Many software companies are a joke

Leo Liou
4 min readApr 24, 2022

The problems I will discuss in this article are not unique to the software industry. In fact, this is expected in many large companies. Many would argue that the title of this article should be “Bullshit Jobs in the tech industry”. I have been programming for over two decades and I have been in and out of companies. I did boring jobs at huge financial and consulting firms and I also worked on some cool graphics project for a small software companies that produced cool tools for film studios. One thing I can tell you is that a lot of “software engineers” especially the ones working in really big companies do very little work. In fact, a lot of them are basically paid to do very little (notice I said “a lot”, not “all”).

I remember while I was working for a big financial firm as a software developer. I kept asking myself why we were doing very little coding. Most of my time was spent attending useless meetings, preparing boring slides, making goofy excel sheets and Gantt-charts and maybe 1–2 hours of coding a day if I was even lucky. The software that I and my team worked on was a basically a javascript web application that monitored and collected details about financial transactions in the company. Believe me when I tell you that I could have worked on the entire software myself in 5 months. The entire solution could not have been more than 24,000 lines of code (including lots of generated code). My team spent nearly 3 years building this software, most of the time spent in meetings, bickering over the pettiest feature like, if we should display certain data using a particular chart and what colour the chart should be. Even my major solo side project was more complex than our software at work. We were about 20 people in the team and there was nothing to show for it. There were lots of communication bottleneck, politics and inefficient workflow. In some cases the supervisor or “team lead” would jump in and “contribute” by giving us some worthless motivation behind colours in charts, why information should be displayed in a certain way, and bla bla bla. Basically a bunch of pointless pseudo-profundity.

Do not think it was just my experience at this job. It was the same at several other jobs including the consulting firms I worked for. My experience is not even unique in this regard, many passionate programmers I have spoken to complain about how little they write code and how much time they spend on meetings. You see, we were always busy but seldom productive. At any given time of the working hours, we were always on one task or the other, having to do one thing or the other. We were never idle. I however, think that a lot of time was spent wasting time.

Another problem with a lot of these jobs is how little you learn. For cool companies like FAANG or MAANG (if you like), you are constantly working on a small task in a big project. Many people would call it, “A cog in the wheel”. Do not be surprised when a project you were given 1 year to work on can be replicated by a freelance developer outside the bullshit corporate atmosphere in 2 months. You will be asked to write a 50-page documentation for some little code you wrote. You will carry out both useless and useful tests. You will argue with your colleagues and supervisor on every decision you make, and the list goes on. These are reasons you will spend 1 year doing what another developer could do in 2 months. The sad thing is that you get used to being busy but not productive, and when I say busy I mean pretending to be working hard when being watched. In other words, you will master the art of “eye service”.

I found peace and fulfilment when I moved to the small VFX studio I used to work for. I worked with C++ and some graphics API including OpenGL and DirectX. We worked on really complex post-processing effects for colour grading, tone-mapping, screen-space volumetric effects and many more cool stuffs. We were just 3 in the team and my 2 other colleagues were some of the most passionate programmers I ever came across. Everyday felt like a new day of learning, exploring and discovery. We wrote, architected and debugged lots of code. I also got the chance to really sharpen my math skills as we constantly applied very complex math to our tasks. No politics, no bullshit, just straight up coding and constant learning. I remember we would choose to work overtime due our addiction to the problem we were solving.

At the moment, I work for myself. Doing some freelance and some short-term contract jobs and I can also feel the productivity. Never will I go back to working for big companies because I learnt nothing there. I had zero fulfilment there and rather than make friends, I only made enemies. The money was good but I would trade money for fulfilment, an interesting and intellectually stimulating job, a soul and the ability to not be in the same room as my enemies.

Thank you for reading this far.