I’m sorry to post this. I’m normally a very private person. But I fucked up bad, and my family are going to suffer because of it. I want to make things right, and I’m at my wits’ end, just trying to see a positive outcome.
In June of this year, my mom very proudly announced that I’d gotten my “dream job.” It was an amazing moment. Last year I was working at a plastics plant making minimum wage. It was a very hard time; my wife and I have four children and it killed me to see them growing up with nothing, not to mention my oldest daughter, who is severely autistic, not getting the therapy she needed because we couldn’t afford to move to a city where it was available, much less afford the therapy itself. She’s now 5. In my free time I studied web development; I’d always been “good with computers,” as people in the country like to put it, and heard these stories about people learning through self-study and getting good jobs. I won’t lie, I really enjoy the work, but the money has always been first for me, because my family have always been first for me.
Anyway, I moved on from that job and got hired doing design work at a local newspaper. It was only three days a week at minimum wage (we were lucky enough to stay in a family home free of charge). I was pretty good for someone who’d never done it before; I designed an advertisement when I went in for the interview that went into that week’s paper. By the time I left, I had advertisements that were nominated for awards by the state press association. But while I was there, it was the same story: I studied during every scrap of time I had. After a few months I got an internship with a very prestigious startup in the closest “real” city. This internship was two days a week, and so I was able to work both jobs.
The internship was amazing and terrifying all at once. I walked in with my secondhand, budget laptop and was basically told “So, you’re a Rails guy? We’ve got a Rails app that you need to increase the test coverage on.” Aside from momentary interruptions to introduce me to a few aspects of the development workflow, I was on my own, clacking away on a cheap HP laptop, its fans roaring incessantly, amongst a group of mute developers with shiny Macbooks. But I managed to get along anyway, and they seemed happy with my progress. After months of embarassment, I went ahead and bought a nice development laptop, an unthinkable extravagance for us, but at least it didn’t take 15 minutes to run the test suite anymore, so I could get more work done.
My internship was nearing its end, and they asked if I was interested in working there full time. Hell yeah, I was! Excitedly, my wife and I rented a trailer in a poor area outside of this city with just enough land for the kids to play on. Everything was going to be different. Those streets of gold were right in front of us. We were so close!
But then my internship ended. I hadn’t heard from the CEO yet, so I meekly went into his glass box of a room, and nervously asked what my pay would be as a full time employee. “Oh, it’s the same.” came his response. Better yet, it was actually less! I made $20 less per day as a salaried employee than as an intern. I brought that up, he didn’t care. I told him there was no way we could afford to keep renting our house, because now we would actually eat into our negligible savings each month (and we have lived extremely frugally). Then he told me not to worry, that this was a “very temporary” salary until my “real salary” could be determined. He was very reassuring about the whole thing, telling me that employees are paid not based on education or experience but their value to the company alone, and judging by what he was hearing I was going to be “very valuable”.
So here we are, living less than paycheck to paycheck, fighting to keep our power on, skipping meals, and in extreme cases borrowing from family. The only thing that was holding us over was sheer faith in this “valuable employee” paycheck and getting insurance for my daughter. I brought it up occasionally, and he could only repeat that spiel. Finally, at the end of August a few things came to light that were really bothering me.
We got a new developer, and on his first day in the office he was given a Macbook and a bag of accessories. Talking with coworkers, apparently everyone was given one except for me. That stung. The price of my development laptop had been a hard thing to swallow, and finding out one should have been provided to me really sucked. Then, talking with other people around the city, this whole “temporary salary” thing didn’t exist. And no one started at $40k. The general consensus was that maybe I hadn’t gone to college, but I had proven myself in the past 8 months. I deserved the same starting salary as everyone else, which was about $75,000 (according to random developers, of course). I wasn’t sure if it would be that, but I was certainly excited that I was going to get a “valuable employee” salary. God, those words sting now.
I tried to get ahold of my boss for the past three or so weeks. Every time it was, “Hey, I’m real busy right now. Wait until next week.” “OK, thanks.” Finally, after so much nagging, it happened. I went into his office and asked, and he said “I talked with [other developer] this morning, and he says you work very well. Give me a minute and I’ll come up with a number that’s fair.”
A moment later, on Slack, I get a message that he’s going to give me $44,600. My stomach turned and my heart fluttered. I had to sit back in my chair andforce myself to breathe. What in the fucking fuck? That’s still less than I made on my internship. That is not fucking “valuable employee” pay. He’s been lying to me for months, dragging me along like I’m going to get a substantial raise. I had to shell out my own nonexistent cash for a laptop, moved my family closer to here because he, along with everyone else there, talked about how great this company paid, and now I still can’t afford rent each month when I live in a fucking trailer on the shitty side of town? Why the fuck didn’t he just tell me what I’d be getting from the beginning?
And so I answered. I don’t remember my exact words, but I thanked him for the offer, and told him that I was worth more than that. That I’d been told $75k was reasonable, and that I would have to look for work elsewhere if it was going to be $44k.
He never answered.
He stayed holed up in his office all afternoon with the door locked. I finished my work (I was extremely proud of myself this iteration; I’d taken on extra and finished 18 points worth of work when we shoot for 8 points worth), talked to my team leader about a memory leak I was going to investigate, and left. Surely, when I come in tomorrow we’ll talk things out and come to some understanding.
Then tonight, I open up my laptop and notice that I’m signed out of Slack. And Google. The accounts have been deactivated. I immediately log into my personal GMail and shoot the CEO an email asking if this is his way of telling me I’m not to come in anymore, and apparently it is. We had a little back and forth, me reiterating that the thing I’m upset about is him stringing me along for so long after I’d told him this wasn’t a livable wage, assuring me that I would be “valuable” and compensated accordingly. He said that since I’d said that I’d need to look into employment elsewhere, I am disloyal and he had to remove me from everything immediately. I got upset, I think I said fuck a few times and asked how he could justify this. But he never gave a shit about anything I said, just kept calling me disloyal. Fuck, who betrayed who here? Is loyalty supposed to be a one-sided thing?
Now I have no job, a family to take care of, and not much I can do. I’ve emailed a few acquantances at other companies, but I don’t know what might come of that.
My wife knows the story, except for the part about me being fired. I don’t want to keep things from her, but she’s already under so much stress taking care of the kids and just knowing how little my “salary” still is. I don’t know what she’d do in her current state of mind if I told her. She’s already bawling because our son’s birthday is in two weeks and we won’t be able to afford a party.
Right now, I’m begging for a job. I’m a Ruby and Python developer (better with Ruby). Basic JS, mostly jQuery. I’ve been doing a lot of API work lately. I don’t know, I can’t even think straight enough to explain my skillset right now, but if anyone’s looking for a remote Rails dev *right now*, please point them my way. I would be eternally grateful.
Sorry for the awful writing. I can’t think straight at all anymore.