Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ethics and Employment - part 1

I've been thinking about employment for quite some time. It's a large topic and way too easily sway into the marshlands of politics. The first time I thought hard on employment was a year and a half ago.

I realized that the company I worked for at the time didn't have the right connections to land the really cool JavaScript jobs which I was yearning for. I wanted to create true JavaScript apps and time and again I was shucked half on the side into a 'Web Project' where you had to massage the dark mystery horror server-side templates as per usual.

This was not very fun. I liked the people I was working with but not what I was doing.

The reason was the fact that I was sitting as a lame duck, wholly dependent on 'consultant routing' companies or my employer to give me something to do. Since they were basically blind to what a JavaScript client-side application was and I had few connections outside the people I happened to know, I was stuck in a loop.

After arranging my first conference (SWDC 2009), and subsequently starting the Google Technology user Group of Stockholm I met with a lot of new people, one of who became my first customer, since they did want to make a JavaScript application. Quite a large one as well - a port of an existing .Net client-server app, but where the client should be remade in JavaScript and 'HTML5' with IE8 as a lowest boundary browser.

I started my own company, took on the new customer and their project and I'm still working with them one year and four work packages later (albeit only two days a week, which was the idea at this point in the project). I had other customers as well, arranged another conference (Android Only) and generally made good money having a fair bit of fun :)

The reason I do is because two things happened (painfully evident, but still);

1) I finally managed to generate luck by meeting enough interesting people
2) I dared to bite.

And only recently have I realized what a sorry wretch I was before, not having any control over my working life and I felt that most possibly other people feel the same way. Generally, I've found out it's like this;

1) You don't need to be employed at a company to get to work at great project and make good money, you only need to know enough people.

And if you don't know enough people, that's fixable. I feel that everyone should have their own company and interact with other companies as equals. To be an employee at a company is really not neccessary. Other than you own, that is.

Another objection I have to being employed is that you get always get this half-decent salary that is capped, with your employer making as much money as possible on top of the cap, so to speak. I feel that employees should get a bigger share out of the profit they make.

I've been part of profit-sharing schemes on different companies I've worked for, but none have really made any lasting impressions. I feel that as a subject area expert (and consultant) you should get at least 50% of the profit you generate. If you're become better, this will (or should) reflect on a higher hourly rate and an automatically higher salary.

Having your own company gives you 100% of the profits of course, but not always as salary.
OK, so what are the downsides? Lots, of course, but nothing that actually counts if you compare it to slowly becoming an old irritable grouch who is forced to do things he hate most of his working time. For example;

1) Most of the time you only know about the next three months of revenue
2) You are completely dependent on your customers
3) You are completely epenedent on your customers paying you sort of on time
4) You have no money when you don't work (i.e. 'vacation')

So, in a nutshell, working on your own, you don't have any security whatsoever.

Let me tell you a secret: Neither have you when you're employed, rounded down.

The company can become bankrupt or on hard times, having to downsize as easy as your personal company would. The only difference between being an employee and owning your own company is that you actually have some control over the ship in the latter case.

Even though this I do believe that you shouldn't be employed I have had two moral dilemmas; First of all Google. I have been a bit of a Google fanboy and despite having had my own company, I've applied for some positions there. This is clearly scizophrenic so I really hope I've stopped with that sort of stuff now :)

The second moral dilemma has to do with employing people myself. Since I have quite a large network nowadays I get a lot of interesting offers that I rarely can do something about, being tied up in prior agreements.

So, the natural solution would be to hand over those projects to other one-man shows for a small commission. Now for the suprising part; I can't seem to find these other one-man shows. OK, yes, I know of one, two at the most. I've been talking to great employed people I know, urging them to start their own company and start receiving project from me, but inevitably they shirk away from that and continue doing sort-of boring stuf (IMO) in exchange for apparent safety.

This has led me to the very strange conclusion that if I want to give people projects, I have to employ them. OK, I *could* give the projects to the companies they work for now, but in most cases those companies are large, very executive and so on and so forth. I have a feeling I would not look good in the end, the projects having come to me sort of on a personal level. I would want to have some sort of responsibility.

So how do you employ people when you're against employment? :)

Stay tuned for next chapter.