Friday, July 21, 2017

The Five People I Don't Want to Meet in Heaven - Part 2

  In continuing my series on the five people I don’t want to meet in heaven I want to stress that I don’t think any of the people I’m going to profile don’t deserve to be in heaven or won’t be in heaven – I just don’t want to meet them if we both happen to end up in heaven. My last profile was about the dumpster diver that called me heartless when I didn’t even let him ask me for a handout. Here is a sample of another group of people I meet enough to know I don’t want them to meet them in heaven either.

  I’m five months into my new occupation as a self-employed contractor hiring myself out as a programmer. At present I’m working at a company in Ames and am supposed to be there to the end of the year. I say ‘supposed to’ because all it takes for any job to disappear is one person with the authority to draw a line through your name. Then you aren’t there anymore. In the last ten years I’ve had the company I worked for sold and my job change from writing software to documenting the software I wrote so the new programmers in Indianapolis could rewrite it, played Survivor with the company I was working for laying people off and cutting the pay of those not being laid off, and had my company eliminate my entire department this year. I’ve come to realize that there is no such thing as job security – only the illusion of job security. I wish I could tell my younger self to never take less money for job security because you are only paying for the illusion of job security. The idea of job security is something I believed that isn’t true and like most things you believe that aren’t true this disbelief comes with a heavy price tag.

To Tell The Truth (NOT)

  I am enjoying my time at the company in Ames. I am treated like a valued member of the team, I get along with everyone, and most importantly my invoices get processed right away which to me is a sign of competence and respect which I value very highly. Since I was working at this same company through my old job the only thing that changed in my work situation was that I didn’t have to be the backup for the program I had worked on from 2010 to 2015 that interfaces with a government entity. That lasted until April when the government entity’s program had a series of major malfunctions which brought the interface program to a halt. The person in charge of the program couldn’t get it working and I was offered a part-time contracting assignment to get it running again.

  I got the program running and within a few days the government entity had solved their meltdown. The person in charge of the program was still having problems getting it to run smoothly. Two weeks later I was asked if I would be available in the early mornings to monitoring the program in order to head off any small problems before they became big problems. At the ripe old age of 56 I’m a little old for having two jobs but I agreed because my current assignment is only ‘guaranteed’ (don’t forget what I said about the illusion of security) until the end of the year and the extra money would come in handy when my current assignment ends. Also this particular piece of software is something I put a lot of time and effort into and it won a prestigious software award a few years back. Not only do have a sentimental attachment it makes me feel good to know a program I spent so much time on is still running like a top which it does until the government agency it interfaces to has one of its all too frequent problems. When a problem arises I adjust what I can on my end and let the agency and my clients know what went wrong and what needs to be done on the government side.

  Monitoring the software was easy enough until the beginning of June when the government agency started having problems with their nightly data refresh that makes the available information that is needed to balance accounts and make data available for the program's end users. The refresh finished by 4:30 am for years most of the time but now was finig=hing between 5:30 am and 7:00 am every morning. This was causing delays in my program getting the government data to the end users. I wrote to the government’s support email every day the data was late but got no results except to thank me for my patience until June 28th when I received an email saying that “We have escalated the issue and it has become our lead developer's highest priority.”

  That sounded good to me but after two more weeks of no results and late data I wrote to the government support email and mentioned that this situation had now been going on for 41 days. I received an email from the author of the June 28th email which said “Because of limited resources, it is unlikely that this issue will be addressed prior to a potential fall release.”

  So much for having the issue escalated and becoming the lead developer’s highest priority! I wrote back asking what had happened in the intervening two weeks and was given this reply “Unfortunately, the development team is now down to 1/4 its size from last year. I apologize for overcommitting in my June 28th message.”

  Now at this point I didn’t see any reason in having a correspondence with this government entity. I don’t know what overcommitting means since either it was or was not the lead developer’s highest priority. If it wasn’t then I wasn’t being overcommitted to – I was being lied to. It is clear that this was just something said to me in the hopes that I would stop asking about the issue which I did for two weeks. If the development team had been cut to a quarter of its size in the past two weeks I could understand the shift in priorities but a development team having been cut over a year shouldn’t be a reason to tell me the delays had become the highest priority of the lead developer.

  I understand why people don’t tell the truth sometimes. I was working on a program change for a company and when it was done I sent an email out to all the interested parties detailing what the changes were. Ten days later (the day before the changes were to go live) I got an email from the president of the company saying my changes weren’t what they wanted. I sent an email back referring to my prior email mentioning there was ample time to let me know that my changes weren’t what they wanted. Then I got an email from the project manager saying they didn’t get my earlier email BUT I had an email from this same project manager thanking me for the update so I know they got the original email. This was a lie but I can understand someone dropping the ball and not wanting to admit it. I don’t agree with it but I understand it. A few years ago I wrote about this person from the chess world whose advice was to "never tell anyone the truth" and showed an example of how he lied to me in an email the very next week. I didn't agree with this liar either but I understand why someone whose stated philosophy is to never tell the truth would lie all the time. One thing I don't understand is why telling the truth is so often the last resort instead of the first option.

  I don’t understand why I wasn’t just told that there was no hope of having this issue resolved weeks ago. I could have changed my interface to run later or let the end users know the delays are now a part of their daily process or adopted any other number of strategies or just done nothing. Maybe the government support person I talked to was instructed to tell me something that wasn’t true or maybe they thought it up on their own. In either case I don’t see how I can believe anything that comes from this particular support group. I could look on the bright side and be glad this group isn’t in charge of kidney transplants (“Your kidney is on its way! It’s our driver’s highest priority!”) but I’ll settle for hoping I don’t meet any of these lying types if we both make it to heaven.

If Benny from the 1990 film classic 'Total Recall' ever needs to find a job to feed his '5 kids' I know a certain goverment agency where he would fit right in although he might need to clean up the language a bit...