It was pretty easy to find my first job in Toronto. The company that hired me was looking for a Delphi developer, and that’s what I was good at.
I’m not going to say the name of the “company” because I don’t know who will read the post, and I don’t want trouble because I won’t say nice things about their business. It was a company with tens of thousands of employees worldwide, and the owners became billionaires by manipulating the world market. They had thousands of customers spread all over the world. Customers who called on their services saw their sales volume increase. That’s because they had to follow the instructions of the “company”, which asked them to do business with other clients of theirs, and that’s how the money wheel turned, the clients growing and expanding the circle, the company grew like an octopus. These people did not create anything useful and got rich by expanding the circle of their relationships.
I know how businesses run in Canada. Each office had its own application. They expanded so quickly that they did not have time to make a unique application to be deployed everywhere.
I was hired to develop an application to manage transactions in a unified way for all the offices in Canada. It seems complicated, but it wasn’t. The app I wrote had a single big button in the middle of the screen that said “Start”. At 6 p.m., an employee pressed that button. The application would connect to all offices in Canada, collect the data from local databases, put them together, and deposit them in a server in the USA, from where another application (from their headquarters) would retrieve it and dump the transactions in a bank. I added a panel at the bottom of the screen where the app displayed what it’s doing, i.e., where it’s connected, the number of transactions, how many were submitted, and how many were rejected. That wasn’t mandatory, but I thought that showed that the app was working, it didn’t freeze. The app would run for an hour or two before it finished the job. At the end, the panel would turn green, write “DONE” on it, and showed on the screen the current day, the time the job started and the time it finished, the total number of transactions resolved, and the rejected ones (most often the number of rejected was zero). Also all that data e=was kept in a file.
There was still a lot of work to do because the data around Canada was in all kinds of databases (Access, Interbase, SQL Server or text files for UNIX servers).
One day, we had a meeting where we were told that the head office in the USA asked the Canadians to consolidate all the databases in SQL Server servers. They were looking for a volunteer to take on this project. Scaffolding was so complicated due to the diversity of media and database engines at the time that it could be a neck-breaking project.
I saw this as an opportunity to grow my status as an expert by taking a step into database administration. DBAs (database administrators) are better paid, not because their job is more complicated than a developer, but because of the responsibility: companies leave their data only in good hands because those companies that lose their data go bankrupt. Everything we see on the screens of computers, tablets, cell phones, and billboards on the street comes from a database. If the databases go down, everything stops.
I went to my boss and offered to take over the project on the condition that after I finished, he would change my status from developer to DBA. He accepted and sent me to a one-month course in SQL Server. I took that course and then paid for (from my pocket) 4 Microsoft exams to become a Microsoft Certified DBA. The exams were tough; I failed one and had to repeat it.
By the way: only a certain percentage of the participants could pass the Microsoft exams, there was no fixed passing grade (as far as I understood), and I had to compete with Indians and Chinese who exchanged information with each other to prepare for the exam. They became so expert that they were learning all the answers to all possible questions by heart. I wonder how the hell it was easier to memorize thousands of answers instead of understanding how the SQL Server engine works. Anyway, I ended up getting my Microsoft certificate. A few years later, Microsoft took steps to combat the phenomenon of external echo learning, but I don’t know exactly how.
I did the database consolidation project well, but the boss still treated me like a developer who knew more about SQL Server. I asked him to raise my salary, as I had not had a raise in the year and a half that I had been with them, and I had increased responsibilities. He increased my salary by $1000 a year, well below the inflation rate, so my pay went down in terms of market value.
I resigned, looking for a DBA position as my next job.
I kept in touch with a colleague. We are still friends today. He told me my boss was fired a month after I left. In his opinion, the main reason was that I resigned - they didn’t have an immediate solution for a DBA, and the people who took over the integration project made by me were still learning what was there, and I was nowhere near explaining it to them.
Next post is about starting as a DBA, back to a small company.
Working for a billionaire:
Where it all started: