Only Stupid People Work Here

At my wage slave job, I rewrote an old VB6 program in VB.NET.

My original instructions were “make a copy plus these changes”. I did that. Then, they asked for a total overhaul. I did that. Then, they asked for another total overhaul.

Every time I finish, they add a whole bunch of new features. (That’s why you *NEVER* agree to work for a flat fee. You’ll be haggling with the client, over when it’s done. I’m a regular full-time employee, so it doesn’t matter in that sense. It is frustrating.) I have 3 bosses, each asking for different things and semi-contradictory features. They spent zero time thinking about specifications ahead of time.

Sometimes, you don’t know what you really want until you see a demo. However, the number of rewrites and “Add this feature now!” is starting to get silly. They didn’t do any planning at all, before I started working.

My version is way better than the old program. The only reason it isn’t “finished”, is that they keep asking for more features.  My program will be used by several people, sorting the documents that customers submit. I asked “Why don’t we do a release? Then, add the other stuff in version 2.0.”

The reply was “Those people are stupid. We won’t be able to explain it to them twice.”

That was insulting. Low-ranking workers tend to be smarter than management gives them credit.

Here’s another incident, that shows they are bad managers.

Owner: (hostile) Why didn’t you implement X! I told you to do X! (implying that I had done a bad job)
FSK: You never asked me to do X. This is the first time I ever heard about X.
Owner: It was in the E-Mail where I asked you to do Y!
(I opened the E-Mail, and showed him that it didn’t mention X.)

That was offensive. The hostile tone is annoying. Even if I had forgotten about X, it’s a reasonable oversight in a complicated program. I’m doing a whole bunch of new features every day.

It’s pretty obvious what’s happening. The other programmer is telling the two owners that I’m a barely qualified loser, rather than someone who really knows what he’s doing. I’ve been on the receiving end of that many times. There’s no point in warning the owners, that their “partner” of all these years is pulling a con on them. The owners are completely clueless and can’t tell the difference. In their minds, anyone polite and friendly is a loser.

That’s an offensive attitude for an owner to have. “I only to hire stupid people.” That isn’t what I would do. I would identify intelligent people who hadn’t had much success. (Hint: Look for the “abused productive” personality type.)

Here’s a good exercise. Go into a supermarket or other store. Ask yourself “Who’s the best employee here?” or “If I could pick one person here to hire for myself, who would it be?” It’s very educational. (For example, the manager at the Broad Street Quizno’s at lunchtime is super-effective, when I was there in mid-2011.)

“Only stupid people work for me!” is an unhealthy attitude. I also sense it when they deal with me. They’re treating me the same as someone they hired for minimum wage. Instead of having the attitude “FSK knows his stuff!”, they think “FSK is an idiot, just like all the other people who work for me.” In one sense, they are correct. I should find a better job. They lowballed me on salary. (That’s always a mistake to accept. I should have known better.) It’s an unhealthy environment.

22 Responses to Only Stupid People Work Here

  1. Anonymous Coward March 17, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    I’ve seen that “you are stupid” attitude before.

    In one company, the software developers messed around for a year and created an horrid mess. When I started all the developers had resigned and one was hanging around during his last month.

    When I asked him to demonstrate the software to me, HE REFUSED. Obviously he knew if was a pull of dog dirt and wanted to hide the disaster until he was firmly out of the company.

    I worked hard and rewrote the software almost from scratch after all the developers had left. The software I wrote worked perfectly.

    Instead of thanking me, the chief idiot at the company just said I was stupid for various stupid reasons.

    The fact that he was manager of a project that had produced one of the biggest messes I’ve seen was beside the point.

    • The important point is that they’re really talking down to me, rather than treating me like a professional and someone who knows what he’s doing.

      They aren’t going to change. The only thing I can do is look for something better.

        • There’s no point in telling them the truth. Evil people never learn. That’s one of the main characteristics of evil.

          What do I gain by educating them? While working there, I should do my best to teach them. Once I’m gone, why should I care if they’re clueless twits that can’t manage a software project.

          I no longer work there. I reached my abuse limit and walked out.

  2. Anonymous Coward March 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I’ve starting writing software in my teens. As such when I started work I was already good at it.

    I’ve been low balled salary wise several times, despite the boss being staggered over the fact I turn in virtually perfect work.

    Like you I’ve been treated as stupid or not trusted (and after doing wonderful work as well!) and it really does rankle. It rankles bad!

    Good luck!

