How To Start Work On A Good Projects!
Often in discussions on the topic of work, I come across theses on how to work badly in a particular project/company/industry, etc. And despite the fact that nagging is very common in domestic IT in general, much of what is being discussed does take place in reality. However, after years of development, the change of projects, companies and even the technology stack, I developed an understanding of the problem and its solution from a different perspective. We’ll talk about this.
On my career path, I met a large number of different projects, companies, industries and people. I didn’t get to IT right away: I started as a seller of books (yes, yes, the ones that ring the doorbell and run into some kind of fierce encyclopedia), handed out leaflets, worked to support a mobile operator, as a waiter in a cafe (two), as a copywriter , the author of custom articles on the Habr and admin in the microcontrol.
- And in IT, my path was interesting – I worked as a pentester, a programmer at the factory, a freelancer, moving from one stack to another (where only SQL was common). It was a very interesting experience, and I do not regret that I have not spent all these years in one area, where I probably would have achieved more than I have now. However, in return, I saw a lot and understood the features of the local and global IT market, different approaches to managing people, resources and projects, and also learned to perceive things from different angles.
And therefore, when I hear from people complaints about dissatisfaction with my own project (company/office/stack/etc.), I want to share my own experience and conclusions that I made. Here they are:
We make a choice in the absence of information
Often situations arise in life when we need to make choices in conditions of limited information about options. For example, when students are planning to enter a university, often they have only a rather vague idea of what options exist. Personally, it was a problem for me to understand what education options are there at all, what universities are in my city, is it worth going somewhere else, and so on. Moreover, there was not the slightest understanding of what a specific education would give me and which university/faculty would provide me with the most high-quality and relevant knowledge. I figured it out only after 10 years. I doubt that many of yesterday’s schoolchildren have such an understanding.
The same applies to the choice of work. Often we get to work somewhere, accidentally learning about this place. When working at a specific place of work, we also often vaguely imagine what is happening in the industry. And the fact that between some related and at first glance similar areas lies a huge gap in wages, the organization of the work process and attitude towards the employee, we often do not suspect. You can often meet people who have been sitting on an unloved project for years in depression and without any motivation – and this is instead of finding something better. And all because of fear or ignorance: “what is better?”.
But first things first.
Unscrupulous employers hide information
The Canadian IT market has several unique features.
- First, the Canadian educational system, with its last gasp, is still graduating many high-quality specialists in the field of natural sciences, one way or another suitable for working with computer systems.
- Secondly, entering the profession of an IT specialist is quite simple (it does not require many years of study, it is enough to be smart and moderately diligent), therefore, any adequate student of non-humanitarian areas can start working from the first courses (in fact, it’s weak to study related, rather with age).
Thirdly, the demand for IT specialists still exceeds supply, both in the country and around the world, so even an inept specialist will find a job with decent pay.
Fourth, the specifics of activities and access to the Internet makes it possible to work remotely, which finally destroys the territorial barrier to employment.
And fifthly, the cost of labor of a highly qualified specialist in Canada is lower than a student intern in Germany or a cleaner in the Valley, while the quality of work for the same money far exceeds that when hiring workers from Asian countries.
- A very curious consequence follows from this: in the IT market overheated to the bubble level, specialists from Russia and the countries of the former USSR are quite in demand. At the same time, foreign companies are willing to pay much more than domestic ones, and the global nature of the market is forcing local companies to fight for personnel with foreign competitors. As a result of this, we sometimes have a tenfold difference in the salaries of IT specialists and engineers in other industries. And domestic companies, whose turnover takes place in rubles, have to squeeze the last juices to pay for the labor of suddenly expensive keyboard and mouse workers.
Many, but not all, can afford it. And certainly not many people want to give up for one programmer as a whole department of non-IT engineers.
That is why many employers are starting to do tricks, tricks and outright deceit in order to save a little money.
Complex hierarchies, ranks
In many companies (however, not only Canada, but also around the world), especially large and outsourced ones, the construction of ranks, grades, ranks, etc. is widespread. – the names may vary, but the essence is the same – companies drive workers into a tight framework, limiting their earnings and career development opportunities, arguing that they themselves invented a system of ranks.
