back to article Hi! It looks like you're working on a marketing strategy for a product nowhere near release! Would you like help?

Monday has once again reared its head, and with that we welcome you back to Who, Me?, El Reg's weekly column where techies tell us about incidents from days of yore. Today we meet "Ian", who wrote in about a time his helpful advice was not quite as helpful as he'd thought it might be. At least not to the top brass. Ian, an …


  1. defiler

    On the flip side, how much did he save the company by stopping them pissing money up the wall on a product that wasn't ready?

    I'm all for keeping details from competitors, but secrets like that one shouldn't really exist in a functional company.

    1. pavel.petrman

      Cost centers

      I once joined a thousand-head company where everyone worked with everyone else and half of the job well done was done informally, usually. Then the parent company needed to shed some MBAs for a few years before retirement, which brought about things like enhancing synergies, internal marketing and internal (inter-department) billing and some more MBAs to manage all that. The company did survive, mind you, but had become a hell to work for by the time I quit. Synergies, they called it.

      1. SoaG

        Re: Cost centers

        "Ohhh! You have an MBA..."

        There's 2 types of MBAs:

        - Those that have done something productive for 5-10 years, earn a promotion so they upgrade their skills and filter what their profs say through the lense of experience.

        - Mostly they're the other type. 18yr old secondary grad working PT as a team lead at McDonalds who decides they telling others what to do. Regurgitate everything they're taught, without a moments pause to consider which (if any) profs have ever done anything beyond theory.

        1. Erik4872

          Re: Cost centers

          You're getting downvoted but it's absolutely true. For students with no practical experience, an MBA is the corporate equivalent of a commissioned military officer. Instead of going through OCS you immediately skip the whole enlisted phase and graduate into a leadership position. I've wondered how businesses can hire someone with no real work experience to lead complex efforts. I know the prevailing wisdom is that a manager can manage anything, but I have my doubts.

          I think that's why there's so much regurgitation and why management consultancies are so profitable. It doesn't take a lot of effort to digest the latest business books into a PowerPoint presentation and throw in some buzzwords to wow the executives.

          1. Rattus

            Re: Cost centers

            "I've wondered how businesses can hire someone with no real work experience to lead complex efforts. I know the prevailing wisdom is that a manager can manage anything, but I have my doubts."

            If you are incompetent the last thing you do is hire someone who might be good at management - Clearly you only employ someone who has done the same MBA as you have, therefore hiding your incompetence behind a wall of equally incompetent management below you, and thus an old boys network is formed....

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 2 types of MBA's?

          There is a 3rd type. I did an MBA just so that I could speak to the other MBA (MiseraBle Arseholes) in their own language.

          I was a techie right to the end but knowing MBA speak and its secret language helped me no end in cutting through the crap that most MBA's spaek 90% of the time. The other 10% is indecipherable even to other MBA's.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: 2 types of MBA's?

            Concur on the third type. That's when and why I got mine.

            If you get your MBA after your more technical degree your mind won't get completely fucked up, but you'll be able to talk to manglement in their own language. Handy.

            Holding the business degree along with your IT skill set will allow you get paid ten or fifteen times more than you'll ever make in IT alone. Might take a couple years of real work to get there, but the end result is worth it. Lest you think an MBA is difficult to get, think of all the brain-dead idiots you've worked with who hold one. If you already hold an IT related degree, you can get the MBA in a couple years of night school ... anybody who can program reasonably well in a couple languages should have no problems passing with flying colo(u)rs. Opens all kinds of closed doors.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: 2 types of MBA's?

            "I was a techie right to the end but knowing MBA speak and its secret language helped me no end in cutting through the crap"

            Having done the MBA doesn't mean that you have any ability to manage. I'd worry that with an MBA an employer may simply try to force you into management whether you're any good or have any inclination let alone ambition in that direction. If you want to continue to be a techie you might have to keep quiet about it.

        3. Kernel

          Re: Cost centers

          "- Mostly they're the other type. 18yr old secondary grad working PT as a team lead at McDonalds who decides they telling others what to do. "

          It gets worse than that - many years ago I did a Management Studies diploma at university - the professor who took us for the HR module had left school, gone straight into uni and worked her way up to a PhD and a Management Studies chair - her entire work experience of actually managing staff was an 18 month stint in charge of an admin group at the same university.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Cost centers

            Happens in all sorts of fields. At a certain school I know, the current head (only the third in the school's entire near-40-year history) started as a student teacher / NQT at the school back in the late 1980s and as far as I am aware has never taught anywhere else.

