LowComDom Performances Presents
The Crapolla According to Fek'Lar
You Know You're DOOMED When...
your manager puts you in charge of an important project but "doesn't want you to spend any time on it."
You've stumbled onto another issue of The Crapolla, a journal written for software professionals. No not the managers; I mean the people who do the work.
This Crapolla is sponsored by...
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In This Issue...
In this big hypertext-linked to the gills issue, we learn why Costco & Fry's are key metaphors of the software business.
The Sillycon Valley is full of different people. The fact is only a small percentage of us were born and raised here. That means we in our daily life meet people from far off lands. You know, Japan, India, Vietnam, Outer Boston.
Software in The Valley is a unique sub-culture. Those of us who have been in The Valley and in the business awhile have grown up in it, but to the newbie, it's quite a shock. At Titanic Software we like to use a mentoring program to bring people up to speed not only on the company's products, but on the culture.
Unlike wearing the emergency 24/7 pager for a week, Mentoring is what you make of it. On day 1 I had left a message for the Mentee to meet me at Costco. For those of you in other countries, Costco is a big warehouse store where you can by a 50 gallon drum of Hershey's chocolate syrup, and just as much ice cream to pour it on. There's an awful lot of bargains here, but the downside is no service, and you have to dodge forklifts. Shopping at Costco is impersonal and there's a strip search at the exit. My Mentee proved to be anal retentive, punctually finding me wearing my "This Blows" t-shirt in the movie section.
"Why are we at Costco?" Grasshopper was just a kid right out of school and thought he was Raymond Lau. What he had yet to learn was Lau got his degree after he was a millionaire. I hate it when they think they know everything. Reminds me of - me.
"The software is up front."
What Grasshopper didn't know is that software isn't what comes in the box. My cousin and I fight about this all the time. He's in hardware and keeps telling me that I sell hot air. But software is even less than that. Software is where an idea becomes a tangible thing. Even what we really sell you is less than matter. We package the idea into a pattern of subatomic particles. Grasshopper was of the opinion that software was long hours and hard work. I think software is about being clever.
There are two ways to eat lunch at Costco, you can pay for it, or eat for free; each has it's advantage. When paying for food, you get to choose what you will eat, and demand exacting specifications. When eating for free at the many tables of Costco free samples, you take what is handed out. Sounds like software to me, not that Grasshopper figured this out for the first week and a half. I sent him home with instructions to meet me at Fry's Electronics the next day.
"Why are we at Fry's?"
"Can we eat here?"
"Is there a history of heart disease in your family?"
"Are you diabetic?"
I use Fry's as an example that having a great product isn't good enough, or even required. There are lots of great products, but it's the company that pushes an aggressive product at near zero cost that wins in the end. Fry's sucks, but it's cheap, big, and has driven almost everyone else out of retail electronics in The Valley. It's also one of the cheapest places to by cases of Diet Coke®. In the software biz, there's lots nice people with great products who should have ruled the world, only to lose it all because someone else came by with something not as good, but a hell of a lot cheaper.
The shopping cart was full of soda and junk food. We had a contest to see who could eat more of it before getting to the cash register. There's few things more gratifying than dumping a shopping cart of empty wrappers onto the check out counter.
"When do I get to set up my computer? I need to fill out the insurance forms. What's my email address?" Grasshopper was suddenly a great big question mark. Being the control freak I am, it was time to kick him down a notch.
"You will set up your computer when I tell you to. Insurance? It's a startup company - get real. You have no email. How can you? You haven't even set up your computer yet! We are not standing in the middle of this store with chocolate on our faces to play 20 questions. I am investing my very valuable time teaching you about the software business! Do you realize I could be at the movies right now?"
It's a rough three weeks on the Mentee. There were times I didn't think Grasshopper was going to figure it out, but he did. Somehow they all do. For Grasshopper it was in the middle of that lesson where you learn why DHCP and jelly-filled donuts are really stupid ideas. He started catching on, and then the job became a lot more fun for him. It's hard to watch them flounder in the beginning.
Now that is without a doubt one of the best questions I have ever been asked. It deserved what I had never given Grasshopper up until then, a straight answer. "You know how an athlete will take their time about getting ready for a race? There's stretching, taking steroids, warm up heats, etc. The Geek does the same thing. One does not just roll out of bed at 11 am and start thinking up brilliant code. It's a slow process of raising both the blood sugar and caffeine levels in a delicate balance. Next we must put ourselves in the correct frame of mind to build the proper pattern of zeros and ones."
"The body of the Pillsbury Doughboy."
The end of the ceremony marks the end of the mentoring program. Three weeks of going to movies on company time, Twinkie® Shooters, and ten pounds gained. It doesn't matter if Titanic Software goes belly up or IPO. Grasshopper is ready for whatever happens.
Let's play, "Who said this?"
Heard in the halls of various software companies.
"She looks like she bought a set of Lee Press-On Tits."
"I can't wait to own a washer & dryer. Then I can start having fun with my quarters."
"It's deployed, however it doesn't work."
"I'm attracted to men who are childish & irresponsible."
"You've shown great restraint around us."
"I just turned 35, and I spent this weekend proving I'm at my sexual peak"
"He ain't that good, but he's better than a blow up doll and less expensive than batteries!"
We've just run out of Pillsbury Doughboy body parts.
(Destroyer of Laptops - Morale Officer - The Last Honest Geek)
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