A voice interview I did last summer has now been published.

During SIC 2007, Mike Dulin interviewed me for his program. Last week, my interview was the one included in the weekly broadcast [Thursday Feburary 21, 2008]. The full program [MP3 – 16.6M] can be downloaded (or opened directly) from the front page for the next few days. In case you miss the current window, the interview should be available in the archives.

The general topics of conversation were my background (briefly), game development, and the ASP (Association of Shareware Professionals).


HNT: Inspire stuggling employees (part 3)

This is the last part (for now) of How Not To inspire struggling employees.

[The past two posts provide context for this.]

The situation: Unlike the previous situations, at this point I was making enough money to pay my bills on time, albeit without really getting ahead. I had worked my way up from Software Engineer to Vice President of Programming and, again, was the highest positioned employee, #2 to the owner/President. The company was not particularly strong, financially, but I had finished a multimedia presentation product that had the possibility, if managed and marketed correctly, to make a large splash in a fledgling industry (in 1992). I had high hopes of actually earning a comfortable living for once. Until…

The incident: My boss, for reasons still unknown to me, confided that he would be “perfectly happy to earn $40K per year.” In fact, he went on to proclaim that if a benefactor would grant him that much each year, he will close down the company and just live on that.

That was his goal. Of course, this is one of those guys who grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, so I suppose it was admirably modest, but the fact that he barely wanted to earn more than I expected on my next raise was disconcerting. More so was the fact that he was only committed to the company from which I was earning my living until something easier came along (like inheriting family money, perhaps).

The lessons: If the owner of the company has aspirations for the long term that are lower than your own for the next year or so, it is time to look elsewhere. Should you find that your boss has no particular commitment to the work that you (collectively) do, get ready to leave. When your boss has an extramarital affair with one of your coworkers and it starts affecting your job, depart as soon as possible. (No, wait… That last one is a different story.)

[link to part 1]
[link to part 2]

HNT: Inspire stuggling employees (part 2)

This is the second (middle) part of How Not To inspire struggling employees.

[Please see my previous post for background.]

The situation: I had a programming position at an independent game development company. Scratch that. I had the programming position (remaining), and in an attempt to get our game finished, I had (very foolishly) taken a pay cut down to minimum wage, albeit with the possibility of overtime up to 80 hours. In order to make ends meet, I then had to work 80 hours every week. Since I (and my pregnant wife) lived 30 miles away, I often had to sleep in the office to save both time and gas money. This took a toll on my health, my finances, and my marriage (and needless to say, I would never do that again).

The incident: One of the (two) bosses told me one day that his personal bank account had dipped below $10,000 and continued, “I get nervous when it gets that low.

There I was, working the equivalent of two full time jobs, yet still only able to afford gas to see my wife (who was unable to work due to a difficult pregnancy) some nights, and of course stressed beyond belief. So my boss thinks that he will get better productivity by commiserating about having “money problems” while demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of my situation. Hmm…

The lessons: Never accept a pay cut to finish a project, especially if you are a critical developer (unless, of course, you can afford it and stand to profit handsomely when the product is completed). Working 80 hours per week on a sustained basis is counterproductive. If you are an employer, make sure that your developers can at least afford basic necessities, and certainly do not detail how you are at a whole different economic level (if applicable).

[link to part 1]
[link to part 3]

HNT: Inspire stuggling employees (part 1)

This is the first part (of 3) about How Not To inspire struggling employees.

In my early career, I had a number of jobs which, for various reasons, paid less than they should have, resulting in financial struggles for me and my family. There were three particular incidents, at different companies, which exemplify very poor understanding of the situation and demonstrate a boss utterly failing to instill any sense of confidence or hope for any improvement.

It should be noted that I chose to leave each of these companies, and all of them went out of business fairly soon thereafter. I present them in chronological order, starting (appropriately) with the first:

The situation: I had a dual position which involved both management and development responsibilities, in different areas of the business (service/repairs and consulting, respectively). I accepted lower weekly pay in exchange for an annual bonus plan that seemed good at the time. Alas, the bonus was not paid on time (and actually took almost a year to receive, in pieces, until I took an “in kind” payment two weeks before the next, larger, annual bonus was due). More relevant, though, is that I worked may way up to being the senior employee, #3 in the company behind the two owners, finding to my chagrin that meant my paychecks were more likely to be late, and usually by a full pay period.

The incident: The boss presented me with my W-2 for the previous year and proclaimed, seemingly with some misplaced pride (or something): “Look! I only made $200 more than you did last year.

Let’s see… The company owes me a couple of weeks of past wages, most of my annual “bonus”, and I am having great difficulty making ends meet as a single person living in an efficiency apartment with minimal expenses. To quote a line from one of my favorite sitcoms, Coupling (the hilarious British one, of course), “What part of your brain thought that was a good thing to say?”

The lessons: If a paycheck is late (more than once) or a promised bonus is not paid, it is time to find another job. If the owner of the company has to live on ramen noodles, yet the checks are late anyway, find a different job now.

[link to part 2]
[link to part 3]

Comments? Yes, please.

It looks like my new web server was rejecting blog comments.

I think that I have fixed the problem for past entries, but this post is a test to confirm that I have resolved this permission problem going forward.

Please make nonsensical comments to let me know that it is working.


[Note: This is my second try.]
[OK, third attempt now…]
[Fourth attempt….]
[Fifth attempt!]

Greetings, Fellow Groundhogs

The new year finally begins in earnest.

With 2007 in the rear view mirror (and, of course, closer than it appears), I am ready to make great progress throughout 2008. As promised in the previous post, I emerge with the woodchucks to be seen on this day, and likewise, I started out the day in a hole. Nevertheless, I am definitely looking forward to the near future.

We have a big game development project, ultimately representing several products on (at least) a couple of platforms, that is taking much of my time now. The first testing version will be ready shortly, with a couple of releases (for Windows and Mac) scheduled as soon as everything is solid and “bug free“. There are also several more to follow in the first part of this year.

Also, as the ASP Chairman of the Board, I am excited that the Association of Shareware Professionals has all of its 2008 leadership in place now, and with the quality of our team, I am expecting that we will be making great improvements this year, including with the ASP Indie Games SIG (Special Interest Group). Similarly, our chapter of the International Game Developers Association, IGDA Detroit, is ready to make big strides forward.

Remember, we gain an extra day this month, and even my late beginning gives me a head start of five days over the Chinese. [Chinese New Year is Thursday, February 7.]