I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more

I had an exit interview at my old employer. It started with a question from a HR person about what I liked and – maybe, even – disliked about the company.

After that, it consisted mainly of me telling the HR person “what I really disliked was X”, and the HR person responding that without X, everything would soon end in chaos and destruction. Never – so much was clear – could a company function without X. Everyone does X, and for good reason.

Snippets, from memory:

“Well, people could just not show up if we switched off the time tracking system”

“How would the team lead know you did anything if he isn’t the only one who can merge your code?”

I didn’t have root on my workstation, for security reasons.

I had, however, root on all web-servers. For one site, I did the paypal integration, credit-card handling, and invoice-generation. But installing vim – nope, had to call IT for that one. Too dangerous.

We used svn, but with a branch-heavy git-like workflow. Either of those is fine, but the combination is just maddening. Switching to git was deemed too time-consuming. True: there is little time left if every merge takes hours.

I switched teams a lot in the three years I was there. I had good team leads; and they left the company. I had bad team leads; those tended to stay. All of them where well-meaning, but that alone doesn’t help much.

This is a random assortment of boring anecdotes, because “random” and “boring” is exactly what it was. It’s hard to describe the lack of something. It’s easy to feel, though. I had a script that counted the working hours backwards, until the end of my apprenticeship.

It’s not that any single thing was so bad that one just couldn’t take it; it’s not that they were downright evil (well, the CEO spent one Christmas in jail, as a suspect for tax evasion, but it’s not like we made land mines or something).

It was the combination, the sum of it all. The continuous river of bullshit, that never-ending smog of politics, and HR, and all those stupid people with stupid titles, and stupid rules, in stupid buildings, talking about stupid numbers in stupid excel sheets, and stupid code monkeys, and stupid “senior engineers”, and stupid “lead architects”, and the CEO’s white Porsche Cabrio parked on the street I had to take to get to the tram, and all that for little money.

I hated it.

There are, of course, many companies like this. What I suspected, but was not fully convinced of until last year, is that there are also companies which are not like this. At all.

I’ve been lucky enough to work for one of them for exactly one year now.

And what can I tell you? It’s chaos and destruction, we don’t have time tracking! We all have root on our workstations, it’s blood everywhere. The walls are collapsing and it’s raining in, we have automatic deployments. People are dying everywhere, we don’t have any middle managers to tell them to breathe.

It’s so empowering, and interesting, and fun and relaxed – it’s fantastic.

And there isn’t a collection of anecdotes here, because I don’t even know where to start. The year here was so full of great things, and I didn’t take notes.

I didn’t have to.

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