I work as a software tester.
Other than my skills at coming up with a variety of ways to break all manner of software, my greatest asset is my reputation. Without that, no software developer would listen to me when I showed them the discrepancies within their computer code.
For nearly seven years, I have worked as a software tester for a large international company. In that time, I have tested hundreds of applications and have prevented many embarrassing software flaws from being deployed into our corporate world.
All of that reputation capital was nearly blown away last week all due to one slip.
I was testing a software package that was an upgrade to our current payroll system. One of the new aspects to this upgrade was a function to email workers to let them know that their timesheet was overdue. As is my routine, I selected a number of real people in our company to create dummy timesheets for. I used some other members of the testing department, my manager, and some members of the development team.
I also decided to use the CEO of our company.
Now in my defense, when I created a dummy timesheet for our CEO, I filled out all of his hours completely and correctly and there is no way that the CEO should have received an email alerting the head honcho that he was out of compliance.
So when the bug that was in the upgrade kicked in and sent out notifications to all the folks I had created timesheets for, the CEO did indeed receive such an electronic missive stating that he needed to complete his timesheet on time.
So the CEO’s administrative staff sent inquiries (and not friendly ones from what I hear) out to the Payroll Department wondering what was going on and after a series of communications back and forth, the source of the wayward emails was traced back to me.
While it seems to me that this was an innocent slip on my part, it snowballed into quite the embarrassing incident because of all the time wasted spent trying to trace the source of the emails as to why the CEO was being told he was not compliant.
So after a trip to the woodshed where my manager, my manager’s boss, and my manager’s boss’s boss sat me down and explained the political ramifications of what I had done (i.e., other development shops can point to this episode to show that we don’t deserve the funding we receive), I realized I now have a long road back to regain my reputation.
My experience, however, pales in comparison to the blow to the reputation taken recently by the community of people and organizations that gather intelligence for this country. This lead sentence from an article, entitled “Like Tagging Fish in a Barrel”, in the December 2010 edition of Wired magazine shows just how far a climb back the reputation of that community has:
The US government’s fish-tagging operations used to be a lot like its intelligence-gathering: slow, imprecise, and occasionally responsible for the torture and death of innocent subjects.
I certainly know how you guys all feel. Wish me luck as I work my back and I wish you guys well also.