Episode 17 BOFH 2002: Episode 17
"Well you do seem to have a bit of a Manager exit epidemic on your hands," The Slave Trader agrees as he looks over his spreadsheet. for the past year or so. "I myself have placed four of your managers - and I'm assuming that we're not the only recruiting agency that you've looked to."
"No," the The Head of IT concurs. "So we thought we'd talk to you about what we might be doing wrong in the selection process - why we seem to end up with, well, unsuitable candidates."
"I think you'll find 'technical ability' is a key point," I respond, scanning down our Slave Trader's list of desirable attitudes, "followed closely by 'attention to detail'."
"Yes," The Head of IT concurs, happy that the meeting doesn't seem to be going off on any tangents. "I feel it's important to have someone who's both technically competent and is able to recognise the smaller details which can often mean the difference between a well executed plan and a complete abortion!"
"I couldn't agree less!" The PFY adds, nodding.
"Beg Pardon?" The Slave Trader asks.
"He means that we'd hope that the person really knew what they were doing..." The Head interprets.
"Ah no, I think you'll find that we're concerned about the candidate knowing too much - or at least thinking they do," I correct.
"Look at it this way. If you have a Manager who has no experience of I.T. they're more likely to take the advice of a professional - You know, like sex. Whereas, if we get someone who's experienced - or at least BELIEVES they're experienced, they're more likely to make huge and glaring mistakes because they're not aware of the potential problems."
"And be crap in bed," The PFY adds.
"So you're saying that a technical manager is more likely to make errors of judgment?" the Slave Trader gasps.
"Of course! Their experience of computing, etc, is based on the past - on the way computing was when they were using it. Which, in a technical manager, is years ago when VAXes ruled the world, and no help here and now, when Microsoft stalks the planet."
"I see. But what's wrong with 'Attention to detail'?"
"'Detail' is always the irrelevant stuff, not the important things."
"Irrelevant stuff. Such as?"
"Oh you know, Price, Customer Satisfaction, Integration into existing Infrastructure. All stuff that means nothing in the real world of computing"
"As opposed to 'Important Stuff' like?"
"Important stuff like the colour of the front panel, how many lights there are, if it's got a cool name like INTERCEPTOR or something similar. That sort of thing…"
The meeting's interrupted by an urgent call for the The Head of IT, which, judging by his late night phone bills, is probably from Russian Bride Inc.
"I somehow think that your Head of Department is after people who fit the bill a bit better than that..." the Slave Trader bubbles, sucking up big time.
"So who are you going to listen to - the guy who pays you a finder's fee or the guy who ensures you keep getting them regularly?"
"Good Point. More of the same, coming right up!"
"BUT," I add. "We're after a particular sort of mindless automaton, and not just anyone. Specifically, we're after someone who knows bugger all about computing, but has enough credentials to look convincing - should someone question their Resume at a later date. Say, after a budget blowout."
"Ah, you want to shaft the candidate, and not the selection committee?"
"And what about your Head of IT?" the Slave Trader murmurs, keeping his voice low and pointing out the door, "I'm sure he'd have something to say about this."
"Yes," The PFY concurs. "Most likely 'What?', 'Where am I?' and 'Is it lunchtime yet?'"
"What?" the Slave Trader asks, almost interviewing for the position for himself
"Our criteria for The Head of IT is somewhat less stringent than that for IT Managers," The PFY explains.
"I see. So, back to the IT Manager Role, you want someone who's absolute crap, looks reasonable on paper, and won't cause too much trouble."
"Well I don't have any MCSEs on my books at the moment, but I could ring around."
"What?" The Head asks limping back into the office after splintered phone sex, which isn't quite as disgusting as it sounds.
"He's checking what they have on the books at some other branches," The PFY replies.
. . .
"How about a bloke with extensive experience in the Unix environment, DBA certification in Oracle and Sybase and a Masters degree in Computing?" The Slave Trader asks.
"Does he have an MCSE?" I respond.
"What about Operational experience of VMS, Dec Unix, DG's MVS, OS2 and Pick?" The PFY asks, churning out deadwood like a true professional.
"Probably not the best then."
"Right. What about ... A bloke with a background in airline control systems, wants to do MCSE, proven experience in ... uh ... ZX81 programming."
"FANTASTIC!" The PFY cries.
"Where were we?" The Head asks. "I thought we were looking for a computing person!"
"He's ideal!" I Pinnochio away. "He's got experience with Legacy hardware - which we have, PLUS Control systems, and he's up with Microsoft. I think we should grab him while we can!"
"Weellll, if you're sure.." The Head burbles, obviously realising that argument will cut into his lunch hour and he'll miss out on seconds...
Two days later...
"What's that then?" our new Boss asks.
"It's technical," The PFY responds, "and would take some time to tell you about. All you really need to know is that you put your cup under here, push the button and coffee comes out."
"Excellent. Is it one of your servers..."
"A nice colour too, fits in well."
"We strive to please...." ®