19 July 2016

Really, part 3?

Really, part 3? Yes, really. Sigh.

Previously: and then

A quick summary: one of the ADA accommodations I was granted where I work is having a particular workstation reserved for me when I'm doing software development. (I work in an open office.) A couple of weeks ago now, that workstation had a person in (at?) it when I arrived for work and I raised a fuss about it. It's still unresolved. My suggestion to management is that they assign a student lead (or someone) who's here in the office during the afternoon to check and make sure that if anyone is sitting at that workstation and ask them to move before I arrive at 1700.


The latest response was that having someone assigned to make sure that this particular approved ADA accommodation (emphasis added on purpose) is available is a work in process that affects the entire office. So a meeting was proposed for this afternoon (Monday). Except that I have a different approved ADA accommodation that makes it so I'm not asked to task switch on the days I do software development work-- on those days, no switching back and forth between jobs and no meetings. So that meeting today didn't happen.

My argument here is that it doesn't really take any extra effort on anyone's part to look over, or walk over to, a workstation that's in the corner of the room at the end of the afternoon and make sure that there's no one sitting there. It's sort of the whole point of accommodations that an employer makes sure that whatever the accommodation is, it's available for the employee. In this case, it's about a two minute long task-- shorter if there's no one sitting at the workstation that needs to be chased out. There's really no legitimate reason that this can't happen.

I've tried to put myself in the position of a supervisor, who has to "deal with" a veteran with PTSD that has requested ADA accommodations and had them approved. In the first place, what's the value in arguing against accommodations (as my employer did for me having a reserved workstation when it was first requested)? Spending money from the budget is one-- if providing the accommodation is beyond the reach of an organization's budget, that's a reason it can't be done. If it's physically impossible-- let's say a person has immobilizing vertigo, there's not much you can do with accommodations to make a person able to be a high-rise crane operator. There are likely other reasons depending on where you are. "Here" is an open office in a campus building. It's a big open room with all new furniture. No money needs to be spent. Nothing needs to physically change in the office. Other than posting a sign in a visible place and having someone check to make sure no one else is sitting at that workstation when said employee is working, I don't see anything extra as a supervisor I'd need to do.

Which is my point. As a veteran with PTSD-- or, an employee with a disability-- all I really want from accommodations is to be left alone in a calm environment so I can concentrate on my work and get shit done. It's not a game that I'm trying to "win". 

My previous employer thought it was a game to win. I didn't have accommodations there, because I didn't know at the time that there was such a thing as the ADA or accommodations. This was right after I was first diagnosed with PTSD. I was in the 12-week cognitive processing therapy program at the VA hospital, which required an appointment every week. I had sick leave there, but I still had to invoke the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to get time off for my appointments. Then they changed the rules so that to take paid sick leave, you had to be sick for three consecutive work days and see a doctor. So for most of those 12 weeks, while I was allowed time off (only) because of FMLA it was unpaid time off.

I'm including this because I've slowly been realizing that where I work now (where I mostly like working) is gradually becoming the suck in much the same way that my last job was. It's funny-- when I mention the company where I worked before I worked here, if it's someone that's worked there the universal response is "damn, didn't that place suck?" If it's someone that didn't work there, the universal response is "damn, I heard that place sucks!"

And it sucks here that weeks after an incident where an approved accommodation wasn't available, and after I let the appropriate people know about it, that this is still a problem. Okay, fine, don't accept my suggested solution-- but at least do something.

The alternative, if as a supervisor or as an employer someone chooses (and it is certainly a choice) to fight ADA accommodations, or to just simply ignore them, is that as a company or an organization they end up losing good people. I'm not saying that my disability makes me a better programmer than someone else, but I've put a lot of work into learning what parts of PTSD can be good things when writing software. I've learned ways to cope and actually be productive in an environment that's not at all suited to being a software developer with PTSD.

One can only imagine if I had a quiet place to work and didn't need accommodations in the first place.

There is a point (which is very rapidly approaching) where this fight isn't going to be worth it any longer-- I'm leaving soon, which has been the plan for a good long while now-- but even if I were staying at this university, I'd be leaving this job soon. It's been a very good thing in terms of me being able to take time to figure out how programming for money intertwines with PTSD, and I'm convinced that if I'd been at a traditional internship over the past year it wouldn't have gone altogether smoothly either.