At best, we owe this particular system to the classic trio “junior middle senior”, and at worst, grades tables like K1, K2 … K100500, etc. There is nothing fundamentally bad in these systems, especially in large companies where people with 0 and 10 years of experience work hand in hand. However, these ranks often begin to be imposed so as not to increase sn. For example, in some companies it is practiced such that after the transition between ranks a certain period of time (2-3 years) must pass before we can talk about the next increase in payment. There are even curious cases when people leave the company, and then return two years later, which would not have been possible if there had been a person in the company.
- In addition, since the level of payment is tied to ranks, people who by some criteria are not suitable for these ranks are denied payment in the amount that their skills in the labor market are worth, thereby losing good staff.
I had a funny case when I was invited to an interview in a company from which I left three months before. The interview went well, I fully met the design needs. However, they refused me because the salary I requested (which was almost the same as what I was receiving at that moment) corresponds to a grade two higher than the one I left, and other colleagues “may not understand ” Needless to say, after another month I accepted the offer from another company, where they offered me another 50% more.
You need to understand that there is only one goal for these ranks – to create a reason to pay you less. Many companies have no ranks at all, and people just get as much as they agreed with the company. I consider this approach the most appropriate.
Many companies try to compensate for the low wages of the so-called “buns” – intangible additions to your wages.
On the one hand, there are many really worthwhile things – paying for sports, fruits in the office, free meals, corporate transport, mobile communications and more. You need to understand that the money for this is somehow taken from your pocket (or rather, they don’t fall into it), but often the company can afford more favorable conditions than an individual, so this is anyway a saving.
- On the other hand, many companies often resort to other manipulation levers that are absolutely useless to the employee. It can be all sorts of letters, badges, stickers and other gamification. Up to the point that some companies directly offer to write you a steeper job position in exchange for lower wages.
You need to understand that although this may be pleasant for you and cause the envy of your colleagues and the pride of your mother, all these letters and badges will not help you in any way in your career, in life, or in the development of your expertise. Just remember that instead of a letter there should have been a bonus, but now it has migrated into the pocket of a savvy manager.
Another tool used to reduce employee benefits is the so-called “corporate culture”. In the culture itself, there is nothing wrong, each company is free to create within itself such an atmosphere that is more suitable for its inner life.
Just sometimes, “corporate culture” begins to include things that are in no way related to the workflow and business goals. For example, when they begin to fine or humiliate workers in every way for being late, having a break, excommunication from the workplace for a snack – this is despite the fact that a person is engaged in engineering (mental) activity, and the time and period of his stay at the workplace minimally correlates with his labor productivity. On the contrary, often people think about work tasks in transport, and at home, and away, and even lying in bed before going to bed, but no one wants to pay for it.
The worst thing here is that many people are really so inspired by the idea of ”corporate culture” that they begin to “corporate Stockholm syndrome.” They themselves become ardent champions of invented rules, begin to abide by all the fad, and spread rot for those who pay more attention to real work than to the next inventions of the HR department. Do not forget that your main task is to do the work, thereby bringing money to the company. And if the company itself is imposing values that distract you from this task, it might be worth looking for a company that better understands what it needs most – achieving the goals, or so that everyone is in place by 8:00.
But the most interesting is not even that. The most interesting thing is that many companies have adopted the practice of severely limiting the transparency of processes related to hiring and paying for employee work, and some companies resort to outright lies.
- While working in outsourcing companies, I was everywhere faced with the strictest ban on the disclosure of salaries, even to my own colleagues. Many support this practice, but this is just a tool to manipulate wages. An employee will have nothing to justify requests for higher wages if he does not know the situation in the company and in the market as a whole. You can suggest to a person that his payment is extremely high, although his colleagues doing the same can receive twice as much.
I do not campaign for disclosing the salaries of all employees, but you need to understand that this tool is always used against you.
But the most interesting situation is in companies in which IT is not the main means of earning them, but only indirectly affects the production process, but is nevertheless necessary. These are companies such as government agencies, factories, all kinds of retailers and other small and medium-sized businesses, and in general, all those who receive money not for an IT product.
Such companies are faced with the following situation: their product is not produced by IT specialists, and the market in which they operate gives much less money than IT. However, they have to hire IT specialists for various reasons. And due to the fact that the contribution of IT specialists to the final product of the company is indirect and it is often difficult to accurately evaluate, the attitude to these departments as a “necessary evil” is being formed: they are expensive, they do not bring direct profit, but it is also impossible without them. Therefore, it refers to such people as dirt, and offices are trying in every possible way to catch them in order to reduce payment.
