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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Setting the story straight on quite a few issues

Sometimes, I understand why jwz.org redirects you to particularly nasty web cruft if you hit it from news.ycombinator.com, aka Hacker News. It's because of the unseemly element that comes out of the sewers on there sometimes.

I wrote a post a few hours ago. It's about onboarding that sucked. It was about them building a process that worked like a damn pressure cooker when there were absolutely no stakes involved.

That, then, brought out the bad element. Instead of trying to engage with the biggest trouble spots directly, I figured I'd just pop their balloons right here.

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Point: "she is definitely not a team player"

I think you meant to say "I don't sit there and take it like a good little dog". That's orthogonal to "being a team player". You don't go along with the team if the team is doing bad things.

Or, well, maybe the person who said this would. But I don't. Funny how that works.

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Point: "runs from boring stuff instead of trying to fix it"

Boring stuff? It was -stupid- stuff. Patronizing stuff. You're given a class and then they immediately turn around and ask you "what did you learn" and if you don't spit it back at them letter-for-letter, it doesn't enable the [next] button on the form?

You have to realize that if you're going to do this, it has to be about high stakes stuff where it absolutely matters if you get it right. I'm talking about compliance issues, legal issues, safety issues, finance issues, pre-IPO quiet period issues, you know, that kind of shit.

It's NOT about "what does the XYZ team do for the company". But that's what the presentation was about, and that's what you were expected to parrot back into the form. "The XYZ team runs analyses on foo data to get insights for the bar product".

The XYZ team, incidentally, was none of those important things. It was about as far from that as you can imagine.

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Point: "hides in a corner"

I was actually sitting as close to my manager's desk location as I could. I wasn't in a corner, I was on an aisle that aimed directly at his desk. To be any closer, I would have had to sit on the floor blocking the hallway and make the laptop even harder to use. Plus then I wouldn't have had any power.

But still, thanks for hyperbole to try to make me look bad! You have no idea what went on there, and you think you just HAVE to insert yourself into it.

I've worked with people like you. I don't like people like you.

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Point: "maybe they hand out desks in onboarding"

Point: "she didn't try to fix anything"

No, they do not hand out desks in onboarding. I had actually talked to the admin person for the area a couple of times about this. Nothing had happened. So, I fixed it for myself. You don't know this because I didn't write about it yet. So, here, I'll do it right now.

You know the scene in the original Jurassic Park where they're in the helicopter, trying to get their seat belts on, and one of them comes up with two like ends so they won't snap together? People are freaking out but he just ties the damn things in a knot and carries on?

That's me. That's what I do. So, what did I do here? I fixed shit.

Once it became clear they weren't going to set me up, I set myself up. I met some of the other folks in the area and asked about a desk that seemed to be unused. They confirmed that it was not assigned, and so I landed there. It wasn't a great location, being right on the aisle and subject to high traffic, but it was a desk. I told the powers that be to MAKE that my desk location, and so it was done.

(Go on, call me entitled for daring to fix my own problem instead of leaving it to the person who was supposed to do it, but didn't.)

I got a monitor... which then did not manage to power the laptop properly. Yes, despite it being USB-C and an Actual Honest To God HP Cable (tm), it would not actually charge the laptop. The laptop would in fact *slowly discharge* when it was on there, assuming the display came up at all. Oh, and the monitor would complain about the cable not being a HP cable, despite having come out of the box with the (HP) monitor, and being labeled clearly on the side.

What did I do? I took the train down to Burlingame one afternoon, hit the Apple store, bought a bunch of adapters and other stuff, then brought in my own keyboard, mouse, power strip, and everything else that hadn't been provided, and got it working.

I took this pile of crap and managed to make it go. It took a while but I eventually had a solid setup... even if I had to plug in three cables (Apple power brick, monitor, Ethernet adapter) every time I brought the machine to my desk. I'd gladly do that than have the supposed single-cable solution that doesn't actually work.

You see, I can make things work. It's just that I have the *gall* to talk about the fact that they were broken to begin with. People hate that. Well, some people do. The people writing those comments definitely do.

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Point: "intolerance to frustration"

You got the point about still being here doing this work decades later, right? If I couldn't put up with bouts of frustration, I would have peaced out a long time ago. EVERYTHING about this tech stuff is needlessly frustrating far too often, in part because of people like the author of the above point who create garbage and expect everyone else to put up with it.

Again, it's that I'm talking about it. The fact that it's broken in the first place is completely lost on some people. I'm just not allowed to talk about it.

This is how tremendous badness is allowed to continue in this world of ours: people being shouted down when they describe a bad situation.

