Jason Fried speaks Truth about the tech industry’s love affair with overwork over on Signal v. Noise. This has been a perennial issue in games (where terms like “crunch” and “death march” are used often), but is definitely happening in general software as well. It’s a demonstrably stupid and abusive idea with repeated studies showing it is, and yet it’s still prevalent. When an industry is attractive (like games, like the current 2.0 Dot Com gold rush), it’s easy for investors and management to adopt a “burn and churn” mentality about their workers.
Until about 7-8 months ago, I worked as a vendor for Microsoft (v-). It wasn’t a bad gig — the pay wasn’t amazing, but provided a nice opportunity to work on some interesting projects, and since I was a v-, had a certain amount of job stability (a- contractors are required to take off 100 days every year, which causes a lot of disruption in projects, but at this point has been established long enough that we’d work through it. Vendors did not have this restriction).
Apparently, Microsoft is planning to implement a required 6 month hiatus for vendors as well. I honestly don’t know if the upper management who made this decision is quite aware of just how much of the work is done by vendors. Optimistically, there is some grand plan as part of the upcoming restructuring (laying off 18,000 full time employees, plus apparently who knows how much external staff), which will allow the company to shift their culture and make this work. I’ve been known to occasionally be an idealist, but I’m not sure I can be optimistic enough to believe that.
My sincere sympathies for everyone getting laid off, and for my v- friends who will now need to navigate this new landscape.