Part 3 - Painful Stories
Not everything is great in startups. We miss deadlines, fail to gain revenue & lose partnerships. In the back of our head, we know that we only only have months to survive - all while our relationships, health & personal lives suffer. Rather than ignore the bad, we ought to embrace the problems that exist and learn from them, together.
Your stories connect us together.
Stressfull Work Leads to a Mental Illness and Discrimination.
Writen by @generalram
I worked on a team of developers. We were only supposed to work 40 hour weeks on a $150K/year salary. We had hackathons to get projects going, but we would take longer to make sure we did quality work and plugged any security holes. Sometimes we worked 80+ hour weeks. The benfits were not that great, and we were treated like slaves, but the money was good.
After four and a half years at it, we saw a 90% turn-a-round in our department. Most of the talented programmers quit or were fired. Management had decided to go for cheaper labor at $20K/year and cut out the quality and security requirements to make the development time shorter. Basically they were cutting costs.
The new developers really didn't know what they were doing. Sure they had comp sci degrees, but didn't know how to program and I had to mentor some of them to get them up to speed. Some of them were even high school drop outs straight from fast food jobs right into being put in front of a PC they didn't even know how to use. I had to became what they called a 'super debugger' in debugging their bloated, sloppy, and insecure code. The more talent they forced to quit or fired, the more 'super debugging' I had to do.
Well it turns out these new programmers didn't even care to do unit testing, much less know what it was. It was during the first round of Dotcom bursts and the market was flooded with people with fake college degrees and certification and got most of their information reading Wikipedia pages and whatever pirated PDFs they could get off the Internet. Some had photographic memories, but since they had not learned logic, reason, critical thinking they could memorize stuff but didn't know how to use it.
The new developers I had mentored had gotten good enough to be Microsoft Certified and then left for $150K/year jobs at other places. We were stuck with the worst of the bunch, and I was working so hard debugging spaghetti code that I was under a lot of stress. My first attack I had high blood pressure that put me into intensive care for a week with a stroke. Management was upset, my manager got mad and told me "You can't take an unauthorized vacation for a week, it is unfair to the other employees." I tried to tell him it was no vacation as I was recovering from a stroke and almost had a heart attack. He didn't care and kept assinging more and more work.
I would keep 'super debugging' code but management would always be angry with me for taking too long to check the quality and security before releasing it to the public. They always wanted me to skip those tests and just release it as-is and not care. Well I had to care because if I didn't it would crash servers and workstations or worse allow hackers/crackers to break into our databases with a SQL Injection and steal data.
I had lost memories from the stroke, but I still had my books and quickly learned all that I had forgotten. I was still able to do my job. But then I was a target of bullying and harassment from the other employees. I guess they were jealous of my work? I would have my desk chair lowered before I got into work. They would take my filing cabinent and mess with my folders and dump all of the papers on my desk. One of them even laid a turd on my desk one day. They would pull the power cord to my PC, or even flip the lights off on me or flip the main circuit breaker for my area so my PC would crash and damage my hard drive to cause delays.
They would use hacktools to launch denial of service attacks to my PC, causing blue screens. I reported these incidents but management didn't care. They blamed me for 'communication issues' with other employees instead. One day my water was spiked, I got really dizzy and light-headed. Everyone was laughing at me, and I figured out someone had drugged me. When I got to the hospital I was told it was some sort of neurotoxin. Since they couldn't figure out who did it, they could not press criminal charges.
While in the hospital I was given medicine and it made me drowsy and I slept a lot. When a psychiatrist examined me, I was diganosed with schizo-affective disorder. I was ordered on 'short-term disability' and with our cheap benefits package the insurance for that only paid $500/month. I was at home recovering for a few months and then 9/11 happened. Anyone with a mental illness now was a potential terrorist and every company does a medical background check to check for a history of mental illnesses. As soon as I returned to work I was met by HR and Management.
I was told by my manager "Programmers are a dime a dozen, we get 500+ resumes a week for your position. We can easily replace you with someone who won't get sick on the job for pennies on the dollar!" I was fired, I was called a loser and failure by my coworkers and managers. They wouldn't even let me take my own books and some of them stole my stuff on my desk when I was sick. They UPSed the books to the wrong address, they used an old address I didn't live at anymore and I had to track the package there.
Without me to 'super debug' their network crashed. Workstations would crash 12 times a day or more. Hackers and crackers would steal the credit cards and other data. Management didn't care they had lawyers to protect them from discrimination lawsuits from me, and they ended up selling the IP I worked on to another company and never gave me credit for all of the code I wrote or the work I did for them. I ended up on disability and work on free and open source software projects now. I wrote my own version of GNU/Linux.
In the startup world there is a lot of discrimination against the mentally ill. A lot of bullying and harassment going on. It is mostly done by the people with little to no talent who are only in it for the paycheck, they lack the passion, they lack the innovation, all they can do is be a copycat and then backstab others and take credit for their work. But these are the same people who get promoted to management positions and then become the millionares and billionares who take their companies public at the expense of people like me and many others.