Eight years ago I worked in software development, one of my last jobs was as a freelancer for one of the largest brokerage firms in Mexico. I was making their mobile app. I myself at the time was thrilled when I was finally able to get that client. However, after a few weeks of work things started to get complicated. As per today, with the experience gained I can say the project failed because I didn’t know how to play politics and I only focused on the technical aspect of the project.
The project was a battle between two areas of the company, one technical and aggressive, and the other friendly and negotiating. The latter hired me. If I would have understood these dynamic at the time, I would have managed to take the job through to the end and who knows, maybe I would have got other contracts. Today I am happy to have failed.
That hint of rebelliousness that I bring with me from high school -whether it is because of my haircut, the way I walk, the way I talk, or whatever-, I know it wasn’t welcome in the hallways and elevators full of people with 20k+ pesos suits. Despite my efforts to whitewash the hood that has always been inside me. Maybe that also played a role in not being accepted in that world of sophistication and weekend trips to Valle de Bravo*.
I think that was the first time in my entire professional career where I felt repulsion in a clear way, not that I had not felt it before, but in other cases it had been isolated situations with employers or other clients. Before this project it seemed to me that the industry had a certain logic and honor, or ethics.
I never questioned the role of technology, it was more like an innovative, almost magical solution to the problems and vices of corporations and governments. Of people.
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Industry Red Flags
I remember once, we were waiting in a boardroom for all the people involved to arrive. In the meantime, the most powerful men in the room began to talk casually about politics, but not about their convictions or which party or candidate they thought best (this also led me to question politics years later, but I’ll talk about that in another post).
The small talk, not for work but to kill time, finally opened my eyes. They were talking about how X candidate’s victory would affect the market, or Y’s victory would send their stocks to hell if they didn’t sell them before election day. That relaxed talk about candidacies like chess pieces so their personal portfolios would not be affected, and even joking with laughter about communism, made me realize that these men had no convictions, nor honor, their only allegiance was to money and the interests of those they served.
Since then, everything started to become more evident. I was already tired of the project, but I realized that I was also working for a company that was not aligned with my principles at the time. It’s all much more complex than these paragraphs, but I left disgusted knowing that my lines of code were just helping rich people get richer at the expense of not-so-rich people who choose to play their game of numbers and possibilities. Short selling is one of those disgusting plays that I remember didn’t make any sense to program.
When it was all over, I left that place repulsed. I remember that for a long time the cause of that revulsion was the financial industry. I never thought of the industry in its service, IT, as the cause. In the end I became a programmer for fun and in an almost self-taught way; I have always been passionate about solving problems, from crossword puzzles and mazes to equations. But not only abstract problems, but also those that require research, stringing things together, imagining parallel solutions. Programming gave me the ability to be able to do that and feel like I was playing while doing it.
However, a few years later this fun would turn into boredom due to the type of projects I worked on. After working at the brokerage house I decided to look for a job with less negative impact on society. At least that’s what I told myself.
I Didn't Leave Right Away
After finishing this project and after being surrounded by millionaire whitexicans** in suits playing money, but with sophistication, I found a job in a software development agency that hired me to continue working on mobile applications. At the time I thought I was just in the wrong industry and that technology was not my problem.
Today, five years after leaving that job, I can say that yes it was technology that kept me away from programming, but not technology per se. It was the circumstances around technology that helped me realize what I was really looking for.
This is the first part of a series of multiplatform publications. You can find the second part in this Twitter thread.
* Valle de Bravo is a town in State of Mexico that is well-known for being a weekend getaway destination among rich people from Mexico City and Metropolitan area.
** Whitexican is the definition of a person that has not exclusively white skin but acts as a powerful one. These behaviors include yuppie, posh, classist, and racist attitudes towards marginalized and racialized people and groups. They usually have not knowledge of the oppression systems like racism that generally provide them benefits like wealth or access to certain economic groups. Non-white people can also be considered whitexicans as long as they comply with the attitudes that perpetuate their position in society.