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In IT, no good deed ever goes unpunished

When being helpful can mean being shown the door

Who, Me? Going above and beyond in IT can sometimes lead to also going directly out of the door, as one Register reader found when discovering that sometimes efficiencies can be less than rewarding.

A reader Regomised as "Will" told of us his days working at a now-defunct company that produced large telephone switches. In those days whenever a major software revision occurred, customers were expected to send in their configurations and Will's group would merge them into the latest and greatest. A new load would then be returned to the customers.

It was not a fun process, not least because of constant hardware and software failures during the merge process. "When I first started, there was a constant grumble about how unreliable the machine used for the merging was," Will told us.

"Every few minutes the machine would reboot and much of the time workers were waiting for the machine to come back before continuing."

Keen and not yet afflicted by the world-weary cynicism that affects many in the IT profession, Will decided to see if he could improve things, both for his colleagues and the customers.

"I immediately saw the problem. Mountains of alarms were coming in and eventually the machine couldn't process any more and would crash."

The problem was down to the configurations supplied by the customer. These files described the peripherals installed in their systems. Will's machine, while being the same basic bit of hardware (CPU etc.), lacked all those bells and whistles. And where a peripheral was missing, an alarm would be triggered.

There was no way every conceivable peripheral configuration could be set up, and so there were lots and lots of alarms. Enough to cause the merging machine to fall into a heap on an all-too-frequent basis.

"Turns out the operator console had a command line with scripting capability," said Will. "It was simple to write a script that would take all the peripherals offline and the alarms would stop."

Wizardry indeed. Run Will's script to sanitize the configurations, do a merge without dealing with crashing hardware, and hey presto! The team could blast through their workload and customers got the new load far faster. Everyone was happy.

Well, not quite everyone.

"We were able to turn around customer loads so quickly that we got accused by headquarters of skipping steps," said Will.

Exactly how that got resolved (and how high up the face-saving went) is lost to the mists of time. However, a swift change of management later and Will was shown the door.

"Maybe I got the last laugh," he told us. "This company no longer exists."

Ever thought "I can make everything better!" but rather than a congratulatory handshake for your efforts just received a boot to the posterior? Did you learn your lesson? Tell all with an email to Who, Me? ®

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