Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I never did get this one

In '97, I was working at a software company as an product tester. The engineers built the software, I tested it.

In those days, WYSIWYG display was becoming imparitive for any program. "What You See Is What You Get." It was no longer acceptable to have plain text on the screen. Yet, the company's premier product I was working on, didn't have WYSIWYG.

The sales team hammered the table. "We need WYSIWYG. All our competitors have it."

Sometimes you have to wonder about engineers. They can be so line upon line, sequential, nervous to step outside the lines.

The Veep of Engineering just couldn't or wouldn't dedicate the resources to developing a WYSIWYG display. The engineers were elbow deep in other development aspects of the program. WYSIWYG wasn't getting done.

WYSIWYG meant that when a sales rep in the classified advertising department of a newspaper entered an ad for a customer, it would appear on her screen as it would in the paper. She could fax the ad to the customer. Spiffy.

But our slick ole product couldn't do that particular function. A few engineers hacked at WYSIWYG coding, but produced a sloppy product. Crashed the program. Made taking an ad incredibly slow.

So, the Veep of Engineering decided to hire someone to do the job. An former colleague who hadn't written code in several years. She didn't know the Mircosoft tools we used. She didn't know C++. She didn't know our product. Talk about disadvantage.

I have to tell you, it was painful to watch her work. She was lost. So very lost. And the product was a monster, I mean a monster of code.

But poor new-engineer worked faithfully. Accomplished very little. And within six months had another job.

One of the lead engineers took over coding for WYSIWYG and had something working and demonstrable within a few weeks.

It continues to baffle me why those in charge assigned a complete neophyte to such an important process. We need this function to sell the product. Yet, all the Veep could see was the schedule already set and she wasn't leaving her path.

I didn't get it. Still don't. But that's me.

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