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When to Leave That First Tech Job 689

An anonymous reader writes "Chris Wilson has an interesting piece about a scenario all CompSci/Engineering students dread, getting a job out of college and having it quickly turn sour. He writes: 'The first layoff is tough. After bending over backward, after being a loyal employee, this is the reward? To summarize how I felt: Disillusioned.' He discusses warning signs you should look for in your own work environment that point toward "Getting out". An interesting read, especially for aspiring engineers or engineers out on their first job."
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When to Leave That First Tech Job

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  • by kevcol ( 3467 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:06AM (#13719923) Homepage
    ...when your web server dies even before a Slashdot 'First Post'
  • FIST SPORT! (Score:4, Funny)

    by ringbarer ( 545020 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:06AM (#13719925) Homepage Journal
    When you're leaving your job, stay late on the last day.

    Then, when everyone else has gone, start a fire.
    • by nocomment ( 239368 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:28AM (#13719994) Homepage Journal
      Make sure you grab the red stapler first.
      • by Joe Jordan ( 453607 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:42AM (#13720043) Journal
        They already fired you, you just don't know it yet.

        Bob Slydell: Milton Waddams.
        Bill Lumbergh: Who's he?
        Bob Porter: You know, squirrely looking guy, mumbles a lot.
        Bill Lumbergh: Oh, yeah.
        Bob Slydell: Yeah, we can't actually find a record of him being a current employee here.
        Bob Porter: I looked into it more deeply and I found that apparently what happened is that he was laid off five years ago and no one ever told him, but through some kind of glitch in the payroll department, he still gets a paycheck.
        Bob Slydell: So we just went a ahead and fixed the glitch.
        Bill Lumbergh: Great.
        Dom Portwood: So um, Milton has been let go?
        Bob Slydell: Well just a second there, professor. We uh, we fixed the *glitch*. So he won't be receiving a paycheck anymore, so it will just work itself out naturally.
        Bob Porter: We always like to avoid confrontation, whenever possible. Problem solved from your end.
    • by ggvaidya ( 747058 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:43AM (#13720049) Homepage Journal
      Got fired from work?

      1. Write an article on your situation
      2. Get the link posted to Slashdot
      3. Watch as the server sets itself on fire!
      4. ...
      5. Loss!
  • article text (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zorikin ( 49410 ) < minus herbivore> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:06AM (#13719926)
    When to leave your (first, second, third or nth) tech job

    When to leave your first job in the technology field
    Editorial by Christopher Wilson

    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,
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:27AM (#13719991)
      5. Management wants to use .Net in the nuclear power industry.

      Run for the hills (literally), and try to get 100 miles from their nearest customer.
    • Re:article text (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:34AM (#13720014)
      > Don't work in cubicles, ever. Working in cubicles is the sure sign that you're not working for a successful company.

      This a big fallacy. When I started my job I shared an office with a coworker, but due to various moves to different buildings through the years I'm now in a cubicle. In fact, almost everyone in my building (all 5 floors) has a cubicle. The only people with offices are either high-level managers or executives. I would hardly say my company isn't successful, and the cubicle isn't so bad considering that I can work from home any time I want.

      And I think you've heard of this company, it's called IBM.
      • Re:article text (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SydShamino ( 547793 )
        Everyone at my company, even the founder and CEO, has a cube. But, we're allowed a lot of leeway to define our cube in our own way. In my group, we actually chose half walls so that we could more easily talk to each other.
      • Re:article text (Score:5, Interesting)

        by natet ( 158905 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @12:29PM (#13723010)
        My experience has been similar. The first company I worked for had the cubicle village. Everyone except for high level management sat in cubicles. I had absolutely no problem getting things done in that environment. If the noise level bothers you, invest in a set of headphones and listen to music. I actually enjoyed being able to hear my co-workers talk, because it allowed me to keep in the loop regarding changes to other parts of the software that could (and often did) affect my own portion of the software. I also sat next to my boss, so I heard his side of all the management phone conferences. HP was a great place to work, IMHO. I had a boss that had realistic expectations of the developers on his project. He made sure that the scope of each deliverable was attainable WITHOUT the forced deathmarch. Unfortunately, I started there just before the tech bubble burst, and HP announced their merger to Compaq. I left the company shortly after that (voluntarily). I would definitely consider going back there to work (especially now that Carly is gone).

        Here were the signs that led me to leave:

        1. Layoffs. Big turnoff with me. I was a young father, just out of college. I had a wife and 2 kids to take care of. We had moved some 8 hours away from the nearest family to a different state. When I started at HP, it was known to be a very stable company. Never had a mass layoff. In fact, a friend of mine had his project cancelled, and the company gave him 3 months paid to find a new job within the company. If at the end of that 3 months, he hadn't found a job, the company would find one for him, and only if he refused that last job would he be let go to fend for himself. Sounded pretty good and stable to me! But things changed shortly after I began working there. I made it through 3 rounds of layoffs. I never thought I would get laid off, but I also never thought anyone on my team would, and I was wrong there, as they guy who had been my mentor when I started got canned. Each time a new round of layoffs was announced, I would get a little nervous. I hated the feeling of not knowing. It was very frustrating. Of course, even in its layoffs, HP was still better than many companies. Its severance package was excellent. I wouldn't have minded getting that (if I had known at the time I would be leaving for a new job anyway).
        2. Promotion without pay raise. Ok sounds kinda mercenary, I know. But, I felt pretty good about myself when I got promoted from the entry level 58 position to a level 60 (basically going from recruit to grunt, something they expect you to do within at least 3 years or you get canned) in my first year. Unfortunately, upper management (thank you Carly) had suspended all raises, so I got a fat load of stock options as a bonus for my promotion. That was great, until about a month later when HP announced its impending merger with Compaq, and their stock tanked. My options were worthless before any of them ever vested. So, new responsibilities, no corresponding compensation.
        3. Bass Akward policies. One of the things Carly did early in her tenure was to change the travel policies for the company. In the R&D sections of the company, travel had to be approved not by your manager, not by his manager, but by his managers manager. To go anywhere (that didn't involve a customer directly) you had to get approval from 3 levels of management. One of my responsibilities on my team was to maintain a multi-million dollar piece of test equipment. I had absolutely no training on the hardware, all that I knew I got from what documentation I could get my hands on. If any maintenance was required, I had to get in touch with an HP Customer Engineer, and when he had time away from his real customers, I was his hands as he guided me through the steps to do whatever was required on the equipment. After several iterations of this, he told me of a CE training course in the hardware that was coming up at his site. I talked to my manager, who thought it would be a good idea fo
    • Re:article text (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Watts Martin ( 3616 ) <> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:39AM (#13720032) Homepage
      I'm going to nitpick a bit at the article's first point: as much as we may dislike cubicles, a blanket statement like "working in cubicles is the sure sign that you're not working for a successful company" is... well, a sure sign that the article's author hasn't worked at many companies. I've worked at some very successful companies with cubicles (my current one is arguably the world's most successful network equipment manufacturer), and more than one small, dismal and unfortunate place without.

      I don't want to imply that happiness on the job is overrated, but very few of us can claim to be happy all, or even nearly all, of the time with our work--even the self-employed. For most of us, a significant chunk of whatever our given job is involves Sadly Boring Shit. Drudge work, waiting for work, paperwork about waiting for drudge work.

