Sunday, July 1, 2007

Time for some changes

Its been an interesting week. As readers may be able to guess, I've been looking for a new job, and that usually implies leaving the current one. This week its been formalized that I will finish out the remainder of my current contract, ending in September, and I will not be offered a new one.

Its very much as case of the girlfriend dumping you before you can dump her, and the consequent bad feelings you have about it -- even if you intended on leaving in the first place. But the reasoning they're giving me is just so horrible, perhaps relating it to you will give you some idea of what I go through.


To continue, it may help some readers to know that my workplace is essentially all English speaking (for the programming section). In specific, all of my bosses are very good at English. They are most definitely far better at English than I am at Japanese. Yet, with the help of an electronic dictionary, I am basically able to read and mostly understand most Japanese language e-mails.

English ability should NOT be considered an onerous requirement for my co-workers.

The Reason

Back when M. was in a period where miscarriage is most likely, and having already miscarried once before (while I was working for the same company no less), she was having problems again and was ordered by the doctor to remain in bed. This means to save my child, I would need to do all cooking and cleaning for M. The only thing she should do on her own was chew and go to the washroom.

I wrote an e-mail into work, saying since M. was in this condition, since I may be doing this for a couple weeks on end, and since I had no vacation days to use (and there is no provision for sick or nursing leave), could I possibly work from home? I asked this because I know that some people from work do in fact work from home, even now.

The reply I got was simply amazing. I was told that no, it was impossible to work from home because its bad security and against regulations, so no one is allowed to do it; and I needed to take vacation days, since my situation was not considered "special circumstances". (I counted two lies there.)

They claimed afterwards that it was all a misunderstanding, but even giving them full credit for having their intentions in the right place, the only way they could have misunderstood my meaning (given their fluency in English) was if they simply hadn't bothered to read my mails in full, and instead of thinking about my condition, simply leaped to the pre-made excuses that minimized their own trouble (which is a trait I've noticed for a long time at my work -- everyone is too busy to do their job properly).

So given my level of stress, and their apparent lack of compassion, I got a little mad and wrote a bit of a scathing e-mail, asking them to "think outside the box" sometimes, and try to help me out instead of stonewall me. A little bit forceful, but never with any cursing or naked personal attacks. So after finally getting peoples attention, I was set up with an SSH account, and was assured that no one would try to make me pay non-existent vacation days in exchange.

In truth I think this episode was the beginning of the end for me at that company. The places I want to work at need to show a minimal level of compassion, the kind where you don't stonewall your own co-workers. Especially when its a life-death medical situation. I think the response I was looking for from my company would be "don't worry about any of that right now, just take care of M. and we'll discuss it later." And that basic kind of thing is something I just never got.

So the shocker of the deal is that all of the above isn't my reason for leaving, its theirs! I'm still having trouble following the logic (logic not being popular here), but I guess it has to do with the notion of seniority. As a junior worker, I had no right to get mad at my bosses, even if they deserved it. Their unwillingness to read e-mails and address my legitimate concerns is excusable, but my assertiveness in questioning them is not.

My Reasons

Anyways, lets get down to the reasons I wanted to leave:

1. Communication.

Was just non-existent. I would send emails and the recipient would actually come and ask me if they were required to read them (!).

And those were the good cases, most of my emails that were not directly related to a current project simply went unread. And that was even after I realized people weren't reading my emails so I should pare down the content to the bare minimum.

I have literally been told, to my face and in reply, that my emails were too long or too many, so the recipient wont bother to read them.

In-person communication was hardly any better. I would start into the subject that I needed to speak about, and be greeted along the way polite head-nods and "oh, ok!" and "really?"s until I picked up on the lack of interest in what I was saying and just stopped speaking.

My project leader always made sure he let me know that I could ask him any question at any time; but the problem was whenever I asked him a question, he appeared busy and responded with answers that displayed a minimum of consideration of what I had just said. One quickly learns that there isn't much point in asking questions under such conditions.

Several times I tried to detail my concerns about this issue, using specific examples, and how I thought it was damaging the company or project. They would appear to read my email very carefully, but the reply was always ridiculously short and noncommittal.

In my whole time there I never received one performance review, formal or otherwise. The closest I ever came was being told twice that the project I was working on was ahead of schedule and very profitable. I was told on multiple occasions, regarding the quality of my work, "I don't care."

I was never asked my opinion on the technical direction of a project. That is solely the purview of the customer and team leader -- even if the team leader is less technically competent that the implementors. I was very rarely asked my opinion on technical matters within the scope of the implementation, although that did get better as I complained and my team lead actually listened to me, somewhat. His interest however was essentially limited to deadline estimation.

Upon leaving I wrote a exit interview style email (because they're refusing to do a real one despite my request), where I detailed my reasons for leaving, and how the company can improve themselves in the future. I specifically requested they do the same for me. I have received no reply.

In summary I think I could describe the situation as "I'm too busy to do my own job." Even if the reason they are so busy is that they are running around putting out fires caused by not communicating in the first place.

2. Lack of professional advancement.

There were some interesting projects happening at work, the decisions about but who gets assigned to which project were never made based on what kind of work you would like to do, and mostly never on what past experience or qualifications you have.

Decisions based on individual talent? Forget about it! It was almost always decided solely by the team leaders in private meetings based on who had the least busy programmer on their team at the time.

I tried voicing my concerns about the lack of challenging or interesting work, and well... read item 1. No one listened or cared. Many times I saw someone working on something interesting that I wanted to be a part of, but was told I could have nothing to do with.

I guess I could boil this down to "You are not a individual who enjoys their work and has specific areas of interest or career progression. You are a tool for me to wield in order to continue to collect a paycheque."


So all in all, despite the people being essentially very nice people outside of work, and generally very willing to be friendly and caring in a non-professional way, they were not very good people to try and have a career with, and staying there probably would have made me less and less happy with my life.

Also despite this company being exactly in the professional area I want to be in, and having lots of interesting projects on the go, the fact that I was rarely a part of those projects really destroys the benefit. I realize that other jobs are far less likely to be in such interesting areas, but now is a good time to try other things and hope for the best.

No comments: