The Job Experience, MegaSoftwareCoSupport: Year #11

Work Work Work


If you use the upload hole too much, it starts to bleed.

So I mentioned that support management was trying to figure out what to do with me.

Six months in, after that initial paperwork and transition period is over, the answer to this question becomes urgent.

Not urgent for me, of course.  I’m perfectly happy doing 5-10 hours a week of product support for SoftwareVille’s products.  But from the perspective of Mega, I’m an unused resource.  It’s time to fully plug me in to the new company.

The decision comes down:  I will be supporting one of the more complicated product offerings.  It’s a beast of an application.  For the tech readers, it’s the sort of thing that, uh, “manages your enterprise.”  Yeah — that product. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s a major PITA to install, let alone configure, upgrade, and maintain.   On top of that it uses a multitude of technologies (java, appservers, python, shell scripts, and so on) and plugs into a million different other bits of technology, some produced and supplied by Mega, some not.

Sigh.  Even when you know you’re reaching the end of Easy Street, it’s still disappointing when you finally hit it.

It’s time for another long session of Knowledge Upload.  I went through this process with SoftwareCompany, and again with FinancialCompany.

In this post, I’ll skip the details entirely, but just because I’m not spending a ton of words on it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  The next eight months are full of constant self-training.  It’s all necessary, of course, in order to learn the nitty gritty details of MegaSoftwareCo’s product offerings.  I’ve got to understand this thing inside and out.

I’ll add that at this point in my life, learning new stuff is a lot less interesting than it was when I was younger.  It isn’t that I can’t learn new stuff — Of course I can!  Anybody can! — it’s that I just don’t really want to.  It’s sort of like being asked to memorize every town in California, the biggest state in America.  Plus I’ve got to remember every town bordering every town — hell, let’s make it the entire topography, why don’t we?  Then we’ll add in the locations of utility companies and the routes of their pipes and wires that connect them to each locale.

Thing is, I’ve already memorized that stuff for a couple of other smaller states (products) already.  It isn’t that I can’t do it again, but rather that I’m tired of working through this process.  I want to put different stuff in my brain than the details of how various regions of the United States are held together.

I decided that what I actually wanted was for all of the technical stuff I’d ever learned to slowly leak out of one of my ears. It’d free up a lot of space for better content.

I'd like the contents of my brain to more closely resemble Homer's.  Currently it's full of computer crud.

Not a speck of work in Homer’s brain

New Teammates

I’m now a part of a group again — a massive 100+ muppet team supporting this particular software product that Mega produces.

And over the next few months, I get to meet them.

Note that when I say “meet,” what I really mean is email and chat with folks.  The other people that work on this stuff are all in other offices.  Or they work from home, making my contact with them strictly virtual.  I have no idea what anyone looks like, what their voices sound like, or what their lives are like, outside of work.  Our contact is restricted, for the most part, to technical questions and requests for assistance.

And when we do talk about things other than basic functional tasks, it’s mostly bitching about Mega.  People complain about the customers, the volume, and the ridiculous politics. Every day is a misery.  It is Known.

In short, I’m back to all of the complaints doing low-level software engineering support for SoftwareCompany.  I must always be closing.  I am fighting the goblin horde.  And the tickets and problems keep coming on an unstoppable conveyor belt of work.

It’s no wonder that the vast majority of my peers are burnt out and hopeless.

Additionally, because the markets are down due to the recent crash, employers again sense that they have the advantage over their workers.  People are afraid that they’re going to lose their jobs to outsourcing.  Mega’s country of choice was Chile, and every month they were hiring more remote workers and letting their US counterparts go.

If all of this sounds familiarly exhausting, it should.  I wrote extensively about the same set of experiences working for SoftwareCompany, ten years prior.

That’s the thing about doing this kind of work for too long.  There exist a finite number of job and company types.  Within a relatively short period of time, you’ll have seen everything the industry has to offer, and stories and experiences will repeat.

I was living out a Groundhog Decade.

Bill Murray rocks.

Bill Murray rocks.


Question:  How do you make an inherently unlikable engineering support job even more horrible?

Answer:  Add tons of additional paperwork, process items, and reporting. Monitor all aspects of your employees, and not just their core job output either. Monitor when they’re logging into and out of the systems. Monitor websites they’re visiting. Monitor how long they’re on the phone with customers every day and how long their average lunch break is and how many days they’re working from home versus showing up in the office. Monitor whether or not they’re attending certain departmental meetings and conference calls by keeping an attendance list, like elementary school teachers, to ensure the all of your kids are present. Make your employees feel like the mindless automatons they are.

Mega obliged.

It was really no wonder that everyone in support appeared to be alternately depressed and irritated, all day, every day.  They felt as though they were stuck in a bog of eternal stress and suck, constantly sinking further into the mire.

So yeah.  Morale wasn’t so good among MegaSoftwareCo’s muppet team of support engineers.  I observed that people took a lot of sick time to give themselves breaks from the insanity.