      Do look out for warning signs about when to quit your job, sure. But make sure those aren't just signs of a bad day (or week, or even month). And if at all possible, get the next job before you quit the crappy one.

      If you don't do that, make sure you're prepared for unemployment. Try to follow all the standard cliche advice: have enough money to live on for six months. (This means figuring out what your minimum outflow--housing, food, gas, utilities, other debt payments--is per month. A whole lot of people I know have no idea what this is.) You can expect to spend a month looking for work for every $10K of salary in the range you're looking for (I know people who've spent a lot less, yes, but I also know people who've spent well past that time)
      • Re:article text (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bamafan77 ( 565893 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:55AM (#13720097)
        I'm going to nitpick a bit at the article's first point: as much as we may dislike cubicles, a blanket statement like "working in cubicles is the sure sign that you're not working for a successful company" is... well, a sure sign that the article's author hasn't worked at many companies.

        Great point. The cubicle backlash is a tad extreme and the idea of being always happy at your job is probably getting too much airplay. You CAN be happy working in a cubicle and you can be miserable working in a job with an office.

        Also, chances are, you're not working at Adobe or Microsoft, so you may need to realistically redefine what the employer has to provide for you to be "happy"...or you need to get a job at Adobe or Microsoft. Just because you boss doesn't let you bring your dog into the office, it may turn out that you can live with that concession if you try.

        You make several other excellent points in a post worthy of a +5 insightful.

        • Re:article text (Score:5, Insightful)

          by budgenator ( 254554 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @08:11AM (#13720996) Journal
          He said he disliked cubicals because they background noise was distracting, couldn't get into the "zone", couldn't do the "quality work"; but I heard, he has a lack of focus, and that is a sign and symptom of burnout and depression.
          Depression limits focus and creativity, which will make any job more difficult, which leads to more depression; when little shit starts to bothers you, maybe its time to look at the comp package and use one or two of those sick days for mental health.

          Everybody is going to go through a sitsuational depressions/burn-outs, and the first time is going to be a real whammy, after you've learned how you react to it and develope some compensitory behaviours it easy to nip it in the bud before its too self-reinforcing for self-help.
          • Re:article text (Score:4, Interesting)

            by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) <> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:00AM (#13721289) Journal
            It's a dumb reason to complain anyway...I've got my own office. It's pretty nice. But I'm in a busy department, and there are offices all around mine, and unless I shut the door (which isn't done around here, unless you're gone, or having some scary meeting), I can hear stuff going on in 6 or seven other offices. Adding to that, I'm one of a few programmers in an environment filled with DBAs, Netadmins, and tech support guys, so there are always people moving around working on system problems, chatting, etc.

            In short, office != quiet.

            My advice is to get an iPod and a pair of noise cancellation headphones. Make sure you turn your desk, or put up a mirror or something if you're easily startled...Every place I've ever worked, someone has thought it would be funny to try and "scare" me while I was doing this, and while this has never happened more than once, the reputation that goes with being a tightly-wound stress hound whose "fight" reflex beats the crap out of his "flight" reflex is no fun to live with, and hard to live down.
      • Re:article text (Score:5, Interesting)

        by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @03:36AM (#13720222) Homepage Journal
        I completely agree - most of the companies (all startups) I've worked for over the years, good and bad, have had cubes - only one has had offices and honestly I found it quite isolating - a good startup environment involves communication and team building - you have to hang out with your co-workers or it doesn't work

        besides it's no fun how can you have nerf wars in offices? and what happens when your neighor's gear catches fire while he's at lunch (happened to me) you'll notice in cubes (sniff sniff .... something's burning ...) maybe not in offices ....

      • Re:article text (Score:5, Informative)

        by imipak ( 254310 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @05:11AM (#13720459) Journal
        Yep, completely agree. Also, here in the UK anyway, cubicles seem to be going out of fashion; the last six or seven places I've worked have had large open-plan offices with shared desks. Works pretty well most of the time, tho' headphones are mandatory when you need to focus. It makes it much easier to get to know the people around you and to pick up what's really going on on the grapevine. (These jobs have been a variety of programming, network and security consulting type stuff.)
      • > much as we may dislike cubicles, a blanket statement like "working in
        > cubicles is the sure sign that you're not working for a successful company"
        > is... well, a sure sign that the article's author hasn't worked at many
        > companies.

        Agreed. Cubicles can be an indicator, though. There are so many different styles. I would look at the working environment provided in the cubicle, and determine if it's mindless penny-pinching or part of a reasonable plan.

        - Is the desktop space adequate for the
      • Re:article text (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ocbwilg ( 259828 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @08:35AM (#13721131)
        I'm going to nitpick a bit at the article's first point: as much as we may dislike cubicles, a blanket statement like "working in cubicles is the sure sign that you're not working for a successful company" is... well, a sure sign that the article's author hasn't worked at many companies. I've worked at some very successful companies with cubicles (my current one is arguably the world's most successful network equipment manufacturer), and more than one small, dismal and unfortunate place without.

        Agreed. I've worked for some truly craptastic companies where everyone had their own office. I've also worked for several Fortune 500 companies where everyone except directors on up had cubicles. It has nothing to do with the success of the company whatsoever.
      • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:12AM (#13721378)
        I'm going to nitpick a bit at the article's first point: as much as we may dislike cubicles, a blanket statement like "working in cubicles is the sure sign that you're not working for a successful company" is... well, a sure sign that the article's author hasn't worked at many companies.

        You're absolutely right. I don't know of a single large company that *doesn't* use cubes. It makes me question the writer's knowledge of...anything. He admits he didn't do anything to look for a job, didn't even bother to listen to alumni dispensing career advice because it was "all very, very dry." He grabbed the first one that made an offer, and got disillusioned when they canned him. Well, duh. Put a little effort into that job search, you'll have less chance of that happening.

        There are other signs that make me think I'd like to hear management's side of the story. For one, he sounds like a prima donna. His sole qualification is a Bachelors in CS from a middle tier school, and he acts like he should be given the golden boy treatment in his first job. An office for a kid who knows .NET? Company car?!?!? Sorry, Charlie, the 90's are gone and that crap's over.

        Also, he sounds a bit arrogant - implying that anyone over 40 doesn't know what they're doing, mentions that management didn't take his advice, etc. That could be true, or it could be that he's an arrogant little man who can't constructively work as part of a team.

        I also wonder how good he was at his job - he says that management told him he wasn't picking up the work fast enough, and that he was just "barely middle of the pack." He says that was them "setting the employees up for failure." Yeah, that's one option. That or they don't think he's getting the job done.

        Finally, this wasn't a mass firing. The impression I got was that he was selected to be let go among the team. He claims they blamed it on finances, but legally they would anyway, in all likelihood.

        We only have one side of this story - it could well be another case of a kid coming out of college with a ton of arrogance, no respect for people who have a ton more experience than he, skills that didn't translate to his job, and a problem working with others. Perhaps there's a reason he was canned?

    • Re:article text (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bamafan77 ( 565893 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:47AM (#13720068)
      I personally believe the time to leave that first tech job is when you can find another job that pays significantly more (and at a point that doesn't leave the current team in a bind). This applies to any job in any industry, not just the tech industry.

