There are good times and there are worst times. I recently had to write code in a hot room with temperatures near 107°F (42°C); nothing to sit on; 64 Kbps inconsistent internet connection; warm water for drinking and a lot of distractions and interruptions. I am sure many people have been in similar situations and I would like to know your experiences.

More experiences at HackerNews about the same topic.

Even more experiences at Slashdot about the same subject.

+28  A: 

My first programming job, I had to work in the garage of my employer. Through the winter with only a tiny little electric fan heater - the garage was not insulated. Eventually I got the flu and I had to take 4 weeks off work. When I came back they moved me into the lounge with the other programmers.

rite of passage? you are not a programmer until you have suffered.
+1 for the ending :D
Tor Valamo
+246  A: 

Interruptions. Those are the mind killer. Programming requires concentration and juggling facts and threads together as you carefully braid them into logic.

Hot weather sucks. Old computers suck. Buggy compilers suck. Stupid bosses and ignorant clients suck. Demanding schedules suck.

But none of those is a killer like constant interruptions. If you can't concentrate, nothing will get done even under otherwise ideal situations.

Absolutely! Which is why I'm updating my resume these days to start looking for a more professional environment.
Interruptions for certain. For that very reason I can accomplish so much more at home using VPN than I can in my office.
Some Canuck
Agree absolutely, nothing breaks concentration than constant interruptions.
+100 for me too...
+1000 if I could :)
+10 000, top that one!
Lars Mæhlum
+1, I left a previous job for the continuous interruption (mostly why the work wasn't finished yet...)
Don't forget Kent Beck saying "Don't interrupt an interruption."
+1 for the Dune reference.
Doug McClean
+1. try { work(); } catch(InterruptedException e) { burnOut(); }
I was the dev manager for a software house years ago, and the way to get around this (which we all agreed to) , was too put a small chain on the back of the chair. More of a symbol that anything else, if the chain was present, no interruptions were to be made until the end of the hour. Worked really well.
+28  A: 

My ex boss had a rich father and came from a business family background. He had done an MBA in marketing. Like many other wannabe technology guys, he knew nothing about technology so he tried to apply his MBA brain to programmers (UNSUCCESSFULLY).

Can you imagine, as coders, we were expected to wear ties and write code (and in Mumbai, India temperatures during the day can cross 35 degree Celcius.)

To request a technical book from our library, we had to email 3 people and there was a 3 tier approval system. You were not supposed to take the book home. Even to request for a pen, we had to email 3 guys, and my ex boss was busy approving pen requests (which cost about 0.1 USD per piece here.)

I think considering our salaries, he spent a lot more approving 0.1 USD pen requests over email than to actually distribute 100s of such pens free ;-)

i stay in Mumbai too. But this experience was from Nagpur from where i returned 3 days ago. Believe me Mumbai is bearable.
Saurabh Sawant
the heat might be bearable - but for programmers - POINTY BOSSES NO WAY BEARABLE ;-)
lol, I am glad the pointy haired boss knows no cultural boundaries?
Jeff Atwood
@jeff - lol! do such jokers exist in the US too?
I guess your boss is so incompetent, they need pen requests to make them appear important, look busy, and justify their pay.
Jon Limjap
Raj, I think the US *created* the PHBs.
Paul Nathan
The "Pointy-Haired Boss" meme may be of US origin, but I'm confident that incompetent/myopic leadership is as old as the human race.
A. Levy
Why do programmers need to wear look good for the computer...
i thought you said he is from a business family background ?
@Daud. Why, suits and ties enable one to code more professional, enterprise-level solutions ;)
+13  A: 

I was once told I couldn't use lambdas in any code. Didn't last long, but still...

That's because lambdas are the Forbidden Code! Oh no wait, that's the lambada..
Jeff Atwood
One, two, three. PUSH. One, two, three. POP. One, two, three. EXIT.
That's Lamaze, voyager.
@Jeff - Well Played Sir, Well Played
What an awesome triptych of comments those first three were!
+55  A: 

During Christmas my employer likes to play music over the company loudspeaker. There are about 50 songs and it goes on for a month. It goes on at my desk, in conference rooms, and in the cafeteria. It is enough to make you a homicidal grinch.

Heh, my boss plays music in the office everyday. This usually fits into 2 categories: demo CDs from bands looking to be signed, or just music he likes (Led Zepplin, X, Black Flag, etc.). When it's the latter, it's great; not so much with the demos...
Being force-fed christmas music like that (or any crappy commercial radio station for that matter) is probably forbidden by the Geneva convention... or should be anyway :P
♫ Have a holly jolly Christmas... ♪
Michael Myers
I work in a place that does this every day. Not Christmas music; just music. Mostly modern rock (in some cases excessively modern). And quite a bit louder than barely-there. I just want to turn the music off or move to a different area, but they say no to both. These are possibly the stupidest conditions I've ever worked under.
Um, that's standard fare for the whole retail store industry.
Sure, but we're not working in a retail store, are we now?
@Kyralessa: I worked in an office that had a PA speaker over my cubicle that consistently destroyed my concentration, even when I used headphones. After a couple of weeks of asking for it to be turned off/down, I showed up in the Facilities manager office with a pair of wire cutters and asked if he has a ladder. They turned the speaker off that day and moved it later that weekday. :)
Bruce McGee
How can anyone sane _not_ like Christmas music? Must be some bad version, listen to Frank Sinatra's versions.
+166  A: 

So, I worked for this guy who was obsessed with hackers (crackers, actually, but he didn't know the difference). I had to configure him a linux machine to serve webpages, while he was looking together with me at the screen, isolated from the net. And note that isolate from the net I am not only referring to the internet network. Also from the electrical network.

He thought that hackers could enter also through the electrical network, so he had a gasoline power generator, and the machine was connected to it. After a while the generator shut down, and so the machine (in the middle of downloading updates), and he claimed that some hacker was sending a signal through the net (I was connected to internet) to turn off the generator.

The generator was out of oil.

Sadly, this is a true story.

Stefano Borini
That guy has watched too much of the Terminator series
Jon Limjap
Wokka wokka wokka. *shakes head*
Paul Nathan
I've heard of a device that can network PC's through the power cables in the walls. Not sure how well it worked or if it even worked.
"in the middle of downloading updates" from where?
@zildjon01 They're called "powerline ethernet" devices and are commonly available.
Barry Brown
@unknown: it was a caldera linux, we are talking about a loong way back in time. I don't remember if they had an automatic package manager, but I remember it was rpm based.
Stefano Borini
He's off his meds.
Winner winner chicken dinner.
Ted Dziuba
rofl @ hackers entering through the electrical network... Did the guy study anything in college?
Eduardo León
I don't know, he might have something there, little black helicopter network packets lurking on the power grid
You need to send this one into thedailywtf
Mike Akers
Also, was your old boss named William Adama?
Mike Akers
OMG !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Andrei Rinea
So wrong, everybody coder knows, hackers invade your fingers and let you type all kind of errors and bugs.
the worst part is when they think they know more than you do !
There was still a security hole: The hackers can hack the gas so they can enter through the generator!
Artur Soler
True story, someone fired their developer (small place, there was only one) and heard that there was such a concept as dialing in remotely. He didn't just disconnect the network cables and phone lines from their jacks, he went cutting every one he could find.
Crackers, shmackers. Everyone knows that Bill Gates is reading your email through your electrical outlet.
+1 for the BSG reference!
just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they are not after you ...
well, there was recently this finding that RSA encryption could potentially be cracked by very carefully disrupting a power supply:
Ken Liu
another +1 for BSG ref, hilarious!
+2  A: 

Well, I hope I won't offend too many peruvians, and I actually like the flute music a lot, but hearing a peruvian flute band playing the same songs over and over and over again behind the office window got me a bit miffed.

The kind of miffed where you want to bite a keyboard in half and use your mouse as a morningstar.

Internet Friend
Ab ex-gf of mine worked retail and one Christmas there was a stall outside her shop that had a singing Santa statue that played the same set of tunes almost 24/7. It didn't take long for them to start fantasizing asa to how the Santa should die.
Peter M
That sounds awful, but at least it kept the giant guinea pigs away
Tim Whitcomb
you were in the Time Life building, weren't you?
+82  A: 

many years ago I worked for a smallish engineering company who were - to say the least - a bit short of office space. Consequently we had to work in the cellar which we shared with the assembly line.

Unfortunately we still didn't have enough room for all the desks so mine had to go in the goods lift. So, noisy, no natural light, hot, stuffy and to cap it all I had to shut down and unplug my computer every time somebody wanted to use the lift.

are you kidding me??
No - not kidding, and - what's more - it was the best job I've had in 30 odd years in the industry. The interruptions weren't too bad as the lift was only used a couple of times a day - what was worse was the noise - we were designing/building/testing mixing desks for recording studios.
Hmmmm. Seems to me a 100 foot extension cord and a few minutes with a roll of tape would have been in order (most elevators already have a bundle of wires running to them, adding a few more shouldn't be hard if you know who to ask).
+44  A: 

Big Java Project and Notepad to code with. And horrible RAM on the machine. Restricted browsing.

You had me at Java
Scott Whitlock
That sounds like any programming setup circa 1995. What's the big deal?
Barry Brown
notepad only is inhumane!
Jeff Atwood
yea really, you couldn't download an emacs of some kind? or even a vi?
@Barry - Happened in 2005 :)@Jottos - I was using vi remotely telnetted ... the bad bandwith had its own share of problems
haha, same experience here, only it was Notepad++ and C#.
Kevin Tighe
@Kevin: Notepad++ at least has syntax highlighting and a few other amenities. That one could be barely tollerable.
Joachim Sauer
Notepad not humane, ever heard of edlin?
i can't even create a C program with notepad !!
Looxury! You should try using edlin...
Mark Bannister
How about "type >"? Try programming without mistakes!
+3  A: 

Like Arno, I'd have to say that the worst working conditions for me are ones with lots of interruptions. Unfortunately this is the case at my current job. During the working day my productivity peaks from 9am to 1:30pm (after that I get sleepy and struggle to stay awake) and the rest of my office is very chatty in the mornings. It's very hard to get back on track when your morning was spent fending off chatty co-workers.

Edit: I forgot the infernal PAGING system! The whole office does not need to know when one person is looking for another!

Paging systems are the pits. I can't understand their use in a non-manufacturing (meaning heavy machinery) environment.
Peter K.
Ugh paging. I work in a hospital and they're everywhere. I'll be in the can and suddenly the entire room explodes with the sound of a request for a patient..
Some Canuck
+83  A: 

In 1994 using a small wooden crate for a chair in an unheated control room in a steel mill in Siberia while winter approached, and installing technology that was out of the late '70's.

And in the centre of town (Magnitogorsk) was a digital display that showed the time,temperature and current radiation count.

On the other hand is was about the best contract I have ever worked under. 6 months of no overtime, the locals were genuinely friendly and learnt to appreciate good vodka.

Peter M
Sounds like quite a learning experience ;-)
Joachim Sauer
+1 for radiation count
Good Lord! Now that's an experience!
Ian Devlin
+1 for radiation? +10 for good vodka! haha
+1 for really, really hostile working conditions
+31  A: 

At a data warehousing consultancy gig with a major British retailer (who has recently gone bust, I am pleased to say) my "desk" was the top of the office laser printer. Both the client and my employer seemed suprised when I resigned.

Another bad one, though not involving me writing code, was teaching a bunch of guys C++ out in the New Forest (a national park in the south of the UK). The site was surrounded by trees and in each tree was a hornets nest. The weather was boiling hot so we had to have the windows wide open, and the hornets came through in droves. I'm mildly phobic regarding wasps (and as it turns out, hornets - I don't mind bees) and standing in front of a class of eager would be C++ programmers while a swarm of stinging insects hovered around me tested my cool not a bit.

On the same gig, I told the trainees to investigate what happens when C++ runs out of memory, by allocating some gigamtic arrays. What I did't know was that the UNIX box we were using was actually a production server (don't ask) and the admins had removed all per-user memory limits (don't ask). So the box immediately froze solid & many shouty people converged on the training room...

