The Most Annoying Thing About My Job: Entrepreneurs and Engineers

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What's the most annoying thing about your job? We're asking. Keep telling us. In our first batch of responses, nearly a dozen librarians and archivists shared their grievances. Now we bring to you the gripes of entrepreneurs, engineers, and IT specialists.

We're still reading! Type your response in the comment section below, email us at aboutmyjob1@gmail.com, or send your response to our Tumblr.

Entrepreneur #1
"As a woman in this man-boy culture, the men stare at me in the hall like I'm some alien species when I walk to the bathroom."

I've been a web developer in start-up businesses for 4 years. I've gotten used to being the only woman in the room, but it used to intimidate the heck out of me. On my first day at an international start-up, after the HR person delivered me to my cube, the first thing I heard was, 'Hey look! There's a girl over there!' I was the only woman in a department of 30, and the first one to ever be hired. At 22, I was so self-conscious that I changed my wardrobe, shlumping around in baggy jeans and oversized hoodies to avoid attention.

In the years since, I've gotten more confident, but the culture hasn't changed much. When a colleague at my current company announced on twitter that I was joining, one response from another developer in the community was 'a girl?!? wtf?!?' I've learned how to hold my head up and ignore the men staring at me in the hall like I'm some alien species when I walk to the bathroom (which I have almost entirely to myself, a nice perk). I get along well with my colleagues, often because I graciously pretend not to hear many comments about women we pass on the street when we walk to lunch, or pretend not to notice when I catch one of them looking at my ass.

Not only do I have to put up with this macho man-boy culture, but it's still apparently an ok debate to have about whether I should even be allowed to be there- not because I'm not good at what I do, but because women are inherently 'distracting.'

When I ranted about that article on my facebook page, several of my colleagues jumped in to defend Trunk, saying that women are often ineffective in the macho tech culture, because of how the culture is. I'm a nerd, I have all the appropriate esoteric nerdy references to enable to me fit in. I'm also well-educated and very good at what I do. But I still will always have to prove myself twice. It's exhausting.

Entrepreneur #2
"It's great to push for something you care about deeply. It's tough to work alone."

It's tough to work alone.  I work on a startup that profiles jobs through short, templated videos of informational interviews (and includes questions like "what do you like least about your job?").  It's great to work on a startup and push for something you care about deeply, and it's awesome to have total creative autonomy in something, as well.  But having people around you is critical to harnessing the energy required for good work, and it prevents myopic thinking too.  It's why I often work at a co-working space, which helps mitigate the problem.

Engineer
"The most annoying part of my job is the time-zone difference with our factory in Asia."

I work as a product development engineer in Silicon Valley and the most annoying part of my job is the time zone difference with our factory in Asia.  I'm an early morning person who gets in before 7am, but our daily conference calls don't start until 6pm in order to catch our manufacturing team at their 8am. I'm looking forward to the end of daylight savings time.

Engineer
"Budget pressures lead to micromanagement, which leads to the dumbing-down of enterprise knowledge, which leads to counter-productive decision making."

I am a registered professional engineer with an MS degree.  I believe I am good at my job and have tangible deliverables that indicate as much, at least to my peers.

Recently, my industry and my company has launched a blitz of "efficiency initiatives" to improve our bottom line.  This has led to requests from upper management for reporting on all sorts of minutae regarding my job that a) they have never sought before and, b) they clearly do not understand based on followup communications I need to address.

I suppose it is annoying that some people feel that, because they might have a VP after their title, they will be able to look at a blizzard of complex contracts, negotiating relationships and technical implementation issues and come up with "improvements" that I have been unable to see.  However, providing the deeper information on the issues usually disabuses them of the notion - and stops the inquiries as well.  So this is annoying in a somewhat trivial sense.

However, more deeply irritating is that I am forced to spend substantial amounts of time to rework vast amounts of data so that it fits their (frankly) simplistic and off-topic reporting templates. This is valuable time that I could be using to advance the agenda of my company instead of simplifying information to the point of draining it of actionable meaning.  This shoe-horned data also often represents poorly - or even incorrectly - the status of the situation, which is even worse.

The scary part is that it is these decision makers (and their consultants), who request information that is off topic and outside of their expertise, who will develop the "strategic decisions" that inform the company going forward. 

