A curious email arrived in Phil's Inbox. "Windows Support Engineer required. Must have experience of the following:" and then a long list of Microsoft products.
Phil frowned. The location was convenient; the salary was fine, just the list of software seemed somewhat intimidating. Nevertheless, he replied to the agency saying that he was interested in applying for the position.
A few days later, Phil met Jason, the guy from the recruitment agency, in a hotel foyer. "It's a young, dynamic company", the recruiter explained,"They're growing really fast. They've got tons of funding and their BI Analysis Suite is positioning them to be a leading player in their field."
Phil nodded. "Ummm, I'm a bit worried about this list of products", referring to the job description. "I've never dealt with Microsoft Proxy Server 1.0, and I haven't dealt with Windows 95 OSR2 for a long while."
"Don't worry," Jason assured, "The Director is more an idea man. He just made a list of everything he's ever heard of. You'll just be supporting Windows Server 2003 and their flagship application."
Phil winced. He was a vanilla network administrator – supporting a custom app wasn't quite what he was looking for, but he desperately wanted to get out of his current job.
A few days later, Phil arrived for his interview. The company had rented smart offices on a new business park on the edge of town. He was ushered into the conference room, where he was joined by The Director and The Manager.
"So", said The Manager. "You've seen our brochure?"
"Yeah", said Phil, glancing at the glossy brochure in front of him with bright, Barbie-pink lettering all over it.
"You've seen a demo version of our application – what do you think?"
"Well, I think that it's great!", said Phil. He'd done his research – there were over 115 companies offering something very similar, and theirs wasn't anything special. "I particularly like the icons."
"Wonderful!" The Director cheered while firing up PowerPoint. "These are our servers. We rent some rack space in a data center 100 miles away." Phil looked at the projected picture. It showed a rack of a dozen servers.
"They certainly look nice." said Phil. They did look nice – brand new with green lights.
"Now, we also rent space in another data center on the other side of the country," The Manager added.
"This one is in a former cold-war bunker!" he said proudly. "It's very secure!" Phil looked up at another photo of some more servers.
"What we want the successful applicant to do is to take care of the servers on a day to day basis, but we also need to move those servers to the other data center", said The Director. "Without any interruption of service."
"Also, we need someone to set up the IT for the entire office. You know, email, file & print, internet access – that kind of thing. We've got a dozen salespeople starting next week, they'll all need email."
"And we need it to be secure."
"And we need it to be documented."
Phil was scribbled notes as best he could while the interviewing duo tag teamed him with questions.
"You'll also provide second line support to end users of the application."
"And day-to-day IT support to our own staff. Any questions?"
Phil looked up. "Ah… which back-end database does the application use?" he asked, expecting the answer would be SQL Server or perhaps Oracle, but The Director's reply surprised him.
"Oh, we wrote our own database from scratch. Martin wrote it." Phil realized his mouth was open, and shut it. The Director saw his expression, and explained. "You see, off the shelf databases have several disadvantages – the data gets fragmented, they're not quick enough, and so on. But don't have to worry about that – Martin takes care of the database. Do you have any more questions?"
Phil frowned. "So, to summarize: you want a data center guy to take care of your servers. You want someone to migrate the application from one data center to another, without any outage. You want a network administrator to set up, document and maintain an entire network from scratch. You want someone to provide internal support to the staff. And you want a second line support person to support the our flagship application."
"Exactly", beamed The Director paternally. "We want one person who can do all those things. Can you do that?"
Phil took a deep breath. "I don't know," he replied, and that was the honest answer.
"Right", The Manager said. "Well, if you have any questions, just give either of us a call, okay?"
Moments later, Phil was standing outside, clutching the garish brochure with the pink letters. His head was spinning. Could he do all that stuff? Did he want to? Was Martin a genius or a madman to reinvent the wheel with the celebrated database?
In the end, Phil was not offered the job and decided it might be best to stick it out at his old job for a while longer. After all, compared to Martin, maybe his job wasn't so bad after all.