Why I left Dragnet

Hey Guys, Its been a while but a lot has been happening and its all come to an end. In other words, the storm is finally over.

I used to work for a company called Dragnet Solutions. The company was involved in Computer Based Testing (CBT) where we organised CBTs for recruitments, scholarships, examinations e.t.c for some of the biggest names in the corporate Nigeria from Oil companies to Banks e.t.c.
A lot of things happened and I decided to leave. Many of the friends have been asking why I decided to resign from “a Good Job”. I was thinking of how to express my thoughts at once rather than answering individually when I remembered “Why I left…”. I am writing this because I believe that my experience might be of help to someone else.

The “Why I left …” letter has become something of an internet meme which started off with a letter by a former Goldman Sachs Executive which read “Why I left Goldman Sachs” and that resulted in an avalanche of letters like “Why I left Google” and It even spun some funny parodies including my favorite “Why I left the Empire” by Darth Vader. So I decided to add my own to heap. ;-)

Pre-Genesis

To fully understand why I left, I have to explain how and why I took the job in the first place. Before I worked at Dragnet, I was making plans to lunch my own startup when I was invited to Microsoft’s open door conference during which I had fun, answered questions, won gifts, talked with other techies.. Then I met a guy named Tag, who wanted me to come work for Dragnet. I was reluctant at first but he explained why I needed to work for a period of time and get experience. Not just technical experience but also corporate experience.

I was convinced, and I took the job for two main reasons:

  1. To make an impact by developing great software that hundreds of thousands of people would use (Unless you are a nerd like me, you won’t quite understand the thrill)
  2. To gain experience. i.e. to see how a company is run, what its like working with a team of like minded developers, planning projects e.t.c..

After that, he also asked if I knew any other good developer so I called my good friend Ifelere and in turn had to convince him to join us

Life at Dragnet

At Dragnet I and Ife met the other developer named Otee. So with the four of us; Myself, Ife, Otee, Tag, the Dragnet Development Department was born. Skills wise, we could do almost anything. We were all well versed in several programming languages, web design, database management, graphic design..
My unique strength to the team lay in the front-end. I was a bit better at UI design, then there’s Ife a.k.a The Mad Genius (I gave him this nickname because I felt that sometimes you needed a bit of insanity to follow his train of thoughts :D), then there was Otee who is a Database Lord (This guy could anticipate the SQL Server Execution plan for every query he wrote i.e. he literally understood how Database engines worked internally) and Finally, our leader Tag who had all our skills put together.

Life was good and I started learning about planning, executing and managing projects as a Team. It was completely different from what I was expecting. I learnt so many things from the importance of source control, Importance of setting Timeframes, Separation of Concerns, Prototyping amongst other things. Looking back, I am really glad Tag talked me into taking the Job as I now realize that I was grossly naive back then about working with a team of programmers as I’ve always been a lone ranger, building everything myself.

Now that I think about it, You could think of us like the Penguins of Madagascar where I would be Private, Ife would be Kowalski, Otee would be Rico and Tag would be Skipper :D

Penguins Of Madagascar

The Penguins of Madagascar

I strongly doubt that any Nigerian Tech Company had a better team at double the amount we were actually paid.But Dragnet Blew it. Steve Ballmer is not known for too many quotes like Steve Jobs but he has one of my favorites: “Developers! Developers! Developers!” Developers are the life blood of any software company. They are crucial to the success of any platform. As obvious as this is, Its sad that Dragnet did not understand this.

Tag and Otee’s Exit

When Tag was employed in Dragnet, Dragnet was at its infancy. Dragnet at the Time did not have its current Test Engine including its cloud infrastructure which is Face of Testing. Tag single-handedly built the entire platform from ground up which is just amazing considering that he was taking huge leaps on the then cutting edge technologies that were at their infancy at the time (like Silverlight). However, as is normal in Life, things got really sour between Tag and the Management of Dragnet. So one morning after my 4th Month, Tag called us together and told us he was leaving. Not too long after that, Otee followed suit leaving the bat to Ife and Myself

Climate Change

When Tag and Otee left, Things started to get really weird, we were shot with all kinds of projects some of which were not feasible and given all kinds of insane deadlines. Projects were rushed and even though each of us had to do in weeks what should naturally take months of proper development, we were still accused of not bringing value as they were not seeing immediate results on the projects that we were working on. We were yelled at, scolded,  and we were no longer developing (pun intended) rather we were literally over-labored.. still we pressed on hoping that things would get better with time.

The Agreement

In the midst of the storm, we were greeted with a surprise. A “Confidentiality” agreement that would essentially give them rights to ANYTHING we built while working for them. Here’s an example:

Employee shall assign, and hereafter does assign to Company all interest in all Confidential Information, whether copyrightable or patentable or not, made or conceived by Employee, solely or jointly for Company, whether or not the same were inventions for which no equipment, supplies, facility or Company Confidential Information was used and which was developed entirely on the Employee’s own time as long as Employee was under the paid employment of Company. All Confidential Information assigned herein is hereafter referred to as “Assigned Inventions.”

That was not all, It also stated so many absurd things that enforced me to report any Invention or Discovery I made while working for the company or that anything I build even after I have left the company using “skills I acquired” belonged to them. The last part was tricky and ambiguous because it meant that if I built anything that became successful in future and they could prove that Its similar to anything that had been (or was been) developed as at the time I was working with them, then it belong to them. They called it “Trade Secrets”.

I don’t need to be a lawyer to know how powerful patents and inventions are. If you have been following the way Apple and Microsoft are bullying the likes of Samsung,  HTC, Google.. You will see why as a software engineer, the “fear of patents is the beginning of wisdom”.

