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It Rarely Hurts To Listen

, , , , , , , | Working | CREDIT: sujit_warrier | August 14, 2022

I’m a software engineer. I used to work for a pretty big company that specialized in developing software solutions for their client. I was sent on-site to the client, a big Malaysian bank, to play the role of front-end developer (basically making their Internet banking website). They already had backend services set up for a mobile application which we were also to use for the website.

There was only one problem: you could only install the app on one phone and log in to your account. This meant that if the customer logged into their app, they wouldn’t be able to log in through the website. As anyone can determine, this is a big problem.

I went to the back architect and tried to tell him, as well as the project manager, about this problem.

Back Architect & Project Manager: “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Stop disturbing us. Just do your job and nothing else!”

(I later found out that they hated the previous front-end manager and would never listen to the front team.) So, I sent an email detailing the whole problem to both of them, and their bosses, as well. As expected, nothing happened, but my butt was covered.

Fast forward two months. The client reviewed the architecture for the website and found that no changes had been made to the backend to accommodate the different behaviour of the website. They called a meeting and blasted the back architect, the project manager, and their boss. They claimed that they were backend people and didn’t know the difference in behaviour in a website, and that it was my job to let them know. They brought me in to question me as to why I hadn’t let them know. They claimed that, because of me, the project had been delayed for two months and the company had incurred losses. I calmly told them of my meeting with the two idiots and showed them the email, which they had ignored. Then, there was a glorious explosion. Basically, the architect was called incompetent and his twenty years of experience were called into question, and the project manager blamed everything on the architect.

After that, they always considered my suggestions.

After two months, the architect was transferred to another project and replaced, and the project manager quit IT. The last I heard, he is trying to set up an organic farming business.

Perhaps Further Train-ing Is Required

, , , , , , , | Working | August 10, 2022

This is not my story, but that of a friend who was a computer engineer back in the 1990s. He was regularly shuttling from NYC (where he lived and generally worked) down to DC (where his company had a major client). They paid for travel. If I recall correctly, they were required to spring for First Class. He was paid something like $150 an hour at the time.

Normally, [Friend] flew, but one time, the weather went to heck and he had to take the train. He wound up in First Class on the Metroliner (high-speed train) with a nice dinner and drinks included. He liked it, so he opted to take the train the next time; it turned out that it was actually cheaper than a last-minute ticket flying from NYC to DC.

The client threw a fit, saying that their travel reimbursement system couldn’t handle train tickets and they really only dealt with the train the prior time because it was a weather emergency. He checked his contract and the following exchange ensued.

Friend: “So, you’re saying that you cannot reimburse me for the train tickets?”

Company: “That’s right. You’ll have to fly.”

Friend: “All right. In that case, if I have to fly, you can reimburse me for door-to-door travel time, which will be about three hours each way, if New York traffic cooperates.”

Company: “What?”

Friend: “Well, I’m entitled to travel time in our contract. If I have to fly, you can pay me for the travel time. Or, if you can reimburse my train tickets, I will happily waive that clause.”

Somehow, in the face of having to fork over an extra $900 per trip, their system was “suddenly” able to handle reimbursing train tickets.

And He’s An Engineer?!

, , , , | Right | June 20, 2022

I developed both a website and an intranet solution that approximately fifty civil engineers log into in order to submit files, reports, and other internal reports.

One of the engineers called me.

Engineer: “The solution you developed is absolutely worthless! I can’t even log in!”

I had sent a very detailed set of instructions in a PDF file, something I thought was absolutely idiot-proof.

After a step-by-step set of instructions over the phone, he resorted to calling one of the secretaries to see if she could log herself in.

As soon as she sat down in front of his computer, I heard her giggling, followed by bursts of laughter by several people surrounding his station. It was minutes before I could get someone to reply on the phone.

Turns out he was trying to log in on the PDF file’s screenshot.

A Fitting Moniker

, , , , , , , | Working | May 17, 2022

Someone once put up a nameplate in our engineering office:

Nameplate: “Herdaing Katz, engineering manager.”

I have no idea if it was an actual person or not. I was afraid to ask!

Another Exhausting Workplace

, , , , , | Working | May 12, 2022

I am a young woman in engineering. As a result, my opinion doesn’t carry much weight despite being the most experienced. Additionally, I am often blamed for my coworkers’ screw-ups as I am supposed to be mother-henning them with no actual authority.

Despite trying my best to explain backwards compatibility to a coworker several times, he still thinks he knows best. As a result, several functions a client was using become defunct, and their code breaks which, obviously, annoys them. After a bit of pulling teeth (and having [Client] back me up), I get my coworker to agree to put those functions back in so it is backwards compatible and we are not creating issues for them. 

It is also worth noting that my manager is just kind of a waste of space. She wastes hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a week being argumentative and dooms-daying every little decision despite not knowing what the heck is going on. It isn’t a technical knowledge transfer issue. It just goes one ear and out the other in favor of acting like the sky is falling if she doesn’t step in.

Manager: “What version are we on? Is the version going to change?”

Me: “We are on version [number] and it will be changed once we fix [client-found bug].”

Manager: “And are there any changes we need to make? I know [Client] had an issue that needs to be resolved.”

Me: *Biting my tongue* “Well, we need to add back a few depreciated functions for [Client] so their code doesn’t break. [Coworker] suggested we put them all in one section to organize them better.”

Manager: “So, have we thought through how this will affect our clients? We don’t want to break their code.”

Me: *Gobsmacked* “You mean besides giving them back functionality that they were using and making them happy?”

At this point, I just let her rant herself silly about the pros and cons. At last, [Coworker] finally agreed to fix it and it was fixed within the hour, after a week of banging my head against that wall.

I am leaving in three weeks, so it will be interesting to see what happens down the line when I am not there to stop them from doing something too fatalistic or act as the scapegoat.