Previous Entry Share Next Entry
The Friday Five for 29 June 2018: Working
singapore sunset
amw
1) Do you enjoy your work?

No. There are times when I get to clean up sloppy code, and that is a good feeling. There is something aesthetically pleasing about taking a mess and making it concise, performant and elegant. It's also a wonderful feeling to solve a customer's problem, especially if you can do it quickly and delight them with something better than they expected. But those moments of enjoyment are outweighed by the fact that I am forced to work in the first place.

2) Are you overpaid or underpaid for the work you do (or last did)?

Vastly overpaid. This is one of my biggest frustrations about my industry and about the modern economy in general. Of course, everybody whose salary is higher than the median is by definition overpaid. When you consider the worldwide median, pretty much everyone in the "first world" is vastly overpaid for what they do. But for some of us it's particularly shameful.

Tech companies are the richest companies in the world, but they hire the least amount of workers. They can afford to pay their staff handsomely. Cold-hearted capitalists say that's fair compensation because workers at tech companies generate more economic value, but that kind of thinking makes me sick to the stomach. Plenty of other people work just as hard as I do, and are just as good at their jobs as I am at mine. Just because their industry's products are undervalued and/or regulated in ways that the tech industry isn't, doesn't mean their time investment should be worth less than mine. It's disgusting.

The income thing is a big gap between me and my colleagues. Just yesterday one of the developers in the office spent a few hours fixing a bug in an old system that nobody really understood how it worked any more. He joked he should get a bonus for having to work with PHP, and if they gave him a raise he'd do it more often. The context here is that PHP is considered the bottom rung of programming languages. There are languages considered "elite" like Scala, and languages considered "casual" like PHP. Java programmers believe they should be paid more money than JavaScript programmers, and everyone believes they should be paid more money than PHP programmers. When you move up the ladder, spending time on lesser languages is considered beneath you. So the joke is that the boss should offer hazard pay for working with the plebs. It's so entitled. The ridiculous thing is that any decent programmer can do any programming language, and the only real reason to choose one over the other is to capitalize on the knowledge base of your existing pool of talent. Regardless, even lowly PHP programmers are considered higher on the totem pole than QA (quality assurance/testers) and other technical staff who choose not to code.

The point is, this money thing is baked into the tech industry from the ground up. People chase titles like senior developer, or senior software engineer. (What makes a coder "senior"? Only the paycheck, that's it.) Technical lead. Specifically: technical leads who don't have any leadership skills and are not given a team to lead anyway. They just collect a bigger paycheck. Architect. Fucking architect, give me a break! Money money money. Fuck everyone.

3) What one thing do you dislike most about your work?

The sheer number of incompetent developers who believe they are great due to the aforementioned money and title issues. There are so many people in this industry who have inflated egos, and it's a problem from the C-level all the way down.

4) What one thing would make your work life happier or more satisfying?

The single thing that would make my work life better would be not being forced to work. I mean, even just a three-day weekend would make such a huge difference to my mental health, I think. But more realistically, in my current job, I would kind of like a touchscreen. I've only used a tablet at home for ~5 years now, so it's a bit annoying when I can't use the screen to scroll or zoom in the office. Yes, I am aware how "first world problems" that is.

5) Do you try to fit into your workplace’s culture? What does that entail?

The office at my current company has two cultures - the expats and the locals.

I briefly tried to get into the expat culture, which involves lots of coffee breaks, cigarette breaks and extended lunches. After work drinks is definitely thing, and so is after work dinners at very expensive Western-style restaurants. Some of the guys go on weekend hiking trips, which is something I also like to do, but I don't think I would go with them. I generally find them insufferable. The combination of rich tech douchebag with stereotypically conservative/racist expat is kind of the worst.

The locals hare more what I consider "regular" workers. There is a small amount of workplace socializing that happens - e.g. there are a couple of lunch crews that I don't join because they don't go to vegan-friendly places - but there are no problematic cliques and not much in the way of small talk or enforced fun. People come in, work hard, leave, the end. That suits me well.

