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Fired for Agility

codingunicorn profile image Coding Unicorn 🦄 Updated on ・3 min read

Let me share a story that happened to me this week.

I was hired as a software dev contractor in a web agency. The agency claims to be "the market leader in agility". My bullshit scanner raised a warning, but the money was too good to reject the offer.

Our team was tasked to create a new landing page for a project for one of our key customers. Nothing particularly exciting, just a colorful landing page with a simple subscription form. So far, so good.

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Because I worked as a freelancer in the past, I learned that my income is directly tied to my performance. The sooner I make the customer happy, the sooner I get paid. If a customer is waiting, I have no money to pay my rent. As simple as that. I was trained to deliver customer value fast, no matter what.


Now, back to the story:

Yesterday, my manager organized a meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to agree which frameworks and libraries should be used for the new landing page. We are a team of four devs, plus the manager. I suggested that the meeting is not necessary, we better stick to the tools we already know and get back to work. Everybody disagreed because it’s a good opportunity to finally try React Hooks. Or Svelte. Or only God knows what.


I ducked out and just built that landing page. No bad intentions – I just wanted to build something in my lunchtime. I picked tools that other devs are familiar with. Then quickly deployed the page to staging env, showed it to the customer, and the customer enjoyed it. After a couple of fixes, customer asked me to ship to production. Click, it's live. The team was still in the room arguing.

The team ended the meeting at 18:00. It took them 6 hours to reach consensus. They will use Svelte because Svelte is a new black. The team has zero experience with it whatsoever. Learning is part of the job, right? The manager was facilitating this nonsense.

6 hours x 4 people = 24 hours wasted.

When the team saw the landing page ready, they threw a joke that my approach is not good for business. The manager rebuked me for not being a team player.

When I asked:

WTF?

They said:

You better stop thinking like a freelancer.

OK...


The customer called me the next day and said that the agency charged them 40 dev/hours for the landing page. I hang the phone up, pretending the internet connection was lost. I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to lose my job and lie to the customer either.


So what?

People talk a lot about agility, continuous delivery, delighting the customer. Every dev in my team, as well as the manager, is a Certified Scrum Master. They teach others "how to be agile", speak at meetups and conferences. Moreover, they truly believe that these neverending meetings, daily standups, learning at work is what customer must be paying for.

Those folks work full-time and salary drips on their bank account every month, regardless of the work results. Where is the incentive work fast? Developers are not hungry. Life is good, long meetings and discussions are fun.

This is why many developers are afraid of freelancing or becoming self-employed. You can't just work anymore; You have to actually deliver value asap, otherwise, you can't pay rent. For me, it sounds motivating enough to work faster and pick tools wiser.

Wrap up?

  1. The company fired me. When a puzzled customer asked how much time I spent on the landing page, I didn't lie.

  2. The customer hired me directly. 2x salary.

  3. It's good to think like a freelancer.

That's the whole story. Make your own conclusions. Love you! ❤️

– Julia

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Discussion (70)

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bpedroza profile image
Bryan

Glad it worked out for you. To be honest, I would have fired you too. Not because of your performance though, because you:

  1. shipped to production without code review (making this assumption since you said the other devs were still in meeting)
  2. contacted the client without communicating with the rest of the team
  3. hung up on a client instead of directing them to management

The best people to work with are team players. Someone going rouge is bad for the team, even if you had good intentions.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

I agree. The GOOD part was building the thing during the meeting, but it would be better to deploy it to a demo server, walk back in the meeting, and say "Excuse me, hate to interrupt, but while you were all debating, I built the thing. It's on demo, just needs a formal review, and we're done."

And then if the company balks, I'd quit.

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codingunicorn profile image
Coding Unicorn 🦄 Author

I understand what you mean. I honestly didn't want to do work behind the team's back. Good timing, the customer was right there next to me when I was hacking the damn thing. Then he went "this is exactly what we need". 😂

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix

This is an interesting perspective. Thinking as the client though, I would have been glad to have someone who put my needs first

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codingunicorn profile image
Coding Unicorn 🦄 Author

Now then will kill us both. Run, Forrest, Run! 😂

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski

Don't forget that in that situation the client of Julia was the agency, not the end client.

