Based on the glowing recommendations of a friend, Philip accepted a new job in a new city. The new city was a wonderful change of pace. The new job, on the other hand…

The company was a startup, "running lean" and "making the best use of our runway". The CEO was a distant figure, but the CTO, Trey, was a much more hands on "leader". Trey was part of the interview process, and was the final decision maker for hiring Philip. On Philip's first day, Trey commented on the fact that Philip specifically hadn't gotten a degree in software engineering, but had twenty years of work experience.

"Honestly, that really put you over the top," Trey said. He grinned the smile of someone who has spent a lot of money engineering the perfect smile, and clapped Philip on the back. "We tend to prefer candidates from, y'know, 'non-traditional' backgrounds. I mean, I have a degree in logic!"

Philip nodded awkwardly, not exactly sure what to make of that. Trey clapped him on the back again, and added. "But as you can see, I've made quite the career in tech. I think my background gives me a better perspective than someone who's been too focused on the bits and bytes, you know? Broader. Why, it's certainly helped me make connections. I know people at Google! Maybe I'll introduce you, if you promise not to go running off!" Trey laughed at his own joke.

Or maybe it wasn't a joke. Philip's first few months at the company were mostly meetings. Some of those meetings were about company processes and standards, which Trey had copied from what he heard Google did. Sometimes, the meetings were more like propaganda sessions, focusing on how much this company was like Google, and would one day be as successful as Google, and how lucky you were to get in on the ground floor of the next Google.

A number of the meetings focused on security, and these meetings generally had a darker, more threatening tone. "Our intellectual property," Trey explained, "belongs to our investors. We must protect it at all costs."

Once Philip was properly indoctrinated into the company cult, and fully warned about security concerns, he was given access to the company's private Gitlab, hosted on the Google Cloud Platform. The first thing Philip noticed was that the installed version of Gitlab was from 2015, and there were a number of documented vulnerabilities that had since been patched in newer versions.

So much for security.

Their product was one gigantic Eclipse project. Emphasis on Eclipse. There were no automated builds. If you wanted to build, you used Eclipse. There were no automated deployments. If you wanted to deploy, you used Eclipse. Philip ran some automated analysis tools against the codebase, just to help him get a sense of what he was looking at.

About 45% of the code was duplicated code from elsewhere in the codebase. One letter variable names were apparently the standard. There was no testing code, whatsoever. And every single third-party library was included in source control, creating a git repo that was over 2GB in size.

Philip wasn't given much direction on what he should work on next. "We want to let smart people do smart things," Trey said, "like at Google. You set direction, and keep me in the loop so I can course correct."

Philip decided that the first thing they needed was some automation on the builds. Then they could move up to continuous integration. It'd also be nice to get dependency management cleaned up so instead of tracking all of your dependencies in git, you could have your build/deploy system handle that.

"So," Philip said to Trey after explaining this, "I thought I'd get started on building with Maven. That's pretty much the standard tool for Java projects like this, I'm already familiar with it, the rest of the team is too-"

"I don't think that's what they use at Google," Trey said.

"Well, I mean…"

"No, no, let me make a few calls. I know people at Google."

While Trey went ahead and made his calls, Philip got to work building a Maven build anyway. It turned out to be more complicated than he expected at first, especially because the code depended on some deprecated Google Cloud Platform libraries, which meant Philip had to also modernize some of that as part of the process, which meant starting on writing some unit tests to avoid introducing regressions, and it sorta turned into a yak shaving expedition.

"Hey," Trey said, "at Google they use Bazel, so we should use that."

"Um, I mean, none of us are really familiar, and Maven is really fit for purpo-"

"At Google," Trey repeated, "they use Bazel."

Philip and the rest of the team gave Bazel a fair shot, and spent the better part of a week trying to get their project configured in a way that worked with Bazel or configure Bazel in a way that worked with their project, and the end result was confused, angry and frustrated developers.

"I understand that this is what Google uses, and it might be a great fit for them, but it's really not a great fit for this project or this team," Philip explained to Trey. "I think we can get to a Maven version in just another day or two, and it'll give us all the benefits we want."

"Well, I think we should do what Google does, but we have another problem," Trey said. "It seems that you merged some code to master."

"Uh, yeah, just some unit tests, and the team reviewed them."

"But I didn't review them," Trey said. "So I'm going to have to call a code freeze until I get a chance to understand the changes you made. No more changes until I've done that."

"Do they do code freezes at Google?" Philip wondered.

"Of course they do."

That was the last time Philip saw the CTO in person. Instead of being busy studying the code, however, Trey was busy gladhanding with investors, showing up for photo-ops with trade mags, and scheduling media appearances to talk up how this was the next Google.

In the end, the code freeze lasted five months, which was longer than Philip lasted. He found another job. The startup is still running, however, but Trey is no longer the CTO. He's now the CEO, and in charge of the entire operation.

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