Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Review's in

Well, my review came in today. Basically, it's a B. Not terrible, but not something to be happy about, either. Also not something to merit a bonus or a raise, neither of which I anticipated.

Most of my expectations and fears ended up being pretty accurate. The overwhelming majority of the text was directly related to my manager's interpretations of mails that he was CC'ed on, and you basically only CC someone's manager on something if you want to be a dick. So, that didn't come out well. The first half of the year is mostly irrelevant for the final review since there's a (mostly meaningless) midyear review that covers the first half. So, the half of the year where I was working on stuff that I had experience in and did a really excellent job didn't mean anything, and the half of the year where I was dropped into the middle of an ocean of legacy C++ code and told to "fix it" is what my review was based on, which is just cute.

What I failed to keep in mind is that reviews are based on how well you're doing as an employee who happens to be a developer, not how well you're doing just as a developer. Any miscommunication with someone else, even if it's cleared up, is a thing to be avoided. This sort of thing bit me several times. Also, things that I thought were friendly suggestions, like "make sure that other people on the team know the kinds of great work you've been doing" were actually assignments that I didn't complete. Had I sent out a couple emails to the team at random points telling them how awesome I am, I would have actually done better.

I was able to get my manager to take some parts out of my final review because they were simply things that he didn't understand. For example, he saw my first code review where my coding style was being nitpicked to death, and somehow drew the conclusion from that that I refused to follow the reviewer's coding standards because I thought they were stupid. In reality, I did think that they were stupid, of course, but that mail that he saw was the first I even heard of them, so I couldn't exactly be expected to have followed them.

And, of course, it did definitely hurt that at about 40-45 hours for a normal week and 55-60 hours for a crunch week, I work less than any other developer on the team.

So, I'm annoyed. Things are mostly as I expected them, but that doesn't mean I like it. I don't like these kinds of subjective reviews because I always seem to get screwed in them. I'm quiet and calm and humble, which always ends up being seen negatively, and when I do speak out, I'm blunt and honest, which ends up being seen as me being inconsiderate. Had I spent more time fixing inconsequential little silly bugs, ignoring the important ones, I would have looked better. Had I tooted my own horn as much as my manager wanted me to, I would have looked better. Those things aren't me. I guess in the future I have to decide how exactly to balance being me and being the person fairly similar to me who "plays the game" better and gets better review scores.


Anonymous said...

At Mutual of Omaha, my boss told me that "Meets standards" is good in the real world and will get you the raises and bonuses. Is this the case with getting a 'B' at MS or is it kind of like getting a 'B' in school?

Travis said...

No, it's not good, and it doesn't get you any raises or bonuses.

Anonymous said...

For a developer you seem to have some real pattern recognition problems. Since I've known you, you have had repeated small problems that stem solely from your inability to accept authority. Elbaum's lame requirements anal rape, Swanson's F for doing an assignment in VB after being told not to, sit downs on how sexual harassment is bad, a lukewarm midyear review ... what do all these things have in common? Don't just send me some flippant response; I'm not flame baiting you here, really, seriously, what do these things have in common?

If you want to ever advance beyond in life you have to either play by their rules until you are in a position to make your own, or live with people not being satisfied with your "do it my way and then repeatedly bitch about the results" attitude.

Travis said...

"Elbaum's lame requirements anal rape, Swanson's F for doing an assignment in VB after being told not to, sit downs on how sexual harassment is bad, a lukewarm midyear review ... what do all these things have in common?"

Elbaum's "requirements anal rape" was a trap; I was hit for not following rules that were never given. Swanson's F was because he changed his mind and the rules. The "sit-down on how sexual harassment is bad" was irrelevant. The "lukewarm midyear review"... I'm not even sure where that one's from. My midyear review was pretty positive; I commented that it came out better than I expected. Clearly the answer you're looking for is something like "signs that point at my refusal to accept authority or play by the rules," but I don't agree at all. There are way better examples of that anyway.

But you're not totally off the mark. It's not like I don't realize that "not playing by the rules" comes with consequences. I just do things anyway. If I feel that the outcome will probably be better if I choose to do things my own way then I do it my own way. It's a conscious decision.

Finally, that's not even the kind of "plays the game" that I mentioned in this post. I'm not talking about "playing by the rules" or not, or defying management, or whatever; I certainly do those things, though far less at work than I did in school. I'm talking about doing things that don't affect the product in any way but are designed simply to make myself look better, like playing up my accomplishments in emails to the team. I don't want to do those things. If I'm explicitly told to do these things—now I understand that I have to—then I will do them. But otherwise I'm not going to waste time at work that could be spent making the product better doing mostly irrelevant things to get a better review.

Anonymous said...

Not to defend Elbuam, since I did argue strongly against what he did to your team, but you were told to come to the design review meeting, and had you followed that instruction you would have been assigned one extra requirement as opposed to all of them.

A trap: absolutely, unavoidable: not so much.

Anonymous said...

"playing up my accomplishments in emails to the team" ... what?

Please explain this....

Travis said...

Ianonymous: Elbaum made a point of saying that all of the meetings with him were optional, each and every time. When he sat down with us one-on-one (er, one-on-three) to give us our scores, he said, "They were optional. Had you come to one you would have known the extra requirements that I didn't give in class."

So, maybe "trap" wasn't quite the right word. More like a dishonest use of language and an obvious abuse of his position, really. What was really sick, though, was how he treated us in that meeting. He was just radiating joy at how much of a dick he was. He was smiling the entire time.

Josh: Some people on the team have a tendency to send out email to all of the developers whenever they check in a big change talking about how hard it was and what the challenges were that they had to overcome. Sometimes it's useful information; as in, "we changed the entire way that the product handles paragraphs." For my feature, it would have been "I just finished a ton of infrastructure work that you couldn't possibly ever need to use, and here's how hard I worked!" I don't want to do that. I don't want to brag to the team, or complain that I had to do a lot of hard work. (Some of you may politely disagree.) It wouldn't have been useful information for the team, so I didn't send it out. It's not even like it's a particularly common thing; there are a couple people who send out mail like that whenever they finish something, and I personally find it kind of annoying. One of them, however, is my boss, so I guess now I get to be one of those annoying people.

Anonymous said...

That's just weird.

Anonymous said...

Like... the act of communicating {emotions} when you've finished a thing isn't weird, really. Such as, verbally, "holy shit I'm glad that's done", etc. But making it a wacky expected pseudo-formal thing that feeds back into TEH PERFORMANCE METRIKKS is weird.

Anonymous said...

You're right, it was just sick. I was even disgusted at the way he carried on in private about his elation at being able to invent reasons to dock your team points. He can be a very petty little man, I'm not going to defend him and I don't teach with him anymore.

However, the fact remains that I frequently warned students when they met with me (which everyone was encouraged to do) of what was coming. I believe yours was the only group that I never saw. As a matter of fact, until the DS party of your senior year, I had absolutely no idea what you looked like. I thought that Colby was you.