Two years ago, I started a research assistant position. I was full of motivation and looked for more intellectual challenge, where I could push my skills to the maximum. And I did. However, little did I know that it would end so badly. In the end, all I did was flushed down the toilet. Great software, years of hard labor, some heart put into it as well …and all in vain, thrown away forever. This was a very harsh experience, and still is.
So, how did it come to all this? What did I do? The short story is that, after some time, I started to develop a new system from scratch. I did it out of conviction that I could do better than existing systems, which were bloated by the years, extremely over complexified and exhausting to work with. On the other end, the boss was unconvinced. Using his managerial view, all he saw was a big black box and my proposal of replacing it by a supposely better one. He was not fond of it. What started as a mini-prototype on my evening hours began to grow. This prototype was so much better than the old system that I couldn’t let it go.
This brings to my big mistake. I pushed my energy into producing a technical masterpiece, hoping to see that the excellence of this work would enlighten and convince the others by itself. This failed. Actually, the boss never looked at any code, nor ever used either software. I could simply use sujective adjectives “it’s simplier, more flexible, better, etc…” …but it resounded on deaf ears. He requested proof yet wasn’t willing to look inside the box. For him, it was still just a black box, and there was no point in producing another one. For me, continuing working on the old system was equally pointless. It was ugly, overly time consuming, annoying, inferior …and I knew I had perfectionist software on the side, yet incomplete. Colleagues had no time to spend to test it either, or just rolled an eye over it, avoiding to interfere with the boss’s will.
In the end of this year and a half, I achieved two things:
- Created from scratch a new translation system which competed successfully among the best state-of-the-art systems worldwide
- Get fired and my work burried
I would have liked to have the system open sourced …but obviously the boss just didn’t care, probably because our relationship didn’t go well. By the time I proved the system was so performant, I was already fired. This brought me with the highest recognition from my former colleagues, a disdain from my boss, one of the best systems ever gathering dust on some hard drive, and myself empty handed.