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I.T. War Stories Part 4 February 7, 2009

Posted by truthspew in Uncategorized.
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Part 4 brings us to the Rhode Island Department of Attorney General. The AG at that time is now the U.S. Senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse.

The interview process for the job was interesting. The initial interview was with Director of Administration Marisa White, Director of HR Darlene Walsh and the HR secretary.

I was told later that the reason I made it past the first interview was because I was so enthusiastic.

The second interview was with the technical staff at the Department of Administration.

The third interview was pretty much a formality where I met Sheldon Whitehouse, Criminal Division Director Bill Ferland, and Civil Division Director Jim Lee. This was where I was impressed with the fact that it was a life or death shop, where everything was always on. I understood that well and started work there two weeks later.

My staff initially consisted of a young black woman, a middle age white woman and a white male around my age.

I was told that the young black woman was a problem. Little did I know at that time they couldn’t have been more wrong.

Instead it was the middle age white woman who was the real problem. Some of the shit she’d pull is still legendary.

The Judiciary put on training events for Oracle and Banner all the time so I sent the middle age woman because she dealt with a lot of the database issues. But she’s never retain any of the training.

In the meantime I figured out the problem with the young woman, they had basically (Actually I suspect more the middle age woman than anyone else.) marginalized her because she was black.

If you’ve read my blog you’ve probably noted that nothing pisses me off more than racism.

I started giving the young woman responsibility for our web development and she picked it up and ran with it.

When it came time for the next round of training (PL/SQL and Forms) I went along with the young woman. She retained the training and started taking over some of the database tasks. I did a lot of the development work on Access front ends.

The middle age woman fancied herself assistant Director. So one day I asked HR and Administration if that was the case. The answer I got back was that it wasn’t.

At one point in my time there I started getting reports on sick time, vacation time, etc. for the people in my unit. The Admin director even commented that the middle aged woman had used the most sick time of anyone in the entire office.

And don’t you know, the day I get the report who calls in sick but the middle age woman. I let it go that day.

The next day she calls in sick and says she won’t be there the following day at which point I tell her that I got the report, that she used excessive sick time and the policy was at 3 days out you needed to bring back a doctors note.

The next morning I get into the office a little bit early and she’s sitting in her cube. I asked what she was doing there and she belts out “You threatened me!”. Talk about shrew!

At that point I told her to go home, she was suspended for the next three days without pay. I put the entry into her personnel file and that was that.

After that I tried to shop her around to other units, I did not want this woman in the I.T. unit.

By this point with interns the I.T. unit was up to six people and it was interesting. When the middle age woman was there it was like the shop just stopped, that’s how negative her attitude got.

We all breathed a sigh of relied when she was out sick, or off on a training mission or what have you.

At this point there had been several other incidents that I’d placed in her file so I approached Administration and asked if I could move to terminate. They blocked me on that.

Apparently this woman had some pull somewhere. I don’t give a fuck. It did teach me something though, everyone gets one chance to pull themselves up. Failing that I’m better off terminating than putting up with the shit.

One of the training events I had to go through was the training for new managers in state service. It’s there that I found out that I’m a team builder. I’d probably known that. Another little factoid came out that I had high Machiavellian scores, E.g. the ends justify the means. That’s just common among all managers in state service btw. You have to get things done even though there’s no money in the budget for it, no people to do it, and you have a legislative liaison who told you about mandates a week after they’d been enacted.

Know this, the entire criminal history for the state was then housed on two IBM RS/6000’s with a shared disk array that sat in the basement of the building behind a boiler room and in an area that floods on occasion.

I made sure the administration was aware of this fact and proposed we move those servers up to the 2nd floor of the building. I also tried working with operations to do a full scale test of the generator to see what was connected and what wasn’t.

The technology in the place was a smattering of Windows 2000 workstations, NT4 servers, a couple of Linux boxes doing proxy, and the RS/6000’s.

We were using Microsoft Exchange for email which only sealed my hatred for the product.

We had two spectacular events. In one case our main file server bricked itself when the boot volume ran out of space. That’s a bad thing on NT4. Needless to say the backup software had a big issue backing up the user db on NT4 too so we didn’t have anything when it crapped. Not even a BDC.

That was an 8:30AM to 4:30AM day. We had to rebuild the boot volume and then re-add the user groups and accounts. Fun times. But at 1:30AM we had a visitor, Sheldon himself with beer and shrimp cocktail for us.

The second spectacular event came when my web/email/database girl got the request to turn on OWA on the Exchange box. She turned it on and mail went POOF! If we weren’t so married to the damned shared folders in Exhange I would have just moved us to Sendmail, Qmail, or something similar.

The thing is I was very protective of my team. So when we got the call I took responsibility for it.

Another interesting thing was that sitting in the back of the computer room was a device with all sorts of crypto gear in it. I asked around and nobody knew what it was for.

One day I get a call from the folks at the FBI’s CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Systems) division. That was our link into the FBI’s III (Interstate Identification Index). Up until the last couple years when a local PD (ORI) scanned fingerprints they’d come through us to the III which withing 20 minutes would return identity information to the ORI if the subject being scanned had prior contact with the criminal justice system.

I had to engineer the email gateways etc. that would do this. That was fun.

Part of the process was doing a dump of all our criminal history, just case-ID, name, dob, etc. The RS/6000’s could only read/write from metal oxide tapes. The FBI CJIS couldn’t read those tapes so I had to SCP the data from the servers to a desktop and then burn CD’s of the data.

I was there for a couple years but that came undone. Remember my former boss, Mr. Resnik from Emblem & Badge? His next door neighbor was then Speaker of the House John Harwood.

So guess how I lost that job when the Lynch administration came in. Uh huh, Renik to Harwood to Lynch. Pretty easy game of connect the dots.

But karma is interesting. Emblem & Badge once had a presence all through New England. That was until the equipment all got auctioned off. Now it’s just a single little shop. I don’t even know if it still exists to be honest.

I just wish I’d known about the auction sooner. It would have been fun to buy a couple laser engraving systems.

Stay tuned for Part 5, my time at the Rhode Island Department of State.

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