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Web valleyofthegeeks.com

Land of the Geeks

Zack Urlocker
Thursday, April 06, 2000

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Geek out!People always ask me what it was like to work at Borland. OK, you asked for it. But to make sure I, don't disclose any trade secrets, I won't clutter up the discussion with factual information.

The first thing you notice at Borland is that, as with most companies, the culture and values come right from the top. Although it's no longer a requirement to wear sandals and Hawaiian shirts to work, the Borland dress code is more casual than those of most companies. You might spot an occasional rebel programmer wearing a tie, but only if it clashes with the rest of his outfit.


One of the nice perks of being a Borland employee is the hot and cold running capuccino machines that can be found in all the offices. Even if you don't get a window, you get your own caffeine machine.

People who are on deadline for a project sometimes work late into the night--it's a known fact that CPUs run faster when less electricity is being wasted on heat and light. Or at least that's what I read on net.news.aliens@dealey.plaza. Of course, if you start showing up more often on the side of a milk carton than in person at the family breakfast table, it's probably time to stop adding features or start looking for a good divorce lawyer.

If you're too busy to get a full eight hours of sleep, you can just make sure that the number of hours of sleep plus the number of cups of coffee is equal to or greater than eight. If you get three hours' sleep, just drink five cups of coffee. If you normally drink decaf, I recommend that you go straight to five cappuccinos and don't worry about the heart palpitations. In fact, it'll feel just like you've gone to the OOP-aerobics class--but without all the huffing and puffing.

Another great benefit is that everybody gets all the free Borland software that can fit on their hard disk. Sometimes, I just spread out all the floppy disks I can find on the floor of my office and roll around naked. (Don't tell anyone--it's kind of a personal thing. But it's a good argument for having a private office.)

The best thing about working at Borland is you get to hang out with su-per-talented programmers. These folks can write a program to sort randomly generated prime numbers faster than Bill Gates can crash Access.

It's easy to recognize Borland programmers. They're the ones wearing shorts and sandals in the dead of winter. Their cars have "Live free or malloc" or "Up with pointers" bumper stickers. Borland programmers hail from either Texas or Europe. The Texans all have gun racks in their pickup trucks, and the Europeans smoke too much. The bottom line is, better software for everyone.

The Secret Handshake 

Because we're very concerned about maintaining tight security at Borland, we always use codenames when we're discussing products. R&D usually comes up with names based on references to cars, movies, food, and other important symbols of the company culture. The codenames are changed whenever there's a security leak, such as when someone in marketing figures them out.

Not long ago I overheard an interesting conversation between two programmers discussing major new products under development.

"I hear Pizza's off the menu," Frank said. "Unless it's Chicago style," Billy Bob replied, "Pizza's out. Tofu's in. They're rolling it in with Back Bacon. Gonna come up with something bigger than Turbo Bur-rito, is the plan. How's about a root beer?"

"Thank you, no, it gives me gas."

I figure Frank is about to be kicked upstairs into management. But just to be on the safe side, I'm trying to avoid getting too close to him.

About the author
Zack Urlocker is a pseudonym used by a former executive at Borland International. The views expressed in this column are his own and shouldn't be taken too seriously, especially by le grand fromage.

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