    Really treating someone as stupid (they probably don’t internally think that) is a form of bullying and harassment. Just if it is intelligence related or work related, these sick clowns can get away with it.

    • I have no idea if they realize they got a good deal, or if they really think I’m stupid. The other programmer is motivated to talk down my ability, because he’s concerned about his own job security.

      On the other hand, the other programmer can’t talk down my ability too much After I’m gone, he’ll have triple or quadruple or more workload.

      The only thing I can do is look for a new job. That’s one advantage of being a wage slave instead of a chattel slave. In the meantime, I’ll do what I can to keep them satisfied.

  3. Veteran programmer advice: This is the industry average FSK. Non technical psychopaths hire technical people with no ability to rank their quality. Its par the course. Since you don’t have a degree you really can’t pursue a cog position at a place like microsoft or ibm. Have you tried google? Its a hellish interview, but if you got hired it would change your life forever. Another option could be a start up, do you read ycombinator?

  4. Anonymous Coward March 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    I can second what Justin has said.

    None of my jobs in software have been that good. Some haven’t even been sustainable. At one time I did work for a famous tech company, but it was one with a bit of a scummy reputation as regards being employee friendly. A good percentage of my jobs have been unsustainable i.e. you have to leave at some point either due to psychotic managers, excessively long hours or low pay.

    Even Google has its disenchanted ex and current employees.

    Google tend to hire employees that tend hire like employees, with great preference put on university scores. They tend to p*** industry veterans that have done great work in areas such a compilers, 3d graphics etc. and are asked stupid linked list questions in their interviews by 22 year old employees when they themselves have written compilers and 3d engines pushing the boundaries of state-of-the-art.

    • First, I *DO* have a CS/Math degree from a good university. I also have an MA in Mathematics. (I was ABD for a PhD. I realized it was a stupid waste of time, so I went to work as a computer programmer, … at the tail end of the .com bubble.)

      Actually, I’ve done both. I was self-taught before taking computer classes *AND* I have a CS degree. I’m able to actually code *AND* I know the algorithms and theory. Unfortunately, most new CS graduates/managers seem to care about buzzwords rather than algorithms.

      That’s an interesting observation. In recent interviews, I’ve been asked about “MVC” and “design patterns” and “Agile” more than I’ve been asked about “Explain the quicksort algorithm.” That’s disturbing. I used to get asked algorithm questions on interviews, and now I’m only asked buzzword questions. As Captain Capitalism would say, “Enjoy the decline!”

      Yes, being a wage slave sucks. However, my current job sucks more than my previous job. First, it’s a 15% pay cut. At my previous job, my direct coworkers were decent and respectful. At my current job, my bosses treat me like trash. There are degrees of suckiness. My current job is on the “more sucky” side.

      There are semi-decent work environments, and abusive work environments. My current environment counts as “abusive”. My only option is to shop around. Yes, most places are abusive, but I only need one non-abusive employer who appreciates me.

      Here’s a depressing thought. I’m making the same salary as in my first job in 1999! That’s after inflation, and moving to NYC from a city with a higher cost of living.

      Long-term, “start my own business” is the only way I’ll ever get full value for my ability. It isn’t as easy to bootstrap a business as it sounds. In the meantime, I’m sticking with being a wage slave (for now).

        • No. I never understood the point of giving fancy names to simple ideas. I never really got into those buzzwords for fancy methodologies. The people who use them tend to be barely qualified.

          “Agile” and “Extreme Programming” are a way to extract productivity from mediocre people. As a top performer, those techniques are a handcuff more than a help.

  5. > Have you tried google? Its a hellish interview,

    As Steve Yegge (employee of Google) has commented, the Google interview process is flawed in the fact that you will have to interview there on three separate occasions before you get a job. Flawed in the sense that the employees there only hire people just like them. So if you have just finished a CS degree and the stuff is fresh in your mind, then good. If you are older and have real world experience, it will count against you. Industry veterans that have written whole compilers and 3d engines are asked silly questions about linked lists! The interview process will not at all be trailed to your skills and what you have done.

    Given that the interview process involves coding in your own time and having lots of questions fired at you over most of a day (at the least), having to go through the same interview process three times is asking a lot.

    Maybe Google can waste vast amounts of time, because they are funded by a monopoly on Internet advertising, which brings in lots of cash, but other people cannot.

    Google Chrome is not Google’s own work. The HTML rendered is WebKit and was first used in the free browser Konqueror on Linux over a decade ago. Google just came along and used an Open Source component.

