Under the Bus

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  • I worked for a decade for one company that made finger pointing an art form.  This was my first real career job at the time, so I thought this was pretty much par for the course.  As you can imagine it was miserable, but I eventually had the courage to move on.  The next company was a large national digital company that maintained several websites.  The first time one of the websites went down our manager walked out of his office and announced to everyone that there was a problem.  Without hesitation, one person yelled out let me check "this" out.  Another jumped in and said they were going to check some code, followed by another who joined in to help out.  This went on until the problem was resolved, at which point the manager exclaimed "Good job" and went back into his office.  Not a single blame was laid.  I'm sure there was follow up to determine the root cause but no one was singled out and no one got into trouble.  I tell you it was a sight to behold.  I'm no longer with that company but I always took that attitude with me wherever I went.

    Now that I'm a manager, I strive to follow suit and bring that same philosophy to my team.  I truly believe that you all succeed or fail together.


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  • The examples you cited, Equifax and Solarwinds, are both very large companies.  There are probably several levels of management between the CEO and the analyst or intern responsible for the failures.  While I think it is really poor form to blame someone else when you're the leader, I also doubt these two CEOs had much control over the circumstances that led to the situation.  The analyst/intern reports to a lower level manager who reports to a mid-level manager who reports to a senior level manager who reports to a VP who reports to the CTO/CIO who reports to the CEO.  You can say the CEO should have made sure he had good leadership in place, but is he managing the mid and lower-level managers? I would hope not.

    I think this is one of the reasons I find big companies so distasteful, both to work at and to support as a consumer.  The culture is often sterile and controlled. The lowest level worker, to anyone above his/her immediate manager, is simply a replaceable cog.  Such big companies bring out the worst of a capitalist society.


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  • Imagine that you are the CEO of a major corporation listed on the stock exchange.  With your mega-salary comes mega-responsibility and visibility in the public eye.  At this level the C suite know how to deal with the public spotlight, have probably had training and even war gamed a few scenarios.

    Throwing a low paid intern to the wolves is exceptionally poor form at the best of times but especially for a story that is likely to be in the public domain and have considerable press interest.  One thing that was hammered into me when I went through the managers course was that I had a duty of care for those for whom I was responsible.  I would expect to be put on a disciplinary if I threw someone under a bus. It would destroy the team trust in me if I did that.

  • I don't expect the CeO to manage interns or tech people or even managers. They manage VPs, but they demand VPs are accountable to them for things happening. The VP should get accountability from directors, that prioritize and emphasize security. Directors manage managers, who manage tech people.

    This is a cultural thing, which is why the CEO is ultimately responsible. Mistakes happen, but the culture should be there to learn from and try to prevent future mistakes, which isn't the case when you don't prioritize security, automation, root-cause reviews and more.

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