Those that can, work. Those that can't...

It's a year or two past Y2k, and this pilot fish's dream IT job is about to turn into a nightmare.

"I was working with a fellow named Barney, and the two of us supported all facets of IT for a $7 million manufacturing division of a larger corporate entity," says fish.

"Barney and I had inherited a hodgepodge of highly customized, proprietary DOS software and out-of-the-ordinary hardware: serial time clocks, machinery interfaces, RF-based inventory hand scanners, tied together with a Novell network and managed by some MRP software on an HP 3000. Between the two of us, we juggled hardware maintenance and software development and managed to keep things running.

"Then Corporate arrived, and they were 'here to help.'"

On the technology side, that means a shift to NT networks, AS/400s, the Rational development methodology and a project to move to a new ERP system.

But the big problem is on the management side, where the change means a new boss -- an IT manager from Corporate named Fred who tells fish and Barney that there are two kinds of IT people: Leaders and Workers. Leaders are the people who design systems, manage projects, choose architectures and do the thinking. Workers, on the other hand, touch code, install hardware, and don't need to think -- they just do what they're told by Leaders.

And Fred makes it clear he expects fish and Barney to be Leaders. He gives them projects to manage and systems to architect. He also tells them to bring in Workers from Corporate whenever things break or need to be coded.

But none of those regular IT guys know anything about the crazy quilt of hardware and software the factory uses, and Fred won't let fish and Barney train them -- which means the Workers routinely foul things up completely, until Barney and fish are finally allowed to do it themselves and get the factory running again.

"Fred finally let Barney go after about a year -- he kept fixing things when they broke, and his salary was too high for a Worker," fish says. "Two weeks later, I handed in my resignation. That meant no one knew how to support the current system for the year or two necessary to replace it all with the ERP.

"Apparently, Fred was seen having lunch with Barney at a local restaurant that day. He was forced to hire Barney back as a consultant at a much higher compensation than his original salary.

"I heard from Barney a few years ago. The ERP project was canceled and Fred was fired about a year after I left -- and Barney was still rocking consultant's fees supporting the factory."

Sharky can't do this without your stories. So send me your true tales of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt every time I use one. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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