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Coding Unicorn πŸ¦„
Coding Unicorn πŸ¦„

Posted on • Updated on

Fired for Agility

Let me share a story that happened to me this week.

I was hired as a software dev contractor in a web agency. The agency claims to be "the market leader in agility". My bullshit scanner raised a warning, but the money was too good to reject the offer.

Our team was tasked to create a new landing page for a project for one of our key customers. Nothing particularly exciting, just a colorful landing page with a simple subscription form. So far, so good.

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Because I worked as a freelancer in the past, I learned that my income is directly tied to my performance. The sooner I make the customer happy, the sooner I get paid. If a customer is waiting, I have no money to pay my rent. As simple as that. I was trained to deliver customer value fast, no matter what.


Now, back to the story:

Yesterday, my manager organized a meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to agree which frameworks and libraries should be used for the new landing page. We are a team of four devs, plus the manager. I suggested that the meeting is not necessary, we better stick to the tools we already know and get back to work. Everybody disagreed because it’s a good opportunity to finally try React Hooks. Or Svelte. Or only God knows what.


I ducked out and just built that landing page. No bad intentions – I just wanted to build something in my lunchtime. I picked tools that other devs are familiar with. Then quickly deployed the page to staging env, showed it to the customer, and the customer enjoyed it. After a couple of fixes, customer asked me to ship to production. Click, it's live. The team was still in the room arguing.

The team ended the meeting at 18:00. It took them 6 hours to reach consensus. They will use Svelte because Svelte is a new black. The team has zero experience with it whatsoever. Learning is part of the job, right? The manager was facilitating this nonsense.

6 hours x 4 people = 24 hours wasted.

When the team saw the landing page ready, they threw a joke that my approach is not good for business. The manager rebuked me for not being a team player.

When I asked:

WTF?

They said:

You better stop thinking like a freelancer.

OK...


The customer called me the next day and said that the agency charged them 40 dev/hours for the landing page. I hang the phone up, pretending the internet connection was lost. I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to lose my job and lie to the customer either.


So what?

People talk a lot about agility, continuous delivery, delighting the customer. Every dev in my team, as well as the manager, is a Certified Scrum Master. They teach others "how to be agile", speak at meetups and conferences. Moreover, they truly believe that these neverending meetings, daily standups, learning at work is what customer must be paying for.

Those folks work full-time and salary drips on their bank account every month, regardless of the work results. Where is the incentive work fast? Developers are not hungry. Life is good, long meetings and discussions are fun.

This is why many developers are afraid of freelancing or becoming self-employed. You can't just work anymore; You have to actually deliver value asap, otherwise, you can't pay rent. For me, it sounds motivating enough to work faster and pick tools wiser.

Wrap up?

  1. The company fired me. When a puzzled customer asked how much time I spent on the landing page, I didn't lie.

  2. The customer hired me directly. 2x salary.

  3. It's good to think like a freelancer.

That's the whole story. Make your own conclusions. Love you! ❀️

– Julia

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Top comments (70)

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

I agree. The GOOD part was building the thing during the meeting, but it would be better to deploy it to a demo server, walk back in the meeting, and say "Excuse me, hate to interrupt, but while you were all debating, I built the thing. It's on demo, just needs a formal review, and we're done."

And then if the company balks, I'd quit.

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codingunicorn profile image
Coding Unicorn πŸ¦„ Author • Edited on

I understand what you mean. I honestly didn't want to do work behind the team's back. Good timing, the customer was right there next to me when I was hacking the damn thing. Then he went "this is exactly what we need". πŸ˜‚

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nicolus profile image
Nicolas Bailly • Edited on

So basically on your first week on the job you :

  • Told your boss the meeting he just arranged was stupid
  • Didn't go to a team meeting
  • Sent something to a client without it being either approved or reviewed by anyone in the company
  • Took a client from your company and started working for them directly (which is illegal in some countries).

Yeah, I think you're definitely better suited to be a freelancer πŸ˜‰

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sebbdk profile image
Sebastian Vargr

Most contracts have anti competition clauses to guard against this exact story, she is lucky if she dodged a lawsuit.

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thesnowmanndev profile image
Kyle Martin

She still can be sued. No offense to Julia but the team lucked out. I wouldn't want to have a team member who acts purely upon their own intentions. It is excessive that the meeting took 6 hours and no real work got done but the ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) cycle is important. It may have been acceptable to the client but her work could reflect poorly on the companies overall product.

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miketalbot profile image
Mike Talbot

Oh I feel your pain. I've hired teams that want to spend hours arguing about linting, tools and frameworks and not one moment thinking about the solution.

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

Where is the incentive to delight the customer? Developers are not hungry. Life is good, long meetings and discussions are fun.