- One of the main tools is cheating. People are told that the working conditions that they are given are the best on the market. People are told that in other companies they pay less, they fines for everything, they do not pay bonuses, they delay payments, and other tales. Separately stubborn managers begin to play psychology, talking about patriotism, because there are difficult times in the country, that you can’t go to an “enemy company” and work for foreigners who are willing to pay more. There is even such a thing that managers are specially trained in how to deceive their employees and inspire them that working conditions are better nowhere.
Worse, many employees of domestic companies openly lie about their legal rights guaranteed by the Labor Code of the Russian Federation, and they do not bother with the fact that if you do not read the code, then at least google the answers on the forums. For example, I have met more than once that they refuse to fire people until they find a replacement, although there is nothing like that in the TC – 14 legal days after submitting an application (submitting, not signing – at least send by mail) and goodbye.
It is sad that many people really believe in this and are not trying to figure out the real situation on the labor market. And the cunning offices fool the workers and inspire them that everything is bad everywhere, although this is not so at all.
“Bad” projects happen
This all leads to the fact that people are often dissatisfied with their work, but are afraid to look for something else, or do not see the point in this.
I often hear theses like “what to do, you have to live with it” or “everything is bad here, but you need to fight and improve everything”. Well, like that, the main idea is to work hard and badly, but you need to try not to give up, and maybe someday it will get better.
But this is not so.
The fact is that projects, companies and even industries are different. Including just bad.
The reasons are different – somewhere there is more money, somewhere higher margins, somewhere other opportunities are open, and somewhere else there is a different demand. But the essence is the same – bad projects really happen.
And there are reasons for this.
You need to understand that not all bad projects are bad because of someone else’s malicious intent. Not at all. Most likely this is a confluence of circumstances, which led to the fact that it is specifically unpleasant for you to work in this context. Often the reasons that result in a “bad project” are dictated by the characteristics of the business, product or industry.
For example, a business owner decides to quickly occupy a niche in the market for certain services. For this, a product is being developed quickly, and for the sake of speed, quality is sacrificed, forming a product without tests, documentation, with unsteady architecture and a ton of technical debt. Since it was necessary to do quickly, the rules of good form were postponed until later, when the deadlines will not burn. But when it later came, it turns out that the product works somehow, brings money, and the next budget will not be allocated for refactoring, testing and improving the architecture, but for adding new features to the existing foul-smelling project. And at this moment you come to the project. Imagine your feelings.
Obviously, such a project is bad from the point of view of the programmer, but absolutely normal from the point of view of business. What can you fix here? Well, if you do not sit at night at your own expense, then most likely nothing.
- Or another example – a large plant buys an expensive ERP system, pays for its implementation, and then it turns out that it still needs to be supported. At this moment, you come to the project. All the main functionality is implemented in an ERP system out of the box. All specific functionality is implemented during implementation. And you just have to fix the jambs behind the predecessors, and make minor corrections without touching the architecture.
It is quite easy to understand that such a project is also so-so. There is nothing to learn, there are no interesting technologies, all tasks are linear. But is the client to blame? No, he suffered even more than you, bought an expensive system, and now he has to pull it on his business (or vice versa – which is cheaper) until the end of his days, without receiving measurable income from this.
Well, the most interesting example is a state or former state company with a bright Soviet management style – a research institute, a factory, just a software development bureau on a state order, etc. It is likely that the company has existed for a long time, and, due to its origin or management style (which, in principle, follows one from the other), is mired in bureaucracy and undercover games. There are no definite deadlines, there is no obvious goal – work for the sake of work, often just in order to master the budget, fulfill the plan, sit until 16:55 … And at that moment you come to the project.
Most likely, project communication in such a project is extremely difficult. People have not been interested in the manufactured product for a long time, they have other goals. Someone is waiting for a pension, someone was arranged by relatives, someone got after a university, although he himself does not know why. The Soviet management style usually leads to extreme toxicity in the work process, people are unhappy and embittered, everyone works separately and thinks about how to cover themselves and formally be right. It comes from this that it is almost impossible to work productively, because it is important for everyone that there can be no complaints to him, and he was not responsible for anything, and this slows down any work process as much as possible. This is a complex problem of a whole layer of institutions, based on a vicious circle in which no one wants to be responsible for anything, and the initiative is punishable, so nothing can move things from the dead point, and if it moves, it’s always at the last moment and with overcoming and heroism.
