tunnel rat posted on October 12, 2007 18:52
I’ll have to detour around the One Week Job for a while.

The blogosphere is a wild and brutal ecosystem. Blogs are tied together in a multitude of conflicting ways, and on occasion, firefights break out. After getting under the skin of a few sanctimonious finger-waggers on another site, I was slandered by one such troll and had to fire back on full auto.

It started with a tongue in-cheek post inspired by something I saw on Craigslist:
...Even I had very bad experiences of doing business with Americans. I made a wrong choice to persue career in america. American companies never keep their word, they renage on their promises, find excuses to not pay long term incentives they had offered to employees at the start of employment. They constantly underpay H1 people and also use H1 as a modern day slavery tool to keep employees on payroll longer without much legal options...

...Also I found American companies and government are very "money" minded. They find out tricks on extracting more money. And I have to deal with such headaches and money extracting idiots everyday who are merely trying to take advantage of the situation to fill their coffers with no moral values...

...Seriously just like you cant stand Indians, I cant stand lot of things in America. When I came to US, it looked like a land of opportunity in the short run. I wish I was matured enough to know I was wasting my time in USA. Infact its not too late now, and I have decided I will go back to India in 1 years time. Cant stand bullshit!

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sby/rnr/444931998.html
I submitted that with my comments, under the title "H1-B Admits To Being "Modern Day Slave":


I stumbled across this on Craigslist. Just more proof that I.T. managers are using H1-Bs as indentured servants. Good job, Mr. I.T. Manager. In my book, any, and I mean any, Cheap I.T. Bastard that hires H1-Bs should be publicly shamed, their pictures and work addresses posted on the web like child molestors.
That unleashed a wave of passionate responses. If nothing else, I am controversial.

Then a troll calling himself Rat Poison decided to slander me by posting this crap (Xs are his):

We, the people, publicly shame XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, a.k.a. TunnelRat, a.k.a. I.T. Grunt, a.k.a. xxxxxxxxxx, for outsourcing U.S. jobs.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx was born July 18, 1966. After an uneventful youth, he flunked Pepperdine University and enlisted with the Marine Corps. He claims to be a Gulf War veteran, but in fact got a Bad Conduct Discharge before that war started.

After failing the Marines, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx went through a stint of alcohol abuse. He worked himself out of that to become something of an ASP.NET Guru. Because of his disorderly behavior he has never been able to hold on to a job for more than a few weeks.

xxxxxxxxxxxx, of Hungarian descent, is well known for infesting public forums with racist ranting towards Asians.

In August 2007, xxxxxxxxxxxxxx, after screwing up yet another project, illegally contracted a Pakistani worker living in Melbourne, Australia to clean up his WTF code for a fraction of his own earnings.
Damn, what a bunch of slanderous bullshit...It just demanded a counterattack:

yawn...

At first, I had to ask myself did I really say this:
In my book, any, and I mean any, Cheap I.T. Bastard that hires foreigners should be publicly shamed, their pictures and work addresses posted on the web like child molestors.
Because I don't have an issue with hiring foreigners, just H1-Bs. After all, I too am a foreigner. But in my haste, I could have mispoke. That is what they say John Kerry, aka Lurch, did when he said only stupid people join the military. I think I am pretty clear about the H1-B issue in my post, Curry Eating Wage Pirates.

So I checked the transcript, and sure enough, here's the quote:

In my book, any, and I mean any, Cheap I.T. Bastard that hires H1-Bs should be publicly shamed, their pictures and work addresses posted on the web like child molestors.
Moving on, it's time to make Rat Poison my bitch. Let the rebuttal begin:

I am not only of Hungarian descent, I was born in Hungary and left when I was four. My father sneaked into Yugoslavia and on a moonless night, drugged me full of sleeping pills, tied me with some belts to an air mattress, and swam two miles of shark infested waters to Trieste, Italy, where he declared asylum. For those of you prancing around in Che Guevara T-shirts, the communist regime we fled was hardly paradise; some people actually risk their lives to get out.

I know this picture was taken in Laguna.  And I have this shirt.
When I was 20, I dropped out of junior college and joined the Marine Corp. When my drill instructor got pissed off at me and asked "Dammit, TunnelRat, why the hell did you join the Marine Corps?", I shouted back "Sir, to kill communists, sir!" Because I was smart, he made me the scribe, just like the guy in Jarhead.

I ended up as a grunt, and spent the first few years in the Corps getting in and out of trouble. Minor stuff -- letting females in the barracks, drinking on duty, etc. I finally lost a stripe in Korea after a wild night involving the purchase of certain services and substances that the Corps took issue with.

I got my stripe back, ended up as a company radio operator in Kuwait, and after six years, got an honorable discharge as an E-5. That's a sergeant to you civilians.

Now, in light of the facts, that's some pretty lame sh*t Rat Poison is trying to pull, implying that someone with three rows of ribbons, including a Combat Action Ribbon, got kicked out with a BCD. But his ilk hates the military, so it's not surprising.

Now permit me to continue setting Rat Poison straight.

After 3 years of night school, I got a Bachelors, 13 years after my very first college class. I leveraged the skills I learned in the Marine Corps (getting things done, not being a pussy, working with a sense of urgency, good grooming, etc.) into a successful career as an Applications Developer.

Finally, I paid an offshore Australian programmer (nice Anglo dude) $30 hr. on a project for which I was getting $50 hr to write a few modules for a web app. Yeah, I paid him a fraction of my earnings, 60%. Since I had to do the code review and integration, I figured that was fair.

And I've never been able to hold a job for more than two years, because most of my contracts are 3-6 months stints. The few times I was an FTE (being in the Box, as I like to say), I got bored and underpaid.

As for you Rat Poison, I think you are getting lead poisoning from all the infected piercings on your body and it is impacting your ability to think rationally. Your post is a true WTF.
Flame away, Che fans.

Now, back to the show...

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tunnel rat posted on October 10, 2007 19:10

I drove down to the new gig on a crystal clear summer day, heading south past downtown Laguna. I parked in the back and headed up the creaky wooden stairs.

Bruce was in office, with a view of Catalina 26 miles away. He was on the phone. He motioned for me to sit down.

I waited. Five minutes later he hung up.