Well, would you have preferred it been the _bottom_ of the office laser printer?
hhhh i won't ask !
Don't they have air conditioning in Britain?
Gregory Higley
+1 for the "shouty people convergence"
+1 for being able to distinguish a hornet from a wasp, since someone already took the shouty people upvote :)
Actually hornets aren't half as bad as wasps and are actually actively killing wasps. (Well, that is, if you subscribe to the European specification of these terms anyway.) They are way less aggressive. At a friend's cottage I once got warned that there's a hornet's nest under the seesaw. May raised eyebrow made him tell the story of that visiting child who didn't know about the nest and tried to use the seesaw. According to him, the hornets came up somewhat angry, the child ran, and the hornets just left the child alone. If try this with a nest of wasps, you might not survive.
However, I can understand that fear of hornets needn't be rational.
+5  A: 

Last year when I began a paid project for a university my new colleagues and I didn't have any room to work at first. So we started in one of the computer labs (which did provide Sun Solaris thinclients, our "development machines").

At first we tried to run our development environment on the big computer which stood in the cellar, connecting via Xserver tunneling. Although (as the admins said) we should have "immense" power and RAM, I felt like working RemoteDesktop with 64k.

So, the others and I switched to our laptops. Since none of us was rich (and we all enjoy working on a desktop PC) my laptop had 512MB of RAM, an Athlon 1800+. Itt had to run Eclipse, a jBoss AppServer, a MySQL DB, and of course an OS: Code-completion took an amazing 12seconds and froze my OS always. Pressing Ctrl+S took an amazing 30s.

However, we got to use the universities CVS (we had to wait 2 days to get our accounts) - I rather expected that we would have to do manual SCM (with USB Sticks).

Then one day we got called up by the university's administrator who was furious that we were running Server applications (our dev-jBosses of course) within the universities network - so we had to take ourselves offline.

After a month or so we got our own room, our own quad-core desktop PCs with 4GB of RAM. We then succeeded in crashing the university's CVS server (by adding a 1.2GB file into versioning by accient), which then led to ordering another desktop for Server purposes.

Now everything works fine - but summer is coming again and we are on the sun-side. Let's see how the cooling will work out.

I hope to never get into that situation again.

Marcel J.
+2  A: 

Working in a cube adjacent to a customer support group. Constant interruptions and ridiculous noise levels. It's a wonder I got anything done.

+98  A: 

With my boss lurking behind my shoulder, watching exactly what I'm writing.
You'd think this is like pair-programming but it really isn't when you're expected to one-sidedly explain everything you're doing on the fly.

Also, occasionally he would just drop by, giving me a surprise back-rub (I'm male, so is he, married) and THEN lurk behind me, watching what I'm doing.
That was the closest I got to being sexually assaulted in the work place.

that's one thing you never expect as a programmer -- the surprise back rub. (shudder)
Jeff Atwood
Did you work for GWBush?
...and then this one summer, at band camp... Ick.That would get you punched at a few places I've worked.
Just like telling someone they have a case of the Mondays might get your ass kicked at one of those places.
Unfortunately this was in one of those places where punching someone is most likely to get you court marshalled.
You're wondering why you get a back-rub? Look at a mirror!
Nikolai Ruhe
Seriously, this is the worst.
Doug McClean
Now that's creepy!
Ian Devlin
Would his uninvited back rubs be any more appropriate if one of you were not male? 9_9
@eyelidlessness - appropriate, no. Welcome? Perhaps yes.
Except that you have to do it the first time, a "reflexive" elbow strike followed by a "Oh! Sorry! Reflex, sir." should solve the back-rub problem and *might* even allow you to avoid a court marshal (if you can keep a straight face and have spent exactly the right amount of time working on your unarmed combat skills).
Sadly, you can actually steal data using just power outlets(albeit in a relatively theoretical attack):
Nothing wrong with a good backrub! :)
LOL My programming teacher in high school used to do this to my friends.
+22  A: 

Working for a consultancy firm....implementing sharepoint

I feel ya. Sharepoint drove me straight out of using Wintel, probably forever. There are a lot of Sharepoint lovers here at SO though, and they downvote like crazy.
Yep, especially if there's no good story.
Alex Angas
It is not about working CONDITIONS
Jakub Narębski

Ok, at home, my parents and my sisters are really kind and they don't do noise. Also my mother understand that I need some concentration when i'm on computer, although she don't know what the benefits of 'sitting for long hours in front of a screen with much gadgets and text!!'

The worst time is at school, when my friends (tech-savvy people) ask me for questions in a very noisy way that I loose concentration. So I agree with most of you about concentration, we can class it then

  • Concentration
  • Computer bugs and speed
  • Screen (if u sit for long hours)
  • Mouse and Keyboard (especially for those cheap laser mouses!!!)
  • Computer noise (if it's an old dirty one)
  • your girl friend (if u got one!!!)

Those are all factors that can affect your programming or whatever you are doing if it's mind related, like Math or Physic calculations

Omar Abid
+14  A: 

I recall a test flight for data acquisition software where, while on the aircraft, I was looking for the cause and workaround of a bug that didn't manifest itself in the simulator so we didn't have to land to save on fuel - which meant I had to find a workaround in less than 10 minutes - with high turbulence, sharp turns, and a weak stomach :(

And did you succeed?
Yes, I did, we didn't have to land, thank goodness. The problem was due to a shift in (rf) frequency from the ground station above and beyond doppler that wasn't being accounted for. Work around was to "relock" manually.

Mine is a cool one:

I have my home ADSL connected to the Internet, and from college I ssh'ed to the machine twice: one for running dosemu to write x86 code, and the second one to edit the code via Vim.

That was cool :)

+24  A: 

I once had a contract embedded development position where I worked at a steel desk on a factory floor.

This factory was in the mid-western U.S. and the facility manufactured enormous earth-moving and excavating equipment. There aren't too many players, and they're all pretty close to each other, I'm sure most of you can narrow down the list of suspects.

The company was trying to add intelligence to their $300K+ machines (this was 12-13 years ago) so they had some pretty cool embedded processor work to do.

Anyway, between the diesel fumes, the noise of huge diesel engines being fired up, manufacturing noise, and the fact that I was literally looking through impact resistant safety glasses at my monitor for 8 hours a day (required since we were on the factory floor -- if you were ever caught w/o eye protection, it could be grounds for dismissal.)

Anyway the job paid well, it was marginally interesting, and at least I didn't lose any limbs (although the first summer I was there, a union worker lost a hand about 30 meters away from my desk, I could describe some things but this is a family show....)

Like someone else said above, somewhat sadly, this is a true story....

"I was literally looking through impact resistant safety glasses at my monitor" -- Wow, then you could even read thedailywtf in perfect safety.
Windows programmer
+6  A: 

I had a manager who yelled at me in front of everybody 3 times in the first 3 weeks; the third time I just packed my stuff up and walked out. He was pissed off because I had not read an Ajax book over the weekend in my free time. However, during the previous week or two, instead of reading a Python book on company time as they were suggesting, I asked for a bona fide project to work on, using the book as a reference, and I finished it, so I'd already saved them time during regular business hours. I think the problem with the manager was he was a "strong" personality, and so am I, but I noticed his team was primarily comprised of people with reserved personalities.

George Jempty
Someone who yells at you in front of everybody is not someone with a strong personality - they're someone who doesn't know how to behave like a human being. There's a technical term for it in the DSMIII - "a**hole". Good for you for walking out.And for "reserved" I read "cowed", "fearful", or maybe just can't afford to lose the job.
Steve B.
+22  A: 

This chair is as uncomfortable as it looks (I had chronic leg pain that went away once I got a better chair), yet more comfortable than the rest of the chairs at one of the places I worked at. My boss had an Aeron though.

Oh, also, I had to implement Sharepoint.

Doesn't look THAT bad!
I was thinking 'luxury' until you mentioned Sharepoint. *Shudders*
I think that was my old chair . . .
Skid marks ftw.
+2  A: 

I remember having to work in a big room: a"loft" as they call these big flats with no separate rooms. There were about 20 wooden desktops there, spread across the big room. Marketing, Sales, Programmers, Bosses all there. It was the "Bubble" era. Cool places… or maybe not.

You can imagine how hard was to concentrate in that place. All of a sudden, the air conditioning broke.

Temp 40ºC.


Bad chairs.

More Noise.

Phones ringing.

The computers were "ok" for the time (Windows 2000), this was 2001. Kind of a programming odyssey…

I got fired for complaining about all that every day.


Never been happier.

Oh, and it was ASP 2.0 (not .net) with VBScript!

Martín Marconcini
Good for you +1
+9  A: 

A restaurant moved in on the other side of the paper-thin wall separating my office from their half of the building.

  1. Thumping subwoofer bass.
  2. The overwhelming smell of bacon grease.
  3. Workers loudly talking about the intricacies of carrying heavy boxes and running the vacuum properly; their vocabulary consists entirely of profanities.
  4. The occasional (i.e. constant) clanging or shattering plate or glass just to keep me on my toes.
  5. Oh and a few dozen babbling, hungry customers.

The music is what kills me though. You can't drown it out and can't ignore it. 50% of my productivity is gone right there. Another 25% once the headache kicks in.

Brian Carper

New year eve, night out in office, alone, coffee machine not working, no single restaurant willing to deliver dinner.....fixing someone's code on a machine that had no necessary tools, no admin rights to install one ....I thought I am an e-slave!!!

+6  A: 

Has to be right now. Someone his working with a pneumatic drill on the other side of the wall. I'm getting an headache and the wall is shaking. It's driving me nuts.

Eric Hogue

What are "great" working conditions? My software (LabVIEW) is used extensively in R&D, industry and manufacturing, and the working conditions are infrequently condusive to getting in the "zone". I've only had two jobs that could have been pleasant. One was working in one huge room with a couple of dozen developers who liked to throw things, have tickle parties (or at least that's what it sounded like) and stand around in groups taling by my cube - my cube was next to the boss's. The other was in another big room sitting next to one guy who slurped his lunch and another who sucked flem up so hard it sounded like he was trying to bring it up from his toes. I've only had a private office once - and that is where I was the most productive.

+36  A: 

Annoying boss, irritating background music? I have you guys/gals beat hands down. My company makes a sensor that uses lasers to shoot across power plant boilers and measures the chemical composition inside. One day I discovered a bug in the LabView code that we used to align the laser. I had to fix it there on the steel grating floor 200 ft above the ground in 120 degree, asbestos riddled air. Not to mention how annoying it is to edit LabView with a track pad and small laptop monitor.


I forgot to mention the deafening sound generated by those power plants only broken by the occasional high pitched 1950's era buzzer that signifies some unknown danger.

Atilio Jobson
Agreed, almost everyone here is a sad little whiner. Wah, I'm not in the zone because you interrupted me...might as well need their diapers changed. If there's no risk of death if you slip while you're coding, it doesn't quality as bad on my scale--I used to debug and fix kernel code from the top of a roof ladder. You and the guy who coded under mortar fire get my only votes.
Greg Smith
You'd think something like that would provide better maintenance access.
Adam Luchjenbroers
Adam, The access is easy, an elevator and hallway, the problem is that the entire power plant is a post-apocalyptic hellhole, with human existence as a tertiary concern at best. When you consider the temperatures and energies involved in a large scale power plant, you quickly realize that insulating it enough to be comfortable would cost millions, and would cause extra problems when systems need to be accessed. so people who work there just need to tough it out basically.
Atilio Jobson
epic, epic, epic. You are right up there with the military guy coding in battle.
Paul Nathan

My wife once had a job with a sporting goods company. It had some interesting features.

The boss was one of three brothers, and he'd been chosen to do the accounting and such, despite not actually wanting to do it, so he paid little attention. He kept the computer and software manuals in his office, which was frequently locked.

The person who set the system up was a nice guy, technically competent, but lacking real-world experience. He set the system up with as much high-tech stuff as he could (including a main system with an Intel 80186 - this was some time ago), and left to go to school somewhere a thousand miles away or more, with no way of contacting him.

This included setting up the big 40M disk on the main computer. Now, in those days, MS-DOS couldn't handle a disk larger than 32M, so he partitioned it into two, using software he had available, and didn't include as part of the package he left behind.

Therefore, when the disk drive caught fire, with flames coming out of it (probably from filings or metallic dust from the skate-sharpening machine in the next room), nobody knew how to restore the system.

They floundered around for a bit, but my wife wound up leaving, so I never did find out what they did to get going again.

David Thornley
+61  A: 

I once worked on a team with Jon Skeet. Try impressing your boss with him as your competition!