From the standpoint of a full-time dev, that's a pretty broad brush. Most devs I know in my position - whether I work directly with them or not - get enthusiastic about certain projects more than others, but all want to get stuff done to their definition of "well". That's either "fast" or "high-quality" depending who you talk to, but what I mean is none of them really sit back and work through it like it's a chore.

The incentive to delight the customer is the incentive to do work you can be proud of and which the customer enjoys using. For example, I specialise in improving the back-end UI so customers who are used to clunky oddball interfacer and out-of-date manuals for proprietary systems will have an easier time maintaining their content. I like doing that, because it's what I'd want if our roles were reversed.

I've worked mostly in agencies, and we're pretty fast compared to project teams. We have meetings, and sometimes they go on a bit, but nobody really wants them, we put up prototypes as soon as we can to show the clients. Of course if you compare how long an agency charging $100k will take to make something you could make in your bedroom in a month, you're going to come up with a big difference. For agency life, at least, that difference is in researching and talking to the customer, and the customers' customer, and trying things out and so on. We do some projects agile and some we don't. We've all had Agile training. We do some projects with technologies and frameworks we've used before and some with new ones. We don't jump in to either unless we've made sure it's what's best for the customer, who needs an update to X in six months, or to integrate with Y platform in the mythical Phase 2.

This is why many developers are afraid of freelancing or becoming self-employed.

I don't freelance or become self-employed because I don't have any money. That salary dripping into my account? Not enough to get me out of debt. I need all my cash; I don't have the luxury of taking on intermittent work with no capital. It's not that I'm somehow scared of being efficient. Believe me, if us full-timers dropped the ball, we'd have to find another job too.

Hiring freelancers or contractors for an agency is difficult, too, because there are a lot of bad ones. People who talk the talk then come in and waste your time for a couple of weeks and then disappear. When you find the good ones, you want to keep them, even though they cost five times as much as regular employees.

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habereder profile image
Raphael Habereder

Well, I'll be the Devils advocate for once and will say the handling of the situation does leave a bit to be desired.
Going rogue completely might have been a little bit too aggressive for most teams. Web Agencies especially are a tough crowd to work with.
Most of the times customers seem to pay for experiments and learning expenses of the developers, so I fully support your mindset of "start talking less and work more" in this instance.

I'm glad the costumer rewarded your honesty and swift work well!

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brandinchiu profile image
Brandin Chiu

I'm glad things worked out for you and agree that the team you describe here seems to be on the wrong side of "agile". The kind of people I find fall in the bucket of spending so much time trying to follow all of the principles of Capital-A agile that they forget to actually BE agile.

That being said, as an employer, I'd have to agree with the termination. It seems like a definite mismatch in expectations from both sides, and you both seem better off for the separation, haha.

Good luck with the new gig!

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codingunicorn profile image
Coding Unicorn πŸ¦„ Author

Thanks Brandin! ❀️

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix

This is an interesting perspective. Thinking as the client though, I would have been glad to have someone who put my needs first

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codingunicorn profile image
Coding Unicorn πŸ¦„ Author

Now then will kill us both. Run, Forrest, Run! πŸ˜‚

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski

Don't forget that in that situation the client of Julia was the agency, not the end client.

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski

This story sounds kind of strange.

If you are part of the team why were you not sitting with them talking? Or were you sitting in the room with them and coding away?

And why didn't you try to point out their problems? Of course, you have to do it in a nice way like: "Let's maybe try to build an MVP with react hooks quickly". Should not take this long if you could build a production-ready version in your lunchtime?

And then going directly to the customer besides you were hired by the agency? I just hope for you that no other agency will find this. Because this is going rouge and showing that you will ignore what in this moment your real customer wants and by real I mean the agency.

I totally agree that they should not discuss things like that for 6 hours but learning new things should be also be priced in when you are a freelancer. That's nothing uncommon and if the client really likes you, you can even say that this is not your expertise and they are even willing to hire you anyway because sometimes social skills are more important then technical skills.

What is also strange.
Why did the agencies client contact you?
How could you so easily deploy in prod?
Where was the testing?
Where was QA in this?
Where was the designer and did he/she approve of the finale implementation?

This is usually why you go for an agency and not a single freelancer.

This is why many developers are afraid of freelancing or becoming self-employed. You can't just work anymore; You have to actually deliver value asap,

Sorry but this is nonsense. What you usually do is 50-25-25. Or some model of payment like that. 50% upfront 25% for some milestone and 25% when on prod or something like that. You can go 33-34-33 or whatever you feel like,

Of course, he hired you for 2x the salary because it was still way cheaper than paying an agency.

