back to article Chap joins elite support team, solves what no one else can. Is he invited back? Is he f**k

Reading On Call, El Reg's weekly instalment of readers' tale of support triumphs large and small, is the best way to start your Friday. Not our words, but those of a loyal reader who has this week offered his own story for publication in these pages. This reader, who we'll call "Simon", shared what is either a cautionary tale …

  1. Dave K Silver badge

    Interesting organisation! If the best techs say that it's normal for a 100KB file to take minutes to copy across a LAN, it doesn't bode well for the competency of the rest of the tech support there! Either that or the A-Team are very bad at tech support and very good at brown-nosing...

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

      I've seen this in all sorts of areas. It's particularly an issue in education. People who develop a reputation for unearned competence.

      Sometimes it's pure brown nosing. More often it's about talking the talk, which might include the former if it's saying what the bosses want to hear.

      Mostly they do it by jumping on and off bandwagons - and this is probably also how their bosses became bosses too.

      Whatever the greatest new thing to hit their particular industry happens to be they'll be all over it. If it's diametrically opposed to what they were praising just 12 hours previously you'd never know it from listening what they're saying now, because they're talking as if they'd always thought this and are glad we've all started to catch up with them.Of course anyone who still wants to use yesterday's methods - because they worked dammit- is going to be placed in the C team for eternity. And next month these A teamers will have moved on to something new again.

      The most successful have a knack of knowing when to jump. Usually, I've noticed they're crap at doing the job, but My God are they quick at spotting a trend!

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

        Couldn't agree more, brown-nosing and imcompetence are probably the major issues here.

        I once worked for a large insurance company where the "Security" manager was basically clueless about networks/hacking etc . So to avoid difficult situations he chose to be seconded by a guy whose "verbal diaorhea" was second to none. This ensured that the manager avoided difficult questions by handing them of to his brown nosed assistant who would basically aggress you out of the room by sputing utter nonsense or by "pretending" that the issues were not so serious, or that he was already "handling" things just fine.

        The corporate ladder is not a place for honest people as they tend to disturb the stanbard flow of the Peter Principal... Evolving people to their maximum level on incompetence.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

          Yep. Been there many times and got a whole drawer of 'T' Shirts.

          Those 'events' kept hammering home that I was not cut out to be a brown noser, shoe licker, oh sorry Manager.

          One Manager kept marking me down at review time for 'having no ambition'. Eventually his boss wondered why this was. Said Manager was away at the time so he came to me directly.

          Once I'd told him that I had no wish to be a bad manager and preferred being a pretty good techie, I got a nice pay rise and a personal note from this senior manager thanking me for being honest and that the company had too many manager who were average at best. My manager was 'let go' soon after once his uselessness came to light.

          1. Toltec

            Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

            I once got told that pay rises went to people managing people, not systems used by thousands of people, and techies enjoyed their jobs so did not need to be paid as much.

            I refrained from telling him how enjoyable dealing with people like him made my job and left when a suitable opportunity arose.

          2. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
            Facepalm

            Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

            When the company I was working for was being "re-organised" into several smaller companies, I was invited by my then Boss to take over the Technical Manuals department, as the incumbent had decided to take early retirement. The position, Chief Engineer, was Grade six on the company's pay structure, but involved being on call 24/7, and having no overtime allowance. I asked if he would downgrade it to Grade five, Principal Engineer, at the same salary, which would mean that I could leave at 5PM and go home, plus I could come in Saturday mornings and earn some overtime.

            As soon as I took over the department, with one other Technical Writer and two Shorthand Typists, we relocated the Xerox DTP system into a different building, and proceeded to produce Technical manuals for the new range of products, plus maintaining those for such previous products as the new company was still producing. Of course, I had no clue as to how much we should charge for the new Contract Specific manuals, so I looked back over the previous five years' records, plotted the Manual Cost against Contract Price, and produced a formula to calculate ongoing prices, which I ran past my Boss and then sent to all of the Sales Team, including the Head of Sales.

            Some ten months later, I received a snotty email from the Head of Sales, asking why it was that when he plotted Manual Cost against Contract Price, he got a straight line (log/lin plot). I resent him the original email informing him, and the rest of his crew, of the formula, and explained that the straight line was a direct result of applying that formula.

            1. A.P. Veening
              Devil

              Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

              " I resent him the original email informing him, and the rest of his crew, of the formula, and explained that the straight line was a direct result of applying that formula."

              I hope you also BCC:ed it to the superior of that Head of Sales.

            2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Paris Hilton

              Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

              Xerox DTP system, was that the "Venturer" or similar named system that took 25 - 30 minutes to boot up to get to a operating point.

              Fixing those was a right pain in the ladies front genital area (Hence icon), thanks to that. Fortunately it was only a 10 week placement with Xerox.

              1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

                Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                Solved the boot up time problem by leaving the machines running 24/5 from Monday morning until Saturday lunchtime. One machine had a sticky hard drive, so I swapped it for the one from my machine, so I had the task of giving it a wiggle every Monday morning (didn't bolt it in), and the others didn't have to bother. Ran that department for over three years, until the whole company was made redundant, and the production equipment shipped overseas.

              2. Down not across Silver badge

                Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                Xerox DTP system, was that the "Venturer" or similar named system that took 25 - 30 minutes to boot up to get to a operating point.

                Most likely as Ventura Publisher was distributed by Xerox in the 80s. It got sold off to Xerox in the 90s. Eventually Corel bought them and I think they still sell it.

                Anyway, it was pretty good software (at the time at least) and had interesting way it worked bi-directinally between word processors using tagging of content not too dissimilar to XML). We had pretty maxed out 80286 box and it was struggling. We printed it all out on LaserMaster printer which was special controller for Laserjet II / Canon LBP-II (same engine anyway) to double its resolution resulting in quite stunning print quality at the time.

              3. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

                Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                @The Oncoming Scorn made me do it!

                Xerox DTP system, was that the "Venturer" or similar named system that took 25 - 30 minutes to boot up to get to a operating point.

                In 1987 I was taken on by a new special-interest magazine to learn Ventura Publisher and to get the magazine staff, whom I'd in general call "non-technical personnel", up to speed on it. I arrived of an afternoon, and my production guy said: "Please, can you fix the masthead page. They've been driving me crazy with suggestions." When everybody had left for the day, I duly turned on the 286 computer and waited, and waited ... it was easy to see what had happened: the creative types in the office were "try this", "no, try this" and my harried production guy, rather than erase something they might want to go back to, was continually introducing new elements to the page. Several of them were unprintable, in a margin, but they still took CPU time to place on the page. Solution: start with a blank page. Make reasonable assumptions about what is needed. Do it. 15 minutes, done. Times one person. Less time than the page had been taking to load. And certainly less time than four staff spending hours fiddling with it.

                If they're so Creative, why can't they imagine how their suggestion will look on the page, and judge it without having to look at it?

                So, Oncoming Scorn, your problem might have been exactly that one. An unnecessarily complex base page created in the early days and never torn down for efficiency. On a 386 or 486, Ventura might even have been called a speed demon. I enjoyed and marveled at loading a 400-page book in about a second.

                1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

                  Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                  I was shadowing Xerox techs for ten weeks, it wasn't a fun commute (or indeed really that much fun) on the slow train from hell getting to Xerox branches by train from Swindon to Bristol City Centre or Avonmouth, then having to commute back again especially if the field call had over run due to the boot up time & we were in Cardiff\Swansea.

                2. d2

                  Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                  'If they're so Creative...'seems the label of 'artsy fartsy' is apt for that lot

            3. matthewdjb

              Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

              "" I resent him the original email informing him"

              And in turn, he began to resent you.

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

            "One Manager kept marking me down at review time for 'having no ambition'. "

            I always find it sad that reviews see ambitions only as a plus point and lack of it as a negative. What's wrong with being happy in what you do? I've seen too many people who are great at their jobs be promoted into something they don't enjoy or can't do and then leave for greener pastures.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

              Also, that ambition isn't about being the best at your job, achieving more, gaining seniority, supporting colleagues or developing systems. i.e productivity. It's about becoming an office worker.

              1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

                Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                To add a counterpoint to this; in the past I have included ambition as a factor during a year-end review. It was a senior bod (director-level) who'd had a burnout, and after a 6 month leave of absence was assigned to my (junior) team as part of his rehabilitation. He kept his director salary (at least 3x more than anybody else in the team), and liked the pay/expectations ratio so much he was quite happy to stay. He was highly competent and good at what he did, but I wanted him to aspire to moving out and up in order to justify his salary. Nearly a decade on I still feel this was a legitimate approach.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                  I did have one job where someone spotted a missed contractual obligation near year end and everyone not on a customer engagement was roped in. I wound up managing a team of about 5 people, all 2 levels senior to me while we dug around office storerooms and warehouses for disused computer kit to be given inventory tags and then decommissioned.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                  I did see an example of that kind of thing where my company TUPE'd over staff from a company which itself had TUPE'd them, some years previously, from a semi-state formed from a government department.

                  There was one guy who had joined as a civil servant back in the day and been promoted by seniority ever since (even the civil service had changed policy since then) until he was earning more than partners in the company and had a much nicer company car but barely had the skills to answer a phone. He was, of course, too expensive to make redundant and on a defined benefits pension.

            2. sisk Silver badge

              Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

              Why is ambition even a thing on job reviews? In what way does a desire or lack there of to climb the ladder have any impact whatsoever on your job performance? If anything I'd say someone more focused on ladder climbing than their current job should have a mark against them.

              1. Kiwi Silver badge

                Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                Why is ambition even a thing on job reviews?

                I've known people who've had great ambitions, not to be "manager" or anything like that but to be the best they can at their job and after-job life. If they have a family, the after-job stuff comes first BUT being very good at your job so you can proudly face your spouse&sprogs and you can provide a stable income for them is a critical part of that.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                  "I've known people who've had great ambitions, not to be "manager" or anything like that but to be the best they can at their job"

                  Exactly this. I worked for a famous TLA that would see this as performance below expectations... It was so damaging to everyone.

