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(The pleasures of outsourcing)

by Slobotron, January 2003 ~ (version 0.01, Jan 2003)
(edited by fravia+)
Do I have 'an axe to grind' with Dell? Not at all: I even have myself a Dell portable. But Dell is a PC-company famous for its Web-virtuality (there's not a single phisical shop where you could actually buy a Dell computer) and infamous for its clever advertising methods: everything (almost) on-line, he, mucho moderno! Look how cheap those "almost-all-included" options are offered there! Yessir! Yet once you add all those necessary adds-on (bigger hard disk, quicker RAM, etc), the products they offer turn into quite expensive buys. Moreover 'outsourcing' is one of those catchy 'globalisation' trends, supposedly made in order "to serve better the consumer", yet a trend that hides real HELLS not only for the workers involved, but also for those very (betrayed) consumers that it should "serve".

This essay by Slobotron (he offered us the clever Understanding, Reversing, and Hacking HP Printers as well) is interesting because it also shreds some light onto the REAL (low)life in those profit-obsessed IT-corporations. There is a common misconception, in today's world, and especially in Europe, following which 'the ("modern") private sector' has less waste and a lot of economical advantages, vis-a-vis 'the ("obsolete") public sector'. This is (mostly) simply false, unless for "economical advantages" you mean those of the slavemasters.

The following "insider information", will also be useful for our young readers, thrown in a IT-world that -alas- cares for their (or anyone's else) development as much as you care for the Gothonic epic-historical poetry.
The interest of this essay is underlined by some "euro vs. american" observations that should kindle useful reflections in our readers on both sides of the pond (and elsewhere :-)

What has this to do with searching? A lot more than you would think... Nemo solus satis sapit. If you just want to limit yourself to search-specific essays then go and read them, and farewell, on the other hand, if you want to understand (and reverse) the world WHERE you are searching, read on.


Author : Slobotron (slobotronATATATmailDOTDOTDOTru)
Date : December 2002
Location : Holy Europe
Field : Primum Vivere! / Reality Cracking


In my long and bizarre career i've been employed in many crazy and sometime ugly jobs.
That now i'm doing computer programming is not a mistake, i just followed a natural path, nonetheless, in my rebel days of youngness, the path wasn't as clear as now, and i was in doubt if i should become a painter, or a musician.
Well... I ended up being a salesman of hardware parts for a famous retail chain.
Disgusted by the local market i said to myself that the world was big and beautiful, why then losing my time selling crappy and buggy motherboards? I made up my bag and after some interviews i took a flight to my new job at DELL EUROPE.


Primum Vivere !

Things are NOT as they've told you.
Life is not like a DELL commercial.
Analyzing skills need always direct experience, and we -- as rationalists -- should never fear entering new, exciting and bizarre, adventures.
Discovering new realities around ourself should be exactly our very meaning of LIFE.

- The Welcome-Pack
- Applied Propaganda
- Welcome in our family
- Cubicles
- Customer Handling
- Trained to LIE
- The hidden R&D
- The Corporate Math
- Get the Hell out of Dell
- Dissecting DELL


Welcome to DELL !
The company was paying me the flight, a 5-stars hotel up to 2 months, lunch, a real-estate agency, and even gave me the tickets for bus and metro... the usual "relocation package" common to every decent Korporation.

I barely knew my new job position, as well as my new city.
Anyway, i was quite excited to this new job, the previous one had left me extremely disgusted, paranoid, depressed, and full of questions about myself and my future.
Am i sure that this is the right path?
Tough questions, but i was ready to change chapter and start from scratch again.

The following monday at 9.00 i entered my new company.
My new manager very kindly followed me to the badge-room and in 5 minutes i was wearing my lame DELL-badge.
Then we walked the stairs to the 2nd floor, he showed me all the other hundreds of "lemmings"... not a very pleasant vision honestly :

You must imagine the scene for me: I had never seen something like this, "cubicles"? Hu? Only read about that in the 'Dilebrt' comics... and now here, before my very eyes!
Hundreds of amerikan cubicles, each one with a lemming on it, glued to ugly earphones like dogs with a collar, talking about bits and bytes with mysterious customers that were calling from all around europe.
Noise in the background, a dozen of different languages mixed one over the other, in a tumultous, and yet omogeneus, buzz.

Nothing new honestly, i already knew that kind of ambient, but not as big as that and not as filled with a so young, wild, and multi-ethnic populace!

