Bad Job Experiences, Number 1 in a Series

Somebody posted on Slashdot asking what was your worst development job experience. Well, I have so many that I decided that it was probably best if I did it as a series.

Probably the worst ever experience happened in the course of the best job I ever had. Several times on this job I went to sites where this good company did subcontract work for Andersen Consulting.

At the time I didn’t understand what was going on, but many years later (when I’d become an hourly rate contractor instead of a salaried full timer) I had an amazing insight. The insight was that Andersen’s main product isn’t software, it’s billable hours. They don’t actually want to produce workable software, because then the billable hours will stop flowing in. So instead they do everything in their power to fuck up the project royally. At the time, I was baffled by their behaviour because I was driven to produce high quality software that did what the customer needed, and I couldn’t seem to get that done under Andersen conditions. Understanding that simple fact about their main product made all the following experiences make perfect sense.

– Andersen always operates in “crash mode”. Their people work incredible long hours, and if you work along side them they expect you to work the same hours. On one 9 day long project, I got an average of 3-4 hours sleep a night. I once saw one “Anderoid” yell at another because she was leaving at 11pm, to which she responded that her boss told her that she had to work 36 straight hours the next day so she was going home to get some sleep. One time one of the Anderoids and I were trying to solve a specific problem, and I was having a hard time concentrating and it seemed we were going around in circles, so I went home to sleep at around 1am. The next morning, I came in rested (by Andersen standards) and the guy I’d been working with was still going around in the same hopeless circles. I restored the hack job he’d done on the source code from my personal backups, and tried out an idea I’d had in the shower that morning, and it worked perfectly first time. Subsequent times working together, I told my company that I wouldn’t go unless I had control over my working hours – I’d work long hours if I had to, but they wouldn’t be the norm.

– Andersen hires idiots. They used to boast about how they didn’t care about qualifications, as long as they had the “Andersen Attitude”. One of the guys on the projects I was on had a philosophy degree. He knew about as much about programming as I did about Cartesian Dualism.

– Andersen is more concerned about looking professional that actually getting work done. One job we were in a large echo-ey room – about 100 of us at big long tables with no partitions or anything to deaden the sound. I brought in a Walkman because I was having trouble concentrating, and was told that I couldn’t wear it because Andersen didn’t think it looked professional. Evidently 15 people standing around having animated conversations right beside my chair was “professional”, but listening to some music with headphones wasn’t.

– Andersen are slave drivers of the worst sort. As well as the long hours, they also don’t seem to pay that well. And they can transfer you around the country (or overseas) with almost no notice and you have very little say in the matter. One guy on the projects we were on together said that in your entire career at Andersen you can only refuse one assignment – if they wanted to transfer you to Antartica tomorrow, and you’ve used up your refusal, you have two options: go buy a down parka or quit. He told me that he hadn’t been back to his home base in over two years. It was little wonder that the only married Anderoids I met were married to other Anderoids. And even that was no guarantee – one guy I met had been transferred to another city from his wife, and since they’d both used up their refusals already, they hadn’t lived in the same city in over a year.

– Andersen enforces their bizarre behaviour requirements on their people by holding this carrot and stick: If they do what they’re told, work long hours for little pay and have no sleep or personal life, they will eventually make Jr. Partner. The working conditions don’t get any better, but the pay does.

On the first project we did together, my company actually poached one of the Anderoids to come to work for us. On the second project, he came along – you should have seen the faces of the Anderoids when he and I got up at 10pm and said we’re going home.

2 thoughts on “Bad Job Experiences, Number 1 in a Series”

  1. That’s the first set of comments on Slashdot that I’ve enjoyed in quite a while.

    Anderson sounds like hell.

  2. I work for people that freak out for minor things. I’ve worked on some big sites.. back end integration etc.. Setup web and app servers.. database tables etc..

    I just love it when account folks chastise you for things like:

    1. Missing a period on line 4 of the third page. Thanks, you’ve got your transactional site up and running and you are bugging me about missing a period on what page?

    2. A word on a particular page on the site was supposed to be italicized. Keep in mind we were given the “content” from the “account folks” (who are supposed to be providing final copy). Wow .. our team got reprimanded here.

    3. Saying that something was going to take approx. 2 hours. Then getting yelled at for taking an hour but telling them it would take 2. This one made all of the team laugh. We got yelled at for finishing early. The client still paid full.. but since my “quote” was so dramatically off, it must of screwed up their books etc. Yep, I guess I should be more to the minute when I quote.

    4. One of the QA folks was clicking on an incorrect URL and reporting to us that there was a problem with the page. When someone told the QA person that they were looking at the incorrect URL, the QA staffer didn’t like the “tone” of the person and probably filed a complaint. Forget the fact that the QA person had a couple people checking their code, the server setup etc.. because the QA person kept reporting a problem while looking at an incorrect URL. If the complaint was filed, some guy on the tech team who wrote a simple, non-toned email explaining that the QA person was looking at the wrong URL will be reprimanded for his “tone”. I should mention they actually solved the problem after QA person clicked on the correct URL.

    .. There are to many to list…

    Biz people and IT people have a difficult task.. Because Biz folks don’t truly understand what it takes to build any system, and everytime an IT person tries to explain it, the result is usually “that IT person has an attitude”. A few months later that IT person will be replaced with a “yes” person for another few months until they get a better gig.

    Our market is really messed up.



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