                  I now work for a different large global who has just introduced, as the result of feedback, the ability to stay on a non managerial path yet still have the same recognition, goals, promotions and rewards.

                  1. Kiwi Silver badge
                    Thumb Up

                    Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                    I now work for a different large global who has just introduced, as the result of feedback, the ability to stay on a non managerial path yet still have the same recognition, goals, promotions and rewards.

                    Wow.. I almost struggle to believe that :)

                    It is a rare thing indeed for companies to do such great things for their employees.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                      "Wow.. I almost struggle to believe that :)

                      It is a rare thing indeed for companies to do such great things for their employees."

                      It's very rare indeed. I once worked for a big company, in which the CEO once announced any tech could raise to his HR rank (19 if I recall correctly).

                      Turn out no-one ever reached more than 16 in ten years ...

                2. Diogenes

                  Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                  I've known people who've had great ambitions, not to be "manager" or anything like that but to be the best they can at their job and after-job life

                  When I started as a trainee programmer at a large utility in the 80s, they were reorganising with union blessing to make as all multiskilled so that we would derive more satisfaction a. Most of us just went along, except for one legend in the mail room who derailed everything. He had been at the top of the scale for clerk grade 1 for 30 years (a trainee programmer was equivalent to a clerk grade 3, an Analyst Programmer was Grade 5, Systems Analyst a grade 6 & then you went onto management scales). The way it worked was each grade had 5 steps, through which one progressed automatically, but you had to apply to move up a level eg grade 1 to grade 2.

                  He flat out refused to be 'mutiskilled', and refused an offer to jump to where his seniority should have put him (as a 6-5) . Management 'counselled' him, the union 'heavied' him and it was only a direct appeal to the Minister that allowed him to retain his job....

                  It seems he was debt free, owned his own home & car, had a small independent income form inheritances, and most importantly he was the carer for his wife and several of his children, all of whom had some form of disability/illness - IIRC his wife had MS. As a lowly clerk 1-5, he did not have to think, and could do his job literally on auto-pilot. Outside of work he was on the State Council of the Returned Services League, and President of his local Bowling Club. He literally only went to work to keep himself occupied during the day.

                  1. Kiwi Silver badge
                    Pint

                    Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                    As a lowly clerk 1-5, he did not have to think, and could do his job literally on auto-pilot.

                    Hence why I've loved doing low-skilled work that pays OK. More of your life is your own, you can think, and if you come up with some great ideas during work time or later and wish to sell them, there's none of those annoying "all your thought belong to us" clauses in the contract.

                    I could travel when I wanted, take a long weekend. If my holiday time was used up for the year and we had a quiet period at work, I could still take a long weekend or two with the boss's blessing - he didn't have to pay me to sit around and do nothing and I didn't have to stay there sitting around doing nothing.

                    Sometimes menial work is the best :) Though these days I prefer stuff more 'constructive', with a little bit of a bite to the job.

                    1. Sir Loin Of Beef

                      Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                      Yes the problem arises when some PHB comes along and thinks you are doing a "boring" job and wants to shift you to something "exciting".

                      A coworker and I were in a VP's office fixing his PC while he was on the phone. He was talking with an underling at a remote office. The VP basically states that the role this remote guy was doing, for 15 years, was "boring" and that he wanted him to use the weekend to come up with a plan to start doing what others at the remote site were doing (this was offering loans for companies by either engaging new clients and/or managing current ones).

                      After we fixed the VPs PC we left and started talking about how pissed over what we heard. We couldn't believe the horror that remote guy must have felt when some PHB was basically forcing him out of his comfort zone for 15 years to do something the PHB thought was more "exciting".

                      I never found out what happened to the remote guy but I always wondered if he just didn't do it in the hopes of never being "reformed" and staying at what he was comfortable with, of if he left the company, or God-forbid, had a heart attack.

                3. David McCoy
                  Happy

                  Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                  I find it impossible to love your comment too much. You have summed up my job/life aspirations beautifully.

                  1. Kiwi Silver badge
                    Pint

                    Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                    "I find it impossible to love your comment too much. You have summed up my job/life aspirations beautifully."

                4. Olivier2553 Silver badge

                  Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                  I've known people who've had great ambitions, not to be "manager" or anything like that but to be the best they can at their job

                  But most of the managers are so full of themselves they cannot fathom how you could aspire at anything else be be a manager yourself.

            3. fidodogbreath Silver badge

              Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

              The real issue is that "ambition" is defined as "wanting to be a manager."

              Of course, those reviews are designed by management types; so I suppose it makes sense that they would assume that everyone aspires to be just like them.

              I thought I did -- until I got promoted into management. I absolutely hated all the HR crap, discipline issues, performance reviews, budgeting, interminable agenda-less meetings, PowerPoint all the things... basically, everything that I did all day.

              Never again. I'm happy to take a bit less money and not dread going to work every day.

              1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                "The real issue is that "ambition" is defined as "wanting to be a manager.""

                I've never understood that attitude. If I wanted to be a manager I'd have bloody well applied to be a manager, not a do-er.

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

              What they really mean is, that unlike the 'ambitious' brown nosers you haven't been offering to do some of your managers job for him.....

            5. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

              "One Manager kept marking me down at review time for 'having no ambition'."

              At my company, being a manager means working 60+ hours per week (and no Paid OT), any bonuses usually significantly derailed by zillions of uncontrollable external factors, dingy office with no windows, high stress, etc.

              They'd need to pay me +50% just to keep the hourly rate similar. But the offer would be maybe +15%. Yuck.

              So is it my lack of ambition, or is it their own management structure issue?

              This same logical thinking results in widespread "lack of ambition", which impedes progress generally. The negative outcomes are wider than you might think. It's not good.

              Senior leaders should really beware of this terrible situation. Not good.

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

                There is a shortage of headteachers in England.

                To be a headteacher you have to take responsibility for everything that goes wrong in the school - whether or not it's within your control, if things go wrong you're out. You have to give up teaching, the thing you became a teacher to do (clue is in the name). The hours are endless, the job's grinding and the pay isn't great beyond the biggest secondaries. The NPQH qualification, when it was required (I think it might not be now) was horrendously full of buzzword management strategies taken from the world of business*. It does pay a fair bit better than a classroom teacher. Just not enough to make it worthwhile for good teachers. But, as with the IT teams' comments, too often the people who choose to go for the role are dedicated climbers rather than dedicated teachers.

                *I had to do the equivalent course for advisory teachers.

                1. Myvekk

                  Re: headteachers...

                  @Terry 6

                  You just need to find the right person to appoint as School Bully! That's half the work, apparently. And don't forget to get a team into the 50 mile Hop...

                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SurRcPE8Tvk

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: headteachers...

                    When I was at school, I had a run-in with the school bully, and we had a hate/hate relationship throughout our mutual school career. Years later, after I had retired, I went to a reunion of my school year, and there was said bully. Turns out he had gone on to become the headmaster of a local junior school, and had been well liked by his staff and the parents of his pupils. Leopards can change their spots.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

            I had a similar conversation after a merger where the new manager from 'Company B' came in and told everyone that it was move up or move out, no-one should be in his team for more than 3 years because if they hadn't been promoted or burned out by then, they weren't working hard enough. I was flagged as not having the skills or attitude for management consulting and more senior person with history in 'Company A' came to counsel me out and find out why this problem hadn't come out under previous managers. I told him I had no experience as a management consultant as I'd been working as a technical architect. I got moved to another division and did another 5 years with that company quite happily, while I hope the go-getting manager burned out on schedule.

          5. Andrew Moore

            Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

            'having no ambition' is usually shorthand for 'not making me look good often enough' with mid-level manglement.

          6. Kennelly

            Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

            In a company I worked for, there were sufficiently many people in this situation that a new technical grade was created, on a management pay level, to accommodate them. However after many years, changes of CEO, and reorganisations, that arrangement was lost in the mists of time and my role gradually mutated into the people management position I didn't want, without any advancement on the pay scale. I think most (if not all) of the others subject to the same arrangement had left by then.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

        Working for one retailer I was doing some stuff at one shop on a hot Friday afternoon including training. The manager stopped me at one point and said that I had to finish now as they had to input stock returns into the system. Curious I asked what they had to do and was shown a list of items that they had returned to head office. There were about 100 in total with 80 different item codes and it was a printed list that had come from an email. The list came from what had been received at head office and staff were expected to input this into the system for stock control. Basically the manager would sit inputting the data into the computer (the only one in the place) whilst another employee read it out to her. I said that's daft because it gave opportunities for errors to creep in. Why don't you import it from the data you've been sent on the email? They didn't know that was possible and actually neither did I at the time. However I had a look and it just needed converting to a CSV file whereupon it was easily imported.

        I showed the manager how easy it was to convert the data and she thought it was genius. This wasn't the proper procedure that the company had laid down but it was faster a damn site faster. Well I was happy as was the shop manager but head office were not and said it had to be done manually. Their displeasure was evidenced by the fact that a month later my contract was not renewed.

      3. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

        Usually, I've noticed they're crap at doing the job, but My God are they quick at spotting a trend!

        Tech isn't their strong point. Office politics is though. Manglement sits in their office and listens to the politic players as the ones doing the work at the coal face are to busy doing their jobs instead of sucking up.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: “People who develop a reputation for unearned competence.”

        And the path of least resistance is surely to royally fuck something up and make a hero of yourself by fixing it. At one former employer, we had a monthly Excellence Award, or Effort Award as it was more commonly known (people have earned that for heroic business class travel to Pacific Islands and staying in five star hotels).

