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The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job
3

The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

(OP)
This article came up on Slashdot, and is linked to an article on Atlantic. I wonder just how complicated these jobs were. Was the first guy fired because he had automated himself out of work, or because his automated self was doing crappy work?

--
JHG

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

He go fired because he was lazy, selfish, and had zero work ethic.

He was obviously overqualified for the work assigned, yet, for 6 yrs lived off the dole, essentially. He could have offered his services to other departments or asked for more responsibilities or other things to automate. Instead, he decided the "right" thing to do was to pretend to go to work and goof off 40 hrs a week. I'd fire him for his crappy (non-existent) work ethic.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

These people aren't being paid to be coders, you can't automate that. They are recognising and eliminating waste in their repetitive manual jobs. Like Stanley Windrush in the 50's satire: I'm alright Jack.

Steve

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

Well, coders by definition write code. If he could automate his job like that, I also wouldn't say he was being employed appropriately. Which brings us to the real issue - the company.
I suspect most of us have had the joy, at some point, of labouring under some clueless middle management type who wouldn't recognise or care about improvement or innovation unless the upper levels told them to. Hell, they wouldn't be capable of an original thought without specific instruction. If the guy was locked into a place like that, for whatever reason, AND WAS ON SALARY, then, *is* it ethically wrong? The company still gets the value they paid for, in a most basic form of the transaction.
Personally, I get bored too easily to be able to do that. I'd be hunting for other things to do within a week, after the shine wore off.
But, it's an interesting ethics question nonetheless.

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

Quote (Mongrel)

clueless middle management type who wouldn't recognise or care about improvement or innovation unless the upper levels told them to

Very true. I've heard of the guy who was given job, office, and then spent 4 years waiting for someone to come over and give him an assignment. Then his contract expired.

I guess "the middle manager" was told that he has to employ the programmer, but was never told why.

I am worried more about places where "system administrators" spend countless hours manually browsing thru files, looking for who knows what, doing meaningless tasks, 95 % of which could be done by a script.

So, what is more ethical, automating your work or putting job security first?

And by the way, what will happen when script stops working and the guy who wrote it is no longer with the company?

"For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert"
Arthur C. Clarke Profiles of the future

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

Fired because he mis-managed the Penske file...
https://youtu.be/8sCJMjuEkpw

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

"spent 4 years waiting for someone to come over and give him an assignment"

We hired a lump on a log like that. He was perfectly happy sitting in his cube, reading trade mags, and waiting for someone to give him an assignment. Gack!

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

@IRstuff: So, in your company you don't tell new hires what they are hired for? Are they supposed to walk around begging for work?

"For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert"
Arthur C. Clarke Profiles of the future

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

They're hired for a position, not a task. The tasks are assigned by the manager, and if you're sitting there without a task, then you're that George in Dilbert. Seriously now, 4 yrs of doing nothing is is likewise a bad work ethic; either that, or he was playing League of Legends with the other guy.

Is that the work ethic you want to teach your children?

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

I see so much in terms of processes that never gets fixed because you don't have anyone who is lazy enough to want to put in time to fix the problem. A quote that is attributed to Bill Gates is "I choose a lazy person to do a hard job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

""I choose a lazy person to do a hard job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it""

But, they can't be so lazy that they don't report that they solved the problem months ago. I'm not like that; I once had a supposedly VERY DIFFICULT floating point divide problem on a processor that was supposedly going to require months to find a solution and I wound up reporting that the root cause was identified after the second week (I actually figured it out the first week banghead and reverified it several times before I reported the solution the following week, which then closed out my contract). But, that would have a clear violation of ethical principles had I dragged it on.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

@IRstuff: Can we keep my children out of it?

"For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert"
Arthur C. Clarke Profiles of the future

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

I'd have laid off both programmers' managers for failing to supervise their employees' workload and methods, not the programmers themselves who are obviously significantly better than their predecessors.

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

I've worked several places that fired people for not finding work. Managers think they are too busy to bother with the task. I think that is a piss poor manager.

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

That's a new paradigm: employees are expected to act as entrepreneurs, without getting entrepreneurial share of profits.

"For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert"
Arthur C. Clarke Profiles of the future

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

I have had to beg for work at several places but never in consulting.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

"employees are expected to act as entrepreneurs, without getting entrepreneurial share of profits."

Haven't actually seen a case of that in this thread. If anything, they essentially kept the company from realizing any productivity gain there might have been.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

Quote:

they essentially kept the company from realizing any productivity gain there might have been.

Disagree. Their management kept the company from realizing productivity gains, not the programmers. Individual employees typically have (at most) project management and project budget control, not product/project line control and should not be jumping/billing other projects without management's approval. I can understand disciplining an employee who sat idle a few days without informing management, no manager needs to know employee workload or methods 100% and helping management like this is a matter of basic courtesy. However, an employee sitting idle for years is on their management as clearly management is clueless to both workload and methods and unable to extract value from their employees. I'd wager at some point during this time these employees received positive feedback from the same clueless managers.

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

I don't disagree that the management was obviously incompetent, but an employee taking advantage of that incompetence for their own gain is not someone I want as an employee either. They could have done the "right" thing by telling their incompetent manager that they automated the process and need more responsibilities, but they didn't do that, and instead they kept it a secret and wasted away years where they could have been doing something productive that would have helped them further their career.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

Just to stir the pot a bit: Let's say this guy had, in fact, told his manager that he automated the job. If the manager isn't capable of understanding what he's talking about, or interested in finding out, then what? It's entirely possible to explain in explicit detail something that you've done,and have the middle management type in charge of you just glaze over and pass you off with a "well done, now get back to work". So then you stop and think - maybe there's no other work for you to do at the company. Maybe the job market for your specialisation is saturated, and you can't see another job on the horizon very quickly. And hell, you're getting paid a salary to produce a certain result, which is happening. I can see where the guy would decide, well, I told the boss, he doesn't care, and I have a secure job here. How hard do I really want to rock this boat?

