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We ideally will align incentives via some sort of equity-sharing model.
June 8, 2011 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Whartonite Seeks Code Monkey (SLTumblr).
posted by seanmpuckett (89 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
[Fixed.]
posted by cortex at 9:42 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


LOLWinklevoss
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:48 AM on June 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


[Fixed.]

I don't think anything short of a revolution is going to fix the problems with that link.
posted by mhoye at 9:50 AM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


My only experience with Wharton business school grads was once helping a couple recent Wharton MBAs to do a WebMD clone startup in 1999. I spent about five months of my free time designing mockups and helping the creators come up with a plan for the site. After six months, the boss at their firm wanted to pull the plug on the project, so I submitted an invoice for all my time on the project to date (I stupidly worked without a contract and without anything up-front) and the company never paid it. One of the grads was good enough to at least pay me a grand out of his pocket because I was basically broke and needed it to make rent. I later found out the boss almost sold the site to a larger company even though it was only in mockup form, but he didn't get a high enough price.

These Wharton grads found me because I wrote an article on Slashdot about internet history, so they emailed me. Always work with a contract, kids!
posted by mathowie at 9:51 AM on June 8, 2011 [21 favorites]


HA!

If you're so smart, learn to code business-monkeys.
posted by GuyZero at 9:51 AM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Andrew Chen has a great take on this sort of thing (and this blog, in particular).
posted by chasing at 9:52 AM on June 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Hot dog, guess this means I can throw away my "will work for idiots" cardboard sign.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 9:53 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love ads that require BS,MS or PHD in CS (or math?) and then say you should know HTTP and REST.

If I ever start a company I am going to put up an ad looking for a Wharton MBA and give the requirements as "Must be able to make correct change".
posted by Ad hominem at 9:57 AM on June 8, 2011 [31 favorites]


Also, I've gotta say, developers: KNOW YOUR VALUE. You *are* valuable, but I really feel like MBA culture, especially, is designed to make everyone think of developers as interchangeable cogs that should be paid as little as possible for their work. But if you're a developer, you are they the Wizard and they're the Muggle -- you know how to make thee magical devices do things. Developers shouldn't forget this. And they shouldn't be afraid to be demanding when it comes to compensation for their time, energy, and expertise.

Also: Never ever take equity unless you are 100% sure you know what it means to have equity. Equity can be complex. It can also be valueless. Only in rare, rare, RARE cases do holding equity as a developer lead to you getting rich.
posted by chasing at 9:57 AM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


(Jesus Christ -- TypoFest 2011 in my rant, there...)
posted by chasing at 9:58 AM on June 8, 2011


Making things > managing things. Seriously, take the afternoon and make something and you will have done more than most of these business grads do in their entire careers. You'll also probably find more job satisfaction, as opposed to compensation satisfaction.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:02 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


But if you're a developer, you are they the Wizard and they're the Muggle

During the .com boom I met an exec from a big investment bank who told me the worst think about the boom was that they now had to start treating programmers like actual people.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:02 AM on June 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I dunno, but where I live the only jobs seem to be for developers. It's enough to make me want to learn how to code.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:06 AM on June 8, 2011


Ad hominem --

The real problem I've seen is developers, especially younger ones, not treating themselves like actual people. Like in mathowie's example, above. People usually won't give you what you don't ask for...
posted by chasing at 10:07 AM on June 8, 2011


KokuRyu --

My other opinion on this matter: If you don't know how to code, at least on a basic level, you're running at a significant disadvantage in the world of entrepreneurial technology. How can one think creatively about technology without some understanding of how it works?
posted by chasing at 10:10 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, my last comment was a little strong. Plenty of people do fine in tech without knowing how to code. But. Your odds definitely improve if you spend a few days learning the fundamentals. As a developer, at least, I'm much more likely to want to work with someone who has a little coding experience.
posted by chasing at 10:13 AM on June 8, 2011


Now we know we're in another bubble.
posted by atrazine at 10:14 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had a friend that would always pitch me and my other friend who was a developer/admin these great business ideas. They would always go, "Yeah, so a lot is happening in the [whatever] field! We'll start a business! I'll handle the idea stuff, then you guys can just punch it up with your computers!"

