Discussion on: Describe the worst coding culture you've been a part of

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Tamas Rev

I was working for a company in the financial sector. Their code was a mess, but that wouldn't make them the worst. This is just the background that highlights the cultural problems:

For security considerations, adding a new library to any project would take months. So people literally re-implemented half of the ecosystem. Re-implemented it the wrong way, of course, because we had to focus on the product, not the libraries.

When I arrived, there was already a class that wrote a Properties class into xml. In the java ecosystem we have the standard java.util.Properties.storeToXml() for that since java 1.5.

We had a special tool that serializes/deserializes objects - using special symbols as field separator, like @, ^ or #. It was a funny exercise to maintain it, because these objects refer to each other, so I had to use them in the right order so the different object serializers won't interfere with each other. In the java ecosystem we have json and xml marshallers for that, as well as some csv libraries.

Here comes the cultural part:

When I complained about the additional complexity, my boss told me that this is exactly why they hire smart people. He said, he hoped that I could deal with it.

Before committing code, there was a code review. That's all right, code reviews are useful if done right. Unfortunately, we had no code guidelines, so the code policies changed weekly. It was important to find some room for improvement for my code. It didn't matter if the code base was full of those kind of code. Nor did it matter if review comment suggested that kind of code two weeks before that - I had to rewrite my code according to the suggestions.

My boss had weekly phone meetings with his boss. There he explained what we did - everything that worked well. He also explained what stuff I was struggling with - even if my code was okay. Even if he touched my code and messed it up, he said to his boss that it was my fault.

Sometimes my boss was exceptionally unhappy with my performance. He said, that it was supposed to be a two-day task, and I've been working on that for two weeks. I was too slow, he concluded, and took over to get it done and do it right. Usually he'd spent months on those tasks, because they weren't trivial after all. Anyway, he took over, as he explained to his boss, so the task was in good hands after all.

I was labelled as slow worker, so I had to overwork, regularly. My first child was born during that period, so it was extra stressful for me.

The salary was exceptional. That job makes CVs look good. So I did my best, hoping that the treatment would change once I "made my bones". It didn't. I left after almost three years. It was a horrible experience and a great lesson.