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Companies That Don't Understand Engineers Don't Respect Engineers

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the if-you-aren't-part-of-the-solution,-you're-part-of-the-preciptate dept.

Businesses 371

An anonymous reader writes Following up on a recent experiment into the status of software engineers versus managers, Jon Evans writes that the easiest way to find out which companies don't respect their engineers is to learn which companies simply don't understand them. "Engineers are treated as less-than-equal because we are often viewed as idiot savants. We may speak the magic language of machines, the thinking goes, but we aren't business people, so we aren't qualified to make the most important decisions. ... Whereas in fact any engineer worth her salt will tell you that she makes business decisions daily–albeit on the micro not macro level–because she has to in order to get the job done. Exactly how long should this database field be? And of what datatype? How and where should it be validated? How do we handle all of the edge cases? These are in fact business decisions, and we make them, because we're at the proverbial coal face, and it would take forever to run every single one of them by the product people and sometimes they wouldn't even understand the technical factors involved. ... It might have made some sense to treat them as separate-but-slightly-inferior when technology was not at the heart of almost every business, but not any more."

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What's up with Michael O. Church? Why is he hated? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688287)

The article references Michael O. Church and some other article that he apparently wrote.

I don't really know who Michael O. Church is, but I do know from the few times that I've dared venture over to Hacker News that a lot of people there absolutely hate him for some reason. If I'm not mistaken, I saw comments from people claiming to work for or to have worked for Google, and these comments absolutely demonized him, but without really explaining why.

Can anyone fill me in on who Michael O. Church is, why he's so disliked over at Hacker News, and whatever else we should know about this situation?

Database? (4, Funny)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47688291)

Real engineers don't size databases.

Re:Database? (2)

PRMan (959735) | about 3 months ago | (#47688423)

That's why they invented varchar(MAX) amirite?

According to your gifts. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688459)

How about finding a real article. This is really just fanning the flames of insecurity.

Re:Database? (4, Funny)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#47688495)

Real engineers don't size databases.

Real engineers do everything.

Re:Database? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688693)

Real engineers do everything.

Real engineers do imaginary stuff too.

Re: Database? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688803)

Complex engineers do everything real and imaginary engineers do.

Re:Database? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688871)

Yeah, like calculate the square root of -1!

seriously though, the summery is tagged as IT, but this is true of all engineering branches.
it's what happens when you hire engineers to get things done, but bean counters to manage them.

Re:Database? (3, Funny)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47689015)

Imaginary stuff is done by imaginary engineers, also known as "signal processing experts" ;-)

Re:Database? (2)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47689011)

If they can, yes. The most efficient project team is one really good engineer and one business person keeping all administrative stuff (except budget things) away so that they does not distract the engineer. So, yes, really good engineers do everything that is engineering.

Re:Database? (5, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 3 months ago | (#47688781)

Of course they do. Real Engineers design up front, before implementing. We understand the implications of our decisions. We optimize. We know that there are many orthogonal factors to consider in doing this. Shoud we optimize with an emphasis size or speed? If we optimize for size, how will that decision effect scalability and the ability to add functionality we may not have originally considered, or that the original design specification didn't call for?

Anybody who thinks that Engineers don't have a major impact on the entire business model have never worked in the real world, or have no idea the impact we have. "Why do we do thing X even though it no longer makes sense? ... because they system won't work if we don't, and it would cost too much and be too risky too change it!.

That is not a business decision. (4, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 3 months ago | (#47688299)

Exactly how long should this database field be? And of what datatype? How and where should it be validated? How do we handle all of the edge cases?

That is not a business decision, that is a technical decision where you try to come up with the most universal and correct to spec answer you can. You are not shaping the business with this decision, you are trying to shape your solution to the business.

Re:That is not a business decision. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688365)

Probably true, but don't forget that the phrase "it's just business" is really only spin for "this is the going rate of my integrity."

Re: That is not a business decision. sometimes it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688379)

It has been my experience that decisions about a lot of business process get pushed to IT wanting the system to fix something right now. For example, wanting a tax code set on financial transactions which is OK, but the business requestor does not understand that it needs to be done for every transaction. And when asked, says how would I know.

Re:That is not a business decision. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688389)

I'd argue that since you're making a decision that could decide whether the foundation of the company is stable or not, that that means you're either making a business decision or something even more important.

Re:That is not a business decision. (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 3 months ago | (#47688411)

Well if that is the case then janitors also make business decisions on a daily basis.

Re:That is not a business decision. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688449)

It's nothing like janitors. If we had human-like artificial intelligence we could replace all these 'business' peoples. These peoples are merely brain that are trained to push the right buttons. Button we build and maintain. In truth, engineers, programmer and admin are really the ones owning the place. We read your mail, keep your child porn secret, run your business. Do not fuck with us.

Re:That is not a business decision. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688521)

admin are really the ones owning the place. We read your mail, keep your child porn secret, run your business. Do not fuck with us.

You are a despicable human being. I may read an occasional email that gets stuck in a spam trap, and I definitely run the business I work for, but I will always report CP to the FBI. You're allowing children to be exploited for your own personal gain. Sicko.

Re:That is not a business decision. (4, Informative)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 3 months ago | (#47688711)

Also, you shine the brass and keep the wastebasket empty.

But what sort of perturbs me is that 'Engineers' aren't just IT types. Where I work, engineers work on and design product. Except for companies that produce IT Products, the IT staff aren't engineers, except in the 'sanitation engineer' sense. So why does the article immediately and only segue into: " Exactly how long should this database field be? " Engineers concern themselves with what type of plastic to produce which components of the product out of, tooling tolerances, production costs, etc. The guy that maintains the CAD files database is a glorified file clerk.

