Party like it’s 1999

You and I have very different ideas of what teamwork means.

Computerworld  |  Shark Tank
Computerworld / IDG

The tale told here revolves around Y2K remediation efforts, but don’t think about it as dated and irrelevant to you in 2019; think of it as a timeless tale of managerial perfidy.

It’s early November 1999, and sysadmin pilot fish is among those pulled into a big meeting where the division chiefs want to know where the eight groups in fish’s division stand regarding the looming Y2K deadline. What they hear is not encouraging. Most Windows machines have been patched and tested, but Unix machines are lagging. Patches are glitchy; testing is falling behind; developers can’t get their code running.

Fish goes last, and he feels conspicuous, like the lone schoolboy who’s done all his homework, because he can announce that all of his Unix machines are done and ready for Jan. 1. The other sysadmins are unhappy because fish has made them look back. After the meeting, though, they’re all eager to hear how fish did it, and he tells them about a duplication script he wrote that uses standard Sun commands to format a new disk, so as to replicate the filesystems from one known-good machine and then install the boot block on every other machine with the same architecture.

He doesn’t tell them about all the time it took to create that known-good machine, or the effort and teamwork required to establish that it was indeed good. He tells them replication takes about two and a half hours, but skips the part where he worked many weekends and long nights to get it all done.

He gives all the sysadmins his script, and things turn around quickly. One particular two-person team that rebuilds all their Sun machines with fish’s image and script gets the job done in a couple of weeks. They get recognized at another big meeting for all their hard work, even though they have fewer machines than fish.

What does fish get? A reputation among leadership for making others look bad.

Early in 2000, fish put in for a transfer to another division.

Sharky will be right back after he looks up “perfidy” in the dictionary. Meanwhile, send me your true tales of IT life at You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.


Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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