Welcome!

Web 2.0 Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Natalie Lerner, Dana Gardner

Related Topics: SOA & WOA, SYS-CON MEDIA

SOA & WOA: Article

i-Technology Viewpoint: When to Leave Your First IT Job

"Don't Work in Cubicles, Ever" – IT Workplace Advice From the Front-Line

It was early May of 2004, and I was almost at the finish line for my degree. Between me and graduation: Just two summer classes. I was in the process of finishing what could only be described as the most intense spring semester of my college career. As the semester's end finally hit, I realized something. I was going to need a job, and I hadn't even started looking.

Then, almost on cue, the phone rang. The president of a small and local software company was looking for computer engineers with .NET experience. They searched my university's resume database for candidates, and I came up. Would I like an interview? Hell yes.

I was to be part of a team of highly skilled, versatile, .NET Ninjas. We were going to produce top-notch software for the nuclear power industry. Combining management's knowledge of the nuclear field and our kung fu grip on .NET , we hoped to dominate our market niche. As developers we would be on the ground floor of a booming company. There was greater room for advancement compared to a traditional office environment. We all hoped to have company cars, top-notch health care, company cell phones, and tons of other wonderful perks; all just slightly out of reach.

It did not go as planned.

One stressful year later, while I was staying late with a few other developers to finish up on some work, I was asked to report to the president's office. My manager was already there, sitting on the same side of the desk as the president. They explained to me, in a level and professional tone, that due to financial factors, I was going to be let go, with only an hour's severance pay. Thanks for all the hard work, and best of luck.

The first layoff is tough. After bending over backward, after being a loyal employee, this is the reward? To summarize how I felt: Disillusioned. Only one thing kept me going -- pure ego. You know when the schoolyard bully says something about your mom in front of everyone? But, ignoring the size difference and the fact that he's already shaving daily at age 14, you step forward and say "Oh yeah?", with a Brock Sampson-like eye twitch the only warning of the impending ownage? That's the kind of ego that kept me determined to give software engineering a second shot.

Over the course of the previous year, my friends quickly learned I liked to talk about work less and less. When I did open up about it, they were astounded by, well, let's say various factors of the work environment. Each and every time it was discussed with my peers in the field, time and time they gave me the same advice: Get out.

I have to say, they were totally right.

All the signs were there, but I blazed on, telling myself that this was just a rough patch for the company, and that we'd pull out of this tailspin in time to land safely at our destination. I was ignoring the pilots screaming "Mayday, Mayday".

Now, while I was blind to obvious signs that it was time to leave, doesn't mean that you have to be. I would like to present the 4 signs that you should leave your workplace (for software engineers):

1. It's the environment, stupid!

In the University of Pittsburgh's Computer Engineering program, there is a mandatory department seminar, where the department informs us about our career options. Oftentimes, alumni come back to speak about the career opportunities in their field. It's all very, very dry, and as a result, nobody listens. They also fail to give one piece of advice that I would at the first seminar of every year, if I was ever asked to give one:

Don't work in cubicles, ever. Working in cubicles is the sure sign that you're not working for a successful company. Imagine the smartest person you know, working in your field. Now imagine how they would react if they were told they're going to work in a box with no door or roof, allowing them no privacy.

They would no doubt leave that organization for one that is less creatively stifling. So unless you are convinced that you're stupid (and, in that case, you're in the wrong field) you shouldn't be accepting cubicles in your work place either. If the company will not or can not spend the money to create offices for its knowledge workers, so they can get into the zone, the odds of it creating a successful software product and capitalizing on it are about the same as you becoming a millionaire by going to Las Vegas, betting fifty on black, and letting it ride all night.

Cubicles do not automatically make an employee stupid; but it is one more barrier for you to climb over before you can create your own space to think. At my last workplace, the noise traveled. Everyone could hear everyone. An intern with nothing to do bullshitting with your boss, a co-worker venting about how he's not paid enough, the busybody secretary ordering people around with no authority. Not one single employee liked the set up, but without management's understanding, naturally nothing was done.

And for those management types who live in the dead end of corporate culture, if you don't believe noise is a big detriment to your productivity, just buy an electric drill or vacuum cleaner. Turn it on and let it run. Put it as close to your ear as humanly possible, and try to get work done.

It sounds like such a small thing to critical about, but like so many things in life, little things turn out to be extremely crucial. Little things snowball into bigger things. If people can't relax in their workplace, dealing with them becomes difficult, which creates friction where none should exist. That friction could destroy the delicate cohesion every team needs to maintain to produce software. So if you find that getting ready for work in the morning is a larger effort then getting ready to go out on a Friday night, maybe you should talk to your boss about making your workplace more accepting, or find a new one.

2. Just How Dumb is Management, Anyway?

Engineering n-tier enterprise level software is like navigating a minefield. There are countless potential disasters just waiting to happen. From creeping requirements to budgetary nightmares to horribly incorrect estimates, oftentimes it is not technical ability that makes or breaks a product; it is how all the other chainsaws are juggled. Your project is as dependent on the know how of your manager as it is your technical ability.