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Point: "why put yourself through such misery"

Friends had reached out to me. "We need a director for our reliability software engineering stuff". They asked for my help. They wanted to build something good, like the early days of a few former places I had worked at. I was willing to help out, but honestly, only as a contractor. I had enough of the full time tech thing for one lifetime already.

They were actually willing to talk about that, and so a time was set for a call to figure things out. The call was to be at 1 PM that afternoon. You know what hit the news that morning? $COMPANY files for IPO. ARGH!

Did I really want to do this again? It could be amazing. It could be a good thing. They want me there. Plus, the universe seems to be throwing a giant red flashing arrow at me saying "get in here, stupid".

I had an opportunity to land and support them through the IPO. Then if it worked out, maybe it would be worth something some day. Plus, my friends were there, and it would be nice to work with them again.

That's about how it played out in my head. That's why I gave up my relative freedom and committed to a Real Job and a commute and a boss and all of that stuff once again.

Tell me, reader, that you would honestly skip out on that situation. Remember, you were already willing to work with them on their problems. You just didn't want to be an employee. But then something happens with the potential for enormous upside ... but ONLY IF you join as an employee.

What would you do? You'd take the damn job. Of course you would.

Don't judge me for doing the same thing you would have done.

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Point: (anything about not recognizing the CEO on my third day there)

Not everyone is a Zuck type, ok? You are not going to know who they are or what they look like beforehand unless you have been doing a lot of research to jam it into your head.

Now, consider that I was supposedly there to deal with technical problems. I was inhaling their infrastructure, not their org chart. As long as they weren't mulching babies or generally oppressing people (you know, like the competition), I had other things to worry about.

I learned who was who in due time. As it should be.

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Point: (I didn't try to fix the onboarding problem)

Again, speaks to points not in evidence. You can't know that since I didn't say as much. The truth is: I *did* try to fix it. I reported it as broken and gave them detailed feedback when asked for it. I invited the head honcho of the onboarding / "training" group to follow up with me if there were any questions.

I heard nothing. Not so much as a peep.

Also, this wasn't just me. One of my friends had gone through the process about a month before, and apparently had the same allergic reaction to it that I did. He gave them feedback, too. They also ignored it.

Unfortunately, I only found out about his identical experience *after* it happened to me.

What's odd is that at some point, I managed to stumble onto the Google spreadsheet (yep) they were using to track feedback for the process. There were dozens of entries, and they were all gushing about it, like oh it was so good, and so fun! Please do more!

Part of me wonders if this is genuine, like these people actually enjoyed being gaslit into thinking that your boss is going to find out the results of your electronic scavenger hunt through the employee directory, or, indeed, that they would even care.

Another part of me wonders if they were being positive to the point of lying about it lest they be seen as a "negative person". Why? Because as the sewer rats have shown us, speaking the truth about badness brings out the teeth and the claws. They will take you apart for daring to pipe up about something that just does not make sense.

They can have their dishonest positivity. Someone has to deal with the actual problems in the world, and it starts by admitting they exist.

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Point: (anything calling me entitled)

I find that this, like "unprofessional", is a word people whip out when they can't grapple with the actual topic at hand. It's a nice shortcut to know that they are not going to address the matter properly.

Go read pg's "How to Disagree". Then realize you're failing at it.

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Point: "who is this person?"

Nobody you need to worry about.

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Point: "why is this on HN?"

Someone posted it, and a bunch of other people voted on it. Don't look at me. I didn't touch this one.

I don't have a voting ring. I don't ask people to vote for stuff.

I don't send out e-mails that are like this:

Please get on your phone, turn off your wifi, and then navigate to HN, then to new, then find the post, THEN upvote it. Don't upvote it from the post itself.

The company, however, does. A LOT. (Explains a few things, doesn't it?)

As someone who tries to keep stupid shit off HN myself... this bothered me greatly. It's working against that which I try to shut down: spam.

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Point: "inordinate amounts of time rewriting 18 year old C++ code to put appointments in their diary"

It's a diary, not an appointment book. Says it right there. It's where I write things when I'm not writing them here. You know, a diary?

Inordinate amounts of time? It took me a couple of hours once the brain fog and general malaise was lifted.

By the way, just because code is 18 years old doesn't mean it's bad. Shit, it might mean it's GOOD, because it managed to live 18 years without failing and being replaced in all that time. Ever consider that?

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Point: "does everything by the most difficult and convoluted means possible"

It's easy to think that. I don't go looking for broken shit. It finds me, and then it breaks. Ask anyone who knows me in real life about my devices and how they just kind of curl up and die all the time. It's a damn curse. I didn't ask for things to go like this. They just do.