        1. 's water music Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: “People who develop a reputation for unearned competence.”

          we had a monthly Excellence Award, or Effort Award as it was more commonly known

          I know that scheme as Star of the Week from KS1/2 teacher training (shorter event horizon at that age). Did your involve a laminated certificate and stickers?

          Awards ceremony compere--->

        2. Myvekk

          Re: “People who develop a reputation for unearned competence.”

          Did someone mention a 'bug bounty'?

      5. d2

        Re: not neccessarily very good at brown-nosing...

        a lot of that about...'Why the US Military Can’t Fight

        This article explains that the way to become a general is to spend your military life sucking up to the higher ups. Medal of Honor winners generate envy, and this ends their career. Corporate rise also depends on sucking up. Consequently, we are deprived of both military and corporate leadership. '

        paulcraigroberts.org/2019/04/19/why-the-us-military-cant-fight/

    2. smudge Silver badge

      Either that or the A-Team are very bad at tech support and very good at brown-nosing...

      A is for anus...

    3. DavCrav Silver badge

      "If the best techs say that it's normal for a 100KB file to take minutes to copy across a LAN"

      Read a little more carefully. They actually said "we have no idea how to fix it, so pretend that it's normal". I think the implication being that payroll will have no idea if it is normal or not, and just accept it.

      1. Adam 1 Silver badge

        And at the risk of defending the indefensible, also don't forget to take notice about the KPI structure such employees are working under. Do they need to close X tickets per day? Do they need to maintain an awaiting investigating queue below Y? Does the employee who closes the most tickets get singled out for either praise or even a bonus? Does the employee who takes the longest suffer poor performance reviews or have to sit with some stuffed toy sloth on their desk that week?

        If any of these or like minded hare brained schemes are in place, anticipate, no actually expect employees to play their own games to protect their own wellbeing. So if you come along with one of those "it's annoyingly slow but still technically working" style tickets, expect the incentives to influence the behaviour. Having an efficient payroll department isn't only never directly incentivised but also in this case would almost certainly hurt their measured KPI.

        If manager types spent more time reflecting on KPI side effects and less on other reports, they would objectively run a better operation. Of course, managers have their own KPIs which they're themselves playing their own games, so it's turtles all the way down.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Interesting point. Key Performance Indicators are, in effect, proxies for getting the actual job done. What they tend to measure is the superficial, mechanical parts of any job, because those things can be measured. What they omit is a way to measure effectiveness of meeting the intentions of the job.

          The late Sir John Harvey Jones, who'd been the boss of ICI, had a TV series called Troubleshooters. In that he poured scorn on KPIs and quoted a manager who had come to him expecting his bonus because he'd met his KPIs - even though his division had made a loss.

          In effect they lead to valuing what can be measured because it's often much harder to measure what is valuable.

          1. TheRestIJustSquandered

            I liked that Troubleshooter programme, and Sir JHJ.

            So it is with a slightly puckish tone I suggest that surely Sir John Harvey Jones was just using another KPI, by adopting profit as an indicator of performance.

            ROI is probably the KPI that counts most in business, provided we measure it over a long enough time period, (though not too long on promises of "jam tomorrow").

            I used to think management thought too short term to invest in better software practices. To the young, a revolution is fervently appealing, but now older, and more jaded, having seen the bandwagons come and go, it is my secret delight that I am turning into an old grey-haired donkey, like Benjamin in Animal Farm, quietly keeping track, for, as with all politics, office politics is about rewriting history on the end wall of the big barn, by those in charge, the pigs.

            Such doubts are all-pervasive, so there are moments when I reflect I might be deluded in casting myself as the heroic wise donkey, when in fact I am more in charge, more responsible for the state of the world, to the point that I might be just another one of the pigs.

    4. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      manager's favourites = manager's favourites

      best techs = best techs

      manager's favourites <> best techs

    5. Paul Herber Silver badge

      A is for Arnold (you know who ...)

    6. TG2.2

      I think we all know this story too well.

      And the other side ... I can't understand in the first few posts the question wasn't "so what was this magical setting that allowed FTP to work better?"

  2. Giovani Tapini Silver badge

    Sometimes it is indeed better to do whats right ...

    instead of what you are told...

    I don't think I could retain even the thin veneer of being an IT professional if I didn't - I'd just be a mindless drone.

    This has however led me into a number of tricky situations having to explain myself, but strangely being right, often is a difficult position to be argued back out of, especially if the alternatives are worse (having some facts is useful)

    I've largely got away with it for the last 30 years so it cant be all bad !

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Sometimes it is indeed better to do whats right ...

      I managed to delete a database once. I was new on the project and the process was export bottom row data, delete all data, import, calculate (OLAP cube), because recalculating the bottom row data into the cube was 100x faster than recalculating an already filled cube...

      Only, I forgot the first step...

      My colleague just said, take the previous backup from the run 4 hours ago and blame it on the users! That is what he usually did, when he got it wrong.

      Being more senior, I decided not to do that. I went to the manager of the customer's finance department, explained what I had done, told him I would restore from the last backup and replay the transaction file, but that it would take a little longer than usual. We lost the last 2 transactions. But I was praised by the customer for being honest and coming up with a workable solution.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sometimes it is indeed better to do whats right ...

        That's largely been my experience too, plus I like being honest.

        Sadly one place I worked used the opportunity of anyone making the slightest mistake to drop the woes of centuries on the unlucky victim...

      2. Andrew Moore

        Re: Sometimes it is indeed better to do whats right ...

        Management will always make you suffer for it, but that's far outweighed by the reputation to get from your clients.

  3. Hugh Barnard

    In about 1974 (yes, yes) I pointed out that the ICL tape sort program had a switch that left the tapes loaded (accessible). Saved hours on tape batch systems under George II. Was considered a smartass and left, one year or so later.

    1. Giovani Tapini Silver badge

      Good idea

      but leaving tapes loaded could result in stretch and wear so I hope you rotated/duplicated them as well as being a smartass :)

      TBH I always wanted people in my team that would think & challenge just in case they find that one in a million time where I could possibly be wrong !

      1. A.P. Veening

        Re: Good idea

        Chances of one in a million crop up nine times out of ten.

        1. Giovani Tapini Silver badge

          Re: Good idea

          @A.P. Veening

          you clearly know me very well :)

          thumb up for TP reference too...

        2. Joe Harrison

          Re: Good idea

          Chances of one in a million crop up nine times out of ten.

          Well,, ninety-nine times out of a thousand I'd agree with you there

        3. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Good idea

          Chances of one in a million crop up nine times out of ten.

          Not with my lottery numbers they don't.

          Have an upvote for the Sir pTerry reference.

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge

            Re: Good idea

            Lottery numbers are 14m:1, so it doesn't work that way. Had to be precisely 1m:1 to work.

            Just checked, seems like the 14m to 1 is outdated and now it's 45m:1!! Shit, the idiot tax got harsher at some point

            1. JimboSmith Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Good idea

              Sorry looking at the post I missed the joke icon.

        4. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: Good idea

          The chances of anything coming from Mars...

      2. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: Good idea

        Believing yourself to be right 999,999 times in a million is one mistake already, so you'd be up to 2 in a million off the bat...

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Unfortunately predicable

    Don't show up the 'experts' is in the same class as don't tell the manglement they are wrong.

    Not a recipe for a long and happy employment.

    1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunately predicable

      Don't show up the 'experts' is in the same class as don't tell the manglement they are wrong.

      Not a recipe for a long and happy employment.

      It does not matter, because it does not seem to be a nice place to work either.

    2. sandman

      Re: Unfortunately predicable

      Sometimes you can get away with it. I was the IT analyst on a large eLearning project. As such, I wrote the specs for the project - comprehensive specs, very, very, comprehensive specs. This was in the days when the differences between browsers was a real problem. So, to cut a long story short, a director hands the project build over to an external design company and everything proceeds. Six months later, I'm invited to the unveiling in their building. During the presentation the designers of the quasi-3D environment (it was a trend, even though users hated it) proudly stated that it only worked on IE5 (could have been 5.5). I pointed out that the client only used Netscape and banned IE... The director turned round and snarled "Why wasn't that in the specs?" At this stage I lost my temper and replied "It was, I wrote them, did you read them?" and stormed out before I started using unfortunate language.

      Later that day, back at base, I was called into his office. Mentally clearing my desk I was more than a little surprised when he offered me a job in his own department. I politely refused, mostly on the grounds that he hadn't got a clue what he was doing really. After that I always produced a PPT with the mission-critical specs to present to those with short attention spans, as well as the full document.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Unfortunately predicable

        Been there, done that, several times.

        It is amazing how often people don't listen or read instructions, no matter how detailed - in fact the more detailed, the less likely they are to be followed.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          I seem to remember some rock band who had already come to that conclusion.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Unfortunately predicable

          "It is amazing how often people don't listen or read instructions, no matter how detailed - in fact the more detailed, the less likely they are to be followed."

          A bit like when government outsourcing fails and the government realises they didn't read the contract they signed. Lessons are not learned.

      2. Nolveys Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Unfortunately predicable

        After that I always produced a PPT with the mission-critical specs to present to those with short attention spans

        • When extending the reach of forklifts by lifting them with other forklifts the larger forklift should be used to lift the smaller forklift.
        • Always use the side of the industrial fan that the air comes out of rather than the side it goes into when impressing coworkers by stopping the fan with your tongue.
        • When driving equipment through the bay doors always make sure the bay doors are open first.
        • The vending machines are heavy, try not to pull them over on yourself.

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

          Re: Unfortunately predicable

          Quote :When driving equipment through the bay doors always make sure the bay doors are open first.

          The guys in the next unit to us didn't bother with the bay doors.. they drove the forklift through the wall.

          Gave everyone bit of a surprise to be covered in brickdust, breeze blocks and large amounts of assorted debris...

        2. big_D Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Unfortunately predicable

          When driving equipment through the bay doors always make sure the bay doors are open first.

          Points finger... It was HALs fault!

