Metamorphing Machine I rather be this walking metamorphosis
than having that old formed opinion about everything!

Roderick Marmelade

Once upon a time, I worked under a manager that we'll call Roderick Marmelade - not his real name.
During my first project under him, everything went great because he was not "in charge"; we were just there to support the main offshore team.
But then we had a second project for the same client, only that this time we were the main team.
This was not any ordinary client. Let's just say that it was the main world's expensive smartphone maker.
A lot of eyeballs were aimed at us.

For our very first conference call with the client, Roderick joined late. He forgot about the conference call.
The client's manager escalated it to his manager who escalated to ours.
There was a second incident that I don't remember anymore in the early stages of this project and Roderick was escalated for the second time in a very short time span.
He went nuts - or maybe he just showed his true colors.
He started to micro-manage everything. To give you an idea, he had to approve what the names for the database's tables' columns were.

Interlude 1

I've been thinking for a long time whether I should tell this tale or not. It is kind of pointless. If you ever read anything on Not Always Right, it is something like that. You can chuckle or you can be infuriated, but there's no satisfying closure.

And it could give away my pseudonym.

Ultimately, I decided it is OK. Most of my co-workers at the time left for greener pastures. None of them is interested in anything (Visual) Basic related. And it is very unlikely any of them will stumble on this blog.

Also, it is my way to cope with everything I endured during that time.
But be warned: This is going to be lengthy.

Roderick's highlights... er, lowlights?

There are a plethora of stories, but I'll focus only on some of them:

⛔ During the first project time, we had just hired my first QA team member.
They just had a girl-baby and was entitled to parental leave. I don't remember how many days, but let's say it was ten
They approached Roderick and told him about that. Roderick said "But you don't need all those days, right? Are three OK?"
Being newly hired, the poor soul hesitantly said "OK...?"
When I talked to Roderick about it a couple of months later and emphasized that what he did was illegal, he allowed my fellow to take the remaining days.

⛔ Before we had our first in-person meeting with the client, Roderick said we should keep our cellphones out of sight.
Why? Because none of us had the client's brand cellphones.
Of course, this is BS. To work for, say, Chrysler, one does not need to own a Chrysler car. But we thought, "OK, whatever."
Merrily we went to our in-person meeting. Getting there, we all saw in disbelief Roderick taking his Blackberry from his pocket and putting it over the table.
He was not able to follow his own (BS) instructions.

⛔ There was this time that Roderick was talking to a co-worker:

Roderick: I want you to think...
Co-worker: (Interrupting him) Whoa, this way you give the impression that I do not think.

(He was being a smart-ass. This time Roderick did not imply anything of the sorts.)

Roderick: (After a brief pause)
I want you to think!
I want you to think!
I want you to think!
I want you to think!
I want you to think!
I want you to think!

(I was silently counting how many times Roderick said the same thing to them.
It was this co-worker fall from grace. They were fired shortly after that.
I didn't care. This guy tried to push me under the bus once.)


⛔ As the software we would develop have to do with taxes, Roderick involved a consultant to talk to the client on their own terms.
Before going to meet the client, we talked to Roderick to be sure that their involvement would be limited to extracting the business rules.
Everything related to coding or GUI would be still dev's team responsibilities. He assured us that that was the case.
Cue the meeting and all of a sudden the consultant starts to suggest and get the client's approval on how the pages should look and work.
We said nothing there because it would be bad to let the client know our internal struggles.

Back to our office, we went to talk to Roderick. He just rushed us off saying that the consultant had a little experience in programming and they were just doing their job.
That was a bad start. Our interactions with the consultant grew more and more stressful, as they were doing something they were not supposed to do and fought us back.
In the end, they produced a document that was useless to the developers. I'm sure it was out of despite.
The devs ended up using an Excell spreadsheet I provided with the rules for the several taxes we would be dealing with.
Also, I'm pretty sure that that consultant hated to work with any of us. That was a first in my professional life.

⛔ Once Roderick said to a co-worker: "You forget to attend my meeting, but do not forget to go to restroom, uh?"
Somehow he thinks humans have physical urges to attend meetings.

⛔ He called me one Sunday at about 11:00 PM. I picked up the call out of kindness, and soon after that, he was scolding me for whatever reason he thought I needed to be scolded.
On a Sunday. Just before I went to bed. During non-work hours.
From then on, I would not pick up his calls anymore if it was out of working hours.
Noticing that, he said a few times that I needed to understand that if he was calling me, that's because it was important.
I always thought to myself "Yeah. Important to you, not to me..."

