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Programmer, Fired After 6 Years, Realizes He Doesn’t Know How to Code

This week on /CSCareerQuestions, Reddit user FiletOfFish1066 reveals an unfortunate situation that sounds almost too much like HBO's Silicon Valley to be true. OP was fired after spending six full years working at a well-known tech company in the Bay Area. Now, our friend reflects on his time there and admits he may have made some mistakes along the way: for instance, automating his job to the point where he forgot how to code. Let's investigate what happened and see what OP can do to salvage his tech career. Spoiler alert: OP is not "Big Head" Bighetti.
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This week on /CSCareerQuestions, Reddit user FiletOfFish1066 reveals an unfortunate situation that sounds almost too much like HBO’s Silicon Valley to be true.

OP was fired after spending six full years working at a well-known tech company in the Bay Area. Now, our friend reflects on his time there and admits he may have made some mistakes along the way: for instance, automating his job to the point where he forgot how to code. Let’s investigate what happened and see what OP can do to salvage his tech career. Spoiler alert: OP is not “Big Head” Bighetti.

Background

After graduating college with a computer science degree seven years ago, OP landed a job in the Bay Area doing Quality Assurance work for a tech company. And, being the savvy tech person that he is, OP automated almost all of his tasks after eight months on the job. So with most of the hard part of his job done for him, OP had some free time … six years’ worth, in fact. Let’s see how he spent it, in his own words:

“From around six years ago up until now, I have done nothing at work. I am not joking. For 40 hours each week I go to work, play League of Legends in my office, browse Reddit, and do whatever I feel like. In the past six years I have maybe done 50 hours of real work. So basically nothing. And nobody really cared. The tests were all running successfully. I s*** you not, I had no friends or anything at work either, so nobody ever talked to me except my boss and occasionally the devs for the software I was testing.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

But it all came to a screeching halt after IT found out that OP had been automating his job for the last six years. That’s when OP was officially fired.

The Real Problem

While being smart enough to automate time-consuming job tasks is great, it can also be dangerous to your career. Not only because of the fact that you will probably get fired for automating your job for six full years, but also because you tend to forget how to work. OP continues:

“After six years, I literally do not even know how to write good software anymore. I basically forgot everything. I just played League of Legends and did nothing else. I got fit though, which is a plus, since I went to the gym every day during work. But I know nothing about programming or anything else. I am 28, without a job (although they are giving me three months of pay), and no skills. I have around $200k in my bank account since I still live with my parents and live frugally, so I won’t be starving or anything like that, and can definitely support myself.”

What Should OP Do Next?

With $200,000 saved up, it would be easy for OP to take a year off and focus on learning those valuable tech skills he unfortunately lost during his time playing League of Legends. When it comes to applying for a new job, OP can explain the year gap during interviews by explaining that he wanted to take a year off to better his skills and improve his mastery of tech before accepting another long-term job.

OP’s quotes were lightly edited for clarity.

Tell Us What You Think!

What do you think OP should do? We want to hear from you! Comment below or join the discussion on Twitter.


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66 Comments on "Programmer, Fired After 6 Years, Realizes He Doesn’t Know How to Code"

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That guy
Guest

I hope his boss got fired. There was a million ways to grow or help others and his manager didn’t seem to care or notice. Instead of getting promotions and being a top automation engineer he now has to start all over. OP deserves blame as well for not managing his own career and helping his peers.

Jak
Guest

The boss was clearly incompetent as well for not having noticed this entire time and indeed should be fired, along with this worthless leech. It’s not the manager’s job however to grow or help people, just make sure people are doing their fucking jobs. ” Instead of getting promotions and being a top automation engineer he now has to start all over.” Boo hoo.

Darlene Woodhurst
Guest

That is the “Brat – ME” mentality a lot of the millennials have anymore. Truly a shame, would love to see these up and coming kids get involved with society, instead of looking for safe places, away from chalk names.

tinskip
Guest

Automating his job was the smart thing to do. Good QA engineers automate tedious, repetitive, and error-prone tasks to run periodically, if not continuously. Where he went wrong was in not finding something else to do after the automation was complete. Sounds like the guy totally lacks initiative beyond the immediate, given task; or is just lazy. I wouldn’t want him working for me.

Jak
Guest

Automation to make things easier is fine. 100% automation and being too lazy to even bother to check it or do anything else useful with his time is definitely not. Yes, very lazy.

Darlene Woodhurst
Guest

He is a stay at home brat!

Han
Guest
My mantra at work is “Automate yourself out of a job”. Where the person went wrong here is that he automated his job, but didn’t take that opportunity to do something more productive with all the time saved so he can now improve on other areas and automate the crap out of other parts of his department or company. He probably could have gotten promoted, made more money, etc. etc. Except he was so centered on his own work and goals it either didn’t dawn on him or he didn’t care to do more than he was asked to do.… Read more »
Darlene Woodhurst
Guest

no ambition or enthusiasm for anything other than games, sounds like.

Harry
Guest

I once knew a tester like that. He was smart enough to keep going. Eventually he automated enough things so he could spoof a whole test team. He was then hired by a big tech company and … wait a minute!

Working It Out
Guest
I wonder how common this scenario really is. Clearly the ability to completely self-isolate (which in my personal experience – many programmers do) combined with the absolute lack of community/accountability made these actions possible. No doubt this is a personal failure, but it is also a failure in this company’s culture. How is it possible for one person to check out for 6 years, get paid, and no one notice? It seems that even if this company had a morning stand-up where each team member had to explain what they’re accountable for day by day – that this employee wouldn’t… Read more »
Darlene Woodhurst
Guest

It happens in the Federal and local Governments all the time….

Emily
Guest

Automating testing is a very valuable skill and possibly much desired… think about consulting!!

Just sayin'
Guest
I think this is where integrity comes into play… at what point do you recognize that you are not doing the job you are being paid to do? At what point do you go to your boss, tell him/her that you have the “proofing software working” and are able to take on other tasks? Why did he get fired for doing his job the way they allowed him to do it? That says that they value integrity but not enough to check in on him periodically to see what is happening. How did they miss that he wasn’t doing anything?… Read more »
Shuz
Guest

He is in the perfect spot to move into management.

SC
Guest

@Nishi Haha yeah! What kind of idiot lives at home for a few years while working full time to save over $200k in the bank, providing a springboard for his own future financial independence? Lol what a loser! Oh wait, that’s what I did. Now I own a $1.3m home in SF and the rest of my life is on cruise control. How’s paying $4,000/mo rent in East Palo Alto going for you?

Shane
Guest

Mistake #1 was taking a QA job right out of college. This tests what other people write …. he should be in a spot where he codes himself. Mistake #2 – shame on the company and his management to not no enough about the staff to realize this and perhaps encourage different behavior. Major Benefit – he’s young, has 200k in the bank ….. plenty of time to re-invent himself.

random guy
Guest

guy automates QA process and is fired for it? He’s better off I’d say.

SG
Guest

Better than outsourcing your own job to China and getting away with it. Atleast the automation stays in the country and pay doesn’t flow out.

Barbara
Guest

What, back to grad school? I think this guy is amazing. It takes skills to be able to automate stuff on this level. He should be picked up by any company concerning themselves with artificial intelligence, robots or automation suites. He could also be a fantastic asset for any restructuring exercises where processes need to be automated.

Company got what they asked for
Guest
Company got what they asked for

It doesn’t jibe with my personal work ethic but I see no reason he should have been fired. He did what the company asked him to do, he just found a way to do it they hadn’t anticipated. That’s an error on their part and if anyone should be fired, it should be someone up the food chain.

Smells like BS
Guest

Something about this story doesn’t seem to add up. A software developer who has the skills to automate a suite of tests does not “forget” how to code. If you do, then you didn’t really know how to code in the first place, instead, resorting to googling for solutions on coding websites such as stackoverflow, codeexchange, etc. It makes for good discussion, but that’s about it.

Jackus Blackus
Guest

“While being smart enough to automate time-consuming job tasks is great, it can also be dangerous to your career. ”

That is wrong. The person could have had a great career doing test automation if he didn’t sit around doing nothing for 6 years.

