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 Silver badge

            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 Silver badge

          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

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

    3. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      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

      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.

          2. Richocet

            This comment and the upvotes are a concern.

            Being physically active boosts brain function. So a bunch of knowledge workers being repulsed by the idea of exercise seems to be self-defeating.

            1. Pseudonymous Howard

              There are more types of exercise than running or the gym

              Not running and not going to a gym doesn't mean lack of exercise. Both activities give me a shudder too, but that does not stop me from exercising every morning at home and riding my bicycle - at least 150 km per week. Doesn't make me a superman, but it keeps me healthy and my belly in check.

          3. BuckeyeB

            If you see me running, call the police. I'm being chased. Either that or you better join me cause the tsunami is coming.

        2. The Specialist

          gym / out running

          I spent good money for these calories OK! Not gonna throw money on any gym membership to spend all those hard earned calories.

      2. AndrueC Silver badge

        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.

        Yup, I've had a lot of good ideas while out walking or in the toilet.

        Um...that doesn't sound good does it :)

        1. albegadeep

          "Yup, I've had a lot of good ideas while out walking or in the toilet"

          I'm remembering the tale of a chronically constipated German monk who spent a lot of time on "das klo", giving him plenty of time to think and write about Catholic teachings and practices. He ended up writing a list of 95 theses against the sale of indulgences - thus starting the Protestant Revolution.

          Or as it is sometimes put, "For want of a bran muffin, the Catholic Church was lost."

        2. 's water music
          Thumb Up

          Yup, I've had a lot of good ideas while out walking or in the toilet.

          Um...that doesn't sound good does it :)

          It's ok, it looks like you were saved from your blushes by an l-for-n typo

        3. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Yup, I've had a lot of good ideas while out walking or in the toilet.

          "in the toilet" or "on the toilet"???? There's a difference you know.

          1. jake Silver badge

            ""in the toilet" or "on the toilet"???? There's a difference you know."

            Depends on your local vernacular.

            1. dfsmith

              "Toilet" is like "lavatory". Both can refer to the room or fixture. (Toilet is the thing you sit on. Lavatory the thing you wash your hands in.) Yay, English euphemisms!

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                "Toilet" is like "lavatory"

                I'd offer "bog" as an alternative but having started out long ago in palaeoecology my main source of inspiration was an entirely different sort of bog.

        4. Pseudonymous Howard

          It's called "Excremeditation"

          The best ideas often come on the toilet. There seems to be some link between our digestive system and the creative parts of out minds.

      3. Stevie

        which sounds like quite productive behaviour.

        I had been hired by a former colleague to fill lout his cutting-edge tech team with a knowledgeable DBA at this bleeding edge tech company.

        I was new to the particular database in play, but knew how the "umbrella" software marshalled resources like redo and database pages, and when handed a thorny "unexpectedly slow performance" problem I thought and thought and wandered over to a window overlooking a stand of trees and thought some more, pulling apart what must be happening in Mr Brain and coming up with an explanation and solution in about five minutes treegazing.

        I was pulled into my new boss's office and told that the directors "did not like me wandering around he office and staring out the window all day".

        I pointed out that the five minutes was hardly all day, and had resulted in a solid win on a problem that had been puzzling the rest of the staff for months, but the boss was unimpressed and stressed the need to not be seen "wandering around".

        So I said "Okay, then give me the empty cube next to the window. You allocated me one that looks out into the corridor to the kitchen (also out of bounds, and windowless anyway). I need the visual stimulation of something other than putty colored walls and grey carpet to get my mind working at full speed. So give me that empty cube and everyone is a happy camper."

        I was told just to not let anyone see me when I walked over to the window for a look.

        This was so demonstrably risible that I decided to treat the whole thing as a dream and continued solving problems my way. It was never mentioned again.

      4. MrBanana Silver badge

        I agree, a stroll about the office, or a look out of the window, can help your thinking process. As long as that's all you do. I was employed at one place where I worked a normal 9-5 day and got all my assigned work done without any problem. But some colleagues complained to me that they had to spend at least 2 more hours to get the work done. Then they'd walk to the next cubicle and complain to that person, then wonder across the corridor and explain at great length to many others, how difficult they found it to have enough time in the day.

