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Re: Advice Workplace that Forces Non-Free Software

From: Roberto Beltran
Subject: Re: Advice Workplace that Forces Non-Free Software
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2020 18:36:21 +0000

> The data analysts and my manager primarily
> use SPSS, Tableau, and Microsoft products, and other non-free
> software. And, when I propose that we use Beamer to produce
> professional research posters, as opposed to PowerPoint, or when I
> propose LaTeX to write up research reports as opposed to Word, or Git
> to maintain a repository of the R and SPSS code, I get shut down, and
> even punished. Now all my emails have to go to my manager before I can
> send them to the medical doctors, and data analysts. I try to gently
> show how great these tools are from a utility perspective, forget the
> ethical standpoint, because all I get is "We use Word and PowerPoint.
> That is how things are done here."

My thought is that you're probably making them feel like you're going to end up 
making their jobs harder with tools they're not familiar with. They might even 
be a little jealous/resentful that you can use these fancy tools. Since you've 
been at it for a while they could also just be burnt out over it at this point. 
I'd say take your foot off the gas and play ball, focus on making friends first 
and building up a rapport with everyone. When the time is right you can do 
advocacy again very calmly and at a snail's pace. Just be prepared for someone 
being like "Here she goes again with her free software nonsense" because 
they'll still put you down and fight for the path of least resistance. 
Hopefully by then those people are the odd ones out.

> But now, as I have only been in the biostatistics field of
> paper pushing research for less than two years, I fear that if I upset
> my manager too much I could easily lose this job (I have been at this
> job for less than a year). I am the only biostatistician on this team,
> but unfortunately, the team can get away with producing research
> papers without understanding the mathematics/statistics, because they
> can run some code and there will always be an answer. So, practically
> they can do without me.
> I have learned enough statistics within these past two years, on top
> of my mathematical background and computational background, that I
> feel confident in my knowledge and skills. But, now with the state of
> the economy, due to the poor response to the pandemic, there are hiring
> freezes at my place of work and many others. Even if I were lucky
> enough to pick up another position in this field, who is to say I
> will not face the same problems as before.

Yeah, you're not going to be able to make your best moves if you're worried 
about your job. My vote is to use as much free software as you can get away 
with and otherwise just don't make waves right now and save up your money. No 
one knows what things are going to look like a year from now. Make sure you at 
least have your ground to stand on so you can fight when things play themselves 

>     I also do
>     volunteering where I get to promote Free Software, but again with the
>     pandemic, those activities have come to a halt. And as a result I
>     tried pushing for alternative software in the work place, which is
>     having a the negative outcome I described above.

I can definitely empathize with this. I used to go all around the city to 
promote free software, now I'm just home all the time. It helps that I've found 
some people I enjoy doing libre things with. I've also picked up some hobbies 
to keep things interesting in general. You might want to try finding a libre 
group you enjoy participating in online so you have a more effective outlet for 
your advocacy energy. Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best.

Kind Regards,

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