“Great, let’s get you started.” He stood up and walked me to my desk. A boxed up PC was on the floor. “I just ran out to Fry’s and got you this. Ask one of the guys to help you set it up. Let me know when you are ready and I’ll walk you through the app.”

Good job, dumbass, I said to myself. You took a job where you have to setup your own PC.

Ten minutes later I had everything hooked up. The PC booted. Windows Media Center. What the fuck?

I walked down to his office. He was on the phone again. I walked back to my desk. It was in a corner of the second floor with three other desks where young guys were banging away at their keyboards. I tapped one on the shoulder. “Do you know who takes care of the PCs around here?”

He shrugged. The kid was about twenty. “Check with Paul.” He pointed to some other guy on the other side of the office. I headed that way. Everybody was on the phone, banging away at a keyboard, or vigorously hunched over somebody’s shoulder, pointing at a monitor. I think I was one of four people over thirty, not counting the Mexican lady emptying the trash cans.

“Are you Paul?”

He took his headphones off. “Wassup?”

“Are you Paul?”

"Yeah."

“Do you have Windows XP? This new box has Media Center, and I don’t think SQL-Server 2005 runs on that. Plus, I don’t need all that media stuff.”

“Sure, no prob.” He dug through a pile of disks and handed me a disk that had “XP” written on it by a Sharpie. “The key is in the in-fo file.”

“In-fo?”

“Yeah, you know, dot-EN-EF-O.” He put his headphones back on.

“Oh, ‘.nfo’. Got it.” Freakin’ disk was from a Warez site.

Bye the end of the day I had my development environment setup. Visual Studio 2005, Sql-Server, etc. All loaded from bootleg disks provided by Paul.

To be continued...


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tunnel rat posted on October 5, 2007 18:58

I liken my career path to Cool Hand Luke’s experience. I am either on the run (freelancing), on the chain gang (contracting), or in the box (working as a full time employee).

Every waking day of my existence falls into one of three categories:

  1. On The Run: Enjoying my freedom while I make my own hours and call the shots as an independent consultant (much as Paul Newman’s character cavorted with whores and gamblers after escaping from the prison camp).

  2. Chain Gang: Doing my time as a hired hand on a contract job (like Luke toiling on the chain gang).

  3. In The Box: Sucking hind tit as a full time employee (when Luke gets caught running and gets thrown in a hole in the ground).


Unfortunately, it’s hard to make a consistent living On The Run. The market changes, the economy retracts, and suddenly there is no more work to be had as a freelancer. First the off-site gigs dry up. Then the Dice postings matching your skills get reduced to a trickle. You end getting caught by the Captain’s hounds and slaving away in the proverbial Chain Gang – as an hourly contractor on a shit project in a big company.



And then the contract works dries up, you make a break for it and get caught. You end up in the box – as an FTE. Full Time (Fuckin’) Employee. As the Luke says:

And you make a bad enough mistake and then you gotta deal with the man - and he is one rough old boy. OK?

You see, working as an FTE is like dealin’ with the man. One real mean son-of-a-bitch. You see, it ain’t man’s nature to be confined in a cube, taking orders from the Cheap I.T. Bastard, or the Clueless, Gayish CIO, or dealing with the Menapausal Bitch DBA or the narcoleptic network guy. Or folks like Charlie. It just ain’t right. It was like being in the Box.

So, I have to admit – I am one arrogant bastard. Like the fine ale brewed in SoCal, I am hated by many and loved by few. I am especially hated by the small-minded netizens that have been brainwashed into filtering everything they read through the prizms of sex, race, class, and gender.

Thus I have a hard time as an FTE.

But as the market turned south one summer, I had to look for a full time job. I resigned myself to going back in the Box. Like Luke, I protested…

You ain't dealt me no cards in a long time. It's beginning to look like You got things fixed so I can't never win out. Inside, outside, all of them... rules and regulations and bosses. You made me like I am. Now just where am I supposed to fit in?

 

But I answered the ad for a Senior .Net Developer that was posted on Dice. I knew it was full time, but my daughter was growing, and the mortgage payment was due. And the wife liked to vacation in Cabo.

“We need a solid developer. It’s a small, growing company in Laguna Beach,” the guy told me. It was spring in SoCal, I had just got fired from the Sweatshop in a Nighclub, which was also in Laguna. I liked Laguna.

“And the compensation?” I asked.

“I can pay what you are asking. 110 is no problem. Plus we have medical and –“

I cut him off. “That’s ok, my wife has a good plan. When are you looking to fill the spot?”

He got excited. “Well, uh, well, as soon as possible.” He was panting.

“I have to give at least a week’s notice,” I lied. I couldn’t let him think I was unemployed.

“That’s fine, when can you come in for an interview?”

“How about today at 2?”

“Great! See you then.” He hung up.

I found the place in South Laguna Beach. Barely. It didn’t look like a medical claims clearing house. Two stories, facing the ocean. Dumpy. I walked up the side stairs and opened the door.

The place was packed, all assholes and elbows. A rat’s nest of cubes and computers. Network cables where hanging like vines from the ceiling.

A middle aged lady was sitting at a desk pilled high with paperwork. She smiled at me. “Can I help you?” she asked.

“Yeah, I have an appointment with Bruce.”

“Down the hall, to the left.”

I found Glen in an office with a beautiful ocean view, talking on the phone. He waved me in.

I sat and waited for him to get off the phone and did a little recon of the place. His desked was pilled high with paperwork. Checks to be signed, NDAs, timesheets. He was dressed neatly, beach-business-casual. 17” flat panel monitor. Everybody else had 15” CRTs. I mentally logged the discrepency.

Finally he got off the phone. He got right to the point.

“Ok, I own this company and we do medical claims processing. We have a web site where doctor’s offices can send their claims, and we send them to the insurance companies. Get it?”

He rattled off those facts in a high-pitched tone. My gaydar went off. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I was in Laguna, after all. The BoomBoom Room was just up the road.

“HIPAA stuff?” I asked.

He grinned. “Yes. Now, I’ve got this programmer that has been working here for a few years, and he is giving me problems. He says he’s not happy.”

And what the fuck does that have to do with me, I wanted to ask. I hate bastards that start an interview by bad-mouthing their staff.

“Ok.”

“So,” he continued, “It looks like you have some good .NET and SQL-Server experience.”

“Yes, I’ve been working on the Microsoft platform for over ten years.”

