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5/05/2018

One of the Best Jobs in my Career

In all fairness, I'd say the job at the credit card processing company was probably the best.  They were processing 2k transaction a second back then.  The Tandem computer was smart enough to identify its own issue, contact the support team automatically, unassisted by human intervention.  I didn't work with that piece, although we did create reports off the data generated.

We used Actuate a new tool for the team back then, as I was most familiar with Crystal Reports.  There was a team of Oracle DBAs, it ran on Unix, so we had to know some command lines and such.  Actuate was object oriented and we used many of the cool features to burst reports.  As part of a team of new hires, we were trained together in a few day session internally.

I also supported some Microsoft ASP code, using XML to keep track of changes on the client web browser, then send to the database once it got to the server.

I also supported the help desk 24 hour application called Vantive.  I was sitting with a consultant, he was going into detail about this application, he said you better pay good attention as you are going to support this after I leave.  I said I was hired to write Visual Basic, sure enough, he was correct.  I got sent to a class in Washington DC to learn the app during a week long course, then returned as resident expert.  The app consisted of a single page, with a hundred widgets thrown on top of each other, was quite not so easy to work with I thought.

It also had a Visual Basic Active X control to talk with the database to let all the call reps know pertinent information.

There wasn't really Instant Messenger back then they had a VB app connect to an Microsoft Access database, and I'd have to drive in at midnight occasionally to shrink the database.  At some point I ported the app to point to Unix Oracle, and as it turned out I took down the Unix server, too many open active connections polling the Database, 100 users polling every 5 seconds, sure enough we reverted the code and they purchased an app, thank goodness

They decided to upgrade the Vantive application, which meant the DBA had to run the utility to upgrade the database, although it kept failing with a generic error.  My boss asked me to take a look, as it would be a lot cheaper to solve internally than bring in the consultants.  I reviewed the log files, no glaring issues popped out.  I just tinkered with the code, reviewed everything closely, over and over.  At some point, I said to the DBA, I think the install job is failing on this specific table, it was a custom table not part of the core application.  Some of the fields seem to be smaller than expected.  I asked if he could rebuild the table and increase size from CHAR to VARCHAR with bigger size, which he did, re-ran the install script, bam, solved.  Saved the company a lot of time and money and we were migrated to the new system.

We had another issue, when opening the call center out west.  On go live date, we received call the system was running too slow.  Boss asked me to investigate, as I was on the hook.  Went back to the desk, I couldn't view anything on their servers.  I asked to view the TNSNames file but wasn't able too.  Went back to the desk to review some more.  I said, I think they are pointing to the test database, so the boss said go shut the test database.  Sure enough, we received another call, the database had just gone down.  Troubleshooting a black box, under pressure.

When it came time to develop the Stored Value Card reports, I struggled a bit.  Because someone could purchase a card from store A, use at store B, add more money at store C, my reports were supposed to balance out the money accordingly.  I wasn't having much luck.

They actually sent me to Dallas to review some of the work done by a developer that was leaving the company.  Except when I got there, he didn't make time to sit with me, so I called the boss, said this trip is a waste of time, learned what I could and returned home. 

They had free soda, tons of smart people and the work was challenging.  However, I thought the code I was tasked with supporting was not mainstream, and I wanted to program in Java.  I found another job, except they counter offered and I stayed.  Within a few months, I left the company.

Like I said, that was probably the best job I had over the course of many years.  It took me a while to get back to that level again, and it took 8 more years before I'd get to program in Java.  I did learn a lot though and solved a couple of big issues.

It seems programmers today have a lot more flexibility in the number of languages to program in.  Back then it seemed we were limited to a certain degree.  You'd hear stories all the time of programmers making it big with the dot com boom.  A lot of those people have progressed nicely in their careers, Directors and VPs.  I'm still writing code, mostly in the data and analytics space, almost no web programming.

And so it goes~!