        3. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Unfortunately predicable

          When tying a Mini to industrial roller shutters to keep them up, make sure they do not weigh more than the Mini.

          That one wasn't me, but my father...

    3. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunately predicable

      Just in my first employment, as a most junior dev, I was working with an expert just contracted for his extensive DB2 knowledge. He was supposed to set up a battery of DB tests but managed to screw up on every single test he prepared (not allocating disk space, and leaving logs of it for us to see). That meant he had just wasted the whole team a Saturday (we were working extremely long hours due to a unavoidable deadline). By the end of the day I'd managed to redo - this time correctly - everything the expert was supposed to have done for us and our team got it's work done for others to take on next Monday.

      That Monday, our manager heard us arguing about what had happened (I may have been expressing how pissed off I was about all that sorry affair) and, after investigating it, called me apart and told me I didn't need to worry about it any more as the 'expert' was no longer working there. I also got promoted a month or so afterwards.

      So sometimes showing the experts are not what they claim to be is good for you (and saves the company a tonne of money).

    4. deadlockvictim Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunately predicable

      WG» Don't show up the 'experts' is in the same class as don't tell the manglement they are wrong.

      For those young enough not to have realised it, the advice given by the A-team was a red flag. Once you hear this from the (ahem) best, you know you have to move on to a new job very quickly.

      If you have a skillset that is in demand though, it can be fun to ruffle feathers like this. Needless to say, nothing will happen to the blue-eyed boys.

    5. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunately predicable

      Yeah, I got fired for explaining to a line manager how simple and quick the fix was to an issue caused by a crap install that had been costing MILLIONS in lost productivity.

  5. Rudolph Hucker the Third
    Joke

    If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can bypass... the A-Team.

  6. Rich 11 Silver badge
    Joke

    or just fixing an "unsolvable" problem

    Well, there was that one time I was called in to negotiate a solution to a major impasse between No.10 and Parliament...

    It didn't end well.

    1. Val Halla

      Re: or just fixing an "unsolvable" problem

      Tusk, Tusk !

      1. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: or just fixing an "unsolvable" problem

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATMR5ettHz8

    2. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: or just fixing an "unsolvable" problem

      Ha ha, so you didn't believe Iraq has WMD they could operate withing 40 minutes either then.

      And millions agree with your second point. Or would if they could.

  7. chivo243 Silver badge
    Happy

    Solving that huge headache

    That had been dogging a D level with just one change. Back in the days of XP, the highest spec'd PC in the building was dog slow. It was a windows setting, tick the radio button ~ adjust for best performance. Problem solved ;-} I didn't get any monetary recognition, but I still have a thank you letter from the D level.

  8. 0laf Silver badge
    Pirate

    The problem of "speaking truth to power"

    It's not a new one and it's not going away.

    Senior management are always very keen on shooting messengers.

    I thought it was a quote but it's a principle and even has a nice greek name - parrhesia

    1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Re: The problem of "speaking truth to power"

      I reckon, there's three different words for any situation, that or public relations. #thefrenchwordforsacktheboss

  9. Richard_Sideways

    No good deed...

    Back in the heady days of the Novell supremacy, I went for an interview for an Net.supp role. The interviewer was their head IT guy, but turned up nearly 30mins late, apologising and puffing and blowing about some ongoing issue with their printer queues. Interview rolls along perfectly well, and at the end as he's showing me out asks 'I don't suppose you know anything about print queues do you' Yes, says I, I do actually know a fair bit having setup plenty for some massively esoteric Canon monsters. So I find myself parked in front of the server wrangling distributed print services into submission, find the fault, and walk the guy through the fix in about 5mins. Handshakes all round as the printers start singing again... Did I get the job? Not even a call back...

    1. gotes

      Re: No good deed...

      Novel (no pun intended) way to avoid call out fees.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: No good deed...

        I've long been suspicious that the interview panels for Microsoft's "ranger" or "architect" or whatever they've degraded it to, these days, where the candidates are presented "real-world type" scenarios are just their way of getting gullible people to design customer solutions for them, whilst paying thousands for the privilege of doing it. ;-)

    2. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: No good deed...

      Should have sent them a bill!

    3. Fabrizio
      Devil

      Re: No good deed...

      30 years ago when I worked at a software development company, one of our clients did just that: once a year they would open up a position, get people to come in for interviews, ask the potential "hires" very pointed questions about all the issues they could not solve over the previous year, get great answers, solve their issues and not hire anyone...

      Some companies still do this: the hiring process is about brand exposure, telling investors they're doing well, getting a fresh new view on their operations, ... _not about actually hiring people!_

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: No good deed...

        My other computer has a Dilbert cartoon bookmarked on the subject of "job interviewing" tech experts for solutions, but it appears that your client did it first.

        From memory, the candidate tells Dilbert's boss that he would solve the problem he was asked about by "job interviewing" tech experts for a solution. Boss replies that this doesn't seem to be working.

        Another method is to ask Stack Exchange or similar for a solution, but that has the drawback of revealing to the world the lousy software and systems that you work with, such as Excel for an enterprise-critical database file (I think that's a made up example when it applies to me... oh no I've just remembered the file name, it's real).

        The trick is to ignore the two-cell column headings, but filter the data so that only properly formatted product codes are accepted... but then you're in trouble if someone mistypes a product code in Excel.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: No good deed...

      "Yes, says I, I do"....

      ...I'll have that sorted for you as soon as I start.

    5. Andrew Moore

      Re: No good deed...

      The death knell was when you demonstrated that you knew more than the "expert". There was on way he was keeping you around after that.

  10. Tom 7 Silver badge

    I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

    So fucking lazy that if I have to do 100 hour week solving a problem that is wasting 10 hours of my life every week I will do it because I know it will save me 400+hrs in the next year alone. Even better if I can do it and no-one else knows I've saved myself 10 hours a week!

    TBH its nots just lazy - I get seriously bored and hacked off doing shit I know I can automate in less time than I can fill in a job proposal and then sit through a few meetings with people who think anything they didnt think of is shit or somehow makes their dick fall off.

    1. juice Bronze badge

      Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

      To quote the three great programmer virtues (http://threevirtues.com/)

      Laziness: The quality that makes you go to great effort to reduce overall energy expenditure. It makes you write labor-saving programs that other people will find useful and document what you wrote so you don't have to answer so many questions about it

      1. A.P. Veening

        Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

        And now as a clickable link.

      2. Kubla Cant Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

        It makes you write labor-saving programs that other people will find useful and document what you wrote so you don't have to answer so many questions about it

        So who writes the documentation? "you" or "other people"? I can't help feeling that if you weren't so lazy you'd check your syntax for ambiguity before you devote an entire web site to it :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

      I used to put laziness on my CV, and then qualify with:

      "I will automate anything that will save effort and money.

      I always try to get things right first time because I hate having to deal with problems afterwards."

      My view of it was that anybody who didn't call me for interview was probably not in a company I would wish to work for.

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

      if I have to do 100 hour week solving a problem that is wasting 10 hours of my life every week I will do it because I know it will save me 400+hrs in the next year

      As always, there's an XKCD for it: https://xkcd.com/1319/

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

        Things have reached the point where I often don't need to follow the link. I just recognise the XKCD number.

        (Of course it helps that that particular one has been pinned to my office wall for the last three years.)

    4. JulieM Silver badge

      Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

      If this works, I won't have to repeat myself: https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/all/2019/01/18/on-call/#c_3697318

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

        Actually used that line at the interview for my current job (Without the F bomb obviously), that if I can find a way to script\automate a process I will as its a time saver & gives the same consistent results every time.

        Got the job, created some useful scripts over the last year & working on a all-singing dancing one that populates AD, adds user to groups & moves into the correct OU. Then for shits n giggles resets the new starters passwords, emails it out to the manager & emails me the completed template with all the work order details to cut n paste into the ticket.

        Yesterday it was announced that all the AD population stuff will be automated by HR\Management Sharepoint forms in the near future, I'm hoping some my stuff can be utilized for whatever's left that's not automated.

        Am I a little pissed about this? No, because the time it saved me over the last year was worth it, the Powershell scripting tricks & methods I learned in company time invaluable.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

          "as its a time saver & gives the same consistent results every time."

          I think the second property is often the more important one, but "lazy" doesn't really capture the motivation. How about "lazy perfectionist"? Stick that on your CV and see how many calls you get.

        2. Trixr Bronze badge

          Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

          Yeah, and what's under the hood? Sharepoint doesn't natively provide account management facilities, so there has to be something that will actually execute the changes.

          If they're not using MIM or some other account management/workflow tool, someone's going to be writing some code.

          I mean, seriously, it's a document management tool, not an account provisioning tool. (Mind you, the MIM front-end is a version of Sharepoint, so if someone wants to roll-their-own, good luck to them.)

        3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

          Upshot from today's conference.

          I have to take at least part of my scripts, add in some functionality (Already done within a hour of getting the extra access) that I didn't have rights or accesses to before to initially automate the task in the same Q&A style.

          Then having got a working basic system in place, work with the sharepoint developer to get his forms to interface with my script, that one might be the biggest hurdle I have to face (I'll let you work out which one I'm referring to in this paragraph).

    5. Richard Cranium

      Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

      Friend of mine had to spend a week adjusting the program code for every customer sale. He'd suggested to management that he could convert the code to take a simple parameters file so future orders would just take a few minutes to customise the config file.

      Manager said no.

      Manager went on holiday so friend rewrote the program anyway. I told him that disobeying orders was risky, better to keep quiet but he proudly told his boss - who responded by pointing out that his job was configuring the code and since that was no longer necessary he was now redundant.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: I'm lazy. Really fucking lazy!

        If that's all he was doing everyday, then I would have shut up about it too & not blown the gig.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lies, damned lies, EOL projections

    I once upset the finance department by making improvements to the billing system - as by doing so, I was extending the projected time-to-collapse and hence undercutting their case for a shiny new billing system.