Tommyotoolmaker
Guest
First off: He didn’t rip off the company. The company got exactly what they asked to be done. If he told them about the success of the software his reward would have been thanks but you are no longer needed. Second: Immediately replace the entire management team for being stupid and letting bean counters (however necessary) dictate company policy. Explain to the new team what is expected of them. Advise: Buy new computers, start playing with writing idea software, Open a consulting company to help companies avoid making the same mistakes. It takes a con artist to catch a con… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest
If this story is true then clearly this guy was not interested in his career whatsoever. And nor were his line managers – which is a fundamental problem for the business if they are still employed too. The reason I am sceptical about this story is because it sounds a bit too good to be true. Surely a well-known tech company would be able to automate their own QA and therefore not need this job to be filled? Alternatively, perhaps he wasn’t supposed to automate the checking – in which case why was their no multi-layered QA procedure? Why did… Read more »
Voice of Capitalism
Guest
He did earn that money under the tenants of capitalism, which I hope you are wise enough to favor. He was given a task that needed doing, and he did it. That he has residual rent income from doing it should be fine. Oh, but you want one set of rules for the Overlord class and a different set for the Serf class? Why should that be a thing? The company had no business firing an employee for doing the job. They might want to rethink the contract given how simple the job turned out to be or give said… Read more »
Darlene Woodhurst
Guest
Voice – so are you blaming capitalism as the bad guy? Really? Capitalism is the only reason anyone in this country works, except for the citizen funded federal jobs, where many, many, many people scam the system doing next to nothing or the inefficiency of the Union led positions in the Government….. Look at the VA, can’t fire the bad people scamming the system, getting bonus’s for not doing their jobs. That is socialism, the VA Debacle. You can only circulate on the peoples money for so long then you go in debt – oh wait, that’s right the national… Read more »
JCL
Guest

What a waste….. I would almost kill for those kinds of computer skills! But at 65, aint gonna happen….

someone
Guest
Wow so many comments slamming OP and here I am just thinking he’s a genius. Well – other than the fact that he let himself forget all the skills that let him get away with automating for 6 years. He did actually fulfill his job obligations after all, and lack of mental stimulation at work can be a big problem which leads employees to seek their own sources of stimulation/distraction, in his case, LoL. I see a Darlene Woodhurst criticizing all the Millennials below and I have to say – you older people are no more hardworking than we are.… Read more »
tt
Guest

why do any of you believe this story ?

Darlene Woodhurst
Guest
Because I work in a local IT government and I know people, not only programmers that are here with very minimal projects or work to do. So much that they have plenty of time to sit around and BS but when you ask them to do something they say “I’m too busy, or that isn’t my job” It happens everywhere and if that company was large and really didn’t engage its employees? Well that could very well happen, thought that he was doing the work, but the whole time he had it automated, who would know, unless someone engaged him.
Nishi
Guest

He’s living with his parents?! What a loser!

deftware
Guest

28, and lives with his parents? That’s all I needed to hear.

dandismith
Guest

If he played Dota, he probably still have a job up to now. DOTA > LOL

david
Guest
Why did the boss not have the original idea to automate everything? Many years ago I worked for NCR Corp as a programmer. The problem was that I was programming point of sale terminals, which could have been totally automated. Automating that process would have been trivial. Yet, in my office there were five people doing it and I”m sure there were in offices around the country. It was stupid. I did it for six months and couldn’t take it any longer. Without the Internet there is no way that guy would have hung around six years. He’d have been… Read more »
Chris
Guest

Wow! Damn! At least he was smart enough not to blow his 200k fortune. I can’t believe he blew his career like that. As soon as I found out that automating my job could fire me, I would have un-done the automated tasks and actually do them (manually). As long as he has a good plan (which I think he does), then he can get back onto that career horse, so to speak.

guest
Guest

he should invest his 200k and buy an apartment and found a QA company for automation, make a fortune an play league of legends for life!

Guest
Guest

It looks like he was motivated to automate any work he had so he could get back to playing league… After that he had motivation to find the next thing to help with.. You can’t go to school for motivation… If he’s smoking pot I’d tell him to stop that. Next find what really motivates him and focus on that.. And learn to socialize – that’s a skill that takes work to learn.

Benicio Galvez
Guest

My experience is similar except: I did not have a degree, I did not automate my job, instead I learned how to code on the job, then I was laid off with about $5K to my name, having a wife, kids and a mortgage. So I think this guy had the gravy train and he has enough to make a fresh start. Plus if you have a degree in CS, you will learn coding again in 2 weeks. He can have another 6 years at another company and milk it until it expires.

Jay Schwartz
Guest

First, OP should have asked his supervisor and IT if it was okay to automate.
Second, I think it’s amazing he was able to save $200K. (If I had $200K, I think I’d start buying and flipping houses!)
Third, OP is going to have difficulty getting another position if he lists this past employer on his resume and for a reference. When interviewing, he may want to be honest and explain what happened–for better or worse–because employers are going to find out anyway…

Gregor
Guest

I have no sympathy at all for OP. While it was brilliant that he was able to automate his job, he is completely at fault for spending his time at work the way he did. Regardless of how smart he is, the fact that he defrauded the company out so so much money, I think that he was lucky that he got a severance package at all. Had he been as smart as this article makes him sound, he would not be in the situation that he is in. Clever, yes, smart, no.