Wearing of course a tie and a jacket i felt a bit strange, everyone looked at me like when a new manager is arriving, everyone infact was wearing insane casual t-shirts or even trunks!
I did not know for sure what you are expected to wear by DELL, after having worked some months for IBM in the past, where the so called "power suite" is absolutely mandatory.

But after all, that must be reflecting the philosophy of the company, i tought by myself.

Then the "manager" introduced me to my new colleagues. They were all between 22 and -- maximum -- 28 years old, the typical DELL-employees. Glued to their monitors, wearing Plantronics ear-phones, connected to their ubiquitous Nortel-Telecom phones, and using of course an obsolete desktop Dell Optiplex with anatomic keyboard and an oily micro$oft mouse.

Every cubicle, a mess !
Piles of IT newsmagazines everywhere, post-its, papers, books, bloc-notes, pens, pencils, erasers, photos of some tenyears before sticked to the cublicle, some posters of metal-rockstars, postcards from the seychelles, piles of floppies and some broken mainboards in the trashcans.

Apart that, every employee had a Dell notebook (Inspiron or Latitude Cpi) wired to the internet (a 2Gbit bandwith, quite good in those days) and used the desktop just for the corporate tools and e-mails.
Someone had also some rack servers on the floor full of rj45 cables spinning around... maybe to look 'geekyer' in front of his colleagues?

At 18.00 we went to a nice and expensive french restaurant where we all got drunk partying the new hired (that was me). Walking back to my hotel i was quite happy, apart some weird bits of conversation i had heard from my new pals, somethings like "enjoy this days until you can" or "you'll see in the next 3 months"... It didn't sound like a happy "welcome with us" honestly, but i had other things in my mind that night so i didn't care too much.


So, that was my first official first day as a DELL employee. Opening the door with my new flashing badge i already felt as a member of the family :
On the left, a low-res scan of my photo, on the right, a huge blue dell logo, in the bottom my name, surname, division, product, job-title, and employee-number with, also, a mysterious bar-code.

I introduced myself to the secretaries in the entrance, very nice and fresh girls by the way.
In the hallway, a huge and ugly DELL logo 10m x 4m reigned over the stairs .. big... loud... and amerikan...(something that you know in advance you'll hate soon).

My meeting was soon to start but nobody was there .. i decided to get a coffee and a sigarette in the smoking room. There you had them .. dozens of DELLers smoking and whining against customers, managers, products, faulty-design, bugs, etc.

One said : "hey! are you new here? ", so we started talking, and then he flooded me with paranoia against the company, warning me: I should not trust no one...
Damn! i thought, maybe i am wrong, but it seems to me a great company... Why the hell all these guys are in a such bad mood against DELL?

The smoke was over, i went back to my pals to start the "Welcome to DELL EMEA (EMEA = Europe,Middle East,Africa) training".
What a name .. i've been always skeptikal about this amerikan tendency of using exagerated titles, but who cares .. let's see what happens.

After having waited for all the missing guys, the training started. We received some brochures with the products we were thought to manage, the trainer closed the windows and powered off the lights.

Then in the dark he started buzzing about the company history, all the goals achieved, etc etc, The usual corporate-initial-brainwashing i tought, but slightly more disgusting than the boring meetings I had endured at IBM... Phrases like "we're the fucking best", "god bless amerika", "united we win", "believe in DELL", and so on... really made me sick.

But i knew my "reversing meetings" stuff, so i started playing myself with the trainer, asking some evil questions just to satisfy my reversing ego... And guess what: i got answers like "what for the others cost 100 we make it for 80", "Michael Dell is a genius", "Our servers are breaking the market", "Compaq's days are numbered" and so on (at least about compaq he seemed to be right).

Note that -- after all -- there wasn't anything different to expect from a Texas company, but such phrases were pure brainwashing, I mean, for god's sake: the trainer himself louded the greatness of the company in a manner that even a bigot priest would have needed some training in order to speak with such emphasys!

Too bad: apart me, all the other guys around seemed delighted and ready to be evangelized... i guess at lunch they all went to the nearest McDonald's in sign of dell-devotion?


So, finally i started doing something. I was introduced to the technical trainers, and shown all the past and present products.

Having never used Dell products before i had honesty a mixed feeling. I know, i was young, but these were my first days, anyway now i'm writing this using an old HP Omnibook 4150, still a rock !

For more than 15 days i was scheduled to meet product-trainings and in the spare time to look at the colleagues' work.

15 days? i tought... i was eager to work on something "real" instead of spending time in training where they teach you what is a chipset and such banalities.
But it was socially funny and i started somehow to enjoy that company after all.