Every time I get an iPhone app "great idea!" solicitation or see one of these startup things on Craigslist, I always mentally amend "just punch it up!" to it.
posted by ignignokt at 10:16 AM on June 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


Here's the thing. The skillset that makes you good at making things, or doing something, makes you terrible at raising money, and at some level that's the important thing about things like this. A truly great idea will get funded even if the money raising process is monkeys throwing things, but marginal ideas get funded when guys with more swagger then sense, with fancy MBA's and consulting backgrounds call around to other people just like them looking for money. That's why these things exist. Look at the great startups, nearly all of them were run by the guys who did the work, came up with idea. A web startup the needs to run an ad to find developers is just an advertisement for why venture returns over the last ten years were so much worse then for the prior 30. Back in 1985 two MBAs with a derivative idea probably weren't getting funded. Today, with enough swag - they will.

I see this in my own business - guys with nice suits and heaps of swag raise money for new funds w/o track records, smart guys who acknowledge their natural human failings only raise money once they've got a track record they can show people. And the track record for the latter is heaps better then the former. I mean I can't tell you how many muppet investment bankers raised funds back in 03-04 who are now out of the business.
posted by JPD at 10:18 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have yet to meet an MBA who wouldn't be well-served with a vigorous punching up.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:18 AM on June 8, 2011 [16 favorites]


WTF is a "whartonite"?

Also, I don't get why most of these are supposed to be bad. Like:
The [redacted] manages [redacted] using Drupal, an open source content management system. We are looking for a student worker to help manage the site, make module updates, analyze reports, optimize performance, and build new features and functionality. Drupal experience is required. Hours: 10-15 per week Salary: $9 per hour Proficiencies: • CSS • PHP • HTML • Drupal • MySQL • Photoshop • XML/KML/RSS • JQuery & JavaScript
OK sure, $9/hr is pretty low for a professional. But for a student? And a 1/4 time one at that? Sounds like a pretty reasonable place to start for me for this job.
posted by DU at 10:21 AM on June 8, 2011


OK sure, $9/hr is pretty low for a professional. But for a student? And a 1/4 time one at that? Sounds like a pretty reasonable place to start for me for this job.

Sounds like neither you nor the posters are aware of the negative unemployment in the Drupal world. If you have the skillset they're asking for you can do miles better than $9/hr and work for non-clueless people to boot.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:24 AM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


"but I worked at Bain so it must be a good idea"

Translated: I am so ensconced by my own privilege that I fail to recognize that my life paths have so blinded me to mistaking my own luck, wealth and family circumstance (and thus education) with inherent personal value, skill and virtue. All of which I will communicate in 5 words by name dropping my wealth-based associations. Seeking Same!

Kill me. Now.
posted by stratastar at 10:24 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Their "how to stay off WSCM" link is pretty good, though:
Here’s why it’s hard: The nerd perspective is, they don’t need you. ... Because there’s an illustrious track record of engineering-founded companies succeeding, spanning from HP to Facebook, there’s a lot of datapoints that say that a 20-yo Stanford computer science major can do it himself, or at least with his other CS roommates. ... They are not the code monkey. You are the biz monkey.
Emphasis mine.
posted by DU at 10:25 AM on June 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


If you have the skillset they're asking for you can do miles better than $9/hr

As a student and for only 10 hrs/wk? The position described barely needs any "proficiency" what it needs is "familiarity". It's an office boy position for a CMS.
posted by DU at 10:27 AM on June 8, 2011


I'll handle the idea stuff, then you guys can just punch it up with your computers!"

Yeah I work with an exec who always sends me bizarre mock ups done in paint and says stuff like "I already did the work, just go type it in". I love that guy.

The skillset that makes you good at making things, or doing something, makes you terrible at raising money

Well raising money is certainly a skill no doubt about that, these guys raise money just by buying facebook ads that go to a 404 page, if they get enough clicks they "prove" there is interest.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:30 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Remember you time is always worth something. You should never ever work for free, even if you are digging a ditch. If you will be learning on the job charge more, because they are clearly idiots who can't judge a quality person, also you'll be pulling in a lot of your own time figuring shit out.
posted by humanfont at 10:30 AM on June 8, 2011


Here's the thing. The skillset that makes you good at making things, or doing something, makes you terrible at raising money...

It absolutely does not. This trope serves to reinforce a social stratification between developers / "code monkeys" and everyone else (especially management) that ultimately keeps developers from making true advances within their companies. It's a poisonous way to think (unless you like stewing resentfully in your cube forever).

