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Earthquakes, chili and ejection Part two – true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 21

Galvanised by the trip to Chico, I proceeded to write a suite of reports that gave management and statistical information from each of the systems using the software embedded in the product, and we were getting more sales and gradually growing the business, but Norman was eyeing bigger targets. He tried contacting Blockbusters at the headquarters in Teddington, Middlesex, to speak to their technical director about getting a meeting set up to demo our product, as it was superior to theirs and was far less labour-intensive to maintain and develop. Now, one thing you need to understand about technical directors of large corporations, which Norman failed to do, is that they have an empire with large budgets, large teams of developers and an aversion to having their boats rocked. This meant that the UK technical director, whom I shall refer to as Morgan, studiously ignored Norman’s advances on several occasions – after all, why would he want to give up his empire to use a pissant little

Earthquakes, chili and ejection Part one – true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 20

Continuing from the last episode, I mentioned that the company that owned the software fro which we were the UK & European distribution arm was based in San Francisco, in the old Embarcadero Center, right under the Bay Bridge. The significance of this will become apparent, shortly. I also mentioned that the guy who was the principal architect of the software, Mike, was a bit “off the wall” – he was based in a town called Chico, about 165 miles northeast of SF. Almost nobody has ever heard of Chico – they even sell T-shirts which say “Where the hell is Chico?” emblazoned on the shirt. It was (at least when I was sent there in the late 80s) a sleepy town during the day, with a predominantly Latino-based population. At night, however, the atmosphere was somewhat less sleepy. Chico State university was, in the late 80s, the home to many upper-middle-class students who, supposedly, worked hard during the day but, at night, partied hearty, speeding up and down the main street in thei

Everybody out – true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 19

The video library software company I had joined was essentially a one-man-and-a-dog outfit, except there were three of us not including the lady who did the reception/secretarial work and I don’t think she’d like to be referred to as a dog, however appropriate the description might have been. At first we struggled to get clients, as all start-ups do, but Norman said he could sell snow to Eskimos (I know this phrase is not PC – so, sue me for using a colloquialism), we gradually increased the size of the portfolio. As I already mentioned (episode 18) we were effectively the European distribution arm of a San Francisco based company. Norman once recounted to us of a show he did in Las Vegas with the parent company at which the owners and the technical director were present on the stand. Something a sales-oriented companies know well is that you never include technicians on a sales & marketing event as techies tend to tell the truth. So, in this instance, the technical director and t

Breaking into Barclays – true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 18

Not that the following couple of anecdotes about Canary Wharf, although genuine, are actually a first-hand IT experience, but they are still worthy of recounting here. For example, the incident in the works canteen whereby a couple of the security staff were caught in flagrante delicto with one of the canteen staff, causing a couple of dismissals and necessitating a deep clean of the canteen. Or the one where a couple of scallies with the brass front to drive a low-loader up to the gates, asked the security staff to let them in to collect a 100-ton crane, dismantle it in broad daylight (unchallenged - ok, so it was a Sunday, but even so...), load it onto the low-loader and even have the balls to ask the security guard to hold open the gates as they drove out. Unbelievable. You may recall from a couple of episodes back that the head of the Canary Wharf project in London had all but called me a thief because I had lost my receipts for a trip to New York. At the time of the trip, he wasn&

Bombs, tides and torsos – true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 17

Back at Canary Wharf, I struck up a friendship with the guy who was the communications consultant for the company – a freelancer who was extremely knowledgeable in everything comms. He and I just hit it off and we were often working together at the Wharf. The move of the admin offices from Wardour Street to Docklands was a major project. We were given a building shell (4 Harbour Exchange Square – known as 4HX) on 1st of January 1989, with a deadline of fitting it out one of the floors within three months. The more observant among you would note that the date on which we were expected to go live was 1st of April – inauspicious, or what? So, we knuckled down to the task – the plan had already been drawn up at the admin office and we were just supervising and implementing the plan. This included moving an enormous uninterruptible power supply (UPS), effectively a huge array of batteries needed in case there was a power cut, so that we could shut everything down properly rathe than just

Oh, no, you’re FAR too old for IT – true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 16

So, picking up from where I left off in the last episode, during the three months I was under notice of redundancy, I was allowed to look around for another job. I remember that the first job fair to which I was directed was at the Intercontinental Hotel, Mayfair, and all the then major players in corporate IT were there. Banks, consultancies, computer manufacturers – they were all there pitching for candidates to join their ranks. This was just before my 31 st birthday, the significance of which will become evident. I armed myself with several copies of my CV, updated to the hilt, and trudged around the exhibition plying myself to anyone who I thought might be a good fit for my skillset. At the time, there were a few BIG consultancies, the foremost of which was Arthur Andersen (AA for short) – they were one of the companies responsible for convincing the government to develop the IR35 law.   Thanks for that, you bastards. Anyway, I arrived at the AA table and was greeted by what

Pick a window – you’re leaving – true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 15

This is less of a techie piece, more a walk down an ageing memory lane, but I hope you enjoy it, nevertheless. Having moved over to JCB (see Episode 14), I began a new technical chapter in my career. I was trained in the use of a networking software system and I was responsible for keeping it going so that JCB staff could dig themselves into more holes. The chap (Tony) I for whom I worked at the company had a team of people – some of the most talented people I have had the pleasure and privilege to have   worked with, proof of which is the way their own careers progressed. One of the techies, an Asian guy (let’s call him Ahmed) was adamant that he could out-eat me as far as hot (as in spicy hot) food was concerned. We used to have green chili pepper eating contests, with a bag of the peppers having been procured from an Asian supermarket just off Petticoat Lane, a few doors down from our favourite Indian Restaurant, the Dilchad. There’s a knack of eating these vegetables without bu