This job has also not turned out to be as much experience, or as much challenge, as I'm looking for. I really don't know what to do with having finished a months long project and having no one ask anything about it. The amount of work (the number of paid hours) available here isn't what I thought it was going to be over the summer, so there are other projects that I wanted to work on that I just don't have time for. Once fall semester starts, there will be even less paid hours available that I'm working now. All things considered, is working here worth the fight?

No, it isn't. kthxbye.


More on what's next coming soon.

13 July 2016

Accommodations and respect, part 2

This is a continuation of

I finally got a reply, that started with "I'd like to apologize", in response to my raising a fuss that the workstation that's reserve for me at work as part of ADA accommodations wasn't available one day last week. At that point it was already the wrong answer. I didn't ask for an apology. I don't want people to be sorry. I want to be able to come in to work, sit down, and start working and not have to throw a fit and/or make a scene in front of an office full of people to get someone to recognize that there's a problem with something I need to do my job.

My response to the apology letter was that since having a sign posted doesn't seem to work, someone should be assigned to make sure that the workstation that's reserved for me is available when it's supposed to be-- that person could certainly be one of the student leads that's here every day. I noted in my response that doing so would take about two minutes out of someone's day. It's my impression, since this particular accommodation was one that was initially denied (I appealed the decision and it was then granted), that The Man is just trying to do the minimum required to stay out of trouble. Honestly, how hard is it to say to the people that are here during the day (I work at night), "That workstation must be empty at 1630 every day. Make it so."

Otherwise at work, we didn't have a software dev meeting again this week-- so for another week, no one has asked me anything about the project I'm working on. I come in earlier than normal on the days we do the meeting, which I did today, thinking there was going to be one. I had to interrupt someone else to ask about the meeting, and that person mumbled a little bit about a part of my project that I've already talked to everyone about. Which was something, at least someone had looked at it for a minute, but it wasn't that much.

I'm not asking people to throw coins and candy and tell me how much they love me every day at work. Honestly, a majority of the time I'd like to be left alone so I can code. Some of the time I really do enjoy interacting with people though, especially when it involves talking about software and what people want their software to do. I'm much more motivated by seeing someone using software that I've written, hearing their opinions on what it does well and could do better, than I am how much I'm being paid. It's not that money isn't important-- it is-- but it's not the main thing that gets me out of bed and to work every day.

That's not what I'm getting. Instead I'm getting apologies and I'm being ignored.


One of the goals of my taking this particular software development job was finding out how I'd do in an actual production environment with PTSD-- not just working on my own projects, but coding in exchange for someone else's money. I don't like saying this but after a little more than a year, I'm feeling a little bit discouraged. Nothing I asked for as far as accommodations was anything that required great expense or changes to work flow. Even so I've had to spend a lot of time and effort not only to get the accommodations but to make sure I keep them.

I'm trying to imagine how requesting the same accommodations would go at a startup, or at any tech company, considering how the process has gone at a university and considering previous places I've worked. I often think back to the dot com I worked for, where I had PTSD and didn't know it at the time, and I wonder if I asked for the same accommodations what their response would have been.

Task switching, being moved from one job to working on another (and another...) job wasn't exactly the same problem there but it was similar. I'd be working on one client's website, and there would be a change to another client's website, and another, until I'd have six or seven different things to work on but no sense of what priority to assign to each one. Invariably, the ones I'd pick as the lowest priority would be the ones that management would be asking about first. I remember that I did ask more than once for some sort of guidance on what I should be working on, but never got an answer; the highest priority was generally the client that was currently on the phone with an account manager. I ended up working on several different clients stuff in a day, not making forward progress on any of them.

There were also times when I'd get pulled from being a programmer to being a system administrator because I was the only other person there who knew shit about UNIX.