      5. JoMe

        I once worked with an engineer that solved problems while taking a dump. I think he solved problems on a few high end products in much the same manner. Not sure how that worked, come to think of it...

        1. A random security guy

          He got rid of the crap by flushing it. What was left was the essence of the problem ...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          He must work where I work, and have 7 colleagues doing the same. How else can you justify the length of time for taking a crap?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            It takes as long as it takes! Usually until I run out of lives in Candy Crush.

      6. Olivier2553

        I was known to go ambling the corridors when I needed to get away from the screen for a bit.

        And more annoyingly, I was knocking my knuckles on the walls, my colleagues asked me to stop because the noise would disturb them.

        When a project is one year late, a 5 minutes break will not change much.

        And when a project has been well timed, the 5 minutes breaks should have been taken into account.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Going walkabout is something that is well known about me. It's not just about clearing my head so that something that I'm currently working on might be solved, it also let me pick up on organizational process pain points that needed attention, before they percolated up the chain causing havoc along the way. Given that I also trained everyone as well, it also gave me a chance to catch what needed attention there, too.

    3. BrownishMonstr

      I don't think there's anything wrong with taking a stroll from your desk. It can be seen as unproductive, but sometimes just talking to colleagues gives you an insight into what they're working on and if they are currently finding it difficult to solve a problem. Alternatively, you might find out something interesting from them.

      You might be able to fix that problem quicker, so helping them to solve it quicker will no doubt reduce the colleague's brain-drain. That is, their motivation may reduce as it takes them longer to find a solution to something which they find uninteresting.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Does depend on context. For example:

        That is, their motivation may reduce as it takes them longer to find a solution to something which they find uninteresting.

        Their motivation may also decrease if, while in the middle of discussion with someone else on a project they are working on, they are interrupted by by a passer-by with an unwanted 10 minute lecture on things they already know from someone they taught them to, who is seemingly oblivious to any attempt to stop them short of the use of an air-horn.

        1. BrownishMonstr

          Aye that is true.

    4. holmegm

      "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."

      How do we know that's his fault?

      If I don't have enough to do, that's on the company, not me. I do look for useful things to do at those times, I try to come up with ideas to give marketing (not that they usually want any), etc. I work on housekeeping tasks that really need to get done but don't otherwise don't get done. I followup on low priority things. I may even walkabout and interact with my fellow humans.

      And if someone gives me grief about it ... well, that's where the emoji shrug came from.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        If I ever end up in the situation where the client hasn't provided any work, I just go and play golf - weather permitting :)

  6. Rich 11
    Black Helicopters

    Have you ever leaked important company information, whether by accident or design?

    I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

      That statement in and by itself already tells (leaks) more information than you would like. I am sorry, but I have to kill you now in self defense.

      1. ibmalone

        I *redacted* you, but *redacted*

        1. JoMe

          Sorry, comrade, but you did not use party sanctioned redaction code. Report to Office of Correction Making for punishment.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's more fun when...

    You've got so many NDA'd that you forget which project you're clear for and which ones you aren't.

    I've managed to work a couple of billable weeks on a project that I officially shouldn't have known a thing about as well as having an awkward team meeting as the only person not NDA'd for a project.

    The marketers also have a habit of working on shiny {product x} on big monitors by the kitchen despite it being under NDA. Fun times.

  8. VonDutch

    Tell sales and marketing nothing!

    I was in a meeting with a colleague when the marketing department revealed that "next month we are excited to be launching 3 new products!". It was news to us as the R&D chemists that would normally make such products.

    It turns out a careless conversation between one of our managers and a sales person had escalated and resulted in 3 theoretical products being put to market.

    1. Chris 239

      Re: Tell sales and marketing nothing!

      Well, I guess in Chemistry you really can sell vapour ware!

      Yes, my coat is over there.

  9. Martin Summers

    I worked for a smallish company a few years back and when it was obvious the company was being sold I shared that with my colleagues. Months later when it also became apparent that the company buying us intended to move us a fair way from our current location I shared that too. Only that one resulted in resignations (a couple of years before the move actually happened) of people who didn't want to work in the new location. It also resulted in a "loose lips sink ships" speech (yes literally those words) from a Director to the whole company. Unfortunately the company was always very cloak and dagger and let rumours persist rather than being open and honest.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      It also resulted in a "loose lips sink ships" speech (yes literally those words) from a Director to the whole company.

