Do you know a software engineer who was laid off? Why did you get fired?

Updated on : December 6, 2021 by Leo Marsh



Do you know a software engineer who was laid off? Why did you get fired?

I have fired a few coders over the years in the US, Ukraine, and Switzerland, with varying degrees of animosity.

  • 'Alex', an intern, for flagrant insubordination and lies. While on the road, he openly refused to take instructions from my delegate representative and lied about his behavior.
  • 'Bob' for not being able to work with his teammates - His coding and Java skills were exceptional, but he couldn't work with the rest of the team in any way. In retrospect, there were serious warning signs of mental illness.
  • 'Charlie' for taking advantage of lax supervision and not doing his job.
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I have fired a few coders over the years in the US, Ukraine, and Switzerland, with varying degrees of animosity.

  • 'Alex', an intern, for flagrant insubordination and lies. While on the road, he openly refused to take instructions from my delegate representative and lied about his behavior.
  • 'Bob' for not being able to work with his teammates - His coding and Java skills were exceptional, but he couldn't work with the rest of the team in any way. In retrospect, there were serious warning signs of mental illness.
  • 'Charlie' for taking advantage of lax supervision and not doing his job. He was not my direct report, but I found that as a remote employee, I was not producing much and only worked 5-10 hours a week for two months.
  • 'David' by a general pattern of not aligning the product of his work with the objectives of the company. In addition to openly disagreeing with strategic and product decisions, he was a fierce advocate for free software with open source side projects in the immediate domain of the company. To this day, he still doesn't understand how close he came to being sued. Kafkaesque. (This seems to have struck a chord with people. See comments for details on why their behavior was serious enough to warrant firing.)
  • 'Eric' was a contractor for a company who was basically an incompetent "yes man".
  • 'Frank' worked with David. He was a follower, not a leader. (Which is right). Once David left, Frank struggled to perform and work with the rest of the team. It is difficult for me to determine if he was not capable or if his mandate was irreparably damaged by the departure of 'David. After three months I also fired 'Frank'.
  • 'George' became unmanageable as his value to the team increased. She tried to use her prominence to protect him from bad behaviors, such as tardiness, skipping meetings, and unplanned vacations. He was even quoted in the dining room two weeks earlier saying "They can't fire me." When a major system update was missed due to a last minute trip, causing great stress for the rest of the team, I let it go on the spot.

Firing people is painful and generally a longer story than is implied than this list above.

For example, 'Alex' had a slight insubordination at first. He was talented but conceited. He was so convinced of his place on my team that after I fired him, he brought in both Human Resources and the 'Director of Placed Internships' from his school (a Swiss practice) for a reconciliation meeting. He left that meeting crying and was later expelled from school.

Here's a general theme: don't play nice with others.

I've laid off software engineers, I've been laid off as an engineer, and I've seen many others laid off by other managers. If you eliminate "for a cause" reasons like stealing, lying on resumes or clients, etc., and eliminate bad hires (references were not marked, experience is clearly exaggerated, etc.), it really comes down to a small amount. of employees focused categories of reasons for dismissal:

  • Inability to meet / keep commitments. Some engineers just can't stop or find ways to cleanly control their work and have to find the perfect solution. When this makes everyone else, or the project as a
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I've laid off software engineers, I've been laid off as an engineer, and I've seen many others laid off by other managers. If you eliminate "for a cause" reasons like stealing, lying on resumes or clients, etc., and eliminate bad hires (references were not marked, experience is clearly exaggerated, etc.), it really comes down to a small amount. of employees focused categories of reasons for dismissal:

  • Inability to meet / keep commitments. Some engineers just can't stop or find ways to cleanly control their work and have to find the perfect solution. When this causes everyone else, or the project as a whole, to be repeatedly delayed, it leads to completion. I have seen more than one startup fail because this type of engineer could not be fired (in more than one case, that engineer was the CTO).
  • Ego - gear type: There are some engineers who don't really understand that the days of slinger cowboy code are long gone. Most projects require teamwork and collaboration. People who cannot work as a team because they know better than others will not last. This is very different from someone who wants to work in a team effectively but lacks communication skills or empathy. Any good manager can work with them, but ego / narcissism is much more difficult.
  • Ego - product type: Sometimes software engineers will argue with clients or designers and they will know better and produce what they want versus what is required. So everyone else is stupid because the characteristic they produced is clearly superior. Fired.
  • Misogyny: It's not going to be popular to say this, but it's called "Brogrammer" culture for a reason. Decent leaders do not tolerate anti-team behavior, especially when it is directed at an entire class of teammate. And by team I mean everyone. I know someone who fired a skilled engineer because he insisted on calling the team manager "girly" and "sweetie." He didn't want to let the person go because of his skill, but his HR team eventually told him, "Fire him or we'll fire you." And to be frank, they were right. This also applies to racism, but it does not happen as often and can be detected well in advance.
  • Not keeping up - In software engineering, tool sets change relatively quickly. I used hundreds of different tools, languages, repository, blah blah blah during my 20 years as a software developer. Sometimes engineers stick to what they know and don't keep up with the needs of an organization. If your next project uses a newer set of tools for quality, maintainability, or just to be able to hire the best talent, your engineering staff cannot outright refuse to go ahead and stick with the tried and true. If they do, they may be better off elsewhere.
    • Corollary to this are those who sneak in new tools against the grain of the prevailing culture. I was cast aside for doing this in my first corporate job. Technically he was right. Politically, he was so wrong.
  • Frustrated / Passive Aggressive: When a manager hears "sure, whatever you want, boss" in a sarcastic tone, they know that not only is the work likely to be late, but also incomplete and of poor quality. This happens due to a disagreement over product direction, feature set, etc. And it really means that you have a team member who is not on board and does not have the skills to defend your case. Immaturity and unprofessional behavior do not lead to healthy teams. It's time to keep going forward.
  • Low-quality code - If someone keeps bugging or responsibly writing their tests (if your organization is responsible for writing their own tests), then the overall cost of having them on board becomes too high rather quickly. Especially if your mistakes end up as defects found by the customer. Even if your team doesn't pay support costs, your business does, and ultimately your team pays for it with the confidence the rest of the business has for the team.

There are others, but these are the most important out of cause or bad hiring. All that said though, and I say that, having been an engineer / engineering leader for 20 years, leading creative software teams is difficult and requires a dose of humanity, freedom of action, and creativity of its own, beyond leading. many other types of equipment. Poor management or lack of qualifications are also responsible for a good percentage of layoffs. I have seen very good engineers and computer scientists fired for ridiculous reasons due to unskilled management. Here are some mismanagement-focused reasons why good engineers get fired:

  • Inability to handle Eeyore - Some engineers always see the negative or can always spot the problems. These people are valuable and as a manager it is your job to help them say what will work or how to fix it rather than "this will never work ...". Some managers can't or won't deal with it. they know how to "level up" their team so they fire the "downcast who always says no."
  • Using the wrong metrics: Some managers who come from managing other types of teams look for quick and easy metrics to measure performance. I once saw an extremely talented algorithm person fired because he was constantly producing fewer lines of code than others. That's because it needed fewer lines to get the job done, not because it was less productive.
  • Manager Narcissism - Software developers will want to go their own way. If the manager always knows better and cannot learn from his team, there will be conflicts and mistakes. Managing software teams requires very good listening skills and the ability to change your mind.
  • How not what? Some managers focus on how things get done rather than what gets done. This takes discretion and knowledge out of the hands of engineers and makes them a simple coder according to the book. Conflict and slips.

There are also others of these. I could go on for days. But hopefully this gives you a good overview.

I once had to "fire" a software engineer who was simply not performing at the level we expected. His coding skills were poor, however the biggest problem was his attitude and his inability to work as part of a team. Now to be clear, the actual process took several months as we follow a strict 'performance management process' before anyone is released. This involves the formal involvement of human resources and involves identifying the real issues, sitting down with the individual, helping them address the issues, and providing training when needed. The individual is then monitored for improvements and

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I once had to "fire" a software engineer who was simply not performing at the level we expected. His coding skills were poor, however the biggest problem was his attitude and his inability to work as part of a team. Now to be clear, the actual process took several months as we follow a strict 'performance management process' before anyone is released. This involves the formal involvement of human resources and involves identifying the real issues, sitting down with the individual, helping them address the issues, and providing training when needed. The individual is then monitored for improvements and then evaluated. The process is designed with the goal of trying to retain the employee. If at the end of this process,

In this case, the person went through this process and we reached a point where we felt we couldn't do more with them and that they were now directly impacting the business. The individual was informed that he had "failed" in the performance management process and was asked to leave immediately (although he would still be paid for his 4 week notice period). We just didn't want them on the site from then on as they could be disruptive, especially since part of the problem was their interaction with other team members.