I remember that I started keeping my email client closed when I was working on something. Eventually I also started keeping my instant messenger client (back then, Yahoo Messenger or ICQ) closed or on away as well. Then I brought in headphones and turned down the ringer on my phone. All of that led to people emailing me, then messaging to see why I hadn't responded to their email, then calling to see why I hadn't responded to their IM, followed by them tapping me on the shoulder in my cube and nearly getting themselves smacked for sneaking up on me.

We did ask at staff meetings about all of this-- the company tried "quiet hours" where we weren't supposed to be interrupted, but then we'd just have people standing outside our cubicles ten minutes before or after quiet hours with a stack of questions. That's one of the reasons I left that company, was the constant conveyor belt of switching from one thing to another to another.

The noise there was terrible, too. An old warehouse with high ceilings. Fax machines with a stream of incoming faxes that never stopped. People talking. There was a TV in the reception area. Complete open office. There were a few actual offices with doors, and I remember asking about getting one of them, but was told they were already assigned to others. I never heard what the criteria was for being assigned an office, and I'm not sure there was one. I had an assigned workstation-- a low rise cubicle-- but there was no truly low traffic or low noise area in the place other than the few offices there were.

Had there been such a thing as noise canceling headphones then, I'm pretty sure I'd have bought a set on my own. I know that some companies now buy noise canceling headphones for their programmers without the ADA; the company back then might well have done the same.

Had there been an ADA then, I might have been able to be assigned an office as an accommodation. At the very least I might have been able to share an office with someone else who valued quiet. I remember now, what happened when one office opened up because someone left and I asked for it-- it was converted to a server room. So that might have been a fight.

It should be noted that programmers have requested, and repeatedly been turned down, for having offices with doors that close for years in favor of open offices. I'm certainly not the first, and this wish in particular has been a wish as long as there have been programmers.

Task switching, and getting prioritized work assignments, might have been a fight too. The whole "quiet hours" thing never really stuck, and it turned out that the manager I had there that would pile work randomly into my inbox was fired not long after I left-- but everyone was laid off several months later, so who knows. If we say (for the sake of argument) that the same manager I worked for stayed, and so did I, customizing a work flow for me would have been an epic battle. (Although, if the same changes had been made for everyone else too, the entire development staff would have been a lot happier and more productive.)

I feel pretty safe in saying that the accommodations I have now probably would have helped, back then. They help a great deal now, and if I hadn't taken my current job and had gone straight to a tech company I would be in the same boat as back in the day-- trying to figure this shit out, except under heavier fire.

Taking all of the anecdotal evidence I accumulate from what people say online about where they work and where they intern, and what I'm able to get from recruiters and tech evangelists at hackathons, it's hard to picture what it will be like asking for accommodations from tech companies. Interviews are somewhat hard to come by lately, because as soon as I get to the part about I'm not graduating this fall the connection starts getting choppy and the conversation ends. *sigh* So it may be a moot point.


None of this answers the question of why no one gives a shit about the project I've been working on through all of this stuff about accommodations. The experience of requesting and appealing and fighting for accommodations-- and then having my work outright ignored-- has taught me a lot, though.

It's a lot easier to cowboy up and push through the noise and bullshit when I feel like I'm doing something important. Coding is fun and I enjoy it, but it's also therapy. Getting dialed into coding a solution to a problem, given that I have the opportunity and the right environment to do it in, beats the PTSD. Doing something and getting feedback that it's a good thing beats the depression. Seeing what I've built work for other people and talking about what I've built beats the social anxiety.

Hacking-- or programming, or software engineering, pick your term-- makes me happy. ADA accommodations aren't an end, they're just a means to make it so that I can hack and be happy. Let me hack, let me be happy, and I stop caring about a lot of other things. Interfere with accommodations, you interfere with me hacking. Interfere with me being able to hack, you disrespect me, and you make me unhappy.

I just want to hack, and be happy. Why don't people understand this?

07 July 2016

Accommodations and Respect

Last week, I got a letter from human resources asking how my ADA accommodations at work were working out. My response was that, other than some initial hiccups, things were okay. Not perfect by any means, but okay. In my response I mentioned the times I'd come to work to find that the accommodations weren't in place (I keep an electronic version of a notebook, and I log all of this stuff). I didn't name names. The omission was intentional, because I'm willing to grant that dealing with accommodations is something that most people in a shop of student employees aren't used to dealing with.