      I think what he meant was that loose lips were likely to lose him his bonus/payoff for shafting the employees.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I once tried to educate an individual as to why information wasn't being passed to the people he wanted it to. Unfortunately that person spoke to important people which ended up with me being hauled to the CEOs office and being told that a cabinet minister wasn't happy with me. My comments to one person to try to help had gone through enough Chinese whisper rounds to come out that I personally was blocking a national initiative (I am very much a minion). But I was right, my information just didn't suit that politician's needs at that time. I was lucky the CEO backed me and didn't just throw me under a bus to solve that day's drama.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I had to write an email to a customer that was getting a big extension to their current system, involving use and three other suppliers. Only he still hadn't paid the bill for the original work.

      I had to tell him, that unless he paid the bill, the planned work for the next week would be put on hold.

      The CEO was out of the country and called up just before I sent the email, saying he wanted to see a copy before it went out. I duly sent him a copy. He read it, changed the contents around, sent it back and said the partners were to be added to the email. I duly replaced the contents with a new version, based on the CEO's notes, in the draft, added the other recipients, sent the new draft back to the boss and the CEO...

      Back and forth, back and forth... Finally I got the OK.

      It had changed from "you haven't paid" to "there are critical problems from the side of the customer that need to be clarified before work can continue and unless the problems are resolved, the work next week will be postponed."

      Only... Yikes! Both my boss and I had been over the recipients in detail and we had sent the CEO draft after draft of the email, but neither of us had noticed that the draft email still had the original title "Non-payment of invoices".

      AARRGGHH! I got a very loud call from the CEO and I was not allowed any contact with anyone inside or outside the company until his return.

      1. Anonymous South African Coward

        Ahhh, diplomacy.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Ahhh, diplomacy.

          Telling someone to go to hell in such a way that he'll be looking forward to the trip.

  11. chivo243 Silver badge


    The company had a big disconnect, engineering was a year away from finishing, and marketing was ready NOW. When did they think the other shoe was going to drop? Seems like marketing would find out soon enough as they were ramping up for the release???

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: So...

      Seems like marketing would find out soon enough

      Marketing never finds out as they don't listen to the guys having to do the real work. If they ever listened, they might find out a couple of things, including the fact they are the most hated department in the company.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: So...

        "the fact they are the most hated department in the company"

        They usually have strong competition from beancounters and HR.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: So...

          They usually have strong competition from beancounters and HR.

          True, but not strong enough, but those usually fight it out for second and third. The only time the beancounters come in first is when they have been replaced by buttonsorters.

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: So...

          Bean-counters are responsible for our salaries being paid, so personally I always try to keep them happy.

          And of course, if they do become a problem, just throw a handful of small objects like beans or pebbles and run away, because accountants are compelled to count everything they see. Or is that vampires?

          1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

            Re: So...

            Just what I was about to point out. Beancounters and HR have control over salaries/expenses and contracts/actual employment respectively, so giving them leverage over anyone and everyone.

            You may hate them, but in the end you personally need them, or at least their (supposed) function...

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: So...

              You may hate them, but in the end you personally need them, or at least their (supposed) function...

              They need me just as well and they know it. Just watch them when they are locked out just at the moment they have to pay higher manglement and their own salaries. And their positions and salaries are also in the database. It becomes funny if you really think about how much the beancounters, buttonsorters and HR really and truly need a capable BOFH.

            2. pirxhh

              Re: So...

              Just like your body needs an asshole.

          2. Trollslayer

            Re: So...


            Assuming they aren't the same.

        3. Stork Silver badge

          Re: So...

          I was once at a shrinking company. HR was known as anti-personnel

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: So...

        Marketing never finds out as they don't listen to the guys having to do the real work.

        Let's just face the fact that marketing hasn't a clue about schedules, design work, or even what the product does. They just like to jump up and down, party with the customers, and generally make nusciences of themselves because "any attention is good attention".

