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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

I tried to fix it, and failed miserably

It seems some of my writing has been making the rounds within a certain company, and while a bunch of people came out in support initially, the counter-strike-force has since arrived.

It's kind of amazing. It's almost like they don't realize that their venom that pours out is exactly what makes it a terrible place to work. They don't appreciate that the fact they are supported and even encouraged by middle management just makes it worse. They have no idea that upper management's chronic inaction to shut that down just seals the deal.

There are a whole bunch of people who want to just sit down and do their damn jobs, but the broken ones are running the show and really making it miserable. The people who can leave... do. The people who can't... are still there, and are suffering. This includes many of my friends, and it sucks.

The whole reason I stuck around as long as I did was to try to remove some of these problem cases in middle management and turn the ship around. I wanted to fix things for everyone else. I knew I could walk any time I wanted and the drama would end. That's basically where the last five months of my life went, and in the end, nothing happened.

Why? Because I'm not upper management, and I couldn't fire directors. I was equivalent to a director in terms of "level" by virtue of having the "principal engineer" title, but the so-called Independent Contributors, the "ICs", don't have the power to go in and fire people. They can present damning evidence to upper management, but if they don't act, well, guess what.

"Cogs, know when to fall off your wheels". Remember that? I wrote that in 2012 about a very different company, but it still applies. If you can't hire and fire to build a better team, what exactly can you do?

I decided back in October that I was going to either fix the cultural problem directly in front of me in middle management or I was going to walk. I figured it'd go like this: either I succeed epically and we start a new future where people feel confident to speak the truth about what's going on in technical matters... OR I fail epically and walk. Either way, it wouldn't be my problem. Granted, in the second case, it would still be everyone else's problem, but I'd get my damn life back at least.

But then, things went stupid, like, really stupid. I cancelled all of the 1:1s with my manager since I did not want to deal with him any more. I went up the org chart. "Things would change", I was told. Time passed. I spent it working on dumb things like saving the company stupid amounts of money by finding where they were pissing it away with terrible infra implementations. I waited to hear back on this proposal I was promised: how things would be different.

Then one day, I was shown the proposal for what would change. It was a list of things for me to do... and nothing from anyone else.

I handed over my badge on the spot, and walked (as I said I would if nothing was going to change). That was November 13, 2019, a little after noon. I had been there just under 10 months.

For those keeping score at home, that means that (1) any signing bonus would have been payable back to them, albeit pro-rated, and (2) no vesting of any stocks, since there was a one year cliff on those. That's a sizeable chunk of money!

I walked ANYWAY. That's how incredibly fucked up it was.

And yeah, I just dropped the f-bomb in writing here for the first time in nine years. I'm telling you, it was bad!

I only ended up back there because someone even higher up the org chart called me that night after I got back home and convinced me it could be fixed.

In the time between then (roughly Thanksgiving) and earlier this month, I found out that no, it could not, because nothing would be done. They wanted to put me out to pasture, just working on random things and not getting involved with whatever the hell is going on with this management situation.

Why? Well, I imagine it looks nice to have ONE principal engineer who ticks the "F" box in terms of diversity data. Yep, I was the token. Again. I assume they wanted that number to not go back to zero.

Anyway, again, I delivered on my promise and walked.

I'm not stupid, though, since it was now just a handful of days to that magical vesting date. I made that. Come on. For that kind of stress, the grey hair, the sleepless nights, the people calling me names, and then saying terrible things about me in writing, I think I earned it.

Call me whatever nasty words you want, but that's what happened.

More to come.