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On the absurdities of Business

Updated on March 25, 2016

Sometimes I think I have seen it all. But I try not to think that because then Trickster shows me something I haven't seen and leaves me thinking “Whut?”. This is exactly the same reason I do not say Tory politicians, whatever the colour of their rosette, cannot get any lower. Some of my experiences would, I think rival those chronicled by the creator of Dilbert.


A contractor (not me) on the shout99 website told of an interview where the interviewer wanted 5 years of experience in a particular technology. When they pointed out the technology was only three years old the interviewer said “In that case I want ten years experience”.

At that point the interviewee decided to leave and showed themselves out. The recruiter involved was very upset and said the interviewer had been named Entrepreneur of the Year.

A few months later the “ Entrepreneur of the Year” was under investigation for irregular practices.

Another interview commenced with a test. Then the panel entered and sat in silence. The contractor asked how he did on the test and was told 92%. Silence. More Silence. Then the contractor started telling them how he fit the role and how he could benefit the client. He was not hired because “He was too cocky”.

On a couple of occasions I have been called for interview – at my own expense - and told “We filled the role but you are here because we wanted to see what you were like”

I had one experience where, at the interview I was asked about various technologies, and said I knew next to nothing about them but was still hired. That contract did not last long and I will wonder for ever if I was hired to be the scapegoat for anticipated problems.

Intelligence is no protection against stupidity
Intelligence is no protection against stupidity

Problems at the beginning

I got used to arriving and finding I had no PC or desk.

On a speech recognition contract I was (after a few weeks) supplied with a PC that had neither sound card nor microphone.

On another occasion it took three weeks to find me a desk – not in the same office as the rest of the team, and another three weeks to get me a PC. Then they moved me and issued me with a new PC.

There was the time I arrived (six weeks after the offer) and found no one was expecting me. The gentlemen who had interviewed me had been transferred and no one else knew I was supposed to be arriving.

Bizarre practices

On that same contract full internet access was granted only if a business case could be made for it. But access was not granted to a user but to a PC. When a contractor who had full internet access left I grabbed their machine. Then they wanted to give me a new PC to one without internet access. I refused to let them.

The same company used to have a department with the sole function of telling people they were doing things wrongly. The department refused to advise how to do things right. This must be a contender for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

Bizarre problems

After about a month on one contract, in Germany, the agency suddenly became unreachable. The end client refused to pay the contractors claiming that if the agency had gone bankrupt the client would have to pay twice if the receiver demanded the money. I never got one month's money from that contract. I ended up not trusting anyone involved with that project and it affected my perception of other clients.

Another project was in my opinion the worst one I have encountered so far. At one point the IT manager was told programmers were working to specifications six months out of date and answered “So what?” The internet connection was a ISDN line shared with the warehouse below and work had to stop in the afternoons to let the warehouse use their internet. There was no central database and developers simply applied multiple update scripts. Oh, and developers had to use their own laptop, regardless of the risk that posed to the enterprise.

The shortest contract I ever had was in Switzerland where I arrived early and was terminated immediately on the basis I had arrived late and a tissue of lies about me spun to the agency. However the manager did not tell me that: The agency did that the next day: The manager told them they would tell me but did not. That still hurts years later. Perhaps shorter than that, indeed negative, was the contract cancelled a week before starting when the manager's budget was given to another department.

On another contract I was told that the day after I signed up they found someone willing to do the job asa permanent employee. I am told the conversation in HR went “Pity we signed the other idiot up, but we will throw him away in a couple of months” Amazingly that company had a reputation as a good place to work.

Some companies failed to exhibit such spectacularly bizarre behaviour or their absurdity was only evident to those with a knowledge of coding. One was spectacularly stifling despite the talent of its workforce, another treated me well but apologised for not extending the contract because their client had not sorted out their requirements: I was told “They want a lot of things but do not know what they are”.


My experiences bore out my rule that Every company is insane in its own way. My bad experiences were balanced by meeting and working with some excellent technical people and more importantly some great people: the team lead who had turned swearing into a creative art form, the Dutch manager who read Anna Karenina in Russian and discussed technical matters in the same breath as High Culture, the Business Analyst who could drink four bottles of wine a night, discuss art and still be on top form the next morning and the team lead who told of meeting a wild boar in the centre of Berlin at 4am that stalked him till he went into an underground station come to mind. And there were the cities, each with its own personality. Berlin, Zurich, Antwerp and others were I made friends at least till the contract ended.

The interesting experiences I had will wait for my autobiography.


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