“Yeah. I worked at IBM for years. Wrote a few compilers. Built my own operating system.”

“Really? So are you running SQL-Server 2005?”

“Yeah.”

“32-Bit or 64-bit?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

I paused. “What version of .NET? 2003 or 2005?”

“Yeah.” He started fiddling with his mouse.

WTF?

I continued. “Ok, so what is your code written in, C# or VB.NET?”

“Yeah.”

Nice.

He was getting excited. Typical ADD combined with OCD. “So what do you think? Can you start Monday?” he asked.

“I have to give at least a week’s notice,” I reminded him. He started shuffling through his papers. His attention span window was closing.

“That’s fine!” He got up. The interview was over. I was hired.

I was going back in the Box.

To be continued…


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tunnel rat posted on October 2, 2007 18:44
If you’ve ever been a freelance I.T. consultant, you may have had the misfortune of getting stiffed. It’s the nature of the business.

Some people, especially those of a certain ethnic or geographic persuasion, never pay retail. That means every invoice is subject to negotiation.

If you start work for a client on a time and material basis, there is a good chance that they may not pay you for it. After, what is the material you are delivering? A web site? An accounting application?

Most non-technical folks want a website, and they want one that looks and works like Amazon. Or Ebay. Or MySpace. They see it on their computer screen and think “What’s the big deal? That looks easy. Look, I can update My Yahoo page instantly, I don’t even know how to code. This whole programming thing is a con.”

Of course, they would never say to an architect “I have a plot of land and $5,000. Build me a replica of the Hearst Mansion. After all, I built a dog house/added a room to my den/put some shelves in the closet. I’ll only pay $5,000.”

But you as an I.T. professional are just offering a service, right? So why can’t you charge a fixed price, and accept that price, regardless of how many times the client changes their mind?

The truth is most non-I.T. folks are absolute fucking idiots when it comes to software.

And they will waste your time and not pay you if they can.

There are a few things you can do:


  • Never get behind on your billings. At worst, you are out a week’s work, not six months.

  • Give away some work. Let the client know you did some stuff off the clock. They’ll think you are a cool guy. Make it up somewhere else. Perception is reality.

  • Work through an agency as a W-2 employee. Trust me, you will get paid.

  • Never, ever, take on work as a 1099 independent contractor. Few clients will pay for your database model, your class diagrams, or your time and effort that you spent trying to create a solid application. All they will pay for is a site like Amazon.com or a billing application like Quicken. Anything less and they will feel raped. Violated. Taken advantage of. And in their little reptilian, non-I.T. brains, they will fuck you, the only way they can. Forget about that last check. “Sue me!” they’ll scream over the phone. Good luck in Small Claims Court -- that is where plumbers go to get compensated.

That gets me to me to the topic at hand – how to get paid.

After getting stiffed for about three grand in freelance work, I vowed to never get screwed again. At first, I took the logical route and had a lawyer put together a solid T&M contract. For a mere $2,000.

No mom-and-pop/ entrepreneur /self-made-business-man/bimbo-working-out-of-her-house/dipshit-doctor/travel-agent-in-a-strip-mall/kid-with-a-dream/wanna-be-Donald Trump/CEO-of-a-startup/next-big-thing-on-the-web-visionary/Joe-Shit-The-Ragman would sign it.

And this was the kind of client that tries to hire a freelance programmer. They can’t afford the rates that recruiting firms charge (plus, they never get past their credit checks), and they are too small-fry for big, medium or even tiny consulting shops.

They have one price in their mind – CHEAP, or better yet, FREE.

After getting burnt by these types a couple of times, and seeing my employers burnt by their ilk, I steered clear of such crap work.

So when I really wanted to get some Internet work, I jumped at the chance to build an E-Commerce site for a catering company. Not just any catering company, but one that delivered from restaurants to corporate clients. And it was W-2 through an agency, so I was covered.

I answered the recruiting company’s ad and met the client at a sports bar.

“We have a good data-model, and we just need someone to come and build the front-end,” the guy sitting across from me said. He was moonlighting on this gig. His day job was working for an high-end I.T. consulting firm, on a long-term engagement for Buy.com.

“Sure! No problem.” I was desperate to get some ASP work under my belt. The desktop VB applications I was working on were making me obsolete.

“Ok, the client wants to launch in six month,” Brad said. “We have graphics, a DBA, and I’ll be the project lead. My brother-in-law is the engagement manager.” He was dorky, very much a WASP. I would find out later he went to Penn State.

No alarm bells went off. Sounded good to me.

A week later, I met him at the client site. I walked into a shabby call center buried in an industrial park.

Brad greeted me, and introduced to the two brothers that ran the operation. It looked like a boiler room. People on the phones, some guys running around, trying to get the orders straight, delivery guys dashing out with paper work and to-go bags.

“Welcome to the jungle,” said Brad. “Your laptop is here.”

He walked me over to a cube in a corner of the call center. It was maybe four feet wide. And that was pushing it.

He shoved an office chair under me. One of the arms was missing. These were my new digs.

“Let me show you what we got,” Brad told me as he fired up the laptop.

Six months later, I had their web site ready for launch. There was one big problem.

Brad and his brother-and-law had forgotten to manage the scope of the project. So while they were out working their day jobs (Brad doing I.T. consulting and the schmuck brother-in-law doing sub-prime-mortgages), I was racking up huge billable hours building whatever the client wanted.

So I’m billing 12 large a month, once you add the agency’s cut, for six months, and the dipshits are looking at $72,000, and tacking on their twenty-percent. Since I was W-2, I always got paid, as long as I sent in my signed timesheets.

Mind you, the client was from New York, and his gray-haired uncle Vinnie would show up every week and survey the operation. From what I heard, the whole deal was funded with, let’s say, “family money.”

Needless to say, one day in the call center I overhead Vinnie saying to the client, “Wus wid dis shit? You don’ hav’ ta pay dis. Tell tha mudafucka’ to take a hike. Bring in a new crew!” The old fart was waving an invoice in the air.

It all ended badly. Big meetings, a lot of shouting. Then one day, a pack of consultants in suits barged in to the call center. The client came up to me and asked for the password to the server.

