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Companies That Don't Understand Engineers Don't Respect Engineers 371

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-you-aren't-part-of-the-solution,-you're-part-of-the-preciptate dept.
An anonymous reader writes Following up on a recent experiment into the status of software engineers versus managers, Jon Evans writes that the easiest way to find out which companies don't respect their engineers is to learn which companies simply don't understand them. "Engineers are treated as less-than-equal because we are often viewed as idiot savants. We may speak the magic language of machines, the thinking goes, but we aren't business people, so we aren't qualified to make the most important decisions. ... Whereas in fact any engineer worth her salt will tell you that she makes business decisions daily–albeit on the micro not macro level–because she has to in order to get the job done. Exactly how long should this database field be? And of what datatype? How and where should it be validated? How do we handle all of the edge cases? These are in fact business decisions, and we make them, because we're at the proverbial coal face, and it would take forever to run every single one of them by the product people and sometimes they wouldn't even understand the technical factors involved. ... It might have made some sense to treat them as separate-but-slightly-inferior when technology was not at the heart of almost every business, but not any more."
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Companies That Don't Understand Engineers Don't Respect Engineers

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  • Database? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @08:38AM (#47688291)
    Real engineers don't size databases.
    • by PRMan (959735)
      That's why they invented varchar(MAX) amirite?
    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:43AM (#47688495)

      Real engineers don't size databases.

      Real engineers do everything.

      • by gweihir (88907)

        If they can, yes. The most efficient project team is one really good engineer and one business person keeping all administrative stuff (except budget things) away so that they does not distract the engineer. So, yes, really good engineers do everything that is engineering.

        • by ruir (2709173)
          Most insightful comment I have ever seen. But no people who does not understand, want them to do all at once.
    • Re:Database? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @10:38AM (#47688781) Homepage
      Of course they do. Real Engineers design up front, before implementing. We understand the implications of our decisions. We optimize. We know that there are many orthogonal factors to consider in doing this. Shoud we optimize with an emphasis size or speed? If we optimize for size, how will that decision effect scalability and the ability to add functionality we may not have originally considered, or that the original design specification didn't call for?

      Anybody who thinks that Engineers don't have a major impact on the entire business model have never worked in the real world, or have no idea the impact we have. "Why do we do thing X even though it no longer makes sense? ... because they system won't work if we don't, and it would cost too much and be too risky too change it!.
  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @08:41AM (#47688299) Homepage

    Exactly how long should this database field be? And of what datatype? How and where should it be validated? How do we handle all of the edge cases?

    That is not a business decision, that is a technical decision where you try to come up with the most universal and correct to spec answer you can. You are not shaping the business with this decision, you are trying to shape your solution to the business.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My bank uses a 2-digit extension to the account number to determine which bucket to put the money into. Money going to savings is in 1234567-01, checking is 1234567-02, a Certificate of Deposit is 1234567-34, etc. When a CD matures and is rolled into a new CD, it gets a new 2-digit number. With multiple CDs and standard accounts, I have run out of 2-digit numbers. I will either have to open a new account at this bank or move my money to a new bank with a better numbering system. The length of a database fie

    • "That is not a business decision, that is a technical decision where you try to come up with the most universal and correct to spec answer you can. You are not shaping the business with this decision, you are trying to shape your solution to the business. "

      I'm sorry sir. I'd love to do that for you, but the computer won't let me.

      IOW: Your belief that software design doesn't shape and make business decisions stems from a lack of forward-sightedness.

      • The janitor and secretary makes and shapes businesses as well, and can make or lose multi-million dollar deals. Every person in a business is absolutely necessary, and they all make decisions. Some of those decisions are technical, some are hygienic, and some are business, etc.
        • Try to be serious. The secretary does, especially if she is the secretary to the C*E or a simlar higher up, but the janitor does not. Ever.
          • I guarantee you that in the history of mankind at least a few business deals have been lost over clogged toilets. And probably more than a few when reduced sanitation caused multiple employees to be too sick to work.
            • We get it. You are an idiot. You claimed that da engineerz don't makez da buz'ness decisions and now you claim that janitors make them. Just accept that you are a complete moron and move on with your life.
          • by drolli (522659)

            Actually, even janitors and low level administration staff make a difference.

            The new Employee who asks for something simple and reasonable to be done can get the response "sorry, you can not order me to do that" or he can just do it. In the latter case the new employee may get another picture of your company.

            The team assistant with not even a bachelor degree can significantly influence the output of the specialist.

            If i see that a demotivated mode of work is bussiness as usual in a company, then i run.

            • "Actually, even janitors and low level administration staff make a difference."

              (Make_a_Difference != Make_a_Business_Decision)

              That being said, I already acknowledged that secretaries make business decisions. Janitors, however, while making a difference, do not make business decisions.

