When the bug in the system is actually a person

A rookie programmer's purchasing order system works perfectly -- until the new corporate managers start laying off employees

An IT recruiter came to one of my classes when I was a junior in college, and about 30 of us turned over our resumes. As a barely employable computer science student, I jumped at the chance to get hands-on experience and income while completing my studies, as well as work toward a programming job that could offer full-time employment after I graduated.

One of two companies called back for a second interview. I somehow beat out the competition, although I had to bluff my way through trivia concerning the adventures of a fellow called Link and his girlfriend Zelda.

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At my new job, I had some free time between configuring new equipment and resetting passwords. In order to fill the hours between schoolwork and to gear myself up for the coming "real job," I worked on developing a purchasing system my boss could use to help him with the process of ordering equipment. It would keep track of what he ordered, who approved it, when the order was filled, and a lot of other business logic. The old Lotus Notes system his group was still updating with this information had a variety of problems, so the team was subject to a lot of manual input and searching that ate up precious time.

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The system I was building had to send emails automatically to alert people in the approval chain. At one point during development it accidentally emailed the vice president about a multi-million-dollar order, but he was pleased to see things were proceeding well. There was a buzz around the office in anticipation of my slick, new system.

Around the time I had it demo ready (and was about to graduate), the worst happened. The project I was supposed to work on full-time after getting my degree was canceled, and dozens of people were deserting the company like rats on a sinking ship. I guess a couple of the developers couldn't get jobs, so management proposed that they "help" with my little project. Since I was completely inexperienced, I thought this was a great idea.

After several weeks of endlessly refining the requirements for a system that was all but completed, graduation day was almost upon us, and one of the execs had found work for me elsewhere in the company in another part of town. The clock was ticking, and I wanted to deliver a working system to my old boss before I left.

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