, , , , , , , | Working | July 19, 2019

In the 80s, a friend was a technical programmer for a major oil company, and was given a project to create a program to enable users to visualize 3D data. Due to the primitive nature of hardware and software at that time, she had to use a lot of tricks to get the code to run in a reasonable time. It was a lot of work and a tremendous accomplishment; when she was done, the company had a tool that gave it a significant advantage over their competitors.

Her boss at the time was a man who was a suck-up to upper management, always found within a ten-foot radius of the highest ranking person in any gathering. So, when the determination was made that her program would be demonstrated to our CEO, her boss naturally decided he should be the one to give said demonstration. Unfortunately for him, although he knew in general terms what the program did, he had never used it, and at that time it didn’t have the fancy graphical interfaces that exist today. Even experienced users could have difficulties with it, and he was starting from ground zero and trying to get up to speed in less than two weeks.

Her boss called my friend into his office multiple times every work day for help, and he even phoned her at home to ask questions in the evenings. The latest call was 11:35!

When the big day came, her boss got up in front of the assembled dignitaries and started in. When he tried to access program, he got a few steps in and ran into a problem. My friend gave him instructions from the back of the room but then something else popped up. Eventually, my colleague took over the demo and gave a well-received talk.

She confessed later that due to the nature of the program it had frequent updates, sometimes more than one a day. There had been one that morning, along with a document explaining changes to the name list file used to run the program. Her boss, as she’d known he would, hadn’t read it! So, she got to look good at his expense, he didn’t get to steal credit for her work, and there was nothing really that he could do about it.

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