    • by drolli (522659)

      The real business decision would be how many people you put into development and how many requirements engineers and SW quality people you put into the project to validate is the software (including hte database) conforms to the different customers needs.

  • Machismo... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 17, 2014 @08:43AM (#47688305)

    I think this has a lot more to do with the machismo of business people than anything else. The suits don't have a lick of understanding of what the engineers actually do--sure, they understand the iPhone once it rolls off the lines, but up to that point, what engineers do is basically a bunch of technovoodoo magic to them. Since lots of businessmen are macho, domineering types (especially in large, competitive companies), the concept of having subordinates who are doing things far beyond their understanding is not one they like. In turn, the business people feel the need to assert how hard whatever it is they do--"oh, you wouldn't understand because business is sooo much more complicated than rocket science"--and elevate the complexity and importance of their own job beyond that of the lowly engineers.

    I don't think it's lack of "understanding the engineers." I think it's lack of understanding the engineering and feeling uncomfortable about it.

    • Re:Machismo... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by StripedCow (776465) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @10:32AM (#47688741)

      The suits

      Used-car-salesmen wear similar suits.
      We should treat "business" people with suspicion, not the other way around.

    • Re:Machismo... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @11:44AM (#47689157)

      Since lots of businessmen are macho, domineering types

      Who usually make decisions based on "gut feelings" and aren't used to people calling them on it because they're making such decisions on things that can't be weighed and measured very well. They don't know what to make of people who make decisions on things that have some absolutism involved, and frequently will not make "gut decisions" when the data is missing and they are asked to.

      • Re:Machismo... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by digsbo (1292334) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @01:54PM (#47689801)

        They don't know what to make of people who make decisions on things that have some absolutism involved, and frequently will not make "gut decisions" when the data is missing and they are asked to.

        That's incredibly insightful. I never saw it that way before. Nonetheless, as an engineer, I've had to prove beyond any doubt that a certain problem existed to get business people to move on it. So I think there's another layer there: If the evidence goes against the businessperson's gut, it needs to be 100% iron-clad.

      • Who usually make decisions based on "gut feelings" and aren't used to people calling them on it because they're making such decisions on things that can't be weighed and measured very well.

        This is absolutely true, and conventional business wisdom says that we often need such people to "lead" and to make the "big decisions" so a company can grow quickly and avoid getting mired in minutiae.

        The problem is that there's relatively little evidence that having such a person around is a net positive. For every company that succeeds by taking big risks on "gut feelings," there are probably quite a few others that fail miserably.

        One of the most insightful books I read on the subject a few years ag

  • by cellocgw (617879) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <wgcollec>> on Sunday August 17, 2014 @08:48AM (#47688323) Journal

    /. may be a software-centric site, but those of us in mechanical, electrical, optical, materials, and other branches of engineering are in the same basic position. But sadly, even in businesses which promote engineers into senior roles end up respecting people primarily on the basis of how many direct reports (that's the term for peons whose salaries they determine) they control. Until you're able to rate people by the quality/quantity of output regardless of altitude in the org chart, this problem will continue.

    • by Shoten (260439) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:21AM (#47688425)

      /. may be a software-centric site, but those of us in mechanical, electrical, optical, materials, and other branches of engineering are in the same basic position. But sadly, even in businesses which promote engineers into senior roles end up respecting people primarily on the basis of how many direct reports (that's the term for peons whose salaries they determine) they control. Until you're able to rate people by the quality/quantity of output regardless of altitude in the org chart, this problem will continue.

      Indeed; the underlying basis of the article could really match almost any profession. Accountants, HR personnel, programmers, even admin assistants. Not understanding the role of a job invariably means not understanding its challenges or the value it brings. So what? This is not news. Hell, I've seen companies where they didn't understand the value of managers...and thus, promoted/hired people into such roles who had no skill at doing their jobs.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      Valuing people by their number of direct or indirect reports makes a lot of sense. If I am one of a group of ten people and I'm 20% more productive than the others, my extra contribution only adds about 2% to the total. If I am a good manager my staff might be 5% more productive than an average manager's. Think about it.
      • by AnotherBlackHat (265897) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @11:29AM (#47689089) Homepage

        Valuing people by their number of direct or indirect reports makes a lot of sense. If I am one of a group of ten people and I'm 20% more productive than the others, my extra contribution only adds about 2% to the total. If I am a good manager my staff might be 5% more productive than an average manager's.

        If you're good you should be in charge of more people, but being in charge of more people doesn't make you good.
        Or to put it another way, just because a position is important doesn't mean the person in the position is.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If your company promotes engineers from within into engineering management positions, then you work for a company that respects engineers.

    If your company promotes administrators from within (you know, MBAs, project managers, etc) then there's a chance it might respect engineers.

