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Re: Work at RSI!

Patrick Broos (patb@astro.psu.edu) writes:

> I find this opportunity at RSI to pose a moral dilemma.
> I enjoy programming in IDL, I've wanted to work again in Colorado for
> quite a while, and I happen to have experience relevant to RSI's need.
> However over the years I've come to believe that the environment/culture 
> at RSI does not tend to place a high enough value on scientific integrity, 
> i.e. getting correct answers from IDL applications, or on their customers'
> time.  For example:
> * To this day RSI has not done anything about the corrupt scientific result> 
> its customers may produce using the multi-flawed random number routines. 
> (Just three weeks ago another person reported to this newsgroup that they
> were burned by this.)
> * RSI seems to make no effort to notify its customers of even routine and 
> straigtforward bugs that are known and fixed.  They have twice now given
> me a revised version of cw_form.pro when I pointed out a bug but made no
> effort to make such improvements available to the rest of their customer base. 
> I'm sure the people at RSI are perfectly nice people.  They would probably
> explain that by not doing the things _I_ think they should be doing, they
> are able to accomplish other important stuff.  Fine ... everyone has to set
> priorities.
> So, when you disagree with a company's behavior, should you avoid working
> there (as a protest, and for your own personal happiness), or should you
> try to work there (making an effort improve the place)?   This is an entirely
> academic question, of course, designed to stimulate interesting newsgroup
> discussion, since RSI would not likely hire me now anyway. :)
> I like the IDL language generally, but just wish RSI would do some things
> better.  Perhaps you, gentle reader, just wish I would stop complaining.

I feel vaguely disturbed by this letter, and I am having
difficulty putting my finger on exactly why I feel that way.
I think because it implies a sort of malicious intentionality
to RSI's collective behavior that I don't think is justified.

Lord knows, I've had my differences of opinion with people at
RSI. And I've chided them publicly on numerous occasions on
matters, such as informing their customers of bugs and 
improvements, that I think they can do much better than they
are now. But this letter seems to imply that they don't give a damn
about their customers. And I know for a fact that is simply
not true.

I suppose there could be people at RSI who would just blow
customer complaints off, but I don't know them, and I know
plenty of people at RSI. Sure, I would be disappointed if I
reported a bug on several occasions and it was not fixed. But
rather than believe there were sinister or malicious motives
involved, I would find it easier to believe that the company
simply did not have adequate systems in place to track 
customer comments. No company, RSI among them, could survive
long by ignoring problems with their software. 

I wouldn't presume to tell you whether you should work
for a company like RSI. Certainly there are politics and
personalities to contend with, just like there are in
any other company. I can tell you that there are a heck
of a lot *worse* places to work than RSI. I think they
both need and want good people who work hard and care
about what they are doing and who they are serving.

I know that the years I spent there are among the most
satisfying and rewarding of any of my professional life.
Mostly because I was given the opportunity to do what I
thought was right for both the customer *and* the company.
Although the culture has changed some in the years since
I left and as the company has grown, I still think it is
a place where individuals with vision and purpose can 
make a difference.



David Fanning, Ph.D.
Fanning Software Consulting
Phone: 970-221-0438 E-Mail: davidf@dfanning.com
Coyote's Guide to IDL Programming: http://www.dfanning.com/
Toll-Free IDL Book Orders: 1-888-461-0155