In the news today: a Google engineer claims that Vietnamese high school children could pass the Google interview easily. Also in the news a scandal caused by jokes about “big dongles” and “forking of repositories”. The unfortunate incident occurred at a developer conference. Two male developers and a female developer evangelist were involved. One of the developers and the developer evangelist were fired as a consequence in the days following the event and there were some death threats and other unpleasantness.
The One Percent
You might conclude from this that male developers are sexist and rude people. Obviously, that’s not true, some programmers must be nice and polite to everybody. Let’s call them the “one percent”. The truth is that coders don’t have to be “people persons”. It’s enough to be able to answer some random questions that even a Vietnamese eleventh grader should know the answer to. Since most interviewers ask trivia, all you need to do is cram that stuff the night before. You can even google the interview questions. Some websites list the most common questions and example answers.
In IT it doesn’t pay, as far as I know, to be nice to other people. Your colleagues will almost certainly take advantage of you. You will end up working long hours and weekends. The most unpleasant tasks will somehow end up on your desk each day.
The Other Percent
If you have a non trivial amount of domain knowledge, however you will not be let go no matter what (I suspect the guy with the beard falls in this category). This job security is partly due to the danger of blackmail, having to do with secret knowledge of functionality that is broken and doesn’t work. So you should be asking yourself whether a Vietnamese kid can replace you. The answer is probably yes. This post has a few suggestions, so that you can avoid this most unfortunate scenario.
The developer evangelist in the scandal mentioned earlier, clearly thought that she could get away with her actions and have the full support of her employer. OK, an evangelist has to be able to teach, but they have good teachers in Vietnam too. If you value your job, you should not complain publicly or give a cause for complaints, because you can, it seems be downsized at the drop of the proverbial hat. I read in a blog that the evangelist has the tendency to overreact, but you know which evangelist doesn’t. Evangelists have to be pushy and in your face, right?
Tips and tricks
It’s easy to understand what needs to be done. We need to gain the valuable domain knowledge bit by bit. This will not be an easy, fast or painless process. This period will ask a lot from you. You will be assuming the humble apprentice role with all the associated humiliations and pain. You might get so absorbed in your apprenticeship, that you forget to shave resulting in an impressive beard. Finally, once you have the all important secrets in your possession, you need to defend them as if your life depends on them. This means that you should only explain or document trivial things that people can find out for themselves.
Make sure that nobody can take over from you, by adding your own poorly documented API or even a tiny domain specific language. You know how everybody says that unit tests are the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. The not so great way to unit test is to make it unusually difficult to change the code. Or even better, if you can get away with it do not write any unit tests and apply the universal Giant Ball of Spaghetti pattern.
The Clone Project
We will definitely look into recruiting smart Vietnamese kids for the Google Reader clone project. Personally I love Vietnamese spring rolls, so if they can make them that would be a bonus for sure. If the project fails plan B would be to open a restaurant. We might ask the kids how they stand on the issue of dongles and forking. Not that it’s that important. What is important though is whether they have a Twitter account or a blog. We don’t want them to embarrass the company do we.
Twitter in case you didn’t know is a real-time massive multi-player Internet game with the goal of achieving a high number of followers and Klout. The game limits you to 140 characters, but you can also post pictures or videos. The danger for embarrassing a company with silly tweets is something to be carefully considered. There are some rules of conduct of course, but in reality they are not taken seriously by most of the players.
Disclaimer: I have no idea what the jokes were exactly and I don’t want to choose sides. Dongles and forking are not funny. You should not make fun like that, nor should you take pictures of other people without their permission and you should not post them on the Internet. That’s not cool.
Reports for March 22, 2013