      3. Robert 22

        Re: So...

        I've seen dysfunctional organizational cultures where nobody can afford to admit that there are problems. In this sort of environment, you just keep hoping for miracles and continue to paper over the problems.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: So...

          In this sort of environment, you just keep hoping for miracles and continue to paper over the problems apply for a job with another company asap.


    2. defiler

      Re: So...

      Ever heard of the Sega Dreamcast?

      Or the Saturn?

      Or (at a pinch) the 32X?

      I'm suddenly realising that this company might be Sega!

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: So...

        The Dreamcast was a machine well ahead of its time, shame about the marketing :)

        1. defiler

          Re: So...

          Absolutely, 100%. But they weren't ready to manufacture in volume, so instead of exploding into the market, it stumbled. They just couldn't get the parts in volume. A real shame.

          I was all PC gaming when it came out, but I'm glad I managed to pick one up a few years ago before the price started to spike. Once I put some other stuff to be I'll be sitting down to Shenmue.

          1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

            Re: So...

            Shenmue probably wouldn't be my first choice to be honest, I bought it when released and barely played it. Looks good, but involves a lot of slow running around.

            There's not a lot left on the Dreamcast that's exclusive and worth playing, apart from Metropolis Street Racer. Course, as I still like the platform, I'd play on it anyway : Sonic Adventure and SA2, Craaaaaaazy Taxi 1 and 2, Ecco the Dolphin, Jet Set Radio (although there's a high res Windows port), Chuchu Rocket (although there's an enhanced Gameboy Advance cart), and some of the shmups. Slowly working through Tomb Raider Last Revelation on it.

            1. defiler

              Re: So...

              Yeah - I've got other stuff on the machine. Almost bought Crazy Taxi and DOA2 when I was at Play Expo the other week. To be honest, I'm happy with something slow. It's a nice comedown from the rest of the day. That's why I have >1000 hours on Kerbal Space Program. Name a stock part and a celestial body, and I've put it on it! :)

      2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

        Re: So...

        The Sega Saturn wasn't just a case of marketing before the console was ready, it was a case of misjudging the market and concentrating on the wrong areas. It's still an excellent 2D console, created at just the point when Sony shifted the entire market to 3D.

        It's also an object exercise in pig headed management, who dropped the ball at least three times. The Saturn's launch was mismanaged, they should have known from the start that addons such as the 32X were a bad idea, and if they hadn't been precious about 3dfx revealing they were in the running for a Dreamcast design, it's entirely possible Sega might still be making consoles. It was three years before the XBox was released with something fairly similar to a PC specification, a 3dfx solution could have enabled easy PC porting.

        1. defiler

          Re: So...

          Bear in mind that Sega suddenly changed the US launch, bringing it forward by 5(?) months to May '95. The console was out in Japan, and doing pretty well, but many developers were still in the middle of writing games that would sell in the US market. JRPGs aren't really a big thing outside of Japan...

          They announced at E3 that it was "out there right now", much to the surprise of everyone including the retailers! That's a bodged bit of marketing to me. They tried to get the jump on Sony and stripped themselves up.

          32X wasn't necessarily a bad idea, but it was stillborn with the Saturn coming so close behind it. Devs weren't interested in creating games for it because the Next Big Thing was just months away. As it is, Virtua Racing and Virtua Fighter are cracking games on it. I believe that Afterburner and Space Harrier are basically arcade-perfect too, but by that point everyone was clamouring for either 3D or interactive movies. Yes, you might not remember, but the whole CD thing was going to kick off a whole new genre of immersive entertainment that was like being in your own movie. Except that the best we got was stuff like Rebel Assault... So the cartridge systems died a death. N64 came along late enough for everyone to realise that the CD thing was a bit of a crock.

          Then there was SOA's idea to release the SVP (from the Megadrive / Genesis Virtua Racing cart) as a separate add-on. An interposer between the console and SVP-enabled games. Sort of a 32X--, if you will. And that could have worked as well, but they clouded their own judgement by juggling too many things. They had, at that point, the Megadrive, Game Gear, Mega CD, 32X (Mars), next-gen cartridge console (Jupiter), next-gen CD console (Saturn), Megadrive with 32X combined (Neptune), the Nomad and the Multi-Mega. That's from memory, at least. They really needed to prune that product tree!