Next thing I know, my contract was up. Brad and his brother-in-law were out $50,000. Somehow, someway, these dipshits had gotten behind on their payables, and the client said to himself, fuck it, they said it was going to be about 35 large, and that’s all I’m paying.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Like most businesses in the late 90’s, there was a lot of shady shit going on. For one, Brad and his partner had violated the contracting agreement I had with the agency and hired me direct to work on another project. It was a website for the brother-in-law’s sub-prime company. What did I care? It was all gravy. Everybody was in sub-prime in SoCal in those days.

So after the big blow up with the catering company, I did some billable work for those clowns. I even talked them into letting me set up the site with my ISP, and I took a cut of the hosting costs. Residuals. The vig, as the Sopranos say.

I moved on. Picked up another contract. But I had one last timesheet from the catering company gig that wasn’t signed or paid. I had faxed it to the two dipshits, and never got it back. This went on for a few months.

So one day I check out the website for this sub-prime mortgage company. Nice. Clean. And I was getting $17 a month to host it. I dropped the boys an email.

“I was just wondering if you guys had a chance to look over that timesheet from the last contract. The agency won’t pay me until I send a signed timesheet to them.”

No reply, as had been the case for months. I decided to play hardball.

I fired up my FTP client and logged into the mortgage company’s site. After all, I was the designated admin contact.

I added a one line of code.

I had redirected their home page to nastiest, foulest, most disgusting website in the world.

Without a login, it showed thumbnails of bestiality…

…golden showers …

... pearl necklaces...

... a dirty sanchez or two...

… the fattest naked chicks in the world…

… and even trannys.

I got that signed timesheet in one hour.

You see, I will always get paid.


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Tunnel Rat posted on September 30, 2007 17:40

After my tour in ‘Nam, I decided to never be forced to take a full time I.T. position again. My wife and I agreed that I just wasn’t cut out for the politics, the dysfunction, the sloppiness, the outright unprofessionalism that is the norm for FTEs in most I.T. shops. As a contractor/consultant, I could at least choose my poison.

Plus, I moved around a lot as a kid, and not being born in this country, I was always the outsider. I would never fit in for any significant length of time in one place. I was a drifter. A gypsy. I hired gun.

I had little to show for my five years as an FTE (full-time-employee) at three companies (I’m not even going to count the job that I had for a week). My billing rate was less then it used to be, but at least I finally had some good .NET experience. With C#, I could finally ditch the second-rate nature of my Visual Basic background and start pitching myself as a real developer. And the C# market was heating up.

I first did a three-week gig at a sweatshop consulting outfit, where I was given a 10-year old Pentium 3 with 256 MB of RAM to work on. This was Visual Studio 2005, mind you, not Clipper. What kind of bozo hires a consultant that gets paid by the hour and then makes him work on such crappy hardware? The Cheap I.T. Bastard, of course. After the first week of getting pressured to meet the insane deadlines the assholes in that company had committed to, I decided to look for greener pastures.

Two weeks later I was at a big Japanese company, hired to do who knows what, I wasn’t sure, but it had something to do with making some enhancements to a time tracking system. I was done in a month and I sat around for the rest of the contract, blogging, learning .NET pretty well, and keeping my head low.


Once again it was like a stint in the Mekong Delta – my whole team was Asian, mostly Vietnamese. They didn’t talk to me, and I didn’t talk to them. No Friday lunches with the team in that joint. And the microwaves had “No Fish” signs taped on the doors because people gotten fed up with the stench.


I can’t help but think that they had hired me to meet a diversity quota imposed by HR. The place literally had a half dozen white guys on a huge floor of cubes – it was all Indians, Japanese, and Asians. I would pass the white guys in the hall and we would nod at each other, even though I didn’t know them – it was just the silent bond of those in the minority. Shove that in your politically correct crack pipe and smoke it.

Speaking of political correctness, I tracked down my spike in traffic to another blog, where the tone of my writing seems to have touched a nerve amongst a group of sanctimonious finger wagers. The I.T. arena is full of smug primadonas whose politics generally lean left (especially the open source world), and they love to see themselves as virtuous defenders of political correctness.

The truth is that they are a bunch of phonies.

My suggestion to readers is that if you want to read feel-good stories about how one overcame the odds to deliver high-quality software that made a difference in the world, go read the blogs from the Google folks.


Those pricks love to pat themselves on the back and share their tales of an egalitarian culture where each person is valued for their uniqueness and individuality, and the projects are all fun to work on, and nobody is mean, and if you don't like your project you can just switch to a different team, and everybody recycles, and they make you healthy vegan meals in the cafeteria, and they above all do no evil, and --

…Shit, I just puked on keyboard.

Anyway, my point is that I tell tales from the trenches, not from some sissified oasis of enlightenment like Google.

But I digress.

Getting back to the topic at hand, I finally landed a gig at a relatively mature dot-com that went public in the late nineties. I got past a tough interview with some real techy-types, and was hired the next day for a six-month contract.

I was resigned to keeping my head low, so I spent the first few weeks reading all their documentation, enhancing an existing app that was well-written, and basically doing things by the book. All was good – until I ran into her.

The Menopausal Bitch DBA.

I got called into her office because it was her job to review the stored procs before they went into QA. I had written a few for the application – very basic CRUD stuff. And they didn’t really have a standard, so I just followed the patern that the other developers on the team were using. I had included drops and grants, and assumed all was cool.

I had first met her as I was introduced to everybody the first day. She seemed harmless enough, a little frumpy, somewhat eccentric. I.T. ladies don’t show up on MILF sites too much, and this was no exception.

I sat down across from her and she started taking a red-pen to my code. She had pictures of an old golden retriever all over the place. And then she started lecturing me.

“You will declare variables as constants”

“This is wrong”

“I want this done this way”

Trivial crap. I nodded. And then she stopped making sense.

“You will not grant rights to public,” she said sternly.

“But the other developers do that because the DBAs forget to do the grants and the procs blow up because they don’t have the rights,” I said gently. Ever so gently.

“You listen to me, and you listen good! You will do things the way I say you will around here!” Her face was red, and her lips were pursed. Her head was shaking a little bit. She looked like she was having a hot flash.

I shrugged. “Sure, no problem, so you want me to take the grants out, or leave them in?”

“If you don’t do things the way I want, I am calling Greg!” Greg was my tech lead, the guy who told me to include the grants in the procs.

“Fine, you want his extension? I think its 3476.” What did I care, I just wanted clear guidance on how they did things.

