[racket] Question about the double submit bug 'in the wild'

From: Jos Koot (jos.koot at telefonica.net)
Date: Mon Aug 23 16:12:01 EDT 2010

As one of the older ones on this list let me tell me my experience.
My first job was as a scientific researcher in physics at the university of
Amsterdam. (Netherlands) Almost complete freedom. Even before entering this
job I had, by self study,  become a group expert on programming (assembler
and Fortran, though) In that time the university of Amsterdam did not yet
have a computer science curriculum.
My second job was as a consultant and developer of software in a department
of the same university mainly servicing gamma sciences. After a short period
I was appointed as head of the software development. It took me a few weeks
to convince my group of my capacities and that they could benefit from it.
Almost complete freedom. My designs were adopted without hardly any
amendments. I even got somewhat popular and was chosen as the president of
the general assembly of the department (the director of the department could
overrun, of course, but I can't remember he ever did.
My third and last job was as a senior consultant and teacher at a facility
centre I had been using in the two previous jobs. As I found out later, the
job was created because the board and the director of the centre were not
satisfied with the level of support for the costumers. Of course this was
not or not easily accepted by my colleagues, my direct supervisor included.
Nevertheless I had almost complete freedom, because I was protected by the
board and the director. I even had some popularity such as to be chosen as
chairman of the works council. After about two decades in this job (which
was in fact my hobby) shortly after each other two new directors were
appointed. They were of another kind. They had no knowledge of computers nor
of programming. They were managers pure sang, without substantial knowledge.
After torpedoing three ideas of the last manager, I was isolated from the
costumers (because of new instructions for the telephone operators) and
pestered away (at the age of 50 years, with a supplement to my pension, of
course). Now I have to pay my hobby by myself. When later I came back to
collect my personal belongings, they appeared to have been destroyed, the
evidence of malpractices included. Also included about 50 dissertations in
which my assistance was acknowledged.
When applying for a job, have interviews not only with your future bosses,
but as important, if not even more important, with your future colleagues.
Without the latter it is difficult to make an estimate of the culture of the
organization. The organization is testing you, but as an applicant you
should test the organization even harder. This is easily said, but in
practice, you may need a job in order to survive and feed your family. In a
market with more applicants than jobs, it may be difficult to avoid being
levied by this kind of blackmail on you.
Although loosing my job was very hard, I have no regrets that I held on to
my principles. Make sure that when you look into a mirror, you don't have to
be ashamed of yourself. It may have a high price, though. But for me loosing
my pride is an even higher price.
I don't feel comfortable to tell this personal story, but after 14 years of
retirement, I can manage it.


From: users-bounces at racket-lang.org [mailto:users-bounces at racket-lang.org]
On Behalf Of Neil Van Dyke
Sent: 23 August 2010 19:24
To: projanen
Cc: users at racket-lang.org
Subject: Re: [racket] Question about the double submit bug 'in the wild'

projanen wrote at 08/20/2010 09:09 PM:

Following Neil's good advice, it's certainly an issue I'll bring up in any
future interviews, but the business types won't like it.

Neil V.'s advice is to be careful not to torpedo an interview unless one
intends to. :)  Any student who sees this should also remember that most
every organization -- be it industry, academic, government, military -- will
need its employees/members to ultimately bow to the needs and directives of
the organization and the chain of command.  Academia has Academic Freedom,
military has Integrity, politics has Plausible Deniability... but at the end
of the day they also need you to get something done.  That something, in
CS/software, is often an engineering artifact, but not necessarily the holy
grail perfect gem of engineering.  So if you make the interviewer think that
you misunderstand the dynamic, then they might affectionately ruffle your
hair like a preciously naive youngster and hire you anyway, or they might
have to figure out whether you're a rigorous engineer or a messiah/morale
problem waiting to happen. :)

If you want to intentionally torpedo things... One company I was thinking of
starting, years ago, when talking with prospective CEOs, I would
intentionally mention not only "don't be evil" but also the conditions under
which I would poison-pill the company and our operations (related to privacy
and civil liberties, since we were in a sensitive space).  Even the most
smooth-talking alum of Harvard Business School will choke briefly, if not
turn a shade of white or green, at the thought.  So far, the only context
I've found that you can have this luxury of all principles foremost is when
starting your own company and telling everyone before they come onboard.
Everywhere else, you inherit their realities, and (with few exceptions)
those realities trump the perfect gem of engineering and other ideal
pursuits you might have.

I have found much more satisfaction by building custom applications for
in-house use.  My favorite job was being the only C.S. major in a company of
other engineers.  We each had our specialty, were truly appreciated for it,
and were expected to deliver our best.  From my experience, in-house
software prioritizes quality over marketing and even over economy if you're

Sounds like a good situation to be in.  Just, if one finds onesself a big
fish in a little pond in one's area (CS or software), I think one should use
the Internet to seek out a concentration of bigger or equally big fish, and
find a way to keep learning from them.

Very early in my career, I had my own software consultancy.  I decided to
leave it to go work for a hardcore engineering company who did tools for
mission/life-critical systems.  Most everyone there had more experience than
me, and my boss was a German PhD who might've thought that anyone who wasn't
a German PhD was not as good.  I worked like crazy, and learned a lot
through challenges and osmosis.


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