I’m reliable now and that feels strange when I think about it.

We’ve had a couple of emergencies at work lately. I can’t get into too much detail but what I can mention is that the main software I work on is responsible for large volumes of financial transactions.

So… things can go wrong, just like any system, and there is a lot of pressure, but depending on the service, not much time to fix things. For example, transactions have cut-off times, and if you miss them, the only way to fix things is to resubmit, but using a shorter lead-time service type not even implemented by the system. That’s all I can say without giving away anything that’s too confidential.

The point is, when things go wrong in a financial system, its a big deal. For example, you might end up in a situation where millions worth of revenue passing through the system might… not pass through the system. (Or imagine the other extreme – millions of revenue passed through but doubled, or a fault with some kind of floating point conversion means 100 times the amount. Fortunately that didn’t happen here. But just imagine.)

And on more than one occasion, the person to fix the problems, was me. Me! The same me who couldn’t be trusted to implement even simple code fixes to a far smaller system back in 2009. The same me who couldn’t be relied upon for anything for several years.

These kinds of problems can end with people losing their jobs. There’s not always much recognition when someone fixes these kinds of things (thank goodness because I don’t want too much of that, thank you), and these events will hopefully mostly be forgotten, certainly not how things would be if the disasters were not averted, but that’s not my focus here. My focus is me sitting here and reflecting on how weird it feels that people rely on me, and even if the details are forgotten, the positive effect on my reputation will remain.

I remember sitting in code reviews back in 2009, trying to act like I wasn’t confused. I was working for a company that produced software used by attorneys at the time – it generated documents and did some accounting, but nowhere near as complicated as what I’ve worked on the last few years. I couldn’t get anything right, and I could barely understand what I was doing wrong – because I was so messed up and confused… and so high on meth all the time.

And here I am, doing my part to save the day. There’s no way the old me could have done this. It feels good to be reliable. I mean, these people have no idea just how far I’ve come, but I am glad to be of use.

I’ve been too busy to write here lately

In case anyone has wondered about the lack of posts, it’s because I am busy at work, but saying that is perhaps not enough… I don’t divulge who I work for here so this will be a little vague.

Some of the software I write is used by a large customer base to collect payments, a type of transaction that tracks for a specified number of days, but those types of payments are being phased out in this country, to be replaced by a different, more secure type that uses a different kind of authentication.

I’m responsible for a large part of this software, mostly around the batch upload and processing of the contracts for these payments, as well as the sending of batches to the financial institution, and the processing of the various responses from them. We’re entering a short window now where the one type of payment will soon no longer be allowed in this country, and it so happens I am also responsible for most of the code related to the migration of the old type of payment to the new one.

Tensions are high – we have customers with millions of payments to migrate, and a brand new system that’s quite different to the old one, but has been plagued with problems, such as the financial institution changing their specifications without telling us after our system is already live, and their test environment being quite unstable. Due to the lack of test data and unstable testing environment, some parts of the code base are executing in production without ever having been tested. Things have gone wrong and things might still go wrong. So being responsible for a large part of such a system doesn’t give me much time for anything else, even outside of office hours.

So when I say I’m busy, I’m busy… I’d rather not be. I’d prefer to have time and energy to write here, but lately that’s difficult.

My career seems to have gone off the rails

Every year around December or January, I upload my CV to a local careers website. It’s never even my latest CV and I have in the past included a note to say I am not on the market – but they don’t read that shit anyway. Then, normally I get a number of calls from recruiters, and they send me job specifications. This enables me to:

  1. Gauge whether or not my salary is still in the right range for my job experience.
  2. Compare the job specs to the technologies that I use at work, and get a check-point for what I should be using.

This year, for the first time, something is off.

  • Normally I get twenty or thirty calls within two days. This time I got two or three calls weeks later.
  • From the few I did receive, it’s become clear I’m no longer working on the right technologies.
  • I’m being significantly underpaid.

What to do? What to do?

There have been discussions about updating our server and services infrastructure, and the technologies to be used will put that back on track for me. If it happens.

But being underpaid is an issue. My expenses have just gone up, since I now have to have my son at aftercare every day, and have somebody help keep my flat clean. And I was already in arrears with the levy, since the body corporate where I live failed to send me an invoice for an entire year.

