Karen glared across her desk at Tom. “Did you install Visual Studio on your computer?”

“Yes,” Tom replied, unsure why she radiated waves of fury at him.

“And did you request access to an Oracle instance for an application?”

“Um… yes?”

“Why would you do that?”

Why indeed? Tom just joined the Fortune 500 company, as a developer for the Financial team. He reported directly to Karen, a finance specialist, and mostly worked with accountants and similar business functions. In fact, the only IT employees he had met were the Helldesk drones who set up his computer.

On the first day, Karen told him to fix the Financial Forecasting System, or FFS . “It performs badly, and nobody really understands how it works or what it does. We can’t add reports to it without breaking things. Just figure it out, and talk to the accountants if you have any questions.”

It didn’t take Tom long to figure out why it was slower than a pensioner in the passing lane. FFS was an Access application which exceeded Access’s capabilities by a factor of 15. Why such a specific number? The data was partitioned across 15 different 2GB Access DB files, with a much smaller 16th file that contained most of the VBA code that strung this sprawling system together. It hadn’t been developed by a programmer, but by an end user.

Instead of doing things through linked tables, VBA spaghetti code ran queries against the multiple DB files before handing it off to forms. Basic Access features, like queries and reports didn’t work, because they couldn’t actually slurp data out of the VBA code easily. Most of the existing reports were hand-coded VBA forms.

Karen wasn’t interested in giving Tom any technical direction, so he dove in. The first step was get some space on a real database to migrate the data to. He could then gradually move features into a .NET app and work with the users to make sure the new application mirrored what they needed from the old one. It was a little “cowboy coder”, but it would be a huge step up from what they currently had.

“I can’t believe you did that!” Karen said. “Only developers are allowed to have Visual Studio installed, and only developers are allowed to request databases. You’ve created quite a political mess.”

Tom was confused. “I thought I was a developer.”

“Not on the org-chart, you’re not,” Karen said. “You’re an accountant. We’re not allowed to hire developers.”

Tom fought the urge to take out his phone and open up a translation application; he was convinced that he and Karen weren’t speaking the same language. “If you can’t hire developers, why are you hiring them and pretending that they’re accountants?”

“Corporate IT refuses to support FFS,” she said. “At least, not unless we pay them to upgrade it to .NET, and we don’t have room for that in the IT budget. So we try and keep someone on staff who can support the Access application. The only developer tool you need is Access.”

Tom tried to find some counter-argument, some bon mot that would help Karen see the error of her ways, but he had to admit defeat. Her logic formed an impenetrable fortress of bureaucracy.

Tom returned to his desk and started the uninstall of Visual Studio. While that chugged away, he fired up one of the approved developer tools- Microsoft Word- and started to update his resume.