Tuesday I arrived at work to find someone sitting at the workstation that's reserved as one of my accommodations. The sign indicating that the workstation was supposed to be reserved was nowhere to be found (I did find it later, taped to and flipped over the back of one of the monitors).

There are several people here who are student team leads. On Tuesday, four of them were at the office-- one was the person who first scheduled me to flip flop between jobs in the same night, which kicked off the entire me asking for ADA accommodations process. One was the person who earlier this summer was planted at said reserved workstation one day, that I had to chase out. One was the lead on my software development team. I know it's hard to picture an org chart without an org chart, but all three were people that I've encountered in the process of asking for and being granted accommodations. The fourth and I hadn't really met-- yet--  on anything related to my accommodations.

Calmly (counting to 10 under my breath the entire way) I moved over to where the student leads have desks and announced that someone was sitting at the workstation that was supposed to be reserved for me, and that something needed to be done about it.

The three students leads (see above) quite literally said nothing, looked like they'd been caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar, and looked down at the floor before grabbing their stuff and leaving for the day. Not a single word. The fourth actually went and talked to the person who had unknowingly sat down to work at the reserved workstation and let them know that they'd need to move ASAP. Which they did.

I wrote all of this in an email to human resources, but this time I wasn't shy about naming names. There were a total of four people who could have looked over, seen that the sign wasn't there, and flipped the sign so people could see it. Technically, the workstation is reserved from 1630- and I get here at 1700, so someone should have noticed and done something about it before I arrived. No one did.

The letter I sent to human resources was forwarded (verbatim) to my actual (full time staff, not students) team leads today. HR actually asked my permission before forwarding it-- my immediate supervisors and I don't discuss my accommodations except through HR. When I got to work today, there was a new sign that had been printed and put in a document protector and taped quite firmly to the desk indicating that the workstation is reserved every day from 1630 onward.

There was no direct response to the email from my supervisors. None of the student leads said a word to me today when I came to work. (Actually, no one really said anything to me today at work.)

This is not how to handle people with disabilities in the workplace.

I can't say enough about how having a particular workstation reserved that's off in the corner, where people aren't walking past or behind me, helps my ability to concentrate and do meaningful work. My supervisors (one or the other or both) initially argued against this accommodation, saying that it would be impossible to reserve a workstation without revealing the nature of my disability. They directly disagreed with my provider from the VA-- I had to argue and fight to get it approved over my supervisors objections. 

Honestly, unless it's a time of year when it's really busy around here, most people don't want to sit in the corner of the office away from everyone else. On Tuesday the person sat down at the reserved workstation because it was the only one open, but because no one was paying attention, they were still sitting there when I arrived.

This obviously causes a problem for me, because now I have to wait for that person to finish what they're in the middle of. I'm triggered as fuck, because I'm always on edge when I get to work because I'm expecting exactly this to happen and now it has.

It's not just me though. The poor support agent who unknowingly sat in the wrong place now has a team lead and a pissed off veteran that want them to HTFU and finish the call, so they're rushing through an answer and probably not taking care of the customer on the other end as well as they should be. Now we've got a pissed off and triggered vet, a scared shitless support agent, a student lead who's just trying to make this situation over, and probably a confused customer. HR now has to deal with a letter from me. My supervisors have to deal with a letter from me with HR also asking WTF the problem is.

All of this because someone-- out of at least four different people-- couldn't be bothered to take 30 seconds during the day to make sure that no one was sitting at a particular workstation. Well, okay, maybe longer than 30 seconds if they do what I do, and set up a reminder on my phone for these kinds of things.

Because of the gag order (I don't know what else to call it) that prevents me from direct communication with my supervisors about anything dealing with accommodations, I'm in the dark. Putting PTSD and silence together solves nothing. The only things I have to use to form a basis for how I feel at work are that my supervisors didn't think I should get this accommodation and that they're not going to give it to me unless I raise holy hell about it.