Then I thought to myself “Why this all of a sudden?” that’s when it hit me. This was one of reasons Tag and Otee left in the first place! They must of have wanted them to sign it (which I later confirmed). But there’s more. Why did this come up at all? What were they afraid of? Could it be the fear of an uprising? Were they expecting us to join forces and start our own company of which given what we already know could be disastrous to them? I don’t have the answers but here’s why I think they are wrong for thinking in that direction.

  1. The sky is too wide for two birds to collide: Even though its a possibility that we may decide to create our own test engine, It is not something they should count on. As a developer, there are hundreds of similarly rewarding opportunities especially in Nigeria where IT is still at its infancy. So restricting our expertise or mind set to building a Test Engine is seriously myopic.
  2. There are greater threats: Dragnet may be leading the Testing pack (thanks to Tag’s vision) but that does not stop any other developer from teaming up with their competitors/allies and pulling them down. As each day passes, more developers are coming of age and if they don’t improve their core expertise (testing platform). It won’t be long before something way better shows up on the market. So rather than fear their developers, they should have held them close

When I was given the document, I had a thorough re-think to make sure I was not over-reacting.
I thought about the things I sacrificed to work at Dragnet; Self Development, Hackatons, Dev Conferences, Dev camps, Research and more importantly starting my own company.
I thought about the “climate change” and the reason I took the job in the first place.
I thought about what I could be risking if I signed the document and stayed (also noting that it was not a guarantee that I could not be fired the next day).
I thought about how Tag and Otee were eventually treated after working for several years. There’s a saying from my place that goes:

When a slave witnesses where another slave’s body is being tossed into the bush, He knows he should not expect a proper burial

(sounds a bit dark I know, but it was too darn accurate) That’s when I made my decision. I told Ife that I was leaving and to my surprise, he was thinking the same thing too.

What’s Next?

Working for Dragnet has indeed been an experience. I barely had time for myself. Simple things like going to the bank became major events as there was hardly time. I could not focus on any other thing or project other than work. but now all that has changed. I am currently doing some research and working on a new exciting (and top secret) project. I miss the great friends I made at Dragnet, I miss the launch breaks and the office jokes. but that’s about it. I am pressing on to new heights and I’m glad I went through all that because I am far more prepared to launch my start-up than ever before.

As for Dragnet, I hope they find other developers who will fit into that environment and accept those terms. However, I doubt they will be to assemble another team that is as good. Good developers are an endangered species.

UPDATE: I realize that the tone of the post felt like it contained a tad bit of resentment but like I said earlier, I’m glad I worked there. I feel Dragnet was just doing what it thought was best for itself as a company nothing more. The goal of the post is not to antagonize Dragnet but to convey how I felt that propelled me to leave.

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About Ody

Web Developer/Programmer and Hardcore Gamer. Mainly interested in the Web and Web Technologies

16 thoughts on “Why I left Dragnet

  1. A lot of other crazy stuff transpired (considering that this was across 8 full months) but I wanted to limit it to the important points so that it would not be too long

  2. Thank God for knowledge. U can imagine signing tht generational slavery. Brodas even if Nigeria is not too palatable to remain in Business but IT is one business Ur startup is not too big. All we need is a laptop n power source. I have lost all ma investment not once or twice but once I remenber all I need is inside of me. I pick myself again. Ody, we are a new breed, we can’t sign slave deals like the people before us. They shd give us constant light for one year. Dragnet and co will knw tht garage IT companies in US, China n UK are multi dollars companies and like u said why r they scared?

  3. I strongly feel the ‘join & leave’ experience is one that every developer should have. I got into virtually the same trap sometime ago. I was more into thinking, planning & presentation than I was of a ‘coder’, but I saw how skills could be exploited and the carrier of the skills is completely robbed of his satisfaction, freedom and even benefits. The relief of getting out was just too much for words, it can only be experienced. Im sure Ody understands what I mean, and its just a similar story… you get talked in, you’re asked to talk in your good friends and… suddenly, you discover you’ve been caged. Nonetheless, its an experience every intending entrepreneur should have. It teaches you the ‘how not to do things’ and the ‘what not to dos’.
    Welcome Ody. You’ll suddenly discover its like you had some months unaccounted for…

  4. I completely understand. The “cage in” is something we should be weary of as developers. That’s not to say we should all be entrepreneurs but if I was working somewhere where I was not only making impact but was given some level of autonomy like Google, Microsoft, Facebook or even where I worked before i.e. CADs Consulting where I had a completely different experience, then I would gladly stay.

  5. yeah,i agree.d xperience u gained counts.howeva,as a young entrpreneur ul get more time to develop ur self&b more independent.I understand u bc i faced smtin similar.

  6. This is a sign of the Nigerian business man “Greed”. They have seen what they haven’t seen before. Home grown developers that built tools that generates clean cash and yet still want to render same developers useless whenever they leave or whenever they fire them :)

    Why deprive a developer that has served you and moved you to the next level a future? Answer = Greed

    Why not allow a developer hustle to become somebody even after work hours? Answer = Greed

    Greed is the major reason for corruption in this Nation. You have money and you are up there still wanting to take the future from young men that studied and helped your company grow.

    I didn’t know Dragnet had a development team. Since when??? Dragnet = Greed

  7. The news is kinda shocking, even more shocking the circumstances you described above. It’s plain devilish what these guys asked for. Pretty much equivalent to selling your soul and the devil would have presented a much better deal sef. Good eye opener, their MASSIVE loss!

  8. If they could physically grab what you guys have upstairs, they wouldn’t have hesitated to do it. What you know is conceptual; it’s in your head. Hands can’t hold it. I see the IT department Dragnet suffering after the exit of the team. Thumbs up to Tag. He’s more than an inspiration … You guys rock!

  9. Pingback: Hey Manufacturers, Please stop copying Apple. | Tech Genius Blog

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