    If your company hires management from outside for the bottom rung of management (usually who most engineers report to), then your company probably dislikes engineers very much.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A related point: In my experience, managers who hung on to their engineering responsibilities as well as took on a management role were crappy managers. Those engineers who took on management full time were much, much better at it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've been in the computing industry for many, many, many years. I've worked on the hardware side, on the software side, and everywhere in between.

    Businesspeople will treat software developers and electrical engineers just fine, but these software developers and electrical engineers need to be adults and need to act like adults. They need to dress professionally, they need to act professionally, and they need to get valuable work done.

    Such things conflict with the Hipster lifestyle, however. The influx of Hi

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LordLucless (582312)

      No, businesspeople will not take a Hipster seriously when this Hipster insists on using provenly bad technologies like Ruby on Rails, JavaScript and NoSQL absolutely everywhere, especially when the Hipster was told that C++ is being used because the other 10 million lines of code in the system are written in C++. Businesspeople need software that works, not software that's built upon technologies solely chosen because of how much hype they've gotten, or how much they tickle the fancy of some Hipster.

      They'll also not take seriously self-righteous morons who use the word "proven" as a justification for their technical prejudices, instead of to denote some objective reality. Or actually, they might, but the rest of us won't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by acid_andy (534219)
      Preconceptions about business attire are based on social conventions that are utterly arbitrary!

      You wouldn't ever catch me in a fedora (it seems little more than a uniform for them much like a suit is to your so called "businesspeople") but people who judge someone's professional competency based on that attire and equate professionalism with collars and suits are being as stupid and bigoted as the hipsters that you are describing.

      Professionalism shouldn't be about clothing choices or buzz words or even

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr D from 63 (3395377)
        Its not about preconceptions based on attire. Its about perceptions based on the wisdom of choosing ones attire that puts the business environment ahead of one's personal need to express himself through dress. That is a statement in itself. Some get it, others don't. The accepted dress in most companies today is much more casual and varied than it was even 10 years ago. It will continue to evolve. Having the capacity to know where the standards of the day are, and what may be pushing the limits, is one that
        • by shmlco (594907)

          The primary reason business attire is much more casual today is that other people began pushing against the same very envelope years ago.

          • Pushing the limits and crossing the limits are two different things. Again, its situational sensitivity that is considered a positive trait. Those that don't get it, aren't going to display that trait.
        • by acid_andy (534219) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @11:48AM (#47689179)

          Its not about preconceptions based on attire. Its about perceptions based on the wisdom of choosing ones attire that puts the business environment ahead of one's personal need to express himself through dress. That is a statement in itself. Some get it, others don't. The accepted dress in most companies today is much more casual and varied than it was even 10 years ago. It will continue to evolve. Having the capacity to know where the standards of the day are, and what may be pushing the limits, is one that you can demonstrate through your choice of dress. Trying to prove something is fine, just don't blame others for the result it brings. Business leaders don't like complainers.

          The point I was trying to make was that the conventions that make up accepted dress in the business environment (to use your words) are arbitrary and based only on social conditioning. I accept that almost everyone has been subjected to that conditioning - not just the managers but also the customers. TFA is about engineers not being respected. The AC points out their clothing can cause them not to be respected.

          For respect to be regained someone must make changes. That could be the engineers capitulating and dressing according to the social norms of the traditionalists. The respect could also be regained by the traditionalists waking up and realising that all of these cultural rituals are a waste of time that complicate the process of buying and selling high quality products and services.

          Sure, if someone turns up to a series of job interviews today in a t shirt and flip flops they shouldn't be shocked if no-one calls them back and they need to seriously rethink their strategy. The same could be true when trying to clinch that sale - but then how many engineers are sales people?

          The AC was attacking the stereotypical "hipster", calling them childish and speaking with much disdain about them. My point was that you can just as justifiably pour disdain on the traditionalist business folk. They are also the ones who are trying to impose their standards on other people. Standards that really should not be relevant, in an ideal world, to doing good business. I accept we do not live in an ideal world, and the hipsters of the AC's comment should know better. It's just that they're not the only ones that would benefit from an improved attitude.

      • Preconceptions about business attire are based on social conventions that are utterly arbitrary!

        You wouldn't ever catch me in a fedora (it seems little more than a uniform for them much like a suit is to your so called "businesspeople") but people who judge someone's professional competency based on that attire and equate professionalism with collars and suits are being as stupid and bigoted as the hipsters that you are describing.

