Abacus (a division of Epsilon Targeting)

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Abacus (a division of Epsilon Targeting) Reviews

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Brian M. Rainey
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  1. Where mediocre plateau cases go to die

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    Former Employee - Client Programmer in Lafayette, CO (US)
    Former Employee - Client Programmer in Lafayette, CO (US)

    I worked at Abacus (a division of Epsilon Targeting) full-time (More than 3 years)

    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO


    If you have no interest in growing as a developer or working on exciting engineering challenges, it's pretty easy to work <=40 hours/wk without trying very hard.


    Historically, the benefits/raises at Abacus were quite competitive, and the office had lots of startup-style perks. Epsilon gradually brought an end to this.

    Lots of useless meetings. One time I saw a flyer announcing a 90 minute meeting about how to avoid wasting time in useless meetings. Every quarter there's a 2-3 hour all hands on deck (AHOD) meeting where everyone is expected to sit through painful and irrelevant announcements such as organization restructuring, company events, earnings reports, service milestones, etc. It's not that this information shouldn't be disseminated to employees, but taking 2 hours of everyone's time to say what they were already distributing via email is frustrating.

    You must talk to ~5 people in other departments to identify what a particular app even does, which resources it reads/writes, how to rig up a test environment that meets all the requirements, and how to actually run the application. The dev/test systems rarely if ever accurately mirrored production environments. There is no one who comes close to knowing even most of the details of how all the different systems interact. Documentation, if it exists, is buried in various non-standard locations, sometimes deeply nested on a SMB share, other times on an outdated wiki with no table of contents.

    I tried asking the QA and UNIX people about these details so I could take notes and never bother them again, but consistently I was met with "I'll just do it for you," requiring me to always contact them to reset the test environment. I don't know about you but to me there's something inherently tedious and inefficient about having to repeatedly nag someone in another department to perform a trivial configuration of a non-production system.

    Trying to propose replacement solutions that, while requiring some initial overhead to engineer, document, and test, would ultimately reduce maintenance costs in the future, is met with an overwhelming amount of static. I'm talking 2000+ line csh scripts with no comments that often set variables by calling 9 different UNIX commands piped together, grabbing strings with sed and awk. Scripts that require modifications several times a year to implement updated business logic and bug fixes.

    Servers were either Solaris or Linux, yet the IT department was highly resistant to allowing developers to run Linux on their workstations. At the time I left (summer 2011), most everyone was stuck on 32 bit Windows XP, using PuTTY to access the servers.

    They are stingy about hardware upgrades. In 2011 I was stuck on a 3ghz Pentium 4 w/ 1gb of RAM from 2003. It's difficult to be productive when much of your time is spent waiting for your computer to stop lagging. They were in the process of rolling out upgrades when I left: Wolfdale E8400 C2D machines, already 3 years old by the time they were rolled out. Still stuck on 32 bit WinXP.

    Even if you are somehow able to get past the fact that you will be using outdated hardware with outdated and/or clunky software to work on nightmarish legacy code that eschews any opportunity to exploit object-oriented design (Java/C++ classes do not inherently mean you are writing OO code), even if you can withstand the torturous AHOD meetings, at the end of the day, you are writing code to make sure people get junk mail.

    Advice to Management

    I honestly don't know where to begin. The huge advantage Abacus has over its spinoff competitors in the Direct Mail industry allows implementing best software development practices to remain a low priority. The very corporate nature of parent company Epsilon has little room for improving the treatment and compensation of the low to mid level employees. So even if I gave solid advice that yielded improvements, senior management wouldn't deem it worth their time.

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