Re:That is not a business decision. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688433)

My bank uses a 2-digit extension to the account number to determine which bucket to put the money into. Money going to savings is in 1234567-01, checking is 1234567-02, a Certificate of Deposit is 1234567-34, etc. When a CD matures and is rolled into a new CD, it gets a new 2-digit number. With multiple CDs and standard accounts, I have run out of 2-digit numbers. I will either have to open a new account at this bank or move my money to a new bank with a better numbering system. The length of a database field is ABSOLUTELY a business decision.

Re:That is not a business decision. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688947)

-aa -ab -ac. You aren't very creative, are you?

And the door swings both ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688793)

Being an engineer doesn't automatically make someone competent to make business decisions. Some engineers can anyway, but not all of them. I have worked with both...technicians who are very skilled at talking with clients, learning their business needs, and thinking about the trade-offs between features, budget, time-to-market, bug risk, and so on. I have met other engineers who can talk to people but not well, who can't think about budget or time-to-market issues, and really who can't do much more than write code. They write code well when-and-only-when an engineer of the former category is the lead on their team.

Re:That is not a business decision. (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 3 months ago | (#47688951)

"That is not a business decision, that is a technical decision where you try to come up with the most universal and correct to spec answer you can. You are not shaping the business with this decision, you are trying to shape your solution to the business. "

I'm sorry sir. I'd love to do that for you, but the computer won't let me.

IOW: Your belief that software design doesn't shape and make business decisions stems from a lack of forward-sightedness.

Machismo... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688305)

I think this has a lot more to do with the machismo of business people than anything else. The suits don't have a lick of understanding of what the engineers actually do--sure, they understand the iPhone once it rolls off the lines, but up to that point, what engineers do is basically a bunch of technovoodoo magic to them. Since lots of businessmen are macho, domineering types (especially in large, competitive companies), the concept of having subordinates who are doing things far beyond their understanding is not one they like. In turn, the business people feel the need to assert how hard whatever it is they do--"oh, you wouldn't understand because business is sooo much more complicated than rocket science"--and elevate the complexity and importance of their own job beyond that of the lowly engineers.

I don't think it's lack of "understanding the engineers." I think it's lack of understanding the engineering and feeling uncomfortable about it.

Re:Machismo... (3, Interesting)

StripedCow (776465) | about 3 months ago | (#47688741)

The suits

Used-car-salesmen wear similar suits.
We should treat "business" people with suspicion, not the other way around.

Incoming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688319)

Slashdot bitchfest about companies and bosses posters worked for past and present, along with some they've heard stories about
3... 2... 1...

us other engineers matter, too (5, Insightful)

cellocgw (617879) | about 3 months ago | (#47688323)

/. may be a software-centric site, but those of us in mechanical, electrical, optical, materials, and other branches of engineering are in the same basic position. But sadly, even in businesses which promote engineers into senior roles end up respecting people primarily on the basis of how many direct reports (that's the term for peons whose salaries they determine) they control. Until you're able to rate people by the quality/quantity of output regardless of altitude in the org chart, this problem will continue.

Re:us other engineers matter, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688335)

What about us sanitation engineers?

Well obviously, you're unqualified.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688811)

Or else you would've helped implement sanitary working conditions by 'bleaching out' the OP mentioned suits.

Maintenance engineers unite! Solve the problem nobody else is willing to! Get your hands dirty! :)

Re:us other engineers matter, too (5, Insightful)

Shoten (260439) | about 3 months ago | (#47688425)

/. may be a software-centric site, but those of us in mechanical, electrical, optical, materials, and other branches of engineering are in the same basic position. But sadly, even in businesses which promote engineers into senior roles end up respecting people primarily on the basis of how many direct reports (that's the term for peons whose salaries they determine) they control. Until you're able to rate people by the quality/quantity of output regardless of altitude in the org chart, this problem will continue.

Indeed; the underlying basis of the article could really match almost any profession. Accountants, HR personnel, programmers, even admin assistants. Not understanding the role of a job invariably means not understanding its challenges or the value it brings. So what? This is not news. Hell, I've seen companies where they didn't understand the value of managers...and thus, promoted/hired people into such roles who had no skill at doing their jobs.

Re:us other engineers matter, too (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 3 months ago | (#47688949)

Valuing people by their number of direct or indirect reports makes a lot of sense. If I am one of a group of ten people and I'm 20% more productive than the others, my extra contribution only adds about 2% to the total. If I am a good manager my staff might be 5% more productive than an average manager's. Think about it.

It's simple (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688331)

If your company promotes engineers from within into engineering management positions, then you work for a company that respects engineers.

If your company promotes administrators from within (you know, MBAs, project managers, etc) then there's a chance it might respect engineers.

If your company hires management from outside for the bottom rung of management (usually who most engineers report to), then your company probably dislikes engineers very much.

Re:It's simple (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688541)

A related point: In my experience, managers who hung on to their engineering responsibilities as well as took on a management role were crappy managers. Those engineers who took on management full time were much, much better at it.

Re:It's simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688731)

A related point: In my experience, managers who hung on to their engineering responsibilities as well as took on a management role were crappy managers.

You mean the engineers who were put in a position where they had to do managing on top of their current job because it's cheaper that way.
It doesn't matter what kind of jobs you stack on someone. If you expect anyone to be able to jump between different tasks all the time it always turns to shit.
Adding administrative tasks on top of a teacher or doctor leads to the same situation and it is very seldom the choice of the person doing the work.
It is just nitwits at the top that haven't understood that you get what you pay for.