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bpedroza profile image
Bryan

Sounds like you're right and they hired her. So probably a good move from her perspective and the client's.

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maheshkay profile image
Mahesh K

In consultancy & agency freelance world, going behind the back of each others customer is not taken lightly. 99% people with experience in this industry would fire OP.

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nicolus profile image
Nicolas Bailly

So basically on your first week on the job you :

  • Told your boss the meeting he just arranged was stupid
  • Didn't go to a team meeting
  • Sent something to a client without it being either approved or reviewed by anyone in the company
  • Took a client from your company and started working for them directly (which is illegal in some countries).

Yeah, I think you're definitely better suited to be a freelancer 😉

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sebbdk profile image
Sebastian Vargr

Most contracts have anti competition clauses to guard against this exact story, she is lucky if she dodged a lawsuit.

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thesnowmanndev profile image
Kyle Martin

She still can be sued. No offense to Julia but the team lucked out. I wouldn't want to have a team member who acts purely upon their own intentions. It is excessive that the meeting took 6 hours and no real work got done but the ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) cycle is important. It may have been acceptable to the client but her work could reflect poorly on the companies overall product.

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miketalbot profile image
Mike Talbot

Oh I feel your pain. I've hired teams that want to spend hours arguing about linting, tools and frameworks and not one moment thinking about the solution.

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

Where is the incentive to delight the customer? Developers are not hungry. Life is good, long meetings and discussions are fun.

From the standpoint of a full-time dev, that's a pretty broad brush. Most devs I know in my position - whether I work directly with them or not - get enthusiastic about certain projects more than others, but all want to get stuff done to their definition of "well". That's either "fast" or "high-quality" depending who you talk to, but what I mean is none of them really sit back and work through it like it's a chore.

The incentive to delight the customer is the incentive to do work you can be proud of and which the customer enjoys using. For example, I specialise in improving the back-end UI so customers who are used to clunky oddball interfacer and out-of-date manuals for proprietary systems will have an easier time maintaining their content. I like doing that, because it's what I'd want if our roles were reversed.

I've worked mostly in agencies, and we're pretty fast compared to project teams. We have meetings, and sometimes they go on a bit, but nobody really wants them, we put up prototypes as soon as we can to show the clients. Of course if you compare how long an agency charging $100k will take to make something you could make in your bedroom in a month, you're going to come up with a big difference. For agency life, at least, that difference is in researching and talking to the customer, and the customers' customer, and trying things out and so on. We do some projects agile and some we don't. We've all had Agile training. We do some projects with technologies and frameworks we've used before and some with new ones. We don't jump in to either unless we've made sure it's what's best for the customer, who needs an update to X in six months, or to integrate with Y platform in the mythical Phase 2.

This is why many developers are afraid of freelancing or becoming self-employed.

I don't freelance or become self-employed because I don't have any money. That salary dripping into my account? Not enough to get me out of debt. I need all my cash; I don't have the luxury of taking on intermittent work with no capital. It's not that I'm somehow scared of being efficient. Believe me, if us full-timers dropped the ball, we'd have to find another job too.

Hiring freelancers or contractors for an agency is difficult, too, because there are a lot of bad ones. People who talk the talk then come in and waste your time for a couple of weeks and then disappear. When you find the good ones, you want to keep them, even though they cost five times as much as regular employees.

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Raphael Habereder

Well, I'll be the Devils advocate for once and will say the handling of the situation does leave a bit to be desired.
Going rogue completely might have been a little bit too aggressive for most teams. Web Agencies especially are a tough crowd to work with.
Most of the times customers seem to pay for experiments and learning expenses of the developers, so I fully support your mindset of "start talking less and work more" in this instance.

I'm glad the costumer rewarded your honesty and swift work well!

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Brandin Chiu

I'm glad things worked out for you and agree that the team you describe here seems to be on the wrong side of "agile". The kind of people I find fall in the bucket of spending so much time trying to follow all of the principles of Capital-A agile that they forget to actually BE agile.