Mike Akers
Nobody said life is fair.
Couldn't have been that bad, he was probably answering SO questions all day.
lol @Ryan Eccles
Mike Akers
While it certainly is a funny joke, I feel this requires attribution. Can Jon Skeet come and confirm this? ;)
+2  A: 

I worked at a place that basically worked everyone to death. I had MANDITORY coding meetings shceduled at 7pm, and you had to show up at 8am sharp or else you got a call! WTF?! Stayed there 3 months before I said SeeYa! Suprised I stayed that long, would of been two months but they asked for 3 weeks of notice, I am too generous.

Al Katawazi
+3  A: 

We had a single development server (Win2003 which allows 2 connections), a VPN with 3 users and 5 developers. Three of us would literally stare at the wall while two developers were on the machine. We were developing SharePoint on a Virtual Machine with 2 GB RAM. Once on the machine iisreset would come frequently, so development was impossibly slow. The other developers were fond of overwriting config files, or back/restore iis so I had to make the same changes over and over, sometimes during the same coding session. Not all bad... I contributed to many open source projects during this time and was paid for it :)

+1  A: 

there are two situations that i consider the worst i ever have

Once i have to code in a room in the subterrain parking lot of a corporative bank , with no ventilation, no windows , no water , no cellphone or radio signal , no music and no aconditioned air, literally my boss in that moment just left us there (yes there code more people in the room) with pizza, cola drinks , coffee at 7:00 am and pick us off there at 1:00 or 2:00 am on next day

The other is more like the actual condition where my place is near to the security officer that is the more annoying person in the world is like you are working in a freaking mall full of yields and low categorie music

other condition that puts pressure on my but was fun is try to code with my 8 months son at my side as i cant write a single line im not consider it as "coding situation"

+39  A: 

I work for a little startup company in Baltimore developing a wireless medical device for which I write firmware. The details of the technology are not important.

About a year ago my boss decided that the two of us should go to a medical technology conference in Boston where we will show off our device to anyone interested. The conference was on Saturday and Sunday. Our plan was to leave after work on Friday so that we could be in Boston when the conference started Saturday morning.

Come that Friday our device was not yet ready to be demoed at the conference, so we spent all Friday trying to get the device working, but to no avail. Eventually we had to leave for Boston, figuring that we would work on it on our way there.

At this time I was new to the company and did not yet understand my boss's fiscal stinginess, so I assumed we would be taking nice, comfortable Amtrak. Little did I know. As it turns out we would be taking the bus. Not a big deal, right? Well, as it turns out it was the $15 Chinatown bus (not exactly the epitome of comfort) from Baltimore to New York and then again from New York to Boston. And it was leaving Baltimore at 10:30 in the evening, and the total trip time to Boston was something like nine hours. Yuck.

So we get to the bus depot in Baltimore at maybe 10:00 and wait for the bus. At 10:30, no bus. At 10:45, no bus. At 11:15, no bus. Eventually we talked to someone who told us that the bus came at 12:30, not 10:30 as my boss had thought. So we went over to the McDonalds nearby to get a bite to eat and wait for 12:30 to roll around.

(At the McDonalds we met a couple of deaf college kids who were apparently on their way home from college and had NO IDEA where they were and were trying to get in touch with their parents. This was all communicated via my boss's laptop, and my boss was kind enough to let them use her Sprint wi-fi card to email their parents, who soon came and picked them up. Happy ending!)

Anyway, 12:30 rolls around and the bus does actually show up. So we get on and begin our journey to New York! Now, I don't know about you, but I CANNOT SLEEP IN MOVING VEHICLES. Not cars, not airplanes, not busses. So I worked for a couple hours trying to get our device working until my laptop's battery died, after which I tried desperately to sleep, but to no avail.

Finally we reach Chinatown in New York -- first half of our trip is over! Yay! Both my boss and I are extremely hungry and, more importantly, need a place to plug in our laptops so we can continue working. But the only place in Chinatown that was open at 4:00 in the morning was this extremely sketchy hole-in-the-wall Chinese ethnic food place that had clearly not been cleaned in a while. And this was no Americanized Chinese restaurant -- this was a place even my very open-minded Chinese-American boss was revolted by. It's not like we had a choice though, so we went in, plugged our computers in, ordered a couple bowls of what might have been soup, and started working on our device again. At 4:00 in the morning, with no sleep. It was in this little hole-in-the-wall eatery that we finally got our device working well enough that it could be demoed at the conference.

Eventually 6:30 rolls around and we get on the bus to Boston. The rest of the trip to Boston is uneventful -- either that or I have blocked out the memory of something incredibly aweful. I still couldn't sleep a wink.

So we get to the conference in Boston. There, the first thing we do is show our device to a small group of people who go, "Ooh, that's cool! But you shouldn't show it to anyone here because they will steal your ideas." So yeah, our whole reason for going to the conference in the first place was pretty much moot.

Walt D
+1 for the Chinatown bus from Baltimore. Good times, just gotta throw some elbows.
Mike Robinson
sounds like you had fun !
If the New York to Boston bus was Fung Wah, you're lucky you made it there in one piece! They have hit toll booths and rolled over a few times!!
+3  A: 

I showed up for work at my new defense contracting assignment at a gov't facility and was shown to a desk in the hallway with a computer on it. There was a TV not 10 feet away from me. People would constantly unmute it to watch whatever FOX News was blathering about at the moment, then walk away without muting it again.

There was a big double door that was the entrance to our space not 20 feet away from me that crashed shut every time someone left or came in, which was about every five minutes.

Top it all off with my computer being on a classified LAN which meant I had to go to a different part of the installation every time I needed to access the public internet or Google something. Not the most constructive working environment, no iPods or music or anything to help mute the distractions. I think I lasted about a month.

Ah, government work. Seems that they spend all their budget on salaries and nothing on nice equipment and office spaces.
+6  A: 

Man, where are you guys finding these jobs? I've never had a coding gig that didn't give me a decent pc, a desk/chair/phone, e-mail and internet access, all the coffee I can drink and plenty of goof-off time. I have no diploma or degree in Computer Science either, just work experience.

I think you need to be a little more selective, I've probably turned down more jobs than I've been turned down for.

John Lowe
This question is pretty good evidence why being cautious which jobs you accept isn't being fussy.
Adam Luchjenbroers
+3  A: 

I once worked in the middle of a major city in the Southeast US during a summer at this place I could only describe as a coding chop-shop. My boss lived and worked 2 states away and was extremely difficult to get ahold of and hard to get specs out of.

In addition the heat was around 98 degrees F (~37 C), with humidity often in the 70-80% range. We didn't have an air-conditioned office, I had a spot in the front room of an old Victorian style house.

My desk was a rickety wooden table (if you bumped it one of the legs would collapse) and I sat in one of those cheap fabric office chairs that looked like someone had eaten a chunk out of the foam armrests.

Since it was an old house it wasn't sealed well and mosquitoes constantly came in through the windows and door cracks and bit me the entire time I was trying to work. We had to park on the street of this residential neighborhood and I came out one day to find my car covered with ants (inside and out).

Every morning and evening I had about an hour long commute in heavy traffic and at the time I was driving a small stick-shift car with no A/C.

On top of all that I was working in ASP.NET 1.0 (VB of course) and often had to do things like write code and debug via a remote session during Netmeeting sessions with the client watching everything I typed on some big projector in their office. This would regularly occur every couple of weeks as we rolled out a new "version" to the client.

To add insult to injury they eventually gave me a bad review and fired me because while they told me I wrote high quality code, they were more "productivity-oriented" and needed someone who would just vomit out code without worrying about readability or reuse.

"vomit out code"?! =)))
Andrei Rinea
+4  A: 

I had a job working for this company Initech, my boss hooked up with my girlfriend while I was coding on my mac, his name was Lumbergh. My only red stapler that I liked he took it away and then moved me to the basement with a single desk. Then some dude tried to sell me a jump to conclusions map. I didn't get any cake either for a birthday party hosted at work. Anyway, long story short, I found a check in my bosses office and moved to the islands after a significant event happened at work.

Is no-one getting the 'Office space' reference? I found it funny.
*Office Space.* Heh.
+95  A: 

While working for a government facility, my group was tasked with deploying an instance of some stuff we had written for use inside a secured machine room. No problem. Except I didn't have the appropriate clearance to be in the same room that the software was. There was no communication in or out of the machine room. And of course, the software didn't work straight away.

So I spent the better part of two days standing in the hallway, devising tests, and having someone with the appropriate clearance (but no coding ability) take them inside, run them, go to an unsecured phone a great distance away from the actual machine, and tell me the results. Since there was no phone near the machine, reading directly from the screen was out of the question, and he, of course, couldn't bring so much as a Post-It back out of the room. After several hours pacing up and down the hallway, phone burning my ear while listening to the result of the latest "SELECT COUNT(*) FROM whatever" or "tracert", it started feeling rather like I was a flight controller on Apollo, trying to diagnose a system I couldn't touch. Except this mission was WAY more boring.

Now that's what I call remote debugging. Got it working, though. They never used it.

Ha, awesome anecdote, this really made me laugh for some reason.
"They never used it!"
@Manoj: That's usually the case... all that work, and you get shafted by getting your project canned.
Chris Kaminski
i wich i could vote you a 1000 times !! seriously i would quite in the first day !!
That sounds like a pretty textbook instance of "need to know". Incompetent program office, too?
+1 for Remote Debugging :)
welcome to the military :-)
Well, as long as you did a good job and got paid, it's not a total bust.
Principle of least privilege, you're doing it wrong. Couldn't you have just got him to install SSH?
+15  A: 

I got my first job at age fourteen. FoxPro. Nine years later, I was doing the same job. FoxPro. Twenty-three years old. New Orleans.

Boldness and rashness are much the same thing to a young man. One Christmas I decided to drop everything and move to New York. I had a friend who was moving to Philly, and he had room for one more box. I left my computer and brought my forty-pound Underwood typewriter.

I was constantly broke.

My good friend back home, who had co-founded a startup, offered me some work in ASP.NET. All I needed was a workstation.

My dad shipped me my old IBM, which promptly broke. So I got a laptop on credit. But I had no internet. So I started walking from Williamsburg to an internet cafe in Manhattan. After a while, they told me, dude, you can't just be here all day every day. I left and never showed my face there again.

My roommate had the solution. He had just graduated from Stern (so he was way more broke than I was), and he said that I could use his account in the computer lab. All I had to do was look like a six-foot-five, bald Uruguayan.

It worked! And I didn't mind the walk.

But every day I dreaded going by the security guard with Mario's ID, descending two floors underground and hoping to find a terminal, only so that I could work on a completely unfamiliar stack, where I couldn't ask anyone for help because I wasn't supposed to be there.

+1 because I used to work in those computer labs, and man they stunk
matt b shaved your head?

Probably the worst productivity-wise was the time I had a cubicle with my back to a very high-traffic hall. Behind the hall was not more cubicles, but rather the company machine shop. It sounded exactly like Godzilla was rampaging back there all day. And of course this company also had the paging system, so that I could be interrupted whenever any one of my 500+ co-workers wanted to talk to another one.

I had one other place where my cubicle was so small I used to go sit and read in the handicapped stall in the bathroom. Thanks to government regulation, it was way bigger than my cube.

I did interview for one other job that had even higher sucky-ness potential though. The main issue was that the work site was at a secret facility somewhere out in the Nevada desert (Top Secret clearance required). No outside contact with your family or anyone while you are there. There was one flight a day out to this place, on a plane with the windows blacked out so you can't see where they are taking you. If you miss the flight, no work for you that day. If you miss the flight back, well...don't miss the flight back.


I used to work at a place where the boss used to heap lavish praises on people staying late or for putting very long hours even if there was no real work to do in office. It was not uncommon to see people snoring loudly sitting in front of their computers, which would have been OK if you did not have to share your cubicle with many others.

+3  A: 

I used to work for a small company, in a small desk, doing hardware assistance for ugly old and young womans with no computer knowledge at all, some pretending to know computer stuff but using the CAPS key to hit just one capital letter. They eventually discovered I'm also a fairly good programmer, and assigned me a complicated task, which I had to bring it on my own, with no outside help, on that small desk, with continue interruptions for trivial things, disco music in the room, no UPS, frequent power loss and related work loss, no versioning system, undocumented proprietary API, no time for proper testing and another person occasionally peeking the code, doing undocumented charges, and letting me again alone to live with that.

+28  A: 

Worked as a freelance developer for a non-IT company once. My office was shared with 3 women secretaries who fit their stereotype perfectly. Apart from the incessant gossip, nattering, occasional tears due to domestic problems at home, this office was a magnet for all the other women in the office who would come to discuss what happened on yesterday's soap operas, their husbands, boyfriends and of course their newborns. I also had to endure nail filing, nail polishing and women bringing toddlers to work for a day.

