Author Topic: A programmer automated their data-entry job. Now the question is whether to tell  (Read 7400 times)

a1pharm

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Here's an interesting article:

https://qz.com/1019161/a-programmer-automated-their-data-entry-job-now-the-question-is-whether-to-tell-their-employer/

TLDR:

The user went on to say they spend an hour or two on their job each week, even though theyre getting paid for full-time work. On one hand, they wrote, its not like Im cheating the company. On the other, it doesnt feel like Im doing the right thing.

Marty

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Work smarter, not harder.  Good on him.

LPG

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Solution: Become an independent contractor, charge for services instead of hours. Complete work in 1-2 hr/wk, enjoy life.

Ocinfo

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I did this at a job in college. It wasn't data entry but involved a lot of input to the computer. Bosses loved it and were well aware that my job now took 2 hours instead of 8. They eventually laid some people off in the great recession but had to keep me around to keep the software running.


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kayvent

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The IP clauses of the typical IT contract makes the Data Entrist's situation even more difficult.
In many software developer contracts, in mine in fact, the company claims hold to any IP the software developer thinks of. Even when not working.1,2 This could mean if the person told their employer the employer could demand the code. Demand the damage to the company's program is fixed. Fire the programmer. And fire the rest of the people doing the same data entry job. (Or as Ocinfo did, fire the rest and keep only one)

1 The reason for this is not absolutely devious. Imagine if Carl works for a game studio and at 2AM in the morning comes up with an idea for the game. He proposes it in the boardroom, it gets accepted, produced, makes tens of millions, then Carl sues the company because the idea was his while he wasn't on the clock. Because people have done just that, this monopoly over developers' ideas is a common clause in developers' contracts.

2 Or your name is Palmer Luckey and you decide your ideas were so neat that you quit your job, create your own company, and use those ideas (and ones borrowed from the company). Then your company gets sold for a few billion.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2017, 05:59:36 PM by kayvent »

Paul der Krake

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To pull this off successfully, you need:

- a boring ass company with shitty systems
- a company edgy enough to let you work remotely
- systems that are shitty enough to not be obviously automated, by not so shitty that you can't automated
- nobody with a technical background in your hierarchy who can smell what you're doing

The real beauty here is that if you can find such companies, there is nothing* stopping you from holding multiple similar jobs and collecting multiple salaries. It scales, bitches.

If you work at such a company, please PM me.


*your attorney may disagree

Forever Wednesday

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Agreed, sounds like the company has inherently poor IT systems.

How much would data entry pay anyway? Is it really that worthwhile trying to preserve the position? Seems like it would be a better move to come clean to the employer and shoot for the position of company programmer.

"I just reduced my working time to 5%... think what ELSE I could do for you!"


respond2u

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Solution: Become an independent contractor, charge for services instead of hours. Complete work in 1-2 hr/wk, enjoy life.

+1

You could even negotiate incentive pay if you do it error free and train up for another job...


WhiteTrashCash

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This person is a genius. Well done!

Dave1442397

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I thought the comment about 'cheating your employer by getting paid for 40 hours but working 2 hours" was funny. You don't see employers having any qualms about paying people for 40 hours but having them work 60, or more. I had one job where I worked over 100 hours a week for a few months. After seeing what that got me, I never did it again.

scottish

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It depends on the company doesn't it.    Some companies expect the world from their employees but are very stingy about what they give in return.   Others, not so much.

RobFIRE

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I saw this on HackerNews last week.

One point was clear to me: that if the employee is adding any "deliberate mistakes" to their work, that needs to stop immediately. I think there is a moral difference between a mistake you are not aware of (whether made in your mind, by your incorrect actions, by forgetting etc.) versus a mistake you knowingly make.

Other than that, this situation to me is reflective of the negative incentives and behaviours resulting from corporate bureaucracies, bean-counter driven decisions and incompetence. It also reflects that paying by the hour when the employer wants in the value of the work done, leads to conflicts and imbalances when the value isn't directly proportional to the hours input; this is a problem in almost all areas of employment, even if you work on a factory line producing x widgets per hour, the company value is measured on overall sales and profit which may not relate to x widgets per hour.

So if the employer is doing the work he's required to do, and doing it correctly, then while the situation is silly and they are in a dead-end job, that is the reality of the system, and I see no problem with them continuing to do that indefinitely. Work given, work done. They should not use the work time to moonlight on another job, as again I think there is a moral difference between using spare work time for non-commercial activities (exercising, reading a novel, study, DIY on your house etc.) and directly commercial activities (second job or money-earning side hustle), but they should be entitled to use the time for non-commercial activities.

prognastat

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The only thing I see as unethical is adding mistakes into the program. Knowingly making it perform incorrectly is wrong. However as long as they are completing the work they were expected to complete it shouldn't matter how they complete it.

Hunny156

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To pull this off successfully, you need:

- a boring ass company with shitty systems
- a company edgy enough to let you work remotely
- systems that are shitty enough to not be obviously automated, by not so shitty that you can't automated
- nobody with a technical background in your hierarchy who can smell what you're doing

The real beauty here is that if you can find such companies, there is nothing* stopping you from holding multiple similar jobs and collecting multiple salaries. It scales, bitches.

If you work at such a company, please PM me.


*your attorney may disagree

Back in the day, when food manufacturers had their own sales reps, you'd hear stories from the field every now and again.  Some person would manage to land two similar jobs with different manufacturers in similar territories, and collect two salaries (and two company cars!) while maximizing their time.  Eventually a manager would want to ride along for a dog and pony show, which would result in the rep either quitting right before that visit, or they would try to wing it and hope no one would figure out what they were doing.