She made a showy gesture of turning around and picking up her phone, all the while glaring at me. She got Greg on speakerphone. “Greg, I have that new contractor down here and he seems to have an issue with taking out the grants in his stored procs.”

“What’s the problem?” he asked. He was a level-headed guy, really sharp, and I liked working with him.

“I thought we weren’t going to put the grants in the procs!” she yelled into the phone. God, she was ugly when she was mad. Hell, she was ugly when she wasn't mad.

“Marge, we’ve been through this," he told her. "The DBAs are forgetting to grant the rights when they deploy the scripts, so my team is putting them in the procs.”

“Fine!” She hung up and glared at me. “Here, go make these changes. I’ll take this up with Greg’s boss and the head of the DBAs.”

“So do you want me to run these in QA?” I asked.

“You will not do anything until we straighten this out!” she snapped.

“Fine. Thanks.” I left her office.

From that point on, I stayed out of her way. She had a habit of using design meetings to go on long rants about how important she was and all the things that people were doing wrong in the shop. If you tried to reason with her, she would stand up, fold her arms, and say crap like “I am going to stand here until you decide to listen to me!” Total grandstanding shit.


But as usual, I got even.

After I turned down an offer to go perm at the place, my contract was up and I had to move on. I had another gig lined up, but for some reason, I had to do an exit interview, which is odd for a contractor.

My boss took me aside and asked me what I planned to say to HR at my exit interview. He was a good guy, retired Navy, EOD I think, and I didn’t have to bullshit him. I get along great with ex-military folks – its all about the mission to us. Screw the politics, ego trips, and phoniness; we get it done, and we couldn’t care less about the delicate feelings of the pansies, hippies, purple-haired geeks, over-pierced morons, and ditsy bitches we are forced to work with. We find a way to go through them, around them, or over them. Or we just frag them.

He wanted me to frag the Menopausal Bitch DBA.

“Look,” he said, “You’re the second guy who turned down a good offer to work here in the past year. The last guy said the same thing – he couldn’t work with that cunt Marge.”

“Yeah. That’s it’s a big reason.”

“Ok, do me a favor. Let that HR lady know that. I am sick of this cranky bitch getting in my way. What she needs is a good fuck.”

I thought about her dog pictures and laughed. “I don’t think that’s going to happen real soon.”

“I ‘preciate it.”

We shook hands. “No problem,” I said. “Consider it done.”

That was six months ago. Last I heard, the Menopausal Bitch DBA was still working there, stomping her feet, moaning in meetings, and making life miserable for the rest of the organization.


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Tunnel Rat posted on September 28, 2007 17:50

Like the Zodiac Killer, I tend to emerge from long periods of dormancy to indulge myself. One of my indulgences is to blog about idiots I have encountered in my line of work, which happens to be applications development, mostly web stuff.

There seems to be no end to the line of naïve, delusional, and audacious fools who equate the development of complex technical programs with trivial keyboard banging.

And most post on Craigslist.

For kicks, I like to harass these clowns. They are usually young, come from privileged backgrounds, and are digitally savvy, wildly narcissistic, but above all, logically challenged. They grew up in a world where everyone got an award for showing up. Thus, when they enter the real world, they expect everybody to look at them in awe and take them ever so seriously.

They hate details. They bore easily. They are the types banging away at their Blackberrys or laptops at all the meetings, ignoring whoever is talking. Oblivious. Arrogant. Rude. They say “whatever” a lot.

And they mass in urban centers, where they can bask in the comfort of their fellow well-to-do peers, taking jobs in dot-coms, hip retailers, and consulting companies. They hang out at trendy breweries and sushi bars. They are irrationally obsessed with their iPods, VWs, and global warming. I heard this written about Hollywood, but it applies to this crowd also -- they are so self-absorbed, it's like they have autism.

Many were busy dry-humping conceited party girls from their privileged high-school clicks to notice the dot-com meltdown at the beginning of the century. Too them, it was ancient history. Times were now different – this was Web 2.0, after all. Forget the old rules, there is fresh money chasing after great ideas! And dammit, they had those ideas!

And they post those ideas on Craigslist, trolling for suckers to share in their delusion.

It was there, in the Spring of 2006, that I came across this ad:

Basically I love to come up with new ideas but as one person can't do it all. I am sure there are others like me who with the help of others can take things to the next level.

This is a phenomenal opportunity to build a great social networking-site, like Friendster, but way better.

We need to launch this in 3 months, so I need someone to work nights and weekends in exchange for equity when we go public.

Shit-for-brains “Mr. Idea Guy” had already caught the attention of a few Craigslist pranksters, and they were flaming the hell out of him. Every other post after his was a sarcastic response, full of venom and rebuke.

“Get a clue, asshole! Nobody wants to work for free!”

“This ain’t 1999, dumbass!”


… and on and on it went.

I decided to get into the fray. I sent a cynical email in response to his post:

“Yeah, right dude, I can’t wait to work for you – for free, of course. You sound like a real genius! Let’s get rich together!”
I sent the missive from my desk at the Sweatshop In A Nightclub, not really caring that the email got sent from my company’s email domain. I had been at that shithole “interactive media” company for almost two years, working like a galley slave, and I was burnt out. I did crazy stuff all the time, just to amuse myself.

It was there that I had once secretly recorded an arrogant creative director (he was a young, vain Canadian named Jeremy) indulging himself in some theatrical conceit. Not that there's anything wrong with being from Canada.

I taped him in a meeting (concerning another over-budget, wildly under-bid project) where he was literarily pounding his fist in the table, screaming something like “THAT WILL RUIN MY ENTIRE CREATIVE VISION FOR THE SITE! THAT 90 SECOND FLASH INTRO MUST BE THE FIRST THING USERS SEE!”

BTW, I think the Flash intro is the genital wart of the internet. I'm sure the Flashers will flame me, if they can ever get away from Halo 3.

I then looped that diatribe over and over to a backtrack of Pearl Jam's “Jeremy”, with a little bit of the Cool Hand Look stuff from Guns 'n Roses "Civil War". It made him sound like a whiny, over-indulgent punk, which he was.

