Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Q: What do you call a tired, middle aged programmer with an attitude?

A: Fired.

Let's cut to the chase. I got fired last week. That's right, the guy that wrote Coding Slave, Mr. 15 Years Experience in the woe and sublime of software development got fired-- your services are no longer needed, the company is changing strategy and direction, and oh yes, you have been missing your dates.

To say that I was shocked and subsequently saddened would be an understatement. After all, I thought that this would be The Gig: Heaven, Nirvana, all of the oysters and shellfish that you can eat at Balthazar, cute girls at the Playboy mansion, a long running series on HBO, never having to say that you are sorry, the lucrative gig with no musical compromise.

But, it wasn't.

It was a coding gig pretty much like the ones that I describe in my book: make a product with varying degrees of specificity, to be developed under tremendous deadline pressure, subject to the approval to a variety of people with whom I had no direct contact. Just the type of work I like: NOT!

And yet, I took the gig, eyes wide open.

I figured, this was advanced code, up to the abilities of Mr. Know-It-All. The money was all right, the new Boss was a skilled developer and this was an organization that could “get” the guy that wrote Coding Slave.

And then the development cycle began. Code, code, code... all the time, 10, 12, 16 hours a day, weekends from home. Gotta meet the date. If we don't meet the date, bad things will happen. The company is relying on us.

And so I code, like a hero at first. Then as the fatigue sets in, I get grouchy, I make mistakes, I get an attitude. I wonder, who are these people? Why do I need to be working like a dog for all right money? Don't these people know who I am? I am the guy that wrote Coding Slave. I make fun of situations like this. I don't do situations like this.

And yet I did.

I try to hide my dissatisfaction, I try to go along, to have faith, to keep the faith. I can't keep up. My Boss distances from me. Work that is assigned to me is being reassigned to others. The warning signs that I have read about in the “How to Tell You are About to be Fired” articles that pop up every so often in On The Job Lifestyle magazines appear as road signs on the way to the inevitable. I do not see them.

The product ships, somehow.

I go away for a long weekend.

I come back. I ask my Boss for an update on the work at hand. We agree to meet in the conference room. I go into the conference room with my Boss and another person.

“We want to thank you for all that you have done.”

(I thought I was getting an atta boy for working all that time)

“But we are letting you go. Do you have any questions.”

(I take a second to regroup, to understand that I am being fired.)

I asked why.

“The company is moving in a different direction and we will not need your services.”

I asked if there was anything in my behavior that warranted my dismissal.

“There has been concern for a while. You've been missing your dates.”

I asked if there was any severance. (Maslow was right.) At that point the other person who was sitting directly across from me at the end of a long conference table pulled out a manila folder. (my Boss was at the head of the table to my right). In the folder was one check for two weeks severance, another for four days vacation and two papers to sign. One piece of paper was a written agreement that in exchange for the severance I would not bring legal action against them. The other was an acknowledgment of the final payout.

I signed both pieces of paper and took the money.

“We understand that you have some stuff at your desk, you have an hour to collect your stuff.”

I had worked for The Company for about 90 days. Shortest coding gig that I have ever had.

There is a saying: Once you turn a cucumber into a pickle, it can never, ever go back to being a cucumber.

I wonder if the guy that wrote Coding Slave, knowing what he knows, professing what he professes, can ever be paid to write code again. I have no regrets about writing Coding Slave. I mean, if I didn't do it, who would? As I say in the preface:

All characters depicted in this book are purely fictional; the situations, less so.

Still, there are some days though that I wonder if it would have been easier if I had just remained a cucumber.

Oh yeah, feel free to:

at the Coding Slave site. Make believe that you are doing an iTune download. And, as always, you can download the novel for free.


Blogger Ralph Loizzo said...

Keep the faith man.

There are those of us who DO appreciate your work.

And who knows?

Your very next gig may make nirvana appear to be unfulfilling...

8:56 AM  

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