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Why Developers Get Fired 535

jammag writes "Other coders get canned — but never you, right? From a developer who's now a manager (and who admits to being fired himself) comes the inside story on how the Big Ax might sneak up on you. To prevent it, he recommends some strategic bragging, keeping a CYA (Cover Your ...) folder to document your efforts, and making sure that your talent isn't frittered away so much that even your most mediocre colleagues look good. "
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Why Developers Get Fired

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 20, 2009 @01:46PM (#29483719) Journal
    After reading this article, it sure puts things into perspective about how I was raised. It seems that Eric Spiegel and I have very different perspectives and work ethic. If you do a good job, you will be rewarded. Three things that will do nothing for you are bitching, bragging and blaming. Avoid them like the plague -- that is, of course, unless they're listed in your job description.

    However, some people truly have their heads buried in the sand (or their code).

    Yes, imagine the shock and horror that you would see on people's faces if I spent my time doing what I'm getting paid to do: develop code. Yes, I'm young. No, I've never been fired but I've been "hired then unhired" out of college because of a poor job environment in the locale of my origin. No matter, plenty of jobs were out there for me.

    Spiegel claims he's fired people. I wonder how he would have chosen people if he saw through an employee's thinly veiled attempts to make himself look better? Or if he knew that employee spent time trying to cover his or her own ass instead of -- you know -- just get work done? These points aren't addressed in the blog.

    So for those of you reading this, I will offer you an alternative to what the blog suggests. I imagine most developers (even agile developers) have a system for tracking completed requirements and also for fixing reported errors/bugs. If you spend your time chewing up those outstanding items and forget about all this near-Machiavellian bullshit manipulation Spiegel is proposing then you've got nothing to worry about. If your manager wants to fire you, just pull up the numbers if he or she hasn't already and show them. You can't fire a developer that's leading in resolutions and completed requirements. It's that simple. Skip the drama and get to work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 20, 2009 @02:12PM (#29483877)
    I'm a former programmer, now a manager. Recently, we had to cut some dead wood. I went through all my employees and asked myself, "Would I hire this person?" (I didn't hire any of them in the first place). In many cases, the answer was no. Either they shouldn't have been hired in the first place (previous manager was borderline incompetent), they didn't work out as well as expected, or they had attitude/personal problems that outweighed their contributions.
  • Re:Doesn't help. (Score:5, Informative)

    by _PimpDaddy7_ ( 415866 ) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @02:18PM (#29483897)

    I got laid off in 2002 specifically because I was vocal and did my best to try and make for a better work environment. The problem was that management was TOO political. The parent poster is 100% accurate. After that I learned, never to be vocal. Give simple opinions and never give negative feedback, or try not to do so.

  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @02:24PM (#29483929)

    Or just not give a shit. I'm a good programmer, and I deliver. If my manager for some idiotic reason or another wishes to fire me, I'm happy to find a new job where I'll be appreciated without political bullshit.

  • by Pandare ( 975485 ) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @02:33PM (#29484003)
    Actually, there's no specific contract term necessary in most states. If you work in the US, the presumption is that you are at will. Now, there are some exceptions [wikipedia.org], but those are usually contracted (read: hidden disclaimer) around anyway. Unless you're in a union job (Unions? In my tech industry?) You can get fired for basically anything, since it's not always a lucrative or an easy case to prove. Generally the cost of the litigation is less than finding a new job, anyway.
  • Re:It's tragic... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @02:37PM (#29484037)
    Too true. I work at an IT consulting firm and my boss pretty much told me flat out that I'm going to be in some serious shit if I don't start dragging my feet to bill clients more hours. Apparently I'm too productive and don't over bill. I called my boss to ask him a question about a task I was going for a client one day - 10 minute phone call (maybe 6 minutes of it being the task at hand) and he bills the client for an hour for "assisting me". Now I'm just waiting for the economy to pick up so I can get a new job.
  • by stimpleton ( 732392 ) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @03:03PM (#29484195)
    Good article generally and good advice. But for a US audience.

    "For those who donâ(TM)t see it coming".....here in New Zealand would earn the employer a death sentence in Employment court (well, a large settlement anyway).

    NZ law states broadly 2 key points: That there is a relationship of good faith between employer and employee, and that both parties act in a fair way.

    examples from both sides:

    For the employer:
    - Theft by an employee is grounds is grounds for instant dismissal
    - A drop in income that requires a restructuring process when some employees might be shed.