    Still, I got the last laugh. When I left two years later, the old billing system was still merrily chugging away, and it took over two more years (and a *lot* of effort) to get the new system even vaguely fit for purpose. So it was a good job that I'd been fixing and improving things despite their disapproval!

    1. Daedalus Silver badge

      Re: Lies, damned lies, EOL projections

      Yeah, promoting some shiny new piece of software is a standard tactic in promotion wars. The best players are able to get two levels up in the organisation before the chickens come home to roost. The real stars have a fall guy ready to take all the blame even before they get promoted.

  12. revenant Bronze badge

    Blame the Payroll Department

    They weren't playing the game. By publicly rewarding him they took away the chance for the A-Team management to take full credit for solving the problem. But then perhaps they knew the A-Team were twats and took the opportunity to highlight that.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Blame the Payroll Department

      It will have been that, of course. Departmental politics and if they'd been suffering from the issue for any amount of time, a bit of revenge. The OP wasn't ( I'd hazard a guess) the real object of the exercise. He was just a prawn in the sandwich game.

  13. lset

    Being honest with time frames...

    Once did a project scope for a large public sector organisation. We were called in to a big meeting to present our plan with a lot of people in the room who we didn't know (our big mistake). After running through the analysis and giving comparisons to similar projects we gave them a timeline of 6 months, which was roughly double what it should have taken but we couldn't guarantee they would complete their side of UAT on time.

    A week later we found out that we had been kicked out of the account for "over-promising and lying" to senior management (we knew the techies within the organisation well).

    Turns out a similar project was already in the works in a different part of the organisation, the owner of said project had been in our meeting. They were currently 2 years in and not even close to being finished. After being grilled by his bosses, he covered his ass by saying that we didn't know what we were doing and that it was significantly more complex than what we had stated (it really really wasn't).

    Unsurprisingly he was an external contractor on a stupid rate and was hated by the internal IT team, but was old friends with someone in upper management.

    This is why I hate doing work for the public sector.

  14. SVV Silver badge

    "You probably see my mistake"

    You didn't make a mistake.

    That company did. Big time. Better off out when this is how you get rewarded for success.

  15. iTechnomancer

    We have a printed sheet in our office that says "It's amazing how quick things can get fixed when people don't mind who gets the credit"

    A philosophy all of us in IT try and go by, and funnily enough, things do get fixed quickly, and the whole team gets praised.

  16. Lee D Silver badge

    Probably not quite the same level but I do the IT for big, posh schools.

    Between jobs once, I joined an agency who placed me in a very posh school in London. This particular one (with a famous real/parody Mum's twitter) hired me for a day to evaluate me for a job at their main site (which occupies the ENTIRE road, split among dozens of buildings and little sites). It was one of those "we'll have you for a day, if you work out, we'll just keep asking you back the next day" kind of deals.

    Turn up, meet the team (about 15 people in total I think), big plush offices, people in glass-offices having IT strategy meetings, four layers of management, several IT service desks across the various sites etc. etc. I was asked to shadow one of their techs, and over the course of the day we managed to cover quite a chunk of their site - from little back rooms, thousands-of-pupils helpdesk, back-end comms rooms, brand new buildings, etc.

    While I quite understand that I was shadowing / etc., allow me to describe *every* IT query, problem or task I personally witnessed that day - of anyone I met - while shadowing a first level tech throughout an 8 hour period in a very, very busy school, including going to / sitting in every site they had, spending hours in all their main support rooms, etc.

    - Taken to an in-school support desk room. Three/four technicians, first and second level. Senior manager/teacher walks in with a broken laptop. Literally dead. Doesn't turn on. Was issued to him only yesterday. He walks out with it, while yelling at the support team, about 20 minutes later. They literally did nothing. I asked questions when he was gone: They didn't ticket it. It was a school laptop. It was definitely broken. They didn't care. He was "just a moaner". "You know what they are like". "We have a pile of imaged laptops here, but nah." With a support team leader saying the same. Like... wow... that would have got me sacked in a state school let alone anything higher. They liked to keep their ticket system clean, so there was virtually nothing on their helpdesk lists, I got to read every ticket (I was that bored of waiting that I asked). They were all first-level stuff. I literally offered to take on one that I spotted at the top of the list which was just to change a VGA cable. They wouldn't let me / the tech do it, and nobody else did anything about it either.

    - Sat in the "main" support room (the big fancy office where the IT strategists / directors looked out of their glass offices over the fancy technical desks that had... quite literally... 5 techs, 5 dual-screen fancy-shite setups for them, not a tool in sight and precisely one computer under repair. There was nothing else going on at all). Must have been there an hour or more. Nothing. Fobbing off of people who came in. One "I'll just go do that thing" and wandering off of one tech. That was it. Not a machine repaired, not a software installed, not a configuration changed, not a documentation edited even.

    - Lunchtime. No, I kid you not. The rest of the time was walking around, not even looking at a helpdesk, or machines, or anything. Just wandering and talking to teams who weren't doing anything. Lunchtime was made a fuss of as "they provide lunch". I know mate, most posh schools do. I'm not amazed by a school dinner, though, thanks so I sat with him for about an hour as he ate his lunch.

    - Taken to "the new site", a refurb of probably an antique million pound piece of real estate of theirs that was becoming offices. We walk there. It takes half an hour.

    - We tour the building but we're there because there's one new office in there, with new desks, fresh carpets, etc. PC's sitting on the desk, already imaged. Apparently the tech "gets them like that" and isn't ever allowed to image anything. Everything comes fresh-prepared for them. Fair enough, maybe it saves them a bunch of time, but I suspect what's happening the the first-levels are coasting doing nothing to make the second-levels have big teams, and someone on third-level actually digs out SCCM (P.S. note that I haven't mentioned any software, process, etc. that they use... because I never witnessed even an AD Users & Computers screen, let alone anything that wasn't an empty helpdesk web page - these computers were never even turned on after cabling).

    - We "arrange" the computers. This means literally shuffle them along the desk so they are near the plugs.

    - One of the computers has an absolute disaster! Oh no! The Cat5e cable to go to the wall is too short by about 40cm! What we will do?!

    - Ensue a FORTY MINUTE conversation about what to do about it between a bunch of techs of both first and second level. I'm incredulous at this point.

    - I get bored and say "Get a longer cable? Doesn't that huge comms room you showed me (with a huge floor-to-ceiling rack with just two switches in it, in a room that's at least four times bigger than necessary, but had a stash of spare machines, cables, tools, spare parts, etc. in it) just down the hall not have a spare, brand-new patch lead that isn't 50cm in it? No, we can't do that, they cry, without any explanation.

    - Ensue a TWENTY MINUTE dither while I literally sit on a table waiting for them to come up with something.

    - They phone the main support base. They talk for TEN MINUTES.

    - Seemingly no resolution, they disappear telling me to stay there. The temptation to just walk 50 yards and CHANGE THE FECKING CABLE FOR A LONGER ONE from one of the fresh patch cables in sealed packets that I can SEE is so strong but I resist. (If I hadn't asked directly, I would have claimed ignorance and done it, but I didn't want to be seen as taking things I'd been told not to).

    - Half an hour later, the guy has ran back to the main support, picked up a cable, and come back. It's 70cm instead of 50. It's not long enough, but they stretch it and make it work.

    - They dither doing literally NOTHING else, just "arranging" machines. I'm seething.

    - We go back to the main site. We hang around in the first helpdesk area for a little bit. They relay their success story to their peers, who haven't moved and still have the same tickets on-screen.

    - I go home, they pay me a full day's wage. On the way out, I seriously consider popping into the bursar's office (generally responsible for the site facilities like IT), and hesitate around his door - I really wanted to just have a quiet word telling them about my day and what they are paying people - including me - to do. But I realised that they were ALL in on it. Even the directors, strategists, team leaders, etc. They're all doing feck-all all day long. If the bursar doesn't know, he's not doing his job either.

    - When I get back, they've told my agency that they don't need me again, because I wasn't the right fit for their team. No mention that we literally did feck all, annoyed senior management for fun, didn't complete a single ticket (the tech with me literally did NOT fulfil a single ticket to his name all day - the cabling thing wasn't on there, and if it had we didn't do *anything* with them anyway).

    I honestly considered whether it was a test of some kind, so I wrote a review of the place with my agency, complaining about their process and how they operate and, basically, wasted my day. Nothing happened. The feedback from the agency (run by a good friend) was "Yeah, they're really weird, we can never place anyone with them for long, everyone says the same". Apparently, it's been like that for years. And they happily pay through the nose for agency rates to get techs in for a day and do nothing with them. I suppose it looks good on paper and they have the money to burn and it makes what I'd call the *actual* IT team (somewhere around the third-level was where they did things like deploy software, god knows what level of management actually authorised purchases and staffing) have a huge team under them.

    It was literally the kind of place that if I could work there (e.g. job offer, etc.) even today, then I wouldn't, not even for twice my current salary. No way I could deal with people who work like that without having to speak up and/or just blast through all the tickets, get them done in a day, and show everyone up / piss them off.

    I was thoroughly disgusted. I bet the fee-paying parents would go absolute ape if they realised and could understand what was happening and where their money was going. Instead, I already had a job pending at another prestigious posh school (but it couldn't start until the April, hence my fill-in agency work)... been there five years... and do more in ten minutes every single day than I did all day at that school.

    1. A.P. Veening

      Name and shame so the paying customers (parents) know.

      1. druck Silver badge

        And you'll never work in any posh school again.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Working In A Posh Private School

          Did it once - Never again!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I worked in a government department like this, basically managing the servicedesk.

