Learning to Stop Being a Hero

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item Learning to Stop Being a Hero

  • I worked for one company that developed financial software for banks to approve loans. The company signed a contract with a big New York City bank to deliver loan approval software. However, the bank would request changes to the software as it was being developer; the company did not tell the bank that the changes would require X amount of additional money and time. As developers, it was frustrating to develop for a moving target and sometimes after one piece was finished, we were told that the bank wants it to work another way. There were death marches where we had to work on weekends.

    The company even used the "Nine Pregnant Women Project Management" model from the Fred Brooks book, the Mythical Man Month, by hiring contractors to help with completing the project; but that caused delays because we had to get the contractors up to speed with the software and database. Besides, with the constant changes, there was no way to finish an endless project. The company lost the bank contract and its other customer and eventually disappeared.

  • This is an exceptional article, Steve! I really like that blog post you linked to by Paul Cunningham!! Without realizing it, I've been an "IT Hero" more often than not. His list of questions to ask at an interview I find to be inoffensive. Heck, it's like asking what software they use or what's the project management paradigm they follow.

    Kindest Regards, Rod Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  • Glad you like it. I was the hero early in my career. Learned to not do that, and ask questions/set expectations in the interview. I've walked away from lots of job offers for various reasons cited in the article. Some of the best advice I could give you is to negotiate early.

  • I know I'm not a Villain, but I'm not sure where I fall on the spectrum between Hero versus Anti-Hero.


    How far I'm willing to go beyond the call of duty depends on how engaged I am with the current team or project. It's contextual. I will say that a True Hero will make sacrifices for a worthy cause, but there is really nothing "heroic" about going with the flow or helping to cover up for things one knows to be wrong. There are a lot of folks (especially in the realm of politics) who consider themselves heros because of the sacrifices they make, but they are actually cowards and enablers.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • Thanks for this editorial and for the link to the Paul Cunningham article. Great food for thought.

    Although I understand that much of the advice is timeless, so to speak, I do wonder how this advice might be affected by the current Covid-19 pandemic. Specifically, are employers even more likely to cross work-life boundaries since so many people have to work from home anyway, and how does one prevent further loss of leverage as an employee if it is harder to change or find jobs now?

    Thanks again.

    -- webrunner

    A SQL query walks into a bar and sees two tables. He walks up to them and asks, "Can I join you?"
    Ref.: http://tkyte.blogspot.com/2009/02/sql-joke.html

  • I think this, with no real evidence, just anecdotal conversations and observations.

    Some employers are crossing boundaries more, and not respecting time, calling or meeting at 7pm, but they are similarly allowing flexibility because they know employees might not be able to work from 10-11 because of some situation. I think it's an up and down.

    I have been surprised by the amount of job movement during this work from home time, and I do find more employers seem to be open to hiring someone outside their local geography. Redgate has never wanted to do this, but we're looking at it and hiring people that don't live near our offices.

  • Thanks, Steve, those are great points.

    A SQL query walks into a bar and sees two tables. He walks up to them and asks, "Can I join you?"
    Ref.: http://tkyte.blogspot.com/2009/02/sql-joke.html

  • Just reread this article. I'd advise people to watch out for "boil the frog" behaviour.

    Senior people come and senior people go and with them the culture of an organisation shifts. Maybe not all at once.  Could be for the better, but it could be a slow degradation of a great culture. From give and take on both sides and mutual respect to the "overhead" just takes with vague promises of jam tomorrow

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