In the meantime the real-estate agency took me and the other new-hireds showing us some apartments and "studio'" (aka T2) starting from the most ugly and unwanted apartments they had, which of course everyone refused with disdain.

The real estate girl was always whining that the spanish like to have huge apartments with the rent bill of a monoroom, that italians wants nice furnitures and like the city-centre but dont want to spend too much, that the germans like to have a house with a garden, that with all the others she had no problem at all and that we were the only ones "hard" to manage.

In the end i took a T2 "studio" at 100m from DELL (and 1km from the city-centre) for the cheap sum of +/- 400euros, a brand new T2 with kitchen, toilet etc, at 3minutes walking from the company, near tobacconist, supermarket, etc.

I also bought a byke to byke around and see the city and the surroundings. The weekend was spent with my new fresh colleagues going to IKEA buying new fornitures and to the malls, buying food, beers, and wine.

In the contract, the relocation-package included the relocation of my fornitures from my previous place, as well, so i instructed my friends to pack all my CDs and all my computer and musical stuff to be sent there. One week and i received the stuff, plus my ancient Vespa 50 special (1971!), still up and running despite all the odds.

I was happy, definitely, but i still couldnt understand some cryptic things my colleagues were saying against everything and everyone..why were they so frustrated? And why they didn't want to tell me any details?


So, after almost a month where every evening we had dinner in a different restaurant, and paid almost nothing for that, finally i started my job.

Now abruptily all that "dolce vita" was finished. And for godsake, it was about time, i tought ! I like to party, but i choosed to be there for other reasons after all.

Basically my position was supposed to be a "high-level tech support engineering job".
Alas, the reality was quite different, even if still hi-tech.

First of all, the hi-tech position with responsability over top-rating customers all over europe was infact nothing else than a kind of call-center/tech support stuff. The customer were infact the TOP500, but in some "young" countries the company hadn't even 500 customers at all... and that meant to manage in some cases even the last lame "customer from hell" !

Initially i didnt care, i was totally focused on the new products, expecially prototypes of the new upcoming PII 300, raid-arrays, rack-servers, etc. That was cool ! having in my hand CPUs marked "prototype - xxxxx" or mainboards labeled "for lab use only ! s/n xxxxxx", and reading on the IT newsmags "corridor voices" about this or that, and having it already up and running on my desk months before anyone else!

Around me there were other departments, each one with a different grade of "JOB-ENSLAVING" : Secretaries (the most enslaved), accounting, pre-sales, sales, training, tech support, etc We and the sales guys were often wearing tie and jacket, everybody else was wearing t-shirts, trunks, or causal stuff, as a kind of corporate "status". (we ended up wearing trunks too in the end ... for "heating" reasons).

The floor number was also related to the "status" : we and the sales were at the 2nd floor (the highest), the others in the 1st, and the secretaries in the ground floor or even downstairs (i mean this literally: "under the stairs").

We then started using the corporate database to manage customer accounts and tech-stuff related to their sales order etc.

The proggie was an ultra lame ASCII database running on TANDEM (now owned by hp/compaq) connected to the Irish HQ, its name was (and still is) "CEDPS", an ugly UNIX appz requiring you to learn bizarre key combinations such as "alt+shift+f8" for creating new customer intervention or "alt+ctrl+f4" in order to insert parts etc. and "crtl+shift+u" to have an undo, well, an obsolete piece of junk which crashed almost every day, slow as hell, and totally UNwysiwig.. ("what you see is NOT what you get").

TOP500 customers from all over europe were contacting us officially for extremely mission-critical stuff, in reality they were calling sometimes also just to say "hello!" because some of them were in constant touch with us everyday, so much that we proposed to have a dinner all together and to get drunk bitching against Dell and partners.

These customers were mainly sys-admins of Oracle, Micro$oft, Nortel Telecom, Cisco, etc almost the entire IT world was using Dell servers or desktops or at least Dell notebooks so these were the guys that were daily talking with us, and sometime we had great fun with them joking about new exploits or their new (and usually ill-conceived) corporate products.

That was the breezing atmosphere, and i initially loved it. New products, new customers, new "company culture", new friends, why not?


Now, the happy part was gone and almost forgot. The initial months were passed, and at this point i knew almost every possible bug of our products.

All the tricks to install a special OS, every patch, every bizarre configuration, in one word, the servers were running day and night and i was quite bored.

Infact i started spending lot of times writing emails to angry customers, sending faxes, calling "hot-customers" that meant theoretically mission-critical users that paid more $$ for a quick service, in reality often it just took a good restart of windoze or a kick in the power supply to fix the issue.

