More of my ramblings inspired by HBO’s Silicon Valley

I wrote this post about how the first two episodes of Silicon Valley really affected me because I could relate so closely to what the characters were going through.

I have never worked for a silicon valley based company, but there are enough companies like them here in South Florida that you don’t have to go to California to get a taste. I have gotten enough exposure to not want to do it again. I worked for a large hip company once. It had ping pong tables and a poche atmosphere that turned out to be incredibly deceiving. I have turned down offers from some big companies because I don’t like how fake they are and their group think I find suffocating. Ultimately I know I won’t fit in because I refuse to drink the corporate kool aid or even pretend to – pretending would mean I was lying to myself, I won’t do it. Dishonesty and ingenuity is a big sore point for me, so when companies engage in those practices regularly it makes me want to throw up.

The programming profession

Like I mentioned in my first post, if you are a brogrammer you might want to consider finding a different profession, because you won’t last. If you think that you can treat programming as just a nine to five job, you are wrong. I am not saying that as a programmer you shouldn’t have a work and life balance, but what I am saying is programming IS NOT a nine to five profession. If your company is fair and has expectations under control then it really can be in theory – but I have never really seen it in practice.

There will be times when push comes to shove and just because it is time that you should be going home, doesn’t mean you should. I strongly believe that you should put in as much effort as needed – no more and no less. If you are putting in exactly what is required, taking two hour lunches and not producing more than what is asked don’t be surprised when you are left behind or passed up for a promotion. This isn’t just in programming, it is in any field really. I am not saying that you have to kill yourself to outshine others, but be self driven to at least try to improve everything you are working on and find way to optimize everything you work on.

Innovation

Don’t let anyone stop your innovation or curiosity. People have asked me what I do for fun when I go home and when I tell them “I go home and program some more” I have gotten weird looks. I give them a weird look right back because that’s how I know they aren’t as serious about it as I am. I LOVE LEARNING and programming IS learning… Ok so maybe programming by itself isn’t learning. Being academic about it programming is when an algorithm is developed using computer code to perform a repeatable task. However in order to keep up to date with trends and to become a better programmer yourself you must learn. It is important to keep up with the latest technology, regardless of which path you choose it doesn’t matter if you are a Microsoft developer, LAMP developer etc…

Don’t let people discourage you from trying to develop things, even if they exist already. Just because something exists, doesn’t mean you know how it works, so have at it so long as you are learning.

Recognition

Know when to draw the line regarding recognition. If you created something no one asked you to create and you want recognition for it – don’t be disappointed when you don’t get that recognition. Companies are notorious for this and it can be a double edged sword. You don’t ever want to be asked the question, “Were you working on this during company time?” because it could come back to haunt you. You were doing it with good intentions, but your dimwitted superior may just take it as a sign of slacking off – when it clearly wasn’t. Therefore I recommend that if you are going to do something, do it for you and only show people you know will appreciate what you did. If no one shows interest, it doesn’t matter you didn’t do it for them you did it for you to begin with. No harm no foul.

Being a lifer

Not everyone is cut out for being their own boss and nor should they be. This doesn’t mean that there is some kind of cosmic reason for people who have become entrepreneurs – it just means that the conditions were just right where they could do this (coming from wealth usually helps). There are too many factors to get into here regarding success, but the point is – if you are an employee and not an owner of a company there is nothing wrong with that. However – being a lifer at a company isn’t a safe bet. You can be romantic about this and think I am saying this because “you should want to follow your own dreams and not the dreams of an other”, but really I think it comes down to company politics and economics. When the country’s economy is doing well then your company’s economy should be doing well assuming they are competent. The moment the country’s economy goes into a tailspin, there is a great likelihood you are going to be laid off. I don’t care how “negative” or “pessimistic” that sounds it’s the goddamn truth. Remember what happened in 2008? Okay then shut up, it can happen again.