Real people just don't like dealing with Hipsters. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688345)

I've been in the computing industry for many, many, many years. I've worked on the hardware side, on the software side, and everywhere in between.

Businesspeople will treat software developers and electrical engineers just fine, but these software developers and electrical engineers need to be adults and need to act like adults. They need to dress professionally, they need to act professionally, and they need to get valuable work done.

Such things conflict with the Hipster lifestyle, however. The influx of Hipsters into the software industry, and the hardware industry to a lesser extent, has brought their alternative view on such matters into conflict with the well established business practices.

No, businesspeople will not take a Hipster seriously when this Hipster insists on wearing a fedora hat, a t-shirt with some stupid smart-ass saying on it, and glasses frames without any lenses in them to meetings with serious clients. Businesspeople will frown on such immaturity.

No, businesspeople will not take a Hipster seriously when this Hipster emails thousands or tens of thousands of other employees, and accidentally includes some customers, begging them to support her social justice cause fight of the day. Businesspeople have real work to get done while at work, rather than wasting time supporting some sort of social deviancy.

No, businesspeople will not take a Hipster seriously when this Hipster insists on using provenly bad technologies like Ruby on Rails, JavaScript and NoSQL absolutely everywhere, especially when the Hipster was told that C++ is being used because the other 10 million lines of code in the system are written in C++. Businesspeople need software that works, not software that's built upon technologies solely chosen because of how much hype they've gotten, or how much they tickle the fancy of some Hipster.

Hipsters go out of their way to conflict with established business practices and professionalism in basically every way they can. Then they wonder why businesspeople don't take them seriously! Come on. Cut the crap, Hipsters. If you're going to act like children, you'll be treated like children. Act like actual adults, and you won't have anywhere near as many issues.

Re:Real people just don't like dealing with Hipste (2, Interesting)

LordLucless (582312) | about 3 months ago | (#47688581)

No, businesspeople will not take a Hipster seriously when this Hipster insists on using provenly bad technologies like Ruby on Rails, JavaScript and NoSQL absolutely everywhere, especially when the Hipster was told that C++ is being used because the other 10 million lines of code in the system are written in C++. Businesspeople need software that works, not software that's built upon technologies solely chosen because of how much hype they've gotten, or how much they tickle the fancy of some Hipster.

They'll also not take seriously self-righteous morons who use the word "proven" as a justification for their technical prejudices, instead of to denote some objective reality. Or actually, they might, but the rest of us won't.

Re:Real people just don't like dealing with Hipste (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688623)

Wait, are you really saying that C++ isn't a proven technology? Pretty much everything important and widely used is written in it. Since C++ supports pretty much all C code, almost anything written in C is written in C++, too.

Nothing important is written in Ruby. The few major web sites that did try to use it and Ruby on Rails had to move partially or fully away from it, because it can't even handle moderate loads. The same goes for JavaScript. It's used for some shitty web sites, but that's about it.

What you're saying is not just wrong, but hilariously wrong, because even the only usable Ruby and JavaScript implementations are written in C++! That's right, your beloved languages exist solely because C++ allows them to! LOL!

Re:Real people just don't like dealing with Hipste (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688697)

The same goes for JavaScript. It's used for some shitty web sites, but that's about it.

Dude, if you are going to troll, you have to at least try to pretend to be believable. JavaScript may be a shit language, but no one in their right mind is going to deny that there is simply no other option for modern applications on the front-end.

Re:Real people just don't like dealing with Hipste (2, Interesting)

acid_andy (534219) | about 3 months ago | (#47688617)

Preconceptions about business attire are based on social conventions that are utterly arbitrary!

You wouldn't ever catch me in a fedora (it seems little more than a uniform for them much like a suit is to your so called "businesspeople") but people who judge someone's professional competency based on that attire and equate professionalism with collars and suits are being as stupid and bigoted as the hipsters that you are describing.

Professionalism shouldn't be about clothing choices or buzz words or even about following arbitrary procedures. It should be about getting the job done, efficiently and to a high standard and that's *all* that it should be about! A professional is someone you can trust to meet your specified product (or service) requirements to a high standard.

Yes I know that in trying to win customers a business needs to consider the fact that more often than not a lot of these potential customers will have many of these arbitrary, illogical preconceptions, so I do understand that making compromises to please their sensibilities is important for the success of a business. It doesn't change the fact that these preconceptions are arbitrary and could make life simpler if over time they were phased out. I actually think in some places that's already begun to happen.

Re:Real people just don't like dealing with Hipste (2, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47688733)

Its not about preconceptions based on attire. Its about perceptions based on the wisdom of choosing ones attire that puts the business environment ahead of one's personal need to express himself through dress. That is a statement in itself. Some get it, others don't. The accepted dress in most companies today is much more casual and varied than it was even 10 years ago. It will continue to evolve. Having the capacity to know where the standards of the day are, and what may be pushing the limits, is one that you can demonstrate through your choice of dress. Trying to prove something is fine, just don't blame others for the result it brings. Business leaders don't like complainers.

Re:Real people just don't like dealing with Hipste (2)

shmlco (594907) | about 3 months ago | (#47688991)

The primary reason business attire is much more casual today is that other people began pushing against the same very envelope years ago.

Re:Real people just don't like dealing with Hipste (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47689023)

Pushing the limits and crossing the limits are two different things. Again, its situational sensitivity that is considered a positive trait. Those that don't get it, aren't going to display that trait.