The thing is that the skill sets are different and one does not imply the other. You can get through engineering school without so much as learning what the terms "case study" or "double entry bookkeeping" mean, but it's not as if your engineering skills somehow replace or repress your business acumen. If developers, or engineers more generally, put themselves through business school they can absolutely do both. I know people who have done this and become quite successful.

If you don't want to ever be a manager, then say so. But it's just making excuses to suggest your technical leetness is somehow itself preventing you from excelling in that way.
posted by rkent at 10:32 AM on June 8, 2011 [14 favorites]


As a student and for only 10 hrs/wk? The position described barely needs any "proficiency" what it needs is "familiarity". It's an office boy position for a CMS.

Is that why it says "Drupal experience is required"?
posted by rtha at 10:33 AM on June 8, 2011


MetaFilter: I\'m looking for someone who can set up this backend for me, and come up with more creative ideas than this.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:33 AM on June 8, 2011


I really feel like MBA culture, especially, is designed to make everyone think of developers other people as interchangeable cogs that should be paid as little as possible for their work.

ftfy.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:40 AM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, I've gotta say, developers: KNOW YOUR VALUE. You *are* valuable

Depends on how good or bad you are. I've known some developers who were worse than valueless--they made things worse.

You should never ever work for free, even if you are digging a ditch. If you will be learning on the job charge more, because they are clearly idiots who can't judge a quality person, also you'll be pulling in a lot of your own time figuring shit out.

Depends on how badly you want to learn what the job will teach you. There are definitely some cases where it is more than worth it to work for free.

I would definitely work as a copyeditor for Thomas Pynchon (or Dennis Johnson or Rick Moody or Margaret Atwood or William Vollmann ...) for free.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:41 AM on June 8, 2011


It absolutely does not

I work in a different business making the sausage, granted it isn't tech, but rather investment management - and I firmly disagree with you. Its a matter of natural human biases favoring people who display overconfidence. Now granted my business is different in that the sausage makers play an incredibly outsized role compared to the sausage sellers/shop managers so that from a financial perspective returns massively favor us, so I'm not bitter about it.

This isn't to say that an engineer can't raise money, just that at the margins an investment banker is going to be better at it.
posted by JPD at 10:41 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm the dumb one, but..."$15-25 hourly salary?" What? Is the position salaried or is it not?

"A while back we received great interest from some CIS engineers who were willing to work with us in the future - that time is now."

Tenses are difficult, aren't they? Especially when the content of the sentence is just, apparently, "some CIS engineers work with us."
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:41 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is that why it says "Drupal experience is required"?

student worker to help manage the site, make module updates, analyze reports, optimize performance, and build new features and functionality.

This is basically a paid internship type thing. "Manage the site" is "run /etc/init.d/httpd restart when the site hangs", "make module updates" is "do an apt-get update once in a while", etc. The only thing remotely needing any knowing is the one about "new features" which if you've ever been hired will never be done--it's the last thing tacked on by the hiring manager and therefore least on his/her mind.
posted by DU at 10:41 AM on June 8, 2011


Okay, this is my favorite so far. I am going to put out my own want ad to build a technology that allows spring-loaded boxing gloves to materialize before LCDs and punch people who post ads like that, biff!
posted by adipocere at 10:42 AM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think a lot of people call the hourly pay their salary, either not knowing or not caring that salary is distinct from wage. (I count myself in the not caring group.)
posted by jeather at 10:44 AM on June 8, 2011



This is basically a paid internship type thing. "Manage the site" is "run /etc/init.d/httpd restart when the site hangs", "make module updates" is "do an apt-get update once in a while", etc. The only thing remotely needing any knowing is the one about "new features" which if you've ever been hired will never be done--it's the last thing tacked on by the hiring manager and therefore least on his/her mind.


And even this makes you worth more than $9/hr because someone else out there really wants someone who can do this stuff and will pay more. It's pure supply and demand and there's more demand than supply at the moment.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:46 AM on June 8, 2011


I think a lot of people call the hourly pay their salary, either not knowing or not caring that salary is distinct from wage. (I count myself in the not caring group.)

It's pretty bizarre that they're in busienss school and they don't know or care about the difference, though. It's not always a meaningless or merely formal distinction, either.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:46 AM on June 8, 2011


Especially when the content of the sentence is just, apparently, "some CIS engineers work with us."

No, the context is more likely "These guys said they wanted to help us out (at some indeterminate time in the future), but they we offered them $10/hour and they bailed ... you interested?"

