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Usine a gazI had the privilege to be working in various professional environments over the past 20 years, from small-size businesses to enormous corporations. If you are too busy to read through this complete post, just remember this: avoid big organizations at all costs.

Big organizations means heavy human structures with pyramids over pyramids accumulating middle-management staff who do nothing but report above what was done below. This is not a cliché, I have seen it countless times in several countries over three continents. Some people will feel comfortable in this kind of environment, but I have to admit it always ended up badly for me. From the middle-manager who presents your work as his and gets all the bonuses for it without even a “Thank You” to top-executives giving orders without having a clue about what you are doing, I have seen enough.

Let me try to summarize in a few points the sure signs you are in the wrong place:

Presence is more important than actual work

You can work as much as you want for any level of quality you are willing to put into it, the only thing that matters is to be seen leaving late. You are not even compelled to do actual work after 5pm, just be there, have discussions around a coffee with your colleagues, browse reddit, do whatever but staying in the premises until night comes is key to your next raise. The underlying concept is that you should devote your life to your company. Forget about family life or having a life at all, you are paid to spend your waking hours at work, no matter how much work gets done during that time.

Write whatever you want but do it with Word

You can prepare the best report ever on your favourite topic, if it is not properly formatted in a Word document displaying a company logo and official colours, it is worthless.

Computers are MS machines

Normal people run Windows, they use Internet Explorer to browse the web, they send emails with Exchange, and edit documents with Word. If your documents contain less then 10 bullet points per page, make it PowerPoint.  Between 10 and 20 it should be Word. Above that go for an Excel spreadsheet. IETF and RFCs are synonyms for open-source, i.e. a pirate culture.

Java is the only language, XML is his messiah

Other programming languages are for scientists at MIT. We just want to use whatever the rest of the industry has chosen. If everybody else is doing it they cannot be wrong.

Software is code; programmers write it

Software engineering is a fancy name for cheap labour pretending to do complex stuff. To build software you need pages and pages of code, which are nothing more than straight ASCII files. Programmers (or coders) are paid to produce them by the line. Code line production scales linearly with the number of coders and number of days spent coding. Programmers are paid to type up computer code.

Quality does not matter as long as customers pay

This trait is very much found in every closed market where customers will pay no matter what: the military breed these companies like mushrooms, but all sorts of administrations are found here too. The contract says we are paid to deliver software so we did. If it cannot be used, somebody will get blamed and support will be paid, no big deal.

Keep information for yourself

You should report all valuable information to your superior but never propagate it to levels below yours. Informed people tend to do terrible things, often questioning or challenging executive decisions while they should be sitting in front of a computer entering computer codes. The best way to keep your position is to keep information to yourself and only circulate what you must.

Human Resources Dept is more important than Human Resources

Human resources are disposable. Finding candidates for any given job is extremely easy in times of crisis. The HR department however will be the last one to leave the ship, so trust them blindly with all recruitment and departures.

After 20 years in business it seems there are more administrations out there than interesting companies to work with. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

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