I then sent that audio mashup to a few co-workers. Over the course of the day, I could here the clip playing on their PCs:

...Jeremy spoke in...THAT WILL RUIN MY ENTIRE CREATIVE VISION FOR THE SITE!...What we got here is a failure to communicate...THAT 90 SECOND FLASH INTRO MUST BE THE FIRST THING USERS SEE!...Jeremy spoke in, Jeremy spoke...What we got here is a failure to communicate...THAT WILL RUIN MY ENTIRE CREATIVE VISION FOR THE SITE!...Jeremy spoke in, Jeremy spoke...THAT 90 SECOND FLASH INTRO MUST BE THE FIRST THING USERS SEE!...

You get the idea.

I didn’t take long for my wuss boss to call me into his office one morning. “Jeremy saw your little email. He’s a little upset.”

“What’s the big deal?” I asked. “He’s a big boy – he should be able to handle it. After all, he has no problems telling us how easy it is to code his wacked-out designs.” The Canadian (Not that there's anything wrong with being from Canada, per se) pussball had a habit of telling us programmers that if we just switched from .NET to FLEX, all of our problems would be solved. FLEX lets you write really nasty ECMA-script so that your data-entry apps can look like video games. Graphic artists want all apps to look like video games, because they are all compulsive gamers.

“Well, he’s a little weirded out by it.” Boss-man looked like his typical wishy-washy self, trying to be firm, yet metaphysically wetting himself. He made a good living out of appeasing who ever was standing in front of him. A while ago, it was a seething Jeremy. Now it was me. He could be as non-confrontational as needed.

Anyway, because of that stunt, I was already on the skyline at Sweatshop In A Nightclub when I decided to engage in a little bit of fun with my new friend from Craigslist.

First, Mr. Idea Guy sent me an email, stating that he figured out where I worked by going to my company’s web site. The freakin’ genius was able to figure this out by merely looking at my email address! Shit, I didn’t know who I was messing with!

Then, he called the first contact listed on the web site – the head account executive, some jerk with a fauxhak named Rowan. The guy was a sociopathic scumbag, a divorcee who had banged a couple of the AEs. I wasn’t too worried about him – I was already mentally checking out of that establishment anyway.

Mr. Idea Guy had sent his real name in his email and I Googled him.

UCI MBA….Some frat pics…and his profile was on some engineering consulting company’s website…

…And then, bingo…

The fool had a MySpace page.

Typical MySpace twenty-something stuff. Pictures of beer-pong games. Drunk looking girls in football jerseys. Captions like “Hanging wid de homies.” What kind of upper-class white kid tries to sound like a gansta? Pussies, mostly.Wiggers.

Some guy on Craigslist summed it up nicely:

I hate to have to put it this way but the white culture is extremely bland and could be labled as stale..I am soooooo sick of hearing white people try and emulate the Black culture..."Dog this, Dog that".."What up my niggah" and all the rest of the bullshit slang...I've even heard little white Newport Beach girls calling each other niggah...Another thing that truly irks my skin is when I see a White person crimp their no rhythm arm and churn out the Cabbage Patch Dance...Cmon now, you look ridiculous..Just stick to having zero rhythm and roll on about your business..



I actually used to have a pansy white boy hack programmer from the O.C. suburbs who had a habit of greeting me with "wuz up, my nig!" I gave him the stink-eye and started calling him "Cowboy."

After a few months, he got the balls to whine "Please don't call me Cowboy. It has a negative connotation among programers."

"Really," I said, standing up and backing him out of my cube. "You mean like 'my nig'? What conn-a-fuck-a-tation does 'my nig' have?" He skurried back to his office.

But I digress.

Anyway, Mr. Idea Guy had won some kind of engineering contest for making what looked like a tobacco bong, like a hooka or something, and he proudly displayed it on his MySpace page.

But then, Mr. Idea Guy somehow got my home phone number.

And he called me.

Big mistake, gansta wannabe.

I cussed him out royally and told him to go back to slipping girls Ruffies and gang-banging them on pool tables, which is what rich kids in SoCal do for fun. He threatened to call the police if I didn’t leave him alone, and then I reminded him that he was the one that had called me.

Plus, I let him know that at his age, I was humping a PRC-77 across the Kuwait desert.

But above all, I told him to get out of the fuckin’ Internet business.

As for Jeremy, he had his entire staff working on designing new business cards for six months, and then fled back to Canada, leaving his office plastered with site designs that looked like tattoo art and erotic etchings. None were ever implemented.


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Tunnel Rat posted on September 28, 2007 17:37

For the second year in a row, I had a job in the summer that lasted 6 months. And once again, it was in the medical business. Plus, it was a non-profit. And as usual, it sucked, just like TCTSRN. But at least I was a contractor.

I was starting to see a pattern -- most IT work having anything to do with the medical field sucks. It just attracts the biggest bunch of hacks. For example, here's a quote from a Senior Programmer Analyst who works for a Michigan HMO:

When I was in third or fourth grade, I just loved to hack on Basic. I still get to do that now, only I mostly do it in Perl and SQL.

- Dr Dobb's

Note the operative word here: hack. The medical vertical is infested with these types.

I tried to hold my nose and just code, but my boss was a clueless, sneaky bastard. He would take my into the copier room and bad mouth other programmers and ask me to fix their code. Of course, those guys were usually hastily hired, not given any specs, and thrown into to the deep end, working unsupervised for weeks at a time.

He went on vacation for a week and the project manager (another ex-military guy with some balls) and I tried to stage a little coupe de tat. You know, nothing special, just setting up proper QA environments, implementing code-reviews, unit-testing, some semblance of analysis. Basic shit.

Then the fucking idiot boss comes back and wigs out.

"We don't need a QA environment. We can test in DEV!"

"Don't test all the shopping cart -- it pushes real transactions to the production server! We don't have time to configure the sandbox!"

"All the source code is on my laptop! You don't need to see it!"

"My framework is the best! As soon as I finish coding it, it will save the entire project...I should have it ready in a few months, right before we launch!"

More on him later.

I'll fill in the details, but for now I have to do some real work. I have a primary client that I am billing 40 hrs/wk to (a foul VB.NET/ASP.NET site -- but it pays the mortgage, and the work is off-site), and three other projects that I moonlight on.

I am starting to get the blogging urge again. This is what serial killers must feel; the ever-increasing desire to do something very satisfying. And it looks like people are reading. I have some admirers and a few grammar obsessed critics (you know the old saying -- those that can't write, edit).

Plus my blog is up to about 150 on Blogtopsites, when it used to hover around 400.