I can't be the only one here shocked by the wages. When I moved out to SF ~15 years ago, I got a part-time copyediting job in Silicon Valley that paid $35/hour (!!!). Before that I was making $8/hr in Louisville KY at a entry-level technical-writing job. In college (1990-94), I earned $8-10 for office work...

$9/hr for Drupal experience? In today's market? It seems laughable. I pay my entry-level Web production workers (a step up from data entry) $20/hr. Hell, we pay off-shore contractors more than $9/hr.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:49 AM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Okay, this is my favorite so far

That one is awesome, at least the technologies are related, none of this crazy, "must know c#, java, biztalk, Haskell, bash scripting and VMS administration". I would take that position if they bumped it up to say $100 an hour.

5.     In addition to a technical interview process, all applicants must pass a criminal background check

Ruh Roh, good thing they warned me.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:54 AM on June 8, 2011


Is the position salaried or is it not?

Salaried means you are regularly given a little packet of salt, right?
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:54 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of people call the hourly pay their salary, either not knowing or not caring that salary is distinct from wage. (I count myself in the not caring group.)

Not in Bay Area/Silicon Valley, in my experience. The terms used 99% of the time are "rate" (as in hour) and "salary" (as in yearly).

I also think it's a fairly notable error (among many in that tumblr).

Remember you time is always worth something.

Remarkably untrue.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:54 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was really hoping this was a site for fans of Gilded Age novels of manners who crave the companionship of computer geeks.

slinks away disappointed

posted by EvaDestruction at 10:56 AM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


> OK sure, $9/hr is pretty low for a professional. But for a student? And a 1/4 time one at that? Sounds like a pretty reasonable place to start for me for this job.

You can work as a barista for minimum wage + tips which, if you're at a good joint, will make you better money than that. And the biz-school trust-fund wannabes are only a nuisance for three minutes at a time, rather than ten solid hours a week plus some significant multiple of that, entirely uncompensated, handling their emails, phonecalls, and texts.

And as a barista, if you have any social skills you'll probably get to know the locals businesspeople who might be less douchebaggy and want to hire developers at living wages.
posted by at by at 10:58 AM on June 8, 2011


I replied to a Craisglist ad looking for a "back end man" once.

Once.
posted by rokusan at 10:59 AM on June 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Whartonites fight back.
posted by scalefree at 11:03 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Rokusan, was it on /m4m/ or /sof/?
posted by MrFTBN at 11:03 AM on June 8, 2011


I don't really get it, is the point that the programmers are the really smart/clever ones and all business people are all just dumb "dilbert-boss" type drones? Why don't smart developers just hire "business people" for $9/hr, then? In the real world, the entrepreneurs who become successful are those who are effective leaders. No one launches a huge start-up by themselves. They identify opportunities in the marketplace, recognize what their strengths are, recruit people that have the strengths they lack and then lead the whole team to success. The one's who get really rich are those who manage to hold on to their equity in the meantime.
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:04 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


That "fight back" was hilarious.
posted by aramaic at 11:07 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


DU: "OK sure, $9/hr is pretty low for a professional. But for a student? And a 1/4 time one at that? Sounds like a pretty reasonable place to start for me for this job."

If you can operate a car and a GPS, you can easily pull double this amount delivering pizza.
posted by mullingitover at 11:09 AM on June 8, 2011


and all business people are all just dumb "dilbert-boss" type drones?

See where you stuck the word 'all' in there? That's a mistake that happened inside your head, you replaced 'the people who posted these ads' with 'all'. A really strange mistake, but there you have it.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:10 AM on June 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


Why don't smart developers just hire "business people" for $9/hr, then?

Because they're not as stupid as the people we're making fun of.

No, the context is more likely "These guys said they wanted to help us out (at some indeterminate time in the future), but they we offered them $10/hour and they bailed ... you interested?"

The sentence itself claims, through knotty prose, that the time at which the CIS engineers would be interested in working with them is now. I agree with you that, in all likelihood, those CIS engineers are long gone, but I also argue that the want ad is trying to cover up this problem by lying, that lie obscured through shifting tense changes.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:10 AM on June 8, 2011


Why don't smart developers just hire "business people" for $9/hr, then?

Explore how groupOn's personell breaks down in terms of job role and pay grade. Also, Zappos.
posted by GuyZero at 11:12 AM on June 8, 2011


Most of these companies will fail. To make it in startups you need employees who are fanatically committed to the success of the company. There needs to be [at least a feeling of] loyalty at all levels. $10 an hour does not buy you that.

