Saturday, June 27, 2009

Turning Down Projects (in a recession) Part 2

One thing I love about blogging is how it enables me to think clearly. I wrote about how I turned down a couple of "good" projects in my last blog entry and gave some reasons. But something kept nagging at me as to why I turned down these projects.

I just realized that I turn down some projects because I don't want to be a part (*any* part, no matter how well compensated) of a mediocre project any longer. (I've had my share of mediocre projects, especially during my "outsourced enterprise" days. Been there, done that got the t-shirt -nutshell version -> life is not worth living when you spend 8+ hours a day on a sucky project).

Now I've decided to work *only* with good people on good projects, producing excellent code that provides great "customer value".

Funnily enough, I seem to have made the decision and committed to it before I was consciously aware of doing so.

Once upon a time a friend asked me to come work at his company(which will remain un named). Just as I began to turn it over in my mind, I heard myself say *very vehemently* " I'll beg on the streets before I work for [company]".

I was the one most surprised. But ...it felt right. I *will* become a beggar rather than work for that company.

And now I will never ever work on a project/company/team that doesn't make excellence a goal and way of life.

Life is too short to be mediocre. *Trying* for excellence and failing is better than compromising "successfully" with mediocrity.

Ok, end epiphany. Back to regular programming!

10 comments:

Bhavna said...

Good for you. Working with idiots makes one stupid.

Anonymous said...

In other words you mean to say that there is more dignity in begging than doing some kind of work..like working for a body shopper ?

Ravi said...

"that there is more dignity in begging than doing some kind of work..like working for a body shopper ?"

sure.

begging is better than (intellectual)prostitution which is what woking for a body shopper is

Anonymous said...

"(intellectual)prostitution which is what working for a body shopper is"

ouch! I can't argue the accuracy of your statement, but did you have to point out how I am wasting my life? :-P

Anonymous said...

Ravi , you definitely have a clear perspective on things. But honestly i want to ask you something. I am working for a top notch company(in the league of Google,Amazon and Adobe) for a top notch salary. Every morning when i come to job i feel like quitting when i see my buglist(fixing bugs in a stupid flex,java enterprise product about which nobody cares,that is what i do for a living). I am ready to study and code 80 hours a week for less than half of my salary if i can get to do something challenging and interesting.
My question to you is "how to find that cool work ?". If i quit my job today how will i make a living in pursuit of cool work.
Please don't feel offended but when i see your profile, i can see that you have also not been able to come up with a new product or some innovative technology , which you can sell or are selling. So you must be working as a freelancer or in some company that does good work.I honestly wish to seek guidance from you about how did you "start" to reach where you are at present ?
I am not brilliantly innovative, but i am hard working and read a lot of good books like you do in whatever time i can find.

Anonymous said...

One more thing i honestly wished to ask you. When i was like a normal, hard working java/j2ee developer who used to consider it his pride in knowing subtelities in hibernate or some xml making tool, i used to be a happy person(ignorance is bliss). But when i met this person(http://www.defmacro.org/) in US. And my life started sucking since then. Because i then realized that i am nothing but a modern day peasant who is prevented from thinking by his morone bosses till he is no more capable of thinking and deciding anything about himself.
I also started looking a bit into erlang and haskell. And started doing some recreational mathematics in my spare time.
But when i do not get time to do things of my liking due to work pressure(i have to spend arounf 65-70 hrs at my office every week) i feel really helpless and depressed.
I have tried my best to look for good companies around, but they all seem to be the same. Then i somebody told me that i should do a masters. So i got a good gre score(1530/1600). But i am from Chemical engg background and do not have any good academic recommendations. I have been applying to good univs since last 2 years but i always get rejected.
I already have around 6.5 yrs of experience, and do not know what to do.
Honestly Sir, how did you start on your path to enlightenment ?

Ravi said...

"i can see that you have also not been able to come up with a new product or some innovative technology , which you can sell or are selling."

The key is you have not *seen*. I *am* "selling" "innovative technology" to a fairly small base of repeat clients. It is just that said "technology" is not open sourced or put on a website yet. I *may* start a company around some of the work i am doing (and IP I have) sometime. We'll see.


That said,

"I am ready to study and code 80 hours a week for less than half of my salary if i can get to do something challenging and interesting."

Why don't you take 3 - 6 months off and work 80 hours a day on something you think is cool? This is what the Y combinator folks do.

"I honestly wish to seek guidance from you about how did you "start" to reach where you are at present ?"

Where i am is largely luck and accident. ia m not sure if I have any useful advice to give, because I have not replicated what I've done enough. The only (and too generic) advice I can give is to have some kind of unique skillset which you can turn into a good job.money etc.

But If I lost everything I have and had to restart, I'd probably do something like the y combinator folks do. Not much of an answer I am afraid, but that's allI know honestly

Ravi said...

" I also started looking a bit into erlang and haskell. And started doing some recreational mathematics in my spare time."


Again, I am not the one you should ask advice from, but your problem maybe that you are doing "a little". If you have a decent sized open source codebase in Erlang (for example) I would be surprised if that doesn't enhance your "good job" chances considerably.


"But when i do not get time to do things of my liking due to work pressure(i have to spend arounf 65-70 hrs at my office every week) i feel really helpless and depressed."


I know the feeling, but really you should be able to squeeze and hour and a half or so every day for your work and maybe 6 hours each on Saturday and Sunday. If*regularly* persisted in, you'll make a surprising amount of progress."

"I have tried my best to look for good companies around,"

I've never seen this work in India (I am assuming you are in India from the description of 75-80 hours/week"in the office). It may be worthwhile to consider the inverse - raise your profile enough (perhaps by open source code, speaking at conferences etc) till good companies/jobs/contracts etc come looking for you.

Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

thanks Ravi. I got your message, destiny hits the prepared, if at all it falls someday :)
Interestingly, my friend Slava (http://www.defmacro.org/) got some funding through YCombinator recently for a project of his.
And i am extremely sorry for being blunt when i said(or probably assumed) that you have also not been able to come up with something innovative inspite of reading all those holy books :). You still replied to me, that really shows your maturity and understanding.
All the very best , i would be extremely happy to see you as a founder of a successful company. There are very few Indians who have actually founded anything interesting in India.And people like you are desperately needed to show us that even we can do innovative and different things inspite of no MITs or CMUs here. Good Luck

Ravi said...

"And i am extremely sorry for being blunt when i said(or probably assumed) that you have also not been able to come up with something innovative inspite of reading all those holy books"

hey no harm done. Don't worry about it.