Guard Yourself, Nobody Will Help you

We neither live in a utopia nor meritocracy nor fairytale. As we saw with Trump & Brexit, fraud wins out

Sadly, fraudulent coders exist in all areas. Your experience of mentorship exists way too frequently in the industry for it to be accidental or an outlier. The one red flag that should have signaled it before you even get close to mentoring is the fact Bryan was a contract manager. It’s almost part of the person spec for this type of this role that they are shady characters. I tend to ask about the background of a person and research them before I mentor, as both trust and aptitude are important factors in mentoring, especially for free.

Fraudulent developers take many forms. I typically see one fraudulent developer or architect for every 3 places on offer and there are several reasons for that. Plus, some fraudulent developers actually use the court system to take your stuff. The UK for example, has a small claims court system that is literally useless. Fraudsters can sail really close to the wind and despite the legal process, can easily get away with fraud, contempt of court and purgery simply because things like hearsay evidence are allowable and similarly written frauds are “allowed” by the fact they are not automatically regarded as fraud even with overwhelming evidence. Recent changes to the court system through case law have rendered the small claims track completely and utterly useless. All it does is clog up the court system and administers the most sub-par justice you can possibly imagine. Miscarriages of civil justice are extremely common and so is the use of vexatious litigation as a default position. This sort of thing can get really really serious! What’s even worse is there are developers out there who are not quite fraudsters themselves, but complicit in such frauds.

In any event, part of it is guarding yourself or your company from fraudsters. It’s generally quite easy. Given the level of it (we are talking in the 70%’s here sometimes) You have to start from the position that everyone is a fraud and work backwards. It’s an ugly position based on zero trust but one that’s seemingly necessary given you’ll have less than zero help if it goes the worst possible way.

Some don’ts:

  1. As a hiring company, don’t have an interview processes using technical tests and leave people alone to do it.
  2. As a company, don’t hire without a technical test! — I am shocked that companies still do this when stipulating a language in the job description
  3. Mentors, don’t do any significant mentoring without charge. You are trading off your working time and money for their benefit.
  4. Don’t respond to anything that looks like a coding question or coursework assignment. Sadly, many external developers are complicit in this type of fraud because freelance sites are flooded with these and they are completed by developers or students for a fee.
  5. Have an out as soon as a red flag is raised and you have enough evidence or there can only be one possible [negative] explanation
  6. Don’t ever take on an engagement or a person without doing background and due diligence checks. Avoid anything with the following words in their history; sales, marketing, consultancy, contract, legal, compliance etc. if they have CCJ’s or are in any way linked to someone or something with CCJ or other default notices, don’t touch them. That’s often the first step and for every one, there’s probably 5 they got away with.
  7. If possible, make them liable for your time (seek legal advice on this one). I tend to have an agreement of sorts and where applicable, I have started making those seeking mentorship financially liable in the case of fraud. In the UK, start with a value above and beyond what the small claims process can support. After all, often for experienced mentors, it is that order of magnitude they will lose anyway.
  8. If possible, agree some form of name and shame policy. This one is really tough, since it differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Again, seek legal advice on this one as some defamation jurisdictions are horrendous. Not having the ability to name and shame is one of, if not the biggest contributors to this epidemic. Even if there is a public interest angle, and to prevent more cases. It’s the legal system that has to consider it a public service angle. Otherwise you are just defaming individuals and you are landing yourself in a lot of hot water.

Mentoring is a much much bigger responsibility and way more difficult than most mentors assume. Mentors always have the best intentions. I have never seen one who hasn’t or is totally desensitized to their roles (they often leave beforehand). They love what they do.

Yet, in the world of business and job search (with livelihoods on the line, integrity falls), they are the first to be taken advantage of. After all, they are “there to help” which most folk assume to be free and coupled with the fact scammers searching for programmers to mentor them can go to StackOverflow and find help, so assume that all mentors are both equal (they’re not) and as free as those context independent answers are, because they give those answers for free (they’re not — most spent years getting as good as they are). The attitude to mentoring is generally quite disgusting now, as many folk think and really do believe deep down that they have an automatic entitlement to your skill, time, money (since it’s taken from other client work) and often your contacts too. Drop them like a sack of potatoes.

EA, Stats, Math & Code into a fizz of a biz or two. Founder: Automedi & Axelisys. Proud Manc. Citizen of the World. I’ve been busy

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store