          Still, it's easy (and enjoyable) to look back at these days and point out where Sega went wrong (and Atari, Commodore, 3DO, Philips...), but it's difficult to understate just how much of a leap it was to the original PlayStation. I remember when Sony released some polygon and sprite specs they were so far ahead of Sega's that they basically said "oh, and we're shoving another graphics processor in, by the way". And that made it a sod to program well.

          Ah, good times!

          1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

            Re: So...

            Sure, it's just that I don't think the Saturn would have succeeded even if it had been released later. The Playstation was overall a better console for the changing (3D) times, and it famously upstaged the Saturn on price too. That's leaving aside my personal preferences, as I have far more Saturn games than Playstation/Playstation 2. Shmups on the Saturn are great.

            I'm not criticising the 32X for what it was, as such (the Megadrive addons are one thing I've never really tried, apart from giving the WonderMega a quick go at Play Expo the other week), it's more that addons don't tend to revolutionise platforms as developers code for a lowest common denominator to maximise sales, and if they arrive a long time after the platform is released, may be a sign it's coming to the end of its lifespan.

            I was there throughout the interactive movie era, and yes, most of them sucked. Rebel Assault is still fun for about the first four levels until the difficulty spikes, and Tex Murphy : Under A Killing Moon was quite good. I've got Megarace running on the retro PC, and the FMV is still pretty decent, even if the gameplay is poor.

  12. trevorde Silver badge

    Trust, or lack thereof

    Worked in a company in the 90s where quotes from engineering were printed out and couriered across the country to our sales teams. I pointed out that it would be a *lot* quicker, and cheaper, if we did the equivalent of emailing the spreadsheets. The response was that engineering could not trust sales to not alter the quotes to make them 'more competitive'.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Trust, or lack thereof

      The response was that engineering could not trust sales to not alter the quotes to make them 'more competitive'.

      FTFY, that is exactly what would happen.

  13. Mike 125


    Large organisations/ software companies don't want "naturally curious" people - too much disruption and threat to the hierarchy.

    So smart engineers must challenge and amuse themselves by developing a POConcept in their heads very quickly, and maybe even writing some private 'test' code.

    Then it's the POCrap they submit for review. And of course, at the water cooler it's strictly cars and football.

  14. Nick Kew


    Isn't it bog standard practice for Marketing to market a product long before Engineering have developed it?

    1. Paul Shirley

      Re: Vapourware

      ..certainly is in the games industry! We'd laugh at the verbal gymnastics marketing use to explain away each delay if it didn't create so much crunch time for the poor sods building the product. Seems to take at least 3 months, usually much longer before marketing will admit reality doesn't take orders from them.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Vapourware

      Back in my day, the conversation went something like this:

      Management: MARKETING SEZ WE GOTTA SHIP IT!!!!

      Engineer: Sorry, it's not ready to ship. I'm not signing off on it.


      Engineer: Ok, Marketing, YOU sign off on it.


      Management: Now, now, Engineer. Be nice to Marketing. They have ADVERTISING!!!

      Engineer: Then you sign off on it, Management. I'm not going to.

      Management: We could FIRE you for this insurrection!!!

      Engineer: Go ahead. Then you'll never have a working product.

      Management: ::sputter::


      Marketing: Yeah! That's EXACTLY what we'll do! (BTW, what does "sign off" mean?).

      Management: (It's a technical term. I don't really get it either. Don't worry about it.)

      Marketing: (Thank heavens for that. Ignoring technical stuff is easy for me.)

      Engineer: Good luck with that, guys. I'm taking early retirement. Have fun.

      RIP, DEC

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Vapourware

        RIP, DEC

        As Field Engineers we were supposed, nay, ordered to decline talking about stuff that was Sales and Marketing territory: specs and cost of new products and such. Or whether an upgrade would really do what was promised.

        However, most engineers tended to weigh 'multiple visits to unhappy customer because of shitty product' into that order, and ignore where appropriate.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once found a typed list of executive salaries and bonuses left on the Xerox machine.

