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Programmer Automates His Job For 6 Years, Gets Fired, Realizes He Has Forgotten How To Code 210

An anonymous reader writes: A user on Reddit forum who goes by the alias FiletOfFish1066 (referred to as Mr. Fish hereafter) has been let go by his company after it was discovered that Mr. Fish hadn't actually done anything for six years. Umm, well he did something, but nothing new and productive, his Bay Area-based firm says, which paid him $95,000 (avg) each of these years. When he first got his software testing quality assurance job, he spent eight months automating all of the programming tasks. With all of his tasks fully automated by a computer, he was able to literally sit back and do whatever he wanted. Mr. Fish is pretty despondent in tone after he posted about getting fired from his job. He's upset because he has completely forgotten how to code, having relegated all that work to the computer, and now possesses no marketable skills. But, he also is not stressed financially, having saved up $200,000 during his 6-year long "career."
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Programmer Automates His Job For 6 Years, Gets Fired, Realizes He Has Forgotten How To Code

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  • by zenlessyank ( 748553 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @05:52PM (#52310559)
    Fishin for fools...
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @05:56PM (#52310595) Homepage

      He completely forgot to code after just six years, after having been able to code well enough to completely automate his job six years into the future...
      I wonder who's going to be dumb enough to believe that story.

      • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @06:03PM (#52310655) Journal

        I feel like I just read a Weekly World News article. The next article must have been "Bat Boy gets job programming in Bay Area! Seen buying a cafe late at Starbucks!"

        • by Matheus ( 586080 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @07:19PM (#52311173) Homepage

          Exactly. It is stories like this that make me wonder why I even read /. anymore... The title fails the test. The summary fails the test HARD. I admit I didn't RTFA because... are you kidding me?

          I don't know why I'd bother with digging deeper but just because:
          1) A modern QA engineer's job largely centers around automating as much testing as possible. The more automation you do the better you are at your job (so long as the quality stays high)
          2) That being said I've never worked at *any company that could survive on a *fixed set of automation for so long as 6 years. Features change and the automation has to change with it. If this story is even remotely true it would have to be: "Spent 6 months automating all testing; Didn't update the automation for 6 years and by miracle the tests continued to pass and no new features failed in prod (or if they did it was blamed elsewhere); at the 6 year point someone figured out this was happening (aka something broke in Prod HARD and they decided to evaluate the testing)."
          3) I could see being obsolete not having written any code in 6 years but forgot it all? rubbish. He learned how to script an automation tool and that knowledge got deprecated. Everything else he didn't have experience doing in the first place which just got worse the longer he continued to not work in the business doing actual work. Bummer.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @06:08PM (#52310701)

        I wonder who's going to be dumb enough to believe that story.

        One sign that a story is BS is when no actual names are used. The ex-employee is identified only by a pseudonym, and the company he worked for is only identified as "a well-known tech company in the Bay Area". So this story is just an implausible, and completely unverifiable posting by an AC.

        • by creimer ( 824291 )

          The ex-employee is identified only by a pseudonym, and the company he worked for is only identified as "a well-known tech company in the Bay Area".

          Sounds like Google. Might be Google. But flying under the radar is a bit though there.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        He completely forgot to code after just six years, after having been able to code well enough to completely automate his job six years into the future...

        Yeah it's like:
        a) Short of a brain hemorrhage or stroke, you totally forget to code
        b) You got a crystal ball good enough to predict six years ahead
        c) You can code well enough to automate it already now
        d) All of the above

        Totally believable.

        • by gsslay ( 807818 )

          If he really has forgotten to code then it's entirely his own fault. If he has had no "real" work to do for six years then he has had ample time to do whatever took his fancy. Who wouldn't love a job like that? Learn a new language. Play with new tech. Write an open-source game. Invest in new skills. Whatever.

          But instead he apparently pissed his days away playing games and reading reddit. If he's fallen out of the job market its his own doing.

      • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @06:26PM (#52310811)

        I'll be willing to believe a lot.

        but a bay area person keeping a job and not getting laid off in 6 yrs?

        yeah, something sure does smell fishy about that, right there.

      • He completely forgot to code after just six years, after having been able to code well enough to completely automate his job six years into the future...
        I wonder who's going to be dumb enough to believe that story.

