Things in IT You Never Want To Hear I've Actually Heard

July 30, 2013

An ancient curse, usually attributed to the Chinese, says "May you live in interesting times." In my long career I've heard a lot of things that were memorable for being "interesting".

  1. Your CIO says "There will be no layoffs." Two weeks later the layoffs started for half of the US workers. After that the CIO bizarrely shipped the remaining employees to Florida for "team building" then laid them off too soon thereafter. When the CIO mentions no layoffs start looking for a new place to work.

  2. Your manager says about a coworker who hasn't checked in any code in 8 months "He never checks in any code until it's perfect." I had been there two months and was ready with the front end and needed the code from the back end the programmer and our manager kept talking about. When I looked in the repository I found nothing. When I asked why this is what was said. After another 3 months of this I left. A year later they finally laid them both off. To this day I swear he was working on side contracts and never did anything for the company.

  3. Your CEO comes in the development office every day and says "I have a new idea." This was a bad thing since he came in every day meaning we never got anything remotely finished. Often the ideas were completely different from the previous day and rarely were any improvement. Oddly enough the same place as #2.

  4. Your manager comes to you and says "I have a new team member you need to bill 40 hours a week for. He doesn't know how to code but I'm sure the customer won't notice." During the dotcom era people hired random folks off the street just to bill some clueless customer. I felt bad as the guy didn't even understand basic concepts like loops so I sent him to lots of training and wrote all of the code for both of us. Thankfully the customer decided to change businesses and canceled the contract.

  5. The consulting firm's salesman comes to you and says "My job is to lie to customers and your job is to make me look good." He wasn't kidding either. Anything to generate some commissions. Occasionally we could actually deliver one of his crazy promises which just encouraged him more. His other favorite quote was he was always on the lookout for "dumb customers with money." See #4.

  6. The CFO stands up in front of everyone and says "By this time next year you will all be millionaires." Of course another dotcom story although none of us believed him at the time. Good thing too as we were in Chapter 7 bankruptcy 8 months later.

  7. A manager in operations tells you to call your Java vendor and "Open a ticket with them, Java is deleting records from Active Directory." This eye-opener happened after the manager was playing around with a new tool in the production AD database while customers were signing up for a new service and accidentally deleted 5,000 people's accounts. Of course they didn't want to admit it so they blamed Java - not the code, the runtime, and despite our application having no code or even permission to remove accounts. I really really wanted to hear the call but missed it. The laughs from BEA support would have made it worthwhile. Nothing ever happened to the manager.

  8. In my first month as a programmer an executive came to the guy next to me and said "This software needs to be installed today no matter what." This is so common it's not even funny any more but it was the first of many times I have heard that something had to be done right then or else. Of course we never saw the guy again and no one ever used the software despite the poor programmer working most of the night.

  9. When you ask why the company stores all of its passwords in a text file available to everyone you are told "The chief architect doesn't like to remember passwords." This was at a company that was required to follow HIPAA so this was highly illegal. Apparently the company's main application (written originally by the chief architect) had so many issues he had to "save" it often enough having to remember passwords made it take too long to fix. This same application leaked so badly that two guys alternated getting up every 2 hours at night to restart it, a process that often took 40 minutes. When I complained it was poor security practice the CTO told me "We trust our employees."

  10. You are told that the company is putting together a "swat team" to fix some problem. Those two words have launched more pointless work than any other in the English language. At one job they held a swat team meeting daily to investigate performance issues with the proviso that they couldn't consider the network a cause (the leader of the team was the network manager). Of course after six months of this it turned out to be a poorly configured network card. These always turn out to be a massive waste of effort and usually solve nothing. I've known people who wanted to bring a real gun when "volunteered" to be on a swat team.

Who says a programming career can't be "interesting"?