      You should think of yourself as somewhat of a free agent, not totally unlike a professional athlete. Money is the bottom line with any company and is independent of the behaviour of anyone in the company. Even employers "who put their money where their mouth is" are helpless if the money just isn't there for whatever reason.

      So while your boss may be the nicest guy in the world able to inspire the troops through any adversity, if the money ever runs out then the troops will die, period. And blaming the employer is pointless, even if they deserve it. You have to think "I'm in this do I get out of it and if possible, how do I guard against it in the future". Let others waste time and energy whining. You can join in later...after you get your new job.

      Some people may read this and think I have a totally self-centered attitude...and that'd be true to an extent. However it doesn't mean that you have to become a callous asshole. You can still be a nice, moral person. However, being nice doesn't mean you're a naive pushover. You have a duty to look out for yourself.

      We're still in the growing pains of a new era in the American/Global economy where getting a job doesn't mean you can retire there if you so choose. Let this layoff be a wakeup call.

      • Re:article text (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @05:14AM (#13720467) Homepage Journal
        Some people may read this and think I have a totally self-centered attitude

        On the contrary. I have a house, a wife and two kids to feed and take care of, and I applaud you for being determined giving them top priority. That means standing firm when management keeps asking for more.

        I've heard colleagues regret putting their work at #1, only to be surprised when their spose says she was leaving tomorrow.

      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @06:44AM (#13720709) Journal
        Judging a job _only_ by the money ("I personally believe the time to leave that first tech job is when you can find another job that pays significantly more") is IMHO a case of literally not seeing the forest for the trees.

        Money is a means, not an end. You can't eat money, you can't get much entertainment out of just looking at a bunch of 100$ bills, etc. The question is what you can do with them to improve your life quality, not the number alone, like some screwed-up game score.

        And before you lash back with "well, duh, with more money you can buy more stuff and be happier", no, that's still not getting it.

        Yeah, you can buy a bigger plasma TV or some high-end stereo or whatever, but if you end up in a job where an asshole demands your presence there 14 hours a day, and occasionally that you bring a sleeping bag and don't leave until he sees some program ready (yes, I've actually seen such an asshole)... you won't actually have the _time_ to actually _use_ those. You'll just have time to eat and flop into bed.

        Additionally, let's talk about happiness on the whole. Even if money could buy some happiness, it's not a linear scale. Twice the money doesn't make you twice as happy. So you gain, what? Maybe 5% extra happiness in those 4-5 hours at home. If the price to pay is anywhere between 8 and 14 hours of pure hell at work, I'd say on the average you're actually worse off.

        Guarding against the future? Hah. I'll tell you what's more likely to happen, because I personally know people who chose to work for an asshole for a lot more pay. You know how much they've saved for the future? Well, one was telling me at the end of last week that he's some $2000 in debt... right after salary day. (And that's not counting the debts for his car, the house, etc.)

        Welcome to the deathtrap of consumerism. See, most people who try too hard to believe that success is measured in money alone, and that more money can literally buy happiness... end up literally trying to buy it. Or failing that, trying to convince themselves that theirs is the right way. ("Hey, look how much stuff I can buy with that money! Of course it's worth it! Why, that's what success is all about!")

        The guy I was mentioning above, we're good friends, so I hear about it each time he gets a raise or a promotion. Also when he buys new stuff. Guess what? Each raise was followed by an even bigger increase in how much he spends. Each time he'll just get a bigger car, a bigger computer, then military-grade IR goggles for when he goes fishing, then now a bigger house in a whole other (more fashionable) town. (Just in case those 12 hours a day at the office weren't enough, now he'll also spend an extra 2 hours commuting.)

        Those in turn just dig the trap deeper. Now with all those monthly payments and being in debt he _has_ to keep at it.

        So what did he _really_ get out of it? Well, from where I stand, it looks like he's got $2000 debt, plus the loans for the car and house, and some 12 hours a day of high stress. Now with the extra commuting, he only gets to see his infant son briefly before going to sleep, and on weekends. Yeah, way to go.

        My advice? Forget it. I've saved a lot more on a lesser wage. Not falling into the "money is everything, and consumerism is the way to show it off" trap tends to have that effect.
        • by Bozdune ( 68800 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:43AM (#13721620)
          (parts of this previously posted by me)

          The social contract is broken irretrievably, and we all need to adapt to the new reality. The new reality is, don't get too comfortable, keep the resume up to date, and move on the minute things are the slightest bit fishy. Some signs to look for:

          o No more free pens in the stockroom, now the admin hands them out one by one and makes you sign for them.
          o An all-company memorandum from the CEO shows up suddenly, responding to hallway rumors or soft-pedaling bad news.
          o The perennial blame game between Sales, Marketing, and Engineering stops simmering and comes to a full boil in the hallway.
          o A top executive (any top executive) leaves mysteriously.
          o Sales guys start leaving (more than one is big trouble)
          o "The Board" starts poking around and introducing themselves to people.
          o A routine purchase request for equipment is turned down, regardless of justifications presented.
          o There is an odd new emphasis on collections activity.
          o "Investors" start showing up for tours of the engineering department.
          o The annual customer conference is canceled or postponed.
          o A delivery date is moved forward inexplicably, without consulting the engineers on the project.
          o It is impossible to get a reasonable explanation from your boss for a clearly unreasonable situation or request.
          o You are asked to stop work and "document" your project at a time that seems inappropriate and wrong.
          o You are asked to sign any document "acknowledging" your equity position (if any), when it should be abundantly clear what your equity position is.

          One small way to protect yourself (and to acquire information about the company's activities that they would not normally share with you) is to take advantage of any stock purchase plan (real stock, not options) put forward, and buy a few shares (preferably as few as possible). This will at least make you privy to the legal documents around acquisition scenarios and so on.

          But the best way to protect yourself is to get the resume engine revved up the minute you see the warning signs above. No need to delay. Get the hell out.
    • Re:article text (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Malor ( 3658 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:54AM (#13720092) Journal
      I have been in the workforce for more than twenty years. The great majority of jobs I've had have been cubicle based, from insurance to several technology companies to bioscience. There's a pretty darn good solution to the noise problem. It's called 'being quiet'. As long as the walls are reasonably high (I've seen extremely short cubicles, which don't work well), and your coworkers are polite, it's a great way to get a lot of work done.

      Offices are expensive. If you're THAT bothered by distractions, you can buy huge jars of very good foam earplugs for like $8 at your local drugstore. You don't need to hear everything going on around you. You don't need to see it either. Wear earplugs for a few weeks. Realize how little you're missing by not paying attention to everything around you. Soon, you'll likely develop virtual earplugs that will serve you just as well, and cost nothing.

      Demanding that your employer provide the workforce with offices is saying "I require that you quadruple your rent to suit me." It is very, very unlikely that you are that much better than everyone else, nearly all of whom work just fine in cubes.

      Your complaints about poor management, though, are spot-on. That is the telltale of a bad company. If you realize that the management is dumb, get the hell out.

      THAT'S your sign, not cubicles.
    • Re:article text (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @03:27AM (#13720192)
      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 article's author should consider himself fortunate to have landed a job without even looking for one. The next time around, when he actually puts some effort into finding a job at a good company instead of taking whatever falls into his lap, maybe he'll actually have a job he enjoys at a company that treats him right.