The one quirk here is siesta/nap time. After lunch the lights are turned off for about half an hour and most people loll back in their chairs or schlump over their desks and sleep. I've started to get into this too. I don't always nap, but I do always sit quietly and do some reading on my phone or just rest my eyes and try to de-stress from whatever stupid things happened in the morning. This is a great piece of workplace culture I wish more places did.


Yes, kids, this was a hard and stressful week for me for various reasons I don't want to get back into. This is my blowing off steam post.
Tags: ,

  • 1
That siesta thing sounds nice, but personally I prefer just getting my stuff done and getting out of there. I probably should take more breaks even if that means I spend more time at work.

I think if you can push through 8 hours without a break then why not? For me having a break definitely helps me refuel for the rest of the afternoon, though napping during the break is very novel to me. I don't even nap in my home/personal time! It's taken me a few months to be able to get to the point where I feel comfortable enough to close my eyes and relax with my colleagues around.

You bring up an interesting point: what is work "worth" and how much do we pay for what it's worth. Free market people say, "What the market will bare", which is translated into "what we value". But - I don't think this is a good way of determining this because people don't have their priorities straight.

For example: professional athletes and movie stars make millions, yet electricians and plumbers make way less. We get really cranky when we have a leak in our plumbing or our electricity isn't working. What about road work, or work on train tracks, or those who fix our cars, pick our crops? It's taken for granted - not valued until it's missing.

People who work with their hands aren't appreciated enough - both financially, and intellectually. Quite honestly - I think "Elites" put them down, putting them on the lower end of the value we place on workers - kind of like your PHP coders.

But - paying everyone the same? I don't know. Would people choose to take the jobs that require the most personal risk if there wasn't good monetary reward?

Lots more one could say - but it gets very complex as we also consider 1st world vs. the rest of the world differences, racial and ethnic biases, greedy human nature, etc. etc. etc.....


Sorry I didn't get around to replying to this earlier, I wanted to have some time to think about a sensible response.

I think about this quite a lot. I don't necessarily believe that everyone should earn the same (although I wouldn't be upset if they did), but I do think that everyone should earn enough to be comfortable. I think what frustrates me is that I know my colleagues and I are being paid more than we need to live well, meanwhile a majority of the country is working just as hard while remaining in poverty. Even in rich (per capita) countries like the US there are tens of millions struggling to put food on the table and there is no serious effort being made to solve that.

What irks me is that lots of so-called "middle class" people don't think it's their responsibility to address this inequality. They think that because they aren't the 1% they aren't complicit. But a while back I did a back of the envelope calculation and figured out that if we took all of the money from the entire Forbes rich list and redistributed it back to rest of the world, we'd still only have enough for about a year of basic income. So it's not just on the billionaires to fix this - that not a long-term solution.

In my opinion we at least need a mandatory minimum wage that is indexed on living costs. No America-style loopholes for tipped workers. Most likely much more aggressive taxation too. And - because we live in the modern world - this needs to be an international movement, otherwise greedy companies and individuals will just zap their money to whichever country lets them keep the most of it for themselves.

I think there are lots of grand economic theories about how this could all work (e.g. taxing only property, taxing only financial transactions etc) but that's above my pay grade to figure out. I just wish more people felt like it was a collective duty to try to solve it.

I am so fucking tired of working with filthy rich tech workers who complain about their personal finances and then hound management for even more money when there are literally people dying on the streets because they can't afford food or basic healthcare. It perhaps wouldn't annoy me so much if they just admitted to being balls-out libertarians and said "well, fuck the poor, i worked harder so i deserve to live". They would still be wrong because of institutional privilege, but at least they'd be honest. I find it so exhausting to work with people who claim to be liberal or progressive and then still try to justify why their salary is so high. Or - even worse - they claim that poverty is a actually not a problem at all, and that all "poor" people are either secretly rich (welfare queens) or just simple-minded and happy with their lot.

I dunno, I guess in the old days people said you shouldn't talk politics or religion at work. But everyone talks money, and money is politics.

Edited at 2018-07-07 02:52 am (UTC)

  • 1
?

Log in

No account? Create an account