            There is an opinion among some parents that this is why the school has been "coasting" since he took over, with a recent inspection report being quite blunt about failures, mainly of management.

            At least schools *are* inspected. Your typical MBA isn't, or is subject to "matrix management" or some other such tripe.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cost centers

          That’s just life though - lots of things you get taught in Computer Science are in no way suitable for a real life system with many users. Part of the job on being a good quality software developer is to filter this through your own experience.

          1. Killfalcon Silver badge

            Re: Cost centers

            When I studied CompSci, there was one module that actually stuck, and that was the Business Realities module. We had several lectures on high profile IT failures, one entirely on the need to CYA and how to professionally deal with your employer insisting you do something stupid, a few talking about how many companies are structured and how decisions are made at different scales.

            Nowadays you can just read el Reg and get much the same content, but it really should be a standard feature in more university degrees.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I just find strange they had to keep it secret. Usually marketing knows very well the product [doesn't exist | isn't ready | it's impossible to make with the given budget (or any budget)] and sells it anyway....

      That looks one of those usual departments infights that doom a company.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Marketing doesn't sell anything. According to my MBA class, Marketing creates relationships with customers. It is Sales that sells stuff.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          "To market" has an inextricable meaning of "offer for sale". About "creating relationships", they should explain it to marketing people, hoping they don't understand it the wrong way....

        2. TeeCee Gold badge

          Or, as a colleague in marketing put it; "We do not screw customers, we just hold them down while Sales screw them".

          1. Trollslayer

            What a delightful image - NOT!

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "Marketing creates relationships with customers"

          All too often it seems to be that they don't care what relationship they create as they're quite good at creating negative ones. Or would they blame that on over-pushy salesmen?

          1. Anonymous Custard

            Marketing creates dreams and ideals.

            Sales creates expectations and promises.

            Engineering has to introduce realities and practicalities.

            Never has "miracles we do while you wait, the impossible takes a little longer" been more applicable.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              I thought marketings' job was to keep a cupboard full of company logo t-shirts for:

              a, engineers who think a holey Medadeath t-shirt is business casual (in case of visitors)

              b, people who bike in and don't want to carry clean clothes

              1. Hollerithevo

                Or swag

                Marketing also gives out branded umbrells when it rains and other departments come and scrounge. And if they get cool little corporate gifts (e.g. decent power banks or fun toys), it's funny how many friends marketing suddenly has.

          2. jake Silver badge

            Indeed, Dr.S ... The credo is "there is no such thing as bad publicity".

            In answer to your question, Marketing blames it on anybody but Marketing. I've only been pushed under the proverbial bus a few times (6? 7?) by colleagues, and every time it has been somebody in Marketing doing the pushing. Thankfully, I'm pretty good at Judo ... and always have documentation for everything I do. The pushers[0] have always landed on their arse instead of me.

            [0] Apropos name for marketards, n'est-ce pas?

        4. Mark 85

          Marketing creates relationships with customers.

          Ah... they are the pimps then? That would explain the velvet suits and feathered hats that were popular decades ago.

        5. Handlebars

          'creates relationships with customers' eh? I'd heard MBA means Married but Available.

          1. Stork Silver badge

            Master of Bugger All

            1. John Presland

              Master of Bullshit and Arrogance (I'm one).

      2. Tail Up

        Luckily, if one doesn't have any understandable description of the technical principle, it won't be tested on a destructive and oppressive (military) grounds, before it goes to a civil sphere.

        It's so 'cos there are times where there are no any principles that could have been descripted in a technical language.

        But aren't there a Language of Art left among the Heavens, Hills and Bays? Apollo knows. Muses do, too.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Are you from marketing?

          1. Roopee Silver badge

            No, Tail Up sounds like amanfromMars' secondary account that he runs through Google Translate and back.

    3. Anonymous Custard

      Makers of promises vs keepers of promises...

      I'm actually quite surprised that the marketing bods cared at all.

      From personal experience it's normally sales/marketting that make all the promises, and then the field engineers get the "joy" of keeping those promises and getting the damn thing to work and to meet whatever lofty ideal the customer wants and the sales drone has blindly agreed to. By that point everyone else has moved on to the next pitch, and it's the engineers problem to deliver the impossible.