The individual packed up his personal belongings, said goodbye, and left. We removed the door access badges and thought that was the end of it.

The next morning I arrived at the office early, and one of the members of the night operations team (we are staffed 24 hours due to nightly technical support) informed me that this person had returned to the office last night and asked to be let in. to the office. office, since he had forgotten something. The operations staff let him in, as they had not been told that he had been fired earlier that day.

I immediately asked him how long he was here, what he did, he took something ... to which they replied that he had sat at his desk and used his computer for a while. I believe you had your user account disabled, however we did not check if you had any kind of admin access that needed to be revoked as well. This raised some concerns, so I asked one of the other engineers to check our various systems for any changes that might have occurred overnight.

The engineer realized that a new code had been implemented in one of the systems and that he could retrieve it.

On closer examination, he had written code intended to delete our customer database later that day ……. The irony is that the code was so badly written that it wouldn't have worked!

Either way, fully justified why we fired him ... poor coding skill and bad attitude.

10 years ago, I was working for a giant international company. There is a real hacker on my team. He loves to decipher all kinds of technological material.

You know, there is a GFW (Great-Firewall) system in China to censor access to some global website. My hacker partner programmed a TCP tunnel proxy to bypass the GFW and be able to access the global internet at the office. I was a newbie at the time and was really impressed. Thanks to him, I had the opportunity to learn in depth about the TCP tunnel.

A few days later, I was in a heated discussion meeting, when my manager and my hacker teammate knocked on the door. This is not natural

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10 years ago, I was working for a giant international company. There is a real hacker on my team. He loves to decipher all kinds of technological material.

You know, there is a GFW (Great-Firewall) system in China to censor access to some global website. My hacker partner programmed a TCP tunnel proxy to bypass the GFW and be able to access the global internet at the office. I was a newbie at the time and was really impressed. Thanks to him, I had the opportunity to learn in depth about the TCP tunnel.

A few days later, I was in a heated discussion meeting, when my manager and my hacker teammate knocked on the door. This is not natural. I felt something wrong for the awkward smile on his face.

The manager later told us that my hacker teammate was fired, effective immediately, with a smile on his face. My hacker teammate came to the meeting only to say goodbye, as he had to leave office soon.

The reason is:

My fellow hacker wants the TCP tunnel proxy to work all the time. Most of the time he worked on Windows. So you deployed the proxy on a shared Linux host owned by the IT department. I did not know that the IT department had a scanning program that found that a process was still sending messages to a fixed IP. That is the proxy!

UPS ....

Despite the fact that the proxy is not malicious, the IT department claims that it can leak internal information at our side, and requires that my hacker partner be fired immediately. This is some kind of violation of company security policy, so my manager can't help but fire my hacker teammate.

Dammit! We were too young, too young to know any taboo.

My hacker teammate is talented and soon found a good job. He only laughed when he talked about that thing about getting fired.

I'm still in contact with my hacker teammate. Every time I spoke to him, I learned something new about this tech industry. He's still walking, but not getting into trouble. At least the IT department doesn't catch him again.

What can I say at the end? Hm ~ Hacker must be careful not to be detected, right?


Oh, I forgot this. Every good story needs a happy ending. My hacker teammate has moved to the US In our Chinese lingo, that means he has physically crossed the GFW. So I bet you never need to write anything over the TCP tunnel again :-)

In my experience, I have seen three people loosen up. (Names changed)

  • Hoffa. I was a 'C' developer but couldn't make a (Simulink) -based model that required the job. He murmured for 8 months, sometimes like a deer in headlights and was canned when a new boss took over. It was a case of not applying / learning new skills.
  • The cowboy. This is an interesting story. He was a great developer who taught my friend and me a lot (green horns), he patiently drew graphs and told us how embedded electronic devices worked, etc. But he was a boy at heart and when he didn't go with what he thought was right, he
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In my experience, I have seen three people loosen up. (Names changed)

