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06/14/2005: "the jury's back"

No, I'm not talking about the whole Jackson trial thing. I'm talking about the metaphorical jury that has been judging the company that I am currently on contract with. An opinion has been formed, and backed up by fact, and it's not terribly pretty.

Still first and foremost is the "engineering manager" that I get to work under. More time with him has not tempered my original opinion of him, and in fact it may be getting a little bit worse. For the past 5 weeks the project I've been working on has been the exclusive domain of myself and the president of the company. Suddenly this manager decides that he needs to review my project at some point in the near future. Of course, he hasn't told me this directly, he told the team leader, who told me. What's even more of a twofold laugh is that he wants to make sure what I'm designing is actually manufacturable. Well, thanks for the vote of confidence for my 7 years of experience, you dolt. And by the way, the whole thing is being outsourced to China, so we don't have to worry about whether WE can make it or not. Sigh.

Incompetent figureheads notwithstanding, I would considering working for this company full time. However, there are further details that make me wonder whether doing so would simply be an exercise in frustration.

For one, the engineering manager seems not to be the only one in the company that is simply hanging on by the skin of their teeth, and pretty much just going for a ride. The more I talk to my co-workers, the more I learn of other incompetencies and general ineptitude that really make me wonder whether this company will be capable of anything resembling real growth and/or innovation, or whether it's simply going to trundle along for eternity.

Part of that problem is that the president (and both VPs) are brothers, and inherited the company from their father, who inherited it from HIS father. Yes, we're into the 3rd generation of family ownership. From what I can see, this hasn't really inspired any great leadership in anyone. If anything, they've simply learned how to manage the business well enough to keep it going, but not much else. This bears up under closer examination when it comes to the president and his direct involvement in product development. Yes, he's involved, but in a very scattered way. He literally makes the rounds in engineering, dipping his finger in everyone's products, and makes frequent major changes at every point in the design process. It's frustrating, and eats up a LOT of time and effort. Were a proper engineering manager in place, they could at least run interference, freeze designs, possibly formulate a product development strategy... but of course that's not happening here.

The icing on the cake is the new guy that started Monday. He's actually from one of the other plants, so he's been in the organization for a while. However, he's yet another example of talent put to waste. One of my co-workers has a Masters degree in mechanical engineering from China. He was doing quality assurance, but is now slowly doing more engineering-related tasks. Still, he's pretty much the engineering manager's whipping boy. And he tolerates it. The new guy is pretty much the same - another Chinese engineer with a Masters degree (in plastics engineering), and he started his new position measuring parts. What does that mean for me? Well, if they're so blatantly underutilizing not one but two Masters of engineering, what can I really expect my lowly Bachelors degree and professional engineering designation to do for me? Oh, that's right... the new guy has his professional designation as well. Add to the whole mess the fact that I want to get a Masters degree myself, and it all adds up to nothing reassuring.

One last tidbit. Today my co-workers were talking about how the company consistently and aggressively underpaying people. The team leader himself said that "the only way to get a pay raise is to submit your notice of resignation". Apparently that will uncork the stopper a little bit. I'm being paid fairly well right now, but certainly not where I believe I should be, especially on contract. Assuming I'm offered full-time work, the chances of me taking that are very slim right now. Assuming there's nothing else I'll stay on contract, but seek something else quickly.

My wife was wondering last week why I spent so much time - months - trying to work myself into this company, only now to all but dismiss the idea of ever working for them permanently, let alone as a career-building move. I think the above speaks volumes.

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