level now.  Look at NASA the past few years.  Big-wigs even visit the troops in Iraq for "Town Hall Meetings" - a tip-off of MBAzation if I ever heard one.

Bob Riemersma
Monday, June 21, 2004

my company is hiring engineers to make up for three years of not hiring engineers.  The shareholders think we're developing new products, but *surprise*, we're just fixing the old one.

In the meantime, we've hired easily 5 directors at 100k, added a VP slot at the 175-200k mark, and promoted a couple existing directors to VP.

love those top-heavy orgs!

Monday, June 21, 2004

Hey, it's not new. I worked for NASA almost 20 years ago and it was bad then too.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Re; NASA -- US Federal Government support work has a panache all its own.  I've supported subcontracts for NASA and the IRS.  Both had the 'Not-Invented-Here' syndrome -- what the Government manager wanted was what happened, whether it was a technically good idea or not.

Plus, most successful contracts were 'service' contracts "Cost Plus Fixed Fee" -- the subcontractor provided 'services', specified by the Gov't side as time went along.  On the one hand, this was a good thing, as nobody got stuck by over-charges.

On the other hand, this allowed the Gov't to change their mind pretty often, as long as they continued to pay for the hours needed for the multiple revisions to get the product they wanted.

And, regarding becomming top-heavy with Project Managers:  in the software industry today, this may be inevitable. 

'Coders' aren't paid very well.  So you enter as a 'Coder', gain experience to become a 'Software Engineer' Designer/Architect, and after 5 or 10 years you are too expensive.  Your only option is to become a 'Program Manager', or technical manager of some description.

Also, the skills have been evolving so fast (DFD to OOA/OOD to RUP to Agile Modeling to Extreme Programming to Web-Based Development, C to C++ to Java, Win16 to Win32 to MFC to STL) that anyone who has worked 5 years on a project only has "Experience" in a virtually 'obsolete' platform.

So, if you want to continue to increase your income year by year, you become a Project Manager, and manage a team of newbies, fresh out of college (or classes) in the latest buzz-word software technology.  You 'mold' them into a working team -- that's what people are willing to pay for.  That's how people think, that's what people reward.

Even better, as a PM you can OUTSOURCE the actual work, closing the loop on the idea that coding is grubby and anyone can do it, only clever management is worth any real money.  I don't think this idea is correct, BTW, but it seems to be the current management mind-set.

The result is lots of PM's, managing a very few programmers.  If the project fails, replace the PM and continue rolling.  It's kind of hard on the programmers, though, as they try to 'service' all the demands of all the PM's -- and get blamed, or outsourced, no matter what happens.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

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