Joel on Software Forums where someone asked if they should take a goverment job.
- The head of IT has been in government for 27+ years. She is the one making purchasing decisions and setting strategic direction. She does not own a computer or have an external email address. She does not buy on-line, and she has the web monitor set so tight you can forget about using the Internet. No IM. No webmail. Then to ensure you cannot possibly reach the outside, no non-government equipment permitted in the building without a specific exception. This will be your organizational leader as the rule – not the exception.
- Change is glacial. Two weeks I did nothing because they could not allocate a machine for me to access the network, until I had a badge. To get the machine, a form needed to be signed by my boss, his boss, her boss, and his boss. My boss walked it around, and was told that was inappropriate, and it still took 4 hours. Then it went to the help desk who took 9 business days to process and deliver the equipment. Deliver in this case meant coming to my desk and providing a user id and password to a machine sitting there. To install software requires you to have an exception form filed. Another round of 4 signatures in my department, one from security, one from the helpdesk and one from a person who no one can explain except they need to sign the exception form – six days. Complain or bother anyone about a request and it will disappear. Petty is an understatement.
– It is true that no one gets fired. But worse, making decisions is career limiting. The solution is to ensure you never do anything of risk. What you want is to be tied into a project you can claim some responsibility with, if it goes well, and disavow any relationship if it fails.
- No _one_ makes any decisions because there is safety in numbers – very large numbers. All decisions are by committee and expect it to take weeks. They spent 12 weeks, with a minimum of six people in nearly 20 meetings discussing a database key. One key. It is an extreme example but that it can happen says it all.
– If you take any type of leadership position and do anything that employees do not like – they submit a grievance. Why? Because while one is pending, they cannot do anything to you, include request work, or deny automatic or scheduled promotions in grade. A 25 year developer? here has had a grievance on her various leaders, continuously for over 12 years. She is proud of it. “They don’t tell me what to do!”
– Write off leaving government. You can always leave right? Wrong. Would you hire someone from an environment that fosters the behavior above? With very few exceptions, spend more than a year or two as a “gov-e” and you can kiss the private sector good bye. Who would want this behavior and if it took you more than a year to figure out you should quit, that says volumes.
Unless you want to do what you are being hired to do for the next 20 years, with 2.5% annual increases in pay, bosses who make no decisions and run the same technology for decades – run away.
Friday, May 30, 2008
A prime example of the type of person you will be working with. Again, I work for the govt and recently got promoted. There is one other person at my agency with my new title. As part of promotion, they are requiring that I get a certain Microsoft certification. I talked to the other person with my same title if he was planning on getting the same certification, since he didn’t have it and they had just amended the job description to require the MS cert.
I asked him just so I could see if we could possibly share study materials and whatnot.
He responded that he wasn’t planning on getting the certification because they couldn’t force him to get it since it wasn’t in the job description when he got hired AND he explained that I am young and he since is older he is planning on just “coasting” till retirement.
The thing is, he doesn’t look that old. I asked him how long until he could retire? He said 18 YEARS!
He plans on coasting for the next 18 years!
And yes, plan on every single decision to be made by committees and groups. They will often be filled with people who have no idea what you’re talking about. At my agency when we need to fill a committee for anything, it’s pretty much just putting warm bodies in a seat. They don’t care if they are remotely qualified to help decide whatever we’re trying to decide.
Friday, May 30, 2008