    Streeview was purchased from an external company.

    Google Checkout when first launched was crap and had little support. Over time it has gotten better, but its crappy launch as put a lot of people off.

    A lot of other Google projects have failed or bring in little cash.

    Android has a lot of traction but it makes little or no money as yet.

    Plus not only is the interview process long, but it will be spread over several months. You wait a month to get a phone interview. Then wait 2 months for face-to-face interviews. If you actually need a job anytime soon, then Google isn’t for you.

    Plus as several people have commented on other websites, the interview in hellish and then at the end of it all, the job offered is a lower salary than they want, in a different location and may not be the job they were hoping for at all. Like many other companies, Google interviews say little or nothing about the job. So you have to spend a lot of energy interviewing for a job, of which you know nothing about.

    Certainly the Google interview process was broken. Is it fixed now?

    All companies, not just Google, use recruiters. Trouble is, recruiters are usually pretty scummy people. They hit the button, waste your time and care not whether there is any realistic prospect of a job at the end of it.

    • I did interview at Google twice, a year apart. One thing that impressed me was that on the 2nd interview, the quality of the interviewees was much lower.

      There was one “gotcha” question. It was a few lines of code in Python, but I tried doing it in C. I never claimed to have experience in Python. Also, the Python solution was slower than the one I was trying, O(n^n) instead of O(n!). The question was “Output all permutations of a string, without duplicates, even if the string has duplicated characters.”

      There was one question that had an obvious O(n*logn) solution. The interviewer insisted it could be done on O(n). He explained the algorithm to me, but I never understood his explanation. The question was “Given an array of integers, represent it as a histogram, a series of 1xn rectangles. Find the largest sub-rectangle.” There’s an obvious nlogn solution involving sorting, but obviously a question like that has a clever O(n) solution or it wouldn’t be an interview question. The interviewer couldn’t explain the O(n) solution to me.

      Google has one cash cow, the search engine. Instead of returning that cashflow to shareholders, they’re using that money to build an empire. That’s typical corporate CEO empire-building. It’s in the interests of the CEO to expand his empire, rather than having Google just do a search engine and return all that extra money to shareholders.

      Unfortunately, Google is just another boring big tech company now. The other big boring tech companies don’t have the ability to make a better search engine, because they’re just as crippled by bureaucracy.

      I once worked for a guy who was a program manager for LiveSearch (now Bing). He frequently said “I worked a Microsoft! Therefore, I know a lot about managing software projects!” It was obvious to me that he was a clueless twit. For example, he wrote his own code for everything. He wrote his own web templating engine instead of using ASP.NET. He wrote his own string library. He wrote his own MFC. He wrote his own build tool instead of using Visual Studio or make. It was such a waste.

      In the State economy, a large corporation can survive on inertia. It’s one thing to say “We only hire the best and brightest!” It’s another thing to actually implement that in your hiring practices.

      In a successful startup, you need one or several productive programmers. Then, once you’re successful, the parasites and psychopaths take over. The productive people now feel constrained by evil, and leave. A successful business has inertia and it isn’t a free market. Once you have some success, you can hang on even with clueless management. One example is Yahoo.

  6. Anonymous Coward March 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    I once went to an interview at Microsoft. It was in a foreign country and so the whole process would have occupied 4 days of my time, if everything is counted up (pre-interviews, getting foreign travel money etc.). I had to pay up-front part of the travel costs first and also the hotel bill, which was later refunded.

    This interview process stuck in my mind. I had several interviews with employees. All went well. Then an interview with the manager. Again I answered all his questions correctly. Then he asked me another question. I said the correct answer after a while of working out. He then piped up he had to rush off to interview someone else, he re-phrased my correct answer and that was the end of it.

    I then had two more interviews. One went well. The other one was with a man with a heavy French accent. I gave my solution on the whiteboard. Man, was that a difficult problem. He then gave his solution with didn’t even fit his question!

    I was then told I did get the job, because I got one question wrong in my third from last interview! So why was I given two more interviews. In fact I had got that question correct. Also the interviewer did was to re-phrase my correct answer.

    So four days of my time were wasted. I was rejected because I got a question correct, which the manager said I got incorrect.

    All these clowns had to do with either listen to what I said or be honest. If I was rejected for an honest reason, that would be fine. But they had to be nasty.

