Letter from a former Boeing software engineer


Two cents

By Richard Fuhr | September / October 2021

This article is from Dollars and common sense: Real World Economics, available at http://www.dollarsandsense.org

This article is from
September / October 2021 issue.

This letter from a former Boeing software engineer appeared in the September / October issue of
Dollars and common sense. -Eds.

Dear Professor Duggan:

I read with great interest your article on Boeing in the July / August issue of Dollars and common sense (Marie Christine Duggan, “Boeing hijacked by shareholders and managers!”).

July / August issue cover

As a retired software engineer and mathematician who worked at Boeing, I would like to share an additional perspective. Successful software development requires a working environment in which you can both collaborate and focus. In particular, it often happens that careful attention to detail is absolutely essential. This can only take place in a workplace that is largely free from distractions. Unfortunately, this was not possible at Boeing. Its offices were mainly very busy and noisy. As a result, the risk of making mistakes or overlooking critical details was very high. Additionally, having such workplaces made it more difficult for Boeing to attract and retain the best employees.

It is easy to measure the cost of office space, but it is much more difficult to measure the loss of productivity that results from having offices in which it is impossible to concentrate. Boeing’s senior management chose to set minimum standards for office space, with the illusion that they were saving money by doing so.

I think this is a topic that deserves a lot more attention. As someone who has developed software involving a significant amount of complex math, it was clear to me that having a distraction-free work environment was extremely important. I have brought this issue to the attention of Boeing management on several occasions, and with a few exceptions, they have chosen to ignore the issue.


Richard fuhr, Seattle, Washington.

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