What you did is basically making a client fire an agency so you could get this client. I'm not saying you did this in a calculated way but this is still how other agencies will see it.

If you think what you are doing is agile then sorry again you are wrong.
Please read the following book: "Clean Agile: Back to Basics":
amazon.com/Clean-Agile-Basics-Robe...
It is a book about agile in its basic form.

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thesnowmanndev profile image
Kyle Martin

She should also probably read 'The Clean Coder' while she's at it.

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chechenev profile image
Maxim Chechenev

I think it's not even about how agile the company is, but how toxic it is.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of companies with a lack of any process and understanding that work should be done on time (especially when you work in agencies). Sometimes I feel that some people are trying to cover their incompetence by shifting focus to endless conversations instead of making real progress.

But nice to hear that things worked out for you.

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waylonwalker profile image
Waylon Walker

The customer hired me directly. 2x salary.

What an end to the story!

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_hs_ profile image
HS

And they ask why clients go away or switch to freelacers through upwork or something. This is one of the biggest reasons software develeopment companies will drop down in value and many of them disappear.

One of the reasons why we should mainly work for non IT companies, onsite or remote, and close to non IT people. More problem focused and cheaper for clients while in some cases bigger salary for developer. Software houses are good to learn stuff but I feel they mainly have negative attitude for ripping of the customer

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antero_nu profile image
Antero Karki

This story and the comments from male developers saying you’re wrong is one reason why such a big part of the developer community is shit.

Sounds like a toxic dishonest place to work and I hope that the new job is better.

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eurocalypse profile image
David

I am curious why you think gender played a big part in this? Maybe I'm blind so please enlighten me.

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antero_nu profile image
Antero Karki • Edited on

Seen men post more or less same experiences at times, usually don’t get responses like they were right to fire you.

Rather things like I admire your integrity, you showed them proper collaboration. Some people just default to have more sympathy and understanding towards men, probably without reflecting on it too much or they’d respond differently.

Though my comment wasn’t only about gender which is why I didn’t mention it. It’s about that company thinking they can charge their customer for them learning a new framework. It’s about people thinking that that’s collaboration rather than what she did with the client. To me that sounds like a great team member to have and anyone who fires her is very likely someone I never want to work with, that’s all.

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thesnowmanndev profile image
Kyle Martin

No one is being toxic. Almost everyone gave her constructive criticism which is what belongs in a community. Everyone was polite but critical. That is very important.

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jafuentest profile image
Juan A. Fuentest Torcat

Don't try turn this into a gender issue, that's just cheap.

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codingunicorn profile image
Coding Unicorn πŸ¦„ Author

Thanks for your support, mate : )

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omarkhatib profile image
Omar

In my opinion , is that you work with a team , so you should stick with it. you don't have the rights to contact the customer without team permission.
if you don't like the team so you should look to move to a new company.

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omarkhatib profile image
Omar

I am not talking here about if they right or not .

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adam_cyclones profile image
Adam Crockett

I think that is great you can be proactive but agile is broken in the sense that some values mean more than others depending on the company. I'm not trying to be mean but I think you did make an error in judgment in that agile is supposed to give all parties a voice, it's a consultation between all stakeholders, by choosing what you think other developers want you are not giving other developers the chance to speak about ideas... That they might have wanted to say such as "this is stupid why are we having this meeting" a voice that you should have shouted from the hill tops. Agile !== Productive in my experience but happy we all are. So I value your care and determination but perhaps this company cared about discussions.

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bernardbaker profile image
Bernard Baker • Edited on

Hi,

I read your article and all of the comments. I'm impartial about it all. This isn't something I've come across in my reading of content on dev.to.

But I and probably everyone else want to know how you feel after reading all the comments. What you are doing now. What's your current gig, etc.

Could you update everyone?

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codingunicorn profile image
Coding Unicorn πŸ¦„ Author • Edited on

Hi Bernard,

You're the only person who asked, thanks for that. That was expected, but I'd love if the community were a little friendlier to each other. We have enough hate; More love needed. That's why many people are afraid of writing and opening up.

Haters gonna hate! πŸ’©

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bernardbaker profile image
Bernard Baker • Edited on

Well just remember we're all waiting to hear you voice in this community. No matter how πŸ’©e some of the comments might be. Keep writing ❀️. And have you moniezitized your Dev.to profile? If you haven't. Look into it.

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thesnowmanndev profile image
Kyle Martin

I don't think any of the comments are shitty... They are being real and telling her that what she ultimately did was wrong. Even if the team was over thinking a small project. Yes we want to hear her stories and opinions. And we should give critical and constructive feedback. Which everyone did. No one needs to play a victim here or write people off because they didn't commend her

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bernardbaker profile image
Bernard Baker

I agree. Critical was a more positive word.

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