I was smoking sigarettes like hell (as young slaves tend to do) and drinking lots of coffees surrounded by the ubiquitous noise of the rack servers.

Winter came, and with it came the snow I love. Our daily duty was slowly becaming a constant whining about product's faults and the many insane design bugs that flawed specifical notebooks, typically the Latitude CPxx family, a real pain in the ass.

The biggest bug was that the CPU was mounted in a box with 3 screws, so 1 of the edges remained "unscrewed", that caused the recall of THOUSAND of notebooks that after some time of normal use had ceased to live abruptly .. and often the moving of the CPU caused a burnout of the mainboard socket or even the burnout of the CPU itself so the field technicians had to go on-site, open the notebook, and replace cpu+mainboard+RAM (yes, because the RAMs were known to be flawed but it became public only many months later).

Being the TFT also "legacy" the new revision of the mainboard needed the new IBM TFTs and was not pin-compatible with the old SAMSUNG, that meant you had to change also the entire TFT + cables every time.

Not to mention the ugly plastic chassis, that after some time becomes very unstable, as well as the keyboards, and random symptoms of "auto-power-off" appeared, related to cheap design of the mainboard.

I dont like to whine against bugs, after all the Compaq Presarios were much worse than DELL's notebooks, but I HAD often to speak and to convince some big IT managers not to RECALL THOUSANDS of DELL notebooks (they had a "rent contract" so it was in their right to do it).

That would have meant LOTS of money lost for Dell, but that started to happen almost every day .. Frustration and angerness were now the name of the game.

Same for servers, but notebook were really a DISASTER.

Dissatisfaction, united with my manager yelling day and night that some of the targets were not meet because HALF of the team was in holiday or "ill".

One word about the management : they gave us hi-tech stuff, quite expensive, prototypes to test and report, but when you needed a damn screwdriver there wasnt one! "There's no budget for that, ask it to your colleagues !", they told me.

Damn, i had to take my screwdrivers from home to avoid running 1 hour up and down asking around. There was also a kind of "LAB" but in reality it was full of servers packed in big boxes, with cables, HDDs, raid, stack, and NOT a damn screwdriver or a tester, nor IDE flat-cables or cross cables.
What the hell is that, i asked? HOW do you guys think we can work safely without even the basic tools of the trade?

In the meantime being near Christmas it seemed that every server on earth needed a kick in the ass to be up and running.
It's unbelievable how many sys-admins of Fortune 50's companies are lame and dumb.
Not to mention the ones that after being told step-by-step the right procedure to follow have broken down some RAID or lost the data on their tape backups or even began whining about some mysterious LOW level formats that nobody ever told them to do in the first time...

Dumbasses now wanted "their MONEY BACK" accusing us of uncapability and writing our names in letters full of menaces coming from their lawyers, promising to sue our ass and the company !

Too bad.
And i'm speaking of guys that introduce themselves as IT-managers of Oracle or Microsoft.. (infact i discovered, later, that many of them were in reality just OUTSOURCED companies).

The company was also under a heavy worm virus spreading .. the dumb IT manager arrived to shut down the network for some days (good old days... that was the first Outlook worm!).
Due to their irrational decision of insisting using Exchange Server and IIS3, the network was already Unstable anyway, and the downtimes were unbelievably high.

They were under contract with M$ and thus OBLIGED to use that, like it or not (still now, DELL can NOT sell AMD as far as i know, always for obscure or lobbystical motivations).


Do you remember the famous internet legends about the guy that calls the tech support and asks why his coffee-cup-holder isnt working anymore?

If you get back the original tale in ASCII read it well: that guy was calling DELL. And to my surprise, i heard in my career in Dell things MUCH more insane than that.

People trying to insert DVDs inside the floppy drive were not rare, as well as people bruteforcing non compatible cards and burning out the mainboads, and many american businessmen that complained about the explosion (literally: with fire and smoke) of the "Dell universal 110/220v" power supply, inside their notebooks, once connected to european plugs.

Sometimes there were epidemic cases of Philips monitors that really got burning, with flames and smoke, while the innocent users were using M$ Office.

Plagues on stocks of defective video cards and mainboards were also not uncommon. And, funny too, we had to remplace hundreds of mainboards, or CPUs, or RAMs !

Not to mention that some users had a real strange deadly humour... one day I'll write a book on that :-)

Basically, the junkies in the front-line tech support were just paid to order the customer to FORMAT the hdd and reinstall everything from scratch, even step-by-step. Sometimes even if the customer wasnt just able to PING, the solution proposed was always a good old FORMAT C: !