Re:Real people just don't like dealing with Hipste (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 3 months ago | (#47688775)

Preconceptions about business attire are based on social conventions that are utterly arbitrary!

You wouldn't ever catch me in a fedora (it seems little more than a uniform for them much like a suit is to your so called "businesspeople") but people who judge someone's professional competency based on that attire and equate professionalism with collars and suits are being as stupid and bigoted as the hipsters that you are describing.

True, but they control the purse strings. You can either bang your head against the wall while complaining about the unfairness of it all or adapt, get inside, and begin the make changes. Generational shifts occur, after all hats used to be the norm for men at work, as were suits and ties. However, the reality is those making decisions at the top have a set of norms and you need to adjust to those norms if ou want to be taken seriously. Sure, there is the occasional genius who can do whatever they want because they are so good but there are far more people who think they are that person then there ar etaht person.

Re:Real people just don't like dealing with Hipste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688687)

Engineers and Software Developers were dressing down long before the word "hipster" entered the vocabulary. Would you have us reduce our IQ to that of the average salesman or marketeer as well?

Re: Real people just don't like dealing with Hipst (1, Interesting)

Richard Remer (3627923) | about 3 months ago | (#47688783)

Is it really immature to wear a t shirt or is it more immature to let someone tell you how to dress? If someone can't decide what to wear, I certainly don't want them making important decisions about business.

Re: Real people just don't like dealing with Hips (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688861)

Is it really unprofessional to dress in a way that turns off others from working with my company ?

Re:Real people just don't like dealing with Hipste (3, Insightful)

GeorgieBoy (6120) | about 3 months ago | (#47688981)

Sorry, I only take comments like this seriously when written by someone with an actual user account, instead of an AC. Then they're being "professional" and standing by their words. In all seriousness, I have experienced virtually no hipsterism in engineering culture over the course of 2 decades in the industry. Those that were about style over substance usually didn't even make it through getting their engineering degree. If you look at computer languages through the lens of "C++ is a proven technology" then you're ignoring other advances that make other solutions more appropriate. This comes from a place of not-understanding, rather than something being objectively better for any task. I started as a C++ developer for the first half of my career, and while I still occasionally maintain some older C++ software, most innovative work is done in modern languages now. Also, have you ever heard of a buffer overflow? There are lots of good reasons not to write certain things in C++, one of them being that it's easy to make a mistake and create a security nightmare. You might have heard of this when watching "business news".

Engineers that Don't Understand Companies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688353)

My experience has been the opposite - where companies with a larger proportion of their workforce are software engineers, the business is run into the ground to provide a utopia conforming to the cherry picked parts of the current ideological trend. BOTH scenarios are a recipe for failure. Businesses need to understand the mechanics of what makes software work, and software engineers need to appreciate they need to adapt to the market that they are serving.

Re:Engineers that Don't Understand Companies? (3, Funny)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 3 months ago | (#47688375)

I think you're getting engineer confused with self-opinionated hipster who wants to pretend they are businessmen and engineer without having the skill or talent to be either.

See "Startup" for more details.

Re: Engineers that Don't Understand Companies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688899)

Beyond Skill, talent, they lack even one semester in an engineering program.

In SF, the title engineer in IT means nothing. It's the word they put on every position to make it more attractive to eyeballs.

Re:Engineers that Don't Understand Companies? (2)

Livius (318358) | about 3 months ago | (#47688941)

Perhaps they are also confusing engineers, a type of highly-trained professional with excellent problem-solving skills, with people who incorrectly call themselves engineers.

Business decisions (5, Informative)

characterZer0 (138196) | about 3 months ago | (#47688369)

Should I halt work on the next version for a month to do custom work for this important customer?

Should I save time by making the system very inflexible in this regard to get it out the door for a narrow market at the expense of a wider market later?

Should I follow the spec that management and business analysts wrote even though it seems wrong, or go up the chain or to the customer and likely fix or rewrite the spec?

These are the kind of business decisions I used to find myself making. In most cases it turned out that I made the correct decision in hindsight, but I got a lot of fighting from management in the process about that not being my job, even though there was nobody else competent to do it.

The biggest problem I run into is that the management assumes that the engineers are completely unable to talk to customers and look at outside non-technical specifications. I have found that engineers tend to be better at it than managers and all but the best business analysts.

Re:Business decisions (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 3 months ago | (#47688435)

If they gave the engineer a cut of the profits, I'm certain they would make the correct choice every time.

Re:Business decisions (2)

JeffOwl (2858633) | about 3 months ago | (#47688443)

The biggest problem I run into is that the management assumes that the engineers are completely unable to talk to customers and look at outside non-technical specifications. I have found that engineers tend to be better at it than managers and all but the best business analysts.

I think that the generalization has gone too far both ways. There are certainly engineers that are very good at talking to customers. There are some that absolutely should not be talking to customers... Example, we have engineers that panic at the slightest bump in the road and will tell everyone who will listen how screwed up things are. If you press them on it, most of the time they haven't done their homework and when they do, it isn't such a big deal after all. A lot of the time it is a couple of hours rework on a year long project, yes it needed to be fixed, no it wasn't something that needed to be brought to the customer before being investigated. We have learned by experience which engineers should be put in front of the customer and which ones shouldn't. Same goes for which ones to put in front of executive management, put the wrong one there and suffer needless extra work for the next month.

Re:Business decisions (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 3 months ago | (#47688723)

The biggest problem I run into is that the management assumes that the engineers are completely unable to talk to customers and look at outside non-technical specifications. I have found that engineers tend to be better at it than managers and all but the best business analysts.

