Six Months to Satisfaction- Large Team Frustrations

Q: What’s your most frustrating experiences as an engineer?

A: Basically not being listened to.

Like most people as an engineer not being listened to ranks up at the top of my frustration work. While it’s easy to manage this in a one on one working relationship it becomes much harder in a larger team. Let me tell you about a three-day face to face when I fully lost my cool due to a lack of listening.

Circa 1997-98 I worked on a large team software project to do subteam of the Intel Compilers group the debugger and VTune- performance.  Because the performance analyzer worked with the other tools they both used a lot of the same techniques and software hooks.  Share code and more hands for lifting and share best practices. To hammer out the processes and who worked on what we held a three-day summit at the Jones Farm campus. Team members from Oregon, Israel, California and a few other sites sat in one of the training room and worked the hell out of our product. We mapped up on the board the schedule, the deliverables, what technology we would use and the processes and all this sort of stuff. We had negotiated every damn thing we could. We said “This is it.”

Then one guy, the prima donna of the bunch, lobbed a hand-grenade by stating “No I can’t do this.”  We just spent three days– representing hundreds of engineering hours– going over this. He had a chance at any point during those three days to say “Yay” or “Nay” on this. At the end he tries to sabotage it.

Well, I yelled at him. I just lost it. I screamed at him in front of everyone and walked out. And I walked back and my boss was like “what just happened?” And, it was like what do you mean just what happened. I said “Screw that he’s a prima donna he dos good work but he’s not worth it!” If he doesn’t like it, he needs to “disagree and commit” that’s Intel culture. But hey he’s an Israeli and he didn’t want to do that. It was one of the few unbelievably frustrating time in my life. We eventually resolved it and he and I became friends.

I looked at it as I didn’t want to clean up the mess that this was going to become. I told them “I’m out of this, you tell me what you guys do and what we’re going to do and I’ll do it. Because I’m done with negotiating.” This had been a flat out hand grenade; it was an emotional stunt that he pulled– let’s see how I can control things. And I don’t play that kind of game.  I don’t need to deal with this- so I let it go and focused on the work.

So my boss tried to console me. I said, “Forget it. Just tell me what to do because I’m shit done with that.” I had to let it go. The group took his approach. Six months in to the project they said “You’re right we can’t do it the way he wanted to do it.”  Chuckling–damn right, I had to wait for that sense of satisfaction.

Q: How did you emotionally recover from that not being listened to?

People asked “I you okay?” I said “I’m okay.” Because I’m pretty even keeled, the fact that I blew up was a big deal. Everyone took notice as I don’t blow up. I let it go because it wasn’t worth spending the emotional energy.

He was looking to provoke and he initially won his way. In the end, because his way was not viable they adopted the approach I had supported. Took me six months to satisfaction.

Have a Productive Day,

Richard Vireday

Dear Reader, please share your comments and stories that are sparked by this piece. During an engineering project what has made you the most frustrated? Share a story of what made you blow up?  See Contribute for how you can share a story at The Engineers’ Daughter.

Additional Reading

Photos to Include:  Map Day:  Post It Notes on  board, with people around it.

QA and regression testing…

Agile/Lean,  Larget team processes

MAP meetings for 3 days


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