My customers weren't so dumb, but they were all arrogant and not much inclined to humour. All they wanted was mainly a replacement of the machine, better if with a new model and even better with some money as refund for the "customer satisfaction".

Our duty was of course to debunk point-by-point their arrogant beliefs and force them to take off their legacy token rings or to buy expensive upgrade at insulting prices. But i was quite evil in forcing the users of always FORMAT just to be sure that he would not come back bugging me soon. Ahhh, the pleasures of the FORMAT.COM and NT Disk-Manager !

Apart that, there was nothing else to laugh. We were trained to lie, and paid to lie, in fact we were PROFESSIONAL LIARS.

I started to become a great bastard, at least over the phone. Listening daily to the ignorance of some of our best customers really depressed me, and i began to grow a sadistic fun against every customer i managed, after all they really deserved to pay huge bills for the mistakes of their lame (and invariably arrogant) sysadmins.

Infact i realized that almost every one working there had grow up a similar sadistic and evil attitude, the customer conceived as a "friend" (as they keep saying in the trainings) was just a cheap sarcastic joke.

Once the customer had paid, anything he may have wanted more had to be billed and we were pressed by the sales dept to -- strongly -- encourage expensive upgrades instead of trying to fix bugs (and there were TONS of unlisted bugs!).

The field engineers (in particular Unisys) were in some cases so LAME that they broke functioning parts in front of the customer... that of course was disgusted by such a "service" and asked us a full refund.

The most unethic things were the many cases of DOA (Dead on Arrival). Some customers after having paid the computer via the web, with credit cards, received their pc via UPS, and discovered that it was dead.

Being a serious company, the customer had to yell with 5-6 front-line tech support junkies before getting any minimal attention from DELL. The action had always been a replacement (in 2 weeks or even 1 MONTH!) with a recycled/refurbished product that in many cases had even more nasty issues than the dead one.

You can imagine the frustration of some IT managers yelling that out of 300 Trinitron monitors 30 were dead or broken, when they received back 30 clearly USED ones (and sometimes OLDER version, dirty and oily) due to "mistakes" of the shipping department.

That was insane, the gerarchical structure was extremely burocratic and i couldnt interface much with the other rings of the chain. I was of course in any case partially responsible if customers treated to sue us for inadempience or unlawful acts (some went so angry that i still remember their names :-)

But we were chained to our process, and just that, the management didn't wanted to let us losing time in fixing burocratic or mixed issue, theerefore some technical cases became a nightmare for months and months due to the extreme segmentation of the "pyramid process". (so, in the end if someone was to blame, it was ALWAYS --finally-- the customer :-)

The tension was high .. as well as lots of coffees and sigarettes, i was becoming slowly quite anti-social, hating customers, hating Dell, hating everything in the IT.

A really negative mood, new prototypes meant now new bugs to report (bugs that we knew would have never be fixed) and a deep unsatisfaction, the new servers and notebooks were so buggy that it's really unbelievable how could Dell rank so high in the pages of Pc World, Pc Magazine, etc... (answer --> they paid for it, as everyone else does in the industry).

In any case, customers never had to be informed about fatal design flaws or stock of components known to be fucked-up (typically some stocks of uwscsi hdd from IBM, or the RAMs from Micron).
So we, the professional liars, had to get up with our best creativity skills to invent new excuses or proposing insane and ridicoulus upgrades (or even --believe it or not-- DOWNgrades).

(note : please don't think this happens only at Dell, HP/Compaq do the same).


How can you fix fatal hardware flaws if the BIOS is made by Phoenix, the hdd are made by IBM, floppies by Sony, TFT by Samsung, video cards by ATI, monitors by Sony, or Philips, RAMs by Micron or Infineon, and the mainboards by either QUANTA, MITAC, or some other lame taiwanese designers?

So, What's Dell inside a Dell?
Almost NOTHING at all, except the Dell sticker... maybe the chassis and the power supply (this too, anyway, outsourced to external companies).

WHO repairs a broken dell under warranty? In every country they used a different outsoucing agency to send on-site technicians, now since 2-3 yers they have a worlwide contract using IBM Global Service that at least is a decent choice compared to the barbarians of the old WANG Global or Unisys.

And WHO repair a broken laptop when you send it to Ireland for repair? ("Collect and Return"). Of course another outsourced company.

Servers, were also mostly made by taiwanese companies using parts made by EMC or Unisys.

At that point i started understanding the real mantra of that company. The only european r&d if we can can call such crap "R&D" was ever made in the irish factory, in Limerick, that just assembled in real-time all the buy-in orders coming from the various sales division.