  7. I develop and sell my own software. My software has a website with a description of how it works and its unique features. My software, in its area, was practically the first of its kind. Not only was my software the first one out that was both reliable and fast, but my internals went far ahead of anything else had done and, even now, my software has advanced parts nobody else in the world has even managed to replicate.

    I still have a profile on one social network that I haven’t updated in years and years. But through this old profile, recruiters sometimes contact me. Perhaps I should close it down.

    Unfortunately recruiters, even those for big companies, just look for people with certain buzzwords. These buzzwords may be universities or other famous companies.

    What is insulting is that the recruiters don’t even bother to do the slightest real research into what the people they are trying to recruit have done or are doing.

    So how can these people be any good at their jobs? They are only buzzwords searching, without anything real behind it.

    I had a conversion with a big company recruiter a few days ago. During the conversation he asked me if I did a certain kind of work. I was offended. I have a whole website dedicated to that kind of work and the work I’ve put out there is better than the state-of-the-art.

    In fact the only other company to attempt to do what I have done is Microsoft. Their code is in a related, but different area to mine. Their code is obviously C or C++ and native. My code is C# .NET. I did have a quick comparison of my code and Microsoft’s. My code is far more reliable and picks up everything. Their code is faster, but fails to spot everything. I’m one person (and did this work as a small part of a bigger project – it was an aside) and Microsoft is a huge big company, but I think I’ve achieved something nonetheless.

    The key point is that a recruiter will pick up your resume on a social network and ask you to apply for a big company job, but not actually bother to look at you or your work beyond a couple of buzzwords. It is insulting. You would think recruiters might do things more in depth, rather than flood their companies with a stream of applicants crudely selected on a couple of buzzwords.

  8. Oops, I’ve posted far too much on this topic. Anyway one more thing.

    Companies copy each other. So lots of companies end up with a convoluted, overly lengthy interview process which consists of solving 3 programming problems before interview, one whiteboard interview, another telephone interview and then 1 to 1.5 days of face-to-face interviews whereby as many as two programming problems can be asked per interview. All in all you might have to do 14 programming problems. If you travel from another city, your day or interviews might even start at 8am and you might even have to wake up at 5am to travel to a different city.

    The length is getting absurd.

    And the cruel joke is that doing well doesn’t seem to matter. Maybe the manager is put off if you seem bright. Maybe the manager wants to hire a friend. Maybe you are of the wrong social class. Maybe you have had to go to a certain school.

    Certainly I’ve done very well in a number of technical interviews, but it doesn’t not seem sufficient. So I’ve given up now and just write my own software.

    Why bother with so many interviews if technical ability seems to be a disadvantage?

    • That’s the answer to “Why is the economy collapsing?” The leaders are almost all psychopaths. The middle managers are medium skill parasites. The *WORST* thing a mediocre manager can do, is hire someone much smarter than him.

      Here’s the thought process for a mediocre manager. “This guy is smarter than me. If I hire him, then I’m concerned about my job security. My bosses may decide to fire me and replace me with this obviously more qualified person. I’ll make up some excuse to not hire him.”

      The “best” employee is a mediocre abusable person with middling intelligence. However, in software, the “best” people are 10x-100x more productive. If you’re a mediocre middle manager, the “ideal” employee is someone barely qualified to get the job done, but not smarter than you.

      Even in a small 5-10 person company, the “tech guy” is more interested in protecting his turf, than in hiring the best employee possible.

      I can evaluate someone in a few minutes. I don’t need a lengthy interview. However, evil hiring managers can also tell right away, when they’re dealing with someone smarter than them. The drawn-out interview process is designed to give an excuse if you want to reject someone, in case someone sues.

      In fact, some businesses already have decided they want an H1-B. They have to go through the motions of “finding no qualified Americans” before hiring an H1-B.

  9. I went for face-to-face interviews at Google’s office in London, UK. I also had pre-interview questions.

    The pre-interview questions were quite difficult, but I did get them correct. I thought there were a bit too hard to ask over the telephone, but I did get the correct answers.

    I didn’t do perfectly in their face-to-face interviews. I got one question right on my second attempt and for another question I paused to think for about 10 seconds and then the interviewers answered their own question.

    At the end of the interviews, a new woman spoke to me. She told me if I didn’t get the job, then Google would not contact me with the decision.

    Well Google kept their promise. They never contacted me again after that.

    At the time I thought this was a bit rough. When I interview for a job, I have the knowledge I won’t get the job. I accept that. But what I don’t expect is some nasty surprise; some twist; some way to stab me.