    Ran off and distributed a few extra copies.

    Hilarity ensued.

    I was never caught.

    "Information wants to be free."

    1. BrownishMonstr

      You can't come here and not provide the full story.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I used to get in early. Often, I had to turn on the Xerox machines in the copy center (this was in the 80s) and go make the coffee, then come back and do my copies. The company involved (which made "minicomputers", and liked to consider themselves "feisty upstarts") is no longer in business, the few remaining viable bits of it having been absorbed in the early 90s by a company that still exists. They had a somewhat unwarranted obsession with secrecy, which probably prompted me to act the way I did.

        It was an opportunity to rock the boat a bit, and take the piss out of some of the "suits". I enjoyed doing that, and watching the ensuing efforts to identify me (which failed). Yes, I was (and still am) an engineer. When we want to stir things up, we can be counted on to do an effective job of it.

      3. Medieval Research Council

        Nor /that/ story, but....

        I was our representative on the local traffic discussion group (Cambridge Science Park / Cowley Road estates). Asked Human Remains for a list of postcodes that our people lived at. No names, no addresses needed, just the postcodes. Received a spreadsheet with name, full address, dependents and salary. The salary column was all stars because it was simply too narrow. Click > drag > full disclosure.

  16. Amentheist

    Not leaked but just a week after agreeing on what I should be doing for the nextgood 4 months they come to me and say "we need this brand new functionality" I tell them fine, will probably take 6 months. But they already promised it to the customer "or we would've lost their business" :|

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, why have you decorated your presentation with a container ship?

    Me: "Ah, that's not any old container ship. That's the Emma Maersk. It's 56m wide --- it wouldn't even fit down the Panama canal. It holds about 12,000 TEUs (20" shipping containers). Amazing bit of engineering, isn't it?"

    Yes, but what's the relevance?

    Me: Well, the amount of paper we're talking about scanning would fill this ship about 3 times.

    *people rushing for exits*

    Anon, but some of you will know who I am. I didn't get sacked (unfortunately).

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: So, why have you decorated your presentation with a container ship?

      20" shipping containers

      I think you have a small unit problem there. As far as I know, those containers are measured in feet, not inches (and yes, 20' is a standard).

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So, why have you decorated your presentation with a container ship?

        Haha good spot. One of the joys of US Dvorak, SHIFT+' = "

        I normal shun feet and inches so it usually bites me in comment/string confusion

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Efer Brick

    Sales and marketing all over...

    Making promises that other people have to keep, still keeps the lawyers happy at least, "I shit you not"

  20. Camilla Smythe

    Solved a problem in a product.

    Explained to customer what problem was and how solution worked. Customer asks how sure I am so I say 50%. Customer expresses relief because all the other solutions that failed had been guaranteed to be 100%. Implements solution. Solution works. Other half of product goes up in smoke.

  21. Loyal Commenter

    Sounds to me... the Engineering dept doing the marketeer's job for them. Maybe the real reason they were upset is that it showed them up as the useless middle-men that they often are?

    1. Thrudd the Barbarian

      Re: Sounds to me...

      What is the value of "often" on a scale of zero to one hundred.

      My best guess is that it is a quantum leap from zero at best.

  22. A. Coatsworth

    That's what you get for having an extrovert engineer!

    If he had followed the usual protocol (i.e. lurk in the dark, snarl at anyone trying to do small talk, keep earphones firmly on) all these problems would have been avoided

  23. Sequin

    I joined a large outsourcing company, let's call them Crapita, working on a government system that they were providing, having previously worked for that government department.

    I was in a meeting one day with other Crapita staff and was asked how long it would take to extract data for a report that the client needed. I considered the question, then gave them and estimate based on my somewhat limited knowledge of the system, having padded it a bit to give me a bit of leeway. After the meeting my boss bollocked me, saying that I should never give "the business" information like that! "Hang on", I said, "aren't they Crapita staff?". "Yes, but they are 'the business' side - the operational bods, and we are the 'IT' side - the technical bods, and we don't tell them anything!"

    I can understand keeping the client in the dark, and not making promises, but our own staff?

