Money Talk

Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems is probably one of the biggest pieces of wisdom to come out of a rap song. Even thought not many people will come out and ask you, how much money you make, plenty will start the getting to know you process with what do you do for a living. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that, the reality of relationships is that they all have some kind of basis in also economic principles. If I cannot afford to go to a luxurious vacation, or the trendiest night club where a bottle is over 100 bucks I am going to have to decline invitations. However, it is all personal choice and not a rule. I know people that have plenty of money but still prefer to go to the local watering whole.

Most employers have a do not talk about your salary policy. I completely agree with that notion and never want to find out what my coworkers make. It is bad every single way you look at it, if you make more they feel bad, if you make less you feel bad, if you make the same probably both of you are going to feel either more qualified or harder working than the other. I also saw how a company finding out the IT department’s salary wreck havoc on many relationships there.

My first job out of college I was lucky enough to have landed before I graduated. At graduation I had a job and an above average salary for a recent graduate. While this was not the best job I have ever had it did teach me a lot about what it is to be a professional. I learned many lessons that I apply even today, and even though at the end I felt like money wise I was getting the shaft, I still have to thank them for the opportunity and experience I gained in my years there. We supported a sister company with their system. It was a call center and many of the people that work there became friends with us over time. We would go there to set up something new on their computers or just to install new servers. I used to go there a lot because of some sales call where they needed technical people as well as doing some business analysis for new reports and features.

The president’s secretary was a chatty girl that always wanted to know more about you than what was really appropriate for a professional setting. I did not dislike her but I always had my guard up when I was around her. For corporate reasons the company decided to merge health plans, our company had 10 employees the call center about 100. The little snag came about when a report with our salaries came through the front desk before being handled by HR. The president’s secretary took it upon herself to disseminate our salaries to certain people and before the end of the day we were the talk of the call center.

Our next visit there was not pleasant. Some people had looks of resentment on their face, others were right out rude towards us. “You make too much money seemed to be the theme.” Nobody wanted to exchange pleasantries and we became relegated to only communicating to the people that were at “our level.” It was sad, but it was a reality I had to learn, some people cannot handle the thought of you having something they don’t. Envy is a powerful demon to have descend upon you… it can override even knowing a person for months, even years.

Since leaving that first job I worked on consulting and made almost triple what I made on that first job. I was never completely happy with consulting for a set firm because at times they put their needs before the client’s needs. I have enjoyed consulting independently a lot more, but what I truly love is working for a set company where I am part of the staff. I do not make nearly as much as I could have if I consulted but I am very happy… more money means a lot more pressure plus a lot more traveling and that gets old quickly.

One of the past companies I worked for I was making good money but not my best paid job. I tried not to think about what other people made, we had a pretty large department and I had made some personal relationships there. My boss ruined that when he informed me while giving me a review that I made a lot more money than the other people that worked there. It was a strategy to make me swallow a 3% raise when I was really expecting something around 6%. After the speech of insurance and other potential bonuses he dropped that nugget on me. It weighted heavily on me that I made more money than others. While the biggest reason for me making more money was because I had some very specialized certifications the company need to be supported, it did not feel fair. Some of the people working there had been loyal to that company for more than 5 years and now I knew what range they were on. One of my friends there told me he was interviewing and I was happy for him until it did not pan out because he was not going to make much more money and the move meant more drive time. He told me how much he was offered and even that was about 20K less than what I made… it made me feel pretty horrible because he was a very hard worker that was dedicated to doing a good job… maybe he did not have as wide range of skills than I have and some of the technologies he was working on were outdated, but overall I felt we should have been closer in range.

Many companies clean up their IT department as soon as they are getting too expensive. It is not an uncommon practice that almost fuels the job hopping IT professionals are sometimes famous for. You get new unexperienced people and pay them very little and let got of your seasoned people that are costing you too much. I am lucky that I don’t have to worry about these kind of problems anymore and that I have no clue what the other people at my company make. Ignorance is truly bliss when it comes to how much other people make.

The Dirty Truth Behind Software Development

One of the blogs that I enjoy reading the most is HitCoffee, partly because it is very well written by a fellow geek, but mostly because I can get several topics sparked by just one of the posts there. A recent post about the tango that developers, QA and project managers dance, made me think about what I have learned about software development during my career and I commented…

Every programmer that I have met thinks that they are awesome software designers, however I would venture to say that only about 10% are truly good at it.

Will replied…

Software developers have an amazing capacity for arrogance in general. They really seem to believe that everything would be better if they were running the company. I’ve met MBAs with more humility than a lot of programmers… and I’m thinking of some programmers around here that I really like!