God knows what else they did to cope.

No, Kermie, No!  Heroin is bad for you!

No, Kermie, No! Heroin is bad for you!

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10 Responses to The Job Experience, MegaSoftwareCoSupport: Year #11

  1. Dwayne Hoover says:

    When you were getting towards the end here, did you ever consider the option of simply working PT but extending the journey to FI by a few years?

    • livingafi says:

      Absolutely, I’d much prefer to work part time. Problem is that I don’t think it’s possible on the IT/Engineering Support side of things. Sometimes strict programmers/developers can manage this sort of arrangement, but organizations only have FT positions available for support — my guess is that this is because of rigid availability requirements. I’d love to hear from any readers that think I’m wrong or can share ways to go about making it happen though.

  2. Steph says:

    When I was a wage slave it was in an open plan office, I actually would have loved a soulless cube. I began to really hate some people as I just couldn’t get away from them and I wasn’t allowed headphones to help me concentrate above everybody’s voices. Introverts and open plan offices (4 people to one bank of desks) are not a very good mix. Sometimes I would pretend I needed to make a private phonecall so I could go into an empty office and sit there in peace for a few minutes.
    At one point everyone was offered voluntary redundancy and I took it and ran. It was enough to pay off our mortgage as our house was v modest. The year after I left (I was pregnant by this point) I bought another small house and renovated it and sold on for a nice profit. I haven’t really worked since having my daughter but knowing how to live frugally is very freeing and gives us as a family so many more options. A bit of a rambling comment, sorry.

    • livingafi says:

      That’s really tough. I didn’t get into it in this post but my cube was right next to sales at Mega and those guys were also on the phone constantly, very loud, and frequently talking about very obnoxious non-PC things that really get under your skin. It’s great you were able to responsibly get away from that job and spend more time with your family, very cool. “Voluntary redundancy.” Love that corporate-ese.

  3. Good stuff, sounds like the next update will shed light on what makes FU money so important. Even better if it’s FI money! Real world issues (and vacations) have killed my blogging lately, but I need to get revved back up. Lots of interesting things going on.

    • livingafi says:

      I’ve had some of my own real life things going on as well (mom moved to senior housing last weekend, had to clean out a house of clutter and list it. More than ‘clutter’ actually but that’s another story.) Family’s first, though, much more important than blogging or my day job. I have been looking forward to more details on your lifestyle inflation posts, though. Get em out, please! 🙂 BTW, yeah, if you enjoy reading about incomprehensibly awful jobs and insane people, you’re going to love Year 12 but hate the final entry (Year 13-present), because I found another really nice place to ply my trade.

  4. I eagerly await Cthulu-119, the radioactive isotope of vanilla ‘Thu.

  5. Tom says:

    In retirement, I’m finding those home improvement and maintenance costs creep in more frequently than I would have expected. Little things here and there – and some bigger ones. I try to adhere to a pretty low budget, for now, so those costs tend to upset the cart a little despite primarily doing the work myself. Not sure these will ever go away completely – it’s always something.

    When I first had an opportunity to occasionally work from home back in the mid-90’s I had a very difficult time getting much work done, due mostly to lack of motivation (and probably because the technology for working remotely wasn’t what it is today). Funny aside – I was making a long distance call one day from home and dialed 9, then 1, for an outside line (as if in the office) out of habit and accidentally hit 1 a second time. Imagine my surprise when the cops showed up at my door and insisted on walking thru my apartment to make sure no one was being held against their will. Wonder if this has happened to others. Years later I found myself to be much more productive working from home and actually liked it (mostly) despite living alone. Yes – I have loner tendencies so it was easier for me to tolerate. I loved waking up early and getting right to work. I was paid by the hour so it was perfect for someone trying to build a stash. I was never paid 1.5x for OT – that would have been sweet.

    I worked on an extended project that required driving 6.5 hours Sundays and Fridays (I hate flying) and living onsite during the week. Most all of my communications with various teams was done thru phone and IM. 95% of folks I worked with daily were in far flung cities. Even folks in the same office used IM – even if they were in the next cubicle. Weird to have that kind of culture where people got irritated if you stopped by their desk to talk instead of using IM. So it was sort of ludicrous to have the company pay my expenses when I could work just as easily from home. Luckily we convinced management of that fact after the first year. On the plus side of IM – we would attach cool little emoticons and I had an awesome collection before I left that job. It was always pretty awesome when someone sent you a new one. (Sadly, this was one of the few positives on my own personal job from hell.)

    • livingafi says:

      Thanks for the stories — the accidental 911 call sounds like it spiced your day up pretty good.. Here’s hoping you’ve moved on from your own job-hell experience by now!

  6. A W S says:

    Interesting observation in regard to working at home. Especially today. Some of us are working like that from March 2020. Never been better whilst climbing the corporate rotten ladder. No office politics and empty smiles. Tons of money saved commute but more important to this is the most valuable commodity- time that is saved. Goodbye commute. Good luck ya all.

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