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    I’m not sure what’s more incredible: that his job was that easy to automate or that it took them six years to realize he’d automated his entire job. From a management perspective, it’s very important to stay connected to your employees so that you know what they’re doing and how they can achieve more. If they’d known what he was able to do, they could have promoted him or had him audit their other processes. From his perspective, he could have used the time to come up with new ideas or sharpen his skills. Sounds like a failure on the part of both sides. To be clear though, it’s still hilarious.

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      In white collar America, the unofficial game at some orgs is “how little work can I do without getting caught?” In this case, he probably did too little so he ended up being fired out of spite.

      If he’s as clever as he says, then he’ll be fine, he just needs to apply himself and find a job that challenges him more.

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        In white collar America, the unofficial game at some orgs is “how little work can I do without getting caught?”

        I’m not even sure of that. Pretty often, people start their jobs with good intentions, and later find out that the friction of doing work is too high. I’ve seen people in companies slacking off and if you inquired as a freshmen, they would bounce all your ideas with “yeah, tried that, it makes sense, doesn’t fly”.

        Turns out they slack off because if they moved, there’s no sense of really moving the project. Some companies have real aggressive in-fighting going on. There’s two reactions to this: leave (introducing all kinds of problems like less security on the new job) or stay and find yourself a corner where it is silent.

        The problem is often that they miss the point where things cool down and they could be effective again, because they still believe that all new things introduce this huge amount of friction.

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          I have seen this story many times. A company hires someone with an explicit mandate of “you’re here to shake things up.” Person enthusiastically joins, tries to shake things up, then “we’re sorry but we seem to have different values, you’re going to have to go.” Often said by the same person that hired them in the first place!

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            As a consultant, a PM introduced me to the project by saying, “We want you to improve quality in our legacy codebase.” A week after I started doing so, they said, “Why did you spend two days adding tests, I could’ve whipped up that change in 30m!”. A week after I hacked things out, “Why doesn’t this code have tests, don’t you know we’re trying to improve quality?”. A week later it was “This isn’t a good fit, we’re canceling the contract.”

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              I had a job like this and did no work for 18 months. They kept telling me things were changing in the org VERY soon and my project would be on track.

              Didn’t happen, I left. It was career suicide to stay there, but lots of other people were willing to stick around for decades and collect a paycheck. Sad because if they get laid off for downsizing they have no real appreciable skills anymore so I don’t know how they could ever work again…

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                Emphasis added by me:

                I had to work with engineers in France for years and they were very rude about not wanting to do anything. I complained to my Director but he said “Yeah, we know it’s just too hard to fire anyone in France due to the regulations. Try to work around it.”.

                Right now I work with engineers in Vienna and they are pretty good during business hours but they refuse to work a minute past quitting time and tried to fire a Romanian contractor for working too hard. We took her onto our team because she is pretty damn good at QA.

                I wonder if it’s just what happens when you do something that most of management doesn’t really understand? I dunno but I’ve definitely seen a lot of laziness and/or apathy even in smaller orgs.

                It sounds like you have a lot to learn from your European colleagues to me. Calling people lazy and/or apathetic for finishing work on time, and not letting it bleed into every hour of the day is to me a symptom of a healthy work/life balance, combined with sensible workers rights.

                A few years ago (I left in 2012) I worked for a US company that insisted I opted out of the EU working time directive. Since I was working in the UK they couldn’t fire me for not opting out, but I would have to keep time sheets documenting in minute detail where time was spent, to protect them from overworking me. Everyone I knew opted out because the timekeeping requirements were so onerous.

                Yet, it feels to me partly that you label them “lazy” partly because they’re in a time zone that means their day ends during the middle of yours. As an anecdote, when it came to cross-Atlantic meetings at the US company I worked at they somehow always happened during US work hours^1. And yet that was sort-of alright when I worked from London, since there’s a few hours overlap between NY and London. However, my eyes were really opened to this when I moved to Hong Kong with the same company. Since there was 12 hours time difference between HK and NY (at least part of the year) there was no overlap of “business hours”. Many of my colleagues^2 over there were attending meetings with people in NY from home at 10pm HK local time, because it was never an option that the people in US would get in slightly early for such meetings.

                Footnotes

                [1] Well into, actually, because they had “important business to attend to” before attending overseas meetings. We joked that our US colleagues couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed, but I don’t believe that. I think it was more ignorance / arrogance and forgetting to take time zones into account.

                [2] I luckily escaped this because the rest of my team was in London. Though, my situation was similar: meetings with London was always well into London working hours, such that if the meeting overran in the slightest it would finish after I was meant to finish in HK, but this meant no time for chit-chat with the London contingent.

                Edited to fix typo: “GK” is now more correctly “Hong Kong”, and it should be clear that remaining “HK” is that city. Also edited to fix the emphasis, that wasn’t showing up originally.

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                  At least in the context of Europe, I’ve found having an orderly work schedule, set hours, etc. to even correlate pretty well with professionalism and quality. Companies where developers work 80-hour unpaid overtime at the whim of management can seem responsive (they’ll have a phone meeting any time of day or night you want), but tend not to have the highest-quality developers and produce the best work. Which is why Danish and German companies, with their fixed work hours and orderly work culture, are not massively bleeding business to Greek and Spanish companies, despite the latter being willing to work more hours for less money.

