Friday, September 30, 2011

The Offer

About a year and a half ago, I was approached by a man who was offering an internship to anyone that was web savvy. Since I don't want to be sued, we'll call the business name “Shady Business”. Since I was dumb, I took the unpaid internship. I had been coding websites since I was about 18. I was more than qualified to do this job.

The Job

The first week that I worked at Shady was great. It was a small company, so there weren't very many names to learn. I had my own office with a view of downtown and a company laptop (more on that later). By all accounts it was the most awesome job I had ever had at that point.

I was given some PhotoShop images to use as a template for a simple website that had a time-sensitive nature. Lets call that project redactedforlegalreasons.com. That's ok. I've done that before for clients with the understanding that the final product will vary from the PhotoShop image due to technology constraints. The problem with redactedforlegalreasons.com was that the image was promised as the final product. No room for negotiation.

Great. So how am I supposed to make a website with dynamic content with a static image and about a billion proprietary and unnecessary fonts? (Chiller font on database output? Really? Are you 14?)

I backburnered that project for obvious reasons and took on an e-commerce site called OMGPonies.com and a concept site. Obviously not the real name of the site. OMGPonies.com was built on top of the OS Commerce e-business package. Easy right? Not when you're given a PhotoShop “template” to skin it with.

I worked my ass off for the next few weeks getting OMGPonies.com to work properly and look just like the PhotoShop image. The site was awesome. At that point, I considered it my crowning achievement. I present this finished product to the boss and it was instantly shat upon due to minutia like the use of practical, standardized fonts where it was absolutely necessary. I was also asked to tie the financial end of the site to his Paypal account. (Red flag. More on that later.)

Around the same time, I presented him with a working version of the concept site. He also shat upon that because the design was “too boring”. Nevermind the fact that this site was a concept site and not a finished product and had all of the features and functionality that he asked for.

If all of this sounds like me just bitching about a former employer, it will all soon be clear.

The Issues

This merits bullets.
  • My boss thought that websites were nothing more than JPGs that changed on the screen based on certain logical conditions.
    • All websites prior to me being there were nothing more than html files with nothing but an "img" tag in them.
    • My boss refered to web pages as "pictures".
    • There is more html markup in this blog post than all of their previous websites combined.
  • I'm pretty sure everything in that place was at least "warm" if you get my drift.
    • I ran the serial on my company laptop. Lenovo said that someone reported it to them as stolen.
    • The BSA would have a field day in that office. There was not a legit piece of software anywhere except on my boiling lava laptop. I ran Ubuntu. Photoshop, Windows desktop and server, MS Office, etc all had to be cracked in order to work.
  • The business had no model, no direction, no means of income. Drugs?
    • I turned-out several finished abortions of websites while I was there. That was the only finished product being put out...
    • I can't say with 100% certainty, but I do believe that the business was a front for drug activity. The boss would go out on "deliveries" and take nothing from the office and miraculously return with rent. Hmmm.
  • General incompetence of the boss.
    • He was one of three employees at a business that primarily hosts websites and didn't even know how a website works. (See previous bullets)
    • He made the awesome business decision to host websites in-house when we were only using residential grade DSL internet service (256k up).
    • The aforementioned in-house web server just so happened to be his desktop computer. Yeah.
I could go on all day with this. The graphic artist (the other employee) mostly shared my sentiments.

The End

After three months, I was really the only one putting out any legitimate product for this company. My give a shit broke as to whether this company sank or swam. After all, I wasn't being paid as an intern and I was performing as well or better than the other employees by every metric.

Could I have made it work? Sure. After all, those that don't take shit from anyone don't get very far in life. It's those that take the most shit that inch their way along to success. But there were no redeeming qualities in this company. Also, I don't take shit without compensation.

The boss called me while I was working my job that payed my bills at the time. I snapped and outright quit on him with no second guessing or regret.

When I went in to turn my key in, there was nobody there (as usual, resisted the urge to pillage). In fact, it looked as if nobody had been there in the intervening week since I quit. All that was different was this note pinned to my office door.

What's important to note is the bold portion. I worked my ass off for three months and he thought I was playing around.

The Realization

After reading the note pinned to my door, I was pissed off. "How dare he insult my work ethic? That unappreciative bastard.", I thought to myself. I felt the same sentiment over the next few months. I hung onto the note. That one sentence kept eating at me. Then I did the most mature thing that I could think of: I embraced it.

What I Did About It

Since I didn't sign anything to work there thanks to knowing how to read contracts and not signing anything I didn't actually agree to, not even a non-compete or an NDR, I was free to do as I chose.

I further developed the concept website that was thrown out due to boring design. I kept fine-tuning and developing better and revolutionary features never seen on the web before. I kept toying with it. By the time I was done with it, it was my new masterpiece. It was the first and only time I built a 100% specialized website. It generated family tree circle charts.

That site concept and code I was able to lisence to a company for a cool $2,000. I also have the code in use on my family's website: Kendalls of Canton.

I also picked up clients for web development, design and hosting like mad. I openly and actively compete with my former employer totally freelance. I now host over 8 times the websites that Shady Business does. They have since moved out of the nice office and back to the boss' house and are broke. The few sites they have won't save them.

With the realization that what I am doing is a hobby, I am freed. That means that whenever I sit down to code a website I'm not actually working, but I'm doing something I enjoy. The fact that I get paid to do it is a fringe benefit. This level of freedom allows me to offer the level of customer service that I do. Each one of these websites are my babies and not rubber stamped generic "product". If a client wants to try something new that I'm not really comfortable with, I'll learn.

I really must thank the Boss. It's because of him that I now know how not to run a business, how to compete in this arena, have professional pride, never sell myself short and NEVER take an unpaid internship.
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2 comments:

  1. My friend showed me this web page. I'm liking it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. what doesnt kill you (or gets you arrested?) makes you stronger :)

    ReplyDelete

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