THAT'S IT! All the rest was a bunch of 5-6 hardware engineers dedicated to testing new prototypes and used as interface with the taiwanese partners. And 2-3 trainers, for each nation, that went there every 3 months to get trained on new products. Apart them, a bunch of technical-managers paid to trasnslate the manuals and to make some powerpoint slides about r&d investment :-(

Actually I couldn't believe that there was no damned r&d at all. Especially because i wanted to move as soon as possible in a position related to r&d, as i was tired of being an enslaved engineer.

That meant also that i had NO WAY to get in contact with Phoenix to ask them about bugs in the firmwares, or with IBM to talk about stocks of faulty HDDs. The only "way" was to send an email to our Irish HQ which 99% of the cases replied with a "we're working on it, thanks, and take care".

I was lucky to be employed "in-house" because nowadays the huge bulk of my old work is done by outsourced companies as well, like STREAM international, SYKES, and other local junkies like Unisys (Unisys does that also for some HP servers by the way).

Everything now made some sense in my mind. The trickeries of the sales dept. were now clear and logic, as well as the evil orders we received from the management chain.

Many laptops were also exactly the SAME inside : SAME mainboard, same ram, same hdd, with the BIOS crippled out IN ORDER TO show a different model name (but we had a utility to change it back, as well as modyfying the s/n).

So there was a laptop designed for the average Joe Smith that costed 1000 euro, just because the cpu was a Celeron, and the same one sold for "business use" that costed an amazing 4500 euro with a PII on it.! Hey that's 3500 euro difference! The CPU bulk-cost is less than 300 euro!

Reading "the benchmarks" on Pc Magazines was quite funny : The articles emphasyzed "how good" the 4500$ was compared to the "cheap and dirty" 1000$ one. (hence I warn you... NEVER trust such benchmarks).


Numbers are VERY important in Dell. Also in any other IT-corpo, but NOT as much as in Dell. Because in Dell the "enslavement-factor" is strictly linked to an insane amount of numbers.

You would be excused to imagine that in the corporate world, developments are based on "meritocracy", as opposed to the 'obsolete' burocratical world.

They're based on numbers, and on weird M$ PowerPoint statistics. Management doesn't even know who you (or any other) are, nor they are even going to see your face. But they judge you, and eventually promote you, basing on bogus "performance stats" and other foolish productivity-ratios that use non-sense as main logic. You do not believe this? It's easy to check.

If you are a reader of the Dilbert cartoons you already know --quite exactly-- what i'm talking about. If not, go to I'm sure that Scott Adams, the Author, has been employed at Dell... but was too ashamed to admit it.

At one point the management even started makins stats about how many coffee-breaks we had, measuring the average ratio of the time we spent with customers or how MANY emails we sent, how LONG the email was... they even (secretly) recorded everything we said on the phone to make some stats out of that too.

I knew that because a french colleague had and explosion of rage against the classic "evil customer from Hell" and shouted his entire vocabulary of blasphemy in his phone.

The poor, fired the day after, thought that nobody could have heard his rantings, but in fact they got --and used against him-- the recordings of the entire "conversation".

I still remember that even the webmaster of the site was fired after publishing on the web shots of upcoming prototypes of Intel Cpus that he got from his work at Dell in Austin/Texas.

Therefore, you knew in advance that telling the customer to "restart the machine and call back" was considered GOOD: short call-time, hi-ratio of possible success, etc.

Instead, trying to really FIX the issue, was BAD: long-time call, low-rate of possible success, etc.

Once given such absurd parameters, in the end the management just got what they asked for. Every possible mission-critical issue started to bounce from each individual, or unit to everyone else, in other departments, or back to even the front-line colleagues.

Our stats were magnificient! And the managers raised our salary, the next quarter, with a small bonus. For some time our stats were also ranking in the best-5 of all Dell sites in Europe, go figure how bad (or good, depends from the point of view) the others were doing.

What a shame. In the meantime -- it seems impossible -- a huge bulk of the problems had been actually solved and/or FIXED. How? Because the front-line junkies trying the hell out of it, in many cases forced the problem ridden sysadmins to -- literally -- low-level format the hdd or kick the server in the ass, and guess what? It just worked !
(That reinforces my theory about the average sys-admins' incapacity).

A great "enslavement trickery" is related to the concept of TEAM-WORKING :

Team working was very important, at DELL, in the final performance review, it meant that you're not just a little wheel but that you're a FRIENDLY and helpful little wheel.

Therefore teaching again and again new clueless hireds how to "ping" or "traceroute" was good teamworking. Which is probably true, BUT, you see, ignoring their pathetical pleas in order to fix mission-critical issues was not good.