There's a shiny new sign on the desk saying that you'd better make sure you're out of this space by 1630-- I know I'm reading into this a little bit, but to me that says that random person sitting at the reserved workstation is now responsible for getting up and moving on time. I can't see how this is right. It's up to supervisors to make sure accommodations are available. Isn't that one of the kinds of things supervisors get paid more money to do?

I hope that at some point, some person who is a supervisor of a person who needs ADA accommodations reads this. I can't tell my own supervisors directly, so I'll tell you.

If I'm asking for an accommodation that's covered by the ADA and I've submitted medical paperwork to prove I have the disability I say I have, it's because on my own I've looked at my job in terms of my disability and figured out a way to do my job well. I didn't quit and leave you without an employee. I put a lot of time and effort into finding a way to stay and be a productive employee in your organization.

ADA accommodations are not even remotely the same as a lawsuit. There is no "winner" or "loser". I ask for accommodations, you're entitled to ask me for medical documentation, and once an accommodation is granted you're on the hook to provide it. I didn't "win" anything. You might have to spend some money, or do something, to make sure the accommodation is available. You don't "lose" anything by providing accommodations, especially when they're something simple like reserving a workstation. You gain a more productive employee.

You can, and should, ask me about my disability and how it relates to work. I'll be happy to explain why sitting at a particular workstation helps me develop better software, faster. I live with my disability every minute of every day. I overcome it just as often. It means a great deal to me that I'm able to lift my ass out of bed every day and carry it to work to write software for you.

If you're not willing to do even simple things like putting a sign on a workstation, and checking to see if I'm working today and will need that workstation, when I'm busting my ass to beat PTSD every day, why am I here?

05 July 2016

Numbness at work. And fireworks.

I'm off work today because July 4th is a holiday. Yay. I'm a student hourly employee, so that means I'm not getting paid for today either. Boo. I'm also presently in a corner of a campus building doing my best to not be anywhere near fireworks and their associated bangs and flashes.

It's sort of funny, I remember I used to love going to see fireworks, until I realize that "going to see fireworks" was like many other things-- concerts, festivals, etc.-- usually associated with a few beers at the event, followed by at least a couple more after. There are in fact a lot of things I used to do, and a lot of things that I used to put up with, where I relied on some sort of medication to get through. Things in general are a lot easier to deal with, but a lot harder to fix, when you're numb.

I might have talked about this already in a different post, but I did get an email from the disability person in human resources at work, asking how my accommodations have been working out. My feedback was in general pretty positive, as they have actually been a huge help. The environment at work is still extremely noisy and distracting. There are still times, even with pretty decent noise canceling headphones and music on, that I have to :w and step outside for a minute (or five) and take a few sips of coffee and just sort of let myself settle down.

One of the things I said in my response to HR was that it's okay for my team lead (and my team lead's boss) to talk to me about the accommodations and or my disability. I meant it as an olive branch, a peace offering. Over the course of all of this accommodations request process, I have felt insulted a few times about the way things were handled and I've indicated so every time. So it's perhaps not a surprise that the response from HR was that anything involving my disability or accommodations would be forever routed only through HR-- but it's definitely the wrong approach.

It would be incorrect to say that I'm proud of my disability-- I don't wear it as a badge of honor. All things considered I'd rather not have PTSD. If there's a place to turn it back in to supply, I'll happily turn it back in, but I know there isn't such a place. It's a part of me, or maybe I'm a part of it. It's not a badge of honor to have PTSD, but I am proud that I get up every day and deal with it. I listen to it, hear what it has to say, and then I come up with a way to overcome it and carry my ass to work or class or wherever I need to be. I get shit done, and that's what I'm proud of.

One of the things that's been a constant at work with accommodations has been the noise canceling headphones. It's been the main topic during the entire process-- HR, my team lead, my team lead's boss, and that person's boss have all indicated how they'd be happy to order them for me. Noise canceling headphones are easy. Order them, they arrive, employee uses them, everyone's happy, right? No one has any objection to that, because it's easy, no changes to policy, no changes to procedure, nothing extra to deal with.

