Since I launched my business, I have seen quite a few computer technicians and I would like to write about an engineer I met recently. After university, he had been engaged in system development for several years until he had to leave the work due to an unavoidable reason.  

Being asked the reason why he left the company, he said with a wry smile, “I couldn’t get up early”.


He could not be at work at 9:00 A.M. every day, which isolated him from the people in the company. Every time he received a warning from his boss, he tried to get up early, but it was just a temporary fix. Then, he finally left the company. He works as a freelance engineer now.


 Listening to him, I simply thought being late for work could be grounds to leave a company.


A little while later, I had an opportunity to ask him to develop software, so we started to work together. As my part, I defined requirements of the system and asked him design, cording and tests. Also, I decided to have a regular meeting once a week for the project, which soon reminded me of the story he had previously told me.


He was literally “always late”. It doesn’t matter whether the meeting was from 1:00 P.M or 3:00 P.M. No matter what time the meeting was set up, he never showed up on time. I understood his behavior could get most people angry. I saw him being late at every meeting, but did not get mad or brought complaints against him. Why?


He was a programmer of genius. Without detailed expectations, his system implementation fulfilled my expectations. He also checked the logic before being told to do so. Above all, he was very quick. I had seen numerous engineers, but he was exceptional.


He was so skillful that he was able to handle seemingly impossible tasks most of the time. He never missed his deadline. I felt very lucky to find such a capable engineer.


Then one thing started to puzzle me.


 He was told to come to work by 9:00 A.M., but he could not change his habit and left the job. As a result, the company lost such a precious engineer who would be five or ten times more adept than a normal one. Actually, coming to work by nine has almost nothing to do with an engineer’s productivity. Engineers work most efficiently when they can concentrate. In short, their highest productivity and best performance are up to them.


I might sound too radical, but I think it is acceptable for engineers to be late for an appointment as long as the person they are meeting with is OK with it as well as they do a great job as a professional.


 When I was working at a consulting firm, I saw late comers facing harsh punishments such as demotion or salary cut. That time, I just took the strictness for granted because I thought we were all employees at a company in the end. But the experience of working with the engineer has shaken my preconceived belief.


 Let a person do his/her best for what he/she is good at while giving him/her a break when he/she seems to be struggling with what he/she is not good at or not capable of.


Many people say things like “making the most of one’s strength”, but it looks like the perception is overshadowed by formality and rules quite often.


This is how I feel after working with him. What do you think?