We’re So Perfect and You’re Not!

As I’ve been saying, I am currently working as sole web developer in a small Design team. Now, this team of mine is of course the best Design team on the planet, but within the company there are other Design people, teams and departments who click and cut their days away for the same boss. What you don’t know is that all these other designers, all their ideas, products and even personalities, suck. Big time. They are only after our jobs while in fact, they are superficial, unoriginal, overpaid and should be fired on the spot.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never even met most of these people. I doubt I’ve ever seen their work. But I know, I KNOW their designs suck as designs and they themselves suck as individuals. And how do I know that? Well, it’s the subject of hourly meetings and debates within my team.

My three designer colleagues gather around a screen, or a screen printed in color on a huge sheet of paper (These people despise trees. Not as much as they despise other designers, but still!), and end up destroying it one pixel at a time, irrefutable arguments and all, as per below:

“This is crap!”

“And they call themselves designers!”

“Look at this shade of blue! Look at this border!”

“Some people make insanely more money than they deserve!”

“This is crap!”

I am NOT a designer.

I try to match my outfit to my nail polish color when I don’t forget. I look at designs in terms of what and when needs to be clicked by the end user. I couldn’t care less about absolutely-identical-but-not-really shades of blue and why a 2 pixel border is better than a 1 pixel one. Or why borders are needed at all. I sometimes worry about lousy Internet Explorer, but it passes soon enough and I’m back to being my carefree non designer self.

So what I’m unsuccessfully trying to convey here is that, well, I don’t care why this company seems to hire so many sucky designers. But I must say I’m lucky beyond belief, surrounded as I am by the only capable ones, and absolute geniuses the three of them for that matter. Life is good.

Yay, Let’s Discriminate Together!

So. I work in central London, in this multinational corporation where people worry you’ll run crying to the Human Resources Department if they as much as sneeze in your presence. I’m Romanian, a geek and a girl. I have yet to run crying to the Human Resources Department.

But there are other things you should know about me. That is, unless my colleagues have somewhat jokingly mentioned them already:

  • I steal. It’s gotten quite bad, actually. Make sure you hide your Magic Mice and smartphones if you see me sneaking by. Oh and be careful! I might also attempt to steal your job when you’re not looking. In fact, it’s in the Romanian Bible: Blessed are those who steal everybody’s jobs, for they shall inherit all European Union countries. Look it up.
  • I don’t actually do any work. You may see me typing away at times, which you may innocently take for coding, but in fact, all I’m doing is dispatching instructions to an army of real, proper coders in Romania. I pay them each half a penny an hour to solve my every task, for which they are eternally grateful. Did you not know £1 can get you a five bedroom house in that God forsaken country?
  • I’ve got this master plan to bring my entire family and all my friends over across the Channel. Don’t worry, it will only be about fifty or sixty of them. We’ll all be living in the office, sleeping on and under your desks. They’re nice enough people, it’s going to be fine. It’s true, they steal (we are family after all!), are lazy and only use soap on February 29th, but you’ll grow to love them, I swear!
  • Other than that, I’m just your regular female geek. Utterly unfit for social interactions, dreading any form of outside contact but desperate to get married (an enigma, don’t ask), uninterested in participating in any of the decision making, but happy to type away in her little cocoon, surrounded by flocks of pink, imaginary butterflies.

A pleasure to meet you.

Bad Bad Speedy Gonzales

This is how my life works.

People give me projects to code. We talk them over in a million meetings, we bicker, make decisions and change our minds, then I retreat back to my geek cave, where I click and type until I’ve got what we call an end product. People then look at it, like it, hate it or don’t understand it, and the bickering resumes. It’s pretty straightforward.

Now, since I’m repeatedly ruining my beauty sleep to go to work every day, I might as well, you know, work. I mean, tea breaks, gossip sessions and Facebook stalking are fun and everything, but at the end of the day we’re here to get the job done. It might just be me and my silly Romanian, communist roots. Either way, this annoying habit of mine to work when nobody else feels like working is openly frowned upon in our office.

At first I was replying to emails too quickly.

“Wait for a couple of hours before you reply. People will expect you to always be available.”

Then I was delivering tasks too quickly.

“My golden rule is: never deliver something within the same day. Yes, even if it’s just a typo fix. Always give it a couple of days at least, or even better, a week. The client will feel you haven’t rushed their work.”

Then I simply wasn’t a team player.

“It makes us look bad when it takes us three times as long to finish our slice of the work. Outside people don’t understand our jobs are different and demand different amounts of effort and attention to detail.”

My life today involves a lot of sitting around and resting my fingers until Steve gives me the green light to let people know everything’s done and ready to be reviewed. If anything, it gives me time to think my life over. So many lessons learned, and in such a short time. For one thing, speed means different things for different people. Just like work. Then, speed is dangerous. It makes people nervous and feeling like they have to do things they don’t want to do in order to protect themselves. Oh, I’ve also learnt that apparently, I’ve got the easiest job in the office.

It figures. Everybody else works as a tester for Facebook.