  • Hoffa. I was a 'C' developer but couldn't make a (Simulink) -based model that required the job. He murmured for 8 months, sometimes like a deer in headlights and was canned when a new boss took over. It was a case of not applying / learning new skills.
  • The cowboy. This is an interesting story. He was a great developer who taught my friend and me a lot (green horns), he patiently drew graphs and told us how embedded electronic devices worked, etc. But he was a child at heart and when he didn't go with what he thought was right, he would be doing the silliest things to show his disgust. He once spent two days at his desk, disassembling an old car's speedometer unit as a way to protest the company's management. They gave him a hint, find a new job or be prepared to be fired. He left.
  • Angry Bird: This guy was something. Project Lead Software Engineer - Bitter and Dirty. Any discussion with him was like negotiating a nuclear deal. He was constantly frowning, worrying, making sarcastic comments, and basically telling everyone that they were hopeless. Also, the project was moving south, with no progress for months with our manager taking the lead. Everyone dreaded staff meetings. After many shouting matches with the coach, his contract was not renewed. I remember when I took over his job the reason the code wasn't working was because of the stubs. Yes, the software by simply passing the build was full of stubs (rather than fixing the problem) therefore the link between various functions was non-existent which the hardware never responded to. We fixed everything in three weeks and the system was working. It seems his anger was a way of covering up his own insecurities. A company called me after 6 months saying that they had given me as a reference; I answered honestly.

Stating the obvious, software engineers are pedantic by nature. They are the problem solvers and that can get to your head.

While they are still friends with some of the fired engineers (names changed for obvious reasons), they occasionally read Quora and recognized me and therefore themselves, thus posting anon.

"Phil" - Fired for discussing compensation with a co-worker against company policy. Neither I, nor he, knew at the time that it was in fact a protected right and could have sued the company for unfair dismissal (he was fired for cause).

"Rich" - fired for being extremely difficult to work with and eventually introduced a serious security bug that he deemed "no big deal" (this was the last

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While they are still friends with some of the fired engineers (names changed for obvious reasons), they occasionally read Quora and recognized me and therefore themselves, thus posting anon.

"Phil" - Fired for discussing compensation with a co-worker against company policy. Neither I, nor he, knew at the time that it was in fact a protected right and could have sued the company for unfair dismissal (he was fired for cause).

"Rich" - Fired for being debilitatingly difficult to work with and eventually introduced a serious security bug that he deemed "no big deal" (this was the last straw). He only lasted as long as he did at the company because he was incredibly productive, as long as he could work on whatever he wanted.

"Neil" - disappeared one day and did not notify the employer of his whereabouts for more than a week. Apparently it was due to family matters, but in general it is not acceptable to remain in the dark without communication.

"Paul" - fired after less than two weeks for spending the short time he was with the company complaining that one of the keys on his new MacBook was squeaking and not working.

"Brian" - fired after working hard for weeks and finally getting so frustrated with his boss micromanaging the project that he walked away during another marathon late night coding session (I always thought he knew what the repercussions would be and he just didn't 'care at that point).

There was a young man I worked with last year who had the worst time management skills I have ever seen. He was 3 hours late for work, had 2.5 hour lunches when he was on time, there were 4 programmers in the bullpen, all with years of experience with this guy, but he was the hardest to find on his desk ever and always seemed reluctant to learn new frameworks or tools.

It all came to a head when, after weeks of this, our creative director took him aside and told him that he needed to improve his time management skills.

THE NEXT DAY during a big weekly split

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There was a young man I worked with last year who had the worst time management skills I have ever seen. He was 3 hours late for work, had 2.5 hour lunches when he was on time, there were 4 programmers in the bullpen, all with years of experience with this guy, but he was the hardest to find on his desk ever and always seemed reluctant to learn new frameworks or tools.

It all came to a head when, after weeks of this, our creative director took him aside and told him that he needed to improve his time management skills.

THE NEXT DAY, during a large weekly division meeting, the vice president of our company noticed his absence from the meeting. She asked for him directly in front of everyone, which for me was a death sentence.

The next day, our creative director took the young man into a meeting room, walked over to his desk, collected his belongings, and left.

Our creative director had never had to fire an engineer before and was actually quite shocked by it, but months of unbridled delay and unreliability is what dug the juniors a hole in the ground.

