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Spotting career ending companies

Following on from the 'Career Leading to Nowhere' thread, I'd like to ask how people can identify these companies.

The guy in the thread obviously thought he'd be doing development work, and was pretty much lied to about his real role.  How could he have prevented this?

The reason I'm asking is that I'm in a similar situation.  I work for a software company as a software engineer - for the first 8 months I was on a project which required a lot of integration and supplier management and very little development.  For the past six months, I've been doing constant bug triage and fixing.  When I leave this company I want to make sure, the next role is the right one.
Furious George
Friday, October 01, 2004
That happened to me once. I was interviewed for this one position, and I ended up doing other things...

One thing is to make sure you ask the employer what you will be doing specifically... Any details they can give out is great. Make sure s/he introduces you to the people you will be working with and ask them what they do on a day-to-day basis.

If you still get stuck with the wrong things after you get hired, make sure you bring it up on your first review. If nothing still changes, start looking for another job.
Friday, October 01, 2004
Bill Rushmore Send private email
Friday, October 01, 2004
A family run business can be a career ender.  This is especially true for very small companies with family in key management spots.  The business exists for the family, not for you.
senkodemayo Send private email
Friday, October 01, 2004
Ask to interview your future co-workers.  You should be able to meet them in a technical interview.

If your interviewer doesn't want you to meet the people you'll be working with, you probably have your answer.

Friday, October 01, 2004
I have to add an endorsement of Bill Rushmore's reference to the Joel Test.

I parted ways (as a contractor) with a TERRIBLE company some time ago that failed to conform to the Joel test in *every* - and I mean every - attribute. Plus, as already stated, it was a family type business - husband chief coder, wife admin/accounting, their kids pulled in occassionally to do gofer work.

Passing the Joel test in most or all points is evidence of several attributes of a good company. Most important that the owners respect their technical employees and respect their ability to use their talents to produce value for the business. The exact opposite is true as well - if most/all of the Joel test is blown, the owners probably have no clue of reality nor of how people work well, and they probably don't respect their developers.

One key example from my own experience: the company had no clue on source code control and the owner heard it as senseless babble and would not listen at all. Often, several programmers would take the same source modules and edit them concurrently; merging was then a manual process.

The bottom line: I consider most of the people at the place who do programming as unemployable. I got out just in time, or maybe not... It's a case study that validates the Joel test in real life, as an antithesis.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Friday, October 01, 2004
Join some local professional groups, IE: C++ Club, Linux Club, Oracle User Group, etc.

If you don't have one, found one.  I founded Grand Rapids Perl Mongers in 1990's. :-)

THEN, you interview with companies where you know some of the workers.  And you ask them about the work environment honestly, off-the-record, etc, etc.

Like Eric Sink said, you probably won't be able to get rid of the problems, but you can trade problems you don't like for problems that you do. :-)

So, at the very least, you can make an informed decision and know what you are about to step into. :-)
Matt H. Send private email
Friday, October 01, 2004
My experience is that a micro-company - owner, programmers, no management except owner, is almost always bad.

Throw in family in management positions and forget about it - one place I was let go because "we just have to do this to keep the company afloat," a month before the son of the owner bought a million dollar house.

Also at a small company anything that is paid for comes directly out of the owner's pocket, so they are usually run on the cheap.
career in tailspin
Friday, October 01, 2004
the story of my life
Berlin Brown Send private email
Friday, October 01, 2004
"Also at a small company anything that is paid for comes directly out of the owner's pocket, so they are usually run on the cheap."

A contrary opinion from someone who has worked primarily at smallish companies: your compensation is always coming out of somebody's pocket, it's just a matter of how many bureaucrats separate you from those who pocket the earnings.

Size alone has little to do with a good work environment.  You can work for a middle manager at MegaCorp or an owner at MicroCorp, neither of whom believe in spending money on good people, tools, or office space.  The middle manager has less to lose as he's not spending his own money, but the owner has much more to gain as his business grows by attracting and keeping good people.

The other upside to being in a smaller company, where you're closer to those who keep the profits, it's easier to impress them.  The smaller the company, the easier it is to correlate your contribution with the company's profit.  This could ultimately mean much more to you than your salary.

Big or small, the most reliable indicator of a good place to work (obviously, I suppose) is PROFIT.  It's easy to run a company that's fun to work at when you're making money.  The very best people will find a way even when they're pinching pennies, but it's a lot easier if you can pay for the best people, tools, and most importantly ENOUGH people.  This is why, in my opinion, we saw (and still see) all these burned out programmers post-90s-bubble.  Young people started their careers in this mind-blowing environment where any dumb idea generated all kinds of cash, which enabled any mediocre management team to create a good place to work.  When the economy withered it got harder for everybody, and work seemed a lot more like, uh, work.

Okay I rambled big time.  My point was don't write off small companies.
Ian Olsen Send private email
Saturday, October 02, 2004
i work for a smaller (< 500 people) company that is very profitable. but, that is because they keep expenses under control. they are very conservative when it comes to r&d and new technology.
Patrick Send private email
Monday, October 04, 2004

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