Assuming you're willing to admit that I might be halfway good at troubleshooting... why do you think that might be? Might it be because things are constantly breaking, and the only way forward is to dig in and fix it?

Again, I think this is more about the fact that for some people (and this commenter, for sure), I am not allowed to speak about the things that break. It's not that they break. It's that I *dare* mention it.

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Point: (I demand "technological purity" and should be excluded during the hiring process)

Oh fuck no. If I demanded that, I'd never work anywhere for anyone on anything. Every single company has its share of crazy things going on. You have to accept that and go with it... but only up to a point.

But yes, I see why you would want to "screen" me out. People like me would ask you hard questions. And we can't have someone questioning your carefully-built house of cards, can we?

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Point: "why post this for the world to see?"

Catharsis, and probably more than a little cabin fever. I *like* going outside, seeing the world, and talking with random people I meet. Guess what's been contraindicated for the past couple of months? Doing that.

Besides, why does anyone post anything, ever? Why do FB and Twitter exist? Why does HN have comments? Why isn't it just news postings?

But again, this sounds a lot like "you're not allowed to talk about this", doesn't it?

How do things change if we don't talk about them?

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Point: "doesn't this catch up with you?"

Sure it does, it brings out the worst elements who then take a shit on me in the comments section. As does anything else on the Internet.

I'm sure it's kept me from being asked to join some companies, but you know what? That's not a place I'd want to work at or for, anyway.

There are plenty of people who see my writing for what it's supposed to be: a series of cautionary tales on how things can go wrong, and what to do to avoid them. They appreciate the honesty. They see value in having someone around who will notice things, not cover them up, not lie, and not pretend it's okay.

Then they reach out and we do business. It happens all the time.

Those are the folks I want to work with.

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Point: (anything about company onboarding being automatically useful)

It's not. It can be, but it's not just because it's there.

Just because they put together a curriculum doesn't mean they know the first thing about actually delivering good, useful content that people actually need to know to do their jobs well.

I used to teach a class that new hires saw in the first week or two at a new company. I tuned the living crap out of that thing to make sure it was all "landing": that they understood me, that I wasn't going too quickly, that I wasn't relying on topics they hadn't encountered yet, and so on.

"Have you all heard about ODS and Scuba yet?" If they had, then I would continue with my story using those terms effortlessly. If they hadn't, I'd quickly explain and then continue, adjusting on the fly since this would be their first time seeing the user interfaces in my screenshots.

Did I rely on the fact that -usually- they had been to the data class before my class? Absolutely not, because things change, and you have to deal with the ground truth. Otherwise, you don't really care about your students.

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Point: (not really about me, but dogs in the workplace)

I like dogs. I'm not a dog owner, but I do like hanging out with those dogs which I encounter in the world via friends, family, random other folks on the street, or whatever.

I also understand completely that other people can't deal with them. I don't even need to know why that is. They have their reasons, and I'm fine with that.

Since it's not a problem for me, I stay out of the way and let other people set the requirements based on their needs. This is the benefit of not being affected by it personally. I'm good either way.

Some of the people making non-dog-related points could learn from this.

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Point: (I'm some kind of tool for not knowing about the butterfly keyboard)

I knew about it. I wasn't looking forward to it. And you know what, it wasn't great.

I had deliberately vectored around the whole butterfly keyboard situation by buying the very last Macbook Pro they made BEFORE they switched gears to the butterfly and the touch bar. As in, back in 2017. Yes, this very post is coming to you from what's left of that machine, an "early 2015" model. It's been falling apart at the hardware level and will shortly be replaced with something else, and I hope its replacement isn't awful.

And no, it's not because of abuse. The GPU keeps panicing and when I went to take a look for obvious signs of batshittery under the hood, I found the battery had decided to turn itself into a bomb. This is for a computer I have treated very well over the years, as I tend to do.

So now I have a LiPo bomb on my hands that needs to be disposed properly during this twilight zone shit where a lot of things are closed down... and a laptop that will go into a GPU loop where the graphics freeze and it has to be power cycled. (Yes, even "ssh in + sudo reboot" doesn't work. You can ssh in, but the reboot never runs.)

Oh, and, with the battery removed (which was a real pain in the ass), the GPU still flips out, so it's not something caused by the battery still being in there. Whatever happened, if it was related, wound up making some kind of lasting change to the system that I haven't tracked down yet.

I tell you, my stuff breaks on me. I don't MAKE it break.