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Meet Joe Bloggs

Episode 4: Team Player

So here's the deal. Bill, the contractor has been banished, fated to return to the poisonous bosom of his family. Lexia, our dream candidate for the programmer's job left in Bill's wake, has turned us down flat once she found out that we're two years late shipping a web-services enabled information system based on a COBOL back end that was cranked together from notes left by Charles Babbage himself. My perfect candidate has got good sever-side Java, XML and know's what SOAP is for. If not then it's desktop development with a mix of SQL, ASP, VBA and XML.

Now the CEO's nephew, only begotten son of his favourite sister, has been put forward for the job. Not a programmer but 'good with computers' according to Pam, our HR person, who's already with Crispin in our conference room. He's also just got a First in Palaeontology from Oxford or Cambridge, so he should be happy working with the COBOL system at least. And here I am, first thing in the morning and still gasping for that third cup of coffee …

Pam looks at me as I enter and makes a face. My expression is frozen of course. Young Crispin is around forty five. The bald patch is showing under the stray wisps he's managed to gel into place. The suit he's wearing belongs to somebody else, somebody who's been sleeping rough for the last couple of years, somebody who's been sleeping rough in the gents toilet down the park judging by the stains.

I smile. 'Crispin,' I say, 'pleased you could make it.'

Pam relaxes a bit as I squeeze into the seat next to her, opposite a beaming Crispin on the other side of the conference table. 'Crispin, this is Joe Bloggs, our development team leader.'

'Congratulations on your First,' I add, desperate to think of something to say.

'Thank you,' he replies in a plummy voice that sounds unnervingly like the CEOs. 'Of course, it was twenty years ago, but better late than never, eh?'

Pam rescues me. 'Well, Crispin, let's make a start. Now, we want to make it clear that we're going to treat you just like any other candidate, OK?'

'Of course,' Crispin agrees, 'I'm sure that Uncle Ronnie will be pleased to hear that when we meet for lunch today.'

'Of course,' I echo.

'Good,' Pam says brightly. 'Why don't you talk us through your CV,' she suggests - ever the professional.

Crispin sits well back, cups his hands behind his head and launches into the story of his life, starting with life at home with nanny. My eyes glaze over and I start to shake after the first 30 minutes. I need a coffee. No, what I need is to get away from here. As far away as possible.

'That's most useful,' Pam comments, kicking me under the table to wake me up. 'And after university?'

Crispin sighs. 'Well, I intended to take a gap year between degree and work, but then I became a Rastafarian and my life changed completely.'

Pam stifles a sob.

'A Rastafarian?' I ask.

'Yes, yes. It's a religion. Dreadlocks, ganja, reggae, Haile Sellasie, African roots.'

I try to picture Crispin in dreads, smoking a giant spliff and hanging out with the Brothers, but it just doesn't compute.

'Are you still … do you still practise this…' Pam is struggling.

Crispin snorts derisively. 'No, no,' he tells her firmly, 'I got out of that weeks ago.'

No wonder the CEO is desperate to get him a job. 'What about some work experience?' I venture bravely.

'Yes,' Pam agrees, 'I think Joe has some technical questions for you.'

'Of course,' Crispin agrees, 'I do have some excellent programming skills. While I was a Rasta I did plenty of programming work.'

This is more like it. 'What operating system did you use?' I ask.

'Microsoft Office 2000.'

I bite my tongue. Even Pam winces. 'And what programming languages did you use?'

'Word and Excel,' Crispin informs us. 'Excel mainly. My biggest program was around 24MB.'

'That's good,' Pam comments approvingly. I can see her digging her nails into the palm of her hand. She's even closer to hysteria than I am.

'Did you ever use any VBA or macros in Excel?' I ask, wondering if he even knows what a computer is.

'No, that's for techies,' he tells me. A second later he remembers what the interview's about. 'Like me,' he adds finally.

'And what do you think you'll bring to this job,' I ask, (aside from your family connections, I add mentally).

He leans forward and looks serious. The gel loosens and half a dozen stray strands of grey hair fall across his face. 'Well, John,' he informs me. 'I've got an excellent eye for detail.'

'It's Joe,' I correct him politely.

'Yes,' he nods. 'Detail. And I'm good with people. Very good according to my parole officer.'

I look at Pam. 'It's OK,' she tells me, 'it didn't involve using the firearm.'

'Besides,' Crispin adds, 'the siege only lasted a day and a half.'

This isn't really happening. This isn't really happening. This isn't …

'Well, Crispin,' Pam says finally, 'I think Joe and I need a second to discuss things.'

'Of course,' Crispin sits back in his chair, 'I'll wait here.'

Pam puts a hand on my arm. 'Don't forget who his uncle is,' she warns me in a whisper, 'I wouldn't if I were you.'

Dutifully we step outside. 'He's a fucking disaster,' I cry.

'Don't worry about the parole thing,' she tells me reassuringly, 'if the postman hadn't insisted his mother would never have pressed charges.'

It's time for a reality check. 'You want me to take on,' I say carefully, 'as a developer, somebody who doesn't know an office application from an operating system, who's taken his own mother and the postman hostage and who can't even sodding remember my name?'

She nods. 'When should he start?'

'This is going to put us back for months,' I wail.

'On the other hand think of the influence you'll have upstairs,' she points out. 'How can the CEO can the project when his nephew is part of the team?'

She's right. 'He starts next week,' I agree.

Who Is Joe Bloggs?
Episode One - UML?
Episode Two - Team Building
Episode Three - Recruitment

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