So stay tuned, I have some updates from the trenches, such as:

1. The Menopausal Bitch DBA
2. God, I'm Sick Of Ruby Freaks
3. The Sweatshop In A Nightclub

... And More.


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Tunnel Rat posted on July 15, 2007 16:11

More to come about the One Week Job, but now it is time to shed some light on the shady practice of hiring foreign programmers at below-market rates. To do this companies must prove that they can't find qualified American developers.

There is no programmer shortage, just a bunch of fake job ads. According to Programmers Guild:

Last summer Americans were shocked by the 7th annual Cohen & Grigsby immigration law seminar3 in which immigration attorneys explained how not to hire qualified Americans during the PERM recruitment process. The solution is not to eliminate this token requirement, but rather to reform both the H-1B and green card processes to require a good-faith, open, and public recruiting process.


Here a lawyer explains how American companies can post bogus job ads to prove that there are no U.S. citizens available to take hi-tech jobs:

 

Furthermore:

This number is not fabricated, it comes directly from this:

Increasingly, Indian consulting firms (off-shorers and cross-border body shoppers) such as InfoSys and TATA, are operating in the U.S.A. and discriminate against Americans who are not of Indian descent. These firms pay wages that are 25% below market rate. This harms not only U.S. workers, but also U.S. consulting firms who can no longer competitively bid on public and private sector contracts.

 

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) vice president Phiroz Vandrevala even admitted that his company enjoys a competitive advantage because of its extensive use of foreign workers in the United States on H-1B and L-1 visas. "Our wage per employee is 20-25 per cent less than US wages for a similar employee," Vandrevala said. "Typically, for a TCS employee with five years experience, the annual cost to the company is $60,000-70,000, while a local American employee might cost $80,000-100,000. "This (labour arbitrage) is a fact of doing work onsite. It's a fact that Indian IT companies have an advantage here and there's nothing wrong in that. The issue is that of getting workers in the US on wages far lower than the local wage rate."

After a few days at my new gig, which sucks, I decided to get a little adventurous and post this on Craigslist:

Yes, I admit it –I get paid too much and do too little. In my last three contract positions as a C# developer I have made over $75,000 and spent most of my time sitting around. Considering all the training I have, not to mention the countless hours and dollars I have spent keeping my skills current, I can’t believe I can’t find someone who can fully utilize my skills and leverage my fourteen years of IT experience.

To give you an idea, I had one gig where I was hired by a giant Japanese corporation to making enhancements to an existing time tracking system. It was a three month contract, and I was done in a week. I mostly sat around for the several weeks, blogging, learning some new technologies, and knocking out the trivial tasks that were occasionally assigned to me. It wasn’t like I was scamming them – my manager pretty much told me to stop bugging him for things to do.

My next contract had me working at an established dot-com rolling out a new web site. They needed some back end work done and all I had to do was enhance an existing C# application that called a stored procedure, created a couple of text files based on some business rules, and FTP’d the data. For this engineering challenge, I was hired for a six month contract.

I was done in three weeks. That included UML diagrams, unit testing, documentation, and deployment.

For the rest of my stay at this dot-com, I rewrote their entire outbound data feed system using multi-threaded Windows Services that were entirely XML driven. That took a couple of months, but I needed to look busy. Too bad that their QA department was backlogged by several months, so the application gathered dust while I built NUnit tests and generated a 100 page technical spec with NDoc. I turned down their offer of a full-time job because I was bored and wanted to do more web development.

Most recently, I am at a dysfunctional non-profit that knows little about .NET. They make extensive use of clipboard inheritance and block-boxes written by long-gone contractors that are routinely disparaged. Every now and then one of the cowboys on the team will come by and tell me to copy a few hundred lines of code from some class and make a new web page that is sort of, kind of, like another one. If I suggest that maybe a user control is the way to go so that we can encapsulate the logic, I get a terse response and irritated glare. “We don’t have time for anything fancy – just get it done.” So I hold my nose, copy and paste, and dream of better things.

That brings me to your needs.

Do you even know what you are doing? Can you scope out a project, define the requirements, dictate an architectural vision, staff the job properly with talent, and oversee your staff in a manner that allows them to excel?

Or are you just another poser, throwing bodies at the problem, mumbling clichés and acronyms as your staff lounges, blogs, fiddles around with Ajax, LINQ, or whatever is cool and utterly irrelevant to your project?

Now be honest. You know who you are, so don’t call me. I’ll just get in your shop, figure out that you don’t know what you are doing, and rack up tons of billable hours. Of course, I’ll complete all the little assignments you give me in a fraction of the time you allocated on your Gantt chart, and then surf the net or dabble in XAML. All on your dime.

However, if you think you can keep me challenged and busy with meaningful, substantial work involving ASP.NET, C#, and SQL, I’d like to hear from you.

Oh sure, you’ll be skeptical and bombard me with all sorts of technical questions in the interview (maybe after you Googled for some), and I’ll answer most if not all of them.

We can talk about multi-cast delegates, Manual Reset Events, the maximum amount of threads that a Wait Handle can monitor, Datasets vs. DataReaders, @@IDENTITY vs. SCOPE_INDENTY(), inheritance and interfaces, yada, yada, yada…

You get the idea – I’ve been doing this stuff for a while.

But before you contact me, ask yourself these questions:

1. Can you keep a sharp, hardworking developer engaged, productive, and motivated?
2. Will you or your staff feel insecure if he knocks out deliverables at a blinding pace in a thorough, well-designed, disciplined manner?
3. Are you able to give this hired gun all the tools he needs? That means something other than the 14” CRT and the Pentium 3 that you throw at other contractors. (No joke, I actually had someone hire me at $50/hr to program in .NET on a P3 with 128 MB or RAM. This was a few months ago – needless to say, I left that gig after three weeks.)

If you are not already ashamed and indignant because you can’t meet these criteria, send me an email.

Don’t worry; I’m articulate, friendly and personable. I’ll be worth every dollar of my billable rate, and I won’t waste your time (that is, unless you want me to).

Posted in:   Tags:
Tunnel Rat posted on June 27, 2007 17:22

As the my team huddled tenatively around the DVD player, I played the scene from Casino where Sam (DeNiro) fires the redneck running his slots. Classic DeNiro...