    • .NET Ninjas (Score:5, Funny)

      by mr_z_beeblebrox ( 591077 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @03:34AM (#13720218) Journal
      .NET Ninjas

      I don't think that I've bumped into any of those, are they like Tae Kwon Do-Dos?
    • "Don't work in cubicles, ever."

      The one time I worked in a cubicle, it was not only hard to concentrate over the noise, but you lacked privacy and it seemed Big Brother was watching you, plus it also seemed like you were valued less, this was a step down from my offices of past.

      It did help you not work and chat to your neighbour instead though.... Nice one management.

      "2 Just How Dumb is Management, Anyway?"

      Never underestimate the power of the Dark Side.

      I've worked for managers who are knowledgeable ex-progra
    • Re:article text (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Oligonicella ( 659917 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:44AM (#13721624)
      "I hadn't even started looking"
      ".NET Ninjas"
      "our kung fu grip on .NET"
      "We all hoped to have company cars..."
      "Only one thing kept me going -- pure ego."
      "Don't work in cubicles, ever."
      "knowledge workers, so they can get into the zone"
      "Put it as close to your ear as humanly possible"
      "disregards your technical advice...If they were smart, they'd actually take it"
      "I studied up on the re-install procedures...That task was going to another employee"
      "Schedule Bullies...I'm writing this, I'm the only one who can tell how long this is going to take"
      "have you developing in-house tools, when you'd rather be developing next-generation user interfaces"
      "What about management classes?"
      "If you are confident your compensation is inadequate, extend your superior the opportunity to rectify this mistake"

      Perhaps some of this was involved with their decision that there wasn't enough money to continue your employment??
  • Pro tip: (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mr. Bad Example ( 31092 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:06AM (#13719928) Homepage
    When you're sitting in meetings thinking "I would cheerfully shoot any one of you fuckers in the face to get my last job back", it's probably time to move on.

  • by TJ_Phazerhacki ( 520002 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:15AM (#13719955) Journal
    He touched on the importance of your boss staying current, and not relying on the way they used to do things - I am currently in an environment where one of the worst symptoms of "Pointy-Haired-itis" has reared it's head.

    I work for a Doctor who owns his own practice. I recognize that he went through years of medical school to get where he is, and I respect that.

    However, med school does not teach you Programming/Networking/System Diagnosis and Repair. It appears to have barely taught management.

    When your boss thinks he knows how something should be done because he is a professional in another field, it is time to type up the resume and start passing it around. When you can't convince him of something because he "Knows" how it "Should" be done, your sunk.

  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:15AM (#13719956)
    > After bending over backward, after being a loyal employee, this is the reward?

    Hint: don't bend over backward.
    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @03:15AM (#13720156)
      > > After bending over backward, after being a loyal employee, this is the reward?

      >Hint: don't bend over backward.

      An excellent point. Bending over forward works much better, as it allows you to at least rest on the desk (table, etc) with minimal stress.

      As a bonus (?) this position gives management easier access to your rear entry, thus expediting the procedure.
    • Over-loyalty (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dustmite ( 667870 )

      This is something I noticed about graduates in particular - they often try too hard to please. (I did the same thing at my first job, and a few years later could recognise it the new hires.) It's your first job, so you are eager to impress, think that your performance and not 'office politics' is what will primarily determine your advancement etc., so you bend over backwards - lots of extra hours, neglect your personal life, etc. This phenomenon makes graduates particularly ripe for abuse - employers know t

  • Cubicles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lisper ( 461847 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:22AM (#13719968)
    Don't work in cubicles, ever. Working in cubicles is the sure sign that you're not working for a successful company.

    I worked at Google. We had cubicles. Good thing this guy came along to tell me it wasn't a successful company or I never would have known.

    • Re:Cubicles (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shishberg ( 819760 )
      Cubicles are likely to exacerbate a problem that's already there - if your coworkers are more of a hindrance than a help by just being around you, then having an office solves that specific problem, but doesn't actually put you in a more helpful environment. On the other hand, if you respect and work well with the people around you, having a more open office can help creativity, at little (although probably still some) hindrance when you're in Deep Hack Mode. I find that I'm only distracted by people who ar
    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @03:42AM (#13720237)
      I work for a university so I see it all the time, the undergrad that thinks that their degree (and no real experience) should net them a great, high paying job in a low stress environment where they get what they want. Well, those that chase the numbers, usually end up getting screwed. No suprise, if you are fresh out of university with no experience, you aren't worth a whole lot at that point. Takes more time before you have the skills and experience to back up a big salary.

      Guy strikes me as one of those. Ok, so maybe he really did get in a bad situation but his gripes scream of lack of experience. Cubicles are not always bad, maybe even not often. Personally, I wouldn't want an office at my current job. If we were all in offices, it would just make shit much harder and necessitate twice weekly staff meetings. As is, with us all in one room, we just talk as needed. If you are busy, you put your headphones on and people leave you alone. If not, you listen. Maybe people are talking about something that relates to you.

      Not saying that's the case at all companies but to pretend cubicles are universally bad is stupid.

      Same thing with the management gripe. On the surface it's some valid stuff, but tech people often get too caught up in thinking management is stupid. Well guess what? Just because they don't agree with you, doesn't make them dumb. There are realities in business that most tech people don't deal with. If your boss is good, you won't have to. However that doesn't mean they aren't there and that they don't have to be dealt with. Just because they have a different view than you, or won't do what you want doesn't make them stupid.

      I mean I'd really like to spend about a million dollars upgrading labs in our department. That would be enough for all the top of the line hardware, software, desks, presentation equipment, etc that I'd like to have. However my boss would not be stupid for telling me no if I asked. Would it improve the education of our students? No question, and that is our prime goal here, it would be our product if we were a business. However it's not at all cost effective, nor within the amount of money available to us. Each year our group requests several hundred thousands of dollars for upgrades, and we never get near that much. However, we don't cry about management not supporting us. They want to know what we'd like, and we tell them. They weigh that, and decide based off of our resources what we can afford to get.

      It's valuable to know when to leave a company but "when you work in a cube" and "when you and your boss disagree" aren't valid times. Also, when you are new to the market, espically wiht no work experience, consider lower pay. I'm ot saying lowball yourself, but look at what's offered. Often people who hire newbies for insane saliries are doing so because their expecations are unrealistic, much like yours. Realise that you aren't worth a ton and find someone who understands that. If you find a good place, you'll be given realistic tasks to your skills, chances to learn and grow, and people who know what's going on to guide you.
  • by Centurix ( 249778 ) <> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:22AM (#13719970) Homepage
    I've worked in 4 companies which have bitten the dust in the last 10 years, some good indicators of problems are:

    * Paying you in pizza and food stamps
    * Managers being overly nice to everyone in meetings while looking very nervous
    * 'Minor unexplained troubles' when pay fails to make it to the bank on time
    * Large men standing at the doors of the company in pinstripe suits telling everyone to go home for the day
    * Leaving the office late in the evening, seeing the company accountant loading what seems to be company property into the back of his SUV
    * The CIO borrowing lunch money from you
    * Sudden and unexplained 'asset stocktake' undertaken by little men you've never seen in the company before, calling themselves 'administrators'.
    * You get an e-mail alert from the stock exchange warning you that your company has announced that it has been placed into liquidation.
  • Cubicles (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rm999 ( 775449 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:31AM (#13720003)
    "Don't work in cubicles, ever."