It is not surprising if you become aware of yourself in one of these projects. Most of them are in our country, and it is no wonder to get there.
But, you do not have to endure it
As I mentioned above, many people who fall into a bad project cannot gather their strength and get out of there. People think that if it’s so bad here, then in other places it’s probably even worse, but here it’s at least familiar. Routine, negativity and toxicity suppress a person’s motivation to try new things, develop and leave the comfort zone.
- As a person who has fallen into a quagmire, who begins to flounder, gets bogged down even more, and a worker who has fallen into a bad project realizes that it is hard to do something on his own. Yes, many at first try to improve something. Increase test coverage, implement good practices, rework workflow. Sometimes this helps, but in most cases the system turns out to be stronger, and a person simply does not have physical and emotional strength to do this in addition to the main work. Many give up, realizing that on their own nothing can be fixed, and you just have to endure.
Tolerate tedious tasks, low salaries, unethical and unprofessional attitude, somehow built workflow, destructive atmosphere and inefficient communications.
This seems reasonable, because we have been accustomed to what we need to take, what they give. But this is not so.
Do not waste your life on bad projects
In fact, this makes no sense. Life is too short to devote its main part to an uninteresting cause. We have only about 20 years to achieve something in life in terms of a career, to find something to your liking and to come to certain successes in it. How are you going to do this, doing something you don’t like?
Just don’t work on bad projects
Yes, like that. Sounds like a captain. Even a little stupid and naive. However, this is still true.
We, as specialists in the IT field, are in a unique position when we can choose. This also applies to other areas, but the choice is more limited. And in IT, you can afford to look for something to your liking. And there will be one!
It is not necessary to endure humiliation in the office. This is absolutely abnormal when you – a technical specialist, an engineer – are being reported for a five-minute delay. Just find a company with a modern management approach – this will not happen there. An unprofessional and unethical attitude towards employees is often found in Russian firms, but this is not as common as it seems, and certainly not the norm.
No need to work on a project in which you have nothing to learn – because in this case you are wasting your time. Find a company in which tasks will challenge you – and you will ensure yourself job satisfaction and good prospects.
Sometimes it’s enough just to switch to another project within the company, but more often it makes sense to change the employer. Sometimes it happens that a region or a stack as a whole has few prospects, and then it makes sense to think about changing the region to a more suitable one. For example, when working in 1C, you will constantly deal with Russian projects (with appropriate management approaches) and low salaries, since in the global market, companies buying 1C services are absolutely out of competition for obvious reasons. In this case, there’s nowhere to run, it will be about the same everywhere. In this case, one option is to go to another stack, for example, a web backend. This is not easy, but it is quite possible, I checked on myself.
- If you are not satisfied with the payment level – go to work on the international market, look for positions in companies around the world (not outsourcing, but directly) – for a company from, say, Belgium, hiring a senior from Russia will be much cheaper than a local intern, but for you payment will be higher than in any local company.
It is important to understand one key idea: it makes no sense to try to improve a bad project. This is irrational. Most likely, he became bad for a reason, and the reasons lie far beyond the borders of your competencies, respectively, and you can’t fundamentally improve it no matter how hard you try.
Do not waste your time improving bad projects. Spend it better, productively and with pleasure working in good.
Do not be afraid to change something. The IT industry is extremely diverse, and you can always find what is best for you. Go to interviews, ask people for advice at conferences and meetings, study other areas and technology stacks. Try to learn as much as possible about various areas close to yours, be aware of the prices of your services in the labor market. Never be afraid to change jobs – it is always a step forward for you, even if the experience is unsuccessful.
- It makes no sense to endure an unpleasant environment, just cede it to those who want to work for less money and with less sense (well, or give your company the opportunity to hire less qualified personnel if it does not consider it necessary to provide an acceptable work process). Leave, without hesitation, from positions in which you cannot work productively due to external factors, or where you don’t even smell of productive work at all.
There will always be bad projects. But there will always be good ones. And there will always be one that is ideal for you. Maybe tomorrow, or maybe after two years of wandering. But it’s worth it.
Work where you are allowed to work to the fullest, where they help make the company’s product better, and do not put sticks in the wheels. Respect yourself, value your time, your nerves and mental health.
And never again work in bad projects.