That elusive work life balance

I was going to post about all the wonderful people in development in that Suffolk company, but I felt the need to side-track for a moment. Why is it when talking about work-life balance it’s all about picking your children up from school, taking them to dentist’s appointments or watching the little dears at the school play. There’s never trying to get yourself into balance after being told “I wish you’d fuck off and die” by your teenager before they storm off for school and you have to go to work. Everyone else’s children are  amenable little things, who might possibly be ill and need a lovely caring parent to hold their head while they voimited into a bucket, or need to be ferried between their violin lesson, their karate and their advanced programming course.

I look round at the developers and I wonder what will happen to them. Most of them, (four out of six, if you include Gavin), are single. Whether this is because they are painfully shy or whether it is because they have not yet found a woman who is deeply interested in Star Wars X-wings modelled in lego, I have not, as yet, been able to find out. Of course, that might be a hunt for another man who is deeply interested in Star Wars lego. I wouldn’t like to make assumptions about any of these people’s sexuality. For all I know they are secret furries.

OK. Here are the developers. In order of developoriness. Most extreme is Jiri. He is from the Czech Republic. He likes wearing black. There is a rumour that he is from Transylvania and cannot go outside in daylight, but apart from that he has nothing in common with film vampires. To start with, he has bad hair. He loves algorithms. And Diet Coke. He sits as far away form the other developers as he can. This is possibly to justify the way he shouts very loudly when he wants to encourage people into sharing his point of view on such matters as the level of code indentation.

 It’s at this point that I feel that I should point out that the developers haven’t all been men. There have been women. They just leave. Generally after about a year. They come in bouncy and bushy-tailed and confident, and you  can see the sparkle go out of their eyes and the gloss leave their hair. When it returns you know they’ve had a successful interview, and they will soon be moving on.

Then there is Nick. Nick has a beard. It’s not a very successful beard in the world of beards. He’s not going to manage Father Christmas or even Charles 1st. But it is definitely a beard. Nick probably has a point of view on many things, but it is very hard to extract it from him. He has been working for the company almost since start-up, and has found his niche. Extracting him would probably be like extracting an unwilling kitten from a wellington boot; it can be done, but at severe cost to all concerned

The first one in the non-single stakes is Jack. He is still quite young. He roller-blades. And has bouts of enthusiasm for all sorts of things, ranging from software to apple pie recipes. He’s not really a very good coder, but he has a girl friend. And he’s a Christian. I still haven’t worked out what sort, but there is no doubt that he is a firm believer and goes to church.

Jack has the good fortune to sit next to Mr Grumpy. Mr Grumpy is divorced. He has worked as a contracter and resented paying a large section of his pay as alimony, so he has moved into the world of paid employment on the grounds that his ex-wife has no rights whatsoever to his pension contributions and his private health insurance. Mr. Grumpy knows that whatever innovations have been suggested have been tried in one of the other myriad companies that he’s worked in and they didn’t work there. He does at least have a scathing sense of humour and a willingness to do what he has been asked to do (on the principle that it won’t work anyway so he might as well waste his time with that as anything else).

Then there is the lead developer, Ian. Ian is married. And has children. And is calm and competent and willing to try and make things work. Ian is probably the wheels on which this company runs (and I am sure that his children will never swear at him before he leaves for work).

And finally, of course, there is Gavin, he of the fast cars (he has just bought an Aston Martin), high dividends and absolute knowledge that he is the cleverest man in the building. He has a weakness for designer shirts that look like Mao jackets. Because Gavin owns half the company, Gavin’s opinion carries quite a lot of weight. And did I mention that he is the cleverest man in the building? Jiri might fight him for that position, but Jiri is handicapped by not owning half the company.

These are the people whom I must persuade to redesign their interfaces so that they can do simple things easily, instead of complicated things ingeniously.

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