    I don't know if that's true. I know very smart people making decent money who work in them. The problem with this advice:

    1. it disregards smaller companies who can't afford to give its engineers offices. That job you turn down for making you work on folding tables could be the next microsoft (or google or whatever). Find a job you enjoy and that lets you live comfortably in your lifestyle.
    2. engineers who aren't that valuable to a company will find it hard to get a job in an office. I know what you are thninking: that's exactly the point of not working in a cubicle. The unfortunate truth is many people, straight out of college, are simply not competent enough to get their dream job.
    3. your first job is often not your last. Think of it as experience for when you are looking for a better job (or promotion). Yeah, cubicles suck, but if you work hard you won't be there for long.
  • Cubes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CargoCultCoder ( 228910 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:31AM (#13720004) Homepage

    Don't work in cubicles, ever. Working in cubicles is the sure sign that you're not working for a successful company. ... 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 [are not good]

    Huh. I work at one successful company with plenty o' cubes, my girlfriend at a very successful company where practically no one below VP has an office. So, there's probably something more going on here.

    First off, a small company, or a startup, has a hell of lot better things to do with its money than build offices for its employees. If it's not demonstrably benefiting the customer, it's not worth the investment.

    Second, yes, cubes do allow more noise in, and yes, it can sometimes be a problem. But the root cause is usually not the absence of a door and ceiling: it's the lack of self-discipline that causes some folks to holler back and forth over cube walls, and it's the lack of an ability to focus that causes some folks to be distracted by any conversation in earshot. As engineers, we shouldn't be paid big bucks just because we can crank out good software under ideal working conditions. We should be able to do quality work under less than ideal conditions, and we should have enough discipline to not create those conditions for others.

    Now, if your company doesn't recognize that excessive noise is a distraction and a productivity killer, then that might be a good reason to leave. But at the end of the day, demanding complete quiet and isolation is a prima donna attitude. Learning to filter out minor distractions is achievable, and greatly increases the range of places you'll be able to be productive in. That will only help you in the long run.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:33AM (#13720010)
    He only graduated from college one year ago. What does he know?
  • by Duncan3 ( 10537 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:36AM (#13720023) Homepage
    You're in the tech field.

    At all times you should have 20+ people you could call to have a resume on the right desk the next day. Network (the people kind). Then network more.

    You are in a place where job turnover is worse then at McDonalds. Outsourcing, cutbacks, takeovers by another company, etc. Your job is about as safe as a house below sea level in New Orleans - you WILL lose it, just a matter of time.

    So plan ahead.
  • by SpecialAgentXXX ( 623692 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:40AM (#13720033)
    This kid graduated in the spring of '04 and, only 15 months later, is complaining about the IT industry? Get in line. Or rearrange your priorities. I think the college kids of today - or young people in general - think they are "entitled" to a nice job, nice pay, organized management, etc. Ha! Welcome to the real "Real World."

    He's complaining about cubicles??? I recall one time a client (the president and the head of technology) came to visit us and they commented that it's too quiet in the office. They said that they wanted to hear and see people talking, discussing, and creating new ideas, etc. Sorry, kid, but you don't get a shiny office straight out of college, or even ever in life. He's got his expectations way, way, way too high. (I wonder if this carries over in his interpersonal relationships, or not, with the fairer sex.)

    And yes, management is dumb in some areas, but really, really, really smart in the one area that counts - longevity. If a project fails, management doesn't get the can. They find the "problem" in I.T. and fire them. They can always shift the blame, pass the buck, and fudge the bottom line. The question to ask is how can you stay on managements' good side? Time to put your pride aside and learn how to suck up.

    Personal growth is something you do on your own time not on company's time. They ain't paying ya to discover your inner calling.

    Compensation & Overtime has been ruled null & void by the the greater supply of IT people. We are interchangeable. If you don't like and tell that to management they'll find a replacement for you, not pay you more. Every programmer thinks he's the hot shit. Don't let that get to your head. You're not.

    I think this kid needs to growing up to do. It's funny because the older guys at the office just smile when I complain. It's the "been there, done that" experience that you learn as you grow older.
    • I think this kid needs to growing up to do. It's funny because the older guys at the office just smile when I complain.

      Possibly. But, as an "older" guy I think it's better to keep trying to improve your life rather than just let it beat you down until you accept whatever slop they want to put on your plate. I'm all for checking the ego at the door, but this time I'm with the "kid." If we didn't push for things that we wanted or felt would be better for us we might as well live in some feudal society so

    • Who really needs to "grow up", I wonder-those who know what they are worth and are not afraid to shoot for it, or those who constantly are telling them to "grow up" and accept mediocrity?

      If that's "growing up" for you...well then, I'm sure thankful that I (apparently) never have.

    • Exactly! This kid needs some good ego bashing. If a company hires a person out of college they are not expecting a group of experts, unless he has a Masters or PhD or something but still most people don't get a Masters in .NET. When they higher out of college with minimal work experience they want people who can do the work cheap. I was lucky when I got out of College (And I am still a relative newbe graduating May 2001, But I had some professional work experience before) I got a job with a Consulting Fi
      • 2. Managers are not really that stupid. While you may disagree with some of their decisions most of the managers I have met are actually fairly intelligent individuals. Especially if you realize that you are not the center of their management universe, they have other concerns then debating if you should make a SQL stored Procedure or just hard code it in the application.

        If they allow you to make your own decisions on details, fine. Unfortunately, managers who make uninformed decisions about minor details D
  • Here are my tips (Score:5, Informative)

    by ReformedExCon ( 897248 ) <> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:45AM (#13720058)
    Take them for what they are worth.

    When to start looking for a new job
    1) You notice that the best engineers are systematically leaving the company
    - They are leaving for a reason. Maybe it's bad management, maybe it's bad pay. Whatever it is, you don't want it either.

    2) You are forced to take a pay cut
    - If you take a pay cut, take it when switching jobs. Your salary at a company should always be increasing, and never decreasing.

    3) The coffee delivery man stops refilling your coffee machines
    - Amenities getting cut in a budget crisis are one of the signs that further budget cuts are on the way.

    4) The network gets locked down
    - Some companies will lock down the network in an effort to eliminate wasted time. It leads to bitterness among the employees and rarely works out the way the management wants it to.

    5) The company get-togethers become more frequent, but less extravagant
    - HR is one of the first departments to know when things are going down the tubes. They respond by trying to raise morale with fun company get-togethers, but with a limited budget these get-togethers are less banquet celebrations and more confused standing around a punch bowl in the lunch room.

    6) The CEO position has changed hands twice in one year
    - It is not uncommon that a CEO will quit after a certain amount of time at the top. It is a bad sign, though, when a CEO can't last a year. Something is wrong with the business and he is getting out while the getting is good. You should follow his lead.

    7) The CFO position has changed hands twice in one year
    - CFOs are relatively harmless glorified accountants. Except when it comes to budgetary issues. If a CEO can't keep CFOs around, it is because they don't want to work for your CEO. Maybe you shouldn't either.

