My Three Worst Experiences in Software Development: Page 2

Posted December 10, 2008

Eric Spiegel

Eric Spiegel

(Page 2 of 2)

I remember going to lunch was torture because the car was about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. But if we didn’t go out to eat, we didn’t see the light of day.

There was a team of about twenty people that worked on the preparation for this conversion over a one year period. The last few weeks were almost nonstop conversion dry runs.

We’d work a few days straight, take a breather, and then do it all over again. The only time I spent at home (when not in sweltering Texas) was to sleep and shower.

Finally it was time to do the actual conversion under the hot Texas sun. Okay, we were really in a freezing data center under the hot Texas sun, but we were still sweating under the pressure.

Each program took many hours to crunch through and convert all the data. So it was hurry up and wait, then validate. This was another one of those weekend conversions, so the team was under the gun to finish before users logged in Monday morning.

We almost didn’t make it.

In truth we didn’t make it, at least not completely. Out of the five developers who had written conversion programs, it turned out that mine was the only one that caused a major problem. I ended up using an older version by mistake and one particularly important data mapping was not correct, causing hundreds of thousands of duplicate records to be created.

Discovering this on Monday morning at 3 AM was not a pleasant feeling. I had let the team down and put us all in jeopardy of failing.

Through teamwork we were able to clean up most of the data by 8 AM, but not everything. Therefore part of the system was not available that first week until all data was scrubbed clean.

As I walked back to the hotel, we passed the training team waiting to go in and educate a group of users. The first thing they said was “you guys stink!”

I took the comment literally and felt like socking the dude, but the reality was that we hadn’t left the data center all weekend, thus no showers. We really did stink.

I went to my hotel room and passed out for 12 hours, totally exhausted and despondent.

Looking back on it, I realize that these were great learning experiences that everyone has to go through. We all hit our rough patches. They key is that we learn from them.

I’m extra careful about backing things up and making sure I have the correct versions of software, documents, and whatever I’m delivering to a customer.

So what is my third worst experience?

That’s easy. After finishing a six month project, I had to repeat almost the exact same project for another customer.

Same custom software, just with different data sources.

I was absolutely bored out of my mind! There is nothing worse than showing up for work knowing that you won’t be challenged and that you won’t learn anything new.

I’d learned tons from the first two bad experiences and would do them over again. However, I can’t shake the feeling that any customer would rather I be bored to tears.

Eric Spiegel is CEO and co-founder of XTS, which provides software for planning, managing and auditing Citrix and other virtualization platforms.

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Tags: data, software, management, IT, software developer

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