        True, but they control the purse strings. You can either bang your head against the wall while complaining about the unfairness of it all or adapt, get inside, and begin the make changes. Generational shifts occur, after all hats used to be the norm for men at work, as were suits and ties. However, the reality is those making decisions at the top have a set of norms and you need to adjust to those norms if ou want to be taken seriously. Sure, there is the occasional genius who can do whatever they want bec

      • by pepty (1976012)

        Yes I know that in trying to win customers a business needs to consider the fact that more often than not a lot of these potential customers will have many of these arbitrary, illogical preconceptions, so I do understand that making compromises to please their sensibilities is important for the success of a business. It doesn't change the fact that these preconceptions are arbitrary and could make life simpler if over time they were phased out. I actually think in some places that's already begun to happen.

        Arbitrary and prejudicial yes, but still rational. Think about the bowl of M&Ms (with all brown M&Ms removed) that Van Halen required to be backstage for each of their shows. It didn't even rise to the level of indulging a prejudice: it was a completely arbitrary requirement. But if the bowl wasn't there or had the wrong stuff in it the band knew the venue wasn't taking the specs of the contract seriously and so they would be on guard for further deviations. If you, as an engineer, present yoursel

        • by acid_andy (534219)

          Think about the bowl of M&Ms (with all brown M&Ms removed) that Van Halen required to be backstage for each of their shows. It didn't even rise to the level of indulging a prejudice: it was a completely arbitrary requirement. But if the bowl wasn't there or had the wrong stuff in it the band knew the venue wasn't taking the specs of the contract seriously and so they would be on guard for further deviations.

          The bowl of M&Ms was arguably a part of the customer requirements for the service they were buying from the venue. That's exactly what I was saying professionalism should be about - getting the job done - providing the product or service to a high standard. That's what makes the business money. It shouldn't matter what the person who ordered the M&Ms, or even who placed them backstage the night before, was wearing - unless the customer paid for that to be part of the act.

      • by Livius (318358)

        Attire is a choice, and like *every other choice* it can demonstrate good or poor judgment.

        Disrespecting your co-workers (or, if applicable, customers) demonstrates poor judgment. Not anticipating or understanding the consequences is immaturity.

    • by GeorgieBoy (6120) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @11:10AM (#47688981) Homepage
      Sorry, I only take comments like this seriously when written by someone with an actual user account, instead of an AC. Then they're being "professional" and standing by their words. In all seriousness, I have experienced virtually no hipsterism in engineering culture over the course of 2 decades in the industry. Those that were about style over substance usually didn't even make it through getting their engineering degree. If you look at computer languages through the lens of "C++ is a proven technology" then you're ignoring other advances that make other solutions more appropriate. This comes from a place of not-understanding, rather than something being objectively better for any task. I started as a C++ developer for the first half of my career, and while I still occasionally maintain some older C++ software, most innovative work is done in modern languages now. Also, have you ever heard of a buffer overflow? There are lots of good reasons not to write certain things in C++, one of them being that it's easy to make a mistake and create a security nightmare. You might have heard of this when watching "business news".
      • Unlike you I have seen hipsterism, but it's a minority. You can go to downtown Mountain View any day and see people that look like they are homeless talking business on a smart phone or banging away on a MacBook Pro. I assume that whoever employs them lets them work from home (or downtown Mountain View), and probably prefers it that way.

        Outside of the "hipster" appearances, and much more common, I have seen people enter shops and try to change the company to use what ever trend they like. It generally en

    • by Smallpond (221300)

      Right -- before the hipsters, software types came to work in suits and ties. I distinctly remember that from the 70's. Oh wait, that was a hallucination. I remember them mostly wearing Birkenstocks, cutoff jeans and Peace symbol tees. I'm in my 60's but I don't have the selective amnesia of the above AC. In fact, I think the software types are mostly young marrieds and pretty serious about their work [anyway, more serious than I was]. When they propose new technology it is backed up with the advantage

  • Business decisions (Score:5, Informative)

    by characterZer0 (138196) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:03AM (#47688369)

    Should I halt work on the next version for a month to do custom work for this important customer?

    Should I save time by making the system very inflexible in this regard to get it out the door for a narrow market at the expense of a wider market later?

    Should I follow the spec that management and business analysts wrote even though it seems wrong, or go up the chain or to the customer and likely fix or rewrite the spec?

    These are the kind of business decisions I used to find myself making. In most cases it turned out that I made the correct decision in hindsight, but I got a lot of fighting from management in the process about that not being my job, even though there was nobody else competent to do it.

    The biggest problem I run into is that the management assumes that the engineers are completely unable to talk to customers and look at outside non-technical specifications. I have found that engineers tend to be better at it than managers and all but the best business analysts.

    • by PRMan (959735)
      If they gave the engineer a cut of the profits, I'm certain they would make the correct choice every time.
      • by pepty (1976012)
        What is the correct choice: How much of the profit do you distribute as bonuses, etc. and how much do you reinvest to grow business next year? I doubt the engineers would all agree on the split (other than they should get the lion's share of the distribution).
    • by JeffOwl (2858633)

      The biggest problem I run into is that the management assumes that the engineers are completely unable to talk to customers and look at outside non-technical specifications. I have found that engineers tend to be better at it than managers and all but the best business analysts.