    8) Your company announces a Brand New Direction
    - Companies can't just change their direction. Every move should be calculated and based on the strengths of the company. If your company designs software to run banking systems, be wary when the CEO declares that the company will begin work on medical systems.

    9) The atmosphere is acrid
    - In a company where things are going well, there is usually a very strong atmosphere of comraderie. When things are going bad, or people are overstressed, that atmosphere turns sour. This cascades from the upper levels of management on down, so be aware when your coworkers stop being friendly.

    10) The company opens a "research center" or "development center" in an impoverished country
    - Companies have found that they can increase headcount by hiring low-cost engineers in impoverished countries like India. They will typically declare the foreign site as a development center to handle development overflow from the main office, and that no current employee will be let go (so relax, because you're safe). This seems to be okay until you notice that headcount in the local office is decreasing because the employees that are leaving aren't being replaced. Brain drain at any company is a serious issue, and one that is directly caused by this type of off shoring.
    • 3) The coffee delivery man stops refilling your coffee machines
      - Amenities getting cut in a budget crisis are one of the signs that further budget cuts are on the way.

      Amen. When a previous employer announced that there would be no more coffee bread on fridays (to save a tiny bit of money and to underline the seriousness of the condition the company was in) my first reaction was to walk over to the payrolls office to cash in the overtime debt. Turns out that most people reacted the same and as a result the
    • by quarkscat ( 697644 )
      10-B) The company's 401-K plan has 3 of 5 investments in "emerging markets", which also happens to be where their overseas offices are opening up. Hint: you are helping to fund the company's move to offshore outsource. The 4th investment is an employee stock purchase plan, but the stock has decreased in value for 7 or 8 quarters in a row. The 5th is a money market account that barely keeps up with inflation.
  • by TheOriginalRevdoc ( 765542 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @03:14AM (#13720150) Journal
    I don't wish to sound harsh, but why is a fresh graduate giving people career advice? It's not as if he has a surfeit of experience to draw on.

    And it shows. Take advice number one: "don't work in a cubicle". You'll be looking a long time for a job that comes with its own office. Most corporations, especially, make sure that offices only go to managers above a certain rank. That's just how it is.

    On the matter at hand, though, my advice to anyone wondering if they should quit is this: quit if going to work makes you feel sick to your stomach every day, and even then, only if you have a choice. If you have a mortgage or dependents, find another job *first*.

    Oh, yeah, and one last piece of advice: it's called "work", not "happy fun playtime". Most jobs suck. Come to terms with that, and you'll be a man, my son.
  • by Alien Conspiracy ( 43638 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @03:24AM (#13720181) Homepage
    Three things that scream GET OUT to me are:

    1. Not getting the promotion you felt you deserved.
    2. Being stuck using older technologies.
    3. Having so little work to do that you become a slashdot "obsessive-compulsive reloader" ;-)
  • Oh My... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by megalogeek ( 519027 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @03:25AM (#13720183)
    I have a burning desire to verbally bludgeon the author of this article, but instead I'll give a brief outline of my thoughts.

    A) This was your fisrt job. If you truly feel you can judge everything about the working world from your first job, you're shallow, incompetent and pathetic.

    B) If you think succesful companies don't have cubicles, you're in for a very rude awakening when you get jobs #2 and #3, etc.

    C) You were working for a startup. You should have demanded a very lucrative stock package. Most startups (and I really need to stress most--ask the SBA) fail! That's a risk you take and the stock package is the payoff if the comapny succeeds.

    D) .NET is highly untested and nuclear power plants are the zenith of mission critical. If any nuclear power plants adopt .NET to run their plant, I'm moving to the moon.

    Hey Chris, if you're expetations are this high for your first job, I pity you. You've got a long way to go and a great many things to learn.

  • What a doofus (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kongjie ( 639414 ) <> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @03:26AM (#13720185)
    As the semester's end finally hit, I realized something. I was going to need a job, and I hadn't even started looking.

    As far as I'm concerned, since he put NO effort into looking for a job, researching companies and talking to people about the company, he has little right to complain about the way things turned out.

    There are plenty of students in their senior years who put some effort into their job hunts. Depending on your school, you may have a quality Career Services department that can be a lot of help. Or they may be idiots who don't know a thing about it.

    If he got a job by doing nothing and waiting for a phone call, he should thank his guardian angel that he had the opportunity to work for a year.

  • by Simon Garlick ( 104721 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @03:40AM (#13720232)
    OMG, a 24-year old almost straight out of college who knows EVERYTHING! I've never encountered one of those before!
  • by Aqua OS X ( 458522 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @03:51AM (#13720254)
    When I was fired from my first tech job, these were the signs...

    1) 6 months before leaving: Snack room no longer contains free snacks. Just a water cooler.
    2) 3 months before leaving: Water cooler no longer contains water, janitor stops coming frequently, VP takes a "sabbatical."
    3) 1 month before leaving: Secretary is now cleaning the toilet and answering the phone; more employees go on "sabbatical," storage boxes begin to appear in my office.
    4) 2 weeks before leaving: Secretary is now on "sabbatical;" bathroom is getting funky; I am now replacing the urinal cakes out of good will; my office is now doubling as a storage facility, "why is the DEA at our office?"
    5) 1 week before leaving: "where is the CEO?"
    6) Day I leave: I have been asked to go on "unpaid sabbatical"
    7) 2 years after starting my unpaid sabbatical: I have yet to be called back to work.

    true story... urinal mints and all
  • good one! (Score:3, Funny)

    by undef24 ( 159451 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @04:00AM (#13720276)
    Man that was the funniest onion article i've read in awhile!
  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @05:37AM (#13720526)
    I remember this feeling - long, long ago. My conclusion is that you should leave as soon as you find a better job - always.

    The thing about loyalty (as well as trust, respect, etc etc) is that it should be earned. We all know the expression 'command respect' - what a load of nonsense. You can't order people to respect you, you have to earn it by giving respect - being worthy of respect or 'respectable' if you like. The same goes for loyalty: it has to be earned. Is the company loyal to you? No? Then you don't owe them any loyalty beyond what the contract says you are paid for.

    Some have voiced the opinion that (most) companies display the characteristics of a psychopath: they will shamelessly and without remorse manipulate and exploit their customers and employees, and they will dump you when you no longer seem to be of use.
    • by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @06:11AM (#13720606) Journal
      Two things:

      I learned long ago that corporate loyalty is an outdated concept because companies are no longer loyal to their employees.

      The expression about "commanding respect" does not mean that someone demands respect without earning it, but rather someone that has earned and controls respect.
      Example: Linus commands the respect of the open source software community.
  • Cubicles? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jeremyp ( 130771 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @05:55AM (#13720555) Homepage Journal
    I dream of a cubicle. In this country (the UK), the norm is completely open plan. That is, you have a big room where everybody works with no internal walls or partitions. The open plan room I'm in at the moment is relatively OK, there's only five people in it and it is quite small. Yesterday I was at the Gherkin [] and the floor I was on was completely open except for a central core where the toilets, lifts and other services were, the cafeteria and the meeting rooms.
  • A Huge Stretch (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jekler ( 626699 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @06:54AM (#13720739)
    This article is a Reed Richards for newsworthy. Software Engineer career advice by someone who's only out of college a year?