In a nutshell, budget pressures lead to micromanagement which leads to the dumbing-down of the enterprise knowledge that leads to seeming wise but actually counter productive decision making.

I guess another annoying thing is watching consultants making hundreds of dollars an hour wasting your time for weeks at a time before drawing the same conclusions that you, someone immersed in the situation, had already deduced.

Software Developer
"IT seems to have forgotten that computers and technology are tools we use to be more productive."

The three most annoying aspects of my job as a software developer (though these are common throughout the corporate world):

1. Managers that micro-manage. I know how to do my job, and it's actually what you're paying me for.  Don't spend your time watching me (and trying to tell me how to) do it, go make yourself useful.  Of course, I also feel that most American corporate management structures are broken.  People without vision and without ideas are being promoted to their level of incompetence, and they have a tendency to latch onto the few things they can control, instead of doing their job.

2. Information Technology - Somewhere along the way, IT seems to have forgotten that computers and technology are tools we use to be more productive.  When your desire for security (which I understand) becomes so great that you start sacrificing the productivity of your users to achieve it, you need to re-examine the way you do your job.  The best IT guys understand that good IT is a balance between security and usability...the best IT guys are also sadly few-and-far between, in my experience.

3. Human Resources - Human Resources might be the most annoying arm of the corporate bureaucracy I have to work with.  HR tries to bill itself as a resource for the employees, but every HR person I've ever worked with clearly has the interests of the company at the top of their list, and anything they can do for the employees is secondary.

IT for Public Sector
"All employees are paid the same--poorly."

I have no complaints in my current job in the private sector but I can give you a good list from when I was an I.T. manager in the public sector:

1. All employees were paid the same--poorly. I had an impossible time recruiting talented people, and those I did recruit often didn't stay long. I had no way to reward the people who did an excellent job, or punish those who did poorly. Eventually, it became a huge drag on morale.

2. All employees had to punch a physical time clock. Computer programmers/software engineers do not work this way. They have bursts of creativity that don't conform to an 8-5 work day. Where I am now if one of my good employees is stuck in a rut, I tell him or her to take the afternoon off, go for a bike ride, go to the movies--whatever. Likewise, sometimes they'll get inspired in the middle of the night and want to knock out some code (or documentation, or whatever) and I don't put any artificial rules ("No working before 8, no working after 5") in place to stop them.

3. All employees had to stay at their desks. There were no meetings over coffee, no working from home, etc. This is the most counterproductive system imaginable. I prefer to give my employees a task and a reasonable deadline, and leave it to them to do what needs to be done, with me running interference when necessary if something is blocking them from meeting a task. Aside from weekly staff meetings, I don't have any hard and fast rules for "schedules".  If someone wants to work 50 hours in a row then take the rest of the week off I don't care as long as they're giving me quality work (and they attend the staff meeting).

4. MEETINGS. In the public sector we had endless meetings that dragged on and on and on. Then we'd have managers meetings to discuss why tasks weren't being completed. If you interrupt a software engineer for a meeting, you lose them for double the time of that meeting--they have a thought-intensive job and lots of interruptions are not good. Where I am now we have a weekly staff meeting, maybe twice a week during crunch times.

Software Developer
"Filling out a time sheet. Not an ordinary time sheet. One mandated by Sarbanes-Oxley."

By far the most annoying thing I have to do is fill out a time sheet. Not an ordinary, how-many-hours-did-you-work-this-week-on-what time sheet, but one mandated by Sarbanes-Oxley.

I not only have to keep track of how long I work on each project I'm assigned to (and I'm lucky -- some of my colleagues have 20 projects to juggle), but whether that work fits the SarbOx definition of 'capital expense' (developing something new) or 'ordinary expense' (fixing something old). Needless to say, those categories are completely arbitrary at the margins. This is, apparently, a vital tool in the war against corporate fraud. Admittedly, it's only half-an-hour a week -- but it's 30 minutes that could be much better spent, and when you multiply that half-hour by all the developers in the country, it's a pretty large bite.

Entrepreneur #3
"Clients think 'net-30' means 'think about paying me after 60 days.'"

I'm an entrepreneur in a B-B service industry. The most annoying thing about business for me is the clients that think net 30 means "think about paying me after 60 days."


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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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