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10 February 2021

The World of Corporate America, February 2021

by Florian

This post is a reminder to myself of the dehumanizing nature of large companies and my general thoughts from my experience the past week.

On Freakonomics the other day, Steven Levitt (I think?) said that anybody who believes the Econ-101 mantra that corporations are purely profit maximizing entities are deluding themselves. This is also further evidence of that claim.

February 2rd

I have a weekly 1-1 discussion time with my direct manager each Tuesday/Wednesday. He said at ~5 pm yesterday (Monday) he’d gotten a “high priority” request that another team (LINK) desperately needed help with an AWS migration and Springboot Java development for the next 3 months. I was specifically requested for this despite being one of two more junior people on our four person team. He asked if I wanted to do it and that it was either going to be me or my team’s technical manager, but they “really wanted me” not the technical manager.

I accepted because they needed help and it sounded like an interesting challenge/something to do. I had a follow-up meeting with my technical manager and direct manager at 1 - 2 that same day and we agreed to split my time 50/50 between my original project and the LINK team. This arrangement sounds fine, nothing more goes on.

February 3rd

It’s now Wednesday. Nothing more is said about the team migration until 4 pm that day when I get an email from the upper management (one tier above my direct manager, this person is my former direct manager) saying that I will be transitioning to the LINK team at an 80/20 split. This is not what was agreed to nor did this person talk to me directly during this process at all.

Then (from my perspective) a senior QA analyst (who we’ll call J.) on the new team is told to request privileges for me.

Another manager that I used to work with and the 3rd tier manager respond thanking us for contributing our time on “hot button” issues.

February 4th, 5th

I hear nothing more from anybody about my migration to the new team. My direct manager announces the movement in my current team’s standup. That’s pretty much it? At some point somebody mentions that Monday February 8th is my “official” cutover date. Whatever that means.

February 8th

On Monday, I get a message from the senior QA analyst J. asking if today is my cutover to LINK. I say yes and he sends me about 5 wiki pages about the product architecture and grants me access to the Github repo. One of these is an ~2 year out of date wiki page about how to setup the project. I start following this, reading up on the architecture, forking the repo’s etc.

At 11:30, I get a 30 meeting invite for a “Link Intro” meeting from somebody I assume to be a developer (who we’ll call C.) on the LINK team, this meeting is at 1 pm. C. joins this meeting. I have never met this person. She does not introduce herself, she does not ask us who we are, what team we come from, literally anything. Instead, she reads (almost verbatim) one of the wiki pages J. sent me earlier that day.

At ~2 pm, J. says that the product manager (who runs all Agile ceremonies) should have invited us to the standup. At 2:15, he invites us. The standup is at 2:30.

At 2:30, I join the standup. As it turns out, there’s 4 - 5 more developers on the team in addition to C. The PM does not mention anything about the new developers until ~20 minutes into the 30 minute meeting. Instead, the scrum master discusses the proper way to log defects into our JIRA-like system. We are in the middle of their sprint.

After 20 minutes, J. finally suggests that maybe we should introduce the 2 new developers. I get called the wrong name (I go by my middle name) by the PM and then say “I’m excited to be on the team”, etc. and the PM asks what time zone we’re in. There are no introductions. None of the other developers say anything. I am not given any tickets to do. After this, I have to leave early so I ping the team chat I got added to introducing myself (again) and laying out my work schedule (timezone, hours worked, etc.) and saying welcome to the team, again. Nobody responds or even likes this message.

I request access to the Oracle databases the team uses for the application (which I had to request C. give me the names of). This apparently takes 2 days to process.

February 9th

I meet with the senior engineer K. in the morning. K. seems to have some semblance of what’s going on. He gives me a ticket to look into and explains the architecture of what we’re looking to do. This is actually helpful and I start working on it as best I can. To be clear, though, this is a totally different project/ticket than C. onboarded me to yesterday.

In messaging J., it turns out he is not a QA engineer anymore but is actually the Dev manager for the team. Nobody told me this until now, but it does explain why he keeps messaging me stuff. We have another architecture meeting with K. and another senior developer on the team that afternoon. This is also pretty helpful.

During standup, the PM does nothing more to introduce us to the team or onboard us at all. She then mentions having something for me to do but it’s “not ready yet”. I message her after and she sends me a ticket. This ticket is also completely different from the either two work items mentioned/assigned by C. or K., respectively.

February 10th

So, that brings us to today. As it turns out, K. or somebody (??) has met and discussed the ticket I was supposed to be working on already. I was not told about this or looped in at all. So, I effectively have been told to work on three different things by three different people. Nobody has bothered to introduce themselves or even act as if they want me on the team other than J. and I’m writing this instead of working on the ticket that K. gave me because I know nothing about the work process here. Should I be doing this? Who’s in charge here?


I’m pretty livid about all this. First, why did they request my help if they seem to have no idea what they want me to do? Who is actually in charge here? Why does nobody on the team seem to treat me like an actual person?

If I were on this team I would have first reached out in advance and welcomed me on board. If they actually needed or wanted my help, then somebody needs to act like it.

I would have opened up the repos much earlier, introduced us (?? basic human decency) and have had a plan of what we’re going to be doing.

As far as I can tell, what happened is somebody in upper management saw on paper that this other team needed help. They then shifted me over, congratulated themselves, and left it at that.

Who’s at fault here? Like most corporate situations, both everyone and nobody. One person should have been assigned to onboard me and give me work. Somebody should have come with some sort of plan of how they were going to utilize two developers for three months and executed on that.

Is this all a grift?

I’ve often felt like working at a company is an employee grift that I’m not in on. There almost seems to be a wink-wink nudge-nudge agreement that we’ll all show up and kinda work and get paid for it, but we won’t really care what’s happening. We’ll say we’re working on things, but not actually care about the quality of what we do or the product.

Based on the actions around me, there just seems to be complete apathy about me being on this team that is apparently desperate for help? If I were a developer swamped with work, I’d really want somebody new on the team to help out and I’d act like it – I’d introduce myself, work with them to get them up to speed, give them meaningful work and direction, and respond to chat messages. Instead, there seems to be a tacit agreement that we’re all here working on this product, but nobody really cares what happens.

tags: posts