On being an average worker

On being an average worker

I recently took a new job and it’s one of the worst decisions of my life. I put it up there with spending most of my time playing recreational basketball while in college, as opposed to you know, studying hard and making something of myself. But the way I judge myself in the realm of “making websites” is as follows… You see, at the very top you have your ‘Software Engineers.’ These are guys who write your google search engines or siri for the iphone, or Word for Office, or facebook or twitter or Amazon or Photoshop for Adobe or drivers for your video card. These are hard core guys who know the in-and-outs of data structures and software design patterns. They understand the problem of scale and memory and software infrastructure. They are the A-grade of the bunch. Their applications might be desktop only, but many of the products are on the web, so I count them all as part of people who make websites. A-grade guys can work anywhere. Let’s talk about B-grade guys.

The B-grade guys are like the guys that work on really important or what they call Mission Critical applications. For example, if you wanna make a hotel reservation or airline reservation. That ecosystem of software probably exists already. Your favorite hotel chain is not re-writing their reservation system just because they hired a hot shot guy outta MIT or Stanford. Innovation doesn’t happen as often for B-grade guys but they do above average work and can easily switch to another position at similar companies.

That leaves us with C-grade and below guys. What can a C-grade person do? I’m a C-grade person so this is really easy. See, A-grade or B-grade guys are usually like ‘application developers’ or ‘software engineers’. They’re usually respected in their organization. C-grade guys are usually left for less hardcore companies. You still need to know a lot to be a C-grade guy. For example, this blog was done by a C-grade guy (me). This blog has a custom-built content management system built in PHP, very bare bones. It does automatic URL retrieval for my flickr thumbnails via the flickr api, automatic twitter updates upon blog update via the twitter api (See, the A and B-level guys write the API, C-level guys just use it). It means maintaining the database, writing the code the fetch things from the database and then displaying it on the front-end in HTML5 (validated homepage, only 1 warning!). Doing CSS and JavaScript, although not at an expert level. And that’s a C-level person’s downfall because an A or B-level guy would be doing all this CSS modularly and all this JS through Backbone and jQuery. I have code that can run nightly to suck out every single line in the NYC DOH’s web service, so I could possibly do something with it if I had time, which I don’t. Even as just a C-level guy, you have to know that scripting and database application are dynamic and if you want to speed up serving dynamic content, you gotta install Nginx so it serve up dynamic content statically. But if 80% of my real traffic is to the homepage and the other users come from Google and leave within a second, who the fuck cares about serving static pages to them? So then a C-level guy has to know that install and running Nginx is pointless and really all you need is custom code to create the index page statically from a dynamic database. You have to know to further make your site fly, you might want to add your static content in cache or memory so it doesn’t even hit your hard disk when you need a database call, which means setting up Varnish. But then you gotta know to use memcached because if you run common queries all the time, why not store those common query results in memory as well? But wait, if your blog is small and most of the people hit the same pages and you use memory on common queries when that’s a waste of memory, then you gotta know NOT to use it even if large cool web sites use it. And learning how to do all these things means 40% of people who ‘code’ are better still. Just think about that. You think you know how to code cuz you did eight weeks of CodeAcademy. YOU DO NOT KNOW SHIT. JUST QUIT. I can be not incompetent in my industry and still be under 40% of the people in my own industry? Really. What the fuck for? Why learn any of it?

What does this have to do with food? Easy. See I think Dominic Ansel Bakery does pretty good stuff. It’s gotta be one of the top patisserie/bakery in NYC. But there has to be other people who want to open a patisserie, but do not have Dominic Ansel’s skills. What do those people do?

The easy and callous thing for me to say is they would bake cookies and cupcakes. That’s too simplistic though. It’s still a valid question. I think that kids who are going into cooking school and paying whatever ridiculous amount for the tuition should really think about. I mean, if you’re a C-level cook, why the fuck should you go into that profession? As a C-level cook you wouldn’t get paid well and the long term career path is shady at best. How many 50-year-old line cooks are there? I’m sure there are, but not an easy life and definitely not one to follow after spending whatever culinary school will cost these days.

I think a lot of Americans mistaken the presidential race to be about which president can ‘create’ jobs. President’s do not create jobs. I mean, unless those jobs are government jobs. A president can’t even compel private sector companies to create jobs. Apple had 100 billion in the bank. If they just had 20% more due to lower corporate income tax or an income tax holiday, would they have created more jobs? I mean, at 100 billion, how much more do you need to create all the jobs your company requires?

The point is, there are lots of C-level individuals out there who is stuck in a company or switching into another one, like me, only to find it worse than before. For the C-level individuals, how do you improve your lot in life? Or how do you see the economy working for you? Is the president going to make it easier for a C-level individual to find another job? No I don’t think so. Presidents don’t have control over how that works.

I don’t know what C-level pastry makers do with their lives.Do they dream about pastry the same way individuals get mad over the Green Bay vs Seattle last second call from this past Monday Night Football game? Because that’s what A-level computer guys do with software. They nerdy like that, and good for them. But I wonder if C-level pastry folks look at what they do vs what’s at Dominic Ansel and they say, “I could do that” or “That shit is outta my league.”

Posted by Danny on September 26, 2012 at 3:35 am

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