Sunday, May 06, 2007

My Employer is Doomed but Will Not Die

This is kind of whiney rambly, but bear with me. I've been wanting to blog on these things, but I never get around to doing it, so this is more like a brain dump.

It's been about nine months since I started getting the feeling that my employer's long term viability was in question. As the company shrank from eight to four, and then almost three, I have accumulated more and more concrete evidence. The past month has been a really strong reinforcement.

About three weeks ago the CTO decided to do some maintenance on the servers that are hosted at a third party co-location facility. He shuts down the machine that acts as our source code repository and then can't get it to power back on. So he hauls it back to the office, where he is able to power it back up but warns us that we need to back up our code just in case it goes down for good.

So our company's intellectual property was being hosted on hardware now known to be unreliable. Moreover, it was on the company's private network, so now neither developer could access it from home.

I asked the CTO if he could punch a hole in the firewall so that we could then at least access the repository that way. He said it would require making arrangements with the DSL provider, and that it would take a minimum 1/2 phone call, but he'd get it done. It never happened.

Last week, he talked about moving the revision control server from his desk to a server closet in the company. That didn't happen, either. Why it didn't isn't totally clear to me, but I do know that the CTO and the other developer wasted all of Friday that week trying to figure out how to make the CEO's brand new Blackberry phone access her e-mail on the company's Lotus Notes server.

Further adding to my stress was the lack of hardware with which to test my code. The network protocol involved is supported by a wide range of devices, so the CTO suggested we test it on a switch on our internal network. He said it should support it. I located the specs on the product and determined that it did not support that protocol. It was a lower end version that supported only a web administration interface.

He then set up a spare laptop to provide another test device. When it came time to test my code, that laptop's hard drive had gone bad. I wound up rigging my work desktop PC with some tweaks to be the test device.

The big code drop/demo for which I was on the critical path has been put on indefinite hold. The company with whom we were trying to secure a deal started to hem and haw about the cost of the work estimates.

Earlier this week, our CEO traveled up to meet the person who was apparently in charge of the decision. She said that they're stalled on some internal snags that have arisen on another project. Moreover, the company is in the midst of a nasty battle with an activist shareholder, so management is paralyzed.

It's all probably for the better because the engineering staff at that company still hasn't sent the use case that we were supposed to use for my demo. I've been coding blind in the meantime, trying to guess what they might need.

Also part of that code drop was supposed to be a similar Java product that the CTO had supposedly written a couple years ago. I asked him for a copy of the source code so that I could model my C++ implementation on it, thereby maximizing interoperability. He said that it was up in the source code repository. I searched for it but only found a skeletal implementation that did nothing but idle for so many seconds. I asked him to see if he could search his own computer, just in case he never checked it in. I've heard nothing about it since. I suspect it was vaporware.

Another item on our work plan was the implementation of some modules that the CTO was responsible for. He's been promising that he'd do these things for months now, going as far back as last fall, but he never gets around to doing them. I don't think they ever will get done.

With the big deal on ice, they have been trying to schmooze out a new short term deal with a friend of our primary angel investor. I have no idea how our product will help that customer, and judging from my conversation with the CTO, neither does he. I think they'll do whatever consulting work it takes to get some money, just to live another day.

I need to get myself in an environment where things get done... SOON!
blog comments powered by Disqus