Being neither incredibly handsome or rich, I was considered part of the furniture, sometimes less so when I would come to find my chair being used to hold their handbags. Eventually found that the only way of working in the office was to play black metal albums non-stop while coding.

The cherry on the cake was a pointy hair "veteran" MBA manager who was disgusted that I hadn't finished a 3-month project after one week, since (in his own words) "modern programming just lots of point and click".

Arcturus and Emperor FTW
+21  A: 

I work at a hunting-supply website, and there are guys constantly practicing their turkey calls within 20 feet of me.

If you aren't familiar with a turkey-call, Google it, then up vote me. (It's a little devise, not them squealing in a high-pitch voice, although that would also be annoying.)

Youtube Link

+71  A: 

Once wrote a few C# demo apps while mortar rounds were dropping within 100 meters of me.

My job in Fallujah had nothing to do with computers. But I took my lappy with me and coded small apps to keep my skills sharp while deployed and to let off steam while off duty.

Was in a safe concrete building, so I just kept on coding... the rumbling from outside actually acted as a nice white noise.

Believe it or not, being able to lose myself in some code, if only for a few hours a week, gave my mind a much needed distraction.

Neil N
You rock. That is some story.
You beat me too it, I wrote code in Iraq too. Although I never did it while mortars where impacting. It had nothing to do with my job but I did find time to do a little Java Script to keep my mind sharp. All I had was IE and notepad so I couldn't do much more. I wrote a simple arcade game that parodied the role I did in the Army.
@Bernard: ha, that sounds cool. Thankfully I planned ahead and downloaded some SDK's and some tutorials before going over. Not having google while coding was difficult. Especially when trying to do my first DirectX app.
Neil N
Here I was thinking I was the only one. I wanted to be ready for school when I got back so I brought O'Reillys "Learning JavaScript" and my old Pentium III laptop with me to Al Asad. I didn't really learn much, but interviewers love hearing about it in response to "so have you done any projects on your own?"
Graphics Noob
I wonder what it says about programmers that my first thought was "That sounds horrible! I can't *imagine* coding without an internet connection…"
Ben Blank
@Ben Blank, yes not being able to google for examples while coding was definetly a challenge I had't faced since my days of coding on a commodore 64
Neil N
@Bernard: would you mind sharing the game? I think many would be interested :)

I work in the basement of a building. In the room I work in there are four people in a room big enough for two. One of the people is the head banging pc repair tech who likes to talk a lot about things like emulators and "hackers". The rest (including me are computer engineers) of us are usually doing some software related project. The company is only 9 people including the owners wife who interrupts me about 15 times a day by asking "Can I interrupt you" so that I can do her marketing work for her.

I have no server to back stuff up on. There is no schedule, design meetings or anything remotely close to order. The current software project I am working on was written by many many different people over a long period of time with no supervision or collaboration (none of those people are here now). All of the people were masters students and had no training in VC++ coding and GUI software design, very important variables and functions are named: tt ttt k hmix m_pyt

There is no MVC or OOP respect, everything is a free for all. I also get the feeling that if I just rewrote the whole thing it would take me a max of 3 months by myself.That fact is not helping me when I labour over making the smallest changes (the current feature I am adding should have taken 3 days...I am on my third week).

Even if you know what the program was supposed to do you cannot imagine what these people were thinking. It is hopeless. My job is hopeless. This was supposed to be cathartic. :P
Adam Backstrom

I was trying to repair some TV Station software at a station in Toronto, Canada. They put me in the back of a dark studio while they interviewed Meredith Brooks. Her only claim to fame is singing the song "I'm a Bitch."


I wrote a small app on a consulting basis for a law firm once where I was asked to make a few last minute changes on-site when I showed up to deliver the final application. The changes were fairly trivial (about 3-4 hours of work) and they offered me an office to work in so everything seemed kosher, until...

A secretary, one of the end-users of the app I was delivering, wandered into the office and engaged me in a discussion about how she wanted to change careers and become a programmer because we "made so much money" and asked if she could sit next to me and learn to program by watching me. For the entire 4 hours, she looked over my shoulder and would ask for each line of code, "What does that do?" or "How does that work?"

It was a frustrating experience, but I can't complain too much. I was, after all, on getting paid an hourly consulting fee.

+26  A: 

In a bathroom.

The startup a join overflowed their area. They started doubling up, then doubling up at desks in the hall. I had the "luck" of being the one they stuck on one side of a small mens bathroom (single person, no stalls). Piss everywhere, as the toilet was still used when I wasn't physically there to prevent people from coming in, and the devs were slobs. Was there for 6 months - in the winter the heat didn't work (cut down on the smell at least) and in the summer, air didn't really work well (in South Carolina, so damn hot and humid. No ventilation). I finally quit when it got so bad I was gagging at my desk.

That's just... that's... just... that's...
Michael Myers
That's the Fonz's office.
+7  A: 

I was asked to come and talk with the development team. "The guy we're training just isn't getting it, and we're running out of training time. We want you to take over." "How much training time is there?" "There was two weeks, but we're down to twenty minutes." "Oh." They moved us into a rented space across the street when Brad, our lead, refused to put the computers on the same circuit as the arc welders. It was half full of cars. "How come there are cars in our office?" "It used to be an auto body shop. They'll be gone tomorrow." The cars never left, but they were all old '60s and '50s beasts and I liked them. The mechanic's pit was covered with loose sheets of 3/4" plywood and we put our desks on them. Next door to us was a Salvation Army store and we bought all our office supplies there. It was like being in the 1950's - everything was ancient and made of metal. One day I asked Brad what to do, and he said, "Do whatever you want, just get the job done." And suddenly it was one of the best jobs I have ever had.

Sounds a lot like government contracter environments: crappy office spaces, crappy furniture, crappy hardware.
Sounds weird, but pretty cool. :D
+4  A: 

Keyboard. You can have the fastest Computer ever, the best IDE, the perfect work environment, but if you keyboard is faulty, it will get on your nerves.

I was once working on a project, then the keyboard failed to get caps on, sometimes the space bar just didn't work, some keys failed to type the characters, sometimes it typed them twice. That damn keyboard was possesed. Finally, in a rush of anger, I throw the keyboard against the wall, and then destroyed the hell out of it, just like a rockstar destroying a guitar.

Messing with a programmer's keyboard is serious business.

Gerardo Curiel
As an April Fool's Day prank, I swapped two of the keys on one of my co-worker's keyboard. Everyone, including him, thought it was the best prank they'd seen in years.
Ah la Office space?
@Loadmaster: Fails completely if they touch type, in that case, swap the keyboard layout to davlik. Of course, if they use davlik already you have to go out of your way. Buy a german keyboard that looks the same, swap the keys out and then when they try to type 'y' they will get 'z' and vice versa
Grant Peters

"i had to work for 3 months at an island" ... far from civilization, no women, no beer... for little money

So, did you like the game Civilization IV?
+3  A: 

Large company intranet, inherited project, written 100% in client side JavaScript.

And not with jQuery/YUI/EXT libraries and such.

No... This JavaScript was the kind that is optimized for IE5/6, new ActiveXObject() everywhere, written in FrontPage, a set of ten to twenty redone functions on each page.

I swear to god the person who left this for us was the same guy who wrote that kur05hin article I remember laughing at back in the day. Uggh!

+3  A: 

I remember when I had to code in an oil field, near the jungle, in East Sumatra, Indonesia. Far from anywhere, got a dirty toilet. No internet at all. When you get out from that small building in the dusk, there are so many grasshoppers and other insects flying around.

That's not over. Our four wheel drive vehicle must struggle with flood and try to avoid water snake.

Wisnu Widiarta
+1  A: 

On an indoor government shooting range to program the target system, while at the same time remedial training of very bad shots was going on...and my body armor was 50 feet and three locked doors away.

Why couldn't you wear your body armor?
Zan Lynx

I used to work in a small software consulting firm that requires quite a lot of overtime on most of the projects. The building where this office is located turns off the air conditioning during the after hours. That is weekday after 7PM and weekend all day. You can request the AC to be turned on, but that would cost the boss, who has already been trying to squeeze every penny out of the project, $80 per request. And obviously, we would not get it!

Now imagine you have to trace that tricky bug on a Friday night in the summer with the AC turned off and the air in the office is so stiff that your brain is not even functioning normally. Better yet, if you try do anything related to the server stuffs and you have to go into the small server room with two racks of servers running. The noise, the heat and the stress would drive anyone nuts for sure. I am glad that I quit and am able to move on to a much more reasonable company. But when I look back, it is still fascinating how I survived those tough days!

Ryan Liang
+2  A: 

I was not exactly programming, but the worst time & place I have ever used a computer was during my military service (401 AA regiment, in Draguignan, France - it was still compulsory in my time). Our offices were above a courtyard, and on some days, they would get an anti-aircraft radar out, in the middle of the courtyard, and start it (I think it was a Roland system ; we only had 3 types of SAM: Roland, Hawk and Mistral).

The radar was rotating relatively fast, and each time if would be turned into the direction of my desk, it produced the strangest effect I ever seen on a computer: It was making the mouse pointer jump by approximately one inch, up screen, and then back as soon as the radar had turned.

Now, don't ask me why, or how it could happen, or what kind of electronic hardware was upset by the radar, I truly don't know. But their was this weird interaction between Windows 3.1 and the radar. You would try to drag your mouse across the screen and every second or so your pointer would jump up by an inch and back to position.

It made selecting anything on the screen nearly impossible and an horrible, frustrating, nerve-cracking experience: You would keep double clicking on the wrong files, on the wrong Excell cell, on the wrong part of the document you were editing.

We had to ask our Captain to tell them to shut their radar off, because no work was possible, ever.

Thomas Corriol
You just have to get the rhythm right. :)
How about your health!?
Andrei Rinea

This was mine:

I once worked at a place where once I finished anything, I would get 3-5 new work items. This tended to be a little demoralizing as after about a dozen of these, I suddenly have a long list of things to work on and felt like I was drowning in things to do. Never mind that other things would come up and I'd have to stop what I was working on to get this new thing done, whatever it was.

At the same place, I also would have to undo my fixes for some bugs that was more than a little annoying at times. I would fix the bug, which could be as simple as fixing a typo but have to undo the change. sigh

JB King

I have faced a really worst experience you people have never thought about. When I was fresher I joined a small company in India. My Ex-Boss had the same cultural background as me. He used to be nice when he was selected to his team. After that only I came to know his real face. On the first day of work they assigned a project without any training and they informed to me you have to give demo within a week. One more guy as well joined with me. He also got one new project he also need to demo to them within a week. After one week of struggle (more than 14 hours each day work) I was finally ready for the demo.

First was my friend's turn he hadn't finished his module. My boss scold him with local bad words (worse than all bad words in English). You people would never believe that he got beat from my boss. Next is my turn. I was completely nerve but gods grace I escaped with scolding.

The first year I worked in the same environment. My friend had quit after his first demo exp. This is still happening in that company. I don't want to tell the name here.

When I was working over there I used to see tears on any one of my colleagues every day.


Probably the worst situation/conditions I've ever had to code in was when, at a previously company, we released a 'finished' software product to a customer that was about 3 months short of finished. The product was functional but it was far from a polished product. So the situation was our trainer was scheduled to be on-site for 2 weeks for full training of the product, plus conversion of an existing product's data. The trainer would do her job during the day, compile a list of problems and then myself and another developer would work all night to solve that days problems since we couldn't take the system down during the day to make changes. We did that for the full two weeks and pretty much kept the process seamless to the customer who appreciated all the hard work we had put in. If it wasn't for the damned sales person who promised the delivery dates it could of been a much more pleasant process.


During my education I used to work part time for a company that did tech support and web design for small businesses. One client that I had was a chiropractor in need of a new website for his business. Mostly when I had web design jobs, I occasionally meet with the client to discuss things, but then do most of the work from home. This particular client for some reason wanted me to do the work on his desktop computer, in his office. The computer was in a corner of the room, about a foot away from a bookshelf that made the seating situation very uncomfortable (ironic, him being a chiropractor and all). However, the bad seating wasn't even close to being the worst part. While I was working, so was he. That's right. Patients would come in to the office, and he would do treat them while I sat there, typing away. I'm sure you can imagine the back-cracking and moaning sounds I had to put up with... Ick.