      This is of course coupled with the promises for 24/7 support and for man-on-site start-up commitment, usually without actually asking or even informing us up-front. We only know about it once the deal is sealed and it drops into our laps. And as we're engineers we seem to be assumed to have inifinite manpower available, and teleportation devices to hand so we can support multiple sites in multiple countries all at once.

      It's also coupled with a "lean and efficient" manpower structure which would be better described as a skeleton staff. And we hire 3rd party engineers as it's a "cyclical industry", despite the fact we've had record breaking years for the last few, and we don't have enough people to cover what we have to do, let alone all the new stuff we're supposed to be getting into. So we're basically merrily training recruitment companies staff...

  2. WonkoTheSane

    Sounds like OUR marketing department, who seem to have already sold 5 units of a product that is still in its "proof-of-concept" phase.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You lucky, lucky, lucky bastard, our lot sell the drivel that comes out of their mouths.

      (AC for obv. reas.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        When I worked at a big UK consultancy, the sales bods sold a 6 week website creation contract to a leasing company wanting to allow corporate customers to specify their fleet cars online and receive a quote...

        I was brought on to firefight the contract 18 months later...

    3. paulf

      +1 Last year the Marketing department at paulf & Co were busy promoting our latest product (with full encouragement from senior manglement) even though paulf, with sterling help from other minion colleagues, were busy with the big hoses fighting a multitude of fires while it was still in the design phase. We then got hosed by senior manglement for not meeting the unachievable deadlines they knew were unachievable when they set them, even though we'd been pointing this out since before Marketing started. We're still trying to get it to work because it was flawed at the specification phase.

      I think it is fair to say this will never change and for that reason I request El Reg create a new icon: Quietly weeping in the corner of the design office thanks to Manglement's latest dense decision.

      1. jake Silver badge

        ElReg already has that icon.

        What, you mean the pub down on the corner isn't what you meant by the corner office? Say it ain't so!

        Regardless, BTDT. Have one on me.

  3. Sir Runcible Spoon

    Is there any information available as to how the engineering dept. planned to handle the situation once marketing realised they'd been lied to?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Disable the safety locks on the lifts?

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      or was it the marketing dept being lied to?

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon
        Paris Hilton


        "once marketing realised they'd been lied to?"

      2. jake Silver badge

        "or was it the marketing dept being lied to?"

        What goes around comes around.


  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Shoot the messenger

    He was much better off out of there. Any firm that behaves like that (and there are more than a few) deserves to go down in a ball of flame.

    Coat - I'd be out of there as fast as possible.

    1. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

      Re: Shoot the messenger

      " Any firm that behaves like that (and there are more than a few) deserves to go down in a ball of flame"

      But ALL software firms behave like that!!!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shoot the messenger

        All I can say to that is: No comment.

        And anonymously, at that.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's so much wrong with this. Firstly that the engineer with a product that is, seemingly, delayed by a year has so little work to do they have to stroll the corridors trying to find something to turn their hand at. Then the fact that the there is no-one at an executive level who doesn't notice that Marketing are gearing up for a product launch for something that doesn't exist. Then the fact, as someone has pointed out, that it was all going to hit the fan very shortly anyway but with more egg on face.

    Talk about a dysfunctional company!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Firstly that the engineer with a product that is, seemingly, delayed by a year has so little work to do they have to stroll the corridors trying to find something to turn their hand at.

      Ian describes it as "taking a break from the screen" which sounds like quite productive behaviour. Very often the insight into a difficult problem happens when taking a break or, as I've often found, on the journey home. I think the limited amount n information on the screen can inhibit looking at the problem as a whole; wandering off with the whole of the problem in one's subconscious but without that limited focus can be all that's needed to find the solution.

      Other than that I agree, it was a very dysfunctional company.

      1. Sam Jelfs

        For me it is in the gym / out running at lunch time that the solution comes to mind. The trick is still being able to remember it when you get back to your desk...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "gym / out running"


          1. jake Silver badge

            I use fishing.

            Try it.

            [Edit: Note that I said fishing, not catching. I can go fishing without a rod, reel or line. Think about it.]

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: I use fishing.

              "I can go fishing without a rod, reel or line."

              So could me dad. Mmm....trout.


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