        It took me about a week to discover that the first line techs didn't record the jobs properly with all the required info, and that the second line techs used their own cars and were paid generous mileage for doing so. (which is fair enough) What wasn't fair enough was that every single job was being via site visits, with no use of remote access, remote admin tools or picking up the phone and telling the user that the reason the screen had gone a funny colour was that the d-sub cable wasn't in properly and asking the user to unplug it and then plug it back in again.

        I decided to shake things up a bit and ensured that the 1st line types did the job properly by assigning (on rotation) a first line tech to act as a second line tech for the day doing remote jobs so they'd learn what was needed, and then assigned a second line tech (by rotation) to do the same with the servicedesk and mentor the first line techs, and break down the "them and us" culture that they'd built up.

        In response, all but three 2nd line techs went "off sick" the next day and a union rep suggested to me that I should just take it easy and go with the flow and my life would be a lot easier. Slightly blatant, but happily two of the three remaining staff were ex-forces types with a fantastic work ethic and were probably actually the best skilled techs anyway, with respective attitudes towards stress of "well, nobodies shooting at us mate..." from one bloke and sardonic comments like "Stress? Defusing bombs for a living is stressful. This isn't."

        In a wonderful bit of inpromptu team building, the first line types started on the road to being not useless, the second line types saw the first line types as just clueless kids who were willing to learn. We actually improved the resolution times within the SLA, improved the satisfaction from surveys (through reduced resolution times for problems) and practically eliminated travel costs.

        The head of department came down and said how impressed he was with how we'd dealt with things and told me that i'd personally closed just over 40% of all tickets raised in the (~130 person) IT department in that week and did I know that I could ask for help if it was needed...?

        I managed to borrow an extra tech from the project team who'd been stuck doing one of those shit jobs that exist everywhere to reduce workloads to be easily workable, and chatting with the project team manager to thank him for the loan of an effective staff member I arranged to loan the project team the majority of my "sick" techs when they got back to catch up with the bunch of incredibly shit jobs that had been put off forever by the project team a long way away from the rest of the department, purely of course to ensure that any lingering sickness bug that they might have brought back with them didn't spread throughout the department.

        This was received with varying degrees of straight faces, but for some reason the union there had it in for me afterwards...

        1. A.P. Veening

          "I arranged to loan the project team the majority of my "sick" techs when they got back to catch up with the bunch of incredibly shit jobs that had been put off forever by the project team a long way away from the rest of the department, purely of course to ensure that any lingering sickness bug that they might have brought back with them didn't spread throughout the department."

          Something tells me you received your Bastard Manager From Hell papers with a good reason ;)

          As for unions, shoot to kill.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Something tells me you received your Bastard Manager From Hell papers with a good reason ;)

            As for unions, shoot to kill.

            In that position your backed into a corner. If you meekly accept your authority being walked over in such a manner than you lose any authority you have, and end up being managed by the people you are nominally managing. Once that starts, it's going to be practically impossible to stop.

            The only way to retain your own authority is to make it clear that if they choose to play games then you can play games back in a manner that discourages repetition.

        2. Daedalus Silver badge

          Ah the magic word: "union". Now we know where the Fleet Street droids went.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "Now we know where the Fleet Street droids went."

            Not necessarily. Every walk of life back then seemed to have its own home-grown lot.

            1. Daedalus Silver badge

              Yes, but Fleet Street elevated that art to levels not seen before or since.

              Example: teletype machines locked in a room with one union worker whose sole job it was to rip off the output and give it to supplicants from behind a screen worthy of a High Street bank. Said worker would have pizza delivered and scoff it while glowering at his "clients".

    2. JulieM Silver badge

      Other People's Money

      When it's Other People's Money you're spending, you don't need to be half so careful with it. And if all the work actually gets done, the money might stop coming in .....

    3. Rich 11 Silver badge

      I bet the fee-paying parents would go absolute ape if they realised

      Actually, with that much money going to waste, I was thinking that for a posh school it sounds more like a launderette. You know, the sort of launderette which takes the children of Russian oligarchs on the understanding that the grateful parent will donate very generously to the registered charity providing the educational opportunity, and possibly even use their extensive international business contacts to recommend a service agency capable of handling outsourced IT and administrative functions for the school, all with no questions asked about the surprising scale of the multi-million pound contract. But I could be wrong.

  17. David Neil
    Alert

    LoveBug

    I was subcontracted onto a large Insurance company site near Stirling and they got hit by the LoveBug.

    Cue several hours of internal IT running aroun like headless chickens wondering what to do.

    Only by 10am I'd had a copy, opened the .vbs in Notepad and saw it was looking for a URL - told them first thing to do would be to drop internet access to desktops - they didn't listen, after all I was only seconded to deskside support.

    Made sure I documented it in an email and sent it to my onsite manager as well as my manager at my own company.

    Sure enough a meeting was held post lunch and the internal security people (such as they were) tried to give me a chinning over opening an attachment.

  18. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Clearly nobody told Simon the plot. The A-team had had a feud going with Payroll for years and he'd undone the trick they'd been playing on them.

    1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

      More likely...

      The A-Team had learned that people accepted whatever they said and this let them become lazy. Why bother fix something when it seems to require a modicum of work and they can get away with doing nothing?

      1. Jaybus

        Re: More likely...

        "Why bother fix something when it seems to require a modicum of work and they can get away with doing nothing?"

        In my experience, it is generally easier on everyone when the A-team does nothing. It is when they do something that disaster usually strikes.

  19. ColinPa

    It is too embarrassing... please do not help us any more

    I had to go out to an Asian country to work on an "Performance problem" on the mainframe a week before a huge application was due to go live.

    Strobe showed that the highest used module in the CICS region was "printf". Applications still had the debug code in it, so this shows how production ready it was.

    Strobe also showed a DB2 problem 90% of elapsed time spent in one line of SQL.

    In the far east you do not lose your temper, every thing is normally calm, you do not lose face.

    In the status meeting the next day the CIO totally lost it, red faced and spitting, with the comments aimed at the implementers. I could hear blah blah blah printf, blah blah blah SQL blah blah

    The translation was you have worked on this performance problem for 6 months and you said nothing could be done. This foreigner comes in and in half a day finds two major problems. What have you been doing?

    After the meeting every one was deeply embarrassed (except me). I brightly said I could identify more performance problems once they had fixed the first two, but no, it was suggested I take the rest of the week off and see the sights. They would call me if needed. I never heard from them again even emails got returned. Perhaps the team was taken out and shot.

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: It is too embarrassing... please do not help us any more

      Classic case of a fresh pair of eyes on a problem.

      I'm sure we've all been on both sides of stories not entirely unlike that one.

  20. steviebuk Silver badge

    I like the word...

    ...but don't use it here much. But the A-Team sound like cunts.

    I can't stand engineers like that. It's fine fobbing of a user now and then if you have other urgent work to do and if they are very difficult and won't take "We're not sure why its doing it but we're still investigating. It's ongoing" as a reason you need to move on. But flat out saying that's how its suppose to work just to shut them up, then not working out what the issue is. And then telling someone that might actually be able to work it out to "not bother as we've already looked. Just tell them that's how it work" And then dismissing that person after when they actually find the fix because it made you look stupid, is a dick move.

    I suspect he was glad he actually now didn't work for that "A-Team". Was it Arsehole-Team, see what I did there.

  21. Gnoitall
    Gimp

    I keep filtering this story through the BOFH's eyes

    If a hell-desk minion rotated into my perfectly stable work ticket queue and disrupted it by actually fixing a harmless luser issue... well, I know that Simon's and PFY's response would involve a roll of carpet and a dumpster, not impotent fuming.

    1. Mephistro Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: I keep filtering this story through the BOFH's eyes

      I think the golden standard nowadays is a big bucket of hydrofluoric acid. Lots of fuming also, but definitely "not impotent fuming". 8^)

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I keep filtering this story through the BOFH's eyes

        You need to be careful with hydrofluoric acid. It will dissolve things you'd rather keep intact. Such as where the bodies are buried.

        1. Mephistro Silver badge
          Angel

          Re: I keep filtering this story through the BOFH's eyes

          There are several nice tutorials in "Breaking Bad".

      2. deadlockvictim Silver badge

        Re: I keep filtering this story through the BOFH's eyes

        Nitric acid, surely, would be a lot better?

  22. mr_souter_Working

    no such thing as "unsolvable"

    I'm a firm believer that there is no such thing as an unsolvable problem - all that is required is the willingness to learn and ask questions, time, and money.

    with all three of those - you can fix anything. with any two, you can fix most issues, and with any one you can fix many problems

    without any of them, you are on a hiding to nothing.

    just my tuppence worth.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: no such thing as "unsolvable"

      Amen to that!

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: no such thing as "unsolvable"

      "there is no such thing as an unsolvable problem"

      Turning three mutually intermeshed gears.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: no such thing as "unsolvable"

        "Turning three mutually intermeshed gears."

        Well, yes, but the OP allows you to ask a few questions and you might find out that actually those gears don't need to turn if you can rotate the entire assembly instead.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: no such thing as "unsolvable"

          Excellent news. Now how do I rotate SharePoint?

      2. 's water music Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: no such thing as "unsolvable"

        "there is no such thing as an unsolvable problem"

        Turning three mutually intermeshed gears.

        Simple. Moar torque. Now you have to decide whether your preference is for either problem or the solution.

        I was contracted to be here all week, but... icon---->

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My contribution to the fun.

    At a previous employer that shall remain nameless to protect the fekkin' brain dead.

    My normal duties were as a network flunky (I'm a PFY's PFY at that point), a senior VP tours the place & asks for volunteers to write a website, to which I raise my hand thinking I'll have something interesting to do during my breaks.

    He hands me a card with a URL on it & asks me to "see what you can do to improve it".

    Fine, I'll do just that...

    Long story short: it had been badly written using Front Page & was so bloated that it caused our internal servers to complain.

