amw (amw) wrote,

same desk, new page

Changing teams at work has made a huge difference to my emotional health. I have been avoiding posting about this because I feel like writing about work is boring, but I need to get it down so I remember the signs for next time.

The team I joined when I started was headed up by a woman, which made me happy because I like to see women succeed in this male-dominated industry. Unfortunately women can still be bad managers.

B has several traits that I strongly disagree with. One of the most egregious is encouraging people to do overtime when it's clear that it will not help us deliver anything sooner. That really upset me when it first happened a couple months ago. I am senior enough to tell her to fuck off so I took the holidays I was due, but the young guys didn't and of course they didn't finish the work she demanded of them because, honestly, there was just too much to get done. When I confronted her about it, she said "well I didn't force them to work, and anyway they get overtime pay so it's in their interests to come in". What? It's 2018, not 1918! These days everybody knows that working more than 30-something hours decreases the quality of the product and costs more in the long run. When managers do not push back on overtime that doesn't bear fruit it's setting a bad example for the whole team. And anyway it should go without saying that if (specifically) the Filipino guys are that desperate for overtime pay, we should be paying them more by default.

Another thing that I really hate is mushroom management, where the boss explicitly tries to keep their guys in the dark about everything else that is going on. B said it was to help us focus, which is a fair point in theory. Managers should avoid sharing high-level political maneuvering and procedural faff that is not relevant to the individual contributors' work. But in this case by keeping us ignorant - even of things happening on our own team - she caused us to waste a lot of time building redundant and/or incorrect solutions that we only realized were useless when we independently went to talk to the people we had been asking to talk to all along.

The cherry on the top was her constant attempts to avoid taking responsibility. Aside from the usual amateur-hour problem of a colleague blaming other people for not being able to manage their own time or personal task backlog, she also refused to take responsibility for her team's output. I mean, that's the whole entire fucking job of a manager! When we failed to deliver, she blamed us and said other people would have done it faster. She didn't take responsibility for not helping us to be faster. She didn't take responsibility for failing to manage the expectations of the stakeholders. No, it was our fault that we didn't work faster. I only discovered she felt this way one day before switching teams, and it was a total gut-punch. What is the point of a manager who doesn't stand behind their guys?

Anyway, none of those reasons were the reason why I switched teams. The reason I switched teams was because B's team was working on pie-in-the-sky features with timelines of 6 months or more. That kind of work is extremely demotivating to me. I have worked long enough to know what I like, and that's not it. I want to deliver quickly. I want our tools to get prettier and faster and more useful every day. So now I have been put on the second-level support team. Part of that is answering customers directly, but a larger part is identifying and fixing all the bugs and quirks that the pie-in-the-sky developers left in their feature because they forgot to think about how real people were going to use it. That is far more rewarding to me. Unlike many developers, I do not consider myself a creative artist. I am a tinkerer, an optimizer, a fixer. Making the customers' lives better is what makes me happy.

But the remarkable thing about this move was how it helped me realize how much stress I had been under previously. I didn't notice it until it was gone. I am not lying awake at night trying to figure out ways to get B to do what I need any more. My new manager - D - is far less experienced on paper, but far more professional in reality. Every week he gives us a list of prioritized issues. He gives us the freedom to talk to exactly the people we need to clarify those issues. When we bring him feedback on the scope or give a technical opinion, he trusts us. Even though we have a torrent of work coming in, he never pushes people to do overtime. Of course, he's not from a developer background. And lo - yet again, helpdesk graduates prove to be far better colleagues than ivory tower engineers. I swear, if they forced every software developer to come up through helpdesk instead of university, our whole industry would have far fewer ignorant jackasses with oversized egos.

And I'm not just saying that as someone who came up through helpdesk.

Well, maybe I am. I only did a year of helpdesk before becoming a developer. But that first development job was at a tiny company where the developers also did customer support, so I was still doing semi-helpdesk for 5+ years. I think I'm a much better developer as a result.

All this is to say that the last 2 or 3 weeks have turned out to be the least stressful yet. Of course I am still exhausted. I still have no mental energy to deal with friends or acquaintances. I looked at WeChat the other day and I have messages from 2-3 months ago that I haven't even opened yet. But this is business as usual for me; in Berlin it was the same. Work - regardless of how stressful it is or isn't - takes all of my social spoons. In the evenings and on weekends I just want to have the time for me.

Last weekend I went briefly to a hostess club for after work drinks, but it turns out I was too sick to enjoy myself. I still need to write about that. I think hostess clubs are great. Oh yeah, I've been sick too. I blame the office air conditioning. At least at home it's as sticky and hot inside as it is outside. I've been playing computer games. Top game of the past two weeks has been Milkmaid of the Milky Way, which is about a Norwegian milkmaid in the 1920s whose cows get abducted by aliens. It was delightful.

Today I either plan to get out of the house and explore a bit, or get stuck into The Last Wind Monk, which is a German game about a guy with a nose flute in a land ruled by fascists who want to hunt down and kill the last of the nose flute guys. I figured it might be worth playing in German to keep my language skills honed. I am not sure if practicing foreign language A helps you with with foreign language B, but my Chinese is plateauing because of my lack of social spoons. I have some Chinese games like Flood of Light and OPUS: The Day We Found Earth, plus a small stash of sexy visual novels, but they are all text-driven and I haven't broken through to reading quickly yet. Maybe I need a Chinese game with voice acting to help me along.

I dunno. It's Sunday morning. I'm tired. I am going to make a coffee and then figure out what next.
Tags: career, gaming, my boring life

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