I think that the generalization has gone too far both ways. There are certainly engineers that are very good at talking to customers. There are some that absolutely should not be talking to customers...

I've been on both sides of that equation and the biggest issue I've seen with engineers is they often cannot communicate effectively. They may be great engineers and able to fix a problem but they have trouble explaining why the problem matters in a way to get decision makers to act. They can tell you it's a problem, what the technical details are and what needs to be done to fix it but fail open on why it is a problem and its implications. Those that can do that tend to be the ones listened to and moved into managing roles.

Re: Business decisions (2)

Richard Remer (3627923) | about 3 months ago | (#47688831)

This happens just as often from the other side. Decision makers like to make decisions and they will do so regardless of how well they understand the problem. Instead they bring vague contradictory language to the engineers and expect them to sort out what the business ACTUALLY needs to make the decision maker look good. Managers are good at communicating their successes and often little else.

"Her" Is Forced (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688371)

I'm sorry; I'm too busy noticing that the author used the forced "her" in this sentence:

Whereas in fact any engineer worth her salt will tell you that she makes business decisions daily–albeit on the micro not macro level–because she has to in order to get the job done.

This is particularly inappropriate considering that a majority of engineers are male. If you want to include females it would be appropriate to use the gender-neutral "their" instead instead of excluding males. Striving for equality is a good thing; that doesn't mean that everything has to be forced into a female perspective.

Re:"Her" Is Forced (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688461)

Female perspective perspective is diversity. Female domination is equity. You should report to the nearest re-education camp. It would be very disappointing if you turned violent and we would need to be put you down.

Re: "Her" Is Forced (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688719)

"Their" is plural. "His or her" is gender neutral, so is "its". In the old days, when speaking in general, "his" was considered the correct gender neutral third person singular.

Re: "Her" Is Forced (1)

Richard Remer (3627923) | about 3 months ago | (#47688839)

On behalf of feminists everywhere I'd like to apologize for offending your male centric worldview.

That seems fair (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 3 months ago | (#47688377)

That seems fair (at least at face value), given that engineers tend to hold business weenies in complete contempt.

We do, however, have both a power and a knowledge imbalance in the situation. We have a power imbalance in that those business weenies can fire me, but I can't fire them; and we have a knowledge imbalance in that many engineers do know the business side of things. I can work up a set of financial statements as well as the weenies; I can perform a ratio analysis better than the weenies, because unlike them, I "know" what the numbers mean beyond a cut-and-paste job in Excel; I can analyze the company's capitalization structure and consider the impact on near-term cash flows right up there with the best of the weenies.

Now, you might fairly point out that I've mostly describe accountancy, not "business"... But the knowledge imbalance gets worse when we get into actual strategic planning, market analysis, and consideration of macroeconomic factors - At least many of the weenies have significant exposure to accounting, sometimes even a related undergrad degree. For the harder material, they just can't grasp even the basics of supply/demand curves without a solid math background (in taking my MBA, I found one particular economics class hilarious; we spent more than half of the semester learning a set of related equations for (for example) forecasting optimal production levels, that all just took the derivative of the same damn underlying equation from different perspectives. And that counted as one of the "killer" classes in a goddamned graduate-level degree?

Sadly, though, business weenies do have exactly one trait that engineers lack - Smarm. And in this sick sad world, that will get you further than any level of mastery of any legitimate domain of knowledge.

Re:That seems fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688403)

I found one particular economics class hilarious; we spent more than half of the semester learning a set of related equations for (for example) forecasting optimal production levels, that all just took the derivative of the same damn underlying equation from different perspectives.

Just out of curiosity, was the course based on Hal Varian's textbook [BUY IT NOW] [amazon.com] ? He's at Google now.

Re:That seems fair (1)

pla (258480) | about 3 months ago | (#47688535)

Just out of curiosity, was the course based on Hal Varian's textbook [BUY IT NOW] [amazon.com]? He's at Google now.

Nope, not that one... I don't remember the actual title, but it had the word "management" in it, which I eventually came to learn meant "watered down so you'll know the buzzwords but have almost no understanding of the underlying material". And sadly, I don't mean that as a slam, I mean it quite literally - I had taken micro as an undergrad and we covered more in the first month than this "graduate level" class did in the whole semester.

Re:That seems fair (4, Interesting)

PRMan (959735) | about 3 months ago | (#47688437)

Most engineers are risk-averse. You said as much in your post. But many businesses succeed by risk. Getting something unfinished out there before the competitor often wins the day, and 99% of engineers wouldn't do it.

Re:That seems fair (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688877)

Most engineers are risk-averse. You said as much in your post. But many businesses succeed by risk. Getting something unfinished out there before the competitor often wins the day, and 99% of engineers wouldn't do it.

Sure, but remember that you can only find the "succeed by risk" examples. Those who took the risk and won.
The companies that took the risk and failed tanked and you never heard of them.

I know of at least two companies that were led by business people where they would take risks anytime someone did the math and showed them that there was a 90% chance of success. That is fine one or two times when you are a self employed start-up.

Well, lets just say that they both kept taking risks and as any engineer can deduct 90% chance of success means a 10% chance of failure.
Long story short. One of the companies went into bankruptcy years ago and the other company is millions in debt and will probably go into bankruptcy soon.

Re:That seems fair (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47688989)

If you are a good engineer, you have something that no business person will ever have (except at the very top maybe): You are really hard to replace. Use that!

this is the first I've heard.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688405)

that engineers don't respect engineers

Possibly the best post I've read in here for years (4, Insightful)

MindPrison (864299) | about 3 months ago | (#47688407)

This is actually a very touchy subject. The Engineers have felt it for years, but this applies to SO much more in business.