      I think that the generalization has gone too far both ways. There are certainly engineers that are very good at talking to customers. There are some that absolutely should not be talking to customers... Example, we have engineers that panic at the slightest bump in the road and will tell everyone who will listen how screwed up things are. If you press them on it, most of the time they haven't done their homework and when they do, it isn't such a big deal after all. A lot of the time it is a couple of ho

      • The biggest problem I run into is that the management assumes that the engineers are completely unable to talk to customers and look at outside non-technical specifications. I have found that engineers tend to be better at it than managers and all but the best business analysts.

        I think that the generalization has gone too far both ways. There are certainly engineers that are very good at talking to customers. There are some that absolutely should not be talking to customers...

        I've been on both sides of that equation and the biggest issue I've seen with engineers is they often cannot communicate effectively. They may be great engineers and able to fix a problem but they have trouble explaining why the problem matters in a way to get decision makers to act. They can tell you it's a problem, what the technical details are and what needs to be done to fix it but fail open on why it is a problem and its implications. Those that can do that tend to be the ones listened to and moved in

        • This happens just as often from the other side. Decision makers like to make decisions and they will do so regardless of how well they understand the problem. Instead they bring vague contradictory language to the engineers and expect them to sort out what the business ACTUALLY needs to make the decision maker look good. Managers are good at communicating their successes and often little else.
          • This happens just as often from the other side. Decision makers like to make decisions and they will do so regardless of how well they understand the problem. Instead they bring vague contradictory language to the engineers and expect them to sort out what the business ACTUALLY needs to make the decision maker look good. Managers are good at communicating their successes and often little else.

            Which is why good two way communications is essential to success. the engineers need to clearly understand what is needed and the managers what it will take to deliver that. All too often both groups make decisions in a vacuum which leads to problems.

    • Should I halt work on the next version for a month to do custom work for this important customer?

      How is there no one more qualified to make this decision. This is more of a personal preference on how the business is run than a true decision. Sure someone with a deep background in business might be able to guess at the more profitable course, but 99% of this decision is just personal preference on what sort of business you want. And the biggest variable in this decision is definitely what the business has planned for the future.

      How could your bosses not be more qualified to make that decision than yo

  • That seems fair (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:05AM (#47688377) Journal
    That seems fair (at least at face value), given that engineers tend to hold business weenies in complete contempt.

    We do, however, have both a power and a knowledge imbalance in the situation. We have a power imbalance in that those business weenies can fire me, but I can't fire them; and we have a knowledge imbalance in that many engineers do know the business side of things. I can work up a set of financial statements as well as the weenies; I can perform a ratio analysis better than the weenies, because unlike them, I "know" what the numbers mean beyond a cut-and-paste job in Excel; I can analyze the company's capitalization structure and consider the impact on near-term cash flows right up there with the best of the weenies.

    Now, you might fairly point out that I've mostly describe accountancy, not "business"... But the knowledge imbalance gets worse when we get into actual strategic planning, market analysis, and consideration of macroeconomic factors - At least many of the weenies have significant exposure to accounting, sometimes even a related undergrad degree. For the harder material, they just can't grasp even the basics of supply/demand curves without a solid math background (in taking my MBA, I found one particular economics class hilarious; we spent more than half of the semester learning a set of related equations for (for example) forecasting optimal production levels, that all just took the derivative of the same damn underlying equation from different perspectives. And that counted as one of the "killer" classes in a goddamned graduate-level degree?

    Sadly, though, business weenies do have exactly one trait that engineers lack - Smarm. And in this sick sad world, that will get you further than any level of mastery of any legitimate domain of knowledge.
    • Re:That seems fair (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PRMan (959735) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:25AM (#47688437)
      Most engineers are risk-averse. You said as much in your post. But many businesses succeed by risk. Getting something unfinished out there before the competitor often wins the day, and 99% of engineers wouldn't do it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Most engineers are risk-averse. You said as much in your post. But many businesses succeed by risk. Getting something unfinished out there before the competitor often wins the day, and 99% of engineers wouldn't do it.

        Sure, but remember that you can only find the "succeed by risk" examples. Those who took the risk and won.
        The companies that took the risk and failed tanked and you never heard of them.

        I know of at least two companies that were led by business people where they would take risks anytime someone did the math and showed them that there was a 90% chance of success. That is fine one or two times when you are a self employed start-up.

        Well, lets just say that they both kept taking risks and as any engineer can de

    • by gweihir (88907)

      If you are a good engineer, you have something that no business person will ever have (except at the very top maybe): You are really hard to replace. Use that!

