Ellen Pederson worked for the Apollo Group as a programmer. Her primary responsibility was the development of an online accounts payable system, which became known as U-PAY. Ellen had worked on this system for over two years before it was released. Unfortunately, Ellen’s boss took much of the credit for the project despite the fact that his input was limited. Ellen put in long hours to make the application work. She did receive a decent pay increase and a small bonus for ther substantial efforts, but she was quite chagrined that she did not receive the credit or recognition for this project that she deserved.
Ellen became disenchanted with Apollo, and looked around for a new job. In an interview with one of Apollo’s competitors, the director of IT asked to see some of Ellen’s work. Ellen showed the director a demo of U-PAY along with some of the code she had written for the system.
After being hired by this company, Ellen was asked to build a system “similar to U-PAY.” Ellen realized that in order to finish her assignment on time, she would need to borrow heavily from her previous work. If Ellen used the same design specs she used at Apollo and certain modules of code, she could finish on time.
Ellen utilized a copy of the U-PAY design specs and the source code that she had written for Apollo to build the system. She felt that she would not be depriving Apollo of anything. This was a generic application that did not involve any competitive information. As long as Apollo had an efficient U-PAY system, what difference did it make if another company — even a competitor — had the same thing?
Do you think Ellen was justified in her decision?
What if Ellen also utilized U-PAY code that her team had written in addition to her own code? Would that make a difference?
What if Apollo never implemented the U-PAY system. Would that make a difference?