    I was there for only 12 weeks when I got a job offer elsewhere and snapped it up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Being someone blessed/cursed with ADHD, when I work I get a lot done in a short space of time - it was constantly throwing up problems one place I worked because I was involved in scoping out the project timelines.

      The team manager once asked me to double my estimates, then add 2 days for contingency - even for something simple like raising a change for a DNS record.

      In the end I dropped my work-rate to 50%, then 25%, just to stay in-sync - although even at 25% I was still out front.

      I finally came to the conclusion that it wasn't my super-adhd skills at all, but that everyone else was a lazy bastard who didn't give a shit :)

  24. Pirate Dave Silver badge


    "I happened to be in the marketing department, talking to one of the marketing bods..."

    I think I see the start of the problem right there. Normally such an activity is best left to a professionals such as nuclear spill technicians or snake charmers. And never stare into their eyes...

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Yep


  25. martinusher Silver badge

    Obviously a newbe engineer

    This story would only be remarkable if the engineer had found that the marketing plans accurately reflected both the product specification and the release time frame of the product. In my experience (both in the UK and US) marketing drives both product specification and the development timeline which invariably leads to being asked to deliver too much too quickly. Put simply, "Dilbert" isn't a cartoon strip, its a documentary. I figure its probably because creating Powerpoint slides is a lot easier than creating the product they depict.

    As for the gag rule, that's also typical; managing communications is a way to retain control.

    The engineer in this story would be advised to quietly find another job. Quite apart from the organization being primed for failure you can bet that the principals involved will escape unscathed while he (or she) will shoulder any blame for problems (probably disproportionately so as they're now in the management cross hairs). I'd like to think that this kind of a story ultimately has a happy ending, truth and beauty prevailing and all that, but typically what happens is that the engineering crew will be made redundant as the work is off shored -- people who are good at selling lies are also great at self preservation so will happily throw a significant capability under the bus if it means they can improve their personal situation ("and the company be damned").

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Working for a corporate outsourcing firm supporting a large company that made things go boom. They officially divided a large team of people to support one particular arm of the business. However this had been done to get them the contract. Few beers with a friend and his dad one evening at a summer BBQ and we got as you do to talking about work. Now the Big Company in question had believed they had a dedicated team dealing with their support as they had to have separation between business arms, and when he asked if I was still on the team I told him it had gone, and they just got whoever was on the floor. Cue a VERY disgruntled exec ringing up on the Monday morning to tear strips off my call centre manager, and the team suddenly being reinstated. I had zero idea what his dad did for a living. Was fun to see people being moved around again.

    I kept my mouth shut at work about it as I was already heading out the door because it was an awful sweatshop of a place.

    Another job someone called up for support with their Blackberry on my personal number about a month after I had left. "I'm very important, and we pay a lot of money for your support out of hours". Now they still owed me money, and they were being somewhat difficult to get my last month wages while also withholding my bonus (I never got that), and arguing over about £500 in expenses. I took some great delight in pointing out the guy had called my personal mobile, I no longer worked at the company, and telling him that they may accidentally have dropped about 50 laptops off some racking in the stores (Which I'd had to help clean up), and hadn't told them. Weirdly on the Monday I got another call from the guy apologising, and thanking me for telling him. They did eventually pay me when I faxed (yes it was along time ago) a copy of some court papers with the word "MONDAY" on the top of them.

  27. ecofeco Silver badge

    Never talk to the marketing department

    See title. Nothing good ever comes from it.

    Good on the engineering department for keeping marketing in the dark. They are often clueless and arrogant and will torpedo projects.

    I do feel sorry for the guy, but he learned a valuable lesson.

  28. Malcolm Weir

    To be fair, sometimes in some industries the timescales outlined in the article aren't as unreasonable as it may seem in Ian's tale.

    For example, in my business, 90-120 days ARO is "standard", and to quote up to 180 days after receipt of order is not particularly exceptional. Also, a fair amount of product promotion happens around annual trade shows/conventions. Finally, many customers take a while to work a procurement through their systems: 3 months may be considered fast.