I wrote my first line of code when I was about nine years old. Now it is probably pretty common that a kid that young will customize their myspace or even write a full html page, but back then it was not that common. I was lucky that I went to a school that had IBM clones that we were taught how to use. One of the surprising things about the U.S. education system to me was that even though they had the resources, the computer classes I took here were actually way behind from what I learned in Colombia at a high school level. I will some day write more about that disparity, but I just wanted to give myself some credibility here, when it comes to computers and writing code, I have been around it for quite some time.

We all think of doctors and lawyers as the ultimate arrogant professions, and while some of them probably are, a lot of people in the IT field have a god complex. I have met several programmers that like to use the term programming god. Some of them truly think of themselves as better than others simply because they can read computer code, or have memorized every single intricacy and function of a programming language.

I have no idea why I was spared that faith of becoming arrogant about programming. I do think I am above average when it comes to programming and I am also excellent at bug tracking and solving. That does not make me a better person, just someone that has patience and good logic. I however respect people in other professions inside and outside of my field.

The challenge that companies face is that communication breaks down as soon as their departments stop talking to one another. I was hired at one company because I could potentially bridge a broken relationship between marketing and development, and while I was able to facilitate the running of the projects I was involved in the relationship never seemed to get better. You had web developers trying to be designers and vice versa.

The good software architects that I have met were actually poor programmers. Big picture people tend to either forget about the details or the users. Teams of people seem to make this issue less painful, but all parties need to be truly involved and willing to comprimise.

I learned early in my career that the more I simplified the software I wrote, the more people like the features I implemented. Color coding things has always been something people respond to because it gives them another way to memorize things. I also try to apply a the little principle that computers are better at remembering things, but humans are still superior at make decisions. When I have to leave something up to the user I balance it on that scale.

Almost every programmer that has been in a company for a while thinks they understand the business side of things. However, the business side of any company is a living entity that constantly changes, the bigger the company the bigger the changes. Users are very clever and will use features in ways that they were not intended… do developers then adapt them to do the right thing or remove them?

That is when I think some of the disconnect happens. In situations like this it should be a consensus between the development team and the business that ultimately dictates the direction. Most of the times it is only one of the sides that dictates the direction and that leads in the best scenario to friction and in the worst it least to lost company productivity.

Software development is a lot of times like single life, you date different companies and try to do your best for a while but eventually you want to move on. You feel like you have so much to offer, but you are not appreciated, listened to and could do so much better. The good relations come when you have commitment and truly want to marry a company, truly start to think about what would be best for the company and not what is going to make you seem smart and clever. A programmer can be revered as a genius, but if the software they write is not usable or does not solve the problem it the end its a failure.

I play WoW

It feels a little like coming out of the closet (no homo), because since I have been playing the trial I have been keeping it quiet. MMORPGs are quite addicting and I knew I would love the game. I could never get into games that were quest based unless there was a sense of going in with other people and doing stuff. I also admit that if it was not because I am playing with people I know, I would probably have quit playing right after the trial ended.

A couple of weeks ago a guy started working where I work and at first I thought his love of StarWars was going to be the extent of what we had in common. The person that he replaced was probably the only person that I did not truly get along with at the office. I thought, I have to give the new guy a chance. The more I got to know him the more I liked talking to him and he seemed to enjoy our little chats. We went to lunch and he mentioned WoW and like I always had when someone tried to get me to play I replied with the I cannot do something that will conflict with my already busy life.

He then started a very methodical and successful campaign to get me to play. He prayed on my open mindedness to not let my past negative views on the subject. I had a coworker that had played Ultima Online for over 8 years and felt almost obligated to keep playing because of the time he had already invested in the game. I also have met several people that let WoW control their lives. He told me it could be all of those things if you let it, but it is up to the person to control the game and not the other way around. He told me he ran a guild and he would help me out if I was ever interested.

I love sports, but if my wife wants to do something else instead of watching a game I am all for it. I also have been able to stop playing other games in the past with relative ease. I realized that maybe I had to try it for myself before I judged the game since, well the name Logtar did come from a blizzard product.

The first week was rough. My wife had heard all of the horror stories about people’s life’s being ruined by WoW… marriages had ended… people had lost jobs. I questioned my sanity for even downloading the trial and spending any time playing it. Then I realized that WoW is a game with a very active chat room, specially if you are part of a guild.

I started to level up pretty quickly and then my buddy from work created a character to help me level. I got myself into a lot of trouble because I went into a cave and was surrounded and pretty much dead. Then he came to the rescue with a healer at the last minute. I though, that is awesome. We went on a couple of quests where he backed me up and it was very entertaining, but I still was not sure about continuing my WoW career after the trial.