That being said, as an employer, I'd have to agree with the termination. It seems like a definite mismatch in expectations from both sides, and you both seem better off for the separation, haha.

Good luck with the new gig!

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codingunicorn profile image
Coding Unicorn 🦄 Author

Thanks Brandin! ❤️

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski

This story sounds kind of strange.

If you are part of the team why were you not sitting with them talking? Or were you sitting in the room with them and coding away?

And why didn't you try to point out their problems? Of course, you have to do it in a nice way like: "Let's maybe try to build an MVP with react hooks quickly". Should not take this long if you could build a production-ready version in your lunchtime?

And then going directly to the customer besides you were hired by the agency? I just hope for you that no other agency will find this. Because this is going rouge and showing that you will ignore what in this moment your real customer wants and by real I mean the agency.

I totally agree that they should not discuss things like that for 6 hours but learning new things should be also be priced in when you are a freelancer. That's nothing uncommon and if the client really likes you, you can even say that this is not your expertise and they are even willing to hire you anyway because sometimes social skills are more important then technical skills.

What is also strange.
Why did the agencies client contact you?
How could you so easily deploy in prod?
Where was the testing?
Where was QA in this?
Where was the designer and did he/she approve of the finale implementation?

This is usually why you go for an agency and not a single freelancer.

This is why many developers are afraid of freelancing or becoming self-employed. You can't just work anymore; You have to actually deliver value asap,

Sorry but this is nonsense. What you usually do is 50-25-25. Or some model of payment like that. 50% upfront 25% for some milestone and 25% when on prod or something like that. You can go 33-34-33 or whatever you feel like,

Of course, he hired you for 2x the salary because it was still way cheaper than paying an agency.

What you did is basically making a client fire an agency so you could get this client. I'm not saying you did this in a calculated way but this is still how other agencies will see it.

If you think what you are doing is agile then sorry again you are wrong.
Please read the following book: "Clean Agile: Back to Basics":
amazon.com/Clean-Agile-Basics-Robe...
It is a book about agile in its basic form.

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thesnowmanndev profile image
Kyle Martin

She should also probably read 'The Clean Coder' while she's at it.

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Maxim Chechenev

I think it's not even about how agile the company is, but how toxic it is.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of companies with a lack of any process and understanding that work should be done on time (especially when you work in agencies). Sometimes I feel that some people are trying to cover their incompetence by shifting focus to endless conversations instead of making real progress.

But nice to hear that things worked out for you.

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Waylon Walker

The customer hired me directly. 2x salary.

What an end to the story!

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Haris Secic

And they ask why clients go away or switch to freelacers through upwork or something. This is one of the biggest reasons software develeopment companies will drop down in value and many of them disappear.

One of the reasons why we should mainly work for non IT companies, onsite or remote, and close to non IT people. More problem focused and cheaper for clients while in some cases bigger salary for developer. Software houses are good to learn stuff but I feel they mainly have negative attitude for ripping of the customer

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Bernard Baker

Hi,

I read your article and all of the comments. I'm impartial about it all. This isn't something I've come across in my reading of content on dev.to.

But I and probably everyone else want to know how you feel after reading all the comments. What you are doing now. What's your current gig, etc.

Could you update everyone?

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codingunicorn profile image
Coding Unicorn 🦄 Author

Hi Bernard,

You're the only person who asked, thanks for that. That was expected, but I'd love if the community were a little friendlier to each other. We have enough hate; More love needed. That's why many people are afraid of writing and opening up.

Haters gonna hate! 💩

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Bernard Baker

Well just remember we're all waiting to hear you voice in this community. No matter how 💩e some of the comments might be. Keep writing ❤️. And have you moniezitized your Dev.to profile? If you haven't. Look into it.

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thesnowmanndev profile image
Kyle Martin

I don't think any of the comments are shitty... They are being real and telling her that what she ultimately did was wrong. Even if the team was over thinking a small project. Yes we want to hear her stories and opinions. And we should give critical and constructive feedback. Which everyone did. No one needs to play a victim here or write people off because they didn't commend her

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bernardbaker profile image
Bernard Baker

I agree. Critical was a more positive word.