The sad part is that the whartonites will blame the coders and designers, call them lazy and unloyal, and damage their reputations among the money people.

I am a coder now. Used to be a designer. Same shit in both worlds. Must be proficient in Photoshop CS5 and know how to grease the bearings on a Heidelberg Speedmaster Printing Press. For $7 an hour.

I had to take a few of the offers like the ones linked. I was poor, unemployed, with a student loan and no savings. $10 an hour to get some experience sounds good. What was funny is how surprised and offended the biz people would be when I would quit after a couple of months, to go take an $11 an hour job, after they refused to give me a raise.

I hated every single paid job I ever had until I joined a company founded by engineers, where the biz people were no more or less of a cog in the machine than anyone else. It was the mos efficient and rationally run place I had ever seen.

Now I work at a company that was founded by engineers, built by engineers, which made several billions in profits last year. I love my job here.
posted by Dr. Curare at 11:22 AM on June 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't really get it, is the point that the programmers are the really smart/clever ones and all business people are all just dumb "dilbert-boss" type drones?

The "point" is that business-school 'ideas' are worthless if you can't execute them. Instead of doing what many successful start-ups do and trying to attract a co-founder, many of these "Whartonites" (meaning graduates of the Wharton School of Business) think they can just hire someone to execute their (again, worthless) idea.

Basically, what this guy and his commenters say:
But this blog is about seed stage, so you really only need the programmer. Take away the MBA and your pitch might look rocky; take away the code and design, and there is nothing to pitch.
posted by muddgirl at 11:27 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love ads that require BS,MS or PHD in CS (or math?) and then say you should know HTTP and REST.
I remember browsing way too job listings like this circa 2000: BS/MS in CS, minimum of 10 years experience building web sites (the web hadn't even been around for 10 years at that point) must be an EXPERT in ASP, HTML, XML, Java, Dreamweaver, JavaScript, Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, PERL and PHP.

...and so on. Typically with an insultingly low salary figure for anyone who could conceivably be an expert at all of the requirements listed.
posted by usonian at 11:31 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or in OTHER other words - if a b-school graduate wants to get in on the ground floor of a successful tech start up (but not put any time into learning tech skills), then instead of formulating an idea and getting some "code-monkey" to do all the work,

(1) Think of an idea that doesn't involve lots of tech skills to at least get it off the ground, or
(2) find a talented programmer and sell him your b-school skills (like Robert Khoo did with the artists behind Penny-Arcade).
posted by muddgirl at 11:32 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fingercuffs
posted by Eideteker at 11:35 AM on June 8, 2011


Why don't smart developers just hire "business people" for $9/hr, then?

Because they don't want to waste $9/hr?

Now I work at a company that was founded by engineers, built by engineers, which made several billions in profits last year. I love my job here.

Well, come on now ... is it Flooz or Beenz?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:56 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've done a few stints of building software for equity and it rarely pans out well. In one case where I had invested a lot of energy and really believed in the project it broke down post-launch because the biz guy wanted to keep tinkering with things. I respected that we needed to adjust and adapt, but for every five minutes of pondering he created five hours of work for me. My injunctions to make radical and time intensive changes to his marketing efforts were not met with zeal, so the whole post-launch relationship was fundamentally imbalanced.
posted by dgran at 12:00 PM on June 8, 2011


The thing I hate about this: the characteristic sloughing off of personal risk by the Bizmonkeys, which is a pattern that repeats time and again throughout society. Naturally they are trained to do it at school, and also learn it from an early age. Any risk that can't be reduced must be externalized. In other words: a lack of personal responsibility. Anything you can get away with is permitted. These Whartonites are the larval stage of the people who wreck economies and societies for their own private amusement. There is no level of mockery sufficient, though seeing them hoist on their own stupidity is kind of fun.

The problem is that it will only take five years or so of abandoned startups (where their only loss was time spent drinking with the wrong crowd) for them to learn to refine their lies enough to start passing for a real business plan. And the cycle continues.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't really get it, is the point that the programmers are the really smart/clever ones and all business people are all just dumb "dilbert-boss" type drones? Why don't smart developers just hire "business people" for $9/hr, then?