    For the employee:
    - A drop of productivity can be due to various reasons. The employer must determine what those reason are. And instigate a prodedure policy known by both parties. The No.1 rule is "no surprises" to the employee.
    - Numerous instances of Case Law indicate the employer must act to prove in a fair way they are right(they are the ones with the resources). For example , allowing one employee to arrive late but then enforce it on another first time late person would show lack of process and earn punitive penalties in employment court.
  • Duh (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 20, 2009 @03:18PM (#29484315)

    I am simply amazed at the level of vitriol and naivete displayed in these posts. The article basically boils down to "you are your own best advocate." Of course management's perception of your performance is what keeps you employed when the economy is tough. Duh. The article says to back up your arrogance with facts and not to let your own perception of your value lull you into a false sense of security. Doesn't seem very evil or unethical to me!

  • by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @03:46PM (#29484495) Journal
    I could see those reasons for firing someone. If you don't get along with your boss then you are likely to get fired.

    My question is why do good developers, that are talented get laid off?

  • by courseofhumanevents ( 1168415 ) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @04:11PM (#29484639)
    I'm not sure if this is a particularly clever troll or just a grammar nazi in training, but the GP was using "past" correctly as an adverb, not a verb.
  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @04:38PM (#29484841) Homepage Journal

    India is way too expensive. How you can possibly compete by making software in India? You should really consider moving development to east Asia.

  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @05:20PM (#29485127)

    Oh, my dear fellow, replacing the "bug tracking system selected by the VP to generate pretty charts" is often a social art form of the highest importance and the greatest difficulty. And the manager often has tremendous power to game the system, by deciding what the engineer's priority list or success criteria should be.

    And getting the code into that source control and bug tracking system is often a huge project that "the bottom line" doesn't justify, at least in smaller environments. This is especially the case when the manager wrote the original code, and didn't put it in source control, so you can't prove the goofs are theirs. I just saw that happening, in a case I mentioned in another post: the manager's code wasn't under source control to start with, and cleaning up the mess introduced new bugs or tripped over strange, undocumented workarounds that the developer was blamed for.

  • by TekPolitik ( 147802 ) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @06:34PM (#29485621) Journal

    Contestant: "What is India?"

    China for me. I built a team of top notch loyal coders (many with 10 years+ service). We got acquired and the new owners wanted me to (and the CEO) to move development to China. The CEO said "you'll have to get rid of me and the CTO before that will happen". Their answer was to the effect of "your terms are acceptable to us". A year and a half later, development is in China, the local team down to 25% of original strength (with the rest looking) and the product has been written off by every analyst. They bought the company for the technology (and the most signficant technology has been written off by the company, which is now rebuilding that part in a language that is not capable of getting the same result).

    Software development is not a commodity - software businesses that treat it like one may reduce costs, but obliterate the value in the product.

  • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @09:56PM (#29486649) Journal

    It's just whether you are liked or not and not what results you produce.

    However, if you are liked and can produce, you've probably got a better chance than those who see them as mutually exclusive.

  • by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:44AM (#29488111) Homepage Journal

    Whether you are liked or not is a big part of the puzzle in keeping a job.
    Sad but true..

    Why is that sad? Respect from your peers is an important thing.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @02:45PM (#29494657) Homepage

    No, it's not fair today. In fact, in most states employment is "at will", which means among other things that if you aren't a member of a protected class of people (and often if you are a member of a protected class) you can be fired for any reason at any time. And therein lies a large part of the problem.

    Cops and teachers both have a very significant tool to protect themselves that developers as a rule lack: a union. Yes, I know, a lot of folks think of union regs as pile of bureaucratic BS, and unions as a bunch of corrupt jackasses (sometimes true), but the simple fact is that unions are very frequently a big net benefit to their members. Unions, for instance, are a primary defense that cops and teachers have against unpaid mandatory overtime.

    Nurses right now are protected by the low supply and high demand, much like developers were about 15 years ago.

  • Re:Bragging (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dragoness Eclectic ( 244826 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @04:07PM (#29495755)

    When you're employed, try living below your means and saving the surplus. Amazing how much less of a panic losing your job is when you have $10-20K socked away in a bank account. Now you have several months cushion to search for another job; you don't have to leap at the first thing that turns up, no matter how bad. You don't have to panic, and you don't have to live in fear at your current job that you might get laid-off unexpectedly.

    Seriously, it's too useful to have a cash reserve for emergencies. Start a savings account.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong