Jarad was still recovering from his encounter with Intelligenuity’s most “brillant” programmer, Keisha, when a new hire, Aaron, showed up at Jarad’s office.

The large project that dominated their timelines remained their efforts to migrate from .NET to Java, but Aaron was hired to keep the .NET side of things on track, handling bugs, new features that were desperately needed, and just general maintenance. It was made emphatically clear by the project managers that hiring more .NET developers was not an admission that the conversion to Java had failed, but would “free up resources” to better focus on the Java side of things.

Aaron moved fast to establish himself. He scheduled a presentation in the first week. He was vague about what, exactly, the presentation was about ahead of time. So, when the lights came down and the projector lit up, everyone was a bit surprised to see their .NET code in his slides.

“This,” he explained, “is our application code. I wanted to give you a walk through the code, so we all as a team have a better understanding.”

Jarad and his co-workers exchanged glances, silently wondering if this was for real. Was Aaron really about to explain the code they had written to them?

“This line here,” Aaron said, pointing to a for loop, “is an interesting construct. It will repeat the code which follows to be repeated once for each element in the array.” A few slides later, highlighting a line which read, x = new AccountModel(), Aaron explained. “This creates an instance of an account model object. The instance is of the class, while the class defines what is common across all objects.”

That hour long meeting was one of the longest hours of Jarad’s life. It was a perfect storm of tedium, insult, and incompetence.

Afterwards, Jarad grabbed his manager, Regine. “Like, do you think Aaron is going to actually be a good fit?”

“Oh, I’m sure he’ll be fine. Look how well he understands our code already!”

That laid out the pattern of working with Aaron. During one team meeting, the team got sidetracked discussing the best approach to managing a very specific exception in a very specific section of their code. Fifteen minutes after the meeting, Aaron followed up with an email: “Re: Exception Handling”, which consisted of a bad paraphrase of the Execption class documentation from the MSDN site. Another day, during another meeting, someone mentioned concurrency, so Aaron followed up with an email that broadly plagiarized a Stack Overflow post describing the ProcessThread object.

And, on each one of those emails, Regine and several other project managers were CCed. The result was that the management team felt that Aaron was a great communicator, who constantly was adding value to the team. He was a mentor. An asset. The kind of person that should be invited to every one of the project management meetings, because he was extremely technical but also the kind of communicator and go-getter that had management written all over him.

Among the developers, Aaron’s commits were a running joke. He submitted non-working code, code that violated every standard practice and styleguide entry they used, code with out tests, code with tests that would pass no matter what happened, code that didn’t compile, and code that was clearly copy/pasted from a tutorial without bothering to try and fix the indentation.

It was no surprise then, that a few months later, Aaron announced that he was now a “System Architect”, a role that did not actually exist in their org-chart, but Aaron assured them meant he could tell them how to write software. Jarad went to Regine, along with a few other developers, and raised their concerns. Specifically: Aaron had invented a new job role and was claiming authority he didn’t have, he didn’t have the seniority for a promotion at this time, he didn’t actually know what he was doing, and he was killing team morale.

“Are you familiar with the crab mentality?” Regine asked. “I’m concerned that you’re being poor team players and a negative influence. You should be happy for Aaron’s success, because it reflects on how good our team is!”

Jarad and the rest of the team soon discovered that Regine was right. Now that Aaron was a “System Architect” he was too busy building presentations, emailing barely comprehensible and often inaccurate summaries of documentation, and scheduling meetings to actually write any code. Team performance improved, and it was trivial to configure one’s inbox to spam Aaron’s messages.

Aaron’s “communication style” kept getting him scheduled to do more presentations where he could explain simple programming concepts to different layers of management. The general consensus was that they didn’t understand what he was talking about, but he must be very smart to talk about it with a PowerPoint deck.

After their next release of their .NET product, Aaron scheduled a meeting with some of the upper tier management to review the project. He once again dazzled them with his explanation of the difference between an object and a class, with a brief foray into the difference between reference and value types, and then followed up with an email, thanking them all for their time.

On this email, he CCed the VP of the company.

The VP of the company was also one of the founders, and was a deeply technical person. She never related her reasoning to anyone, but based on Aaron’s email, she scheduled a meeting with him. It was no trick finding out that the meeting was going to take place: Aaron made sure to let everyone on the team know. “I have to block off everything from 3PM on Thursday, because I have a meeting with the VP.” “Can we table that? It’s probably best if we discuss after my meeting with the VP.” “I’ll be back later, it’s time for my meeting with the VP.”

No one knows exactly what happened in that meeting. What was said or done is between Aaron and the VP. But 45 minutes later, both Aaron and the VP walked onto the developers’ floor. Aaron was watching his shoes, and the VP was staring daggers at the back of his neck. She marched Aaron into Regine’s office, and closed the door. For the next twenty minutes, the VP vented her frustration. When her voice got raised, words like “enabling” and “incompetence” and “inappropriate” and “hiring practices” leaked out.

The VP stormed back out, leaving Regine and Aaron to discuss Aaron’s severance. That was the last day anyone saw Aaron.

Well, until Jarad started thinking about attending a local tech conference. Aaron, as it turns out, will be one of the speakers, discussing some “cutting edge” .NET topics.

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