⛔ I was the leader of a QA team of three, comprised of two co-workers and myself.
The developer team had two leaders. They headbutted all the time because Roderick never made clear the distinction between one dev leader's role and the other one's.

One day they were arguing as always, and Roderick arrived in the middle of the fuss.
Instead of taking them to a different room - so the rest of the team could go on working - and act as a manager, like, I don't know, forcing them to stop arguing, or talk them out of their issues, or write them up, or whatever, he involved everyone in the fight.

I was there with my team members, quiet listening to the madness unfolding when Roderick out of the thin air came with this:
"For instance, I don't need the QA team asses sitting on their chairs. My six-year-old nephew is able to do their jobs."
Somehow, he managed to turn a bad situation into something even worse, insulting us that up to that time had nothing to do with the problem.

(I should say that, as a team member, I tried my best to make them two leaders go along, but was not successful in that.
And, as a leader from a different sub-team (QA), I could not interfere with the dev sub-team, even though that's what Roderick wanted me to do.)

⛔ There were some team members that would deserve their own posts, but let me briefly introduce you to Halcyon Dairy (not his real name either): ⛔ One day, in the middle of missing several milestones, Roderick said he would require a QA report with the number of open issues every two hours.
This was a sure way to slow things down even more because now my team would have to stop working on our tests every hour or so to build up that report.

Anyway, after a few days of sending this insane report every two hours, I suspected Roderick was not reading them.
So I started to send a report with the same numbers every time just to check it, and sure as hell, he was not reading it.
I stopped sending the report right after that, to no one's complaint.

⛔ The client's manager called Roderick and said something (I don't remember what, maybe complained about something.)
Roderick went to our room and did not find us there. We were on our lunch break.
He called me and started his tirade. He asked why we were not there, in the room, working. I said that's because we were lunching. To what he asked why we were lunching. As I was literally shaking with anger, I handed my cellphone to my co-worker to hear him answering "Because we were hungry."

⛔ During the first team's meetings, I wrote down every task that needed to be done by my team or by the dev's team.
When we were near completing and delivering the software, I went back to my notes and noticed there was one task that was not done:
The dev team forgot to develop the help system.

I went to Roderick to let him know about it.
His words were something along the lines of: "Hmm... Right. OK, so you are now in charge of developing it."
Mind you that the entire project was being done in a programming language that I have no familiarity with (Java.) And I was the QA team leader, not a dev team member.
After I pointed it out, he said he would take a dev to do it but it was my task to review it.
I'm pretty sure that dev went back to their country hating me, as much as I did not like to work with them.

Our workflow would be like this: I regret being the one who pointed out the missing point to Roderick.
Now I understand an adage that says "No proactivity will be left unpunished."

Interlude 2

Several of my colleagues went to HR to complain about Roderick.
At the time, I did not get that what he was doing not only to me but to every single team under him has a name: Moral harassing.

In hindsight, I'm happy I did not go to HR.

My manager's manager learned about the complaints, went to HR, swept everything under the rug, went to talk to every single one who complained about Roderick's antics, and said that before going to HR, they should talk to him first.

As a consequence of working under Roderick for that long (2-3 years), I developed an embarrassing nervous tic when under pressure.

Back to business

⛔ I can't remember the details anymore, but I scheduled my vacations, Roderick found out about it and managed to cancel them, and told me that I was prohibited to talk to HR about anything before talking to him first.
I'm pretty sure that was illegal, so I pretty much just ignored him.

⛔ Somehow we managed to complete and deliver the software. The client was happy with the result and signed a support contract.
As time went by, all my co-workers left or were fired, up to the point that the only one still able to support the software went away.
That's when Roderick reached me and we had the following convo:

Roderick: Do you know Java?
Me: Nope.
Roderick: But you know C#, right?
Me: Yup.
Roderick: Oh, they are the same thing.

Then he enlisted me as the software's support developer.
I had to tell him in no uncertain terms that I was inept to do that.
He enlisted another Java developer to "help" me, but they were a mobile Java developer. They had little clue on how to deal with a web Java application - different frameworks and such.

⛔ My last participation in this whole fiasco was a conference call where the client's manager and I were waiting for Roderick and that mobile Java developer to join.
They never did.
When I called the developer to ask why, they told me Roderick told them the call was canceled.
I was the one who had to inform the client's manager that the call was supposedly canceled.

Shortly after that, I was informed by someone else that the client canceled that support contract with us.
Sometimes I wonder why.

Andrej Biasic
2020-07-01