How many times haven't you been seen as the "useful idiot" every time someone need something technical fixed? This is something I've lived with and experienced since I was a kid (we're talking 30+ years here), and I wasn't even the geeky one. But it seems like every manager, every company executive and even just everyday people think they're somewhat "superior" because they make money on your kindness and professionalism.

I even had friends like that for years, sure...when something breaks, they'll come to me to get it fixed, and expect not to pay for it. But when I needed something, then they where nowhere to be seen. I made millions for one of my bosses back in the Commodore heydays when I literally was the "driving" motor of his entire store chain, I got people together, computer-clubs, repaired the computers etc. One could always argue that I was the IDIOT for not being business savvy enough to charge more, but they are just better at business than fixing things. When I left, his business went to ruins within 2 years, he thought he did it all by himself because he was such a smart businessman. That's the worst part...these company directors wouldn't know good people, and they always get high on "their" own success. And eventually fail.

How many times haven't you seen bosses walk away with HUGE fat bonuses, and all they basically do is talk. You do all the work anyway. Small minds think small, and only see the carrot dangling in front of their face. Intelligent bosses actually think ahead and invest in great minds. The companies that have the biggest successes - are those who appreciate their workers and the incredible minds behind it all. The best company executive in the world, praises his coworkers where credit is due.

Re:Possibly the best post I've read in here for ye (1)

putaro (235078) | about 3 months ago | (#47688665)

See, if you were smarter you would talk more and work less and get paid more (I've been telling myself this for years. I think my line of bullshit is finally getting to corporate grade).

Re: Possibly the best post I've read in here for y (1)

Richard Remer (3627923) | about 3 months ago | (#47688879)

That would imply that everyone wants to work less. Smart people should do what they love because they can. Many will do it for 60 hours a week because they want to.

I try to help them make business decisions (2)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about 3 months ago | (#47688417)

and of course I get ignored. I'm still pissed that I told them for the trade show demo we should use the older version which actually works and not the latest version which has a couple of show stopper bugs.(Given that 3 days is unrealistic for me to fix that and have QA test it.) Of course in their infinite wisdom they not only should we go with the new version(ooh, it's got new features, we don't care what they actually are it has them) but that I should add another new feature to it. (Lets just say they should have took my advice.)

Hey, I could bring up how they had the great idea to release software during a literal blizzard.(Yes, that really happened and yes it really was a blizzard. This did not go well.)

I hate to inform you (5, Informative)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 3 months ago | (#47688445)

But business managers don't respect anyone who isn't also a business manager.

Re:I hate to inform you (3, Informative)

matbury (3458347) | about 3 months ago | (#47688739)

Too true. And it's not just in IT and/or engineering. The idea of management not knowing much about what the company or department that they're in charge of actually does and what purpose it serves has becoming all too common in "business circles." Most senior managers come from sales jobs/backgrounds. They know a lot about how to sell stuff but call for IT support if they notice that the submit buttons on their UIs are a different colour one day or if they've forgotten how to turn on their computer. Think of the people in sales, then think of them with a big promotion; same people, same values, same ignorance, same narrow views, and same lack of a sense of what their product/service actually does and how it works.

Why limit this to engineers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688457)

It seems like management in some companies does not respect or understand employees.

It's reciprocal (3, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 months ago | (#47688533)

Coincidentally everyone but the managers of a company think that management is overrated, overpaid and in general the reason that things go south when (not if) they do. A bunch of dorks with zero clue what the company is actually doing making decisions about it and the products they have never even seen. Hell, the idiots even claim that it doesn't matter just what kind of product we're producing 'cause they're equally qualified to run a potato chip company as they are running a computer chip company. Actually I'd agree, they're usually qualified for neither.

So you see, the feeling is definitely mutual. The only thing that saves them is that they make the HR decisions, too. Else they'd have been outsourced to the local zoo.

Re:It's reciprocal (2)

putaro (235078) | about 3 months ago | (#47688653)

Yes, the business guys are often fond of telling everybody just what geniuses they are. I like to point out that when we were in college, we never talked about how smart the business majors were.

Re:It's reciprocal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688703)

But now you talk about your 12 year old car while the business majors talk about their 12th car.

Re: It's reciprocal (1)

Richard Remer (3627923) | about 3 months ago | (#47688905)

More money doesn't mean smarter.

Lots of technical decisions affect the business (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688537)

It's not only the business folks who don't understand the business, but the senior technical folks (architects, designers) don't always have a grasp on repercussions of simple decisions.

For example, say that a company wants to "cloud their business". Yes, I've heard that term. They start moving applications to AWS. This is easy at first, but after a while there are all the legacy apps that are vertically engineered and these don't move so well to the cloud. So the architects ask the designers to make their applications horizontally scalable, use a service layer, re-engineer the code pipeline. Then, in order to save some money, they (finance and purchasing group) entertain an offer from some legacy hardware vendor with a great price on some vertical systems. The next app they build is massive. And it's vertical. The architects forget about bin-packing algorithms that show the flexibility cost of a 64G application in the cloud and build this app (say it's a search engine that scales beautifully in the horizontal cloud model). And suddenly the company is back at square one: tied to a single vendor, unable to move their application to new models (whether IaaS or cloud or internal cloud). All this because some business guy thought saving $60K on the hardware purchase made perfect sense.

