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The Marvelous Misadventures Of My Career: Ep.1: Ghost Software Development

There reached a point in my career when I was at work but I had no work. Literally. I was a mirage; a ghost. The company I was in had no clue on what to do with our R&D department. This really frustrated us ALOT. Why? Because we approached them several times asking if we could be integrated with the core development team. We approached them asking how else we can help. To shed more light on this, I will take you back to the beginning when I joined the company.

The first job I had was pretty good. However, they changed the structure and it did not favour my career path. A friend of mine linked me to an e-commerce company. I went for an interview and was hired as a software developer immediately. I was shocked. I did have some concern but I thought hey, here is an offer take it now! This was in November 2015. Things looked good and promising. A remote team handling the core platform and we the local team handling UI/UX for the local market before being integrated into the company. We mostly built simple intuitive landing pages with products and categories which greatly improved the SEO of the platform. This went on for 3 months with promise of higher pay. I was in a team of 4 people in our R&D department. Our R&D manager, 1 designer and 2 backend developers. Though the other backend developer left, so 3 in a team. The e-commerce company was foreign and senior management was from a non-English speaking country.

Right off the bat Communication became a huge barrier with some of the senior management. Simple words sounded so different; mispronounced words confused us entirely. But at least they knew some English. The remote development team knew nothing. We had to translate everything with our IT director. Our IT director in turn had a hard problem understanding the English we spoke. We really had to break down our own English for them to understand. It was difficult and very annoying. Explaining something as simple as why I should not use cookies in the browser or why we need an SSL certificate was like explaining to a 5 year old who already knew what you wanted to say but did not know how to say it. But I took it positively and we managed to fine-tune how to communicate with them.

3 months came and we intended to ask about our rise in pay as we delivered most of the time and some of the management praised our work. We faced a back and forth of “lets meet tomorrow”. Our R&D manager went personally to a senior manager and asked. Excuses left right and center but ultimately nothing. We were also promised that we would integrate with the remote core development team. The most interesting response we got was from the global R&D Director with some decent English. I will use full english to make it easier on you.

R&D manager: We have not been doing any programming. What are the plans for the local team? You told us we will integrate with the remote team?

Global R&D Director: Ahhh we had not thought that far...


We were then tasked with integrating a mobile payment system API with the e-commerce platform. This I felt was the only real growth challenge I had in the company. The integration took a while as the mobile payment system API had sketchy documentation. Though we managed to pull through.

The remote team then developed a way to automatically make landing pages though it could have been made better. This meant we had a lot of free time from henceforth. A LOT. 3 months down road no programming at all for the company from the R&D department. I decided to do my own side hustles and projects. It was nice of course because the paycheck kept coming but it started to suck.

2 months of no work later, the IT director approached me and told me he wanted me to develop a platform. A friend of his, let’s call him Mr.Outsider, was the project manager. I explained to my IT director that the project is a conflict of interest as per the contract given to me.

“I help Mr.Outsider, because he do for me favor and I do for him favor”

He said with his broken English. We went back and forth but he did not seem to understand. I ended up doing the project and Mr.Outsider used to come to my desk and see my progress. His English too was not good.

Sometime later our designer went for a CSS competition and ended up getting a job in Europe. We(R&D manager and I) were happy for him and we encouraged him to pack his bags and get the hell out. The IT Director then went back to his home country as he felt homesick. This I took as a golden chance to tell the IT Director that the project was a conflict of interest and I would not continue. But it quickly backfired as he got one foreign manager within the company to follow up my progress and translate any requirements to English for me. This did not work so well so I just told them to allow me to communicate with Mr.Outsider directly. At this point in time, the R&D manager left and I was left alone with an IT support guy.

I never touched any e-commerce platform code nor did I do any testing. They tried to involve me by asking me to perform acceptance testing for their mobile and web platforms. This worked but they were slow in implementing any changes I requested. My role was developing Mr.Outsiders’ project that was completely unrelated to the company and helping IT support. This happened for 5 months. 5 MONTHS. We did reach out to management several times to try and discuss why they did not include us into the core team but they kept saying

We are dealing with a few technical issues you may find it difficult to understand but we will integrate soon

In the last few months of 2016, many people had left the company.

In December 2016, I got a call from a guy, LookFresh offering a job. It was still e-commerce but I jumped at it. In addition to e-commerce, they also dealt with e-wallets. Much like PayPal. We organized an interview and we had a long discussion on my skills, what he had to offer and expectations. At this time I was sort of rusty but I knew I would catch up quickly. He wanted an e-commerce built in Django. I was not too fluent in Django and I mentioned it to him but I confidently told him I was willing to learn. He later sent me a contract. I wrote a resignation letter, signed Mr.LookFresh’s contract and I was out of the e-commerce company on December 31st 2016

Tune in to the last bit of this series Ep.2: The Unapologetic, Unforgiving Boss

Top comments (1)

lavigi profile image

Yes, this happens from time to time... I once had a 2 year period of ostracism and I took the opportunity to advance my PhD. Right now I am in another, so learning lots on my own and doing very interesting stuff. Thanks Coursera, edx, Codecademy, Zenva, and of course Dev! for providing so many opportunities to learn :-)