It's the other things-- task switching, and a reserved workstation with my back to the wall-- that they've fought against. These are the hard things, the ones where the person that does the schedule needs to know what's going on and a sign needs to be posted on a workstation indicating that it's reserved and management says so. I understand that these are the most visible things, but I don't understand why they're the difficult things. My argument (maybe point of view is better here) is that if there were an employee in a wheelchair, and a desk needed to be adjusted or furniture needed to be moved around, it would get done. So why is a disability that involves mental illness either more difficult or even any different?

I'll never get to sit down with my team lead, any of my student team leads, or anyone else and actually explain any of this. When my accommodations come up talking to coworkers, I've learned to explain that I have a disability that makes it very hard to concentrate in the office and in class. There have been those times when I've had to politely (and then less politely) tell people in the office that they're making too much noise and keeping me from getting work done, but that doesn't solve anything.

Maybe it's that I'm a veteran, and I'm used to the military where if you had a problem the first person you talked to was your supervisor. Personal problem, professional problem, whatever, you talked to your supervisor. The idea was to solve the problem at the lowest level possible. Want to know how to get promoted? He'll volunteer you for some stuff. Have a headache? The NCOIC probably has an industrial size bottle of ibuprofen in her desk. That's not working? Go to sick call. Just broke up with your girl? Fine, we'll talk and then the guys in the shop will take you to the strip club tonight and help you remember the good things about being single. Bug up your ass? Your supervisor will help you remove it.

I know, civilian life isn't like that-- I've been out long enough to realize it-- but at the same time, it's not much fun knowing that you have a fairly major obstacle to overcome every day you're at work that you really can't talk to anyone about. It's lonely, and isolating, and it shares a lot in common with feeling numb. Accommodations at work are exactly as advertised, they're changes that get made that make it possible for someone with a disability to still do a decent job. That accommodations are in place means that communication becomes more important, not less important. I don't expect my current supervisors to do everything my military supervisors did, but there needs to be a channel open. It's the same with any kind of relationship between humans, lack of communication leads to misunderstanding, which leads to all kinds of shit breaking down.

It's somewhat easy to avoid fireworks, and their associated flashes and bangs-- while there's some (actually a lot of) value in prolonged exposure therapy, fireworks on the 4th of July are actually an isolated event. In avoiding fireworks I'm making a conscious decision to do so. There's not much value I can see in making myself miserable listening to shit explode while I get drunk. Overall, avoiding this one thing is okay, although avoidance is one of the really negative things about PTSD. On this I'll give myself a pass provided I'm not also avoiding lots of other things (like, say, work) the other 364 days of the year.

An open dialog between me and the powers that be at work about my disability, and my need for accommodations, is something that I wish I'd had over the past few months-- not just for dealing with my current job, but in dealing my next one. If people are nervous, or even scared, about having someone with PTSD around,
knowledge overcomes ignorance every time. Let's stop avoiding the hard stuff and talk so you understand me, and so I understand you. Let's not be numb and pretend there are no problems or that accommodations are a game with winners and losers.

29 June 2016

Not vaporware

At work I've mostly finished a software project that I've been working on since last fall-- I have a lot of time and effort and learning and figuring shit out invested in it. I'm maybe even a little bit proud of it, since it's something that adds a lot of new capability to something that everyone here uses every day.

No one cares.

I demoed the thing last week, at a team meeting that probably wouldn't have happened had I not said that I had something to demo. The members of my team looked at it, grunted a little, and haven't said anything about it since. No feedback, no opinions. I doubt that anyone has looked at my work, or even thought about it, since last week's meeting. This week we didn't have a team meeting because there's nothing going on to meet about.

Like I said, no one cares.

I've been a programmer in a place where people care if things get done-- normal is that people care a great deal about when software projects are going to be done. Entire methodologies have been written for how to get from a user asking "Can the system do X?" to "The system now does X correctly." Exactly what the correct way to build software is has been debated ever since the idea of software was invented, but one constant has always been that someone, somewhere is tracking what is getting done and what isn't. Even for software that's given away for free, this is true.

It is perhaps not that unusual that on Monday night at a comedy club when it's open mic night and random people try to tell jokes and suck at it that the audience sits silently and stares. In software development it is really, really weird to say "I've completed my project" and get no response. I am not trying to say that I want a cookie just for doing my job (actually I do want a cookie because I love cookies, but not the point). I'm saying that this isn't normal. This is really fucking strange.