Sunblue
Guest

If I was a prospective employer interviewing him for a job, I’d seriously question why someone who had 6 years of experience in QA at a Bay Area tech company needed to go back to improve his skills. That would be a red flag. This person made some poor career decisions. He may get another job based on what is listed on his resume, but keeping the job will be another matter.

Mike
Guest

I did this too, accept I just moved on to a different job. Automated parts of that so I can focus on the interesting parts.

Kevin W. Chiu
Guest

Since OP is so good at automating work, he should help others automate their work for a fee. Turn it into a business and he will not have to look for a job ever again.

Stupid Boss Stupid Company
Guest
Stupid Boss Stupid Company

what company is this.. Making a mental note to boycott it

Effthat
Guest

He’s not at fault, his boss is.

Darlene Woodhurst
Guest

You are correct? I do not blame the abuse I see on the workers I work with. A lot of managers don’t want the hassle, especially in a government environment, having to document etc, because people get lawyers etc and have tenure etc. They just can’t do confrontation, and if no one else asks them to, why should they?

PJD
Guest

So he didn’t have a competent (any?) supervisor and they fired him for it. I wouldn’t even be mad, 200k in the bank.

Mark Gibby
Guest

Enroll to coding bootcamps like Coding Dojo.

Stella
Guest

Which model does the Company use? We all know Projects succeed if well planned. How skilled is the Test manager? We all know that QAs must work hand in hand with developers, management Tools are there to help in manging Daily tasks…..How can it take 6 yrs without noticing anything? OP is innocent…The heads should take the consequences + the management.An IT Company falling into sch a mess, shows that non of the employees is well skilled.GCreates a lt of ?????

JJ
Guest

Time to go to grad school!

Priscilla
Guest

If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

Semilogical
Guest

I’m a programmer on a different level, can’t say higher or lower, but if you streamline tasks that are common to the industry write the code in “black box” and copyright it then start a business selling your programming skills.

Get a good lawyer to protect your intellectual property and then lay back and play a game, or keep moving forward with bigger and better code.

nonamepleeze
Guest
I’ve been in a similar situation. I worked for a large pharma company in the IT department doing QA. I’d get in at 6a.m., look at emails, put out any fires, read the newspaper, and do my work out at the company gym. At 9 the majority of people came strolling in. That’s when I’d do “my work,” which was basically writing my novel. I’d leave for lunch and go home, and everyone assumed I was at one of the satellite offices off campus. I did this for 6 years. Then I left to become a full-time author. So, it… Read more »
Tony Starks
Guest

Sounds like something that could happen to me…

Ferny
Guest

With that great skills of OP, he may advice the rest of the IT comppanies on how to automatize their QA areas; OP may be very succseful.
I’m not sure this is a true Story, but perhaps the company did not realize about OP talent and promote him as an officer or as a coach for their staff.
On OP side, why he spent his time playing instead of capitalizing his talent looking for a higher role?

Supporting himself?
Guest

He is living with his parents at 28? I would hardly call that “supporting myself”. Is he paying rent? Try paying for rent, utilities, cable, cell phone, groceries, insurance, etc. and see how long your $200,000 of money you didn’t really deserve lasts you. This bothers me on so many levels.

Jak
Guest

Well this adds to the many explanations of why most software these days is utterly broken garbage. I have zero sympathies for someone who got paid for being a lazy worthless shit instead of actually doing their damn job. “I am 28, without a job (although they are giving me three months of pay), and no skills.” Good, that’s exactly what you deserve.

Fabian Sierra
Guest

How do we know that this story is true? No company name, no evidence. I think he made the story just for fun but it is not real. It could be real for another one.

Darren
Guest

his guy deserves to lose his job but if the employer doesn’t monitor his employee’s then he can expect to be ripped off, however what self respecting guy lives at home sponging off Mommy and Daddy at nearly 30 years old that in itself screams LOSER.

I bet your single mate because no female wants to back to your “PAD” aka “THE PARENTS HOUSE” ha ha ha ha ha. This whole thing shouts movie script in the making.

Hell I’d go and see it twice ha ha ha ha ha bloody funny man ha ha ha

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