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Managing Software Engineers, by Philip Greenspun (philg@mit.edu)


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If you see one of your best people walking out the door at 6:00 pm, try to think why you haven't challenged that person with an interesting project.

I would be more inclined to believe that this person has a life, and is balancing it with their work.

People don't live to work, they work to live.



-- Paul Collins, November 6, 2000

Dog-friendly offices may be great for dog owners / lovers, but aren't as wonderful for people with allergies or even those who just want to be able to concentrate on writing code without having a dog try to jump on their lap.

-- Kevin Scaldeferri, November 6, 2000

I have to disagree with the comments about cubicles being acceptable in the dot com environment so that "people can see what's on others screens". The company I work for provided separate offices. Normally the doors are open so people can interact, and people interact just as much as they do in the open concept offices I have been in. The distractions however, do not occur and everyone is much more productive here than in the other places I've been.

-- Thomas Dean, November 6, 2000
Programmers who are measured based on how late they stay at work will quickly figure out how to excel at staying late without being more productive (e.g. come in at 11:00 am).

This article reinforces many great ideas from Frederick Brooks but, unfortunately, regurgitates a few tired stereotypes. Most programmers that turn 30, get married, have a few kids (that go to bed at 7:00), may as well resign themselves to being put out to pasture.

Here's an idea. Instead of just assuming that it takes 25 hours a week for team coordination and build your management approach upon motivating programmers to work more hours, why not work to reduce the time it takes to coordinate through better management and more efficiency? Isn't that what management really is?

-- Tom Wilson, November 6, 2000

The premise of this article seems to be that, if the workplace is sufficiently attractive, work will become the employee's top priority. While this is true in some cases (e.g. young people right out of school) it is not the case for nearly everyone else for whom family is likely the top priority. And even a very young employee may already be married.

While it is probably possible (and may be advantageous) to run a company filled solely with people for whom work is their top priority, it seems like a very difficult long-term strategy fraught with the danger of burn-out (despite the ski house "vacations" and such.)

Are success and a 9-5 schedule really incompatible?

-- John Siracusa, November 6, 2000


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