        I wonder if the real story involved him paying a pittance to either some high school kid or to some guy in India who wrote the automation code for him.

        • There was a story about that a while back.

          When a grunt like him does that, he gets fired. If the CIO does it he gets a bonus.

      • This is maybe possible, provided

        1. 1) he wasn't a very good programmer to start with
        2. 2) his job was very easy to automate
        3. 3) his manager was completely incompetent and had no idea what he was supposed to be doing

        I know people who have been in QA for a half a decade who feel like they've forgotten how to code, but I bet if they started doing it again they'd pick it back up very quickly.

        • 3) his manager was completely incompetent and had no idea what he was supposed to be doing

          This is not considered a possibility .

      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        Nah. You just slap together a web page with icons on it, every morning a script runs and all the icons turn green. Test ran! All passed! Extra points for putting the results into a csv and mailing them to a manager.

      • That last part where he states he forgot how to code makes it sound bogus.
        In theory he could had had a job that was rather simple where he could had it automated, and meet the objective that how he is monitored and scored.
        I expect it may have been a work for home job where he can avoid casual contact.
        However 6 years isn't that long period of time to have your skills rot to an unproductive state.
        While a few new software trends that had picked up in 6 years NoSQL, Restful Web Services, angular.js, json, rust,

      • Yeah sounds like bs. I could understand him forgetting how to program the specific interfaces he automated because that's happened to me in the past normally because I abstracted the interfaces years ago and have my own wrappers to expose them to the proprietary systems I have to deal with. Now I have to go back and program the raw interface (Demonstrate my abilities at job interviews) and I'm like how does this shit work again. Actually I'd say this makes me a better programmer.
      • by Megane ( 129182 )
        They should've added a twist where it was really his identical twin brother!
      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        He completely forgot to code after just six years, after having been able to code well enough to completely automate his job six years into the future.

        I had a couple of friends who graduated from the university in computer engineering, got great jobs upon graduation, and, six years later, got laid off during the dot com bust. They both took a six-month vacation while collecting unemployment. When they tried to get a job, they were both told that their job skills were obsolete. They spent the next several years living at home to look for a job without much success. They eventually took jobs working as drug store clerks. Fast forward to 2016, they're still

      • I've automated plenty of other people out of a job, though. That's how I kept mine for 20 years.

    • yeah, seriously. The basic story is potentially believable (coder automates job duties) but they embellished to far. Loses all coding skills in 6 years? Lives in Bay Area and saves 200k in 6 years at 95k year? highly doubtful.
      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        Lives in Bay Area and saves 200k in 6 years at 95k year? highly doubtful.

        Depends. If you're in an apartment and you aren't sharing it with somebody else, then no way. If you own a mobile home free and clear (no mortgage), then it is probably doable.

        $95k means probably in the neighborhood of $57k after taxes by my quick hackish math. Subtract $33k per year in savings, and that leaves $24k for living expenses. Half that will go to rent and utilities. That leaves $12k for incidentals like food, gasoline,

      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        Lives in Bay Area and saves 200k in 6 years at 95k year? highly doubtful.

        That's doable for a single person in a studio apartment with a modest lifestyle. I only need $32K per year for living expenses in Silicon Valley. I knew electrical engineer who had to be reminded every three months by the accounting department to deposit in his paychecks (this was before direct deposit became widespread).

        • You must know Kurt, my old friend from the 90's, never deposited his payroll checks unless he was told too. just enjoyed working on logistic problems all the time. better times of pencil and erasers LOL

          • by creimer ( 824291 )
            Might be the same person. He was more of a friend of a roommate that I occasionally talked to when he came over.
        • I only need $32K per year for living expenses in Silicon Valley.

          So you're homeless?

          • by creimer ( 824291 )

            So you're homeless?

            I live in a studio apartment in Silicon Valley for nearly 11 years now.

      • I live in the bay on less than that and save at about the same pace. Rented room, used car paid in cash, mostly bicycle and cook my own meals. I spend a lot going out to events but still manage to save lots of money.
      • by cjjjer ( 530715 )
        Or he still lives with his parents and pays no rent/food. Quite possible.
      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        Lives in Bay Area and saves 200k in 6 years at 95k year? highly doubtful.

