Obscenities, Chaos, H1-Bs—And High Reported Earnings: My Year With AIG


In my previous life

before law school
I worked as a

computer programmer
. For most of that time I worked
for various
computer consulting
organizations, going from
company to company as one project finished and I moved
on to another.

The kind of experience exposed me
to many
management styles
. I saw companies that were run
well; other companies that were
run not so
well
; and companies that were
in pretty bad shape.

In the late 1990s the world of

computer consulting
took me to

AIG
.

Only superlatives can describe what
I saw while working at AIG`s

computer operation
. It was the most

mismanaged company
of any type that I have ever
seen. Nearly every company has some bad practices. AIG
managed to adopt nearly

every bad practice
imaginable at the same time.

At the high level, the

management
at AIG was prone to making rash decisions
without thinking through the consequences. They also had
a tendency to throw money at problems rather than coming
up with efficient solutions.

A well-publicized example of rash
action at AIG occurred in 1994. That year, AIG fired
about

250 computer programmers
and

replaced
them with
lower-paid Indian programmers
imported on

H-1B guest worker visas
. (One of the things I worked
on at AIG involved cleaning up the inevitable resulting
mess).

AIG is still big on importing cheap
foreign labor. In 2007, the various AIG companies
submitted 196
Labor Conditional Applications
for H-1B visas. 

At the low level, two features of
AIG stand out in my memory. Senior managers

yelling obscenities
with their door open so the
entire floor could hear is something one rarely
encounters in computing organizations. AIG is also the
only company I have seen where software development
teams sabotaged other teams. AIG was simply a complete
circus.

The year I spent at AIG was a
milestone in my career. For after working at AIG, it
became impossible ever again to say, This is the most
screwed-up company I have ever seen.

At the time AIG was

reporting large earnings
. We outsiders, who were
working there

temporarily
, could not comprehend the paradox of how
a how a
company
in such chaos could actually

make money
.

Now we know the answer: It was all
a house of cards.

So why are
you and I
bailing out
this

company? In a
free
market,
the penalty for mismanagement is going out
of business.


America

owes AIG nothing. AIG has

no loyalty to America
or the American people. They
were willing to

replace Americans with foreign workers
in a futile
attempt to save a few dollars.

No event has more demonstrated how
connected our

politicians
are to

campaign cash
and

removed
from the will of the public as the recent
Wall
Street
/AIG

bailout
has. The

large investment in politicians
these companies made
was bargain compared to the trillion-dollar payoff.

Now we see the fruits of our
generosity. Not a week has passed since the public
bailed out AIG and

business as usual
is back. AIG sent executives to a
resort spending $440,000 in the process, including
$23,380 in spa treatments. [AIG
Execs` Retreat After Bailout Angers Lawmakers
,
By Andrew Taylor (AP), month="10" day="7" year="2008" w:st="on">October 7, 2008]

Somehow, this did not surprise me
at all.

When are the American people going
to rise up and put a stop to this?


John
Miano
(
email
him) was a computer
programmer for 18 years before going to law school. He
has written two books on computer programming as well as
numerous technical articles for various computer
publications. He has also written articles on the state
of the computer industry for publications ranging from 
ComputerWorld
to USA Today
He was also the founder of the 
Programmers
Guild
, a professional organization for computer
programmers
.