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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fire and forget, or sexism in software engineering

I once had my manager tell me that I wasn't behaving like someone aiming for the higher echelons of the software engineering ladder. When pressed for details, this individual thought for a while and then said that he expects such people to be "fire and forget". In other words, you send them off and they get stuff done. They don't have to check back in for updates and guidance.

His assertion was that I was not fitting the mold of "fire and forget". When I asked what I was doing (or not doing) that wasn't syncing up, it came down to the fact we had been talking about things like the code base being a mess. Apparently, the mere fact that I would go for a walk with him every two weeks and talk about things like "wow, this code is really a bunch of crap and needs serious refactoring" was cause to paint me as less than ideal.

This would almost be funny except for the fact I was actively reworking that code like crazy in an attempt to make it more maintainable. I was throwing out dead code, writing unit tests, chopping things into smaller classes to make it easier to understand, and all of that other grungy stuff. Apparently all that was fine. It was just the fact that I had the gall to talk about it that made me a less than stellar engineer.

I pointed out that unlike many engineers, some of us like to talk about things while solving problems, and that judging me based on that is outright discrimination. He freaked out suitably and I'm sure that was the end of any useful communications with that individual. Everything after that point was hedged very carefully to keep him out of trouble, but nothing useful ever changed.

I quit a couple of weeks later to start my own gig. I'm not going to be suppressed any more.