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                    … there was 12 hours time difference between HK and NY (at least part of the year) there was no overlap of “business hours”. Many of my colleagues^2 over there were attending meetings with people in NY from home at 10pm HK local time, because it was never an option that the people in US would get in slightly early for such meetings.

                    I was on an eng team with a similar breakdown: NY, LN (actually UTC+2), and HK and a standing weekly call. A couple of weeks into it, I asked my peers if we could roll our call so everyone would be inconvenienced twice per month. No objections but I don’t know that it ever got further than us to the larger team. When it was just me and my HK colleague on a project we would alternate 9am/9pm local time so neither of us was always the one put out. More often than not, I fielded an EU end-of-day call (about noon NY) and passed info on for the AP start-of-day (7-8pm NY). It just seemed like the right thing to do.

                    /u/stig, I think we worked in the same industry and employer…

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                      /u/stig, I think we worked in the same industry and employer…

                      Heh, easily verified: This particular job was with Morgan Stanley, working on various minor systems related to structured products. (Exchange Traded Funds, its predecessor Opals, and a derivative called Custom Baskets.)

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                        Bingo. Enterprise Infrastructure, here.

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                          Heh, when I saw NY, LN, HK, I thought about MS :) I was a contractor on Fixed Income (end of day risk calculation)

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                            Naturally! ;)

                            So many good people passed through, you probably can’t swing the proverbial dead cat around a tech forum without hitting a few.

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                  I think mattgreenrocks bases it on experience. And you? Bonus points for something other than ‘gut feeling’.

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                  In white collar America, the unofficial game at some orgs is “how little work can I do without getting caught?”

                  I think that this starts out as “How little risk can I take?” The upside of high performance is mediocre and the downsides of high performance and low performance are severe (getting fired, possibly even blacklisted). Corporate life teaches risk aversion. Eventually, people get enough tenure that the risks to low performance disappear; those of high performance never do.

                  Likable mediocrities never get fired and people eventually figure this out. The only people who end up doing any work are the somewhat broken people like me who can’t tolerate pretending to work for 8+ hours and who therefore try to do something real, just to pass the time.

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                    I mostly agree.

                    I’d add that the upside of high performance combined with political acumen is very rapid promotion to highly paid, influential roles. Unfortunately, that’s a stunningly rare combination of skills in tech.

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                      I’d add that the upside of high performance combined with political acumen is very rapid promotion to highly paid, influential roles.

                      With luck, sure. However, average performance suffices for the politically adept. In fact, any bit of energy that is put into high performance is arguably better spent on political gain.

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                Who was it that said that a good programmer’s job is to put himself out of work?

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                  It has been said many times in many ways, and it’s true. :)

                  Instruction tables will have to be made up by mathematicians with computing experience and perhaps a certain puzzle-solving ability. There need be no real danger of it ever becoming a drudge, for any processes that are quite mechanical may be turned over to the machine itself.

                  “Proposed Electronic Calculator” (1946), a report for National Physical Laboratory, Teddington; published in A. M. Turing’s ACE Report of 1946 and Other Papers (1986), edited by B. E. Carpenter and R. W. Doran, and in The Collected Works of A. M. Turing (1992), edited by D. C. Ince, Vol. 3. (via Wikiquote)

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                      Micheal Scott

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                    Another example of someone who thinks he has a bullshit job I guess. Sad really that someone feels he has to stay there instead of doing something interesting and worthwhile in the meantime. I guess going to the gym is at least something :)

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                      High-Level League of Legends gaming can be damn interesting and worthwhile (at least if the definition of “worthwhile” is “spend your time with something you can really dig into”).

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                      I don’t think it should be that hard for him to get his coding chops back. The harder problem might be re-learning how to focus on a job in the first place. Six years of doing nothing is a long time to form habits.

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                        I’ve interviewed many engineers from particular tech companies in the bay area – it’s more common than you think to employ programmers who are really, really bad at programming. In high paying positions. At companies you’ve heard of.

                        It surprised me at first, but now I accept it as a fact of life. Hiring is hard, and managing engineers is a skill unto itself.

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                          Mind sharing which companies are those? And how do those people who don’t know how to code originally get those jobs, and, even more so, continue to keep them?

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                            I have the most data points from interviewing Yahoo engineers. And, to your other questions, I have no idea. I can only fathom they kept their jobs due to a combination of continued restructuring, leaving people on different teams than they were originally hired, combined with a high degree of incompetent management (or maybe deliberately ignorant middle managers, more likely).

                            One engineer I interviewed had a “Sr. Web Developer” title at Yahoo, and couldn’t write a single line of Javascript. This person couldn’t manipulate the DOM.

                            It was certainly perplexing. And he wasn’t the only example.

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                          He had the skills and mindset necessary to automate away his job… but then forgot everything in six years? Excuse me for not buying an inch of it.

                          That’s like saying I haven’t calculated anything in six years and now I don’t remember how to add numbers any more. Nonsense.

                          Maybe in sixty years, but not six. Six years, you just get rusty.

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                            This has already been posted here about 2 weeks ago: https://lobste.rs/s/gdinst/finally_fired_after_6_years_r.

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                              Merged, thanks.