Sitting next to two young loan processors. One of the girls was rather cute, but very loud and completely shameless. She had no problem discussing her boyfriend's "shortcomings" and frequency of their "personal time".

While I'm all for it at a bar or restaurant, maybe not restaurant, but trying to write code while hearing about the sex life of a young, hot latina, is brutal.

Warm weather is even worse. Cold weather kinda sucks because I can't seem to type when my fingers are numb.

Slow computers are awful. Especially when you ask for something better and IT laughs at you because you obviously haven't been brought into the company's culture yet.

Jack Marchetti
+3  A: 

Programming on an uncomfortable desk, on a relatively old machine, with 6 people next to, behind and above (!) me, one of them being my boss, all looking at me and giving live commentary on my typing, such as:

  • "What are you going to do with that?"
  • "Dude, that's less than 5 lines in bash.."
  • "A short would be enough."

Taking extreme programming and code audits one step further after combining them, I suppose. Needless to say, I'd rather be outside in the snow with nothing but a leopard dress on than anywhere near that place again.

Other nice features of that "workplace" included particularly weird smells coming from the floor at times (the place was above labs for our university's chem dept.) and constant interruptions from secretaries that invaded the research assistants' offices regularly to totally random people that just happened to visit. Granted, some of them were semi-important people, but were still annoying as hell when you had to get a job done. The air-conditioning...well let's just say I vividly remember the times it worked properly. I also seem to remember a couple handymen trying to repair the roof while some of us were on a 6hr deadline. Oh yeah, our UPSs weren't that uninterruptible either - I seem to recall a few occasions when I happily left the place to go work at home due to power outages.

It wasn't a regular job for me, more like a requirement for my MSc, but still..

Michael Foukarakis
Yeah, it's like trying to play Solitaire with an audience. On the other hand, I can't stop myself from making those comments when I'm watching someone code.
Zan Lynx

had to work within 2-3 metres of someone using a desoldering gun. think vacuumn cleaner with a hot tip. really, really loud.

+65  A: 

I worked on a project at a major bank. They hired a five person team from my company to implement a internal web site to replace a few of the old mainframe apps. When we showed up on site at the temp office they set up for us to use we noticed a few issues:

  1. Only two desks
  2. No chairs
  3. One phone line
  4. One ethernet port. 20 meters down the hall
  5. Floor to ceiling glass. South facing. And no shades or blinders
  6. No door
  7. The pantry for the 50+ people working on the floor was across from us
  8. NO F#&%@ing door

Two desks for five people? One phone? What were they thinking?

We brought laptops. Basic office supplies. A printer. The spoiled prima-donnas that we were, we were expecting to be provided desks and chairs. So we borrowed tables and chairs from the pantry only to have a few of the workers on the floor walk in and demand we put them back. That got us off on the wrong foot and they did nothing to help us. They would even disconnect our one LAN cable a few times a day for no reason. They would leave us stranded in the hallway when our badges didn't work. Walking by ignoring us tapping on the window.

What we found out by the end of the first week was that the people on the floor were the COBOL and RPG app support people. We were going to write a web app to replace the manual support they were providing. We would be making their jobs redundant. Now rather than having someone in accounting have to call the support people to get an export file and mail them an excel file, they could just get those excel files from our app.

They had already blocked two prior attempts.

They wanted to see us fail.

Meeting requests would go unanswered. Requests for database schemas and file formats would be ignored. So we had to make sure to invite a VP or manager to every meeting just to get a lukewarm response.

Two weeks in they installed a lock on our door at our request after we reported a laptop stolen. The office admins on the floor refused to give us a key to our office. We would be locked out a few times a month and have to call security to let us in.

After a month, we found where our desks and chairs were moved too. There was an unused storage room on the other side of the floor. Our neighbors moved everything into that room before we came in. There were desks. And nice chairs. And phones. They would have moved everything but there wasn't enough room.

We had been working on shared desks (battleship style) and a folding table with chairs we borrowed from another floor.

Two months in the other sabotage happened. Glue in the desk locks. Wheels taken off our chairs. Cables cut. We started a policy of taking turns getting in at 7:30am and staying until 8pm to protect the office. When we went out to lunch, someone would stand guard in the office. We set up cheap USB web cams to monitor the hall to catch people screwing with our lan cable. We kept web cams running in our office with a sign warning people that pictures would be sent to corporate security.

We shipped three months late on a 12 month project. We were very happy when we heard 2/3rds of the RPG support staff was let go after we had been live for a month. We chipped in and bought Pizza for the remaining people and ironically thanked them for all the help they gave us.

It's hard to beat malice!
lol @ "battleship style"
Do you work in year 3 or something?
Dominic Bou-Samra
WOW +1 for perseverance!! I would have told them to go take a leap after the first week!
Dave Swersky
+13  A: 

I used to work for a company that was beyond paranoid about protecting its IP and preventing headhunters from reaching its staff :

  • Developers didn't have externally-accessible email accounts.
  • Corollary: developers' business cards didn't have email addresses on them.
  • Developers didn't have direct access to the Internet. In order to access it, one had to connect via Remote Desktop to a "gateway" machine and launch IE in the TS session.
  • Once in IE, one could log into one's hotmail (or other web-based mail) account. This was the company's answer to email for their developers.
  • Also in IE, it was possible to download stuff and then have it copied to a location accessible from their development machine via regular file shares.
  • It was not possible to "upload" stuff from their development machine to the gateway machine (that was the whole point).
  • The gateway machine had a keylogger on it. The company tried to keep its existence a secret, but numerous rumors pointed to its existence.
  • The keylogger's logs were scanned regularly. Anyone accessing a jobs site risked being summarily fired.
  • USB ports and writeable cd and dvd drives were deactivated.
  • The company's source tree was divided in two parts: one had the crown jewels IP-wise; the other, more "regular" development.
  • The "crown-jewel-part" developers were domain experts, but not so good at software development.
  • The better developers worked on "regular-part", but they didn't have access to the "crown-jewel-part" source files.
  • There were circular dependencies between the two parts.
  • No developer could actually build the entire product on his machine. Only the build machine could do that.
  • In order for the build machine to resolve the circular dependencies, part of the previous day's build output was used as input to the current day's build.

Actually, I never realized just how much this place was toxic until I wrote this down ...

Paul Lalonde
I worked there - but the CTO also kept the only copy of the source on a floppy that they carried with them 24x7. They wouldn't carry a cell phone because it can be tracked and treated you like an enemy spy if you asked any questions about the API.
Martin Beckett
I worked for a company where any email with a common programming keyword or library name was scanned and archived with a little note attached. Since if and then were causes of email being logged, just about everything was logged.

After I've written the code, the condition has become worst.

+1  A: 

I've had a CEO enforcing 50 to 80 hour weeks without allowing us time to use any modern best practices. We had a server crash as predicted, and the CEO was standing over my shoulder demanding I explain what I'm doing while fixing code at breakneck speed, while they called me an idiot for letting this happen. Then the CEO called a group meeting for some group-humiliation time.

It was my first full-time job outside of working full-time as a university researcher. I thought that this was typical, and sucked it up for two years. I now suss out "group stress level" as a primary concern in any job interview I do, and suggest that others do the same.

Dean J

In college, I wrote C code for a guy who ran a 2-man company out of his apartment, and he had astoundingly bad body odor. Not run-of-the-mill stinky, but medically-astounding smell that permeated the space like a cloud. Unlike most smells that you can get used to over time, this never got tolerable. I had to breathe through my mouth for the several weeks I worked there, until I could stand it no longer and quit.

Justin Grant

Worst working conditions, hmmm. Well there was the office near the naval airstation where we were in a direct line to the runway and the very loud jets that flew over all the time. It was especially bad when they practiced for the airshow because they got to fly lower! I can remember one time we were working on requirements with our customer who was out of town on a conference call and the jets flew over (this was Sept 2002) and was so loud that the guy on the other end of the phone thought the plane had flown into our building and we were dead. Oh yeah, great to program in those conditions. At a different job we did a temporary stint in a trailer on the flight line. The airplanes were bad enough, but the earthquake was really scary.

At another job, I had a guy sitting 3 feet away from me who spent the entire day talking on his cell phone to his wife. That was bad enough but his voice was so loud that people across the building complained daily. I used to have to tell him to shut up when we got a call on our maintenance help line because I couldn't hear what the problem was. Once a week, the boss would call him in and yell at him about his personal calls (and they were very personal!) and he would come back fuming and immediately call his wife and complain that people were eavesdropping on him. I always figured he had to have blackmail pictures to stay employed.

I suddenly realized how much I love my current cubicle.

+1  A: 

Sitting in a small cubicle in Moscow working on a lawful interception solution with a FSB agent/grunt wearing dark glasses looking over my shoulder for several days. I kid ye not. I don't care about temperature, noise, smell - but people wearing dark glasses looking over my shoulder really irk me.

Apparently this was their equivalent of a code audit...


Pinhead managers.

This does not need any further elucidation.


Once upon a time, I was doing a co-op at an automotive database company. I was given a small desk (more like a nightstand) in the corner of my supervisor's office to do my work from. The door opened towards my "desk" so that any time my supervisor needed to get through, I was squashed against my computer. My supervisor was going through some kind of nasty break-up with his wife at the time, and they were fighting over custody. On a regular basis, I was kicked out of the room so that he could scream at his wife over the phone. If that wasn't bad enough, my supervisor regularly behaved in a manner that would be considered sexual harassment anywhere else. After I left the company, I received a call from the lawyer of one of my coworkers, asking me to make a signed deposition testifying about my supervisor's behavior. He had apparently licked his finger, jabbed it into the ear of one of the web designers, and asked if "he would like it more if he had stuck his dick into his ear instead." The company had refused to fire him.

I would have left after a week if I didn't need the credit in order to get my degree.

Bob Aman

It wasn't quite programming, but some time ago I lived in a dorm with a lot of international students. One came to me because his computer was dead. Or specifically, the Windows side was dead. For some reason, he did have a small Linux partition that was still working. So he needed me to retrieve his homework he needed the next day.

This should have been relatively trivial. I just needed to fire up vim, edit the fstab file, and mount the windows partition. Unfortunately, this proved to be my first experience with a laptop not using an American English keyboard layout.

It would seem that on a Turkish laptop, you can't merely type the letter 'i'. Any attempts to do so give you some weird squiggle. To get an actual 'i', you had to hold this function key and hit some other key. I'm a slow learner, and for all the times you need to type 'i' in vim, this was rough. There were other odd things like that, but the 'i' deficit clearly stuck out in my mind.


In Notepad, live on a prod server.

+17  A: 

My last job was one of my worst. I knew the place wasn't for me when the manager of the group said to us excitedly, "I see you all as eventually becoming Project Managers!"

Her idea of "making it" was Project Management. That silly "programming" stuff was just the dues you pay until you make it to the big time. Needless to say I moved on.

Dave Swersky
I'm afraid this is the direction everything is heading in.
lmfao!I know project management, but I avoid letting anyone know about it.
Not everything, thankfully. But I used to work for one of those companies, and every politicized company I've ever worked for has found some way to make productive work a dead-end career option.
Cylon Cat
That's how my last job was, too.
Mike C.
Unfortunately, here in the US we're taught from birth that "making it" is essentially the same thing as "making more $$$$$$". A really level-headed manager of mine explained to me why he went from writing code to project management: he felt like he wasn't necessarily a better coder than a manager, and that his decision was less a step up and more a step sideways.
That was the irony- she was convinced that I should *aspire* to project management, when most project managers I have ever known make significantly less than senior developers. This is distinct from *administrative* management, where it is possible to earn more.
Dave Swersky
This is how it happens everyday here. You are a programmer, then a senior programmer, then a project leader, and then a project manager. In this part of the world, they think this is the way to go.And unfortunately for me, the pay also increases up this way.
@Nivas: It makes sense for management responsibility to pay more, but in my last job the idea of "project managers" were just programmers also responsible for managing projects. It was one of those nightmare companies for developers- an oil processing company. Companies where software development is a cost center will always be developer purgatory.
Dave Swersky
+1  A: 

Oddly enough, that was the exact reason I left my previous company. Well, that and the fact that my girlfriend lived in a different town. However, I am very much geared toward learning and advancing, if you can't offer me that, why should I piddle away working on code that won't help me grow as a person?