    I pull down a copy of the page, edit it in Notepad, strip out all the cruft, & turn a tens of megabytes FP abomination into something that fits on a floppy disk with room to spare.

    Send an email to the VP, include a copy of the decrufted page, & tell him that either I can upload it, test it, & make it go live, or he can assign it to the team already in charge of the current site.

    He replies with my new log in credentials & officially designates ME as the new site curator. *GULP*

    I log in, upload, test it, correct a few things, tweak a few things, then set it up on a test server first.

    The test server simulates a load that the current site tends to crumble under, reports that the new site isn't even breaking a sweat, so I keep increasing the load until it does (complain).

    The server reports that the load required to make the servers complain is the same as the hardware can manage at max throughput, so the site will never be a bottleneck in that equation.

    Great! Save a copy of the old site in a folder so I can put it back on a moment's notice, make the test site now Live, & sit back...

    My coworkers start getting calls asking what's happened to the site.

    Coworkers want to know what's wrong.

    Nothing's wrong, the fekkin' thing now runs so fast that our field techs are actually able to Get Shit Done!

    Ummmm... ok? *Amused gleep*

    I'm already feeling pretty good when said VP phones me up & says to switch to speakerphone.

    He congratulates me on a job well done, on having created a site that puts the old one to shame, & asks me if I want a job directly under him in $OtherState.

    I thank him for the praise, but have to turn him down on the offer to move since I have a family that won't take being uprooted so soon after a previous move.

    He says that's fine & tells me the offer will still be there if I ever change my mind.

    End the call. Cue the cheers & back slaps from my coworkers.

    Does that translate to kudos from my immediate boss?

    Not on your damned life.

    Turns out *his son* had written the previous site & was officially still beta testing it to work all the bugs out.

    He'd been doing so for over a year at an inflated salary.

    The Senior VP had gotten sick of the shite being shoveled out by the nepotistic brat & had come for a visit with the express purpose of determining if anyone else at our office could do a better job.

    They could. I did. In less than a week of my spare time.

    The VP gave me a nice fat bonus cheque come Christmas in recognition.

    My boss usually gave me the stink eye glare.

    Moral of the story: sometimes you can upset the apple cart simply by pointing out that the wheels are supposed to be *round*.

    =-D

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My contribution to the fun.

      I have the opposite story to tell, unfortunately. I'm posting anonymously and not naming to protect them, though why I want to is anybody's guess.

      I was hired as a security specialist and a software developer. The company did systems admin for local clients, but I wrote code for tools for the admins and for some other things the company did. I was asked to write a summary of recent security problems seen by clients and to give some general advice, said article to be posted on the blog. I did this. Then, I was asked to post it to the blog with my new site administrator credentials. I did that too.

      This is when they decided that I should fix the problems with their blog. They had hired a web design group to create the thing, which meant that it was a word press site with some random plug-ins. All of these were now seriously out of date, and almost all had known security vulnerabilities. After reporting this, I was asked to update everything.

      I don't do web design. I maintain my own site and a few smallish ones for friends, but I know how they work. I've never used word press and I also don't write complex pages with lots of graphics, which was the design scheme these people were using. I was working on fixing this when another employee, having cached the part of the conversation where I said "I've never done that before and it's not really related to what I'm supposed to be doing", but not the part where I said "so you'll have to give me a few days to let me test things thoroughly", decided to go in and update all the word press plug-ins and then word press itself, on the production webserver.

      The results were to be expected. The site broke immediately because word press didn't like the old configuration file. I found the problem with that and fixed it, but even though the site was now functioning, some plug-in or other had messed up the layout of the page. You could read things, but there were pictures in the wrong places and the page was even more disorganized than originally. I tried to figure out why this was, but the other person had reported the problem to my boss. My boss did not appreciate the new layout, and was rather insistent about having it repaired immediately.

      I did not figure out the problem with the page. Facing increasing levels of concern from superiors as they passed the news up the chain, I resorted to restoring the site from the backup, before all the upgrades. The design was back to normal. All the security problems were back as well. I thought that this would simply be a small speed bump and that I would resume the process to perform a proper upgrade, at least until I was called into a meeting with various levels of superiors. The purpose of the meeting: to describe what went wrong when I updated the site and what I would do to avoid making a mistake like that again. My colleague had chosen to explain the problem with the site as the result of my changes.

      In the end, I left the company (for other reasons but this incident didn't help). My colleague who broke the page was promoted. Oh, and by the way, the page is still really insecure. I just checked it. Someone should really fix that.

  24. Electronics'R'Us
    Holmes

    Airport comms went down

    When I was in the middle east many years ago (over 30) I was working on the Air Traffic system. This being a rather large place meant that field trips were fairly common (but try not to drive at night as you might crash into a camel sleeping on the road).

    One fine morning. the boss called me in and said that all local radio communications had failed at an airport - the catch was it was 600 miles to the north. I got the company pickup (a GMC Jimmy as I recall) and drove to this place in the middle of nowhere and as it was getting dark booked into a high class (well, high price) hotel.

    High class in this instance meant there were less than 2 cockroaches per square foot.

    The next morning, thankfully leaving said hotel, I went to the airport and after showing an endless set of security passes, went to the hut where the radios were physically located and spotted the problem quite quickly; a groundskeeper had turned off the main power switch to the hut, so no wonder they weren't working.

    The middle east is a place where one must be very careful about the locals with loss of face, so I went in and waited about 30 minutes before turning the main power on again. I did a quick check of the radio performance as I was in the place and had little desire to go there again any time soon.

    I wrote up the fault and response as 'primary power adjusted' and then drove back to a well deserved (and illegal) couple of beers.

  25. itzman
    Holmes

    staggeringly similar story.

    did a bit of coding for a client who sold a business app on either Elonex or Apricot PCS. yep DOS days of course.

    "Does anyone buy the Apricot" I said'

    "Yep its ten times faster"

    He proceeded to demonstrate with much whirring of floppy disks.

    I was puzzled, Processors and speeds wer identical.. then I had a thought. Sho nuff the elonex had in config.sys :

    FILES=2

    BUFFERS=5

    on the apricot they were much higher.

    I edited the file rebooted and said 'now try it'

    Nobody likes a smartass do they?

    1. Mephistro Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: staggeringly similar story.

      That was the first tool in my bag of tricks to improve PCs speeds in the days of MS-DOS. Users -that often attributed the slowing to hardware failures or corrupted OS or data- looked at me as if a were the f***ing Alan Turing. ;^)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: staggeringly similar story.

        For me it was a bit of slight of hand, discussing the speed issue while waving one hand to keep eyes on me, while my other hand deftly slid down to press the turbo button. Other thing was disabling the stupid button in turbo mode on all systems after the 100th time someone pressed it by accident and called to complain about their computer not working as well.

  26. Daedalus Silver badge

    Life in the yellow box

    Contracting for a formerly large company that once dominated the "image" field, I discovered that in implementing their configuration management system, the project had relied on every machine having writable copies of all scripts. I thought I knew better than to raise this formally, but I figured letting it slip in conversation would have the desired effect. Well, the scripts did get replaced by links to secure copies. But I still got accused of being a hacker. This after I'd cut their build cycle from six weeks to two hours.

  27. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Let me guess ...

    The solution was that he toggled between active and passive FTP modes?

  28. Sequin

    I worked in the \iT section of a large government department and was asked to look at an MSAccess application that had been provide by an external supplier for recording sick absences in Police departments. It had suddenly stopped accepting new data and the supplier had said it would take weeks and cost several grand to fix it as nobody had taken out a support contract with them.

    I asked the person who passed it to me if the record number of the last record was 32,767? How did you guess that he asked? It turns out that the record number column was defined as an integer and had reached its limit. I redefined the column as a long integer, which fixed the problem in about 10 seconds at the cost of bugger all.

    1. holmegm

      It had suddenly stopped accepting new data and the supplier had said it would take weeks and cost several grand to fix it as nobody had taken out a support contract with them.

      To be fair, the supplier was probably given next to no details, and since there was no support contract, had to give a quote.

      Been there ...

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      I worked for one company where the ERP DB was 'owned' by a supplier. They demanded shit loads for changes to the DB that our company was normally happy to pay. I realised that most of the changes in the pipeline where just to improve reporting and dug around and found I could write a few stored procedures that would do a few tens of thousand pounds worth of changes. It took me a few hours to learn how to write them and another hour or so to get them to do what I wanted. The suppliers response was to try and re-write the DB to stop me working out how to do this sort of thing and they really caused themselves a few problems keeping ahead of me as they seemed incapable of realising some of the side effects! They even offered me a very good package to go work for them in the smoke but I hate commuting and I was having a lot of fun doing what I was doing!

      1. Down not across Silver badge

        Obfuscation

        It took me a few hours to learn how to write them and another hour or so to get them to do what I wanted. The suppliers response was to try and re-write the DB to stop me working out how to do this sort of thing

        Some vendors seemed to design their systems like that (Remedy (IIRC ..it was some ticketing system anyway) comes to mind) where all objects are named <char><int> (or something like that) instead of something descriptive.

        Very annoying. Does it stop as querying what we want? No, you can work it out but just wastes a lot of time to work out what is what.

    3. Down not across Silver badge

      I asked the person who passed it to me if the record number of the last record was 32,767? How did you guess that he asked? It turns out that the record number column was defined as an integer and had reached its limit. I redefined the column as a long integer, which fixed the problem in about 10 seconds at the cost of bugger all.

      That is fine if it is a standalone system.

      I would, however, advice word of caution as these days it is very common for all kinds of systems to refer to each other, and that situation redefining a key column in on could very well break all kinds of things.

    4. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      A few months ago the work I was doing kept crashing Excel. I'd gone from processing the electoral register of a single ward of 3,500 people to a whole constituency of 72,000 people..... Cue installation of OpenOffice.

