Nov 062010

I had a thought this morning. I wanted to write something, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to write about. I did some work on other things for a few hours, figuring that perhaps at some point during that time period I would have an idea and I could subsequently transform that idea into words.

It didn’t happen.

So, I thought, I’ll dig through the photos on my computer until I find a picture that I haven’t posted before that inspires me to write about it. I did some digging, and I came up with the image above. Technically speaking I have posted this image in the past, but it was on my old web site that has now been completely retired so for many of you this is “new.”

The picture is of my old boss, Brian.

When it comes right down to it, I owe a lot to Brian. I would  not be where I am right now, career wise, if he hadn’t given me the opportunity to work with his company. It was there that I got to meet Wendell Collier, and Wendell was the man who got me started on the path towards being the programmer I am today. Now, in all fairness, Brian took this “chance” a lot. I don’t think any of the people he had on staff (at least as far as developers were concerned) actually held degrees. If anyone did it as my friend Brooks, but I think he may have still been in school at the time. Brian seemed to have an eye for smart people who wouldn’t be able to demand a high salary and he took advantage of that. Brian was the king of cutting corners in order to maximize his profits.

Here’s the thing, though. If you have spoken with me about my time working for Brian or read any of my posts from that period you’ll know that the experience was a pretty miserable one. We took money from a lot of people at that company, but very few of them actually ended up with a functioning web site. Brian was the guy who always said “Yes, the software can do that.” What he DIDN’T say is that it would require custom programming, or that he had promised so much custom programming that there was no way his small programming staff was ever going to catch up with the demands. What he didn’t say is that the core software itself was fundamentally flawed, and that all of us on his developer team were begging him to put a freeze on selling it so that we could spend a few months fixing all the problems.

He didn’t say a lot of things, but somehow he convinced a lot of people to give him money. We sold auction software, and most of those people thought they were destined to be the next eBay. Many of them invested their life savings in our product and never got to see it go live.

It was hard to go into work every day knowing these things.

All of that being said…As I get older and look back at that time my opinion on Brian and his business practices softens a bit.

I wonder, sometimes, if Brian was really convinced that we COULD do everything we promised we could do. If he had just invested so much of his future into the company that he HAD to believe it would succeed, you know? I think about the way he used to act, and how child-like his enthusiasm was about certain things, and I wonder if he really wasn’t just trying to prove himself or something like that.

I really don’t know.

Contrary to how it may sound, I did have some good times working for Brian. The trip where this picture was taken was one of them. Unfortunately, it was also an example of all that I mentioned above. I had to sit across the table from him during a presentation with some of the higher ups with T-Mobile as he fumbled through a demonstration of our product and made all kinds of promises that the software could do things that it simply couldn’t do. Thing is, these were much bigger fish than Brian was used to frying. They knew the minute we walked in the door that we were a small time company that was desperate for some kind of income, and they almost immediately stopped  Brian from giving his demo and started asking REALLY hard questions. It was a very awkward situation, and I spent most of the time wondering why I was even there.

Ultimately we didn’t get the contract and our company continued a downward spiral towards dissolution. I went on to work for my current company, and one of the programmers that was left there eventually bought the software and company name from Brian. I understand he was running a computer store for a while after that, but I have no idea what he’s up to these days. I’m not entirely sure I want to know. While I may not think he’s as much of a bastard as I once did, I have no desire to get caught up in his world again.

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