SPYING on other colleagues was the most important skill for the "teamworking ratio". Managers simply adore delators and spies.

"A good employee should always know what's going on around him and help the management to fix social contrasts or non-positive attitudes in other members of the team".
"The team shoule be seen as a family, with a common goal, and a focus on the customer's satisfaction".
Hearing again all such corporate propaganda really makes me puke.

To better enforce the "enslavement" process every 3 months the company organized a party (which they called "kick-off"). They claim that these kind of party is useful to improve socialization and to foster cameradism and teamworking.
Every Kick-off was organized in a different place rented for the occasion, where you can eat and get drunk while watching the managers showing some childish "PowerPoint slides' tirade" against Compaq.

Note that management never got drunk, they use such meetings to "see who we really are" "outside" the working-hours. They must have some kind of psycho-drilling for this. Anyway, these moments can be quite interesting for a reverser.

(Note that it depends from the IT-corpo: HP organises something like that once a month, while at Sony such things are absolutely forbidden).

The Kick-Offs are also important for Dell to organize the "Dell Awards": ridicoulus (and indecent) meetings where ass-lickers and spies may win a fake gold medal with a crappy Dell logo on it.
All average employees "win" instead a fake-silver pen, while disgrunted employees are not even asked to partecipate.

Every quarter, one by one, we had to comment about our performance review, that meant admiting our faults and --generally-- contribute to the spying-process.
For every employee the manager had a kind of "dossier". Questions like "what you're gonna do here to boost productivity and foster the teamworking? " or even "are you sure you got the leadership vision to see the big picture?".
Disgusting, i was always tempted to shout what i really thought of the management and of the company... but only in the final months of my dell-career i did it.

They try also to sell employees corporate bonds and company stock options. (i always refused of course).
Stock option are ALWAYS used as a asort of linking bait: they think that once the employee owns some stock options he'll double his productivity. As far as i can judge, if you work for them, the first thing you would do is to SELL such stocks, but many colleagues took the bait.

Why is such "team-working" SO important for a IT-company?
Well, the theory is simple: in a classic enterprise there's the LEAD engineer that knows everything about the products and is of course INDISPENSABLE for the company. Being Indispensable he got also some "power".

The lead engineer leads a group of young engineers that are trained to be independent and to learn from the LEAD. So far so good. The theory.

In companies like DELL, this never happens. In DELL, people should NEVER have some "power" unless they are high-ranking executives (and in that case they have that power for "birth" rights).

There are some kind of LEAD engineers but they're just paid to avoid contacts with others. Even highly skilled individuals should be just "average" members of a team, where each one can be easily REPLACED, therefore keeping costs lower than where fully skilled individuals get their sway and say (typical case of "democratic mediocricy": who said that private=merit driven?).

Therefore, being TOO MUCH skilled is considered BAD and against the teamwork (unless you happen to work 16hrs a day without never asking some compensation).

Only after years of devotion to such Dell dogmas someone could be allowed to ask for a promotion and do something better.
For the normal operations, anyone should remain "standard" and believe in the corporate mantra.

That wway you know that they can kick you in the ass any day, even tomorrow, without thinking twice.

Some months after having been hired i started observing that while many like me had been carefully selected, basing on their technological skills, all the recent ones were just a bunch of kiddies, eager to work harder, but extremely low-tech in terms of knowledge and analytical skills.

In fact they were now selected by managers that would not know which way to use a screwdriver or to insert a floppy, so their "ranking" was now totally based on emphatic factors.

Even after having spent along time with them, they were hard pressed to understand any advanced networking or storage stuff. Therefore the old ones, like me, had to work double to avoid the whole "team" (you may imagine how "sarcastic" this word began to sound in my ears) losing deadlines and productivity-ratio. Some of them didnt even know how to PING for God's sake. But they were now getting our same salary! That was really the last drop from a professional point of view! Enough is enough !


In the end of my career at Dell i was so frustrated and angry that i just needed to get out of there and take a long holiday, and so i did.

It's unbelievable how much a job can slowly corrupt your ego. Out of frustration I even arrived at the point of making a screensaver with the logo "DELL = HELL"!

My productivity went in the guts, but since i knew all the tricks to avoid this being noticed by managers (only numbers, not deeds, are kings, remember :-) they never realized it (another sign of blatant incompetence).

My working place was now -- in every sense -- a PRISON for me, glued to a monitor the whole day, writing emails like a rabbit, faxing, phoning, sending attachments, shouting, lying, whining, and so on... a HELL!

