Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I'm no expert ...

Some of the applications I've been filling out ask to rate my skills or knowledge on subjects.  Usually the choices range from "I know nothing at all about rocket science and brain surgery" to "I'm an expert at losing socks in the laundry."  

Fortunately for my sock drawer, I never claim to be an expert in anything.  The closest I'll claim is that I have the knowledge and experience to do the job without someone standing over my shoulder and watching my every move, however, I know my limitations and don't have any shame in asking for guidance.

I do it deliberately because I honestly feel that there is always room for me to learn something new.  Software upgrades and changes every few months.  A country's borders can move and new governments rename them.  Pluto got reclassified into something less than a planet.  Dinosaurs are renamed as archeologists learn more about them.

Ten years ago, a project manager hired me away from a company that I had a lot of history with on the promise of a guaranteed five year government contract that offered me more growth (learning) and promotion opportunities.  During the interview, he repeatedly asked me what I knew about Microsoft Access.  I told him that I was familiar with it, but would not claim I was an expert or even proficient.  I knew the basics, and had toyed around with it on my home computer, but hadn't spent a great deal of time with it because at the time, there were other database software programs I preferred.

Eight months later, a government program manager on whose contract I was working under asked me to do a task in MS Access that even with my limited knowledge I knew couldn't be done.  It was a task that he had put before several other contractor companies.  They had not been able to perform to his satisfaction so when contract review came up, they were replaced.

Now it was placed before me, the company I was working for, and when he told me what he wanted done, I told him it couldn't be done.  The look on his face told me that it wasn't what he wanted to hear.  He'd been told I was an expert at Microsoft Access.  It was why the company I was working for had been given the contract.

I politely explained to him that I never claimed to be an expert, and if he had been told I was by the project manager, he had been misinformed.  I also explained that what he wanted done couldn't be done because of the limitations of the software itself.  Reports can be created to run at the touch of a button, but they have to be programmed behind the scenes.  Parameters have to be set that tell the software where to gather the information from.

What he wanted was for the database to be able to produce a report generated by any one of the 50 division and department heads on the base for their specific requirements, which could include any of 1 to 100 or more different variables.  He wanted it to be instantly available to whomever was requesting the report with as much or as little information as they needed.

I told him that if I knew what information each division or department head wanted to see, I could build a report for them, but for that many users, it would take time and once the report was built, it couldn't be altered without another report being created for them.

For example, if they wanted a report of how many employees had been Lean Six Sigma trained the previous week for a specific command whose Division Head was Peter Piper, and whose date of hire was after June 1st but before November 15th, that could be written into a report available on demand.

But if Department Head Mary Mary Quite Contrary wanted a report showing her employees whose last name started with A through M, and who had been with the company for less than 5 years, but more than 1 year, who had completed their annual ethics training, and whose Division Head was Tiny Tim, new report parameters would need to be written.

Two months later my project manager told me that he had mislead me in order to woo me away from my previous company because they needed my skills to gain the overall contract for the company.  There was no "guaranteed" contract beyond the first year.  It simply had four more "options," and the option to renew the contract I was working under was not taken.  Within six months the project manager's option was also not renewed, and within a year the company lost the overall contract to a competitor.

The lessons learned there were many.  Honesty is always the best policy, especially when interviewing.  The grass might have looked greener on the other side of the bay with the new company, but it was certainly growing over a septic tank of deceit and dishonesty.

It is possible that in the past ten years the MS Access has been upgraded to do the task that he wanted.  I'd like to find out, and expand my knowledge.  In the meantime, I'm sticking to my one and only expertise ... of picking up the pieces and recreating myself.


  1. Sigh. And Hiss and spit. Sadly your project manager's less than ethical approach is widespread.

  2. There is not a day that goes by that I am not happy to be out of the corporate world. Many lies and much corruption.


A side note to my Words on Wednesday ~ I've truly enjoyed reading everyone's blogs, comments, and posts the past few months, but unfortunately have not been able to comment from Safari, and have to use Chrome for commenting. It is frustrating and annoying to have to log out of one and into the other just for commenting, when everything else I do is on Safari. I'm not sure if it is because I'm using a Mac, but I haven't been able to sign into Google on Safari. I'm still trying, however, just know that if I don't comment, it's not because I haven't enjoyed reading or seeing Sunday's Selections photos.