Never Again

The Grass Is Greener in Your Own Backyard

A long week spent on the other side of the fence can really put things in perspective.

In the early days of my IT career at Benchmark Computers, I worked at a few field offices after starting in the corporate headquarters. I was a systems programmer with a focus on developing communications software. With this experience, I lived the adage that the grass appears greener in the next pasture but it rarely is.

At one point we were having a difficult quarter with the sales of our credit union software and systems. It was nearing the end of that quarter and only two system sales were made, and neither of them had been installed. The technical people had a bonus plan that was based on sales and installations being completed within a given quarter.

They were seeking volunteers to drive seven hours and install a 32-user system, and then from there drive another four hours to install a 24-user system, all in the span of four or five business days. I volunteered and got paired with a hardware tech who'd recently lost his driver's license. Not a good omen.

The following Monday, I packed up a van with two large systems, some tapes and 10 to 12 terminals. My instructions were to set up the first system and collect a check for $68,000 before the 3 p.m. Greyhound bus left on Wednesday. The check needed to be on that bus and returned to the office so payroll could be met on Friday.

When we arrived, a third-party hardware tech was already there, pulling the server out of the wall and unplugging all the cables, none of which were labeled. We needed to keep all port numbers consistent so as to keep all the printer groups consistent.

We spent the next 20 hours testing cable runs and fixing poorly laid cable. We then went to the hotel, slept about four hours and drove back to the credit union. We worked until 11 p.m. that Wednesday. Earlier that afternoon I had asked the manager for the check to pay for the installation work. At first she was reluctant to give it to us, but when I promised to complete the project early the next day she relented. I drove to the bus station and made arrangements to get the check back to our offices where it made the payroll.

That night we drove four hours to the next credit union, based in Ottumwa, Iowa, and went right to the hotel. We slept for four hours and at 9 a.m. on Thursday we arrived at the credit union, where we had a much smoother implementation. We completed the installation by 8 p.m. on Friday, and I collected the check and drove another six hours back to the office.

I unloaded all of the equipment by myself because the hardware tech had been dropped off at home along the way. Before heading home I checked my office mailbox at 4 a.m. Saturday and found a company memo telling the staff that they were adjusting bonuses to allow a few more technical people to receive them. This increased the pool from five people to eight people, dropping my $500 bonus to $320 for the quarter just ending.

I was livid. On Monday morning I asked for a meeting with the vice president. He was very surprised that I was so upset. He said, "Jimmy, no one else complained about this!" I told him no one else had volunteered for the hellish week of installations I had gone through.

Right then I quietly made my decision to make my way back home to the corporate offices in Massachusetts. Two months later I was working in Wisconsin, and a year after that I was working at corporate headquarters in Westwood, Mass. The grass really can be greener in your own backyard, if you look hard enough.

About the Author

Jim Madden is now the director of information technology at the Andover Newton Theological School in the Boston area.


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