  • by MindPrison (864299) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:15AM (#47688407) Journal
    This is actually a very touchy subject. The Engineers have felt it for years, but this applies to SO much more in business.

    How many times haven't you been seen as the "useful idiot" every time someone need something technical fixed? This is something I've lived with and experienced since I was a kid (we're talking 30+ years here), and I wasn't even the geeky one. But it seems like every manager, every company executive and even just everyday people think they're somewhat "superior" because they make money on your kindness and professionalism.

    I even had friends like that for years, sure...when something breaks, they'll come to me to get it fixed, and expect not to pay for it. But when I needed something, then they where nowhere to be seen. I made millions for one of my bosses back in the Commodore heydays when I literally was the "driving" motor of his entire store chain, I got people together, computer-clubs, repaired the computers etc. One could always argue that I was the IDIOT for not being business savvy enough to charge more, but they are just better at business than fixing things. When I left, his business went to ruins within 2 years, he thought he did it all by himself because he was such a smart businessman. That's the worst part...these company directors wouldn't know good people, and they always get high on "their" own success. And eventually fail.

    How many times haven't you seen bosses walk away with HUGE fat bonuses, and all they basically do is talk. You do all the work anyway. Small minds think small, and only see the carrot dangling in front of their face. Intelligent bosses actually think ahead and invest in great minds. The companies that have the biggest successes - are those who appreciate their workers and the incredible minds behind it all. The best company executive in the world, praises his coworkers where credit is due.
    • by putaro (235078)

      See, if you were smarter you would talk more and work less and get paid more (I've been telling myself this for years. I think my line of bullshit is finally getting to corporate grade).

    • And without him you probably would of been doing it as a hobby and losing money, instead of making a salary. Everyone thinks every other person is an idiot, and every other occupation is redundant.
  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:17AM (#47688417)
    and of course I get ignored. I'm still pissed that I told them for the trade show demo we should use the older version which actually works and not the latest version which has a couple of show stopper bugs.(Given that 3 days is unrealistic for me to fix that and have QA test it.) Of course in their infinite wisdom they not only should we go with the new version(ooh, it's got new features, we don't care what they actually are it has them) but that I should add another new feature to it. (Lets just say they should have took my advice.)

    Hey, I could bring up how they had the great idea to release software during a literal blizzard.(Yes, that really happened and yes it really was a blizzard. This did not go well.)

  • I hate to inform you (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:27AM (#47688445)
    But business managers don't respect anyone who isn't also a business manager.
    • by matbury (3458347) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @10:31AM (#47688739) Homepage

      Too true. And it's not just in IT and/or engineering. The idea of management not knowing much about what the company or department that they're in charge of actually does and what purpose it serves has becoming all too common in "business circles." Most senior managers come from sales jobs/backgrounds. They know a lot about how to sell stuff but call for IT support if they notice that the submit buttons on their UIs are a different colour one day or if they've forgotten how to turn on their computer. Think of the people in sales, then think of them with a big promotion; same people, same values, same ignorance, same narrow views, and same lack of a sense of what their product/service actually does and how it works.

      • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

        Too true. And it's not just in IT and/or engineering. The idea of management not knowing much about what the company or department that they're in charge of actually does and what purpose it serves has becoming all too common in "business circles." Most senior managers come from sales jobs/backgrounds.

        What is happening now is the influx of MBA's. These are the new superior beings, and in their mind, they constitute an evolution from mere humanity. They shall take the corporation to new heights as soon as they get those fools with their silly experience out of the way.

        WIth an MBA, a kid who has never worked a day in their life, can be installed in a position overlording work they know nothing about, and they immediately know everything about everything. That was once reserved for PhD's, but the MBA now

    • by PPH (736903) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @11:44AM (#47689159)

      Because business management is all about maintaining command and control of an enterprise. Everything else is a commodity; engineering, construction, human resources. It can be replaced. But just try suggesting that the large compensation increases handed top management might not be producing a decent ROI and there will be screams of discontent.

      One principle taught in management classes is to make sure that no one employee becomes such a key to the success of a business that they can hold it hostage. If that means dumbing down the product, so be it. And yet, management works themselves into exactly this position. We've got to hand that CEO the big wage package or he/she will leave. Fine. Let them go. There are case histories of executives hopping back and forth between different industries that a good argument can be made for management as a commodity.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      Hate to break it to you, but nearly everyone in any job doesn't respect anyone who doesn't do the same job. The problem isn't specific to any one profession. The problem is being hyper-aware of the challenges in the job you do, and ignorant of the challenges in the jobs you don't do. So you end up overestimating the difficulty of your job (relative to people who don't do your job), and underestimating the difficulty of other people's jobs.

