Thinking of changing jobs? Be careful what you take with you.

Take a moment and ask yourself if you have ever taken any intellectual property home from my job, even if only for personal reference later.

Take a moment and ask yourself if you have ever taken any intellectual property home from my job, even if only for personal reference later.  If so, you might want to set aside a few minutes to read this article.

In a recent issue of Vanity Fair, writer Michael Lewis tells the story of a programmer from Goldman Sachs who was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for stealing computer code.  Aside from Fabulous Fab (also a Goldman Sachs employee), Sergey Aleynikov seems to be the only Wall Streeter to, um, actually suffer any consequences at all in the wake of bringing down the entire global financial system.

Lewis’ article, Did Goldman Sachs Overstep in Criminally Charging Its Ex-Programmer is a must-read for anyone working in technology, and in particular anyone who both works in technology and contributes to open source projects (and as a former coder, I took keen interest).  However, I’d also go so far as to say that the article is a should- (if not must-) read for anyone who takes anything other than their brain with them when they move to a new company.

Here’s the situation as introduced by Lewis: “A month after ace programmer Sergey Aleynikov left Goldman Sachs, he was arrested. Exactly what he’d done neither the F.B.I., which interrogated him, nor the jury, which convicted him a year later, seemed to understand. But Goldman had accused him of stealing computer code, and the 41-year-old father of three was sentenced to eight years in federal prison.”

The super-summarized version of the message send by authorities is best described by one of the experts consulted by Lewis: “A guy got put in jail for taking something no one understood…Every tech programmer out there got the message: Take code and you could go to jail. It was huge.”

Ask yourself:

  • Have I ever brought a document or process template from one company to another?
  • Do I have samples at home of code I wrote for my job, even if only to refer to later as a reminder of how I solved a problem?
  • Am I building a portfolio of material to show prospective employers?
  • Do I have any examples of work I’ve completed (e.g., business case, marketing campaign, account plan, etc.)?

Is this a rather extreme example?  Sure.  Is it likely to happen to you?  Probably not.  Could it happen to you?  You bet.

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One comment on “Thinking of changing jobs? Be careful what you take with you.
  1. […] Thinking of changing jobs? Be careful what you take with you. […]

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