Since the inception of the term, software engineering, people have acknowledged that it is inherently hard to manage software projects. It is exponentially harder to have a superior that actually understands this, and is capable of both properly delegating and managing the complexity. Here are three major mistakes to look for in your manager. Take any of these as a sign that it is time to have that interview suit dry cleaned.

A. Thinks they know too much:

Is your superior an old hand, who's worked his way up from the trenches, but hasn't kept up with the pace of technology? Does he base his assumptions of how you should be doing things based off the way that he did things? So while you try to explain that the create_user_account module should call a stored procedure in the database to minimize the chance of SQL injection, he's showing you how easy it was to create a form in Access97. Questioning the methodology at work will often result with a "this is how we did it in the old days, and I don't see anything wrong with that!" New technology isn't likely to be adopted at its full potential in a workplace with a manager like this. Instead, you will end up grinding the same gears, only faster, louder, and harder.

B. Relies on, but disregards your technical advice:

Oftentimes, a non-technical manager, or an "old hand" who's edge is no longer sharp will be impressed enough to listen to your technical advice. If they were smart, they'd actually take it.

My former company had the unlucky experience of needing to reformat its single production server. While our DBAs tried to figure out what caused the crash, and how to fix it, I began talking to various other developers about what needed to be done if we had to recover from a worst-case scenario, where a reformat/reinstall was necessary.

I studied up on the re-install procedures, so that I could come in over a weekend, fix the sever, and have it ready so that everyone could work on Monday. I told my superior, who promptly disregarded it. That task was going to another employee, one who had no experience in setting the server up properly. If you find yourself in a situation where management is disregarding the sound technical advice they should be basing decisions on, you need to expedite your job search.

C. Schedule Bullies:

This one needs no explanation. If you tell management that it will take 8 days, and they turn around and tell you they think it will take six, you need to leave. Rushed work is almost always subpar. You will not learn sound defensive coding practices. If management does share your view of "I'm writing this, I'm the only one who can tell how long this is going to take." then you have an uphill battle explaining to your boss such difficult terms as quality or pride in your work. I wish you luck on that endeavor. It will be as fun as herding cats.

Remember, not all programmers make good managers, just like not all managers make good programmers. If your boss' skill set brings nothing to the table, don't expect to replace him anytime soon. Instead, get your references ready.

3. Personal Growth

At my last job, I constantly felt dejected. "You're not growing fast enough! You're barely in the middle of the pack." was the kind of feedback I was getting from my supervisor. Much later, I realized they were setting employees up for failure, and then blaming the employee, instead of blaming themselves.

When it comes to growth, you need to consider two things about your company. Are you happy doing what you're happy doing? Do they have you developing in-house tools, when you'd rather be developing next-generation user interfaces? Are you finding yourself spending half your time fixing the network and pulling cable when you'd rather be developing a framework for your fellow developers?

The second thing you need to consider is what kind of options they offer for career advancement. Will the company you're working for pay for graduate schooling in your field? What about management classes? How about industry certifications? If the answer to any of those three is no, the company is trying to trap you, by removing the path most employees use to get better jobs: Expanding on their experience and education. Plenty of companies now offer this benefit to developers, so if yours doesn't, find one that does. You'll thank me when you have that nanotechnology Ph.D.

4. Compensation and Overtime

If you're not happy with the amount of money that you're making, do a reality check. Find out what you're worth. If you are confident your compensation is inadequate, extend your superior the opportunity to rectify this mistake, and then start looking for jobs where you will be valued.

Overtime should also be considered along with compensation. If you're working too many hours at the office, and the company isn't doing whatever it takes to get you back down to a healthy 40 hour work week, then something is wrong. Is it because the network is breaking and none of you know what to do? Hire a network administrator with certifications. Are you talking to vendors and doing the legwork on products you might need later down the pipeline that a temp could do instead? Are you testing software instead of a full time tester?

While the occasional (paid) overtime is nice, long hours put more wear and tear on you, and over time, can cost you the passion you had for developing quality software. No amount of profit sharing, casual dress or office perk can get that back for you.

Final Thoughts

Work is not all bad. A lot of employers say they want their employees to think work is fun. Few employers put their money where their mouth is, and difference is something you not only see - you feel it when you start working for those employers. After reading this, you should have some concrete feeling as to whether you feel your employer measures up, or whether you need to move on. If you start thinking more about your career and less about your particular job, you'll start to pay attention to those warning signs. And for those of you feeling those warning signs:

I'll offer you the same two words of advice that my friends gave me: Get out.

Comments (8) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Anonymous 10/15/05 03:15:45 PM EDT

This article reminds me of the junior pups that I worked with in various companies - they all seem to think they know everything and demand the world, but then when something doesn't go their way, they get all angry and blame management for this.

Hate to tell you this, sport, but as someone who has been around the block a hell of a lot more than you have, you have a lot of growing up to do. This isn't the "dot-com" boom time where you can have no experience in a field and become a Director or VP overnight.

