RogerBW's Blog

More Job From Hell 30 June 2014

So it wasn't what you could really call a happy office.

I would be asked to do things like working up a hardware and software package to satisfy a particular customer requirement. Fair enough. Then I would be asked to do it again, so that it recommended Oracle as the database. This was very evidently not the case, so I refused. They were quite surprised.

This was the place where I worked out how to install Oracle (9i, probably) on Debian (2.2). We were some sort of Super Double Preferred Oracle Premium Partner Plus, which meant we got a support line who'd say "we'll tell you how to run it on five-year-old RedHat, but anything else is unsupported". Gosh. I'm sure that was worth it. (Well, it did get us a kickback on Oracle sales; see above.) Anyway, it turned out that there was a fairly short list of packages that one had to install first, and one could uninstall many of them after the installer had run; it would only work with a graphical interface, though X-forwarding over ssh was good enough, while the database itself didn't need any such nonsense.

The boss was prone to fits of temper for any reason or none. One Friday afternoon his wife met him at the office, because they were driving off somewhere for the weekend; on a hot day, she was wearing a high-necked long-sleeved dress, and flinched every time he moved. That was when I started seriously looking for other jobs.

There was some contract going out to tender, something to do with Railtrack, and the boss had got the idea that we might have a chance at it. A quick glance at the weird specificity of it made it immediately apparent that the preferred bidder had already been chosen, because nobody else would have (or choose to have) that particular combination of skills across different operating systems and obscure commercial software. The idea that a tender might not be entirely 100% open and above board was news to these people.

When a lady from the Inland Revenue turned up (by appointment) to look at the books, the boss's response was "shpx bss lbh oynpx ovgpu" (see rot13.com but not safe for work). I was faintly surprised that the company survived that; I am disappointed in the Inland Revenue.

Anyway, I eventually jumped ship with no immediate prospect of employment, and it was worth every penny I was unable to spend over the next several months.

Tags: anecdote

See also:
The Job From Hell


  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 12:20pm on 30 June 2014

    If anyone at our place said the rot13 contents to any visitor or employee, never mind the Inland Revenue, I'm pretty certain they'd be facing some sort of disciplinary action. Frankly they would have done at most of the places I've worked, or at least a stiff talking to even as far back as the 1980s and 90s.

    I've never had anything I would describe as a job from hell. What did you do to get them?

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 12:41pm on 30 June 2014

    Yes, well, nobody was going to get anywhere trying to discipline the owner.

    My previous employer had collapsed at fairly short notice and I had a mortgage to pay; and the news was full of "dotcom collapse", so companies were being more hesitant than usual about hiring devs and admins. The BBC, where I'd also interviewed, did eventually get back to me, but it was three months after the interview and I'd already started at this place by then.

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