      I've done a lot of different jobs over 3 decades (engineering,
    • by houghi (78078)

      You make it sound as if they like other business managers. They don't.

  • It's reciprocal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:51AM (#47688533)

    Coincidentally everyone but the managers of a company think that management is overrated, overpaid and in general the reason that things go south when (not if) they do. A bunch of dorks with zero clue what the company is actually doing making decisions about it and the products they have never even seen. Hell, the idiots even claim that it doesn't matter just what kind of product we're producing 'cause they're equally qualified to run a potato chip company as they are running a computer chip company. Actually I'd agree, they're usually qualified for neither.

    So you see, the feeling is definitely mutual. The only thing that saves them is that they make the HR decisions, too. Else they'd have been outsourced to the local zoo.

    • by putaro (235078)

      Yes, the business guys are often fond of telling everybody just what geniuses they are. I like to point out that when we were in college, we never talked about how smart the business majors were.

    • by pepty (1976012)
      At some point shareholders will use software and statistics similar to that used for deciding work schedules and payrate for hourly employees when setting bounds for c-suite compensation. "Sorry, total compensation packages that cost over X % of revenue have not been shown to improve executive performance.".
  • by Circlotron (764156) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @10:02AM (#47688599)
    I worked for 13 years at a company that designed and manufactured switch mode power supplies up to 3kW size. The last ten years was in the design lab with a team of about 15 engineers. We made decisions on a daily basis in respect of fire and electric shock safety for our products; things that affect the very lives and properties of the end users of this equipment. One wrong decision or non-comliance with a particular regulation could have caused our company to be sued into oblivion. Despite this responsibility that we shouldered, we were not allowed access to the stationery cupboard - we had to go and ask permission of some junior office member for a simple ball point pen etc.
  • by putaro (235078) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @10:09AM (#47688643) Journal

    I'm an engineer who runs a business. I know the tradeoff between technology and costs. And figuring out how and where something should be validated is not a "business decision". It might be a business process decision, but unless it affect the bottom line (for example, the validation costs $50 so we only do it when a customer is just about to purchase) it's not a business decision.

    There's a real problem with engineers not understanding business just as much as there's a problem with business types not understanding engineering. I had one of my engineers say to me once "I don't understand why we have sales people" (hint for those of you nodding along with him - it's so we get income so the engineers and everyone else can get paid). I've seen companies where engineering gold-plated the systems architecture to the point where the company couldn't make money with the deployed hardware.

    Business isn't all that complicated and anyone competent as an engineer should be able to understand it (you may not like it but that's another issue entirely). Figuring out how the costs of a system affect the business, how the features in a product affect its salability, these are things that a good engineer will understand, and will probably wind up explaining to the business people.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      I completely agree. When I moved from academics to industry some time ago, it did not take that long to understand the business side of things. Most of it is just numbers, albeit a lot more fuzzy than is common in engineering. All it takes is an interest to learn. Sure, sales requires a lot of psychology, but a bright engineer can pick most of that up as well, just takes time and careful observation. And these skills even help you to present a project outcome in a positive light or defuse tense situations.

      O

  • average salary software developer in the US is 98k.
    average business manager is 48k.
    We might not get the respect we think we deserve, but the stats don't lie about our income.
    • by gweihir (88907)

      Nice numbers! Have a reference? (I believe them, but I may want to reference them myself...)

  • As evidently demonstrated by this summary.

    (it has also been my experience, as an engineer turned entrepreneur and now CEO)

  • Or at least they do not have them long, as the good engineers will move on pretty soon. Some of them may even successfully found their own company!

    I have seen this process several times now (fortunately always from the outside): Engineers start to get disrespected, and the most agile ones leave and find better jobs elsewhere. Then the good remaining ones raise more and more issues as there are not enough good engineers anymore and issues start to accumulate. Then these people get sacked or get strong sugges

  • Who signs the checks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @11:09AM (#47688971)
    I hit upon a slight variation of this years ago when a friend of my was partnering up with a sales guy to start a company. I told my engineer friend to make sure that their written agreement was that not a dollar could be spent or a contract of any sort signed without his agreement. This included hiring peopel. Also any employee could be fired by either of them. The great twist that his lawyer threw in was that if one or the other agreed to something without the approval of the other that the cost came out of their share of the profits and has no legal standing with the company.

    It wasn't two weeks after their first client wrote them a big check that the salesman leased himself a "company" car. My friend said, nope that comes out of your profits. The salesman went to a lawyer and then managed to return the car.

    The other clause that totally screwed the salesman was what is called a "shotgun clause" basically what that states is that one partner can make an offer to buy out the other's share and that offer can not be refused; but it can be matched in which case the first party must sell for the amount they offered.