There’s No I in Team

Where I currently work, I’m part of a smaller team than I’m used to. There’s Steve-the-Manager, a Senior Web Designer with more than twenty years in the company (!!!), then there’s Craig, a 20 years younger and as many shades blonder Web Designer version of Steve, and Rik, you’ve guessed it!, also a Web Designer, twenty something years old and originally from the Netherlands, speaking a 16 million times better English than mine, though he’s only recently moved to London. I’m the only proper geek in the gang and the only one who couldn’t use a Wacom tablet even if my life depended on it.

Now, I’ve never had a designer managing me before, but I have worked with designers day in and day out for pretty much all of my professional life. So I do speak their language (with a bit of an accent, mind you!), and things are normally fun and games in the office. And then sometimes they’re not, and my anti designer wrath reaches such great heights that I build pixel imperfect things on purpose. That’ll show them!

There are a couple of rules my three designer colleagues live by when it comes to the developer/designer relationship, and these they share with me on a daily basis, in an attempt to educate my ignorant developer derriere. It’s only fair I share these little nuggets of knowledge with the rest of you. So, without further ado, I present to you:

A Designer’s Guide To Why Developers Suck

1. All developers want to be/think they are designers.

I can’t say I know where this is coming from, as I most definitely don’t pretend I’m a designer and would rather saw my hand off than have to do even the most trivial of design tasks. Have I mentioned it would take me half a second to find a much better, design unrelated use for a Wacom tablet? How does beer coaster sound?

These said, I am still a threat. I might one day wake up and decide that a beautiful, hold-the-page-together thingy it’s taken someone weeks to design is not to my liking, and change it to match my weird, questionable, geeky tastes. Now of course I wouldn’t do that unintentionally or because of crazy things like browser support and such, but because I think I’m a better designer than everybody else. But I’m not, OK? I really should get that into my silly developer head and stop meddling.

2. Developers don’t do any actual work.

When, as in my case, your manager considers this developers-do-nothing thing gospel truth, you, my friend, are in deep trouble.

Being the last person to join the team, I was given a desk everybody bumps into on their way to, well, anywhere. Going to the loo? Feel free to pat me on the shoulder on your way there. The canteen? Same thing. Fancy just resting your eyes for a second or two? Why not rest them on my screen, it’s right there in your face. What follows is legend.

Oh, so all you do is type words all day?

Yup.

How many did you type today?

I don’t know, a couple of hundreds.

A couple of hundreds…  [Insert I-could-type-six-hundred-words-a-minute-using-just-my-index-finger-and-a-stick look.]

A couple of months into it, you get used to the snoopy looks over your shoulder, to the Oh-so-the-words-you-type-get-colored-automatically?, to the oh-so-funny introductions (Have you met our developer? We don’t really know what she does half the time.) and things begin to settle in this lazy world of yours.

3. Developers are socially retarded.

Well, I guess we can all agree this is true. The end.

*

Here’s a nice little story about my social handicap.

In our open plan office, everybody wants to be BFF with everybody else. We’re of course all working hard towards this rosy future where we all know each other’s secrets and spend our days holding hands in a circle singing Cumbaya. There’s only one problem preventing this heart warming scenario from coming true. Headphones. People have them, put them on as soon as they sit at their desks, and then spend the rest of the day in their individual musical bubbles, clicking away. No Cumbaya. No BFF-ing into the sunset.

But what are we if not super friendly ingenious problem solvers?

They started by nailing half a dozen speakers on the walls. I should have known something bad was coming. And it did. One morning, One Direction was blasting from the aforementioned speakers, one of them strategically placed right above my head. Now, I know absolutely nothing about the One Direction kids, and, surprising as it may sound, I would like for it to stay that way. But as they sang their beautiful music that fateful morning, the girl responsible for the speaker initiative declared that headphones were now forbidden and we should all enjoy our new BFF-friendly soundtrack together.

Now, I know what you think. You think I went all geeky and antisocial and put my headphones on while everybody was holding hands swaying to the One Direction rhythm. You are wrong. What are you, designers?

If you must know, I tried. I locked my headphones in the drawer to avoid temptation. I actually listened to the words. Every once in a while, someone would change the song and though I knew I’d terribly miss One Direction, I welcomed the introduction to new music superstars I’d never heard of with open arms. But I was sad. Maybe being everybody’s BFF really wasn’t in my blood. Maybe I really was socially defective. Otherwise why would I feel distracted, and even annoyed at the delightful music everybody loved to listen to? Why did I find myself fantasising about my headphones, their shape, their softness, the way they perfectly fit my now unprotected ears?

One day when I felt particularly depressed and like I couldn’t take it anymore, I gave up and went back to my soundproof music bubble. The speaker girl actually came to me and asked if I didn’t like their music. Resourceful as ever, I said I simply adored it but that my computer’s cooler made an annoying noise only headphones could help with. She gave me the Oh, you’re the developer look and walked away.

Resume To Go

My name is impossible to pronounce.

I’m a female web developer currently working for a super duper broadcasting company in London.

English is not my first language.

Five years ago, I was breaking the interwebs in Romania. Everybody could say my name there.

In five years, I see myself still having to answer the where-do-you-see-yourself-in-five-years question.

Yes, most programmers I know are strange and interesting creatures. That’s pretty much why I’ve started this blog.