The point is that qualified engineers who can actually build stuff get hired by actual companies and are paid actual money. If you have skills that can be used to make people money, then those people will pay you to use your skills because they have value. If all you have is "a great idea for a website" then nobody is going to pay you for it, because an idea is worthless. So there end up being a lot of "entrepreneurs" around that don't have any money to spend hiring employees to make things, and resort to trolling for naive and unqualified people to do the work for nothing but vague promises of future payment. When someone owns commercial space, they say "Rent is $X a month, pay or I will find somebody else to rent it". They don't rent out their building to someone who has a great idea for a company that could theoretically pay for rent in the future.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2011 [10 favorites]


When someone owns commercial space, they say "Rent is $X a month, pay or I will find somebody else to rent it". They don't rent out their building to someone who has a great idea for a company that could theoretically pay for rent in the future.

Needs repeating.
posted by scalefree at 12:05 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The breakdown here seems to be between ideas and inventions. Any schmuck can have an idea. In fact, the biggest schmucks often have the most ideas, and act like every one is a massive pearl of perfect wisdom. But to invent something requires both an idea and the ability to do the actual work to make that idea into reality. That we pay the idea rats more than the invention rats is a reflection of perverse incentives in our society, not that Brad, Brad, Brad, and Brad are actually more valuable than people who know how to make stuff.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:07 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love how, implicit in all of these, is the notion that developers never have ideas of our own, and that we're all just waiting for some smart Wharton undergrad to give us something to spend all our spare time on.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:28 PM on June 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


Which reminds me: I have a brilliant business idea (NO STEALING!!!!) and I need a few biology geeks to help out. It goes like this:
  1. Hire biologists (that COULD BE YOU!) to make a cure for cancer.
  2. Sell the cure for cancer for HUGE PROFITS.
Pay is $7/hour. If you work hard, you may get some equity. This is your chance to get in on the ground floor.

Memail me for details. Serious inquiries only.
posted by suetanvil at 12:41 PM on June 8, 2011 [21 favorites]


God you people are such childish, knee-jerk nincompoops.

Why don't smart developers just hire "business people" for $9/hr, then?

Seriously??? THEY DO. It's called 'on spec' or 'commission'. Have any of you snarkers tried to start any kind of business? Plenty if not most sales/biz dev people are hired on commission only or even on equity. Two of the start ups I worked at from 97 to '00 and then from '00 to '01 involved most of the business people working on spec. The were not paid until a contract was secured and they were not paid anything other than a small percentage of what their client was billed until either the company took off or they brought in the motherlode account. "Salary" was almost unheard of. Meanwhile the developers were making bank.
posted by spicynuts at 1:01 PM on June 8, 2011


suetanvil, this already exists. It's called grad school.
posted by grouse at 1:01 PM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Two of the start ups I worked at from 97 to '00 and then from '00 to '01 involved most of the business people working on spec.

I think I see what the problem is...
posted by muddgirl at 1:04 PM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm getting my MBA right now. It is kind of useful to see where some of the crazy ideas my company has gotten over the years come from. Now, they usually aren't that crazy to start with, but I guess when you have absolute sociopaths filtering ideas through their particular mental makeup things get crazy when the ideas emerge from that process.

But I'm taking project management right now, and it is like the fountainhead of crazy. Absolutely the wellspring, the Holy Grail of batshit insanity. Every day I read a new chapter and spend twenty minutes going 'what the fuck!? what...! how?! who...?!'

A sample of the delightful dehumanizing idiocy in this class!

So when you are doing project management, according to this thought process (Eliyahu Goldratt is apparently the founder of this school of thought), you're supposed to ask the person actually doing the work what they think the time would be to do the work. If they are seasoned employees and estimate a 90% degree of confidence in their estimate, cut their estimate in half. The thought process is that they're putting in extra time for possible impacts and so you can just add that onto the end of the project in case of delays while giving that person a cripplingly tiny amount of time to do their work.

What the hell what the hell what the hell.

So people who have no idea how to do something, who ignore the estimate of the person who does, think that it's appropriate to cut someone's timeline for completion based on some Israeli physicist/novelist's thoughts about project management.

I don't see how you align incentives with someone who thinks that timelines are imaginary.
posted by winna at 1:23 PM on June 8, 2011 [15 favorites]


So people who have no idea how to do something, who ignore the estimate of the person who does, think that it's appropriate to cut someone's timeline for completion based on some Israeli physicist/novelist's thoughts about project management.