People nowadays want SMEs and people who have a clue - people who can contribute and not bitch about the fact they have a cubicle versus a hard walled office.

I would feel remotely sympathetic to you if 1) you were not given the proper equipment to do your job (this has happened to me more times than I care to count 2) I am surrounded by coworkers who sit on their collective asses and complain that you aren't working hard but they are there doing even LESS and demanding MORE (been there too) 3) you have a boss who refuses to communicate with you, even when you just join the company and expect you to figure out by osmosis what the goals of the company are and you are to chart your own course (this has happened to me as well).

So... to make a long story short, you are an ungrateful little punk who might be better off working in an electronics store or a fast food restaurant. If you can't handle how companies think or operate, then I suggest you see what's wrong with YOU before you look at the company and their flaws.

I know for one thing, I wouldn't hire you to work with me - you seem to be very high maintenance and I can't deal with that -- we want results and we want team players but ones who actually can work on their own - it seems to me you can't even do that right...

Good luck to you... you will REALLY need it.

damienm 10/13/05 09:01:47 AM EDT

Chris, the innocence of inexperience is all I can say to describe your view! You have a long way to go before you can give solid advice to people on how they manage their career. Admittedly there are some factors in your argument that hold water. The logic you use, however, indicates your lack of objectiveness and experience. While you might very well strike it lucky irrespective of your attitude, it is an attitude that would make you an unlikely candidate for hiring for the reason that it indicates that you are nowhere near as effective in a work situation as you might think you are. Don't let your bitterness about one situation mold your view from this point forward. With any luck you'll look back on this article in 10 years time and laugh at your innocence, perhaps even blush!

Keep an open mind, man... good luck in your future career.

mohamed yusu faizal 10/12/05 04:26:27 AM EDT

Christopher excellence has been proved keep it up

Free Thy emoTiOns 10/09/05 10:47:40 PM EDT

Trackback Added: Why should you leave your tech job.; Being in the tech line, there are stuff I read in there that make sense. But then again, I think the place I work in does not really has some of the restrictions, cause I work alone.
Schedule bullies do not only apply to the IT industry, many industr...

ohbayy 10/07/05 02:39:48 PM EDT

Excellent article Christopher Wilson. You got the key issues hammered-out, spot-on. Way to go. I really hope a lot of stay-put, miserable programmers read this.

Wolfgang 10/07/05 09:00:52 AM EDT

Ahh, the idealism of youth. I work for one of the largest and most profitable insurance companies in the world and guess what? Surprise, Surprise: cubicles. I've also worked for engineering companies that build hardware and have done embedded code - also successful companies, also cubicles. This sounds like the same type "woulda, shoulda, coulda" whining that I hear from my interns. And no, I'm not a manger - I'm a senior technical architect (an "old hand" if you like, who has kept current on technology). The answer is fairly simple - if you work for "start-up" companies you have great opportunites if you are in on the ground floor (i.e. Microsoft millionaires)but also have to understand the balancing side of the equation -with this type of opportunity comes great risk. For every Microsoft or Oracle out there, there are 5,000 starups that fail or achieve mediocre success at best. So if you are going to work in high risk/high reward environments, accept the fact that the probability of the type of experience you had repeating is high. Or take a different road. And while you are whining about your manager and how unfairly you were treated by the company, think about how much those same owners invested and lost. I can assure you they did not fail just to persecute you. If you want security, join a big corporation (even that is no garauntee today with all the outsourcing)- but then you'll have to deal with the rules an regs - dress codes, cubes, bosses who want you to report your status at least 3 different ways. Your only option for the complete creative freedom you want is to come up with, develop and sell your own product. Of course, if you are even slightly successfull, you will become the "man" and do to a new crop of software engineers all the horrible things that you endured. This is called "business". Deal with it.

Tiger One 10/06/05 02:54:32 AM EDT

Hi,

Great write up.

One question, all these are points that can only be answered once you have already started working in a company. How can one judge a company from what is available when you walk in for the interview.

Cheers,
Tiger

Yakov Fain 10/05/05 04:20:53 PM EDT

Chris,

Just stop whining, will you! This entire article is about yourself and how bad guys underestimate you.If you are following your own recommendations, you should not be working for the same comany for more than a couple of months. Whenever something goes wrong your response is always the same: update your resume and run. Just relax a bit... Most of the software engineers work in cubicles, and some of them are making tons of money. And if you do not like the noise around you, put on the headphones and listed to some elevator music.
Yes, not all managers are the smartest people in the world, but they need to worry about more things than just bringing a server up. Try to ajust to the environment you're in now, or you'll run out of emploeyrs to go to. It's a small world, really.
Meanwhile, our friends from Asia will be more than happy to move into your noisy cubicle.
Put yourself together and see what has to be done to have a better review then "in the middle of the pack".
As the President Bush put it, "You can run, but you can't hide!".

Sorry for the angry tone :)

@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...