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After over 18 years in the IT world of Southern Californian corporate America, I have learned that it’s “good business” to never complain. So here’s my chief complaint: I almost always dislike interacting with the boss of my project manager and what I dislike is easily discovered.

The boss of my project manager appears to me too far removed from actually solving the problem that I am in his presence to solve. It follows that the relationship I have with the boss of my project manager is largely political, cultural, ceremonial, psychological and—through no fault of my own—physical (with this one word, physical, I just made a suggestion that recognizes the existence of racism—just in case it was missed).

After over 18 years in the IT world of Southern Californian corporate America, I have learned that, in order for me to be recognized as a “successful” corporate resource, the boss of my project manager must be pleasured because of me. I have learned long ago and see time and time again that simply solving technical problems for the greater benefit of the business and, of late, excelling technically is “not good enough” for the boss of my project manager. There are other ‘intangibles’ that I’ve become aware of over the years that “must” be addressed in order for my success as a professional individual can be recognized as a collective corporate asset. I have written public notes like these over the years to symbolize my abjection away from the childishness of this sophisticated adult behavior and to memorialize my survival (to date) in the IT world of Southern Californian corporate America—and to suggest that some thriving is taking place… raging in the darkness.

Here are some of these ‘intangibles’ expressed as “vicious,” “bitter,” terse statements of negation:

I do not admire who you are and what you do. I do not think you are a “bad” person. I do not think you deserve rudeness. I do not think you deserve disrespect. I simply do not admire the fact that anyone—including myself—working at will for another person, regardless of the salary, possesses a social status symbol greater than its dollar value. This lack of admiration does not come from ignorance or jealousy. It comes from decades of experience and study of history.

When it becomes clear to me that you are a “company man” (which often takes seconds), I know it will be just a matter of time before you start to construct a (racial) profile (of “moral” bankruptcy) that will justify you taking some kind of preemptive action against me (even when it means undermining the productivity of your own company). What I am supposed to do, to delay the inevitable, is pretend how much I admire you—because, after all, this stuff which has nothing to do with what I need to solve your problem is your life’s work. I refuse to indulge you not because I think I am better than you, on the contrary, I have no childhood-survival instinct to pleasure people in such a way. Being such a liar would have laid out way, way more girlfriends for me over the years. I find it quite difficult to be highly technically trained ongoing and an effective political charmer at the same time.

I am not ‘grateful’ to be working for you. Michael Palin of Monty Python fame wrote a line in a script that’s memorable to me, “Isn’t nice to free a chap?” He was making fun of the middle-class, white-liberal sentiment of providing freedom for the “underlings.” And of course, as the ridiculing joke continues, we make fun of the expectations of gratitude oozing out of our white-liberal savior (of any skin color). Every sane Black person knows who is first to be fired and the last to be hired. It has been no illusion to me that I have been working for the last 18 years in the IT world because the company could find no one else remotely qualified to the do the job. Most of my career has been spent working for companies as a Microsoft developer that Microsoft itself would be reluctant to recognize as a model for a case study.

I am very, very aware (usually within my first week) of what the company has been doing wrong before I was brought on board (and it usually was on the boss of my project manager’s watch). In the first decade of my IT career, I allowed myself to succumb to the very strong suggestions that I was living in a technical fantasy world. Over the last eight years it has been crystal clear to me that these fools should be grateful that I have been working with them for so damn long. After what has happened to Sony Pictures and Target, it should be clear to any fool that there are serious company cultural problems around IT—making me quite a proud, poor “cultural fit” for the “team.”

I am not your friend and I am not glad to see you. When I am working for other people, these three things happen: (i) I am gathering and building economic resources that can be used to take care of my children; (ii) I am separated from my children who have never been allowed to see me work; (iii) I am placed in an uncomfortable working environment, often a food desert, polluted with noise, airborne infections, traffic jams, low temperatures (from office air conditioning) and the very subtle daily suggestions that I am not welcome (yet another unwelcome reference to racism—‘traditional’ American social rituals of the collective unconscious).

Any self-respecting person that values their true freedom has the same ‘intangible’ problems I’ve just outlined here (with or without the accelerant of racism). Many of these people would become angry that I bring these issues up like I think they are something new. No, —this is 19th century shit—these are old issues:

  • I do not admire who you are and what you do.
  • I am not ‘grateful’ to be working for you.
  • I am not your friend and I am not glad to see you.

Besides plotting for my eventual demise, is there anything else you can do for me?

Yes. You can address the bullet points listed above directly by enriching your life outside of corporate America such that the core of your identity is not dependent on your employment. When you do that, you will authentically not really care whether I admire you or not. You will also be taking care of yourself on a holistic level which definitely deserves my admiration and gratitude. You are actually helping to change the world by taking care of your true self—not your fake-ass corporate self. I would genuinely be glad to see you (even when you are still a little racist).