In one word, i was definetely burn-out. Finally I did not care any more to show it.

The management began slowly to be unsatisfied of my performances as well as those of my old-time colleagues (we became some sort of "burn-out team").

It was made clear that we would have not see any future salary raise, nor could we hope in any promotion to higher jobs.
We were now "locked" in our lame positions, imprisoned in a perverse loop of insane statistics and crazy customers.

Our mission then became to get the HELL out of DELL. Empowered by our 2Gbits connection we started sending CVs day and night to all the other competitors that in that period were all envious of the DELL's success.

Nice move !
We all received replies by Compaq, Oracle, HP, IBM, etc. In the interviews they were all curious to hear how things are running at Dell.

And we, as "professional liars" of course took advantage of it, claiming the most absurd statistical buzzword and taking advantage of their same (insane) corporate "lingo".

In conclusion, i left for going working in HP, that still now i consider one of the BEST choices i EVER did in my life.

It's too bad that the HP i knew (aka the REAL HP) has now disappeared. Carly Fiorina destroyed that company from scratch, imitating many of the Dell's strategies and attitudes I described here.

My colleagues moved to Oracle, IBM, Compaq, some others went with me to HP as well. Nowadays we're some happy "humans" again, proud for having left that HELL. A new life, indeed.

The management at Dell was quite happy of our choice: they were also pushing us to leave the company by ourselves as soon as possible, they just considered us rebel, stubborn and disgruntled employees.

They replaced us with young kiddies, unskilled and low-paid. Some time later the entire department where I worked was "outsourced" so i dunnow where the hell they went. But the Hell was where they were anyway.


If you had the misfortune of buying the book "Direct from Dell" i'm sure you already understood what kind of junk that book is after having read the first page .

In some chapters it seems even a kind of DELLish Mein-Kampf... This guy Michael Dell, that travels around the world against all odds, evangelizing the skeptikals, winning over old kings such as Compaq and IBM.

What really makes me nervous is the emphasys that Michael Dell uses in his book to describe the "happiness and the joy" of working for Dell. He describes troops of IT-specialists, all wearing Dell jackets, spreading happily all over the world the "great Dell Religion". Even Bill Gates' books never matched such a "Gobbelsian" level of propaganda!

Now, reality is much different, as I wrote:

The DELL business model is without doubts a very good one in this very moment. And it will probably remain at the top in the next years as well.

Basically any "normal" company CANNOT compete with DELL in the long run: DELL, has eliminated warehouses and stocks, and COULD offer the lowest prices on the market and a fast shipping at worldwide level.

The organization is well designed to exploit employees until an "inevitable" burn-out and then replacing them easily, as if they were numbers (in fact for Dell they are nothing else).

Normal companies take usually some kind of care of their employees, because they know that the employees ARE an assett of the company. DELL does the opposite, in this model you hire only expendable people, usually young ones, paying lower salaries. An employee in the Dell's vision is just a NUMBER that must be easily replaced in case of economic downturns.

Doing that, any DELL computer could cost much less, and could also be equipped with better components... thus being also superior in the quality-factor. ("Could", because if you carefully study Dell's offers you will see how the 'added components' costs will let your bill skyrocket before ordering).

So you have a computer that could cost less than any HP or IBM and that could at the same time have better hardware, in one word is FAR superior in any field.(cost/quality/speed/etc).

The big limitation of this business model is exactly that is good for the DELL corporate, but not for any private or home user.

Looking things from a CEO perspective, Michael DELL is a gret CEO, and we can say that he kind of "invented" the direct-selling applied to the IT.

Other competitors are then forced to lower their prices and their raw gains to compete, thus lowering the final quality of their products (selling junk as the Compaq Presarios do now for example).

But then, HOW can you beat Dell? I dunno, those that actually could do it are exactly the taiwanese company that MAKE computers for Dell. If one day they'll decide to clone the Dell structure and use their own components on their own, Dell's days will be numbered.

But until nothing happens, DELL will continue to keep a big share of the market, that's sure.


So, That's my story.
I really hope that Dell's competitors will never try to clone Dell's attitude over employees, it would mean a new era of woes for every IT-specialist.

The employee seen as a number inside the complex corporate-pyramid, something to trash out, or to outsource, or to swap... as soon as sales are sluggish.
Something very american, but (until recently :-( totally UNeuropean!

Said that, I just hope that after having read my story some of you will look the IT market from a different --and sounder-- perspective.

(C) 2002 SLOBOTRON (slobotronATATATmailDOTDOTDOTru)
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