A surly employee makes a techie's first job a nightmare

In this tech tale, a newbie lands his first IT position, but must survive the meanness of his disgruntled office mate

While working at an automotive job, I decided to transition to an IT career and put the plan in motion by self-studying and taking evening classes. After I had the necessary training, I started a search for an IT job.

I landed my first IT position as a low-level Tech 1 with a company that sold and maintained case management software for police departments.

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The first day I did all the normal HR stuff: filled out forms, met the group manager, and was escorted to an office -- an office! I was stoked.

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The manager opened the office door and I met my new office mate, "Bob." The manager introduced us and said I was to get to know the case management software by working on the demo system. Because I did not yet have a PC to get email on, the manager told Bob to let me log in a few times a day on his computer to get email and work with the online material, but mostly I was to work on the demo machine and follow Bob on help desk calls.

The manager left and closed the door behind him. Bob looked at me and, barely waiting for the door to shut, said, "If you have another job, go back to it. You won't make it here. This is a bad company."

I was saddened and sick to my stomach. I had left a very stable (but going nowhere) job to do what I felt was going to be a new life for me and my family -- but this person who I had just met was telling me the company was unstable and I wasn't going to make it.

I asked a few questions about the company, but essentially Bob told me nothing.

I learned this was a trend with him. For instance, when I was working with the software on the demo machine and had a question, Bob would say things like, "You figure it out like I did," or my favorite, "You won't be here long enough for me to waste the time to train you."

We went on a few calls together, but we never rode in the same car. Also, Bob would print out only one copy of the emails, so I never had an actual address. If I asked for the address before we left, he would say, "Oh, just follow me." There were times I felt he was really trying to lose me on the freeways or would choose an exit at the last minute. When I asked what was up with his driving, he would say, "Oh, you must not have been paying attention" or "That's how I drive -- keep up or get left, I don't care."

This kind of stuff went on for about two weeks. One day the manager came into our office when both Bob and I were there and asked me to accompany him to his office. As I left, I noticed that Bob was smirking like a Cheshire cat.

The manager sat me down and there was a moment of silence. After the last two weeks of Bob's one-liners, car chases, and gloomy predictions, I felt like a doomed man.

The manager asked me how I liked the company so far and whether I felt like I was getting to know the product. I said I was trying to learn the product, but there was very little documentation and the few help desk calls I did go out on were really just hardware/networking issues, not real software glitches.

As we talked, I sensed that the mood in the office wasn't heavy like I was getting fired; it was actually kind of nervous happy. We chatted about families and would I like to start the first draft of help desk documentation for the software. I realized that I was being given long-term assignments, not what you would expect if you were being let go. It was turning into more of an after-hire interview.

The manager told me I had impressed a few customers with my etiquette and willingness to help, and he was glad to have me aboard.

Our little interview wound down. The manager got up and said, "Let's head back to your office." At first I was a little wary and then realized he had called it "your office." I was kind of smirking, hoping Bob would ask me about the meeting and that he would be perplexed about why I was back and not packing and being escorted out of the building.

I opened the door to the office and there was a security guard, an HR person, and Bob, who was packing his belongings into a large box. The HR person was speaking to him about his rights after being terminated, and the security guard was just kind of standing there, hovering over him.

My manager said to the people in the room, "Oh sorry, I didn't realize you were still here," and shut the door.

The manager looked at me and said, "I know what you were going through the last two weeks, and I wanted to tell you that we were letting Bob go, but I couldn't. Hey, let's go get some lunch!"

The only bad thing that happened after that was that I became the only tech for the help desk and was swamped with work. While not fully trained in the software I was supporting, I did get to work with the developer and his team and they gave me a crash course in the software. We went on to five solid years of support that won me an Employee of the Year award, two promotions, and a love for the IT help desk.

This story, "A surly employee makes a techie's first job a nightmare," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com.

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