        Just be willing to commute. I lived in Fremont, in a nice modern 2-bedroom apartment that costs me less than $2K/month. My total spend was only $40k/year, plus what I set aside for my next car. That would actually work out about right at that pay (assuming I didn't buy a car).

    • Yeah, the "forgotten how to code" line is the sort of chatty co-worker aside that anyone would say when returning to something they haven't done in a while, but somehow here it's been turned into a declaration of intellectual poverty. I wonder if it's this guy being a whiney loser or just a regular lazy guy whose comments are being taken out of context by the media.

  • or perhaps he has skills in other areas... like perhaps, politics, since he could dupe his boss and get paid for 6 years.

  • A hero! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Robotbeat ( 461248 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @05:53PM (#52310563) Journal

    This man is our hero. Isn't that what we all dream about? Is this the ONE man who truly beat the tendency for automation to lead just to more work?
    Relevant XKCD:
    https://xkcd.com/1319/ [xkcd.com]

  • by AlphaBro ( 2809233 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @05:54PM (#52310581)
    He automated his entire workload and ignored development to such an extent that, over a period of 6 years, he forgot how to program? Sounds like bullshit. Things come up. People ask questions. Problems change. This is probably fake.
    • by Kobun ( 668169 )
      Seconded. For this to be true, the testing program must have been a) rigidly defined and b) unchanging. Also probably c) overly simplistic.

      If he was handed all of that and did truly automate it, he didn't have much in the way of a skillset to begin with. Programming 201 level skills at best. Had those and didn't expand on them in the 6 years he had to make them better, I still have no sympathy.
    • by creimer ( 824291 )
      Cisco used to have so many layoffs that some people got detached from the organizational chart, checked out equipment without any accountability, learned all the Cisco certifications on company time, and get a new job that pays $250K per year.
    • by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @06:12PM (#52310731)

      Probably fake? I'd say 110% fake. Let's leave everything else out, how many "well known" software packages could be properly tested by an automated unit test that was written last year, let alone 6 years ago? Nobody adds features or changes UIs around?

    • I mean sure the skills get rusty, you forget specifics, but if you've learned fundamentally how to code, how to think like a computer, that doesn't go away. It is the kind of fundamental knowledge that more or less always sticks around.

      I don't code, I dislike it and I'm not great at it. I do systems and network administration. However, I learned how to code as a kid. Did some BASIC of a number of varieties, some C++, some scripting etc. Guess what? When it comes down to it and something comes up, which it d

    • The headline is a bit misleading, he didn't say he literally did nothing, just practically nothing (30 minutes of actual work a week). I can see it happening at a slow moving company that hasn't made any significant product changes in six years combined with him being quiet and blending into the background. Probably the only reason he got fired was someone in IT noticing the non-stop League of Legends traffic coming from his office.

      Like I worked at a company that forgot about me. There was a re-org an
  • Sounds like bullshit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @05:59PM (#52310619) Journal

    I'm sorry. I just don't believe this. First of all, what kind of quality assurance job, particularly code review, would allow you to automate most of what you do? I would suggest any programmer capable of so significantly automating their job that they can sit back for over five years and jerk off would be among the most elite programmers on the planet...

    Which leads to the absurdity of the second claim, that the individual forgot how to program. Now I can imagine someone getting a bit rusty after four or five years of not coding. I've actually gone through fairly long stretches, as long as a couple of years, over the last decade I've done more management-end work, not doing much in the way of coding, and while I admit that it takes me a day or two to get back into the rhythm when I need to do it, in pretty short order I'm backing in fighting shape. It might mean some refamiliarizing with libraries, and if there's new versions or new tools, I might take a while to get acclimatized, but really within a week I can get on that bike again.

    I don't think I'm a genius. I just think that once you actually learn to code, you don't really forget. A long stretch would certainly mean you've got some learning, but if you were a coder of any worth, which someone who can automate their entire job ought to be, you'll pick it up soon enough.

    In fact, the whole thing sounds like an absolute load of shit, some anonymous poster yanking chains. Let's see:

    1. Essentially claiming absurd levels of technical competence.
    2. Bizarre claims of forgetting how to do the very thing he claims he was so competent at.
    3. Claims of boatloads of money. This is the real teller for me. Why do these liars always have to invent claims of great amounts of cash?

