It was my first job as a developer and I was there to make a statement. I was extremely underpaid, but hey, it was my first job after-all. The company did not have a developer and was cautious about even hiring one. My primary objective was to “transfer the product from their existing POS software to a website.”
The software was designed to run on AS/400 systems…you know, black background, fluorescent text, no mouse, that kind.
There was a way to export the data, but that data was a mess. People that entered product descriptions had absolutely no sense of consistency. So, even though there was a way to export the data, there was no easy way to import it into the website.
As I gathered more requirements from them, they kept saying, “well it would be nice to have that feature too.” Great! I spent about 2 weeks cleaning the data before I was able to import it. I spent another couple of months creating the custom online software that they wanted.
The website itself started off as a catalog. They wanted their customers to be able to log in and view the product. It transformed into a full-fledged e-commerce site with live inventory that their customers could order through; it also served as an API that customers could tap into. All of this while they were still using their crappy POS system.
Since I was a one man team, I devoted a ridiculous amount of time to that site: front-end, graphics-design, back-end, data-entry, etc. I would regularly spend 4–6 hours after my 8 hour shift working on it.
After 2 years of working there and the application bringing in a good chunk of money, my boss took me to lunch. All of the employees were looking since he normally doesn’t take anyone out to lunch besides his other partners. We arrive at a burger joint and we order a burger and a couple of beers. Wow, drinking with my boss.Continue your learning with these articles
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We start talking and he starts thanking me for all of the wonderful work that I’ve been doing. Just last week was their year-end. He couldn’t believe how much the company had improved; sales went from $12 million to $18 million. He and his other business partners went over all possible reasons why and they concluded that nothing has changed…except hiring me.
“We thought about this for quite some time. The reason that we went up $6 million a year is because we hired you. After speaking with the sales staff, they stated that they’re constantly receiving complements on the website and how much it’s helping their business.”
He continued giving me specifics on why he thought that it was I that contributed to their success. The entire time I kept thinking, “oh man, here comes that massive bonus that everyone always talks about.”
After he was finished speaking, we sat there a while and the waiter brought out 2 checks. He didn’t say a word. Another couple of minutes passed by and I started taking out my credit card to pay for the food. He said, “no, it’s ok. I got this one.” We went back to the car and drove back to work.
I was flabbergasted. I kept thinking, well maybe he needs to print the check and give it to me that way. Nope, nothing. I went home that day and was beyond disappointed. I was more in a state of shock than anything. There’s no way that I’m not going to get something out of the deal. It’s gotta happen tomorrow.
I went to work the next day and sat in my office for a couple of hours. It was hard to concentrate. I was excited. I saw my boss a couple of hours later and he smiled at me, “how’d you like that burger yesterday. It was good wasn’t it?” I replied, “yeah it was great.” He kept moving; that’s all that I heard from him that day.
I went home feeling defeated that day again. There’s no way that someone would take me to lunch, tell me that I improved their business by $6 million dollars, and not offer a bonus. It’s gotta be tomorrow. Tomorrow is pay-day.
I arrived at work and sat in my office eagerly awaiting that check. He walked in and said “thanks for everything that you do” as he handed me the check. Hell yeah. Here we go. He has never uttered those words before when handing me a check. I opened the envelope and saw my check…with the same amount as I always get. He walked by a few minutes later and said “man that burger was good. We’re gonna have to go back there some time again.”
Over the remainder of the week I was reminded each day about that burger. Sometimes multiple times per day. Although my work ethic did not change, I was never the same. I did stop working after-hours, however, and I didn’t bring any new ideas to the table anymore. The company continued doing better and I continued providing them with better software.
After a few years, I moved on to other companies but that day always stuck in my head. I’ve realized that software developers are undervalued in most companies. Moral of the story, never accept a free lunch. Oh, and here’s your burger.