In Which I Pontificate On How a Billion Dollar Company Should Operate

I am anxious today. When we heard that we were going to get a QA director, I suspected that this would not end well for some of us. When I was called in for my initial one on one with the new director, I toyed with idea of just flat out asking if he was here to make some heads roll, but I figured it was pointless to ask this question. Either he was or he was not hired for that purpose and there was little I could say or do that would alter the eventual outcome. Generally, when you work for a department that is considered ‘struggling’ and The People Who Matter Club decides you need a ‘Director’ or a ‘Vice President’ or some other impressive title, you can expect heads to roll. They don’t want to do the dirty work themselves, so they hire someone else to do it for them.

The fallout happened a little at a time, but in hindsight it was obvious where this was going. There is a feeling in the air of waiting for the next shoe to drop. Not all of the fallout was involuntary. Nearly all the original participants in The Chosen Framework, V2, have departed to other teams within the company or for other employers. Those who transferred elsewhere within the company are working on their own automation frameworks, yet The People Who Matter Club still persists in the illusion that The Chosen Framework, V2, will somehow displace all other frameworks, despite our painful lack of resources to do any further development on it. There are days when I regret ever having contributed a single line of code to it because as one of the few developers left standing, I am under tremendous pressure to continue contributing to this project as well as dig our team out from under a mountain of technical debt with respect to the actual automation of regression tests.

For two years, we tried to communicate to The People Who Matter Club that we were not adequately staffed to do our jobs and that lack of communication between development and QA was a serious problem. And for two years, nothing really changed. We struggled to keep up with a never-ending avalanche of new features, the behavior and purpose of which were not well-documented and which were generally introduced to us for testing just before they were to be released. So, predictably, we were always scrambling and of course, always looking as if we couldn’t successfully locate our own asses. Our pleas for additional resources to handle the workload in addition to a sane SDLC process to manage it fell on deaf ears. Then, the new QA director arrives and does the blood-letting that upper management couldn’t bring themselves to do. He says pretty much the same thing that we’ve been saying all along for two years, except that The People Who Matter Club listen to him and now I hear them saying things like, “Hey, we really need a good SDLC process to manage new feature development and we really need to beef up the QA staff levels to handle the workload!”

There has been a lot of heat and fuss around the issue of ‘face time’ in the office. One member of The People Who Matter Club has made this issue a personal crusade and has identified it as a primary reason for the communication problems that have hindered the QA team’s ability to function properly. I could wallpaper the White House if I printed out all IMs and emails I have sent over the last three years that contained questions I needed answers to which went ignored. Silly me, I should have realized that it had _nothing_ to do with a lack of professionalism or consideration that has made it acceptable for people at our company to ignore their colleagues’ emails and IMs! If everyone just limited themselves to one day a week for working from home, the communication would be better! There is a mystical power that is activated when our butts come into contact with our office chair that erases communication problems in the workplace.

The edict came down that we were allowed one day of telecommuting a week. I have an arrangement to work from home 2 days a week for my own personal reasons which so far has not been rescinded, but I am sure it is causing a lot of resentment from others who do not have this arrangement. The fact is… I don’t want to travel into the office 4 days a week. Neither does anyone else. The lack of flexibility with telecommuting is a _huge_ source of complaints at this company. Traveling to and from work is a giant pile of stress and annoyance in this region because There Is. No. Fast. Way. To. Do. It. Traffic is horrific. Public transportation is crowded and slow and increasingly expensive. Imposing the requirement that employees must be in the office means they must devote 2-3 hours of their day traveling. They lose sleep, time with their families and they have to endure stress and frustration to make this trip. All because it supposedly makes communication and collaboration better.

I am not a member of the People Who Matter Club, so my opinion is worth jack, but I going to soapbox it here on this little blog. I’m going to let y’all in on a secret. The benefit of face time in the office for technology workers is overrated. Want to set your company apart and attract a high quality workforce? Let your people telecommute as much as they want. People who are driven to be excellent do not need to be face to face with one another to collaborate or communicate effectively. Good collaboration and communication are personal and individual traits of the employee, not of their physical location. I will point to some of the most successful OSS projects as an example. These projects are developed and managed by people who often never see each other face to face. They often live on different continents. Granted, the class of developer who achieves a role of influence in an popular OSS project is usually a developer of elite caliber, but isn’t that the kind of developer you want? Why pay for all this real estate to house employees who would rather work from home?

So, members of the People Who Matter Club, to close this roundabout post, I want to get back to the issue of ‘communication’. If your rank and file has been screaming for what they need for two years and you hire someone to come in, chop off some heads and then say Exactly. The. Same. Fucking. Thing. only to be treated like a genius for figuring out what the issues are, you might want to take a look at your address. Because, you’ve just bought one of the most expensive houses in Asshole Town.

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