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Businesses Software IT

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 17, 2014 @07:37AM (#47688287)

    The article references Michael O. Church and some other article that he apparently wrote.

    I don't really know who Michael O. Church is, but I do know from the few times that I've dared venture over to Hacker News that a lot of people there absolutely hate him for some reason. If I'm not mistaken, I saw comments from people claiming to work for or to have worked for Google, and these comments absolutely demonized him, but without really explaining why.

    Can anyone fill me in on who Michael O. Church is, why he's so disliked over at Hacker News, and whatever else we should know about this situation?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 17, 2014 @07:54AM (#47688345)

    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 Hipsters into the software industry, and the hardware industry to a lesser extent, has brought their alternative view on such matters into conflict with the well established business practices.

    No, businesspeople will not take a Hipster seriously when this Hipster insists on wearing a fedora hat, a t-shirt with some stupid smart-ass saying on it, and glasses frames without any lenses in them to meetings with serious clients. Businesspeople will frown on such immaturity.

    No, businesspeople will not take a Hipster seriously when this Hipster emails thousands or tens of thousands of other employees, and accidentally includes some customers, begging them to support her social justice cause fight of the day. Businesspeople have real work to get done while at work, rather than wasting time supporting some sort of social deviancy.

    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.

    Hipsters go out of their way to conflict with established business practices and professionalism in basically every way they can. Then they wonder why businesspeople don't take them seriously! Come on. Cut the crap, Hipsters. If you're going to act like children, you'll be treated like children. Act like actual adults, and you won't have anywhere near as many issues.

  • Re:That seems fair (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PRMan (959735) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @08:25AM (#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.
  • It's reciprocal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @08:51AM (#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 LordLucless (582312) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @08:59AM (#47688581)

    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.

  • by Circlotron (764156) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:02AM (#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 acid_andy (534219) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:04AM (#47688617)
    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 about following arbitrary procedures. It should be about getting the job done, efficiently and to a high standard and that's *all* that it should be about! A professional is someone you can trust to meet your specified product (or service) requirements to a high standard.

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:06AM (#47688623)

    Wait, are you really saying that C++ isn't a proven technology? Pretty much everything important and widely used is written in it. Since C++ supports pretty much all C code, almost anything written in C is written in C++, too.

    Nothing important is written in Ruby. The few major web sites that did try to use it and Ruby on Rails had to move partially or fully away from it, because it can't even handle moderate loads. The same goes for JavaScript. It's used for some shitty web sites, but that's about it.

    What you're saying is not just wrong, but hilariously wrong, because even the only usable Ruby and JavaScript implementations are written in C++! That's right, your beloved languages exist solely because C++ allows them to! LOL!

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

    by StripedCow (776465) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:32AM (#47688741)

    The suits

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

  • by Richard Remer (3627923) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:38AM (#47688783)
    Is it really immature to wear a t shirt or is it more immature to let someone tell you how to dress? If someone can't decide what to wear, I certainly don't want them making important decisions about business.
  • Re:That seems fair (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 17, 2014 @09:54AM (#47688877)

    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 deduct 90% chance of success means a 10% chance of failure.
    Long story short. One of the companies went into bankruptcy years ago and the other company is millions in debt and will probably go into bankruptcy soon.

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

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @10:09AM (#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.

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