Yes, here it is in “company man” talk: when you hire me as a contractor treat me like one. Do not speak to me (apart from the first-day meet and greet) unless you are there to terminate my contract, provide some information for solving your technical/business problem or congratulate me for making your business successful. Let your project manager serve as a buffer between me and you. Your project manager works with me, boots on the ground in the shit every day—and she knows how valuable I am. Trust her trust in me. It will not hurt my feelings should you find yourself not wanting to be around me (even when you know I am helping significantly to solve your business problems), on the contrary: I only need people around me that will make me a better person holistically, provide me with technical information or teach me business skills relevant to the “ubiquitous language” of the clearly-defined problem domain. I don’t need little emotional parasites around me that are curious about me for ‘historical reasons’ (racism again) or those possessing small talk about their fucked-up little consumerist lives and the HBO (or AMC) serials that frame them. Don’t force yourself to invite me out for drinks in a summer-camp counselor’s effort to be fair and inclusive. I don’t drink and I probably don’t like you. Consider that possibility and move the fuck on: let’s keep it strictly business. Distance and formality does not always mean hostility. The absence of a smile does not always mean sadness. Have patience and introspective respect—stop being so morbidly nosey. Have courage before the void of the unknown—unless of course you are a cowardly little man-bitch using your job as the sole driver of your social life.

“Why don’t you start your own business?”

Every person who has suggested to me that I should start my own IT business are not running their own IT business. Often making suggestions around this is similar to suggesting to an obese person they should lose weight: we’ve thought about it and many of us do the research. You see, kids, I’m not one of those bitches that can forget about fundamental challenges. I’m continually listening for signals to plot a course forward.

What I hear from listening to years upon years of tech-podcast episodes, watching international-conference videos (and meeting actual people in person) are these points for consideration:

  • You can start your own business and do W2 labor at the same time (at the beginning).
  • Get at least a DBA and a business checking account for consulting jobs that need it for tax purposes. Advance to incorporation when you are confident you can maintain it (even as a vanity expense).
  • When you run your own consulting business you run the risk of doing very little coding/design and more “relationship management,” often with crappy people.
  • Don’t start a business without dedicated customers lined up, customers that recognize your social-media “brand” and its compelling story.
  • Have an escape plan for economic downturns. Don’t let a payroll burn down your personal savings just because you are too much of a cowardly fake to tell your employees it’s over.

The racist side of the American need to be liked

When I was a young Black teenager of the 1980s, I remember reading about clever Japanese business men gaining an advantage over North-American dealmakers because the ‘weakness’ Americans have around the need to be liked. “Hey, buddy!” “Hey, pal!” I remember snickering to myself ignorantly assuming that this ‘weakness’ would have no effect on me. I was profoundly wrong.

An American “company man” at the very least needs to be feared let alone being liked. Couple these base needs with “old,” traditional American rituals around instilling terror in slaves, and it becomes elementary how the neutrality of a Black person insisting on being an outsider can be interpreted as the hostility of a ‘traditional servant’ supposed to be an insider. “You are either for me or against me.” When a self-described “white man” calls me his “buddy” or his “pal” in a business situation, he is speaking volumes to me (some of these volumes, written by Mark Twain)—and, of course, he would claim nothing is going on and may ask, “What’s my problem?” On the fake-ass, glossy, corporate-polished surface, he would be absolutely correct. Surely, he’s called “everybody” buddy.

After 18 years working with corporate America, I still insist that I am a neutral outsider (when it comes to interacting with the individual persons of the organization). Most of my career, I have been given the title “business analyst,” “contractor” or “consultant”—these all seem like ‘outsider’ titles to me. Most of my career I have not been a permanent employee. Most of my career, the “family” corporate culture of America here in Southern California has effectively insisted socially that I am insider (superficially), while systematically taking the advantage of me as an outsider (no health insurance coverage… no paid sick days… no paid holidays). So from the outset, we have a fundamental disagreement. What I found is that I have not been ‘allowed’ to be respected as a neutral outsider by the boss of my project manager. What I found are a prescribed set of social roles ‘allowed’ for me (very similar to the dramatic roles ‘allowed’ for Black actors in Hollywood). When I am not playing these parts—then surely I am playing the villain (which, again, is yet another insult from the corporate narcissist).

Morgan Freeman

The situation I am describing above is very similar to what happens to young women in corporate America. There has been much talk of late about women in tech and their woes are almost always identical to mine. Almost…

But it must be said that my youth in corporate America—my 20s and my 30s—were the worst of my years when it came to these ‘intangibles.’ What I have been finding of late in my 40s (for those not savvy enough to find my writings yet on the Internet) is that I am more and more treated like Morgan Freeman’s character in the Batman movies (this is actually another Mark Twain reference which would require a whole new Blog post).

I am sure that Morgan Freeman himself would disagree with me (publically) but I assert that his career is like my career in this one aspect: when Morgan was young Black actor he was out of work most of the time and obscure but when he got his gray hair he suddenly “fit in” with “the team” and became “successful.” Morgan would be very socially adept to let “the world” assume that when he was a young man he was a complete idiot and it’s just a coincidence that his career took off when he is seen as physically past his prime (and when the world would like to see itself as less racist).

I’m not as “smart” as Morgan Freeman. Using the Internet, I think I need to explain to my children and other young Black folk what has happened to me from my point of view. Silly. I was not “of service” to you.

  • I do not admire who you are and what you do.
  • I am not ‘grateful’ to be working for you.
  • I am not your friend and I am not glad to see you.

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