    • by Verdatum ( 1257828 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @06:00PM (#52310641)
      No one ever makes things up on Reddit! Even if they did, surely they wouldn't delete the post and their account when the story blows up!
      • A more plausible story is that this asshole never knew how to code to begin with, somehow got a quality assurance job, and under idiot management, managed to do absolutely nothing for six years, until somewhere higher up the chain started asking "Why is so much shitty code making it into production?"

        At which point, our moronic friend was outed.

        The $200,000 claim is likely utterly false, unless he was taking bribes to let shit code get through.

        • The $200,000 claim is likely utterly false, unless he was taking bribes to let shit code get through.

          Why do you think someone can't save up $200k over a 6-year period on a $95k per year salary? All he'd have to do is sock away half his take-home pay.

          There have been stretches in my life where I've saved half (or more) of my after-tax income. Not hard to do if you're single and you live frugally.

          Your other points I agree with, however.

          • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

            Why do you think someone can't save up $200k over a 6-year period on a $95k per year salary?

            Bay Area cost of living.

            All he'd have to do is sock away half his take-home pay.

            If he'd couch-crashed a rent controlled apartment, got a sleeping bag and moved into a park, or kept an air mattress under his desk and had keys to the office....sure.

    • I agree this sounds like bullshit overall, but with a salary like that, the savings he claims are not absurd boatloads, especially given the amount of time in question. He has about two years' pay saved up, over six years. Since I last hit rock bottom three years ago, I've accumulated about a year's pay in savings. And he's making significantly more than me, so probably can afford to save away a larger fraction of his income than I could.

      • It's theoretically possible, but considering how absurd the rest of the story is, I see no reason to believe this claim either.

    • I am not a programmer by trade. I do like my Perl and PowerShell scripts though.

      Unfortunately, there is not a lot of opportunity to do large, complex scripts and so I will go for years sometimes without doing much more than a few loops and some simple arrays.

      I will review code that I have written in the past, from time-to-time and I will think "man, you used to be smart!"... but really, all it takes is a few weeks of thinking in that mode again and I will fall back into it.

      So, yeah... I am with most others

      • Absolutely this! I went through a long period of little or no programming, and what I did do was pretty simple. Then I got thrown into the deep end in an unfamiliar language. My semi-hiatus hurt me, but I was still able to get up to speed in the new language & project.

    • >I'm sorry. I just don't believe this. First of all, what kind of quality assurance job, particularly code review, would allow you to automate most of what you do? I would suggest any programmer capable of so significantly automating their job that they can sit back for over five years and jerk off would be among the most elite programmers on the planet...

      Uh, no. One of my freshman students completely automated his job. He was a bright guy, but hardly one of the most elite programmers on the planet. He w

  • straight shooter with upper management written all over him

  • Tougher to believe for a real company that cares about the bottom line.
  • by wardrich86 ( 4092007 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @06:23PM (#52310793)
    So everybody in here is calling out how the story *may* be false etc... but what's even worse is that /u/FiletOfFish1066 is a 2-day-old account (as of June 13, 2016) and has 0 posts and 0 comments. So fake that the guy himself deleted the story as soon as it blew up.

    https://www.reddit.com/user/Fi... [reddit.com]
    • FiletOfFish1066 is a 2-day-old account (as of June 13, 2016)

      That's some mighty fine police work there, Lou, because the story was actually posted on May 22. Would you say the job he managed to automate was, perhaps, time-travel?

      The actual user in question is NOT at your link, but instead can be found here:

      https://www.reddit.com/user/Fi... [reddit.com]

      Two days old? Not exactly...

      So fake that the guy himself deleted the story as soon as it blew up.

      This story will guarantee he'll never get another job in IT, if that ha

  • by ionymous ( 1216224 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @06:35PM (#52310851)

    If he had nothing to do and didn't choose to code during work, he obviously doesn't enjoy coding.
    So he's all ready to find a different career.

    • If he had nothing to do and didn't choose to code during work, he obviously doesn't enjoy coding.
      So he's all ready to find a different career.

      Change his job description from programmer to janitor, then tell me how much sense your statement makes... If everybody "followed their passion" there would be nobody to do the unpleasant jobs that still need to be done.

