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Software devs - ready to tell your boss to 'fuck off'?

rwoodnz profile image Richard Wood ・4 min read

Are you a software developer in danger of telling your manager or client to 'fuck off'? Are you starting to realise that many development teams are just the modern version of road gangs, but with better pay?

So are you going to blow your stack? Don't be so dramatic ... or do if thats what 'floats your boat'. Lol.

It takes all sorts to make up a world and in our society there's a heavy social conditioning towards management being the bosses and employees doing what they are told, until they won't.

However, in the real world of work there's a wide range of attitudes taken by bosses and a wide range of attitudes taken by employees.

I've worked in a couple of places where I heard a statement similar to 'your job is just to do/execute/build'. Unless being a worker bee is your lifelong passion, you might find that a bit off.

Each time I noticed it I cringed and tossed it in the team conversation - but didn't think much more of it. Within months though I was out of each of those places and because I hadn't acted sooner, I was a little bruised in the process.

Today I can look back and say it was a mismatch between who/what I wanted to be and who/what those bosses wanted me to be.

It's not just about corporate vs small company either. Corporates are by nature demanding and exploitative but within that framework are some human managers who will support and fight the 'system' above you.

Conversely in a small company where everything can feel very family and personal, there can be some right wankers running the show. Ah, some friends, If you think I"m talking about you, it's truely not personal :).

There's actually nothing morally wrong with a hierarchical expectation culture. Amazing things have been achieved by such organisations. As long as the understanding is mutual even if not consciously so.

There can be as much wrong with organisations that try to be totally flat. There is usually a hidden hierarchy or 'clique' that is running the show but with a big blind spot about it. They don't want to tell you what to do, but if you don't do it you'll find yourself edged out. So you have to become good at reading the tea leaves. Many just don't have the skills to pick up on such signals.

And it's not that somewhere in the middle is a nirvana. That just lessens, not eliminates, the differences. No, it's about finding matches that sound right and feel right.

I work remotely now, and as they say, freelancing is just replacing one boss for many. Now the game is to find multiple people to work for that complement my working style. You are not going to get by taking the first things that come along, although trying everything that comes along may well be a viable filtering strategy once you know what to look for.

Although I can follow instructions very efficiently, in my case I believe I have more value to add beyond just following exact instructions, implementing a set design, and making my boss look good. There are jobs though where that may be exactly what is needed and people who enjoy that certainty.

I feel I'm also good at researching alternatives, solving complex problems, filling in the gaps when things aren't well specified, delivering stuff that works, surprising people. There's absolutely demand for this but from a different direction to the previous or at a different stage in the evolution of a business.

My belief is that the better the match, the happier and more well paid you will be. This is because your boss won't appreciate or even 'see' stuff being done that they don't think they want. Someone who is very efficient at doing what they are told will rapidly rise up the ranks of places that like that.

Try to recognise the likelihood of a problem at the interview stage. In my case if someone wants me to do a 3 hour tech interview to demonstrate I know one software language off by heart, commit to 40+ hours a week, and do agile calls at 3am in the morning, we may be off to a bad start.

If someone is more flexible and mostly wants a hard job done regardless of hours and specific skills, has absorbed my resume and can see other people loved me, will begin with a trial period for us to get to know each other, and is open to comments and suggestions coming back at them, then we are probably onto something good.

So think about how you like to work, what value you provide and what that means from a boss's perspective. Remember as software developers we are in the fortunate position of being in demand, so we can take advantage of that, move on to better places and help make everyone - including the bosses - happier.

This may or may not involve you telling your existing boss to 'fuck off'. I wouldn't recommend doing that but if feel you have to...

Posted on by:

rwoodnz profile

Richard Wood

@rwoodnz

Remote developer working in Elm and JS for clients globally.

Discussion

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Funny someone brought this up. I'm not really wanting to tell people to eff off, but at the same time, I feel like I've become the Code Janitor. I get to support all the technical debt that happened prior to my position while the rest of the 'gang' gets to work on all the newer features. I can't help be jealous when I see what they are churning out. Even worse is that my bosses know how I feel...yet it keeps happening. We aren't a big team either...six people and an intern. :)

It's really frustrating, yet the pay and the benefits and the people are decent, so it's hard to leave. I just feel like I don't get a lot out of my work.

Over the last couple of months, I've been getting "fluent" in different frameworks by practicing a lot at home. I've also started to attend local developer meet-ups. The weird thing is, I collaborate more with strangers at coding workshops and meet-ups than I do with my coworkers. Collaboration is encouraged, but only two of us seem to be "heads up" when we code. It's starting to get to the point where I write more code at home. All of this is making me feel very disinterested and over qualified. I'm currently working on a portfolio so that eventually I'll feel confident to make a move. I don't really want to have to move, but I need to feel useful. It's hard to find work in technologies you haven't used professionally.

In the mean time, it's taking a lot of self control not to just walk out every time I read a release notes of cool features I never had the chance to work on. The congratulations. The pats on the back. Hard to get those when you're never involved. The only thing that keeps me going are the people, the benefits, and knowing there's another meet-up around the corner. :)

Phew. It was good to get that off my chest. Anyone else? :-)

 

I think "code janitor" sums it up very well. I am at the exact same position right now and I am trying to get up to date with the new technologies before I can look for a new job. My boss assures me that this is my role because he trusts me the most, but I am not sure if that's the case. The worst part is when you are cleaning somebodies mess and you hear them talking about clean code and good practices on their new feature...

 

If it makes you feel any better, you're not the only one in the boat. My company is incredibly under staffed and has lost some really big contributors in our operations and support departments. Consequently, at least 70% of the work that the operations and support teams are tasked with falls back to the dev team so we seldom ever get any coding done.

We have about 10+ years of nasty tech debt that was the result of startup growth mindset, so everyone is basically a code janitor or hacking out new "emergency" (seems like everything is an emergency now days) fix for a customer... Which is just more duct tape on top of duct tape on top of duct tape. I honestly don't know how to make the system better at this point. I think it's a cultural mindset that we just "do this" now.

On a brighter note, I know that I'm doing the right thing by learning new things at home and attending meetups, like you. I've always been one to stay ahead of the curve (or at least recent with frameworks and languages), loved programming, and have had really ambitious side projects. I genuinely love my career, but lately this job is burning me out and is making me hate the extra stuff like customer support, operations, custom one-off solutions for customers, and working on old code that breaks when you do the slightest change.

Unfortunately, because of our circumstances we have to work on our career at home (or find another job that allows us to). Hope this helps. Do what you think is best, but put your career before any particular company... Remember that it's a business relationship and if the company isn't investing in you then you shouldn't be investing in the company.

 

Ooops, I already did...

My personality tends to make me the anti-corporate coder. Instead, I'd rather try to make work for myself. The entrepreneurial spirit doesn't tend to match up well with the existing landscape.