Mark Arrieta
Software Automation and Intelligence Laboratory
Computer Science Department
Tennessee Technological University
Cookeville TN 38505


Srini Ramaswamy
Associate Professor and Chair
Computer Science Department
Tennessee Technological University
Cookeville TN 38505
Phone: (931)-372-3691

I.A. Relevant NSF CERIAS Workshop Learning Objective: IC-1d

Nearly five and a half years have passed since Greg started working for Creative Design. The plan had been to get about three years of experience there before he would try working for himself. He has been designing web pages and programming for the Internet since his freshman year in college. Greg had developed quite a talent for web design, and he was optimistic about his chances of using the talent to fulfill his dream of being self-employed. He was, however, realistic about his lack of business knowledge and knew that he would have to work in the industry for several years before it would be practical for him to start his own company. He was also aware of the financial risk of leaving a stable job. Now married, he is particularly adamant about attaining an adequate financial foundation before putting the couple's sole source of income in jeopardy. He had originally hoped to reach this financial position within three years from the time of his hiring. Unfortunately, things have developed more slowly than planned.

Greg is confident in his ability to produce professional work; however, it has ultimately been financial issues that have kept him from realizing his goal. Since he began employment with Creative Design, he had been setting aside a small portion of his earnings for what would eventually be startup costs for his company. Along the way, there have been unexpected costs that have resulted in minor savings setbacks. Although there have been occasions in which his monetary objective has been reached, the time has yet to feel right. However, his desire to become self-employed is as strong now as at any other time in his life. His wife has reassured him that the right circumstances will come about and that the appropriate opportunity will present itself. He has decided that until that time comes, he will attempt to further extend his savings in order to weather financial hardships that are sure to come.

Last Monday, while searching for information about a current client, Greg came across some project proposals that had been submitted to potential clients. He noticed that one of the proposals, which had been produced a couple of weeks earlier, had been prepared for Warren Electric, a local company whose owner happened to be the father of a high school classmate. After discovering that Warren Electric was a potential client, Greg described the nature of the acquaintance to his project manager. He also suggested that he personally make a visit to Warren Electric to see if Creative Design could be of any further assistance. Upon his manager's approval, Greg contacted Mr. Warren and subsequently scheduled a meeting for the following afternoon.

During the meeting, Mr. Warren explained that his company already has a website, and that he may be interested in having the site redesigned and possibly expanded. He had requested, from Creative Design, estimates to have his site redesigned and to have some interactive pages integrated into the site. He then explained to Greg that the website was not critical to his company's operations, but that he believed it could allow him to gain an advantage over his competitors. He went on to say that, at one time, he had considered e-commerce, but that he had ruled out that possibility after seeing how costly an endeavor it would be. After listening to Mr. Warren express his intentions, Greg expressed his own views about how the site could be expanded and how the appearance of the site could be improved. He suggested a few ways in which dynamic content could be added to the existing site to improve the site's functionality. The meeting went well, and before Greg left, he encouraged Mr. Warren to contact Creative Design if he made the decision to upgrade his website.

Greg left the meeting feeling very positive about the prospect of establishing a business relationship with Warren Electric. He arrived home later that evening to discover that Mr. Warren had left a message on his answering machine. In the message, Mr. Warren requested that Greg give him a call that evening. At this time, Greg became very optimistic that the meeting he had arranged was going produce a new business relationship. However, during the ensuing phone call, he realized that Mr. Warren was interested in working out a deal to hire Greg personally. He felt that if he could obtain Greg's services, he would be able to bypass the administrative overhead that would be involved if he were to contract Creative Design for the job. Although Creative Design employees are not permitted to perform this type of work on their own time, this opportunity would not only give Greg an opportunity to make some extra money, but could also lead to the start of a customer base.

I.B. Discussion Questions:

  1. Is Greg ethically obligated to decline Mr. Warren's request?
  2. Should Greg inform his employer of Mr. Warren's request?
  3. Since Greg has planned to start his own business soon, can he justify using this project as a springboard to starting his own company?