Introducing: Grumpy Old Men
It is no longer in vogue to be a grumpy old man.
Was it ever? Probably not.
Many grumpy old men are not that old. And more than a few are not men, The fact is that many are grumpy for one of two reasons - they are either distressed by the sad state of the IT industry or they either caused it or continue to.
History is replete with examples of groups co-opting the language of their detractors and converting an unflattering label into a badge of honour. Grumpy old men are too numerous to ignore. We think that we have a better idea. Let's put our GOM ideas out there and let readers decide if we’re making sense, and maybe, just maybe, we can help younger, potential grumpies to avoid what we have endured. And if we are really lucky, even convince some of the other GOMs to retire. We intend to have a fact-based, as opposed to a fact-free discussion, get away from Hippo-thinking, and try to fix some of the very real problems facing our industry.
This blog has been created by three (and counting) self-acknowledged, grumpy old men who want to take back the label. We genuinely care about swear, and we know that modern engineering culture should and can be immured. As a profession, we can be better, much better. We are also acutely aware that another group of even grumpier (in many cases), slightly younger, and much less competent set of grumpy old men got the industry into the mess it is in. So, we also feel obligated to do our part to right the ship and help restore quality and excellence to the industry. Failing that, to at least have some fun writing blogs about what we love to do - make technical stuff work well.
Kent Beck recently commented that “the things that haven't changed [in the past 30 years], the things that are really significant, are the power structures around software development."
The fact is that those power structures are made up of technical leaders who have not served the profession well. It is still possible to change the narrative to encourage our chosen profession to reassess its priorities-approach, to reward
- Excellence where there was mediocrity
- Passion where there was complacency
- Merit where there was entitlement
In our day jobs, each of us lives our principles; technical excellence, efficiency, and quality. We bring years of experience and wisdom, hard-earned and born of painful mistakes. And, like many people we hope will read this, we too struggle to push back on the reality that is common in corporate technical leadership. There is so much potential in the sphere we call IT that we need a critical reassessment of how it is run. And we need it now.
The way we will advance this effort is by sharing our experiences, and describing what has worked well, what hasn’t panned out, and what doesn't work at all. We will try to offer anecdotes, practical ideas, and suggestions that may help other tech leaders do their jobs better. We’ll give our (mostly) unfiltered opinions and general reflections on the state of the IT world.
Why now? Let’s face it; it has been a rough year so far for tech companies. Big-name companies are suffering from bloated workforces and dwindling revenues. Those companies are confronted by three challenges simultaneously.
First, high-profile layoffs have dented the image of an industry which, though still astride our narrow world, appears to be vulnerable. For over three decades, Big Tech has been a robust, arrogant industry that thought itself immune to the cyclical economic woes and annoyances like sustainable profitability that plagued mortal companies.
Second, the relatively youthful workforce of today is faced with the reality that their companies, despite the compassionate values published by their HR department, don't, in fact, value their people over their profits. “Do good” turned into just doing good enough.
Finally, once the elite in the industry, far too many companies have leaders who consistently underperform, have not learned the lessons of the past, and many of whom are just not very good at what they do. Yet, they move from company to company sowing their mischief and worse. To the general public looking in from the outside, they see tech employees who are unable or unwilling to see outside their comfortable high-paid bubbles. The most recent rounds of layoffs seemed to come as a shock, but it was predictable. It was not a surprise to many industry insiders. Even before the pandemic accelerated the practice, aggressive hiring drove up salaries and bloated workforces well beyond sustainable levels. Promotion of inexperienced or incompetent (or both) people to positions where they could (and did) do real damage. These leaders were allowed to create an environment where mediocrity and poor quality were tolerated even though we've known how to develop better software for decades yet consistently fail to do so.
In the end, we love the work we do, and we want to share our passion for all things IT with more people. We hope you enjoy our technical insights, observations, and occasional rants. This blog is our gift. Remember, mediocrity is not a long-term strategy.
Let the fun begin.