    Add that all up, and you may genuinely have a situation where you need to start promoting a product a year out: say 4 weeks before a trade show to get the sales staff educated enough to sell the thing at the show, then 3 months for the orders to land, then 6 months for first delivery, and you're comfortably at a place where marketing might be working on stuff to release "in a few weeks" which engineering is going to finish a year from now.

    (And I personally saw some of the sales literature for a thing call the "7E7" which got its name in July 2003, first order in April 2004, first article was completed July 2007, first fully functional test December 2009, first delivery September 2011... and was renamed along the way to the 787. Yeah, the Boeing 787 was pretty late, but even if everything had gone according to plan, the sales material lead the first planned delivery by five years!)

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Launch != Ready for sale != Ready to ship

      All of that is true. I've worked on many products where the "launch" was a year or more before it could possibly ship, and sales were being made before we even had the first PCBs. Which was all fine, because those customers (cough Apple cough) didn't want shipment for a year.

      However, it only works out well when the engineers, marketers and salescritters working on these long lead-time products all know when the "launch" promo material is going out, when they're saying it will be ready for ordering (sales) and when it's intended to actually ship out the door. And properly manage how and when to delay or cut features from initial release.

      Otherwise, "hilarity ensues".

      If marketing won't let the engineers know when they're launching, then they risk creating an impossible market expectation - killing the product and quite possibly the company.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are sales people, bosses of said sales departments, marketing people, and bosses of said marketing departments (notice the Oxford Comma there). Then there are practical sales people (who are never employed or promoted because they are realistic). These people either start their own companies, get into multi-level marketing and manipulate the impractical sales people, or find a niche and never move on. I know, because when I tell prospective employers that the first thing I do as a salesperson is make sure that a customer is getting what they need, and then add the bling because the customer wants it too, I don't hear back about the position I interviewed for. I've got my niche, but not the mercedes S class, the McMansion and the ire of too many broken promises in my wake.

  30. Ptol

    * Hardware

    * Software

    * Treeware

    * Vapourware

  31. Blofeld's Cat

    Er ...

    A colleague of mine worked for a company where one of their highly secret engineering prototypes went missing over a weekend.

    This caused a major panic with senior managers throwing around statements about "careless engineers" who left stuff lying around where anyone could take it.

    Just before the police were called, the unit turned up and everything went very quiet.

    It turned out the Head of Marketing, without consulting anybody, had used his master key* to open the room where it was kept, and had "borrowed" it, along with "some other stuff", to fill out an exhibition stand display.

    My colleague found this out when she saw pictures of it published in a trade magazine.

    * Senior managers always need master keys to everything.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back when I was a permie we had a company doing some pen tests for us - they also gave us some training on how to avoid some of the more common problems, SQL injection and the like by demonstrating how to perform some basic attacks.

    I had been bringing up our terrible practices for years by this point and had always been told by management that it wasn't a problem - at the end of the training session I sat down with the pen tester to "ask some questions" and spent the next hour pointing out every single flaw that I was aware of in our code, practices etc, I'd been at the company for about 7 years at this point so it was a long list.

    I'm sure the pen testers would have found all of the issues themselves but I didn't want to risk stuff being missed.

    Needles to say that the report we got back was quite beefy, I dont work there any more but Im fairly sure management still cant work out how the pen testers knew about some of the issues that "they found".

    1. RancidOrange

      The best pen testers will make use of all available information sources.

      1. Killfalcon Silver badge

        Sounds like a very solid test of the company's resilience to social engineering. I know that a solid icebreaker with many techies is "this weird bug I found once", a few hours and a few pints and that'll easily turn into "that time we didn't have any budget to sanitise our inputs"...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Been there

    Was running the AV for a presentation by our General Manager and he announced a new product line for release in two months. I queried this afterwards, wondering who was working on it. “Nobody, yet - I was going to see if you could manage the design and build!” It took the next two months for him to agree the detailed specification. It was fairly straightforward and I reckoned we could get it ready for release in three months - tight, and expensive, but possible. He gave the go-ahead and the target was met. Unfortunately, he didn’t early expect success, despite getting weeping project reports, and hadn’t asked marketing to prepare the launch. They took a further two months.

    The product worked exactly as promised but marketing didn’t like being rushed and take-up was poor - it was quietly dropped a year or so later.

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