I quite enjoyed reading More flame wars on the way by a fellow MVP. Make sure you follow the link to Coddling is consider harmful and read the comments. The following reminds me of the Therac 25 X-ray machine which killed people.
“The full story is that the software would crash because it couldn’t allocate memory IN THE MIDDLE OF A TREATMENT SESSION. Fortunately there was a safeguard in the device that turned off the radiation when this happened.”
I also blame these kinds of problems on IT management as well for hiring folks who are mediocre to poor. And their management.
I’ve come across the occasional mediocre and at least one real bad developer. By the way if you are reading this blog this means you are interested in learning something and thus don’t fall in the mediocre to bad category. So pat yourself on the back.
The rest of this posting is irrelevant to my points above and just plain meandering.
The real bad developer? That was so long ago I can’t even recall his name. I hardly got to know him for obvious reasons.
Background: The then IT manager was a senior programmer/analyst promoted past his capabilities. John was asked to come in as the interim manager. Senior programmer/analyst decided to take a break and wasn’t sure if he’d ever come back. My father had three or four brain aneurysms and a severe stroke so my then employer in Winnipeg, Manitoba find me a temporary job in Edmonton, Alberta to help take care of the family. So I’m new to the organization and I didn’t know any of this coming in. Not that it mattered much. I was only 20 or 21 then.
1) So the bad developer, we’ll call him Brad, updated the live tables with an irreversible operation during the middle of the day without doing a backup. At least twice that I know of. He was lucky though as they didn’t cause a problem.
2) John, the manager, knew Brad had a drinking problem but John was desperate for staff as John had just been asked to come in the IT manager job temporarily.
2a) Brad did have some interesting stories to tell. Mostly involving alcohol in one way or another. I was too young and naive back then to realize just how bad of a problem his drinking was. John, while being a staunch Mennonite, was not naive.
3) A few weeks later Brad went to visit the clients branch office in Calgary about three hours drive south from Edmonton. At 1 PM the folks at the branch office asked where Brad was. We had no idea as he should’ve been there for several hours already. At 2 PM John got a call from a payphone with obvious bar sounds in the back ground stating Brad had a car break down in Red Deer the half way point. Suuuurrreeee.
4) Almost forgot about the time Brad showed up drunk at 8 am in the morning. He was told to go home.
Within a few weeks of my starting work there as a junior programmer Brad was fired. So I became acting senior programmer until the guy who was on leave came back. Turns out he was very good as a senior programmer/analyst and, to the best of my knowledge, has stayed in that role for the last 28 years or so.
John the manager? His name is John Isaak. One heck of a nice, competent, caring individual I worked for him learning how to treat customers and design systems from about 1981 to 1991. He didn’t know anything about how to program in RPG II and III on the IBM S/34, S/36, S/38 and AS/400 but that was our problem. I’ve kept in touch with him over the years. Next time I’m back in his neck of the woods I’ll have to see how he is doing.