I have been fired many times. Each time it was right after I had done something that I thought was very helpful to the organization, such as speeding up the web server by a factor of 40, or suggesting that it might be advantageous not to use 14 different programming and scripting languages. , or that there were much better ways to migrate a large application to a new version, or the time I automated a very complex manual build process. I just assumed everyone was on the same side, working to make things better. Well not, most if not all managers are perfectly happy with the way they see

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I have been fired many times. Each time it was right after I had done something that I thought was very helpful to the organization, such as speeding up the web server by a factor of 40, or suggesting that it might be advantageous not to use 14 different programming and scripting languages. , or that there were much better ways to migrate a large application to a new version, or the time I automated a very complex manual build process. I just assumed everyone was on the same side, working to make things better. Well not, most if not all managers are perfectly happy with the way they have set everything up, and any suggestion, no matter how awesome the demo is, is not welcome.

It only took me 4-5 instances of this to slowly realize that the world is nothing like what we think of. Most institutions are not designed to reward initiative or efficiency. Any attempt to stand out tends to get you knocked over again. Strange, but more the rule than the exception!

Other causes: writing really bad code, not writing much code, spending several hours at work every day in sentences, or just being crazy. Two of the lunatics, both had photos of their mother on their desks. Just say. Watch out for 33-year-olds with those photos.

Technically, I have not been fired, but I have left companies in many ways and sometimes they wanted to fire me. I'd rather get fired: (1) it's a clean break, (2) they feel guilty and uncomfortable but I don't, (3) I get more money compared to quitting. It scared me the first time, but that was 20 years ago.

Why am I often fired? Typically both employer and engineering are dysfunctional and are certainly headed for bankruptcy, cancellation, or a never-ending death march (hard work, really). Maybe they can say that I'd rather go than see the "lights go out."

I've seen some people fired, som

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Technically, I have not been fired, but I have left companies in many ways and sometimes they wanted to fire me. I'd rather get fired: (1) it's a clean break, (2) they feel guilty and uncomfortable but I don't, (3) I get more money compared to quitting. It scared me the first time, but that was 20 years ago.

Why am I often fired? Typically both employer and engineering are dysfunctional and are certainly headed for bankruptcy, cancellation, or a never-ending death march (hard work, really). Maybe they can say that I'd rather go than see the "lights go out."

I've seen some people get fired, sometimes it's just being frustrated and having a bad attitude or doing something suspicious (like setting up a torrent on the company network and, argh, distributing pirated software and videos).

I have participated in the termination of a consultant contract or the firing of someone several times. They were all related to job performance as they simply showed that they did not have the level of technical expertise we needed for the job.

I must admit that the last partner was also a problem child in behavior. He seemed to have repeated arguments with people at work. To give you an idea of ​​the kinds of problems it caused, he was known to argue with someone else's proposal on how to do something and then come up with a technically unfeasible suggestion of his own. I think the personality is

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I have participated in the termination of a consultant contract or the firing of someone several times. They were all related to job performance as they simply showed that they did not have the level of technical expertise we needed for the job.

I must admit that the last partner was also a problem child in behavior. He seemed to have repeated arguments with people at work. To give you an idea of ​​the types of problems it caused, it was known that it would argue with someone else's proposal on how to do something and then come up with a technically unfeasible suggestion of its own. I think the personality emitters would have been overlooked if I had delivered a reasonable job. As it was, it took a long time, then what he delivered was not very good. If he had worked for me, I think he would have left much earlier. His manager was much more patient with him than I would have been.

I have been involved in the firing of engineers or have been close enough to know what was going on multiple times. Here are some causes:

  • Working on your side project during business hours. The result was consistently not meeting the engineer's own work time estimates. Work on a side project if you want. But you promised a good job for the company and you must deliver on that promise.
  • Being a pain in the ass. If you are an annoying person, you better be an excellent engineer. But even then, it is better to be a considerate person. At some point, the pain is not worth it. If you are going to work with other people
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I have been involved in the firing of engineers or have been close enough to know what was going on multiple times. Here are some causes:

  • Working on your side project during business hours. The result was consistently not meeting the engineer's own work time estimates. Work on a side project if you want. But you promised a good job for the company and you must deliver on that promise.
  • Being a pain in the ass. If you are an annoying person, you better be an excellent engineer. But even then, it is better to be a considerate person. At some point, the pain is not worth it. If you are going to work with other people, you must be able to interact successfully with other people. You don't have to be very sociable, just don't be an idiot.
  • Using code that we cannot use by contract, after warning you not to use it. We could have gotten ourselves into a bad legal situation in that way that would have put the company at risk.
  • Bad code due to the inability to learn from one's mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, creates mistakes, etc. But we are expected to not make the same mistakes over and over again.

Those are the great things I've seen so far.

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