Hmm, I wondered why projects seem to be managed like this all the time, everywhere ...
posted by moonbiter at 1:32 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I wondered why projects seem to be managed like this all the time, everywhere ...

At my job, developers estimate their tasks and their estimates are generally accepted as is. They have to account for 5 tasked hours of development per day.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:42 PM on June 8, 2011


I think a lot of people call the hourly pay their salary, either not knowing or not caring that salary is distinct from wage. (I count myself in the not caring group.)

Here is an example of a person in the "not caring" group.

I received an email from a friend of mine indicating that her husband had gotten an employee incentive bonus from his company, a $250 gift card. I emailed her back asking how he had earned the bonus. She said that he worked 70 hours a week for six weeks troubleshooting an issue and finding the root cause so that the issue would no longer occur.

Assuming his salary came out to $30 a year, if he were hourly he would have gotten $45 an hour for every hour over 40 in the work week for six weeks. That comes to a cool $8100 of overtime during that six week period. Not that he cared, apparently.
posted by Billiken at 1:43 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


cut their estimate in half.

That works for me, I always double my estimate and add a bit for when they cut my time in half. It is like an arms race.

Do you guys cover Planning Poker? That is my favorite time waster.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:44 PM on June 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


I received an email from a friend of mine indicating that her husband had gotten an employee incentive bonus from his company, a $250 gift card.

There seem to be two schools of thought on these "you worked super hard" gift cards. Some managers think it is a straight up slap in the face, and the business should just lay out the cash and have a lavish party or activity as a thank you, something that doesn't pin your time at such a paltry monetary amount. Some manager think it is better than nothing and the fact that it is a "gift" card is a bit more tactfull than handing somebody $250 in crumpled fives and telling them to buy themselves something nice.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:53 PM on June 8, 2011


No, but we're starting to use Agile at work, and just thinking about it makes me want to die.

My personal plan is when someone asks me what my degree of confidence is, I shall look worried and tell them I will just do my best. Then they won't know to cut my estimate!
posted by winna at 1:54 PM on June 8, 2011


Oh dear god scrum, what an abhorrent waste of time.

Q : What Went Wrong In This Sprint?
A : Wasted too much time in extraneous meetings. Forced to estimate project using ridiculous "story points." Compelled to waste time with "user story" paperwork.

DO. NOT. WANT.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:12 PM on June 8, 2011


Yeah, it's like this for hiring writers and editors too.

I just went and talked to someone (for a story for the MeFi Mag) about an ad they had up where they want a live-in copy editor, and they're talking about the problem that most people who apply are terrible and think they can copy edit because they can post blog entries, but because the compensation is all tied up with a free place to live and food, they can't attract people who actually have these skills and already have professional experience.

On the other hand, I often find myself with projects where I know there's not going to be any real money at any stage of the game (and I'm fairly terrible with conceiving of how a project pays for itself) but need a web designer to do a little bit of work to make it presentable. (i.e. the ad I have up on MeFi jobs now).

I've actually thought about hiring people to teach me to do web design rather than to do the actual design themselves, because it seems like a worthwhile skill and it's a lot easier to quantify. I could take a class, but I'm not even sure what exactly the best ones to take would be.
posted by klangklangston at 4:06 PM on June 8, 2011


Silly as these are, they're probably not as ridiculous as the 'great ideas' the Whartonite MBAs are peddling.

Yet somehow, entrepreneurship works. Probably 'cause founders of successful companies don't build great teams this way. (Just a guess...)
posted by Dr. Fetish at 4:21 PM on June 8, 2011


Having been part of two reasonably successful startup charities, one tech startup with an acquisition exit, and one startup which is doing very well indeed, I feel torn by this discussion. On one hand, joining a student startup led by student biz types is high risk. Student entrepreneurship can feel claustrophobic, and few students in that world have the experience to judge business ideas well.

On the other, I have seen some great companies start from MBAs and management consultants looking for something new to do. Just off the top of my head, Innocent Drinks and Laundry Republic are two great examples of this.

The complaining in this thread does not actually help anyone who wants experience in startups. And while I dislike the arrogance of David Heinemeier Hansson when he says that success is the best teacher, threads like this demonstrate that people with bad experiences sadly have little to say about what the positive alternatives are.

I wish I had time to develop this further, but here are some thoughts:

* Paul Graham is right when he says it's very unusual for tech teams to improve over time. People will generally only work for people who are as good or better than them. So unless you're already awesome, don't be the first tech employee. It will be difficult later to hire great people to fix your code, unless your half-done job is wildly successful commercially.

