Make sure you're not part of the problem

I'm sure we have all experienced someone like this at one time or another.

Last Updated: • Business Lessons •

Quite a while ago, when I was starting out as an independant small business consultant, I had a friend who asked me if I would be interested in taking on a project where I would be updating a document management system for a government agency. I agreed to take the assignment.

The contact for the project told me that they already had an existing document management system written in Delphi. Ahh, my specialty.

However, the main contact I reported to made me aware of a situation. They already had a programmer working on the existing system.

Immediately, a red flag went up.

The problem was that the programmer would work on the system trying to fix an issue and break two other features. The contact told me that this was an ongoing issue over the past three months and that he would be "leaving soon" once I evaluated the project.

When I walked into the office one day during lunch, I saw the programmer working on the main PC with no one in the office at all.

The man looked at me.

"So, I hear you're the new programmer."

"Yes sir, I am."

He looked up at me and proceeded to raise his voice. "You better not steal any of my code or I'll be sueing you for all you got!"

I guess it never really occurred to him that:

  1. If he only fixed the problems properly in the first place, this "situation" wouldn't be happening to either one of us.
  2. It wasn't "his code" at all. It belonged to the government (doesn't everything?) :-)

I looked at him and calmly said, "Sir, you have nothing to worry about..." He started to smile at me.

"...I won't be using any of your code." The smile stopped midway.

I left it at that. He focused his attention back to the PC and I told him I would be back after lunch to talk to my contact. I received a grunt of confirmation.

When I returned, he wasn't anywhere to be found. Actually, it was the first and last time I would see him.

I proceeded to talk to my contact after lunch. I told him what happened. He told me that he expected the programmer to do that and not to worry. The code was theirs to begin with, as I suspected.

The project went very well from that point on. As the project came to a successful close, we were kidding around saying if someone comes in and takes "my code," that I would sue them for everything they had.

Hence, the lesson of the day. :-)

Before you solve the equations of the world, make sure you're not part of the problem.

-Jonathan Danylko

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Jonathan Danylko is a freelance web architect and avid programmer who has been programming for over 20 years. He has developed various systems in numerous industries including e-commerce, biotechnology, real estate, health, insurance, and utility companies.

When asked what he likes to do in his spare time, he replies, "Programming."

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