This isn't my first programming gig. I've worked for companies that have stock symbols, and I always knew that someone cared about what I was working on because very often there was someone in my face asking when it would be done. If I was assigned to work on a project, it was because someone needed it. Sometimes the needs changed, and so a project was halted or substantially changed in the middle-- that's how business, and therefore software development, work.

I'm cool with changes, even drastic ones that make work that I've done meaningless. This is because I've seen (from a help desk point of view) how the way users react to a system drives how the system gets modified. We track every single customer contact. Even the tickets that don't get escalated to a particular team get reviewed so the people that manage a particular service know what that service's users are thinking and saying about it. Some services get a lot of calls and feedback, some get less, but it's all reviewed. Requests for changes get made. There are people whose sole job is making sure that changes that get requested are actually made. In a normal situation those are the people who are bugging me asking when I'm going to have my project finished.

So it is quite out of character for no one here to have an opinion about a software project that's finally ready after months of work. It's also really, really depressing.

I'm a hacker. I do what I do-- programming-- because it's what I love. Making a system do something new that it couldn't do before (or couldn't do correctly) is important. There's not that much about the world or my environment that I really can control, but inside the machine I have control. It's up to me to learn how to speak to the machine, how to understand it, how to listen to and recognize when it speaks back to me.

It is not enough to just be able to write code and make something happen. I try to do it well. I want to be able to hold up my work, be it the code or interface or whatever component, and have people look at it and say "this is good". Software that I write, when it's put out into the world for people to use, changes the world. My code, even if you can't see the inner workings and all you see is the output, is both a reflection and an extension of me.


Last April, when I applied for this job, it was a choice to do so. I was looking for a new job, possibly an internship, that would help take me out of what I was doing (help desk support) and back into software development. The extra factor is that I have a disability, and looking back into the past I knew that PTSD would be a factor that I'd have to overcome. That's a major reason I took this job-- it would give me the room to learn how to manage PTSD and be a software developer at the same time. I'd been making a lot of progress learning on my own, but there's a difference between writing software for yourself and writing software in exchange for money/for other people.

I'm still happy I did take this job. It's been interesting work, I've had a chance to learn a lot about programming by actually writing code. I've also encountered problems dealing with PTSD, which means I've had to find ways to cope. If I'd had the coping tools I've picked up working here years ago, my story might be a lot different.  Asking for ADA accommodations has been a roller coaster, but it's been an important learning experience too. It's not an unknown now. I know I can do meaningful work, provided I have accommodations in place, and I know how to ask for them and explain them.

When I'd been on my software development team for a year I got a raise and a really good performance review. This made me very happy, because it's proof that all of the effort and time and coping I've put into overcoming PTSD has worked. This is a really major thing-- people who are really good software developers but who have PTSD sometimes leave the jobs they love because PTSD gets in the way. I was one of those people, more than once. It matters a great deal that I'm still here.

It matters to me, anyway.

The same people that haven't seemed to notice that the project they've been paying me to work on for months is done are the same people that initially fought my request to not have to task switch several times in one day. They are the same people that fought me having a reserved workstation. They are also the same people that haven't followed up-- not an email, not a "hey how are things with the new accommodations", nothing since the accommodations were approved.

It is true that I'm leaving at the end of the summer. People know that. I haven't set an official last date yet, but they know it's coming. I know that people tend to write off someone who they know is leaving soon, I experienced the same thing every time I moved to a new Air Force assignment. People start to look at where you sit and see an empty chair. Might be that that's what's happening here now.

I want to leave now, today. It's time. It's been time. My apartment lease is up on August 15, which is the main reason I'm still here. An important second reason is that I'm trying to put some money aside to cover actually getting to California. I still have some other work to do while I'm still here. Beyond that there's no reason for me to still be here.

It's depressing that in over a year of busting my ass, neither of the projects I've worked on are going to see the light of day. Maybe the most recent project still will, but it's not looking like it right now. I'm trying to work through that-- writing about it is a part of the process-- but it's hard to shake.