Cloud doesn't make sense in a lot of environments. In my company it's all about finance. The IT folks want much of the cost of projects to be capitalized. Others was everything to be an expense. The decisions affect the stock price. Because of this model we often end up with relatively small projects footing the bill for massive infrastructure updates (it's the only way to finance the ongoing expense of support). It's a broken system.

Anyway, the business folks understand this finance process but are pretty much completely ignorant about the technical ramifications. The technical decisions that are made by these business folks are a positive feedback loop to this broken approach. That's why IT costs skyrocket.

Re: Lots of technical decisions affect the busines (1)

Richard Remer (3627923) | about 3 months ago | (#47688919)

So one set of people is concerned with making good products that meet a client's needs while the other is concerned with moving numbers around on paper to pretend they are producing something of value. You can get rid of one of these groups of people and still have a successful profitable company. Guess which one?

Other responsibilities (3, Interesting)

Circlotron (764156) | about 3 months ago | (#47688599)

I worked for 13 years at a company that designed and manufactured switch mode power supplies up to 3kW size. The last ten years was in the design lab with a team of about 15 engineers. We made decisions on a daily basis in respect of fire and electric shock safety for our products; things that affect the very lives and properties of the end users of this equipment. One wrong decision or non-comliance with a particular regulation could have caused our company to be sued into oblivion. Despite this responsibility that we shouldered, we were not allowed access to the stationery cupboard - we had to go and ask permission of some junior office member for a simple ball point pen etc.

Story of my work life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688611)

I used to be amazed at how much I could be ignored by management. The number of events and incidents which have been brushed over or shoved under the carpet. Now, I just roll with it.

Business drives tech.. ALWAYS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688633)

Like most of you I have worked on all parts of development teams. From tech to owner and back again. The real problem is that MOST ( yeah i said it ) highly proficient engineers are dumb when it comes to business and or have a "god" complex. Here is the fact that non of them want to hear. BUSINESS drives TECH. It always has and always will. That means business leads and tech follows. Like it or life a hard life.

Re:Business drives tech.. ALWAYS (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47688955)

Actually, no. Business and tech alternate. The original driver may be tech (something becomes possible) or business (somebody hopes that something will become possible, like Edison that lied about the lightening bulb properties in his patent application), but afterwards it is usually both driving things. Or in some rare cases it is only tech, like for example, in some FOSS projects. It never is only business that drives things.

Those aren't business decisions (2)

putaro (235078) | about 3 months ago | (#47688643)

I'm an engineer who runs a business. I know the tradeoff between technology and costs. And figuring out how and where something should be validated is not a "business decision". It might be a business process decision, but unless it affect the bottom line (for example, the validation costs $50 so we only do it when a customer is just about to purchase) it's not a business decision.

There's a real problem with engineers not understanding business just as much as there's a problem with business types not understanding engineering. I had one of my engineers say to me once "I don't understand why we have sales people" (hint for those of you nodding along with him - it's so we get income so the engineers and everyone else can get paid). I've seen companies where engineering gold-plated the systems architecture to the point where the company couldn't make money with the deployed hardware.

Business isn't all that complicated and anyone competent as an engineer should be able to understand it (you may not like it but that's another issue entirely). Figuring out how the costs of a system affect the business, how the features in a product affect its salability, these are things that a good engineer will understand, and will probably wind up explaining to the business people.

Re:Those aren't business decisions (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47688929)

I completely agree. When I moved from academics to industry some time ago, it did not take that long to understand the business side of things. Most of it is just numbers, albeit a lot more fuzzy than is common in engineering. All it takes is an interest to learn. Sure, sales requires a lot of psychology, but a bright engineer can pick most of that up as well, just takes time and careful observation. And these skills even help you to present a project outcome in a positive light or defuse tense situations.

Of course, there are people in engineering that went there in the hopes of not having to deal with people. These will never be really good except in very special positions, as usually understanding what the problem to be solved is requires understanding and dealing with people.

It's simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688671)

Society doesn't respect engineers, otherwise it wouldn't outsource technical jobs by the truckload. You ever deal with a lawyer in India for a case in the US? No? Because lawyers make sure it can't happen.

While 45-year old engineers masturbate over videos of old PCBs.

And software "engineers" aren't even connected to any reality anymore.

Re:It's simple (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47688909)

Well, there are Software "Engineers" and Software Engineers. The second species is far rarer, but very much connected to reality. The first one is often not an engineer at all, for example look at the atrocious stuff routinely generated by the typical "web developer".

income (1)

tommeke100 (755660) | about 3 months ago | (#47688701)

average salary software developer in the US is 98k.
average business manager is 48k.
We might not get the respect we think we deserve, but the stats don't lie about our income.

Re:income (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47688845)

Nice numbers! Have a reference? (I believe them, but I may want to reference them myself...)

It Shows Up in the Weirdest Ways (1)

TechNeilogy (2948399) | about 3 months ago | (#47688715)

I once worked for a boss who repeatedly said: "We need to get you into management so I can pay you more." The odd thing was, he said this because he liked me, and really did want to pay me more. Yet since he owned the company, he could have paid me any salary he wanted, regardless of my job title. He just had this fixed idea that no engineer should be paid more than any manager who supervised multiple engineers.

Re:It Shows Up in the Weirdest Ways (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47688837)

And that is the issue: Managers do not "supervise" engineers, at least not the good ones. Good managers "serve" their engineers, and make sure they have everything to be productive. They coordinate, interface with other groups and try to solve all issues that prevents the people they work for (the engineers) from doing their jobs. As soon as managers think they are making the decisions, all is lost.

