No company is a monolith

Dear new developer,

When I was a new developer, or actually new to the business world, I thought that companies acted rationally.

They don’t.

I remember when an old timer at my first job talked about empire builders. Basically, his perspective was that above a certain level, there’s not much interest in actually doing things at many companies. Instead, people in power want to accumulate more power–more budget, more headcount, more influence. And this causes turf wars.

I have seen this happen with my own eyes. At one point in the mid 2000s I was hired as a contractor at a big company. Showed up bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to do work. Nothing to do. Asked my contracting company what to do–“bill 40 hours”. Asked my manager what to do–couldn’t get ahold of him. Asked employees what to do–no one wanted to give me any tasks (I never found out why). I believe the manager was just maintaining his budgets and headcount. I spent a lot of time browsing the internet.

I have never felt more useless in my life.

So the point is that there are factions in a company above a certain size (below a certain size, there are still factions, but they are more united because they are trying to make sure the company continues to exist, and there’s fewer places for bad apples who are not interested in the company mission to hide).

What does this mean for you? When you don’t have a job, realize that there are different people and departments that might hire you. Just because you were rejected from one position doesn’t mean you’ll be rejected from another.

If you have a job, it’s a good idea for you to gain an understanding of the various factions and players. Lots of times this can be accomplished by asking questions at company social events and drawing your conclusions. You can then determine which faction you want to be part of (a rising one seems to me to be the best).

I have no patience for this kind of stuff. I’d rather find a great boss and work hard to make him or her look great. That’s probably why I’ve spent most of my life at small companies.

But, the point is, if you’re working in a larger organization (more than say, 60 people) you”re going to want to be aware of the internal politics.



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