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Diary
By MillMan (Thu Jul 14, 2022 at 06:08:39 PM EST) (all tags)
My current job brings to mind a lot of diaries from the 2000s from the London folks that worked in banking software, ie, with actively bad PM organizations.


[There is a decent chance I have covid - I am typing this out because enough of my brain is present to do so, but not enough is present for much else. I'll probably go stare at my gardens for an hour after typing this up, although I also do that when my brain is working.]

My current job is in the biomedical industry but I am still doing semiconductor test as I have since I graduated college. Prior to this I have only worked in the semiconductor industry (not including my stint as a massage therapist). The semi industry is pretty good for a number of reasons:

Companies mostly have modern org structures, ie, pretty flat. Maybe 4 people between regular engineers and the CEO.

Highly competitive and on pretty fast release cycles, so dysfunctional companies are quickly toast, and poor performers have nowhere to hide and cause problems.

High growth and pretty profitable (overall, there are definitely boom and bust cycles) going on 7 decades now with no end in sight, which draws good talent. Critically, though, it isn't a "hot shit" industry the way a lot of the software world has been since the dot com boom. That keeps out the Elon Musk style sociopaths and charismatic grifters, and keeps management from being able to sell religious visions that keep people in the office for 90 hours a week.

There are some bad program managers but they all have EE degrees, and in my experience over half of them are splitting time with actual technical work. This helps reduce the bullshit.

At my new company:
9 people between me and the CEO; upper management has little idea about reality on the ground. This causes problems with budgeting. This company also like to overstaff high growth business units and understaff low growth BUs, which helps neither.

Our market segment is an oligopoly; we share the market with two other companies with margins that are unconscionable.

Program managers are non-technical nor do they project manage; they are a front for upper management expectations.

There is sometimes a sense in the semiconductor industry that test engineering is easy stemming from a false heuristic wherein test engineering is less prestigious that other jobs like design. But again, if test is neglected, you go out of business, so this attitude self-corrects within the industry. Here, it's a biomedical company with 98% of the company having no idea how ICs work, much less what the test engineers do. People assume it's a few basic lines of code or you just, like, push some buttons on the test machine.

So learning to communicate with non-technical PMs who are fitting the schedule to management expectations instead of engineering reality is an odd exercise in political-speak and double-speak. My boss is pretty good at it. I put in a token effort so my boss doesn't look bad but I don't particularly care if I look bad to PM (my boss has an accurate view of how I am performing, which is what matters).

We're transitioning to Teradyne's latest and greatest test platform while in the middle of developing our business unit's new product. This is a large undertaking and was of course not budgeted for correctly (or at all) in terms of money or people (it's part of why I took the job, it'll keep me very employable for the next decade). We're also understaffed by somewhere between 50% and 100%. We came up with a detailed schedule of when we would be done with development and our estimate was 12 months later than PM expectations.

We were expecting violence in the meeting where we presented this but it was all cordial, some actual realistic discussion about how to pull it in a bit was had.

After the meeting a couple of the PMs went to my boss's boss and told him that the group I work for needs to be outsourced immediately.

This obviously gets back to my boss who tells me to which I make the obvious point, what do these people bring to the organization? The best they have is a bad MBA school trope going on four decades now?

There's no real point to this story, I just recognize this is how most of the corporate world works and I was able to avoid it for a full two decades.

I actually like the job on the whole because my boss and immediate coworkers are all great. In practice I'll put in another two years and see how I feel. I want to take another year off work before I'm 50, but we'll see. It's less realistic financially than it was when I did it (twice) in my late 20s - early 30s. After that I can see some stints of contract work back in the bay area. Same game I've been playing forever - how can I maintain my little middle class life and avoid the corporate world as much as possible? I'm sitting at 5.5 years straight, my record is 6.

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work comedy | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)
hear here by LoppEar (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Jul 23, 2022 at 06:15:04 AM EST
Enjoyed reading this, hopefully the brain fog is not ongoing at this point. Pragmatic understanding of corporate bs and how to avoid it, priceless. Your punchline delivered perfectly dry.

I've got no real point to this comment either, small echoes in gauging how willing I'd be to get back into the bs. I hope never fully again, but idk how far that can get me.


yeah doing good now by MillMan (2.00 / 0) #2 Sun Jul 31, 2022 at 11:42:11 AM EST
No idea if it was covid. Could have been allergies too, they've been pretty bad since I moved back from California.

"Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no libertarians in financial crises." -Krugman

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