    If you won't work anywhere that doesn't give an office, it'll be a rough ride with plenty of missed opportunity. I've never worked for a company that gives everyone their own office. The closest I've come to having my own office was a shared office with 3 of us, but that company only had 4 employees and 2 rooms, one office was the boss's, the other was ours. Everywhere else I've worked, it's always cubicles. In most companies I've worked at, no one below the 2nd tier of managers got their own office. Getting an office is a comfort and convenience issue, we make do with what we have. My girlfriend works for one of the most prominent local software companies, there's 2 offices, one for the boss, one for the manager. The other 20 employees have cubicles.

    The article is okay, but everyone and their dog has advice on bad job warning signs. 20 years from now, your insight is going to be a lot more focused, and these reasons to think the company is doomed won't be as astute an observation as you think. The same things you list as warning signs to get out are also the same things I've seen in numerous successful companies, and they weren't signs of impending doom, they were signs of business-as-usual.
  • warning signs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by anthony_dipierro ( 543308 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:46AM (#13720906) Journal

    He discusses warning signs you should look for in your own work environment that point toward "Getting out".

    • The company hires an outside consultant who starts interviewing all the workers.
    • The company asks all its workers to prepare and submit their resumes.
    • The company institutes a new strict code of conduct and asks everyone to sign it (this makes it easier to fire someone rather than lay them off, thus avoiding paying out unemployment).

    Yes, it sounds like it's out of a fiction story, and in fact the first thing happens in the movie Office Space. But all three happened in one of the companies I worked for, before laying off a bunch of people.

  • by Evil W1zard ( 832703 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:59AM (#13720951) Journal
    Here is what you do. You graduate as a computer or electrical engineering student. You move to Northern VA. You contact a big defense contracter like Lockheed or Northrupp. You get them to hire you contingent upon you getting a clearance. You work on project X when you get your clearance. You now hate your job but guess what you have a clearance so you can basically be a warm body to fill a slot and have about a thousand options open to you. (Btw I hate the warm body slot filling thing but god do I see it all the time!)
  • Cubicles? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by springbox ( 853816 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @08:01AM (#13720957)
    Don't work in cubicles, ever. Working in cubicles is the sure sign that you're not working for a successful company.

    Well, he makes the point that you should have your own office, and while that would be ideal, does anyone know of a company that has the resources to give each of its programmers their own office? I've worked for two organizations, both had a history of success, and at both I've been put in a cube-like structure. It might be good to look out for places that will give you a lot of personal space, but really, how common is that?

  • by hrieke ( 126185 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:17AM (#13721414) Homepage
    So the author had a few bad jobs and noticed a certain pattern. Well then, that's a good thing that he's managed to learn something from his experence, but:
    • Cubicals - Cubes are NOT any indication of the environment. The environment is your co-workers, the company policies, and the culture (DNA) of the company.
    • Management
      1. Just because you have a new way of doing something does not mean that your boss' view is invalide because it appears to be dated.
        The Access example given is a good strawman arguement, but in other cases the boss is there to say we don't need a fully fault tolerant tool to count to 10, where a for loop works just as well.
      2. 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.
        Learning is a two way street here. Sometimes things need to be done in a way which answers other questions to which you are not even aware of their existance. If your boss asks you to do it in a particual way, pehaps you should ask Why? and see if there is a need or reason from some other requirement that answers that.
      3. Schedule Bullies Okay, I've had one of those.
        Boss: I need application foo to do x, y, z(prime, delta, gamma...)
        Me: Okay, sure. 6 Weeks.
        Boss: 3 Days.
        Me: !!?!?!
        And while I did get the hell out of that job, I did learn that I was pushed to build tools quickly and design application that where able. Plus I learned another lession- build tool kits. In my current job (4 years and counting), I've built a huge took kit, everything from logging tools, to database handlers, to user sub-systems, and even a complete help system which will taken an entire directory and translate the word files into a help file.
        Since 90% of the stuff we're developing is simplely made of problems that we've been solving since our first programming classes, having these toolkits makes life so much easier and less stressful, especially when you do have those insane deadline bosses.
    • Personal Growth: You are responsible for your own growth. EOD.
      If the company is willing to pay for your classes, great, if not, save and pay for your own.
    • Compensation and Overtime: Repeat after me- I am new and do have any much or any experience working in a team (small or large) or with poorly thought out design requirements. I am fresh out of college, and while my programming Kung-fu is l33t, I am lacking in other areas and need growth. While I'm not saying that you need to slave away for peanuts (or less), you should realise that your pay is based on the number of years of experience in the real work- 3 years at one job is ideal for getting the most out of the next job. (The 3 years shows future employers that you are willing to stay and make an investment in the work that you are doing).
      Overtime is part of the deal when being a full time salary employee- sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

    I agree with the final thoughts- I will add that figure out what makes you happy, and look for companies that offer things that are close to your goals and then try to get into those companies- and if that means you're going to have to wait a few years for an opening, so be it.

  • The bathroom test (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jerry ( 6400 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:18AM (#13721415)
    Duing the 15 years I ran my own computer consulting business I discovered one nice test to determine what small business owners actually feel about the welfare of their employees:

        Are the bathrooms kept clean and stocked?

    Employers who don't care about their employees usually don't care about the employees environment. The employee bathrooms are pig styes.

    Some other tips I picked up through experience:

    Larger businesses and corporations usually have janitorial services so for them the "Bathroom Test" doesn't apply. In that situation the best way to evaluate the corporate environment is to talk with the in-house coders, if any, or other employees. If their remarks suggesst managers whose behavior indicates that they are graduates of the Atilla The Hun School of Management then its time to investigate other opportunities. Paper clip counting is a dead give-away.

    If the PCs and other hardware are antiquated or poorly maintained its time to look elsewhere.

    If most of the employees are recent hires themselves but the company has been around for a while then its time to look elsewhere.

    If they want you to punch a clock then look elsewhere.

    If they want you will be "salaried" instead of you billing them and there is no cap on the hours you'll be working then look elsewhere.

    Which leads to: If they want you to violate one or more of the 20 or so IRS rules that determine if you are an independent consultant or an employee then look elsewhere.

    If they are paying you out of a "special" fund then look elsewhere.

    If they want you to code two sets of book, one for the IRS and one "just to give them a bottom line" then look elsewhere.

    If the secretary confides in you that the boss is running a prostitution ring on the side, and those bobcats from California have cocain welded into the 4X4 bucket support beams, you'd better be looking elsewhere.

    If the owner is a business partner with the local IRS agent then you'd better look elsewhere.

    If employers don't respect the law then they won't respect the employees or the consultant.

    If employers don't respect their employees they won't respect the consultants they hire.
  • by endus ( 698588 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @10:08AM (#13721845)
    The inexperience of the author is overwhelmingly evident in the "take no crap, live in my fantasy world" tone that he takes. Don't work in cubicles? Yea right, so where is the other 95% of the IT industry going to work since they are now barred from working at any company which doesn't piss away all it's money on overpriced urban real estate so every junior level coder can have their own office. To equate a company's respect for it's employees with whether or not they give you an office is a clear fallacy and will bar the author from working at many, many fine companies. Don't get me wrong, I hate cubeland too...HATE it. As a noncomformist it really rubs me the wrong way. However, it's the reality of what you have to put up with in this industry. It's a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things.

