Trumped-up


Everyone was surprised when Jeff took over. Even Jeff was a little surprised. One day he was just an asshole in sales and the next day he was the asshole in the corner office. He was still an asshole, of course, but now he had power over the rest of us.

For the first few days after Jeff became the boss he was holed up in his new office, calling his friends and getting the building management to change the blinds and bring him a bigger desk. While he did that the rest of us got kind of depressed. How could this happen, we wondered. Jeff knew nothing about running a software company. He wasn’t even good at sales. In truth, of course, many people in sales were ecstatic. For them it had never been about the software and always about the sales. Let a salesman drive for a while, they seemed to say. Maybe that’s what the owners were thinking too. When they wanted a break from tradition they chose Jeff. They did this despite the many stories about all the shit he’d caused and the fact that he was almost fired once when he messed with a girl in HR. Some women in the office went about and posted notes in the hallways in solidarity with this girl, but Jeff never bothered to look at those.

Maybe, some of us thought, it wouldn’t be so bad. What did it matter who ran the company anyway? We knew what we were doing. We had customers and software. We worked on that software and we sold it to those customers. Surely Jeff couldn’t fuck that up? All he had to do was stay in his office, sit at his new desk and sign our time sheets. He was an asshole—anyone who fiddled with his Rolex as much as he did was an asshole—but there had been other assholes in that office before him and they had all turned out OK. Maybe Jeff would too.

Then Jeff stirred from his den. He fired the lead security architect who had disagreed with his grand plan to stop our software from becoming open source. He announced that we would ourselves no longer use open source code and that we’d begin to yank out the bits of open source code we’d been running for years. He wouldn’t say exactly which bits of code he had in mind but it was clear that he worried about some bits more than about others. At Jeff’s announcement, many projects were stalled in mid-delivery. People got angry and hung around in the kitchen. What was going on? We’d been building software like this all these years. If it weren’t for open source code we’d have no product to begin with. Why change that now? Jeff cited vulnerabilities in the open source code and appointed his brother-in-law to help him decide important matters like that in the future. A few teams have defied Jeff’s ban on open source code, but who knows what will happen?

At about the same time Jeff sent an email around in which he explained how he obviously was the best man for the job, even though many of us hadn’t thought so. He was pretty sure, he argued, that many of those who didn’t agree probably didn’t belong at the company in the first place. Every night since then, in the small hours, he has forwarded us the original email with another reminder. Many people who used to hope that Jeff might turn out OK have begun to worry. Had he gone insane? He had the corner office. Why was he so worried about how he’d got it?

A few days later Jeff got round to something he’d always ranted about when he was in sales. Another software company, i-Comex, had long been calling our web services on behalf of their customers. There was nothing wrong with that, particularly as the calls they made were often to APIs backed by open source code i-Comex developers had written in the first place. Jeff wanted us to build out the firewall of our service to recognise these calls and block them. People told him that it would be impossible to do this as it would be very expensive, too difficult and downright silly. But Jeff was adamant. Not only would we build out the wall, he insisted, but we’d get i-Comex to pay for it.

As if this was not enough, Jeff managed to embarrass the company by hanging up on the CEO of one of our OEM partners in mid-conversation. Perhaps he had to pee. Many of us were surprised that it didn’t happen the other way around. Compared to our previous CEO, Jeff had the verbal abilities of an accordion. As we marvelled at all this, someone noticed that Jeff had removed all references to the pet project of our previous CEO from the company web site.

A few days later Jeff announced his team. He appointed a sullen guy who previously wired routers as the new office manager, a job for which he seemed to have little appetite and considerably less aptitude. As lead product manager he appointed a database administrator who was known to have moonlighted at other companies. He brought a hacker out of retirement to head up security. In finance he installed someone he knew from sales.

And here we are. We don’t know where we’re going but we’re on our way. Some people have thought about leaving but they don’t want to wind up working at i-Comex where it would suck even more, especially with Jeff in charge over here. The other day, someone reminded us that Jeff still hadn’t shown us his time sheets like he said he would. Perhaps we shouldn’t fill out our own until he does. Maybe that’s the way to go.


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