Why I Really Want to Work at Fog Creek

By Deane Barker on May 17, 2004

About Fog Creek Software: I wanted to send Joel Spolsky an email today, and I was prowling around the Fog Creek site looking his email address when I stumbled onto this “About Fog Creek” page. It’s well-worth reading (which makes it a glaring exception to the average “worthless by definition” corporate “About” page).

In it, Joel explains how Fog Creek seeks to be the place at which every programmer dreams of working. To do this, he describes the programmer’s nightmare:

…when we looked around, we discovered that the very companies that whine about not being able to find developers have working environments so bad they make Dilbert’s cubicle-land look like paradise.

It starts with the physical environment (with dozens of cubicles jammed into a noisy, dark room, where the salespeople shouting on the phone make it impossible for developers to have a creative thought). But it goes much deeper than that. Managers, terrified of change, treat any new idea as a bizarre virus to be quarantined. Napoleon-complex junior managers insist that things be done exactly their way or you’re fired.

Corporate Furniture Police writhe in agony when you tape up a movie poster in your cubicle. Disorganization is so rampant that even if the ideas are good, it’s impossible to make a product out of them. Inexperienced managers practice hit-and-run management, issuing stern orders on exactly how to do things without sticking around to see the farcical results of their fiats.

The bit about the cubicles is awfully funny. I used to work for CitiGroup, and I was sent to their Hagerstown, Maryland center for a week back in…1999, I think.

Upon entering the IT area (wing? compound?), I was stopped dead in my tracks by the site before me — a field of cubicles so huge you almost couldn’t see when it ended (and I’m 6’4”, so I could see over the walls to start with). I know you all think you’ve seen a lot of cubicles before, but this was so over-the-top that it bordered on the surreal.

I remember thinking at the time that it reminded me of that last scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when the custodian wheels the crated ark into a massive warehouse where you assume it will sit forever. This ocean of cubicles was so big it almost disappeared over the horizon. Had I not been standing there, I would have thought it was a matte painting.

So, Fog Creek is evidently a great place to work. We’ve talked about Joel’s offices before, and I get jealous if I contemplate them too much. This bit didn’t help either:

We never hesitate to buy the tools we need to get our work done (dual LCD monitors are standard issue, for example).

Yeah, I feel great now. Thanks.

(Also worth noting — this “About Fog Creek” page prints really well. A lot of thought was obviously put into the CSS to make sure that stuff that’s useless in print (the menu for instance) didn’t make it onto a piece of paper. Well done.)

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