Friday, May 15, 2015

How Spreadsheets In Space Saved My Job

About 11 years ago, give or take, I started my empire building Merlins.  I graduated to Moas and Apocs and Tempests.  I built all kinds of things, and like most spaceship industrialists I had an excel sheet.

It was nothing fancy.  Ship name, raw materials per run, cost for each material, and how many you wanted to build of each item.  The outputs were simple - projected profit and how much trit/pyer/iso (etc) I needed to buy and haul.

It struck me tonight while making dinner that the old EVE build sheet might have saved the jobs of 35 folks I work with and avoided much stress upon their families.  It was such a simple yet powerful model that I've been using the same fundamental layout for all kinds of things over the years.

Long story short, yours truly built a labor model not unlike the old EVE sheet.  Put "Sr. Engineer" in for the Merlin, extrapolate how many heads we want over the next 5 years instead of accounting for trit/pyer/iso, account for some labor rates, and the math flows from there.  Repeat the recipe for the entire team and start summing costs by fiscal year at the bottom.

It's not rocket science.  Far from it.  But my model was detailed enough to hold up under scrutiny, and sophisticated enough to show that the "move all the work to California" option being pushed by my boss's boss (aka "little boss") was actually several million dollars MORE expensive than leaving a perfectly good team right where it's at.

We had a series of big meetings this week.  So, after a break, we put the numbers on the screen.  My numbers disagreed greatly with little boss's hand calculations.  He all but attacked me and the temperature of the room began to rise steadily.  I sidestepped and parried his verbal barrage and politely refused to remove the content from the screen.

Meanwhile, from where I stood, I could see the boss's boss's BOSS (aka "Big Boss") absorbing all the content with a squint and a sly little smile.

"Keep reading, please, please keep reading..." I thought to myself.

With some help from my coworkers, we bought enough time and distracted little boss long enough that the Big Boss started asking questions.  Victory.  We had a 20 minute conversation about my rationale and assumptions, and I sent him home with a copy.  Little boss was pissed, and I caught hell the following morning.

I'm sure I had an insolent little smirk on my face during his little rant.  Doesn't matter.  The damage was done.  Internet Spaceship Spreadsheets have, I hope, kept the little bastard from screwing 35 people with half-truths and a blatant power grab.

And if it doesn't pan out... at least now he'll have to work for it.


  1. Might I suggest slimming down the management structure as a first step in cost savings. I mean, do you really need, a "little boss" tier as an example...?


    1. If only. :)

      As we prepared for the meetings, folks would ask me what success looked like. I said "I want Big Boss mad enough that he doesn't accept a car ride back to the airport from little boss."

      They'd laugh. I'd say, "No, I'm serious. That's success." They'd sober up a bit. :)

      We ALMOST got there, I think. My spreadsheet, combined with some other conversations, allowed us to politely call out all the BS that's been thrown in our direction by little boss. I can see several permutations of the current chess board where he gets reassigned or demoted.

  2. Great story. I have the reverse - I do these calculations for work projects (ROI, NPV) and if you apply the same ruthless math to EVE, you don't mine or do industry. You go flip burgers at McDonald's and buy PLEX :)


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