  29. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I was getting no respect. I had finally transferred into an SA department - my dream job - but the two managers in charge rubber-roomed me. One day, one of them told a story from twenty years before in which I had refused to let him and the other manager use my laser printer. I looked puzzled and told him that I had never, in any of the many different departments I had worked for had a personal laser printer assigned to me. I had a think and remembered that there *was* a large laserjet in my general area, but it was owned by a different set of Unix SAs and they wouldn't share with *anyone*. I began to see why I was getting no respect. So I got mad, then even.

    We were all called into a vendor meeting a week later when the vendor re-staffed. I usually responded to the "round-the-table intro" with "I'm Stevie, I work for Barney." Not this time. I gave them the unabridged history of Stevie in that enterprise, starting with my recruitment by Grumman Data Systems ("the same guys who did the telemetry on the moon shots") as a DBA consultant, my head-hunting by government organization A two years in, my brief move into bleeding edge internet start-up territory five years after that when I got bored and they tried to demote me in a "restructuring", my re-recruitment by well-known and well-loved by all colleague ("what would it take to get you to come back"), my subsequent consultant work in mainframe O/S configuration and maintenance, and my transference to government organization B. I finished up by saying that the original reason for my being there was to build out the infrastructure that got us the annual Federal monies we needed to continue operations, and that in a very real sense, everyone round that table owed the bread they put on their kitchen tables each day to code I wrote in 1984 that was still powering the business model 35 years on.

    You should have seen the bugged-out eyeballs and gaping mouths.

    And the next day there was a palpable change in attitude from my snotty young co-workers and the two "printer story" managers. Shortly after I went to the director (who was also in the room the day before) and asked for a transfer, and got one.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Emperor's New Clothes

    Always bear in mind that the popular version of The Emperor's New Clothes is fake news.

    The truth is that the crowd lynched the kid.

    1. Andrew Moore

      Re: The Emperor's New Clothes

      ..."when they decided the one thing they couldn't stand was a smart-arse."

  31. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Knowing your own limits, knowing when to ask questions, and knowing when to bail out and set everything up all over again from scratch are all important life lessons for techs. Unfortunately not everyone has the ability (or humility) to did this, and a often cite this as one of the most, if not THE most important quality to have when providing support services. This isn’t a bravado thing like refusing to ask where the deodorant is at the supermarket — it’s critical for delivering the correct level of support to your clients.

    As techs, we can’t know everything. The trouble is that the temptation to be arrogant because “we know best” is always there.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Yup. In the 80s and early 90s I was doing educational training for the local schools and tech support for my team and the other educational support teams around us. Which I took over after the guy who'd been doing it, a deputy head, took on a headship. Because there just wasn't any properly qualified tech support for primary schools and support services. In later years when there was professional support and systems were much more complex ( what with networking and security, stuff that we hadn't even dreamt of when I started) I still did a lot of that, but the trick was always to know when to do it myself and when to call the tech support team. Often just for hand holding or to check that my plan was right and get the go-ahead to sort the problem out myself.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Oh boy have I met a lot techs who think that asking questions is tantamount to being weak.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Frankenfirm

    I recently did what a certain frankenfirm said would take them at least three months.... In three hours.

    This resolved a major incident, which would have impacted on my deliverables. I couldn't have that.

    Certain bits of Management tell me I shouldn't do that... So what, I should let outsourcing result in me failing on my objectives? I don't think so....

  33. Kiwi Silver badge

    Many many many many years ago, back in the very early days of the internet (well, at least as far as NZ businesses were concerned), I worked in a factory with 2 computers, the bosses (which had an "OFF TIME" that could be measured in weeks, and may never have actually ever been turned on) and the secretary's. She also handled orders from customers with this newfangled email thing.

    There was a problem with the email (aside from their using Outlook for it), nothing in or out. Their IT person and a few others looked at it but couldn't fix it, corrupted PST or whatever Outlook used at the time.

    I sat down with the machine, noted the error message (and the path/file), asked the secretary if she was aware of anything important in the emails. Now this lady was a filing genius (compared to most I've know), and any email of importance was saved (often printed and into a filing cabinet), everything else was deleted. So there was nothing in the email folder that would've worked.

    All the time I was sitting there the IT guy was on the other side of the reception window loudly saying things like "What the fuck are you asking him for? He's just a fucking clueless factory worker" and generally running me down. He had even got the boss to come in to tell off the secretary.

    While he was telling the boss how I was about to screw up badly and wreck the computer, I moved the damaged file to a backup folder, rebooted the machine (to make sure any lingering file handles were closed off), and as the boss came in to ask me what I thought I was doing (and the secretary mentioned I knew more than I let on). The machine came up, I started Outlook and it came up fine (I can't recall if it skipped a beat while it made the new .pst or not). We turned the modem on, dialled the ISP, and hey presto new emails downloaded. All opened fine.

    IT guy had spent the whole morning at it, without luck. I got it dealt with inside of 10 minutes - not bad when you consider the Win 95 boot times (although it may've been 3.11). I enjoyed the look on his face as the boss thanked me and invited me to come into his office at the end of the day. I never let on to the IT guy what was said in that office either, I loved it even more letting him stew, as did the secretary whom he asked several times.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Many many many many years ago, back in the very early days of the internet (well, at least as far as NZ businesses were concerned), I worked in a factory with 2 computers, the bosses (which had an "OFF TIME" that could be measured in weeks, and may never have actually ever been turned on) and the secretary's. She also handled orders from customers with this newfangled email thing.

      Excellent, I wish my bosses would have an "OFF TIME" of weeks or never been turned on :-)

  34. Herby Silver badge

    It all boils down to...

    No good deed goes unpunished.

    Better luck next time.

  35. ecofeco Silver badge

    Been there, done that

    Literally got the t-shirt.

  36. Andrew Moore

    In the same vein...

    I worked for a company that was a distributor for a big multi-national. One day I got a call from the big boys- a customer of theirs was having an ongoing issue with a piece of comms software that would not talk to an expensive bit of hardware they'd sold him and they knew that I have good experience with RS232 kit and would I help them out? So I was flown from Dublin to Glasgow and dropped to the customer site by their local rep. I quickly worked out that the issue was that the RX and TX lines on the 9 pin connector was crossed over. So a quick solder and everything was good to go.

    And then the shit hit the fan. Turns out the customer had been waiting for nearly a year for the big company to fix this problem and all they'd done was send in a series of level 3 support guys who would hang around for a day and then wander off, usually with the excuse that the issue was outside their remit. And I got into trouble with the local rep who said that I should not have fixed the problem so quickly as it made the big company look bad. But on the plus side, when the customer heard that the big company had flown me over on the cheap (Ryanair flight to Preswick) he called his secretary and got me a first class ticket on Aer Lingus out of Glasgow International. He told the rep that he would be billing him for the ticket.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About 20 years ago I worked in IT for HSBC. At that time the bank ran an award scheme to encourage innovative ideas (I believe they scrapped it since, the scheme was a hold-over from the days of Midland Bank, HSBC workers aren't supposed to think). Ideas were submitted via line management and reviewed independently. I was sometimes the reviewer of IT related ideas (usually from non-IT areas). Some were just silly and would be rejected, some were better but not worth putting into action and would get a £50 award for showing initiative. I decided to give it a try myself. My first suggestion was implemented. I earned a £100 award and a big engraved glass "best idea of the month" trophy.

    That was easy I thought, let's have another go. My problem was that I was the diametric opposite of a brown-noser, my line manager knew that I knew she was thick. The reason she got her job was for talents unrelated to any management competence or understanding of technology. She liked nothing more than being told otherwise to the extent of cheating or letting brown-nosed acolytes fudge the scores to ensure she won the general knowledge quiz at team events.

    My trophy, prominent on my desk, irked her. When I came up with another suggestion she refused to pass it to the assessment process. Instead I gave it to a friend in another department, he submitted it, it was implemented and he shared the £100 and kept the trophy.

    I got out with a big redundancy deal and immediate pension 18 months later.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ignorance is bliss

    My current supervisor has already told me that there would be repercussions if I didn't stop bringing up security holes in a recent software update. I've already shown them two methods to bypass their current 'patched' setup and explained how to properly monitor the other systems to keep employees from falsifying data, which causes internal problems. Always enjoy the threat aspect, since that means I now watch my company lose money while I look for another job.

  39. Wemb

    Always pays..

    To under promise and over deliver than it does to over promise and under deliver. Great for situations like this when you could otherwise embarrass the grey-beards. Also a good strategy for when you want to take it a bit easier. Just promise that any one hour job will take three hours to complete. When you deliver it in under two hours, you'll still look like a hero and you'll get to go home unstressed.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Always pays..

      I accidentally did this... came out of a long meeting with company owner and other senior staff with a great idea to improve the current product/system. I had genuinely forgotten that I had already implemented this change a few weeks earlier and so had everyone else!

  40. jpj

    Years ago I was moved to a role in the Exchange email team. That increased the size of that team from two to three. I was a team leader at the time of the move, though I had no team to lead. In the Exchange team I was still at the team leader level, but so were the other two guys and they had YEARS more experience of supporting and working with Exchange (5.5) than I did.

    You can imagine then that my opportunities to 'team lead' were basically non-existent. How do I lead a team in which nobody was a junior?

    I got marked down in my end-of-year review for not showing Team Leadership.

    I left.

  41. CPU

    It's the same the whole world over, it's the Tech what get the blame, it's the managers what get the bonus, ain't it all a bloomin shame...

  42. Kned

    For some reason, the 'A' Team's attitude reminds me of when I was a lowly mainframe operator (MANY years ago!) and, if something went wrong, the system supplier would say "It's not a bug, it's a feature"!

  43. Stuart Castle

    It’s always seemed somewhat ironic to me that some companies reward those who are good at their jobs by promoting them into positions where they aren’t doing those jobs anymore.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      "The Peter principle" well documented.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle

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