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Episode 5: Employee Induction

The story so far … Crispin, (the 40ish Cambridge graduate of palaeontology and ex-Rastafarian who happens to be the CEO's nephew), has been recruited as a junior developer, in spite of the fact that he knows sod all about programming. There's no training budget, but he's got an internet connection and a public library card …

I'm sitting here trying to drown out the noise but it's getting harder all the time. Seeing as we're already two years late on delivery I can't let Crispin anywhere near our main project, so he's been shunted off to work on one of the maintenance projects. My main aim has been to keep him out of the way as much as possible. So I've got him learning VBA for Excel on the job. We've got a system called BIST (Business Information System Totaliser), commonly known as BUST to it's users and maintainers. It's a masterpiece of imperfection.

Accounts managers from all our offices worldwide enter account and sales info into an Excel spreadsheet every day. At business close they email this to a central mail folder. A process there collates the separate files and extracts the data into a single CSV file. This is then processed by a separate Excel application which does the summarising and then creates a set of files which are mailed back to the users every morning. It's an architecture designed by a monkey on the back of a banana skin. It has fulfilled at least one useful function for it's original developer though. It caught the eye of the CEO, who liked the sound of it and loved the format of the finished sheets (or at least the hand-finished one that was shown to him). The designer is now the CIO (my Boss), which means that at least he's not churning out crap code any more, though it also means that he's convinced he's God's gift to software development.

BUST is dear to the heart of the Boss. Therefore in the next upgrade we're switching from flat CSV files culled from Excel to XML files. Kevin's been working on this for a couple of weeks and it's not an especially enjoyable task. The task of compiling the data from the individual Excel sheets is currently clocking in at just over two hours and 40 minutes. Doing it the old way was an hour quicker, but the Boss thinks that CSV files are dead, so XML it is …

As you can imagine, Kevin was over-joyed to be told that Crispin will be working with him. It was hard work to convince him to stay, but a small salary increase managed to win the day and Kevin's now doing his best to teach Crispin the rudiments of programming and also to introduce him to the rest of our happy little band. He's also got Crispin looking at the data compilation code.

And right now I'm about to kill. Myself probably. I can't help it, like everybody else in the office I've stopped work to listen to Kevin and Crispin.

Crispin: Right, it's nearly 12, so I'm off to lunch. Shall I compile the data?
Kevin: No, there's no need, the data hasn't changed since you last did it.
Crispin: Yes, but shall I kick off a compile before I go?
Kevin: No. What's the point?
Crispin: It'll compile while I'm out.
Kevin: But it'll carry on for a couple of hours after you're back.
Crispin: Got you, I'll kick it off then.
Kevin: NO! Leave it alone. There's no need.
Crispin: Ahh. Sorry there Kev, I just kicked off a compile.

At this point I think Kevin's the one who's about to kill.

Crispin disappears sharpish. I wouldn't mind but we've had to listen to this same conversation everyday for the last week.

Alison gets up and walks over to Kevin, who's holding his head in his hands. Is he sobbing? I hope not. I couldn't cope with it again.

'Never mind,' Alison says sympathetically, 'it could be worse.'

'How?' Kevin whimpers.

'I could show him a copy of your novel …'

'That's been wiped off the network,' Kevin tells her.

She grins. 'I think I might have a copy on a Zip disk …'

Oh shit. I can just imagine a copy of the Sperminator arriving in Crispin's inbox. Would he be able to resist forwarding it to uncle CEO?

Kevin is about to reply but his phone buzzes.

'Kevin,' I whisper, 'she doesn't have a Zip drive. Just smile and let me sort this out …'

Kevin puts the phone down. 'If you like,' he responds finally.

Alison looks deflated but returns to her seat. I need to think fast how to get her to hand over that Zip disk …

After lunch Crispin is in fine fettle. Lunch with his uncle always cheers him up. Which makes us all very nervous. There's a lot of whispering between Kevin and Crispin for the next hour. Finally, Crispin gets up and walks over to Alison's desk.

She looks up and waits.

'Err, Alison,' he says quietly, but not so quiet that the rest of the hushed office can't hear. 'How about you come over to my place and cook me some dinner?'

Stunned silence. Sweet-looking Alison loves women more than anyone else in the office; she's got the injunctions to prove it. Looks like this is one bit of social info that Kevin forgot to tell him.

'Sure,' she says brightly. 'And how would you like your testicles done? Medium or rare?'

I can't help thinking that no person can look that red and survive without a heart attack. 'I?Why er?Why don't we take a rain check on this one then?' Crispin mutters.

Her smile broadens. 'Good idea, now be a good boy Rice and fuck off back to your buddy over there.'

Rice? Alison realises she's got an audience. 'Rice Crispin,' she explains, 'now snap, crackle and pop off on your own …'

As Rice walks dejectedly back to his desk I start to wonder what the job market is like at the moment.

Who Is Joe Bloggs? Read other episodes here

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