Meanwhile, we are short-staffed at work and unless they get more developers soon, it could get worse. In order to be able to approach my employer, I need more than a gut feel to say that I am being underpaid, but I don’t actually want to go to interviews and waste anybody’s time. I’m in a peculiar position because at the moment, I do have a decent position where I am, and I know the systems I’m working on. So I have good knowledge and am respected there. But respect doesn’t pay the bills and it’s difficult not to let my dampened spirits come across as a bad attitude. So it seems I must ask for more money and I am bad at that.

Normally employers pretend NOT to exploit the employees, but every now and then, there’s an exception.

Some random article just reminded me of this, so I thought Id share. There isn’t really much of a point. I walked out of my very first job interview. Here’s why…

It was 1996 and I’d studied electrical engineering at a place called Cape Technikon. It has a different name now. Anyway, the course involved four six month semesters and a year “in-service training” (employment somewhere) before you could get your diploma.

I’d finished studying – rather than do my first year, then work, then do my second year, I’d managed to get a student loan so that I could complete my studies and then work after being a fulltime student for two years. There were a few companies that offered in-service training and would also send people to interview students directly on campus.

I can’t remember what the company was called, but I showed up for the interview, and an old fart greeted me in the office. He started by telling me about the company, what they did, what their products were, etc. I acted interested, which is the appropriate thing to do, and asked what the offices were like, benefits, and so on.

His answer: “Oh, you start off at the bottom of the company like everybody else, wearing blue overalls.” So I thanked him for the interview, got up, and walked out. Fuck you. The end.

You don’t have to take shit from anybody just because they have authority to abuse. You just don’t. I found something better, not much better, mind you, because it turned out “in-service training” was the perfect setup to pay students who had not yet qualified as little as possible, and get away with it. But still… if someone tells you directly they will treat you the same as someone completely unqualified even though you are qualified – fuck them.


I was young and innocent back then. In reality, all employers exploit you. If you’re working class, i.e. weren’t born rich, that’s just the way it is. But some are worse than others. Find someone who treats you with dignity. That was the first, but not the last interview I walked out of. Job interviews are a two way evaluation and this is something that’s often overlooked; the employer evaluates the candidate, and the candidate evaluates the company. If you don’t like the company for whatever reason, there is no reason to pretend otherwise.

How does it feel to burn out?

It seems close.

Work is a nightmare. Today I lost my cool and called somebody an idiot. Not to his face, but still… I was helping him with something – explained it to him four times and still he didn’t understand. Each time I returned to my desk, only to read yet another asinine question on Slack. I have little patience at the best of times, but today it was thinner than usual. So without considering it, I turned to my closest colleague and said, “You know what the problem is with [Redacted]?” Pause… “He’s an idiot.” I tried to take it back, suggesting that maybe the idiot is me, but it was too late. The words were already spoken. Words I did not mean.

My mother has been on oxygen since Wednesday. I didn’t even know until today. She told me the enlarged heart is not serious, and she only has a mild infection on her left lung. They’re treating it like pneumonia. In other words they don’t know what’s wrong. And there’s something on her chest but they don’t know what it is, so she’s going for a scan at another hospital on Monday. I don’t think she sees how serious this might be.

I struggled to focus at work today. Again. I was pulled in every direction. Again. Two disasters averted today, one of which involved preventing duplicate transactions from being sent out, by updating some data the last minute before the daily run. Nobody thanked me for averting this disaster that wasn’t even my responsibility, but I was reprimanded for something that went wrong in a deployment on Monday. Pressure pressure pressure. All the time. I can’t take it much longer. Something needs to change or I need a break.

Fuck this Black Friday, especially when I only get paid in a week.

I’m worried about my mother and it’s really quite difficult to focus on anything else. Now I hear my son is being bullied at school. I used to fantasize about being bullied, so that I might be able to bloody my fists on some fool’s fetid face. But nobody ever did. Still it’s hard to relate. Josh won’t listen to me – I tell him to either fight back or tell the principal. (I did both at his age.) I can’t help him if he won’t listen, although I am proud of his ability to taunt the bullies verbally. It’s a step in the right direction.

All I want is to be happy. It isn’t happening at the moment. Tomorrow’s another day?