I guess this is why that industry is now dominated by broker reps, who represent multiple companies in one territory...

MilesTeg

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Here's an interesting article:

https://qz.com/1019161/a-programmer-automated-their-data-entry-job-now-the-question-is-whether-to-tell-their-employer/

TLDR:

The user went on to say they spend an hour or two on their job each week, even though theyre getting paid for full-time work. On one hand, they wrote, its not like Im cheating the company. On the other, it doesnt feel like Im doing the right thing.

Actually, depending on how his employment is specified, it's possible he is legally cheating (read:defrauding) his company. If he's paid by the hour, or in certain situations even for a salaried person, he might be.

ender

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That weird feeling when two of your separate online communities collide.

YoungInvestor

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I was thinking, there's also the moral dilemma that if you can automate your job, everyone else in the same role would also be fired.

You'd probably get some kind of promotion, though.

A Definite Beta Guy

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Ooooooo, good Q. Only complicating factor IMO is the presence of a small child. Child-care is really expensive. Automating yourself out of a job and then having to spend the money on the child care too is kinda crazy.

Otherwise I would mention that I had automated the entire thing. But that's a big chance....


Prairie Stash

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I was thinking, there's also the moral dilemma that if you can automate your job, everyone else in the same role would also be fired.

You'd probably get some kind of promotion, though.
Why? Wouldn't the manager be able to claim credit and get a promotion instead? Lay you off, outsource the maintenance (at a fraction of your wage) and leave you behind.

In basic terms, if the manager is altruistic and rewards you, that's great for you. If the manager chooses to reward themselves, that's better for the manager.  Which manager does the person have? It has nothing to do with your own morality, you're betting on another person rewarding you over their own person.

prognastat

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Several thoughts about this:

1. How does he know his program works?  Presumably this is why he needs to continue working for 1-2 hours a week, but I still question any automated program doing as good of a job as a human outside of straight repetitive tasks.

2. What if he came clean about the program but not say that he has had it for months?  He could then offer to do more complicated tasks and probably get a raise.  Assuming that his company has more to it than just repetitive data entry.

3. I doubt that anyone working is working 100% of the time.  It's not sustainable to do that.

4. I don't find it to be a moral dilemma if other people lose their job due to his automation.  That frees up their time to do more complicated tasks as well for the company or find a different job where their skills have value.  This is a net benefit to society.  I think true happiness comes from having a purpose - and performing tasks that could be automated serves no purpose.

1. The data entry I have done has generally been very repetitive stuff.

2. I have known people that managed to automate their jobs and been up front about it and it did not lead them into a bright new path. One of them had his didn't have his contract renewed and the other was moved to a less significant role that wasn't automated and since they had to keep paying him his former salary for a better position which was higher than the salary range for the new job they put him on he was no longer eligible for raises.

3. I suspect the same for most employees.

4. I don't think there is a moral dilemma in people losing jobs due to automation, but I also don't see one in not disclosing you have done this to preserve your job/income.

A Definite Beta Guy

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Several thoughts about this:

1. How does he know his program works?  Presumably this is why he needs to continue working for 1-2 hours a week, but I still question any automated program doing as good of a job as a human outside of straight repetitive tasks.

2. What if he came clean about the program but not say that he has had it for months?  He could then offer to do more complicated tasks and probably get a raise.  Assuming that his company has more to it than just repetitive data entry.

3. I doubt that anyone working is working 100% of the time.  It's not sustainable to do that.

4. I don't find it to be a moral dilemma if other people lose their job due to his automation.  That frees up their time to do more complicated tasks as well for the company or find a different job where their skills have value.  This is a net benefit to society.  I think true happiness comes from having a purpose - and performing tasks that could be automated serves no purpose.

1. The data entry I have done has generally been very repetitive stuff.

2. I have known people that managed to automate their jobs and been up front about it and it did not lead them into a bright new path. One of them had his didn't have his contract renewed and the other was moved to a less significant role that wasn't automated and since they had to keep paying him his former salary for a better position which was higher than the salary range for the new job they put him on he was no longer eligible for raises.

3. I suspect the same for most employees.

4. I don't think there is a moral dilemma in people losing jobs due to automation, but I also don't see one in not disclosing you have done this to preserve your job/income.

I just don't see how someone with the intelligence to be able to automate a previously manual task has no value and can't find another job in a country with booming stock market and low unemployment right now.

You can certainly find a job, it's just a question of whether it's a BETTER job.

The manager might lay you off because your role in the company is now defunct. It's a question of whether you can do more in another role, within the same department, that justifies your wage. Totally different question. If you automate out your entire department, you need to go even higher and ask the VP or Director to move you into a different department under his/her domain.

Also automating data-entry doesn't make you a super-genius. Depending on what it is, a lot of other companies may have already automated that.

Finding a new job can be quite difficult. I looked for a job last year and it took me 9 months, even though I was looking to pretty much make a lateral jump into the same role. Finally landed on my feet, but it's not like every industry is just poaching people left-and-right. I've automated some stuff here, just like I automated a bunch of stuff in my last job. That shows up on a resume, but a manager has to be smart enough to understand it.

Also, if I walk into a job, automate everything, and get laid off in a month, the next recruiter and hiring manager will assume that I am a meth-head that can't even keep a job for a month, not someone super-smart who can automate the whole thing.