Your past IT performance may come back to reward you

In this IT tale, a three-week contract gig and an Autostart worm infestation lay the groundwork for a permanent position

Near the start of my IT career, I was looking for a short-term contract position of three to four weeks to fill the gap between my previous gig and a pending relocation to another state. This was around the time when Mac OS 8 was introduced and when the Macintosh user community was well in to making the transition to the Power PC architecture. Having worked with and being quite familiar with the Macintosh operating system, I landed a contract at a media company assisting with some backed-up help desk tickets.

As is the case with many publishing enterprises, "Media Co." had a heavy Mac exposure -- several hundred Mac clients.

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During the course of the first week or so, I noticed some suspicious behavior among the higher-end systems: slowness in opening files, excessive hard drive activity, and difficulty connecting to the Macintosh servers (the Windows servers and PC clients appeared to be unaffected).

The position I'd held just prior to this contract was with a local technical support/field support company. One of the clients I had dealt with was a local newspaper, sort of a "Merchandiser" or "Shopper" type of rag, which was half Mac, half PC. I was called in because of a presumed virus infestation on the Mac side. At that time, Mac viruses were quite unusual, so we were learning on the fly. Working closely with the tech support staff for Dr. Solomon's anti-virus program, we were able to identify and isolate the worm, Autostart.b, and over the course of a few days eliminated it from the newspaper's network.

I approached Media Co.'s help desk manager with my observations and voiced my suspicions that there was a virus loose on the network. He countered with something akin to, "We're a Mac shop -- we don't get viruses."

The next day, after seeing additional evidence of what surely appeared to be some sort of spreading electronic nastiness, I approached the divisional IT director as well. His response was similar to the help desk manager's, indicating that he was not worried.

As I started my third and final week of the contract, there was a big meeting with all creative and editorial supervisors and all departmental and divisional directors to review the status of the content that was about to be published. Also present were representatives from Media Co.'s third-party pre-press operations house and Service Bureau. Since their jobs were to produce the finalized pages, these representatives worked very closely with the employees of Media Co. who used the higher-end systems -- the systems that had been showing suspicious behavior.

These representatives informed everyone that their IT departments suspected that Media Co. was harboring the "Autostart worm" in at least two or three of its varieties. The current programs would have to be recompiled from verified clean files and resubmitted, a process which would take a week and possibly make Media Co. miss the publishing deadline.

I learned all this when the help desk manager found me, literally pulled me away from the system I was working on, and led me into the above-referenced meeting. He told those at the meeting what I had been observing on the Mac servers. After fielding questions from several design directors and senior editors, I was tasked with devising a system to clean up the current infestation and to ensure that any and all removable media be verifiably clean and free from the worm.

I presented my solution the next day and implemented the first of several disposable checking stations the following morning. I left for my new home two or three days later.

Fast-forward a few years. Family matters dictated that we once again relocate, and we chose to move to the same area we had left three years earlier. In my search for employment, I contacted Media Co. and was asked to come in for an interview. I was basically hired on the spot because of my handling of the virus incident. I was told later that the divisional IT director told HR to "snap me up" when my resume crossed his desk. The interview was mainly a formality.

This experience shows that even the smallest, seemingly trivial matters and your response to them can come back to haunt you (for good or ill) in the future.

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