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

"I can see where the guy would decide, well, I told the boss, he doesn't care, and I have a secure job here. How hard do I really want to rock this boat?"

Sure, but wasting 4 years playing League of Legends? That basically makes that guy a "doesn't care" guy too. Apparently, he didn't share his app with any co-workers either.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

there is really no defense for either of these sluggards. they should have both been sacked as soon as they were found out

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

They were hired to do a job. They did the job. Nothing wrong with that. Why should an employee feel obligated to deliver more output than current market conditions suggest his pay is worth. If employees are to be entrepreneur's as individuals even while working for a company then finding ways to deliver the requested work for less personal input is their right. What is the employees motivation to improve his efficiency if he gets a small fraction of the benefit in return. I know the old moral rule from prior times about everyone doing their best at all times is ingrained in some peoples thinking but recent corporate management trends have eliminated that motivation in anyone who thinks about his situation as an employee. We are told from some corners that it's every man for himself. Well ya reap what ya sow they say.

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

"We are told from some corners that it's every man for himself."

That's basically anarchy, which is the opposite of civilization. We don't shoplift the grocer simply because we can and because they don't have sufficient cameras or whatever.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

Whilst this discussion is about coding , automation can happen in other ways too. Back in the 70s I worked for a company that had a printed circuit board division. They were making jumper cards for a cable company, thousands of them. The workers took the cards printed like a bunch of postage stamps, sheared them apart in one direction, then the other direction to get the finished card. They then had to deburr the card. They were paid on a piecework rate for this. I made a frame carrier to enable the entire pc board layout to be put into a turret press, found a flat punch and die set of the correct dimensions, and in 2 minutes produced an hours worth of pc jumper cards. When the boss saw the number I had produced at the price they gave for the hand produced cards, he went berserk, calling me a cheat and refusing to pay.
Of course this kind of reaction is what causes people who find quicker easier ways to do their job to shut up about it.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

"When the boss saw the number I had produced at the price they gave for the hand produced cards, he went berserk"

This is one of the guys that should definitely be sacked; luckily, not all managers are that dimwitted. A halfway smart manager would have immediately recognized the opportunity to multiply their profits many-fold. He would copy your approach, hire one guy at a fixed hourly wage to do what you did, fire all these other guys, charge the same amount for the product, and make out like a bandit.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

Ir,
They did not do that. We had a group conference with my manager, the industrial engineer and the companies general manager. I got paid a small bonus for coming up with the idea, the industrial engineer re-planned the job utilizing the new methods, I had, come up with, and they set a much lower piecework price for the job. I never did get the original piecework price for the original batch of parts produced by the new method under the old route sheet.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

I was giving this some thought while commuting the last week.

I think the problem is not the employee, not the manager, but more the company culture.
If you somehow automate your job, your employer could say "Good job!", give you a big bonus, and put you to work on something more important. Or they can say "Great! Well, we don't need you any more, don't let the door hit you on the way out!" So accomplishing that could work very much in your favor, or could put you out on the street. I would venture to guess that most employees have a pretty good idea of which way this would go at their particular places of employment. And likely, the ones mentioned in the article simply acted accordingly.

Note that a third avenue is, having figured out how to automate your job, simply don't do it and don't tell anyone, and keep doing things the old way for the benefit of job security.

I remember a former boss bemoaning the fact that "Employees don't have any company loyalty anymore, not like in the old days!" Now, this was at a construction company, and their practice, if a crew ran out of work, they got sent home, no hours, no check, no pay, so basically just laid off the minute they hit a dead spot. So the company had zero loyalty towards employees, but couldn't understand why employees didn't have loyalty towards them. But employees do figure this stuff out, and if you're out the door the first time the company can save a nickel doing it, employees are going to keep that in mind as they go about their business.

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

J Stephen,
You used to see that a lot in the aircraft industry. They would have a contract for a finite number of aircraft and as the contract wound down, people would get slower and slower, because they knew, that when those parts were finished they were out the door.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

Somewhat related post about finding one’s own work and being an entrepreneur.

I just started my second job and have ended up in a similar situation to my last workplace where I have no real day to day tasks and I have the opportunity(trying very hard not to take it) of being lazy similar to the programmers in the story.

This is more of a sanity check than a request for advice. Are engineering corporations like this everywhere nowadays? Does anyone train or manage young employees? I have yet to work somewhere where I feel like I’m not sitting on the fringes of a dysfunctional corporation. I am perfectly fine taking ownership of a problem and don’t need to have my hand held, but I feel as though I am adrift in an ocean trying to be useful in some way.

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

The issue is really more that most managers rise up from being normal engineers, and the faster a company grows, the more likely it is that the managers don't know how to manage, mainly because they've not had good examples.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

It looks more like managers are rising from people who don't understand what engineers do and how they do it.
So they are totally clueless about how to task engineers and how to follow-up.

"For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert"
Arthur C. Clarke Profiles of the future

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

"people who don't understand what engineers do and how they do it"

Not necessarily; just because you know how to follow orders does not mean that you can generate multiple orders for multiple people in a meaningful way. This is pretty obvious on any of the cooking competitions where individual chefs are great, but they often suck at trying to get a team to a common goal.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

Quote:

So they are totally clueless about how to task engineers and how to follow-up.

Sounds like the worst variety of inefficient management - micromanagement. Managers shouldn't be assigning tasks, only projects, they have enough to worry about firefighting their team's various projects' needs and reviewing work/direction, budget, schedule.

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