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

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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  • 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.

  • 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 Bing Tsher E ( 943915 ) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @10:23AM (#47688711) Journal

    Also, you shine the brass and keep the wastebasket empty.

    But what sort of perturbs me is that 'Engineers' aren't just IT types. Where I work, engineers work on and design product. Except for companies that produce IT Products, the IT staff aren't engineers, except in the 'sanitation engineer' sense. So why does the article immediately and only segue into: " Exactly how long should this database field be? " Engineers concern themselves with what type of plastic to produce which components of the product out of, tooling tolerances, production costs, etc. The guy that maintains the CAD files database is a glorified file clerk.

  • 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 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 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.

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