Success, redefined


It's still the early days of publicly available Internet when this pilot fish starts working for an organization that sends sales reps to visit clients all across the country.

"Because Internet access was not prevalent, our reps would connect when they could and pull down up to three days' worth of data for their visits," says fish.

"Two months after I started it was holiday time, and the IT manager and the one person who knew the software that the reps used to sync up remotely were on vacation and not reachable -- and that's when a configuration database in the sync app got corrupted."

Fish's job isn't to support the application, but he's the only one who's willing to tackle the problem. He reaches out to the team that developed the sync app, but gets no response. The product is so old that vendor support is nonexistent.

Does the field rep team have a plan in place to get the data sent out in case this happens? Of course not.

Fish starts throwing out suggestions to his colleagues. How about restoring from backup? Now the development team finally responds: Can't do that without risking all the current data.

With the clock ticking, fish spends a precious day trying to figure out the scripting language so he can rewrite the bad procedures. His test runs using an emulator seem to work OK. He runs the idea past the dev team. Again the response comes back: What fish is trying won't work.

In fact, everyone seems to know what won't work, but nobody has any idea of what will work.

But fish keeps at it, right down to the wire -- and in the end finally gets a script working before the three days until the next sync are up. Success!

"Once the rest of the team was back from holidays, we had a debriefing session," fish says. "The only thing that came out of it was the IT manager's decision that, because my attempts to fix the problem might have caused 'bad things to happen,' I shouldn't touch the application. I even spoke with him privately about it and that was all. Fine with me.

"That was the last I heard of it -- until I was dinged on my performance review for not being able to properly fix the problem."

Help Sharky fix the keep-the-Shark-Tank-filled problem. Send me your true tale of IT life at You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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