    Google should have at the least sent me a short email at the time to tell me I didn’t get the job. They couldn’t be bothered. Or rather the recruiter at the time couldn’t be bothered to be organized and couldn’t be bothered to make a simple list of names.

    Google set themselves up as a lovely company, that treat their employees very well and give them lots of free things. As a courtesy Google should have realized I had given up some my time to see them and they at least owed me one short email.

  10. There is a strange concept that companies like Google, Microsoft etc. don’t understand. It is a concept of doing a difficult examination and doing it once only.

    When I applied to an elite university back in the day, I sat Advanced Level examinations in difficult subjects such as Pure Mathematics, Further Mathematics for example (these are harder than Mathematics in the UK). I got A grades in these examinations. When went to the university interview there were hundreds of available places across the whole university. So there were several available places to me.

    I didn’t have to re-sit my Advanced Level examinations every time I considered another university place.

    Google probably pre-filter candidates by academic scores and previous jobs known to have difficult interviews. So even an the pre-interview telephone stage the pool of candidates is good. If they ask difficult technical questions over the telephone (I don’t recommend this at all), then the pool of people actually getting to the face-to-face interviews is so high that probably all of them can do clever stuff far in excess of the actual job they might get.

    Google probably do face-to-face interviews for 3 – 10 people for every real job.

    So for every 1 person they hire then burn 2 – 9 people. These people will have had to wait months to get through the series of telephone and real interviews and even wait months for the result. But there is only 1 available job.

    It doesn’t take much to work out that if Google even fill a small proportion of their jobs, they will burn out probably all the very smart software developers in a whole country or state for a certain time period.

    Google should get a clue and cache interview results instead of making people sit “exams” every time. Ditto for other companies.

  11. >One thing that impressed me was that on the 2nd interview, the quality of the
    >interviewees was much lower.

    You mean “interviewers” not “interviewees”.

    Well of course. That is fundamental consequence of Google having a massive hiring spree, interviewing vast numbers of people (the wasted time funded by a monopoly on Internet advertising and no pressure to get new, useful software out the door), rejecting a load of them that have effectively “passed” the interview and then on the second occasion of hiring finding out that they can no longer find people to turn up and actually correctly answer the questions, as the good batch of people were rejected the first time around! So they hire people that “fail” the interview. The decline has started. Soon they will be like Microsoft and hire a bunch of no-hopers that don’t know the difference between a fundamental Computer Science or software concept and some internal Microsoft recommendation.

    Have you heard about Google and InfoSpace? Money is nice!!! Check out

    FSK, did you really want to work with these people? Just read the article in the URL above.

    Have you got a clue yet?

    Adwords is going downhill. The Google Clowns have added a load of silly features. Bloat. Bloat. Bloat. Don’t these people have real work to do?

  12. I live in the UK. One of the reasons I stopped looking for a job years ago is that most jobs over here are only advertised through external recruitment companies.

    Recruiters, as a rule, are scumbags. As a former manager of mine once said he felt sick after talking to them.

    Recruiters will call you in for an “interview” at their offices even if they haven’t even found you an interview yet. If you quibble about it being a wasted journey, they will tell you they have to see everyone they put forward in person. The real interview, of course, is done at the client’s office. Well typically in London, people send in CVs (resumes) to at least five recruitment companies if they are serious about getting a job. There used to be hundreds of such companies, if not thousands, in the UK. You might get pissed if you have to waste a day making a pointless journey to a clueless, technically illiterate recruiter just so he can add your name to his database – with no real job on the cards yet.

    Secondly if you waste days of your time on an interview at a client site, the recruiter won’t owe you the courtesy of telling you you haven’t got the job. This is just plain discourteous.

    So when a big company decides to use people that used to work full-time in external recruitment companies or have a long background in such dedicated recruitment jobs, then the bias is on messing interviewees around. Just push the “screen and exam” button first, get people in without thinking first.

    • There’s one easy way to handle the “stonewalling interview” tactic. Pursue many simultaneous interviews.

      I’ve turned down 2nd interviews because I already had a job. The 2nd interview was much later than the 1st interview.

      (Yes, I meant interviewers and not interviewees. When I go on an interview, I’m also evaluating the other people.)

      It is silly that I have to re-prove basic programming competence on every interview. On the other hand, there may be a lot of unqualified fakers out there. Also, it’s silly to screen by “# of years experience in language X” rather than overall ability. The only “advantage” of “resume keyword screening” is that it enables unqualified twits to act as recruiters and headhunters.

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