Software consultancy/freelancing and dating

For almost ALL consultancies, they start at the bottom of the food chain taking small mom & pop shop deals and slowly work their way upward ( or out of the business ) by gaining relevant skills and reputation. Unfortunately this progression somewhat promotes some bad behaviors and a fatalistic outlook for clients.

A small company can’t afford a NASA space program setup ( unit-test coverage w/70% or greater, Jeeves, scrum/agile when it’s just one developer and one client ) so the task becomes “Get it done on time/budget” and hope the coder’s discipline is strong enough not to deliver a ball of mud. Talking about time/money, these client’s might cover 10, 20, or at max 40 man hours and that’s not going to be enough to cover someone’s basic fiscal needs.

It take’s time to develop and manage reputation, so you might do hundreds of these small client’s for years and that will eventually skew how you approach clients and god help you when a relatively meaningful client comes in. The first 40 or even 160 hour work cycle comes to an end and the client is happy, which is sadly great. Great because it means money and stability, sad because you didn’t have time to do unit-tests, the architecture is hardcoded, and now you’re gonna eat all that technical debt you ignored to “get it done”. It become’s a question of whether you can learn fast enough how to function in a meaningful medium to long term relationship.

At this point I’m pointing the finger at the code monkey consultant as the person to blame, but that’s not quite reality either.

On the other side are client’s that don’t want to commit to a long term relationship under any circumstance. Maybe their a media company or a Boiler room consultancy that doesn’t actually have any employees beyond it’s sales & marketing staff. For these two client types, from my experience they either pay terribly or pretty decently. The latter usually stop paying decently the first time they hire a naive smart kid who’s happy with 1/5th pay. Both company types will setup some sort of long term open relationship with smaller firms but it’s understood that if they can find better and or cheaper, you’re gone. Honestly I don’t mind them too much as atleast their honest about their intentions. Still you can’t build a life on these firms as who knows when they’re going to kick you to the curb or never call back?

Also, I’ve run into a lifetime supply of extremely dishonest employer’s but the real dishonesty lies in themselves and their blind faith in success. “I know we contracted you for 6 months, but we ran out of money and can’t pay your last invoice” has happened a few times to me and people I know. For me I usually ask them if I can take something of equivalent value “How much do you think this desk lamp is worth?” and then walk away.

How this all correlates to dating explicitly is that sometimes your first real relationship seems like “It’s the one” until it’s not. Other time’s the one’s you think are right for you turn out not to be “…Google’s awesome but I feel utterly useless and alone…” is something a friend voiced to me on his 1 year anniversary at the super star company. Then there is “Yeah they make me work long/strange hours but the pay is good” sounds like “Yeah, Baby might hurt me occasionally but I know they love me.” And then there’s always the opposite “Man that was such a great company, I don’t know why I didn’t take it serious” is pretty much like Mike + Mechanics “All I need is a Miracle”.

Also, if anyone’s still thinking “I think you’re stretching, strange grammatically challenged wordpress guy” think about job/proposal interviews. You might not flat out lie and say “I invented C when I was 6, that Ritche guy just copied from me.” and how many “Fantastic opportunities” can there be in the entire software industry? I’ve lost count of how many “We have an amazing idea, just sign this NDA” turns out to be a Facebook/Twitter/Whatever is shiny this year clone. We can’t all be super star’s and there is only so many green fields to be developed on before the VC money runs out and it’s murder-mystery software maintenance time. It’s just a fact that both side’s in the average blind date want you to see them at their best and deliberately downplay their downsides, “This sweater hide’s my man boob’s perfectly” or “This dress perfectly cover’s my love handles.”.

For me, I had success in dating by writing my own rules. One of the first few things I said to my now wife was that I had man boob’s so I should be qualified to have some weigh in on female conversational topics ( except I don’t wear a bra, so I still got excluded). Sadly in business, my experiments in being brutally honest/real in project proposals/interviews hasn’t paid out as well… it might also have played against me that the word “eccentric” has been liberally used by others to describe me.