This past weekend was when I got to play the most. We had a dinner party for Earth Hour that was very cool, and the next day was pretty much a lazy day. Then I ended up getting a little WoW in and I was advancing pretty fast. For only spending an hour or two a night my character was already over level 10. Then my buddy who after attending the dinner party and getting along and acquainted with most of my friends is now becoming a friend too jumped into WoW with one of his level 70 characters.

He said, I am going to take you on an instance. Just stand back watch the show and grab the loot. He ask if anyone in the guild wanted to join and we ended up with a party of 5. I am sure anyone that has played WoW has been to the mines a couple of times, but I was there for the first time. I had seen the open areas and done quests on my own but had not gone into a place that felt almost like a totally different game. I also got to see some of the bigger cities on my way to the instance.

I have played RPGs before and they have always bored me. Even when playing with another friend, there are areas that are just insanely difficult and you just have to keep on playing them over and over. In WoW, to even out the odds, or even stack them up on your side all you need is a group of friends. I don’t think without having a guild I would have had as much fun as I had this past couple of weeks.

I know what some of you most be thinking, but seriously, until you actually give it a try don’t base your view on the game on someone you know actually being swallowed by the game. I think it is all a matter of you being in control rather than letting the game control you.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

So one of the most anticipated games for the Wii has come out! and in what a way. I saved all the gift cards that I got on my birthday to buy this game. I had put a copy on hold and picked it up! Bea is playing it right now and having tons of fun :) Best Buy actually got 50 Wii consoles today, but in less than 30 minutes they sold out. Other stores around the area got 100 of them and also sold out. We also had put money down on the second guitar for the Wii, and picked it up this weekend. Bea already Hello Kittyed up. I guess the Wii is going to have an amazing weekend when it comes to sales number. If you feel lucky enough to be able to beat me :) come and challenge me… here are all of our current friend codes. Leave yours in the comments.

buy at Amazon.com
Wii Code: 5819-2355-3304-5713
buy at Amazon.com
Super Smash Bros Brawl: 3050-7251-5160
buy at Amazon.com
Guitar Hero III: 5412-8125-4161

*** Update ***

Check out my review of the game over at BlogCritics. Nintendo Wii Review: Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Going Straight to Hell

I can totally try to blame Chimpotle for this one, but in reality I have been racking up my hell points way before I met him. He would be proud to know that he has become a bad influence in my life. He just posted about two hilarious sites, and even though laughing at them should be enough to get me the one way ticket there, my brain had to once again take me to the place where the little devil in my shoulder lives.

The site is called Garfield minus Garfield and it is as simple as what it sounds like but it packs all kind of hilarity in that simpleness. Garfield has been one of my favorite cartoons my whole life, and John Arbuckle has always been such a secondary character that even Odie scores higher in my book. When I thought about it some more I figured that if it was not for Odie, Arbucle would be the male version of a cat lady. Still not hell worthy that I called a cartoon character what most people consider the lowest level of the social inadequacy meter. So what is it that I thought about and did that has such negative connotation?

Before I get into that I want to illustrate my previous low moment and reason that Chimpo is not the sole reason that I am going to hell. I was sitting inside the office at a company I worked at busy with writing computer code and accompanied by a couple of my coworkers. It was a small company and we did not really have a receptionist, so when the sales people would go to lunch, people would walk in and eventually be face to face with programmers. Yes we are almost like mythical creatures in companies that rarely get to see, and maybe due to good reasons. For the most part it would be people that ignored that no soliciting sign that ended up changing places like five places because my boss said that people did not see it.

So what pushed me over the edge on the highway abyss that time? A guy with a voice box. Even though I know that people that end up having a tracheotomy and are subjected to speaking via a voice box for the most part (at least the ones I have met, which surprisingly is up to like 3 now) have been people that caused harm to their own body because of smoking, I still think that laughing at them is wrong. He walked in asking for directions because his car had broken down, it was hard for all of us to keep straight faces because he sounded just like Ned from South Park. I held my breath for as long as I could and I was refusing to make eye contact with anyone else in the room. The guilt of making fun of someone with a disability was the motivation for not laughing at the moment, however I saw out of the corner of my eye that one of my coworkers was doing the same and turning purple. That made everything even funnier so I could not hold it anymore and started laughing along with the rest of the people in the room. The guy did get directions after we got our composure back and he was not offended, but it was still wrong. Funny, but wrong.

Something along those lines happened when I saw the Garfield site. I happen to know a 40 year old virgin, and as hard to believe the veracity of this claim, I would not want or know how to check to see if it was true. I know other people that also know this person, and his cat lady like reclusion. I could not resist the urge to not only laugh at joke, feel guilty for it, then laughing some more, but I had to share it with someone. I then proceeded to share the joke with some of our mutual friends, and while it is wrong to make fun of my acquaintance for being a real life John Arbuckle without Garfield, its freaking hilarious… I know, I know, I am going to hell.

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