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(dis)employment March 15, 2007

Posted by andrea in thinky thinky.

I read a lot about how web dev shops (I’m sure among many industries) don’t get it, how workers are marginalized, turned into cogs in a wheel (yeah, I know my Marx). I totally get it. I, too, was like that. Working crazy long hours, dealing with difficult clients, no support from higher-ups, being billable is king, etc. I worked for a Big 5, in the US, no less – where shitting on people as you rise up is your God-given right, ’cause that’s what you had to endure. Quid pro quo.

I think there’s two problems: expecting that a company who touts innovation as their goal should have “employees”, and that “the talent” should expect some kind of loyalty to them.

Loyalty: in friends, and family it’s a wonderful thing. Sticking up for people who have nothing to gain or prove.

Employees: those beholden to the place that pays them regularly, to show up at an assigned time, and be there, even if they aren’t providing “value”.

We used to have a joke at KDEWPAG – “hey, it’s only 8:30, and I’ve provided value! Can I go home now?”

The monumental shift is in not thinking of yourself as an employee “one of the family”, but as someone who has intelligence, knowledge, and experience that they can sell. As a service. I don’t mean it to sound crass like people are rated on square-footage, but there is a certain price that companies are willing to pay for knowledge, and NOT have to pay for benefits, and vacation, and sick leave.

Loyalty to a company is dead, as I see it. Re-making mission statements, and company values, and all that kind of crap rings hollow to me. But I’m an extreme version of a non-joiner. Forcing camaraderie and cohesiveness never worked on me. Which is not to say I’m not a team player, I thrive on working with other people, trading ideas and making each other better. But I feel it when we’re actually doing the work, not when we’re talking about how we’re all a team.

So, having worked in various companies as an employee I used to be one of the instigators of “more autonomy” (bosses always hated me :-)). Now, as a contractor, I’ve pretty much separated my work from my being. Pay me to be there, I will be. Do I go the extra mile? Definitely. Will I help to solve client issues? Yes. Do I care about the work that I do? A thousand times yes. Do I give my best to whatever contract work I have? More than my best – if I don’t, I’ll know, and feel guilty about it. I can’t help it – I’ve never been able to phone it in.

Do I want a job title, and promises of “where you could be in 5 years?”. No. I don’t care about “the industry” and becoming “famous” (or infamous) as you’d have it. I love what I do, I’ve had the excellent fortune to work with some of the brightest people ever, and I’ve learned a lot as I go. I hope to continue doing that. But not at the expense of handing over my life. I have the best title ever…owner. So VP or Director or Manager doesn’t mean much, and the only thing I would do with people I had to “manage” would be to encourage them to leave, get out…and find their own worth, on their own terms.

Ach, what do I know? I’m just trying to keep it going…to avoid getting a real job for as long as possible (thanks for the quote, Bobby).



1. Steve - July 21, 2007


You a right. Thank you.

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