A 'Rescue Mission' is just a job, not a pump for your ePenis

I get rather offended on behalf of other people’s customers when I hear friends and colleagues telling me about horrific ‘Rescue Mission’ projects they are involved with, how feeble and inferior the previous developers of the project were and how only through prodigious effort and liberal application of their own awesomeness, could they and only they, save the day / save the business that hired them.

Taking a step back from this and looking the pheomenon from the outside, you can draw some fairly reasonable assumptions:

This seems to me to be fairly common set of circumstances in the freelance world, at least from my own experience. Does that mean that every time I’ve worked in that situation I’ve been on a ‘Rescue Mission’? No, it means I was hired to do a job and did it.

It seems ‘Rescue Missions’ are only undertaken by ‘Rockstar’ development boutiques where they have ‘Code Ninjas’ and other such nonsense rather than actual developers. To me these kinds of jobs are more about image than actual work – an attempt in fact to turn a decent if ordinary software house into a buzzword itself.

I realise that I may be simplifying here, but there’s another part of this ‘Rescue Mission’ phenomenon that needs to be explored further, and that is showing the flawed code from your predecessors / colleagues in your talks or on the internet to increase the girth of your own ePenis.

I’ve been to a number of conferences and always there is at least one talk which anecdotally shows a sample of code from a ‘Rescue Mission’ and then shows how the person giving the talk saved the universe with his beautiful magical code. Sometimes the beautiful code is an example of the buzzword he’s there to talk about – to serve the dual purpose of increasing his status and to big-up the buzzword to a crowd of eager minds.

In these cases, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the ‘Rescue Mission’ is fictitious -but what if it isn’t? That means this person is not only displaying rampant un-professionalism but may also be playing fast-and-loose with the confidentiality of his client’s information.

Could it simply be that a ‘Rescue Mission’ is just a scenario that we can all relate to, and that’s why it’s hyped so much? I don’t know. I’m sure we’ve all done our share of work that could probably fit the ‘Rescue Mission’ mould; but do we all brag about them online, highlight flaws and tear down the reputations of other people and companies purely to make ourselves look better and become internet famous?

There are also some quite legitimate cases I’m sure where the term ‘Rescue Mission’s apt, where you’re hired as an external agent to come to a company and start from scratch to fix an otherwise irreparably broken project; that’s a brilliant challenge and something that can be very rewarding. Something that should proudly go on the Portfolio of any company and on the CV of any developer; but to my mind that’s how far it should go.

Your work alone should speak for itself; your personality as a company or as a freelance developer should be enough to land you work, without needing to delve into this rather dark world of negative marketing or trying to go ‘viral’ with your ‘Superhero Rock Star Ninja Code’.