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elkhatibomar profile image
Omar

In my opinion , is that you work with a team , so you should stick with it. you don't have the rights to contact the customer without team permission.
if you don't like the team so you should look to move to a new company.

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elkhatibomar profile image
Omar

I am not talking here about if they right or not .

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Adam Crockett

I think that is great you can be proactive but agile is broken in the sense that some values mean more than others depending on the company. I'm not trying to be mean but I think you did make an error in judgment in that agile is supposed to give all parties a voice, it's a consultation between all stakeholders, by choosing what you think other developers want you are not giving other developers the chance to speak about ideas... That they might have wanted to say such as "this is stupid why are we having this meeting" a voice that you should have shouted from the hill tops. Agile !== Productive in my experience but happy we all are. So I value your care and determination but perhaps this company cared about discussions.

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Lukáš Zahradník

You were not fired for "agility", also putting all blame on the team isn't very nice. You were just irresponsible.

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Antero Karki

This story and the comments from male developers saying you’re wrong is one reason why such a big part of the developer community is shit.

Sounds like a toxic dishonest place to work and I hope that the new job is better.

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bpedroza profile image
Bryan

I'm sure I'm one of those commenters you are referring to, so I want to clarify. My comment is NOT a critique of the OPs actions being objectionably wrong, or dishonest. My comment is just my opinion about why I wouldn't want this type of developer on my team.
I'm not even saying the company she worked for was in the right, or acting ethically. Just saying that a firing, in my opinion, was justified.
I'm glad the OP didn't compromise their work ethic to please the company, and is probably better off for the course taken than they would have been bending to the company's will.
That said, if you're the type of person who wants to work with a team, you have to learn to collaborate. If not, doing what the OP did and contracting work directly with the end client is a perfectly acceptable way to go forward.

I meant no harm or offense. Sorry to the OP if you took it that way, as that was not my intention.

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eurocalypse profile image
David

I am curious why you think gender played a big part in this? Maybe I'm blind so please enlighten me.

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antero_nu profile image
Antero Karki

Seen men post more or less same experiences at times, usually don’t get responses like they were right to fire you.

Rather things like I admire your integrity, you showed them proper collaboration. Some people just default to have more sympathy and understanding towards men, probably without reflecting on it too much or they’d respond differently.

Though my comment wasn’t only about gender which is why I didn’t mention it. It’s about that company thinking they can charge their customer for them learning a new framework. It’s about people thinking that that’s collaboration rather than what she did with the client. To me that sounds like a great team member to have and anyone who fires her is very likely someone I never want to work with, that’s all.

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thesnowmanndev profile image
Kyle Martin

No one is being toxic. Almost everyone gave her constructive criticism which is what belongs in a community. Everyone was polite but critical. That is very important.

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Juan A. Fuentest T.

Don't try turn this into a gender issue, that's just cheap.

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codingunicorn profile image
Coding Unicorn 🦄 Author

Thanks for your support, mate : )

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jwp profile image
John Peters

You ran headlong into a lack of reasonable collaborators, including yourself.

When we are the new person on the block (and I've written about this before) we are in the treacherous position of learning how to introduce new things.

The other highly paid people are prone to reject it because, 'we never did it that way in the past'. While you certainly had the skills, inviting the customer to view the work without collaborating with the old-guard is the reason for what happened.

The good news is that you tried and knew a better way so now your free to find that perfect fit somewhere else.

Believe me you really didn't want to continue with the arrogance of that team's leadership.

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keshavbahadoor profile image
keshavbahadoor

I'm glad things worked out for you!

I don't think you were fired for agility though. And I think there are some important lessons to be learnt here.

You're saying that you ducked out of a design meeting because your team disagreed with your initial point of view. A team player would have attended this meeting where you could have further discussed your opinions regarding the technical direction of the product. Some of the technical discussions I've been in can last hours and someone's opinion can change depending on the different thoughts and angles brought forward by the team.

Perhaps there was a good reason to have the meeting in the first place. Something that looks like more work initially, can blossom into future benefits and this may not be as apparent to more junior developers.