Topher Fangio
If you are using *code* to grow as a *person* you're headed for much bigger problems down the track! <grin>
Software Monkey
If there comes a day when I have to do work that doesn't help me grow as a person, you can just shoot me.
Robert Harvey
+3  A: 

My worst programming job was working for an "interactive agency" that turned down smaller jobs, so we would wait for weeks at a time for the "big" jobs. during this hiatus, i literally had NOTHING to do, but was still required to fill out my time sheet. i had to quit because i was running out of ridiculous things to put on it.

They paid you to do nothing for weeks on end? Freelance!
Dave Swersky
Don't have to lift a finger for weeks at a time? Sounds like the perfect job to me.
Well, c'mon then, *what* did you put on your time sheets during a hiatus? ; )
Bart Kiers
It sounds nice when you are way too busy, but for a typical enginner getting paid for *nothing* really sucks. Slacking even loses its fun if there's nothing you are slacking *from*.
@T.E.D.: Depends on the person, but I think most people in the world would *love* to get paid for doing nothing. Isn't that what retirement is?
Retirement is doing what you want to do, when you want to do it. Which is not the case if your time is being spent doing nothing.
Robert Harvey
I've been in this position before, doing literally *nothing* for 8 hours a day, weeks or months at at time. Anyone who thinks surfing the internet for 8 hours a day would make a great gig has never done it. Believe me -- its soul destroying, like sitting in time-out for 8 hours every single day, and there's nothing rewarding about going to work. Not fun at all.
@Robert: Perhaps I'm just stuck in the *Office Space* mentality.
@Juliet: That time could be used, for example, to learn a new programming language, which I would certainly consider rewarding.
My last job was rather like that, except after a month or so, they were so starved of work they had to start layoffs :P.
I had that in my first job, now i really miss it. i could learn frameworks and do fun stuff at work. but also there was fear of being fired.
@everyone - if you have never had a job where you do LITERALLY NOTHING all day, you cannot say it is great... @juliet hit it right on the head with "soul destroying".
+54  A: 

In a 20 year career, the worst jobs for me haven't had anything to do with how late the project was, how good its budget, how many extra hours were required, travel, or how unstable or ridiculous the requirements were. I can still find ways to get things done and have a reasonably enjoyable time in any of those circumstances.

What really makes a job suck for me is when things get political. Management exists to protect us developers from such concerns. When we are instead used as tools or shields for the manager's concerns, then engineers start having to worry about protecting themselves. That often means turning on each other. When you can't trust anyone, you can't have real friends. That destroys the rapport you need to work with any kind of "team", prevents you from losing yourself in "the flow", and just generally sucks any and all enjoyment out of life.

Amen, brother!.
Robert Harvey
Very good point, I have experienced that first-hand.
Topher Fangio
+1: I've had first hand experience of this exact scenario.
Unfortunately or otherwise, management exists in order to get make sure that the company's objectives are transferred to the developers and that the developers are doing *what the company wants*. They're not there to protect developers from anything! That said, managers who *do* shield programmers from political nonsense are worth their weight in gold.
Perhaps. But unless the company's objectives are to conduct a study in stress reactions in software developers, the manager had better make it their job to make sure that their people can do theirs as efficiently as possible.
Imagine if someone started a community wiki to name and shame companies where developers attack each other!
@PP: my experience it tends to be projects that get disfuntional like this, not entire companies. I tend to work for rather large companies, and the culture can vary vastly from job to job.
+1, if only I could give +more!.
Adam Luchjenbroers
i hate office politics. All i want to do is create great web apps!
This happens almost everyday in large companies. Where the "corporate management" is way too high, and issues like this gets diluted as they slowly move, if at all they do. It all depends on your immediate manager.
+2  A: 

The job I had just before my current one near the end comes to mind as my least favorite. If I fixed a bug that wasn't on some list I had to go back and undo that change as the fix couldn't be tested even if the change was fixing a typo in the code. If I wanted some change in the custom platform the back-end developers made, I had to request it and wait till they got it done which could be a few days. Whenever my boss came over to where we were, it usually involved some new thing that had to be done ASAP. My boss was the VP of technology who did some development plus meetings plus conferences so he was usually double or triple booked. The other application developer and I had to share a phone number and phone between us, which meant messages weren't that private usually. I didn't have dual monitors but I did bring in a laptop that I could use to do development on each of a pair of machines. The development methodology wasn't ever discussed and aside from an annual performance review, there weren't any kind of regular check-ins. Last but not least was the day the CEO came barging in yelling like you'd see on a, "When Bosses go Ballistic," special that would be an office version of, "When Animals Attack," that I'm sure very few people would enjoy. The yelling went on for about a half hour and a few hours later there were apologies but I almost thought there would be blows or someone would bolt or some big dramatic finale but thankfully it just diffused in a simple manner.

That isn't to say the job totally sucked but there were a few things that I'm not sure I'd want to go back and be so limited again.

JB King
+9  A: 

I believe the worst was the one where the project manager had been promoted from being the CEO's secretary when she started having an affair with him. Nothing like a PM who doesn't even know what language you are using to program in and who said, "I see no reason to define requirements. If you were competent, you would know what we want." She also liked to sit on tasks (that she knew about for weeks) until Friday afternoon at 4 pm and then tell us, she had to present it to the client Monday morning. And then she would lie about what the CEO wanted and steal the credit for any work you did (including going so far as to change the author on documents we wrote). Then when the lovers were arguing, she'd come to meetings in short shorts and sit there in meetings with her legs spread wide open on the table for all to see her "assets".

ahh, I know few such "girls" you are talking about. That's sucks man...
Well, after the point where you no longer cared about the project or the company you could always just sit back during their spats and enjoy the view.
Jim Dennis
So I had this job once, when I dated the CEO of my company. Pretty sweet gig. Anyway, my employees were complete dolts, didn't even know how to write a simple program based on the one golden requirement: give the users what they want. Its so simple, how can you screw that up! Well, sometimes my CEO boytoy would throw a fit, something about poor attire at work, and I'd have to leave, maybe hang out in a meeting or something. I get there, seat myself comfortably, and suddenly everyone just stares at me like I killed a puppy or something. Don't feel intimidated, boys, carry on, carry on. Idiots.
JIm I'm a girl, I didn't enjoy the view.
+3  A: 

My worst job was for a 5-person retail company that was insanely cheap, using refurb machines and with a cesspit of spaghetti code. It was so bad I got it put on The Daily WTF

My boss repeatedly started new businesses (he was up to 5), but his partner with one of the businesses asked me to join his consulting company; I thought it would be a great move because I wouldn't have to deal with the abusive boss. Instead, the new boss is just the same but not as abusive - he has dozens of business ideas and wants them done quick (we're currently doing 3-week iterations in 1 week because of "business requirements") and thinks the best way to do this is to offshore all the programming to India; the entire "business model" seems to be:

  1. Come up with an idea that has been done before and add a small twist
  2. Market the hell out of it and make it out to be world-changing
  3. Send the programming to India and demand that it be thrown together as quickly as possible
  4. Profit!

To top it off I am "hired" out to do work for his startup with my old boss, as well as my old boss's company (the one I left!), and soon to be another idea he has that he claims is set to "revolutionize the industry". I'm expected to be on call 24-7, and work a regular shift as well as be online from 10PM to chat with the Indian team. I get calls at all hours in the day about nonsense because they don't want to scale back the business requirements to something manageable.

Wayne M
How did you get the job if all the programming was outsourced?
I was asked to help him come up with specs; at the original company I was the programmer, dba, network admin and helpdesk all in one. Then my boss' buddy asked me to work for him in an analyst kind of role but I still get treated as the "IT Guy" and have to configure servers, manage databases, do some programming AND coordinate with the Indian team.
Wayne M
@Wayne: The second boss was clearly a cheapo as well, asking you to perform four or five different jobs at once (without commensurate compensation, I assume). Sounds like a nightmare!
I read TheDailyWTF you mentioned. It makes my worst job sound like a Google position.
Robert Harvey
@ThisSuitIsNotBlack: I'm still here, unfortunately. All of that happened just 2 months ago (the options were work for him or be laid off since the other business is on the verge of bankruptcy due to their shoddy systems) and I thought it would be better with the second guy because he has 20+ years in IT including executive management positions. But his whole model seems to revolve around having a very small core of people come up with the ideas and let the Indians do all the work, but expect it done in half the time it would normally take (he plans out weekly releases for what should be 2-3)
Wayne M
@Wayne: Ouch! Good luck with that!
+50  A: 

At my first job, I earned a hearty $13/hr, garbage pay for even an entry-level programming job. I love the team I worked with, but the Boss was straight out of Dilbert land. He was one of those pointy-haired types -- he was 50ish, white hair, glowing orange tan, inherited the company from daddy, mean-spirited. Frequently, we'd hear him swearing up a storm.

For a big demo, he wanted the developers to work lots and lots of overtime (8 AM to 9 PM every night until everything was perfect) -- without, you know, compensation. "Just work for free!" I commented that state laws requires employers to pay hourly employees overtime, and he had the balls to comment "well if you aren't here tonight, where will you go tomorrow morning", which I take as a thinly veiled threat to be fired. It was an empty threat, because I decided not to work for free, and I remained employed for another 6 months.

One of my coworkers was actually pretty crazy, former military probably as he liked to dress in all his camo uniform and steel-toed boots. He'd worked for the company for a few years, and had an ego and temper as big as the boss. They'd frequently get in shouting matches, really pretty amazing to watch. One day pointy-haired-boss screamed and shouted at one of our accountants until she broke down into tears (I believe, due to an accounting correction, we went from being $50,000 under budget to $4,000 in the hole). Crazy camo employee cornered pointy-haired boss, "NO! YOU DON'T TREAT EMPLOYEES LIKE THAT!" After a shouting match, crazy employee decided he was fed up, put in a one-weeks notice. Pointy-haired boss, said "good! We don't want you here, good riddance".

Crazy employee happened to be a member of the local renaissance fair. On his last day of work, he wheeled in a cannon, positioned it so that it aimed at the bosses office. I was there when pointy-haired boss showed up, saw the cannon, and started swearing up a storm. But the cannon sat there for the entire day.

I'm pretty sure I witnessed lots and lots of criminal behavior during my 15 month tenure there. In the entire time, pointy-haired boss never learned my name. Glad I got out when I did.

+1 for an incredibly entertaining story. Although you probably didn't find it very entertaining while you were there.
Oh, I forgot to mention: crazy camo employee left his job to clerk at a bait and tackle shop. Says he couldn't be happier.
+1 for a good story with even better nick names.
Excellent stuff
Accounting errors are pretty severe; and anyone wearing Camo has to be a wannabe.
cannon! *15 chars*
Maxim Zaslavsky
+2  A: 

I worked at a place where the programmers were in charge of configuring the B2B application to support the latest in a string of new clients. Each client company needed to have a list of employees given access which meant adding users to the system.

If you thought this 9-figure revenue generator of a system had a nice GUI for the support staff to add users, you'd be wrong, very wrong.

The procedure was based on getting a spreadsheet from the new client company with a list of employee names, Company name, phone# address, email, and username. A Microsoft Word macro is then run on the spreadsheet to generate a series of SQL insert/update statements to add the user into the user table and then authorize them to use the various functionality that their company's contract specified.

The resulting script was to be run in production by some support DBA the morning of implementation when the customer was brought online. To test the script, you would run it against the test DB. Small problem: the test DB and the production DB were not in sync so it was a constant battle to make sure the unique new user in test wasn't a duplicate in production.

Their database schema was one of the best I'd ever seen. Highly normalized, extensive use of triggers, foriegn-key constraints, etc. It was very flexible and a lot of feature could be enable just by updating a field in a table. They even checked in their DDL into version control; a nice breath of fresh air that was to discover. What didn't make sense was they didn't reuse any SQL scripts. No library of scripts that used parameters to simplify a repetitive task. Very little automation too. They had a really smart tech support guy who would get tired of having to do something manually repeatedly so he would write a VBScript.

Why didn't the programmers do it? They were to busy with important stuff the management would have them do. Like writing MS Word macros to turn Excel spreadsheets into SQL.

Kelly French
+9  A: 

The worst place I've worked for was a video game company. Most people think "video game studio? That had to be awesome!" Not quite. Long hours, shitty pay, and high stress run hand in hand with game studios.

I was hired as a Gameplay Programmer/IT Manager and was told there were minimal IT responsibilities and I would be focusing mostly on programming. I thought "Alright, I can handle fixing a few computers and keeping the network up." I was wrong. There was absolutely no programming for me.