    So the company was taking off and my friend just made an offer on a house. So the salesman made a lowball offer for my friend's half of the company thinking that all his money was tied up. My friend actually had quite a bit of money saved and combined with credit cards and family raised the matching money in about a day. This one ended up in court but didn't go anywhere as my friend was 100% in the right. What came out during the initial discovery was that now that they had hired a handful of engineers was that the salesman was ticked that he was paying 50% of the profits to my friend who he thought could be replaced with interns and local tech school graduates. But as my friend gleefully was able to do was replace the salesman with someone who was much cheaper than the 50% profits going to the salesman.

    Needless to say, both of them were fairly replaceable but I would say that my friend had at least as good business skills as the salesman, while also possessing masterful engineering skills. The salesman only had moderate business skills and zero engineering skills.

    The reality of the story was that while my friend was willing to let things continue as normal and let the salesman enjoy the fruits of his initial investment, the salesman was pretty much trying to screw my friend once a month. He just could not believe that some techy was his equal. Every new employee that was hired was told by the salesman that the salesman was in charge and that the engineer was basically a hanger on. So my engineering friend would often have to point out to people such as the accountant how things worked(as opposed how the salesman dreamed they worked) and that either one of them could fire anyone so if they tried picking a side they would be gone the next day.

    Yet my friend fully agreed that when he turfed the salesman that either one of them were by that point replaceable. As he had brought engineering skills that at first the salesman could not get cheap enough, and that the salesman had brought a rolodex that got the company started before it was exhausted.
  • that power, by its very nature, must be kept from the people who perform the actual, useful work.
  • by houghi (78078) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @12:04PM (#47689251)

    Why would engineers be any different? Do you think they appriciate the rest of the staff?

    You are there because they can not do without you. If they think they can do without you (or without your function) they will fire you. That goes for EVERY job in the company, including the CEO.

    The difference is that for some jobs it is very hard to change on short notice. Sales can push a few deals so they will make the new requirements or hold them back so they will have it easier for next years budget.

    So they can react to the question of 'increase profit by X percent for the next 3 months'. There is no such thing for e.g. IT without cutting in projects/jobs. (Sure there are some ways to do it)

    The real issue is that the majority of companies are in it for the money, so if you want to be understood, you need to speak the language of money. In companies that means budgets. This means when you take a decision in your job like "how should I set up this database" they do not care as long as you can provide the information on cost and profit both short, middle and long term and then they will decide what you should do.

    If your datafield for the year still has 2 digits, why should I make it 4? Show me the outcome in $ and then we will see if we do it or not. THAT is taking a business decision, not if it is technically the best solution. Sometimes the technically worst decision is best for business.

    I have seen (easy) technicaly solutions overturned time and time again. One time I asked for a soltion and they told me it was 3.000EUR as quoted by Cisco. A while later I told them I had a solution for a problem and would they OK it if I did it for 100 EUR. I never detailed that it was the same problem that had been denied for several years. Without blinking they said yes and looked if I was stoopid because I could spend 250 EUR per month on anything I wanted.
    Bought two hubs and solved the issue.

    Lesson: They must not talk your language. They must not understand you. You must understand them.

  • by trout007 (975317) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @12:48PM (#47689507)

    In the end it is always the customer that pays the bills. If you are selling things to technical people then the engineers may have a better grasp on what the customer wants. I've been in customer meetings where we were selling a machine to the customer and both management didn't really understand the requirements. When I talked with the manufacturing engineer we both understood each other and were able to agree upon some real requirements that could be verified. In this cage management wasn't helping. Luckily they understood this and allowed the technical people to work together.

    In other cases when I worked for a company that sold services to the government I had to learn to relize the business wasn't about doing a great job. They have the contract so the business goal was to milk the government as much as possible. This means doing exactly what you were contracted to do even if it wasn't technically correct.

  • With the caveat that not all startups are created equal, if you want to be treated like family then you need to find a startup to work for.

    Once a group of humans gets above about 150 people, it starts to fracture. The whole point of the modern corporation is to keep warring factions together and get something done despite the constant efforts of its participants to tear itself apart. It's not surprising that the group will tend to fracture along lines of similar people - engineers perhaps being the beta c

  • Many engineers don't understand that business people are engineers of a sort, too.

    What we all should do is realize that we're all part of a team that can't work without the participation of everyone. Mutual respect is key.

    Many skills are needed if a firm is to survive.

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @04:43PM (#47690563)

    The real problem is that the goal of most IT companies is to maximize profit in the short term. As such, engineers, like most employees are just a resource to be consumed. This isn't unique to IT companies, but it is most obvious there because many are started by venture capitalists who want to make their money and run. While engineers focus on quality solutions, the typical VC wants quick results at a low cost. The old adage of fast, quality, and cheap are at play in the IT world and you can't have all three.

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