How BigTechCo’s work inside

A picture named chairs.gifAll big tech companies are basically the same inside. They all have too many people, they must, because they expend a lot of energy fighting with each other over who has the right to do this or that. There’s always someone looking over your shoulder for a sign that you’re blowing it, so they can tell someone at a higher level in management about your failure, so they can snatch the project for themselves.

When an independent developer is introduced to this mess, it’s usually by someone very high up the structure of the company because we tend to be visible to the outside world, relative to the typical grunt inside the BigCo. Our visibility and our introduction by the TopGuy immediately breeds resentment — before they even meet you they don’t like you, or worse, are committed to your failure. And while there may be penalties for killing someone inside the corporate hierarchy, there’s no penalty for offing the outsider.

Another way of looking at it — Inside the company they’re playing a big game of musical chairs, but we outsiders can’t play — there’s no mechanism whereby we get a chair

No one lays it out for you this clearly, like I just did. It takes years of trying to work with the BigCo’s to figure out that while the TopGuy smiles and shakes your hand at conferences, and maybe even says kind things about you in a press release, there is zero chance that the people who actually make the decisions, the Ouija board of all the engineers and their managers, will work with you. Eventually there comes a day when you’re standing there holding an empty bag wondering WTF just happened.

I should say almost zero instead of zero. I’ve had two examples of times when BigTechCo’s said they were working with me, and really did do the work, and several examples outside the tech industry, in publishing. In one case, with XML-RPC in 1998, it was because a handful of engineers who were mavericks (unlike John McCain who just throws spitballs from the back of the room) and believed in something, and were respected enough inside Microsoft to cut through the corporate bullshit, but only for a very short period of time (really just two or three weeks). The machine eventually clamped down and turned it into a mess, owned by the W3C and IBM, Sun, and 18,000 other BigCos and BigCo-wannabes.

The other example was RSS, which only worked because the company I was working with, Netscape, evaporated into thin air in the middle of the project! So, if after getting a TopGuy to go for it, somehow you’re lucky enough that the company self-destructs, you actually can get something done with a BigCo.

PS: This is a rewrite of a piece originally written in 2008 as advice to an independent developer who now works at Google, which of course is the biggest of BigTechCo’s. smile

http://bit.ly/8ZUX3W

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