Business was booming during the formative years of SuperbServices, Inc. It was a blessing and a curse; like any startup, there was more work to do than people to do it. Telling the sales team to be less successful wasn’t an option, so the tech team had to adapt.

The CEO of SuperbServices tasked Roland with a major initiative that would save the company, or at least their sanity. “We need to automate all of this processing work, so we can focus on service delivery!”, the CEO said. “Our value proposition is our services, and everything else is busy work. We need to automate that, and that’s where you come in. I need you to engage the Robot Guys to work on automating everything: operations approvals, purchasing, money transfers, client emails, everything!”

“The… Robot Guys?”

Roland found a new level of dread. Their server team was unusually colorful, even by the standards of the industry. Only a handful of people had ever seen them, and Roland had only heard strange rumors.

When Roland knocked on the door to the server room, an overhead security camera blinked to life and a robotic voice rumbled, “WHAT DO YOU SEEK?”

“Uh, hi. This is Roland, a project manager. I’m supposed to work with you guys, or whatever you are, on automating some tasks?”

“WHAT DO YOU OFFER US?” the ominous metallic voice shot back.

“Ummm… do robots like donuts? I brought some. It’s all I have.”

“PROCEED.” The electronic lock released the door with a thunk. Roland pulled the door open, and arctic air hissed out. Inside, were thousands of blinking lights and rack mounts, and a small table. A light flicked on above the small table. “PLACE THE OFFERING THERE,” the automaton said from the shadows.

Roland placed the box of donuts on the table and backed away slowly. “THANK YOU!” the voice shouted from behind him. Roland jumped. A scrawny man with a voice modulator giggled and helped himself to a donut.

“Hey, Roland, I’m Roy,” he said, setting the voice modulator aside. “We don’t get many visitors, so we like to mess with them when we do. You’re looking for some automation, eh?”

Roland was surprised by how normal Roy was, now that he had revealed himself as an actual human being. “Yes, well, the CEO was saying you do a lot of work with robotics, and that we should use those robots to automate as many tasks as we can.” Roland laid out the objectives and specifications.

Roy sighed. “I hate to disappoint you, but we don’t actually do anything with robots, despite what the CEO thinks. He insists that Ruby is the name of a robot, but it’s just a programming language. But we can automate most of this. Give us two weeks, all the donuts and energy drinks we can handle, and it’ll be done before you know it.”

For the next two weeks, Roland dropped off the required offerings in exchange for status updates and feature demos. Roy and his other Robot Guys hacked away, and soon the pile of paperwork that kept everyone busy upstairs had migrated down to a handful of servers in the basement. Roland made sure the Robot Guys got most of the credit, but the CEO gave him high acclaim.

“Roland, masterful job getting those machines to manipulate the pulleys and levers that make our business work.” The CEO slapped him on the back. “Your reward is a new project- another top-priority project. Our finance team can’t handle the transaction volume. I’ve talked to the CFO and she wants you and the Robot Guys to build automation around a new product we’ve purchased, MoneyWorx. Don’t let me down!”

Roland went back to the server room. Given how easy the last automation project was, this should be the same, right? He showed Roy the requirements.

Roy’s monitor-tanned skin turned even paler than Roland thought humanly possible. “This is bad, very bad! Danger!” Roy shouted. He waved his arms in consternation. “It’s not MoneyWorx, it’s MoneyDoesntWorx. Even when the services are working, they require RSA-SecurID tokens- someone has to manually enter a code.”

“Manual? So someone has to be on call to make this work?”

“Yeah. We have three SecurID tokens, so normally, when MoneyWorx wants a new code, we’d have three people ‘on call’.”

“That’s really not going to work. If people have to be getting late night phone calls to keep financials happening, the CEO is going to be pissed. And the CEO’s already signed the contract- we have to make this work without anybody being on call.”

Roy cracked open an energy drink and shuddered. “Give me the weekend to think about it. And I’m going to need more of these.” He shook the can. “And more of those.” He pointed at the donut box.

Roland popped by on the weekend to drop off his offerings. Roy accepted them, but said nothing. The Robot Guys were too busy to talk. When Monday rolled around, Roland arrived with extra donuts and energy drinks. “Eureka!” Roy exclaimed as soon as Roland entered. “Let me show you our masterpiece!”

The “master-piece” was an empty donut box, stood on end. The RSA-SecurID tokens were taped to the box. The entire arrangement was set in front of a cheap webcam. “When MoneyJerks demands a fresh two-factor token, somebody can remote into this machine, check the tokens, and enter the correct code.”

“Don’t you think we should password protect this box?” Roland suggested.

“Do you think the users are going to remember how to log in?” Roy countered.

It was possibly the dumbest idea that Roland had ever heard, but he ran it upstairs. In the CEO’s office, Roland demoed the solution. After he logged off of the web-cam machine, he cringed, expecting a fit.

“This is brilliant! They’ve set their robot’s eyes on these doohickeys, and now anybody in the company can tell MoneyWorx what to do! Top-notch work, Roland. Congratulate the robot guys for me. Their robot is amazing.”

Roland was happy the job was done, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d made a terrible mistake. The company’s financial security rested in the hands of a cheap web-cam with absolutely no protection besides not having a public IP.

When disaster finally did strike, it didn’t come in the form of fraudulent transaction. The donut box fell over, late on Friday night. Roland had to call Roy, who had to commute into the office to stand the box back up. After doing some root cause analysis, Roy also taped the box to a server rack, thus guaranteeing continual uptime.

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