      Almost NOBODY is in-love with their job... That's why it's a job. You get paid money to do the shitty parts. Maybe it's an interesting challenge, m

      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        Everybody goes towards the high paying jobs, and that means IT isn't completely filled with lots of enthusiastic hobbyists anymore.

        Everyone told me I was crazy when I went back to school to learn computer programming after the dot com bust. Healthcare became the new money major at the time, where everyone and their grandmother enrolled in courses. Fast forward 15 years, I'm enjoying my IT career even though I make less money than my friends in healthcare who hate their jobs. Ironically, most of my best IT contracts have been for hospitals.

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

    This is basically just a retelling of someone slaying the minotaur, or throwing the ring into a volcano, or...

    "It takes four hundred thirty people to man a starship. With this, you don't need anyone. One machine can do all those things they send men out to do now. Men no longer need die in space or on some alien world. Men can live and go on to achieve greater things than fact-finding and dying for galactic space, which is neither ours to give or to take. They can't understand. We don't want to destroy life

  • There's been many things I haven't touched for years and year that I've picked up again.

    With very few exceptions - if they're something I was once good at I get good at them again.

    I'll occasionally mess with an OS I haven't touched in a decade - because I booted up an old Novel server or something (less frequent lately). In half an hour I'm working again, in a couple of days I'm nearly as good as I was when I was doing it all the time. I've played video games that I haven't touched in 12 years, before lon

  • Looks like the company "fixed the glitch", so this guy won't be getting a paycheck anymore. It'll just work itself out naturally.
  • by Ramze ( 640788 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @07:56PM (#52311403)

    Anonymous reader posts story about anonymous programmer who may or may not actually exist that claims to work for an unknown company.... maybe. Oh, and they did a thing programming automation that doesn't sound credible, got busted after 6 years, lost their job, and then became an amnesiac at programming.

    News for Nerds! Wow, it's so nice to see that anyone can get a questionable reddit post greenlit... so much for reputable news with links to articles, quotes, and other credible sources!

  • Call me strange but if you get all the work done that your employer expects of you, I dont see that it matters which tools you used to do it.

    Actually, by using automation he probably sginificantly reduced the number of human errors that would have been made otherwise.

  • If it's not a fake story, then this guy is my hero.

  • This a Jon Katz story? Slashdot trying to relive its glory days? Glad to see Junis from Afghanistan was able to leverage his Commodore64 hacking into a Q&A job in Silicon Valley.

  • Nice try, but the date is wrong for un poisson d'avril.

  • by LSD-OBS ( 183415 )

    Fucksakes, slashdot.

  • $200k won't last long there, especially once the ACA forces him to buy into COBRA. If he doesn't land a job in 6 months or less he'll be close to out of money.
    • ACA does not force you to buy COBRA no it let's you pick any plan out or maybe with an income of $0 he can get Medicaid

    • by creimer ( 824291 )
      I live in Silicon Valley on $50K per year. CORBA is entirely optional. So is the ACA if you're willing to pay the fine at tax time.
  • That'll last about 6 mo in Cali.

    • by creimer ( 824291 )
      I live in Silicon Valley and make $50K per year. The problem with most people is that they want the American dream: big house, big cars, big women, big kids. That can get very expensive in Silicon Valley.
  • Yeah, you get rusty, and you forget the library function calls, and maybe even some language syntax. But those are just little things you can pick up again easily. It seems unlikely that you would forget how a program is structured or basic data structures and algorithms.

  • I RTFA. It was written by someone who read the information on reddit, which was posted by the this anonymous tester, who then deleted it 10 minutes later. That's it. Really, that is it.

    I used to be on Slashdot daily back in the day (very late 90s), but got away from it for about the past 8 years or so. I just started re-reading it about a month ago, and I have been quite shocked with the poor quality. I don't know if it's an attempt to stay relevant or what, but this is sad.

  • OK, first off I think this is a joke. There's no way someone can be good enough to completely automate their job, then have their skills atrophy so much that they can't get another job. Coding isn't (or at least shouldn't be) just about writing the right magical incantations to get something working - you need some fundamental grounding in logic that you can use to learn the next set of incantations.

    That said, I have seen a lot of extremely siloed IT and non-IT jobs in my career working for big companies. S

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