Not only that, but a few weeks after I was hired I realized that the studio used 90% illegal software. Who will they look at if the authorities come marching into the offices? The IT Manager. Trying to get the studio to buy the software was near impossible. Needless to say they didn't tell me this in my interview. I often had to put off meetings with vendors because they were illegally using their products.

What's worse, my boss was the first I've ever dealt with who actually yells at his employees.

Needless to say I left there as quickly as possible after that.

Bit Destroyer
+5  A: 

My worst company was run by a total psycho manic depressive anal-retentive micromanager/CEO.

The day I started, I rearranged the furniture in my office and that set him off. He had the optimal arrangement for the furniture and I wasn't allowed to change it. I had to put my furniture back into the optimal arrangement.

He knew Visual Basic (our code was C++), so he felt completely qualified to tell us how long things should take, how the code should be structured, etc. He flew off if our reality didn't mesh well with his perception.

He was on vacation once when we had a virus run through the office. His machine was shut down, but I booted it from a floppy so I could run a virus scan on his machine (guess what? It was positive!). When he came back, he really went ballistic about how I violated his privacy, how he could never trust me again, etc.

He had his Prozac prescriptions faxed over to the office. We were all happier on those days.

The best part, though, was when he quoted Star Trek to me. We were having some issues making his deadlines, and I kept telling him we were going to be late. He actually did his best Captain Kirk impression and told me that it was up to me to get those dilythium crystals aligned so we could go warp factor 10. I about barfed.

I only lasted 6 months at that job.

He did have a point about the computer thing though IMO. You should've waited until he was back to boot his machine. He could've had personal stuff, porn, etc on his computer that he didn't want employees to see :p
Click Upvote
Ye cannae break the laws o' physics!
Kevin Panko
@Kevin Panko: You most certainly can. Einstein did it.
Martinho Fernandes
+5  A: 

Every job has it's less than desirable quirks. I'm currently working on a government contract in a group headed by someone who doesn't understand the value of software. Since the groups of groups (of which we were a part) used to be small, we used to have our network support (as in the people who maintaine the machines, the web servers, made backups, etc) for free. Now that the groups have grown, "support" no longer is allowed to "give away" their services so everything new has to be paid for out of the budget of the individual group (like us) to the support group (them) - and they do a good job. However, a leader here thinks that because it used to be 'free', it should always be that way. No money for source control (despite years of development) or a test server (the old 'free' ones went out of warranty and were taken off the network), or proper development tools. Just "jury rig" a test platform together.. Just "whip up" a new webiste... It never ends.

Of course this doesn't hold a candle to a job I had in the 1980s. I took this job as a moonlighting contract and it eventually went full-time. Small company with some really good ideas and a few nice little products that were morphing into stuff that could be marketed on The Big Stage. Great opportunity.

...or so you would think. The incidents here...

  • Wanted to port an application between operating systems (VMS and RSTS) and bought a machine to do the port - with the customer's money (they bought the machine) and no O/S or software - we were supposed to "obtain" RSTS/E somehow and port everything in a week or two. I'd never had a boss ask me to break the law before then.

  • Had a developer who deliberately salted the code to generate service calls. He'd put a hard-coded date in the source code (different one for each customer) at which point it would try to call a non-existant system routine and fail. 10 minutes at the customer site and it's fixed. He looks good. Until he gets uppity, making all kinds of demands. family friend asks me to look at a printout of the source code (I wasn't working for them yet) and I spot the problem right away. I couldn't figure out WHY someone would write that line of code - never occurred to me (as I was young) that someone might not be ethical. I ended up with that guy's job and his office.

  • Bought whatever hardware was on sale (when he was in a buying mood) and it was up to us to make it work. This was long before the "commodotization" of PCs. Trying to make interpereted code work on Leading Edge PCs and Sperry PCs and IBM PCs was more than a challenge.

  • Used to give Carte Blanche to customers. I went on a 2 day business trip to a new customer to install their software and train their users. Business Manager out there didn't like something about the reports. Had to recode ALL the underlying software from floating-point to integer-based arithmetic while at the customer site. Was there 9 days with only 2 suits a thousand miles from home pulling 24-hour shifts trying to get compile time at the bottom of the priority scale competing with early versions of Oracle (a 20 minute compile on our underpowered machines back home was taking over 2 hours here). I was told not to leave the site until "the customer had a smile on his face". The customer knew he could get whatever he wanted and exploited it. What's worse was this was a college campus and the lab where I was cloistered had windows overlooking the quad - where they were having cheerleader tryouts day after day.

"they were having cheerleader tryouts day after day" - Oh boy...
Maiku Mori

My house. New babies = low productivity

Ryan Bennett

I was writing an application to read barcodes on the bottom of recycled Coke bottles. I spent more than a week debugging code on a concrete floor while the product was coming done the line at I forget how many bottles a second. Bottling plants have to be one of the loudest places I have ever been and they aren't very warm either.


I was debugging a VB app that read inputs from a shipping scale and barcode scanners. Due to the configuration of one particular shipping area, the most convenient place to sit, was on the scale itself. Although the scale table was about 30" square, it was only rated for about 120 lbs, and I was easily double that, and having my weight on the edge didn't help. I think it was my third trip out there before someone decided to drop me a hint that it cost several hundred $$$ for a service call to have it re-calibrated, every time someone did that. oops...

Chris Thornton

This isn't as bad as some, but I can see Formula 1 cars doing practice laps around Albert Park Lake if I stand up right now and look out the window of where I work. Those F1 cars are also rather loud!

David Johnstone
+2  A: 

Last summer, when the carpets throughout our building were being replaced, my team was forced to move temporarily to a computer lab used for educational purposes. We brought our own computers with us, at least, but it was a constant struggle to find enough power outlets for everything. We had essentially no privacy, and the air conditioning didn't work for the first several days, making it very uncomfortable. No windows or natural light, and very little personal space for each of us.

Oh, and there was a huge laser printer in the corner of the room that made high-pitched screeching noises, without printing anything out, at seemingly random times. Fun.

I hate heat, I simply can't concentrate. For some reason, noise I can block out.
Real programmers burst into flames in daylight
Dan Diplo
Real programmers are on fire ALL the time.
I guess that explains the `char` data type.

In a lab, where there was a rule that effectively prohibited coffee at the workstation.

Because, you know, coffee is bad for you, mmkay? ;)I saw one company where open coffee cups were forbidden. You either had to have a travel mug or use the styrofoam cups/lids from the breakroom.
+38  A: 

My current job, they block Google, Yahoo, and Stack Overflow

But luckily, I have managed to tunnel everything.

What you should do is create a "search request form" that has to be submitted to someone authorised to use Google when you want to do a search. They fill in a "search response" form with the results.
Google, Yahoo and SO...!! Oh... the Horror!! It's like sealing you in vacuum and asking you to breath...!!!
How can blocking stackoverflow possibly be a good idea? I'd still be working in tesco if it wasn't for this site.
Google and SO are my two main sources for any programming related questions, surely blocking those is just counterproductive.
James Westgate
Sometimes I'm blocking SO myself, otherwise my productivity can really go down the drain. As for Google, that's just ridiculous.
@deceze - Same here, LeechBlock is my friend.
uncle brad
You have to fill in a TPS report for cover sheets to get that back. Didn't you read that memo?
+4  A: 

After making clear my requirements, a door and a window, I was hired and all was unicorns and rainbows. Until one of the marketing guys runged up the totem pole an inch and started complaining.

So, I was summarily relocated to an open bullpen under flickering flourescents in the middle of the mid-level marketing hacks. Next to the 5 foot tall printer/fax. Ringing phones, half baked sales pitches being bandied about in > conversational level.

That is the only position I have ever walked out of without a word.

Sky Sanders
so , i guess i didn't really suffer.
Sky Sanders
+13  A: 

Working environment without Air Conditioner as i am in southern parts of india...

Pandiya Chendur
Sorry for being North America centric, but when I read "southern parts", I thought "oh boy". But when I got to "of india", I went "OMG!!!"
yikes i though i had it bad
+8  A: 

Out in a warehouse next to the freezer section. Programmed with gloves and hat on. They couldn't clean the floor since if they tried to vacuum the fire alarm would go off, so anything dropped on the floor you didn't want to touch. And you couldn't have any open drinks anywhere thanks to dust and rubbish raining down.

One of the other developers had sensitive hearing so the warehouse workers upstairs sometimes played a game by throwing pallets to the floor as hard as they could to see how high he would jump.

We did have natural light though, I I turned around about 20 metres behind me was a door with one of those 20 cm high 5 cm wide windows and behind that door was a big window.

After about 4 months we got upgraded to a disused elevator shaft and we loved it.

I hope you all got a shaft each? Or did you have to share that too?
This was a big elevator, at it's peak we had 17 desks and over 20 people working in there.
So you finally got the shaft?

One of our client was making some modification to the room that should have been ours. We were then placed in a prefab that

  • was bordered by a landing strip on one side (this was a technical zone in an airport),
  • had a VIP jet waiting area on another one,
  • and a test zone/hangar for falcon aircraft reactor on the third side,
  • and had no air conditionning, in summer.

on the plus side, food was excellent :)

+36  A: 

The guy i am sitting next too now simultaneously whistles, hums, kinda sings, and drums with his feet all day long. He smells bad too. I hope he is reading this.

+1 voted this up so that if he is reading this your post will be higher and he is more likely to see it.
You must work at Dunder Mifflin and sit next to Andy Bernard?
Erikk Ross
Rob, was that you!? ;)
Ed Woodcock
+1 for funny one
@fmsf, if you think suffering is funny, then yes it's a lot of fun.
Nick D
Drum with his feet all day! Glad that I am not the only guy on the planet doing that!
Ryan Liang
@Nick D,I found funny the part "I hope he is reading this"
@fmsf, sorry for my comment. I face up a similar situation every day and I was in a bad mood.
Nick D
@Nick D no problem :)
I don't smell that bad.
+7  A: 

The worst distraction I ever had at a job involved sitting in a cubical next to a marketing rep (female) who worked with the various search engines, and whose job was to keep our site ranked high in search results. Among other things, our site sold sex toys, and allowed customers to comment on our products. The customer service representative for one of the search engines was a real prude, and kept blocking words that our marketing department used in product descriptions. This was not a single incident; this was an ongoing (and highly dysfunctional) series of arguments, every few days over a series of months.

Ever try to write code while a woman in the next cube is trying to convince someone that various descriptions of sex toys are not only acceptable, but necessary for our company to succeed? And while trying not to imagine how uncomfortable the guy on the other end of the conversation was feeling?

Amusing, at times, but quite surreal in contrast to typical American work environments, and very, very detrimental to productivity. (And no, I am not making this up. It really happened, and I really had to work while this was going on.)

Cylon Cat
+5  A: 

In a previous job I was working on a client site alongside four other developers. The office environment was open plan with "bays" of four desks separated by dividers.

May have been coincidence, maybe not, but the other four (all male) got to sit in one bay together, while I (female) was put in the neighbouring bay with three (female) secretaries.

So I spent all day either prairie-dogging over the bay dividers to join in the technical discussions, or fending off requests for "fifty copies, please" with responses like "I will if you really want, but please be aware you're paying a lot of money for me to be here to work on the backend of your domestic billing system..."

LOL for the way to reject the copy requests!
Andrei Rinea
+2  A: 

We have to use ClearCase and Lotus Notes.

Christoffer Hammarström
+2  A: 

Worst overall: Working as a web designer / developer in a shared office, I was sat in the middle of a call centre. There was also a really loud doorbell that would go off every couple of minutes. I walked out after a day.

Most fun / least productive: A marketing company I worked for in really nice offices. Everyone was in their 20's / early 30's and all led quite hedonistic lifestyles. We had loads of fun in the office, spending entire days sending youtube videos to each other sometimes. Absolutely no work got done. I think they've clamped down on it a bit since then. The company is still going anyway!


The current company where I work at, conditions are so-so. There is plenty of natural light, my desk is in the secluded part of the office and I have a view directly through the window, overlooking a nice part of the neighborhood.

The problem is twofold:

  1. Smoking is allowed on the premises. There are two smokers in the office and they are polluting the air for everyone, despite being asked nicely (by me and other workers) to smoke on the balcony. They also refuse to close the door to their room, which would eliminate most of the smoke.

  2. College kids who work on telephone support: these arrogant kids are constantly watching movies, videos on youtube, playing music, and they do it with loud speakers instead of earphones. I constantly ask them to keep the music down because I can't concentrate on programming, but the very next day they do it again, completely disregarding my pleas. I asked them to get earphones, as that would eliminate problems for all of us, but they refuse to do that.

However, I work in a small company of 10 people or so, so these things are kinda tolerated by our lenient boss. I doubt their arrogant behavior would pass in any bigger corporation.

What countries still allow smoking in the office, you'd be sacked in UK/US I think!
For loud music, just go in with scissors and snip the speaker wires.
John, smoking is banned here, but the boss, who is also the owner of the company, doesn't seem to care about it.
Drop an anonymous note to the authorities...

I had to work at a table set up in a file room once. Secretary's in and out all day slamming file drawers and shuffling papers etc... Nothing like being next to a jet test area though.


Working in a room which somehow got to 40 deg C every morning in the summer by 08:30, with only small windows. It cooled a little if we opened the windows, over the course of the day, but fans didn't help and we were not allowed to leave windows open overnight. We complained to management, who were on holiday in a Villa in the south of France. Their reply - "yeah it's too hot here as well, we can hardly bear to sit by the pool". Apparantly air con wasn't allowed as a condition of the lease, as a permanent fix anyway, so we finally ended up with hiring a portable air con after weeks of asking.


Air Condition panel on top of head and person seating next to you is from the North Pole (asking for 20 dig and below ).......... so freezing cold that i have to were jacket and scarf some times :)

Anil Namde
+5  A: 

My current environment is particularly annoying:

  • Have to wear suit and tie, even though all we do is code
  • There are no shops, pubs nearby so have to eat the canteen food
  • The air conditioning often doesn't work because the intake is sighted right next to the exhaust vent
  • The front of the building collapsed and we had workers banging away for a year
  • Our code is deployed in other country where they don't speak English
  • We are not allowed to park on site and the bus journey from the offsite parking doubles my journey time
  • The web servers are still running windows 2000, and we have to support windows 98 machines
  • We have to use Lotus Notes!!!

And this is a big brand corporate you will all have heard of ...

James Westgate
talking about aol?
"The web servers are still running windows 2000, and we have to support windows 98 machines"... so what? That sounds like every normal big company to me. As long as you don't have to _develop_ on Win98!
Windows XP, I would understand. I might even be tempted to understand Windows ME, as disastrous as it was... but Windows 98 is really pushing it at 12 years old.
Not on a test rig it ain't. Anything older than Win3.11 is not remotely unusual!
I mean newer of course
They make cars. I forgot to say the management cant speak English but they speak a different language to the guys deploying the code.
James Westgate
Lotus Notes does suck, doesn't it...
+1  A: 

Every job, would love to just be out sailing....

but on a serious side, Working on a Very classified defence development, there was no external asscess to the network (air gap firewall), no external phones on the desk, they all went thro an operator who would listen in. No windows the room was a fadriecage setup, all mobiles had to be handed in before enetering the projtect room and all memory sticks, mp3 players etc.

Other than that lot it was fun..

Hey, if the money was good, who cares, right? :)
+1  A: 

My first week at a certain place, hired as a tester, I had no computer.

Beat that :P


Also, my desk was a fold up table for the longest time.


And last but not least, someone had the bright idea of putting mirrors around the sunroof (sounds luxurious, but it's really just a plastic dome in the ceiling) to reflect the sunlight in. At certain times of the year, I would get direct sunlight in my screen (CRT at the time) for a few hours. That meant pretty much no visibility. When I complained that there were mirrors up there to the boss, asking why they were there, he answered "I put them there. Brings in more light. Brilliant, no?"


OK, last one! Pretty much all computers in my area were connected to one electrical outlet (the only one available), through several extension cords and power bars (got fed up and removed several redundant ones at some point). What I didn't know is that on the other side of the wall (same company), was a laser printer, a few other computers, and a few soldering irons and heating elements. And we are all on the same electric breaker. Turns out whenever someone was soldering and printing, everyone would lose power.


Sorry I lied, the previous was not the last one. So, at this job, after the testing phase, I was asked to do some C. The IDE used? Visual Studio 97 - Academic Edition. The year? 2004.

+2  A: 

I sit in an office with 5 developers and a support team of 4-6. The phone rings about once every 5 minutes, which isn't too bad, except they let it ring enough to the point where it takes my attention before one of them decides it's their turn to finally answer it.

But that's not the worst part.

My development manager sits to my left, facing me, no more than a meter away.
He recently acquired a nasty cold from his girlfriend (who had to stay off work to recover), and has been coughing, sputtering and sneezing in my general direction at a frequency of 0.4Hz, originally covering his mouth but has recently been too busy typing to bother.

There's plenty more I could moan about (and I surely would if you were also British and wanted to share a good moan with me) but I will spare you.

+1 for 0.4 Hz :)

An open-plan office on a third floor with no elevator, no heating when it was below zero outside, and not enough power to avoid power outages 4 or 5 times a day with everyone attempting to run electric heaters to stop from freezing.

We had to use a construction elevator (basically a platform) to get our equipment where we needed to be.

The perils of moving into a new building, when said new building isn't finished yet!


While I was in school, I worked at the same place over two summers. I should never have gone back the second time. It was a heat-treating facility, and I worked in the training room on the second floor, which wasn't really a whole floor, as the shop itself was two stories high, so the room I was in was the upper level of the center section of the shop. This meant my room, though it had walls, was surrounded on all sides by the shop. As you know, heat travels upwards, and what was below were rows upon rows of thousand degree furnaces of all types. And remember this was summer, so the fact that the shop had big open loading docks to let heat out didn't help much.

Most mornings I would walk into the room and it would be literally over 95 degrees in there, since no one got there before me to turn on the AC (which at least I had). Other times I walked in, it smelled of ammonia. A manager said it wasn't dangerous unless it was concentrated enough that it hurt your eyes or throat. Really.

My job, on possibly the lowest end machine they owned (at least it was on XP,) was to sift through dozens of giant excel sheets and reorganize their sales records into useful data. It was the most repetitive and boring job I think I will ever have. Oh yeah, and pretty much no one else worked in there since it was the training room. They worked in the cubicle farm of the front office.

To top it off, my manager, the only other guy in this room with me, was the single most obnoxious person I ever have or ever plan to meet. He was straight out of Office Space, but I can't remember which character he would be. He talked too fast, and took gasping breaths between sentences, most of which ended with "ya know." I once made the mistake of asking him a yes or no question five minutes before I was going to leave for the day. Stupid me, I must have forgotten that it takes FORTY FIVE MINUTES to answer a yes or no question! And no, this was not a conversation. I just stood there, waiting to walk out the door, looking at my watch, while he would not shut up. It was also painful to watch him work so inefficiently. I don't think he's ever heard the term "keyboard shortcut". Yes, every single excel operation, including copy and paste, was done by slowly moving the mouse to the menu and clicking it. And it took him several minutes to select these thousands of cells, because he obviously doesn't know what Page Up, Page Down, Shift-Home, Shift-End, or Ctrl-A do.

There were some upsides though. For one, the second time around this annoying guy only worked with me two days a week. So the other days I could listen to music on my laptop. Then about halfway through I realized I could just write an Excel macro to do most of my work for me, so I did. Then about two weeks before my last day, they actually moved me to a private office in the front that belonged to someone who was on vacation, where my new job was scanning employee disciplinary records. Reading those was fun.

Edit: Almost forgot, best part of the job was that the HR manager loved sharing his polish chocolates, so I spent most of my breaks in his office.


Working from home as a developer (for three years) surrounded by screaming kids, barking dogs and a sick wife who couldn't take care of the kids, the dog, or herself yet constantly demanded things be done for her NOW. 6am - 10pm everyday 24/7/365. Coincidentally, also the worst three years of my life.

Well at least it was your choice to marry her...
+2  A: 

Being a consultant, I get moved around a lot and have seen some rather wild environments:

  • At one company, employees got a chair budget plus ownership - i.e. you got $500 toward whatever chair you wanted, and got to keep it if/when you left. So most employees had really nice Aerons and similar. Large cubicles, too. Contract? Not so much. I was on a $30 OfficeMax special (you know, the ones that start making that annoying squeak after the first week...), seated at a folding table in the hallway.
  • At one company the development team was in an internal office area within a massive warehouse. It actually wasn't too bad, except for the full-body scans coming in and out every day, to make sure we weren't stealing anything.
  • In terms of morale, at one company they had just announced to the development team that they were closing the local branch and moving all of their jobs to an office on the west coast. (I'm in the midwest.) Then they brought me in along with a couple other contractors to do documentation and support for the systems that would be moving...
  • One company in particular stands out for the following issues:
    • My desk was directly under the AC vent. Most days, it was 61 or 62 degrees (Farenheit - that would be about 16 Celsius) when I arrived, and might manage to claw its way all the way up to 65 F (18 C) by lunch time. Then, at about 4:00 it would suddenly skyrocket to 75 (24 C) or so. (I was on the northwest corner of the building, so it took that long for the sun to reach that side...)
    • I sat across the wall from the call center, and they were on the phone all day, every day.
    • It was an older building, so the elevators were slow and small. Also, we were on the middle floors of the building. At peak times it was not uncommon to wait in the lobby for 5-10 minutes for an elevator that actually had room to enter. I usually took the stairs if there were more than 2-3 people already waiting.
    • At one point they were doing some construction and moved us around. They wanted to seat 7 of us in a triangular "office" (barely qualified as a storage closet). We elected to work remotely from our own corporate office.
    • The building was sort of star-shaped, so there were some extremely goofy floor plans. Trying to find your way around was a complete maze.
  • Company I used to work for, the landlord gave them a grant to renovate the space. They spent all of it on new office furniture for the executives. Another time, they won a large settlement on a patent infringement case; they threw a pizza party for the employees, and the guy who originally designed the patented system - and did a lot of work on the patent defense - got a plaque.
Ahh, brings back memories of the good old days doing Big Time Consulting(tm).

One summer during college I worked the graveyard shift (midnight to 8am) with 7 other developers crammed into a third floor northeast corner office at the southwest corner of Lake and Water Streets in Chicago. We had to keep our windows open many nights since we had no air-conditioning. This was most unfortunate since the Lake Street "L" trains ran directly by our north window, and four Metra commuter lines all came into the Ogilvie Transportation Center right underneath our east windows! After 6am the roar of the engines shattered the peace, and our clothes would sometimes smell of diesel fumes.

After work one morning I took the train out to our home in the western suburbs and fell into a deep sleep around 9:30am. At 10:00 the town marching band began a practice outside our house! I was almost homicidal!

Jim Ferrans

I had to work onsite at a client, on their machine, where I had to ask to be enabled everytime I ran 'sensitive commands', this included compiling code and starting the debugger, I also had to ask each time to stop the debugger!


You all were lucky!

We worked for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to code down at the mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when he got back from meetings, our boss would thrash us about the head and neck with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!

You had a paper bag?!?!? We used to dream of having a paper bag!
Don Branson
+ 1 truly classic.

It was at the office of a big company. I was there to write some Java Code but they didn't used any IDE to write code. I had to write the code in a normal editor without any syntax highlighting, syntax checking, code completion, no build file and so on.... half of my time i spent with fixing minor syntax error (like a missing ; ) which i only detected by trying to actually run the specific part of the code.

Additionally the code which was already written by someone else and i had to change it and add some funcitonality, unfortunately this guy was a french men and he used all this special french literals like ç or é in methods and variable names and it was very confusing to check the difference between the method result() and résult(). Additionally i think sometimes this special characters didnt worked as they should.

Then one more thing was that i dont think they ever heard of a boolean. All "boolean" values where just Strings called YesOrNo and if the "boolean" was true, the String contains yes and otherwise no. A typical condition was the following example:

if (YesOrNo == "No") {

} else {

+1  A: 

Didn't happen to me, but a programmer/analyst who I once worked with. He was in Nepal, doing some consultancy work. He had to hike up some mountain or something to meet with a few suits. The were shot at on the way up.


My first job as developer.

I actually earned less than the cleaning lady (this is not a joke!), was forced to use C++ because at this time there were no better languages available and my boss was constantly whining about how much he wants to pay me for SLOC.

I'm NOT lying here, this is EXACTLY what happened.

Turing Complete
A language is a tool. As such there are uses for which a tool is better than another. You should not make blanket statements that language X is better/worse than language Y *without* qualifying the exact requirements you are working under.
It was a business application. If I was writing an operating system or a low level device driver, then maybe C++ would have been the right tool.
Turing Complete