    He rambles on with the usual "the boss doesn't take my genius advice" garbage too. It's not surprising and I certainly had my complaints about how they did things at the company I was laid off from a year out of college. However, that's how things are. Your goal should be getting in to a company where the higher-ups make good decisions so you don't HAVE to feel like everyone is stupider than you. I think a lot of times it's a corporate culture issue and you need to find a place which does things the same way you would do them. It doesn't necessarily mean that a company is bad just because everything isn't done the way you want it. The higher ups are the higher ups and they are going to do things they way they want to do them whether you agree with them or not. If the company is doing stupid things, I would agree that it could be a warning sign, but this dude frames it as though his junior level advice is supposed to matter. It's good to have a boss that listens to everyone, but sometimes you do not understand all the factors involved.

    One of the most important things I think you learn working for companies in offices your first couple years out is office and company politics. There are SO many factors that go into decision making beyond what is technically important. Sometimes those other factors result in bad technical implementation, but a lot of times those other factors are just the reality of doing business and you need to accept them and work with them rather than chafing against them with the "I'm a genius" attitude the author takes. You as the junior level employee are not always privy to all the information which goes in to making a decision.

    Certainly, there are bad managers and bad companies out there, but I think this dude is just not framing his advice in the right way. He comes off as the bitter, smarter than you tech worker who just got laid off. I think his attitude is part of the learning process, but I also think that he is giving bad advice to people who may be in a similar situation. He's making it out as if you're going to find a utopian place to work in your first couple years out: not going to happen for most people. I certainly don't encourage anyone to stay somewhere they're not happy, but you need to think about the balance of experience you're getting and what you're going to do in the future. If you keep quitting jobs because they're not treating you like a king, you will never, ever get a job you really like. When you're on the bottom rung sometimes you need to suck it up and put in your time. A lot of times, as you get more experience, things will start to make more sense to you.

    I don't mean to come off as the jaded gray cubeland dweller. I certainly want to change certain things where I work and I am not exactly a conformist on any level. However, there are things you learn with experience that you just don't learn any other way. Now, with a couple years under my belt, I am just starting to understand why things are done the way they are. I am fortunate to be at a company which I think makes really excellent policies, in general, and being here it's easy to see that there are things I don't understand which actually result in a network that works pretty well. Coming to understand those factors is what you learn by sticking it out and not demanding the corner office right away.
  • by Hillgiant ( 916436 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @10:19AM (#13721915)
    Be thankful for your cubical. One of the top level executives at our company decided that cubicals cut down on inter-departmental communication. So... down came the cubical walls. I now work in a totally open office. EVERYONE can see what is on my monitor ALL THE TIME. Since I spend a large part of my time doing solid modeling and FEA work, I have an audience far more often than I would like. I do not work well in a fishtank. Ironically, the home office (where top-lvl-exec spends most of his time) has cubicals. Just us unwashed red-headed step children that can't. The only silver lining is I have a test lab I can hide in when I want to browse me a little /.
  • by pixelated77 ( 472348 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @10:47AM (#13722173)
    The truth is that company loyalty shouldn't be expected anymore; the people that extoll their adoration your work, dilligence and effectiveness are the very same ones that will let you go. You leave a job when the job doesn't satisfy your own personal balance of perks and financial compensation. This may sound unreasonably cynical, and certainly, things are seldom black & white, but alas, staying somewhere because of some quaint, Pleasantville-era work ethic has a much more negative net effect on your life than simply quitting and forging ahead.

    When do you quit? As many here have noted, when that first round of layoffs is announced, when the perks and benefits start being trimmed, when it is painfully clear that the environment in which you work is more of a pean to mediocrity than a medium for productivity. I know, I know. I've just effectively nixed most companies (even some successful ones,) but the truth is that in the post-internet-resume world, IT workers are commodities (whether here or in India) and workplace egotism in a necessary evil.

    We are all mercenaries. Don't do pensions, don't recite the latest company mantra, don't put up with abusive bosses, deadwood or pervasive mediocrity and don't bet on the come. Get your money when you can, stash it away (for you never know if you'll see it again) and retire on your terms.

  • Sour Grapes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daVinci1980 ( 73174 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @11:30AM (#13722487) Homepage
    There are several lessons that the author--who is clearly little experienced in the work force--should take away here. For one thing, posting about the "signs" that he should've seen, particularly when those signs are generally wrong, doesn't come off as good advice to people who've been professionals for awhile. It comes off as sour grapes. Why is he wrong? Let's find out.

    Cubicles are of the devil

    Repeat after me: No, they're not. With proper soundproofing tiles on the ceiling and carpetted floors, you should be able to hear only your closest neighbors, and drowning them out is what comfortable headphones are for. If you can't get into the zone and do quality work, that's a personal issue, not your employer's. If you are having a hard enough go of it, you should talk to your manager about the problem.

    Management is stupid

    Generally, you can't get away from this. However, the cases that he cites as management incompetence really weren't necessarily icompetence at all. The author was upset because people like working the way they're most efficient. He seems to think that every new piece of technology makes people more efficient, which is a belief that is only held by recent college graduates. The problem with new technology is that it requires time to retrain your brain. And if the technology really is more efficient (and I would argue that few new languages truly have resulted in massive productivity increases), the question becomes: is the new technology so efficient that the retraining costs will be overcome by the productivity increase we'll get when everyone is running full speed? Usually, the answer is no, or at best "maybe." That's not something you want to stake the future of the company on, which is what you're doing at a small company.

    Further, he was upset that after he studied for a few hours, management wasn't convinced that he was the right person to do a full reformat/install of their primary development server. WHAT A SHOCKER! If he were a real go-getter, he would've come in anyways, so he could've learned what the actual problems were going to be during the procedure. Then next time he was somewhere where this came up, he could've at least had cursory experience with the issue.

    Personal Growth

    I can't really disagree when he says companies should provide mechanisms for personal and professional growth. But what I can say is that when management is telling you that you are in the middle of the pack, look inward. If they're telling you that you're middle of the pack, you're probably actually closer to the bottom. If you feel you're working your hardest and management is telling you that you're not doing a great job, it might be that it's time for a career change.

    Compensation isn't everything

    That's true, but on the other hand, no one wants to be paid less than they're worth. The key here is that if you're at a job that makes you happy, you'll be more productive and a better employee. Consequently, you'll be recognized by your employer, and generally compensated more.

    Final thoughts

    It seems to me that what happened in this situation is the author was inexperienced and didn't realize what he'd gotten himself into. His job was a high-risk, high-reward situation. The company promised him ground-floor entry into what they thought was going to be a big hit. Turns out they weren't right, and he hadn't done his due diligence first. The theory with startups is that you churn and burn, and when you're done you can retire at 25. Of course, the reality is that 99% of startups fail and employees are left with nothing but the experience.

    When interviewing for a position, the most important thing is to realize that you're interviewing them as much as they're interviewing you. During the interview, when asked if you have any questions, ask if you can meet some of the other team members you'll be working with alone. Tell them you'd like to get a feel for the l

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll