I (may) need a new job because my boss is a jerk

25 Feb 09

Dear _________,

I'm writing to express an interest to interview with your company. I may need to leave my current situation. I know its against convention to trash my last employer when applying for a job. If you read this, I think you'll understand and excuse my behavior.

For six months I've worked under the promise of an eventual pay off. To date, I've received minimal compensation for my efforts. The past three months, I've worked 12-14 hour days six days a week and my boss expects me to "stick it out" for success that may or may not come. I know the hours for a fact. When I had trouble getting things done he made me account in writing for how I used every hour of each day until I was in the habit of using company time wisely.

My boss doesn't trust me. He had me write a contextual spelling corrector. I delivered on the product as promised with tests showing it worked and attesting to its accuracy. I was so proud I even gave a talk to my local ACM chapter on the work I did. He didn't believe the results and he made me go back, generate new tests, and reevaluate the numbers. This time he was right but it took a week away from the progress of the product. Fortunately we institutionalized the test and evaluation process during this time. Still, it was mind numbing staring at numbers for a week to add extra accuracy to a spelling corrector.

I'm often asked to complete tasks with no direction about where to start. My boss is unwilling to mentor me and failed to set aside a training budget. I'm always expected to get it done regardless. Last I checked, he wants me to keep books, handle business paperwork, network and promote the business, design websites, write efficient code to process large sets of data, become an expert on linguistics, become an expert on machine learning, develop software in several languages, develop AND document a software service, test and fix defects, profile and improve scalability/performance, administer systems, create build and test processes, deal with outsourced help, provide technical support, come up with a marketing plan, and deliver on a high-level strategy.

The timelines my boss gives me are insane. Any competent program management team would laugh him out of a room. Still, he expects me to meet his goals. Each week we sit down, go over last weeks goals, and set goals for the coming week. I remember he gave me one week to design and build the back-end of our website. He wanted it to accept payments, process accounts, and talk to our software service. He also wanted a sketch of a plan to scale our service infrastructure with EC2 when the time came. What was my reward for completing these things on time? More impossible deadlines for more complex tasks.

On the positive side, my boss believes in what we're doing. Through him I've learned time management, developed a belief in using metrics to measure progress, learned and applied graduate level computer science concepts, and have gained an appreciation for the soft skills that make a company work.

Starting this company and working for myself is, so far, the most rewarding and painful experience of my career. My product is almost ready to launch. My hope is the world finds it useful and I don't have to send this letter. If this letter has made it to your inbox, I'd like to ask for an opportunity to interview with your organization. I have many skills, high standards, and can assume any roles necessary to help you succeed. All I ask for is fair compensation, a warm location, some risk/reward opportunity, and that you get me away from this mad man that I work for.

-- Raphael

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