Edit: To emphasise on this - there are a lot of cases where the technical direction of the company overrides the needs of the client.

You're saying that you picked tools that the other devs are familiar with, did some development, and pushed to production while the rest of the team was still in the meeting. I believe this to be the real underlying reason you were fired (did they give you feedback on this?). To me, this demonstrates someone who (1) is not a team player (2) makes important technical decisions without providing arguments for and against to the rest of the team (3) pushes to production without the consent of the team.

At the end of the day, I'm happy that you're getting better luck freelancing and the opportunity you got with the client. However, I also think there were some important lessons from this experience that you can learn and grow from.

Good luck :)

Edit: Do keep in mind that accepting a job with the client directly after being let go from your employer can be illegal in different scenarios and countries. I would appreciate if you made mention of this in your article.

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codingunicorn profile image
Coding Unicorn 🦄 Author

"Not a team player, arguments for technical decisions, consent..."

While you're doing all those corporate dancing with tambourines, the customer is literally wasting opportunities and money.

All this corporate BS is fun, but not at the expense of the customer. Don't let a corporate machine brainwash you.

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keshavbahadoor profile image
keshavbahadoor

Let me try and provide some examples. Sorry I didn't before:

Technical Direction:
Sometimes a technical decision can be made that will initially seem like more of an investment but will pay off later. An example of this may be creating some "tool" or "internal framework" that you can use to quickly churn out work for the client. This is especially useful for dev shops that produces similar products with similar features for many clients. These shops would be more interested in automating things so that the team can focus on creating features or other items in a reusable way.

Consent (Code Review Process)
There's numerous articles / books / etc that showcases the benefits of a code review process. Perhaps I should have asked rather than comment - but what was the process like at the place you left? Was there a code review or approval process? Does someone looks at the work to ensure that there are no mistakes before giving the go-ahead?
The client seems to approve, but was there any security vulnerability checks done prior to the push to production?

What happens if the client approves this push, and then something disastrous happens due to some security flaw in something you pushed to prod? Wouldn't the company be held accountable and not yourself? Therein lies the reason for a process of consent :).

"..but not at the expense of the customer"
Can you elaborate? Was the work you pushed to production a new feature or requirement change? Or was it a fix to something disastrous for example?
How did the client lose money here?

"All this corporate BS" - I'm terribly sorry you feel this way. I know some companies (especially larger ones) can have weird wonky decisions. Not companies are like this.

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Jayme Edwards 🍃💻

To echo what others said here I love your entrepreneurial spirit and focus on the customer. I agree that as developers we can obsess over trivial things. With that being said - I hope you’re able to find an opportunity that harnesses that part of you, while you hone your political skills to keep yourself in good graces with your team. Great story, thanks for sharing.

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Kasey Speakman

Seems a rough but not surprising transition from competitive freelancing to team-based dev. For the latter it is important to invest in relationships with team mates. The approach you took showed no interest in doing so, which is why it was not a fit.

As far as the technical aspects, your solution was very effective in the short term (and in a more cut-throat environment it might have garnered accolades), but perhaps there was a long-term strategic reason they were meeting about it. I can easily imagine they have clients where some problems have come up after some time passed. And they want to add another solution going forward to mitigate those. (A common scenario that Svelte addresses is performance.) You could have been in the meeting, shaping strategy for the team/company rather than grabbing a short-term win.

In any case, I do hope you will try team-based dev again. Relationships and communication make things less efficient in general, but they can also be very rewarding. And done well enough, they allow the people involved to accomplish more collectively than they could have on their own.

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Erick Navarro

No, you got fired because people want to try new things and you stoped that, you didn't went against the company, you went against your coworkers. Well, they clearly took too long in that meeting, and they could improve that, but that is not reason to stop your coworkers from learning. Some people could have been excited about that new thing and you didn't thing on how that impact their satisfaction or their carrer.

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mightytechno profile image
Mighty

Usually, the meetings are a waste of time. Talk a lot of stuff which are not important and waste developers time.

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mouhcineToumi

This is the reason why Hourly Billing is BS. You are being punished for being good at what you do. You could deliver a product fast and you could make the customer happy.

I think if you were, as a freelancer, doing Value Pricing instead of Hourly pricing you could 10x your revenue. Because the way I see It, you are leaving money on the table.

Even if you weren't fired, you could have been working harder than what you were asked for, and being underpaid as a consequence.

On the other hand, the code review with the team could have been useful before shipping to production. You assumed that they couldn't bring any value to the product.

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Denny Biasiolli

Maybe they wanted to learn something new, and it's appreciable (here in Italy it's very difficult to have time to learn something new), but charging this price on the customer it's never a good idea :)

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Felix Terkhorn

Wild! Love the honesty!

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Eljay-Adobe

The agency claims to be "the market leader in agility".

Ah, yes. They've successfully incorporated all the agility terminology into their non-agile processes.

I've worked at a place like that.

Senior leadership told the departments "Thou must be agile!" Because all the competitors are doing it. It's vogue!

Middle management told the minions "Thou must not be agile! But, thou must use agile terminology!" Because middle management only understood how to do command-and-control management. Agile terrified them.

Then middle management told senior leadership, "Success! We are now agile!" Because they had successfully adopted all the agile terminology.

Cargo cult agile.

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Salma Mohamed

honey you are crazy and similar to me.. No lies at all.. but guess what.. next time, you can get along with the connections that you get from the company by being friendly and get referalls directly to yourself.. that will be a side hustle for ya apart from the company. Next time you just be cool.. act dumb and do your thing under water. NEVER OUTSHINE YOUR MASTER.

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Juan A. Fuentest T.

You did a lot of stuff wrong, I wouldn't fire someone for most of it anyway. The one thing you did really wrong and is indeed reason enough to fire someone was the way you handled the client call.

However, the fact that you made all those mistakes can mean two things. You are a rebel who doesn't follow orders, and doesn't respect rules, or that company has a really bad on-boarding process or no process at all. And I'm pretty sure it's the second option.

Just FYI, that's the type of company that wastes time intentionally to charge the client with more hours. In this case working faster actually means earning less. The used a framework no one has experience with not because they are stupid, but because someone else is paying for their time, so they're basically charging the client for training. Pretty unethical.

So tl;dr: You did wrong, but you're better off not working for that company.

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Idan Arye

A six hour meeting seems like too much. From my (limited) experience managers usually have between 5 and 15 meeting a day, where each meeting usually takes half an hour or a full hour (some rare meetings take more than that) and they barely have time to breathe. A six hour meeting wastes precious time that could be better spent on more meetings.

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Amer Mallah

I think this is more about teamwork and bad estimation (from the former team) than anything about agile or corporate speak. If you're in a meeting and you say "I think I can do this whole thing in my lunch hour" and then the argument continues about frameworks, then it's just not a good team fit because no one is listening to you. A 1-hour landing page doesn't deserve a conversation like this, but a 200+ hour web app does.

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hamodey85 profile image
Mohammed Almajid

WTF
What you did was so bad you did not lie to customer , thats good but you betrayed your company.
you are not the owner of this company nr decision maker

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helpermethod profile image
Oliver Weiler

Working against the team is far from agile in my book.

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lrdiv profile image
Lawrence Davis

So much of this story seems highly exaggerated if not completely made up

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Luis Chavez

You rock!!!

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abdisalan_js profile image
Abdisalan

Really glad that story ended happily!

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spiritbro1

are you still freelance up until now?

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istra_daily profile image
Davor

My first instinct would be to fire you, but after a little consideration the right choice is to promote you for your better instincts then the current manager.

GL to you

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Tamas Rigoczki

That's why I do not want to be a 9-5 developer anymore. Tremendous amount of time and mental energy wasted on irrelevant things.

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Damien Cosset

Well, that was a toxic environment for sure 🙄 Glad it worked out well for you!

I can't help but wonder how different things would have turned out if a man did the exact same things? Just wondeeeeer 🤔

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Josue Zafra

How was that a toxic environment?

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KennySVG

I'm surprised no one mentions the fraudulent 40 dev hours bill sent to the client. Absolutely ridiculous and the first reason of many why agencies should die.