Sam: Now you're insulting my intelligence. What's the matter with you...?
Redneck: I think you're overreacting.
Sam: Listen, you fuckin' yokel. I've been carrying your ass ever since I got here. Get your ass outta here.

 

I let the scene play out for a few more lines, and turned off the DVD.


Get your ass outta here!
Godamn, I wanted to say those words to Charlie, and the TAC also. In fact, I wanted all of them out.

"Man, I love that movie," I told the boys, smiling. They looked back at me, shocked. It was like I had just shown them a hard-core bestiality video. Fuckin' pussies.

I leaned against the conference table.

"Now, don't get me wrong, nobody's getting fired. But I do need to make a few things clear. We got a lot on our plate, and there's huge pile of work to be done by the end of the year. So I just want to let you guys know that I'm counting in you..."

Silence, and some shoegazing.

"...And I've been in places where companies lost faith in thier development teams. It happens quickly, and it ain't pretty." I scanned their faces for any hint that I was getting through to them. Nothing. I was embarassing them, and they didn't like it. I continued anyway.

"I've seen guys tapped on the shoulder, and then never seen again. I've been in shops where they outsourced the whole operation to Indians -- guys I liked to work with were kicked to the curb..."

"What, is there uh problem?" Burning Man asked.

"No, not yet, but we have a lot of work to do." I checked the clock -- I only had a few minutes left before I lost the conference room.

"Oh, and one more thing -- this company has a pretty good deal going for some of you guys with this 9-80 deal, and I'd hate to see someone on my team cause them to pull that privilege." I needed to let them know that I was on to their shit -- their coming in late, leaving early, and in general, being royal jerk-offs.

Charlie rolled his eyes. Mr. Coffee looked like he was running late for his daughter's basketball game. The TAC was confused. The three Asian guys all had something in common -- they weren't listening.

I have a theory that most Asians think white guys are stupid. I mean, after all, while most of my cracker friends and I were trying to score some good bud or fingerbang Suzy Rottencrotch, guys like the TAC were cramming for a Trig exam. Most didn't even get laid until they were well into their twenties. I don't think the TAC had ever even smelled pussy. So, by default, I was some kind of idiot in there eyes, unless I proved otherwise.

The tree hugger spoke up again. "What, is somebody on this team taking advantage of that policy?" whined Burning Man.

"No, just a heads up." I started packing up. "Thanks a lot guys."

Now, I don't care of someone comes in, kicks ass, bitches and moans, but generally, gets the damn job done. They can work two hours a day for all I care. But these clowns were far from productive. When they did get something done, it looked like a stinking, runny pile of feces...

...the TAC, with his stored procs that had more lines than the manuscript for Infinate Jest...

...Mr. Coffee, who built an entire web app with hard-coded links to a stylesheet that resided only on his computer, and then did nothing when the CIO called to inform him that he could see nothing but a black page...

...and Burning Man -- with his pretty hair, CD collection, and ignorance of the most basic IT concepts...

..and Charlie...fuckin' Charlie...

Hiding, dodging, slacking, engaging in all sorts of mastrubatory coding exercises that accomplished nothing -- I was sick of it. And I've been carrying their sorry asses since I got there, and like DeNiro's character, I was tired of it. I was ready to get my weekends back and my life in order. By then I didn't care what my team thought about my antics. I was in full frontal assault mode, and I was going to clear this damn tunnel.

The crap had started to seep into my family life again. The night before, after several glasses of wine at dinner, my wife and I had gotten into it after I started bitching about work.

"What is with you?" she had asked. "You get these jobs, they work you to death, and everybody you work with is an asshole. Maybe you're the one with the problem!"

Well, she did have a point -- I was an asshole. But I got the job done. These guys on my team where assholes, and got nothing done. But that was about to change.

I just had to make an example out of one of them, and Charlie was it. And that train had left the station.

When I came in the next day, Mr. Whiteboard called me into his office.

"Don't worry about Charlie anymore," he told me. "Everything will be taken care of next week"

Fuckin-A! Now we're talking, I thought to myself.

"Thanks. Look, I'm sorry about all the trouble I've stirred up. I appreciate your support."

"Ok," he said. He stared at me blankly. The meeting was over.

I was stoked. Charlie was on his way out. I could get some things done now. And since the Online Query App was out the door, I wasn't going to have to work this weekend. I called my wife and made plans for dinner.

When I came in on Monday, Charlie's cube was empty. The little snake didn't even say goodbye. Maybe he was escorted out of the building on Friday. He was sure worthy of it.

But now, I had to clean up his shit. All of his unfinished work would need be prioritized, rescheduled, and eventually, coded, mostly by me...

...I had to buy some time from Ferris and the other stakeholders. Man, it was a lot, and then there was that Suicidal Caller thing that the clueless, gayish CIO wanted done...

...and that Archive tool...

...and I had to get the TAC back on track...

...plus, Burning Man was going to have to set up the new servers by himself, after he learns what IIS means...

My phone was ringing -- it was the HR lady.

I got fired that afternoon.

It was like I had chased Charlie deep into to the tunnel, had him cornered, and at the last minute, he pulled the spoon on a grenade that blew both of us up.

I saw the ad for my old job on Dice the next week:

Title: Supervisor, Applications Development
Skills: VB.NET, ASP.NET, SQL Server
Tax term: FULLTIME
Pay rate: Market

The ideal candidate will have experience supervising the work of others as well as knowledge of developing and making changes to applications in Microsoft technologies such as ASP, ASP.NET, C#.NET, AJAX, VB 6.0, MS SQL Server, Web Services and XML.

Examples Of Duties: This position will provide first level supervision which involves accountability for assigning, coordinating and evaluating the work of subordinate staff.

1. Develop and make changes to applications in Microsoft technologies such as ASP, ASP.NET, C#.NET, AJAX, VB 6.0, MS SQL Server, Web Services, XML etc.
2. Design and develop, with the help of DBA, MS SQL Server database objects (tables, stored procedures, functions, etc.)
3. Develop software that meets requirements and provides desired functionality.
4. Work with consulting group and technical resources to analyze requirements and define solutions using Visio, Visual Studio etc.
5. Test implemented software changes to ensure functionality, stability and scalability.
6. Develop and deliver required technical documentation.
7. Participate in project and design meetings.
8. Resolve complex technical issues.
9. Follow defined software development methodology.


Mr. Whiteboard was going to have hire another SAD.


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