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I am on a dev team of 15 people and just arrived a month ago. Our team lead just left because he didn't get a raise. There have been massive problems as he was the only one who knew anything about certain systems as our department has had high turnover recently. Anyway, in the interim we managed to get things somewhat under control.

However, our new lead has been going over budget figures and is realizing that as dev isn't core to the business, we keep getting our resources and budget cut year over year. He is basically saying that the only way anyone gets a raise is if we are respected in the organization and that respect can only happen if there is first pain which we swoop in to resolve.

There is currently a question of succession at the top of our department to the C level head. One candidate is the innovations/technology guy and the other is the operations gal. There may be others, but these are considered the top two candidates.

Operations relies on legacy/not actively developed systems. Innovations/tech is building a new set of systems for other business uses. The operations person is a skilled cost cutter who is stingy as anything. The tech guy is a blue sky thinker who can't be bothered with current operations and mostly cares about the latest and greatest. Obviously the 2nd is far better for us developers.

He is basically encouraging us to not bother to learn the older legacy systems which our old tech lead mostly supported (and give minimal support to each) and instead focus our dev efforts on a new system which goes to the executive.

His rationale is that if we can push the new system out into production by the new year (it was due in February) and operations has a bunch of failures and goal misses, tech guy will get promoted over the operations person.

His risk management strategy is that even if ops manager does win, we can just switch over to providing good support and if she cuts anyone, cause a mess again.

As a relatively junior dev, are there any negative repercussions to going along with this scheme? I can just say that my boss assigned me to the new work (as I technically am on that project). Supporting older tech is not a formal requirement for our team, just a general expectation.

He now ends meetings with "nobody appreciates fire marshals, just firefighters. Remember that value added without somebody watching is worthless to you."

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    You ask different questions. In the title you ask whether your lead is right with his statement about fire men, at the end of the question you ask whether there would be repercussions to you. I think it would be good to edit your post to make sure that there is one prominent question you want to have answered, or ask multiple questions if you want both of them answered. – Helena Dec 1 '19 at 8:46
  • Your lead’s office politics strategy might be correct, though entirely unethical. He might even be right about the firefighting analogy. However, he must be a complete noob/idiot, because he reveals it to junior devs who repeat it in a public forum. :) – Mateusz Stefek Dec 1 '19 at 10:57
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    Am I seeing patterns where I shouldn't? Or is this the second question describing the same kind of ethical dilemma developing itself, but in a different situation? workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/148533/… – Stephan Branczyk Dec 1 '19 at 17:22
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    "Obviously the 2nd is far better for us developers". It is certainly more interesting to work on new technology, but unless your core business is software development, changing the core technology could be a huge risk. It might be unrelated to your question, but you might want to look into the "why" of changing tech. If the reason is only to "keep up", or "work on interesting stuff", it could be a red flag. – Sevron Dec 1 '19 at 18:05
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    Also, I hope that isn't you real name - if so, please change your account name. I've had previous employers stalk their employees on social media and places like reddit before. – user25730 Dec 2 '19 at 0:11
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To use the analogy, fireman may be more appreciated than fire marshals, but the people doing the appreciating usually do so from the burnt wreckage of their house.

He's basically proposing sabotaging the business and then swooping in to be the hero. Quite apart from the ethics of doing so, there are huge risks - the business as a whole loses so much money or reputation that it fails altogether; senior management and/or ops sees what's going on and fires your lead (and potentially the lot of you); your projects get canned and you're forcibly moved on to ops work. A good outcome is that the business suffers minor inconvenience and losses, and no one gets good raises.

Obviously the second is better for us developers

Wrong.

There is a lot of empirical evidence that blue-sky complete system rewrites are a highly dangerous strategy. Yours is already nearly a year late and yet you think your lead will end up in the C-suite as a result. If it flops when put into production, only seriously ignorant management would put the blame on operations. (Don't you guys practice continuous delivery?)

For your future, supporting legacy will be a significant part of your work almost everywhere. There's a reason for that - legacy code has already been through a lot of shaking out the defects and survived to tell the tale. Get used to it, get good at it.

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    Agreed. Firefighters get the glory because they swoop in to salvage situations they didn't have a direct hand in causing. The situation he's describing is actually more akin to a fire marshal allowing a fire to start through laziness or negligence (or deliberately in this case), then expecting credit for putting it out after it only did a little damage. All it takes is for someone to connect the dots and ask how the fire was possible in the first place if the marshal was doing their job properly. And any supervisor willing to act this way isn't going to shield their team from blowback. – delinear Dec 2 '19 at 16:19
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    Love this answer. And to be clear, with respect to the fire analogy. Its the fire fighters who get the glory. Not the arsonists who caused the fire. You can't successfully be both at once.Your new lead seems confused by that. – dwizum Dec 2 '19 at 17:59
  • I would add that a conspiracy to sabotage a specific person’s career is also going to look very bad if it ever came out. – BSMP Dec 2 '19 at 19:39
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The problem here seems to be that the person who's meant to be representing your department to the CEO/board is failing to secure the budget they should be. There are multiple possible reasons for this - from the company having financial issues; to planning to outsource; to the (what you hope) just poor management representation.

The head of the department who should be fighting to get your budget, may well be getting large raises for cutting the budget and still delivering. Of course, they might not.

Industrial sabotage however, is not something you should do in retaliation to this manager. You can ask them why the budget is getting cut, and explain the consequences; but ultimately, it's not your call.

I would suggest you just accept that this job is a learning opportunity for you and not depend on getting a raise. When you've the experience that allows you to move on, do so.

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