The reason I am bringing it up is because, companies, as much as they want to act like they are your friend – they are like a horny teenager and they are only out to get one thing out of you. They want your productivity and they will take it, then no one will want to marry you afterwards. Okay, so being less dramatic – companies pay you to produce for them, plain and simple. Yes there are other benefits and they can do things to make you comfortable, but there is a fine line they are crossing once they do things to make you want to work MORE than you should. Trying to keep you on campus away from your actual family in order to stay with your work family is one of those creep factor indicators. If they are trying to create a weird cult like following, that should be a huge red flag and anyone with half a brain should take notice and be careful. Company culture is okay so long as it doesn’t create an us versus them mentality where employees who don’t like this kind of thing are singled out – which does happen.

If you come to work one day and find out that you have to engage in a morning ritual of company values, which is you and your co-workers repeating the company’s list of values every single day of the year – that’s a red flag. This is nothing more than a brainwashing exercise that companies for some reason are allowed to practice. I find it repulsive and lazy because they are trying to “fix” an employee morale problem without actually fixing anything. This morale problem is usually due to inadequate pay, crappy bosses and horrible benefits. It’s just cheaper for them to brainwash you.

There are so many factors stacked against programmers from being lifers at any company, that basically what I am saying is you won’t be a lifer anywhere unless:

  • you have a large stake in the company you work at, as in you are part owner
  • you love your job forever
  • you are actually moving up in the company
  • you never get bored
  • your superior will always be a competent and decent human being
  • your C-Level isn’t made up of a bunch of inhuman creatures that don’t know how much milk costs
  • the economy never turns upside down ever again like it did in 2008

My point of all of this is that being a lifer isn’t really something that happens anymore. Yeah you can be at a company for a long time, but it isn’t foolproof so don’t be shocked if you end up leaving on purpose or by force. Company’s aren’t fair, there aren’t rules they follow, they will do whatever they want whenever they want. You don’t matter to them, so don’t get too invested.

Being the black sheep

You can most definitely stick out like a sore thumb if you don’t fall in line with everyone else. A good manager won’t let other people attack this person. As long as this person isn’t disruptive or a downer to everyone else – then what is the problem? When it comes to work, if they are doing their job then great, but if you expect this person to interact more with his co-workers for non-work things then I think that is wrong. Some hippy a long time ago decided for the rest of us that team building exercises and team outings were a good thing. No offense guys, but spending MORE time with my co-workers on what SHOULD be my free time is just insulting. No one’s job should decide how they spend their free time. I don’t want my company to be my friend, because when my company lays me off – all of a sudden they don’t want anything to do with me, so why the hell would I waste my free time with you?

The real danger of being the black sheep of your department is if your company starts to brainwash its employees with company rhetoric, you could be the victim of bullying. Other brainwashed employees who drank the company Kool-aid will single you out as not being a team player for not wanting to participate in the company’s values or the company’s events. I am speaking from experience on this. Disney has a subsidiary company that focuses on developing a corporate culture for other companies as a service. The company I was working at solicited their services. What this company does is disgusting and I hate it because it creates a divide among the employees. One of the things I will never forget is from when we were forced to watch our new corporate culture introduction video and I kid you not the instructor on the video said something to the effect of, “People who don’t smile or give off a positive energy should be considered for termination as they are a bad influence for their co-workers around them.” I knew this was the beginning of the end for me at this company.

I won’t apologize for not wanting to celebrate a company’s values – especially when I see that the company doesn’t follow its own values.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, you need to rely on you when it comes to employment – company’s like to make it seem like they care about you, but they don’t. You can receive moral support from friends and family, but when it comes to your career that’s on you to maintain. If you have aspirations, they probably aren’t going to be realized if you are only working a nine to five. You have to put in extra hours for you and no one else. Keep your poker hand to yourself and don’t brag about it until after everything is set in stone and you are launched. Lastly, companies are designed to make money – so don’t be surprised when you are not considered economically viable anymore. Losing or gaining a job will always feel personal, because it is, it is emotionally disruptive. However at the end of the day it’s just business. If you are leaving a job, feel free to remind your manager of that when you hand in your resignation letter because for some reason every manager I have ever had that I escaped from took major offense when I left. I guess they didn’t realize it’s a two way street.