All You Zombies…

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We've all been approached for jobs where the job description was merely an endless list of buzzwords across disciplines, and there was no real way to figure out what was actually the top couple of relevant skills. The head hunter is usually of no help as they're rarely tech-savvy enough to understand what the buzzwords mean. The phone screen is often misleading as they always say that one or two skills are the important ones, and then reject candidates because they don't have expertise in some ancillary skill.

A sign, dated March 9, 1982, welcoming travelers from the future

Teddy applied for a position at a firm that started out as a telco but morphed into a business service provider. The job was advertised as looking for people with at least 15-20 years of experience in designing complex systems, and Java programming. The phone screen confirmed the advert and claims of the head hunter. "This is a really great opportunity," the head hunter proclaimed.

By the Book

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A long, long time ago when C was all the rage and C++ was just coming into its own, many people that were running applications on Unix boxes used the X-Windowing system created by MIT to build their GUI applications. This was the GUI equivalent of programming in assembly; it worked, but was cumbersome and hard to do. Shortly thereafter, the Xt-Intrinsics library was created as a wrapper, which provided higher level entities that were easier to work with. Shortly after that, several higher level toolkits that were even easier to use were created. Among these was Motif, created by DEC, HP, etc.

While these higher level libraries were easier to use than raw X-lib, they were not without their problems.


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Alan worked for Maria in the Books-and-Records department of a massive conglomerate. Her team was responsible for keeping all the historical customer transaction records on line and accessible for auditors and regulatory inquiries. There was a ginormous quantity of records of varying sizes in countless tables, going back decades.

Maria was constantly bombarded with performance issues caused by auditors issuing queries without PK fields, or even where-clauses. Naturally, these would bring the servers to their proverbial knees and essentially prevent anyone else from doing any work.

The Red Queen with Alice, from the original illustrations of 'Through the Looking Glass'

It's No Big Deal

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Snoofle's tale is a little different than our usual Tales From the Interview, but these kinds of negotiating tactics are TRWTF. -- Remy

After more than 3 decades in our field, I find my self in the position of being able to afford to retire, but not yet actually ready to retire. This is partly due to the fact that my wife still wants to work. While walking off into the sunset together seems enticing, biding my time until she's ready seems somewhat boring (for the unmarried, having too much fun while she's still at work, even by her choice, is not conducive to marital bliss).

Once you realize that you've cleared the financial hurdles where the big bills like college tuition and the mortgage are paid and retirement is funded, your priorities at work change. For example, when you need to pay tuition and a mortgage, you are willing to put up with a certain amount of stupidity so that you can take care of your family. Once those bills are paid, your tolerance for idiocy shrinks quite a bit. To that end, I left my last job - for the first time - with no job to go to.

Blind Obedience

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Murray F. took a position as an Highly Paid Consultant at a large firm that had rules for everything. One of the more prescient rules specified that for purposes of budgeting, consultants were only allowed to bill for 8 hours of work per day, no exceptions. The other interesting rule was that only certain employees were allowed to connect to the VPN to work from home; consultants had to physically be in the office.

The project to which Murray was assigned had an international staff of more than 100 developers; about 35 of them were located locally. All of the local development staff were HPCs.

Table Driven Software

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We've all built table driven software. In your engine, you put a bunch of potential callbacks into some data structure, perhaps a map, and call the relevant one based upon some key value. Then the calling logic that uses the engine has some structure that holds the key(s) of the method(s) to be called for some context. If you change the key(s) for a given context, then the corresponding method(s) that get called change accordingly. It's neat, clean, efficient and fairly simple to implement.

At least you'd think so.

The 3,000 Mile Commute

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A true story, recounted from personal experience by our own Snoofle.

Many decades ago, DefCon Inc, a defense contractor working for the US military was attempting to get awarded a new contract to build some widget needed for combat. As part of their proposal, they wished to demonstrate that they had the available staff to dedicate to the project. Toward this end, they hired more than 1,000 assorted programmers, project leads, managers and so forth. The military folks that were evaluating the various proposals saw a slew of new employees that were completely unfamiliar with the relevant processes, procedures and requirements, and awarded the contract to another firm. In response, the contractor laid off all 1,000 folks.

A few months later, another such contract came up for grabs. Again, they hired 1,000 folks to show that they had the staff. A few months later, that contract was also awarded to another contractor, and again, all 1,000 folks were laid off.

A map showing the routes between Newark Airport and LAX

Healthcare Can Make You Sick

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Every industry has information that needs to be moved back and forth between disparate systems. If you've lived a wholesome life, those systems are just different applications on the same platform. If you've strayed from the Holy Path, those systems are written using different languages on different platforms running different operating systems on different hardware with different endian-ness. Imagine some Java app on Safari under some version of Mac OS needing to talk to some version of .NET under some version of Windows needing to talk to some EBCIDIC-speaking version of COBOL running on some mainframe.

Long before anyone envisioned the above nightmare, we used to work with SGML, which devolved into XML, which was supposed to be a trivial tolerable way to define the format and fields contained in a document, with parsers on every platform, so that information could be exchanged without either end needing to know anything more than the DTD and/or schema for purposes of validation and parsing.