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In mid-2003, David was a naive student in his final year of university. But when he applied to the Belgian government's three new pools of French-language IT candidates (Belgium's other official language being Dutch), he wasn't surprised by the results. After two written tests and an interview for each pool, he was ranked top of the list for the Sysadmin and Programmer pools, and bottom of the list for Project Management.
Merely applying to the pools didn't guarantee anything, though: it only made you eligible for the positions that arose at a variety of government departments. It wasn't until October that David got a bite: L'Agence des Départements was offering an Oracle DBA position. Everything went like clockwork. Hands were shaken, questions were answered, evaluations were evaluated, and David was ranked top man.
Merely being ranked the best candidate for a job didn't guarantee anything, though: this was, after all, a government position. And so, by the time L'Agence called in January 2004 to confirm that David had the job, he'd sat down with several other departments and scored well. One in particular, Le Département de Divisions, was excited to point out that they were building a completely new "IT strikeforce", with two sysadmins, six developers, and one project manager. He was apparently a shoe-in for one of the sysadmin jobs, and they would let him know...
But L'Agence had accepted him on January 10th, and a mere five days later they were ready for the next step in the process: paperwork. On the fifteenth, David walked through the doors of the central office. Expecting a gauntlet, he was pleasantly surprised when the paperwork and some initial orientation ate up only ninety minutes. There was only one question the very polite HR person, Guillaume, had yet to answer:
"When do I start?" David asked. He was guessing a date in the one- to three-week range.
Guillaume seemed politely taken aback. "No one told you?"
David raised his eyebrows.
"Well, you've just had your employee orientation... this is your first day, of course!"
While he'd left plenty of time for paperwork, David had a doctor's appointment later that afternoon. Guillaume politely excused himself to make a phone call. David wondered if he should start hoping for an offer from Le Départment de Divisions, but he needn't have worried. Guillaume returned in minutes with a new start date: just under three weeks hence.
David used his remaining time in limbo to learn what he could of HP-UX and Oracle, even setting up a test database with a couple of user accounts and managing a simulated Business Continuation Event. He was more than ready, after spending almost as much time being recruited as he had in the womb, to get to work. He strode straight to the HR desk that fine February morning to greet Guillaume, who was waiting with another stack of paperwork. Practically a paperwork expert at this point, David forded the River Triplicate once again and earned the office tour. L'Agence occupied ten floors of their downtown highrise, and on every one Guillaume introduced him the same way:
"This is David. He's our new IT guy!"
"Nice to meet you, David," the department head would say, shaking his hand and turning to Guillaume. "Is he for me?"
Guillaume would scan the stack of paperwork he had politely taken off David's hands until concluding that he didn't know for sure, but didn't think so. It was the same until they reached the tenth floor, and David was introduced to Mr. Janssens. While David had seen a number of database schema diagrams and thick Oracle handbooks in the cubicles of the other department heads, Mr. Janssens's cubicle had only one thing tacked to its wall: a sprawling map of what appeared to be the Java SDK.
"I have some bad news," Mr. Janssens began after Guillaume had politely withdrawn. "You were interviewed for the wrong position. We were looking for a Dutch-speaking DBA, and that position has been filled. We may have a system administrator position opening for applications this afternoon..."
David wasn't quite sure what to say. He didn't mind the idea of system administration, it was the thought of another six months of recruitment he couldn't tolerate. And he'd had a call from Le Département just the other day, letting him know that the only position still available on their exciting new IT strikeforce was for a project manager... the one pool to whose bottom he'd sunk like a stone. Seeing the light flickering out in David's eyes, Mr. Janssens cleared his throat.
"Well, I can... I can see this is a distressing situation. Do you, by chance, know anything about... Java?"
David blinked, and it took him a moment to process the question. "Java?" Perhaps he could salvage a developer job from Mr. Janssens - he had scored almost as well in the Programming pool as he had in Sysadmin, after all. "Err, I know a bit of Java, I suppose..."
"Perfect!" Mr. Janssens said, beaming. "You see, we bought this J2EE thingy from Novell for one million Euros, and since I'm more of a functional analyst, well, I've been looking for someone to manage the project!"
David was about to mention his pool performance when he noticed the calendar on Mr. Janssens's desk. Six months down the drain... Smiling, he shook his new boss's hand. Today, he still works there, and alongside his deep knowledge of Java he's introduced version control, agile development practices, and even Kanban to his eleven-person team. You wouldn't know that from talking to the Belgian government, however: according to their official recruitment system, he's a database-administration whiz who sucks at project management.
As for Le Département de Divisions's exciting new IT strikeforce, soon after David began his eventual job they were put on hold for six months, while they waited for their new offices to be built.
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