Re:It Shows Up in the Weirdest Ways (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 3 months ago | (#47688963)

They coordinate, interface with other groups and try to solve all issues that prevents the people they work for (the engineers) from doing their jobs

That's probably what the company owner wanted GP to be doing. It would be more valuable to the company than him working as an individual contributor.

Re:It Shows Up in the Weirdest Ways (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47689061)

Quite possible, I agree. Unfortunately, once you take the engineering out of the engineer, his quality of life is dramatically reduced. There are hybrid solutions though and a project head that is not afraid to get his hands dirty and does it well can command a lot of respect.

Engineers don't understand business (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about 3 months ago | (#47688763)

As evidently demonstrated by this summary.

(it has also been my experience, as an engineer turned entrepreneur and now CEO)

And these companies do not have good ones... (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47688815)

Or at least they do not have them long, as the good engineers will move on pretty soon. Some of them may even successfully found their own company!

I have seen this process several times now (fortunately always from the outside): Engineers start to get disrespected, and the most agile ones leave and find better jobs elsewhere. Then the good remaining ones raise more and more issues as there are not enough good engineers anymore and issues start to accumulate. Then these people get sacked or get strong suggestions to leave as they are "troublemakers". These also find better jobs elsewhere. Sometimes at a bit lower salary, but always with a lot more job-satisfaction. There may still be a few reasonable engineers left, for example some that are overpaid. (Typical gambit in the European banking industry: Overpay them, get them mortgages for houses, and suddenly they cannot easily leave because they would trouble to continue to pay their mortgages...) Then things get worse and worse, and eventually the average engineers figure out a way to leave as well. It is that or burn-out and engineers _are_ problem-solvers. And at that point, only those that are so bad that they really have no change of getting an acceptable job elsewhere remain. And eventually, things collapse.

Don't believe me? How do you think all the current data-breaches come to pass? Or a bit backwards in time: Why do you think Citibank took 6 weeks to analyze why you could switch account numbers in their online-banking and suddenly access accounts of other people? Or how did they miss this in the first place? Or why do many (most?) large IT projects still fail?

The only difference with large organizations or projects is that the process is a slower. Disrespecting engineers is a sure way to failure. Incidentally, in many classical hard engineering projects, you have engineers in charge, assisted by business people, not the other way round.

Make everything engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47688915)

Our company just fired an experienced chef to replace him with a food- and meal engineer.

It goes both ways (0)

Rostin (691447) | about 3 months ago | (#47688961)

Engineers frequently are know-it-alls who prioritize what they personally find interesting or meaningful over what's important to the business. Indeed, if business priorities are considered at all, they are thought of as an impediment rather than the reason most of us have paying jobs. Then when their manager tries to redirect their work, they retreat back to their cubes to grumble among themselves (or a few million friends on /.) about how idiotic and hopelessly out-of-touch their managers are with the nitty-gritty technical details or their work. This way of thinking about management is so in-grained and common that there's a very popular comic strip about it.

Maybe if more engineers figured out how to understand and appreciate decision-making on the "business side" or at least gave the same benefit of the doubt that they expect to receive from managers, they would find that their relationships with their companies would not be so adversarial.

Who signs the checks (4, Interesting)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 3 months ago | (#47688971)

I hit upon a slight variation of this years ago when a friend of my was partnering up with a sales guy to start a company. I told my engineer friend to make sure that their written agreement was that not a dollar could be spent or a contract of any sort signed without his agreement. This included hiring peopel. Also any employee could be fired by either of them. The great twist that his lawyer threw in was that if one or the other agreed to something without the approval of the other that the cost came out of their share of the profits and has no legal standing with the company.

It wasn't two weeks after their first client wrote them a big check that the salesman leased himself a "company" car. My friend said, nope that comes out of your profits. The salesman went to a lawyer and then managed to return the car.

The other clause that totally screwed the salesman was what is called a "shotgun clause" basically what that states is that one partner can make an offer to buy out the other's share and that offer can not be refused; but it can be matched in which case the first party must sell for the amount they offered.

So the company was taking off and my friend just made an offer on a house. So the salesman made a lowball offer for my friend's half of the company thinking that all his money was tied up. My friend actually had quite a bit of money saved and combined with credit cards and family raised the matching money in about a day. This one ended up in court but didn't go anywhere as my friend was 100% in the right. What came out during the initial discovery was that now that they had hired a handful of engineers was that the salesman was ticked that he was paying 50% of the profits to my friend who he thought could be replaced with interns and local tech school graduates. But as my friend gleefully was able to do was replace the salesman with someone who was much cheaper than the 50% profits going to the salesman.

Needless to say, both of them were fairly replaceable but I would say that my friend had at least as good business skills as the salesman, while also possessing masterful engineering skills. The salesman only had moderate business skills and zero engineering skills.

The reality of the story was that while my friend was willing to let things continue as normal and let the salesman enjoy the fruits of his initial investment, the salesman was pretty much trying to screw my friend once a month. He just could not believe that some techy was his equal. Every new employee that was hired was told by the salesman that the salesman was in charge and that the engineer was basically a hanger on. So my engineering friend would often have to point out to people such as the accountant how things worked(as opposed how the salesman dreamed they worked) and that either one of them could fire anyone so if they tried picking a side they would be gone the next day.

Yet my friend fully agreed that when he turfed the salesman that either one of them were by that point replaceable. As he had brought engineering skills that at first the salesman could not get cheap enough, and that the salesman had brought a rolodex that got the company started before it was exhausted.

This is part of a larger cultural problem (1)

PJ6 (1151747) | about 3 months ago | (#47689087)

that power, by its very nature, must be kept from the people who perform the actual, useful work.
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