* If you want to be in startups, the best kind of first tech startup job is at a company which has money in the bank and less than ten people. If you have the talent to be part of a great team, they will hire you and they will pay you fairly. Hiring talented people out of uni is a way for startups to cut costs while also investing in people for this startup and potentially the next. After the company grows to fifteen or twenty, you lose sight of the big picture, so try to join while the company is small.

* Who's on their board? Who are the investors? Are they experienced people who are involved in the company? Are they committed enough to see the company through the next round of funding?

* If it's a tech company, the CTO should share meaningful power toward shaping the company as a whole, and the experience to manage a good technical agenda in a way that satisfies the business goals.

* If you're coming out of Uni, work with great mentors-- where your team leader is recognised in her field, and where someone great will have the time to mentor you properly. This means personal contact, availability to answer questions, and probably pair programming or code review. A good mentor will point you to helpful blog posts and invite you along to conferences. How do you find out who's great? Show up at tech events and look for the people that everyone respects. Not the people with fancy titles at famous organisations, but the people whose personal reputation for excellence is stronger than the reputation of their company. Work with those people.

* Stay away from teams that brag about running themselves into the ground. They overwork because they do not understand the nature of their work. They will probably not be able to help you become a great developer. They may let your mistakes go unheeded, until software and tempers explode. This is not universally true, but it's a helpful rule of thumb, I think. For example, my current company has reasonable hours and runs a hackday every month for work on personal projects (yes, we're hiring in London).

* Don't listen to people who complain about process (agile, scrum, kanban, whatever). Startups will *always* have growing pains. Developing new software always involves relearning how to do software engineering in a predictable, controlled way. Startups frequently have to change as the company explores what space it has to maneuver and succeed. As a company grows, good teams naturally repeat things often. Despite the naysayers, the principles in the Agile Manifesto remain a tremendously positive expression of good software development, and a safeguard against toxic situations to avoid.

* If you're in startups simply to become rich, go do something else. Being part of a good startup requires more than avarice; it requires an enduring passion about your work, your product, your business, your customers, and your team.

This is probably not very coherent, and I probably missed the most important things, but I hope this inserts some positive advice into what otherwise feels like a thread which is drowning in cynicism.
posted by honest knave at 4:47 PM on June 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


So...this isn't about Edith Wharton?
posted by pxe2000 at 6:39 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I consider myself very fortunate that I've pretty much always had the leverage to require control over project scoping & time management. If I had to conform to any of these ludicrous systems I think it would've driven me quite mad.
posted by scalefree at 6:54 PM on June 8, 2011


suetanvil, this already exists. It's called grad school.

Yeah, but I also offer free soda*.


*Well, until someone finishes the bottle.
posted by suetanvil at 7:22 PM on June 8, 2011


Don't listen to people who complain about process (agile, scrum, kanban, whatever).

Definitely true, and the team I'm on is shifting more towards agile development, but a Ukrainian friend of mine recently forwarded me an excellent quote: "Agile is like Communism--whenever it fails, people say, 'Oh, that wasn't really Agile'".
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:06 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm actually trying to think of a single successful tech company that was founded by MBA students without any actual technical chops.
posted by humanfont at 10:12 PM on June 8, 2011


Well, there's Oracle and Siebel and Salesforce.com but I don't think those guys have MBAs either.
posted by GuyZero at 7:56 AM on June 9, 2011


Oh thank god, I was just looking for an opportunity to make a lot less money while being talked down to by someone 15 years younger than me.
posted by 8dot3 at 10:06 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


A couple months ago the entire Stanford CS department got an email from someone trying to put together a groupon clone, the content of which was so over the top that I think somebody put together a commemorative t-shirt. I can't find it, unfortunately, but the author said something along the lines of "We hired some guys to build this site for us that's Groupon for [some European country] and those guys were incompetent LOSERS, and now we need a website in like 2 weeks or else we are hosed, so if you can do it you won't regret it! We will give you SOOO much equity you guys! We seriously ALREADY have money!!!"

I remember reading it and just thinking, wow, you must think we're really not very bright. You've already burned through one development team, and you think badmouthing them to your next potential development routine is a way to recruit? You couldn't offer me enough cold, hard cash to take this job, and these maroons were offering equity. Classic.
posted by troublesome at 11:25 PM on June 9, 2011


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