"We just want to keep him busy"



  • A "junior developer" at my company created a "retirement plan administration system" that is nothing short of a bloated, unmaintainable monstrosity. The history of this mess dates back to the late 90's, but its current form is a collection of "classic" Access/VBA database front-ends that use SQL Server linked tables. It has the usual headaches of deployment (setting up ODBC connections on inividual workstations, deploying front-ends, needing to have Access installed and licensed for every client that uses it, etc.) on top of too many WTF's to mention in the design and VBA code. This person was entirely self-taught, has never worked anywhere else in 20 years, and suffice to say, their abilities are about as abysmal as you would expect.

    I have no active role in the development of this mess (thank God), but occasionally I get called in as a "consultant" to give suggestions and help troubleshoot problems on the SQL Server side of things. For years, I have been pushing them to migrate toward a more modern development platform, but the junior developer always throws a tantrum because they don't want to learn anything other than Access. At one point, we even found a company with a cloud-based solution that met all of the requirements, and it was fully customizable/programmable by 3rd party developers such as our junior dev. But, he threw a hissy fit because the product was built on PHP/mySQL (admittedly not the best stack) and they didn't want to learn a new language and rDBMS.

    In 5 years, my only "success" was in convincing the junior developer to move his backend databases to SQL Server, as they were starting to run into major corruption issues as the datasets grew larger. It took him about 3 years to get it done, but eventually he got it set up so the backend is all in SQL Server. I also set up a deverlopment workflow (with dev and test environments) and some basic source control with TortoiseSVN/Subversion (Access doesn't have many good options that work), but it's mostly been ignored and not used by the junior dev.

    Last week, he messed up really bad, as he pushed a change to production without testing it and a lot of records somehow got wiped out. This wasn't noticed until 2 days after the fact, so I had to restore to a 2 day old backup and some of the data had to be re-keyed by the dev. I've been told the head of their department is getting increasingly frustrated with the junior dev, but they don't want to do anything about it. Today, my boss asked me to recommend some SQL Server classes for him to take.

    I told my boss that it wouldn't do any good unless they moved to a more modern development platform for the front-end. Most of this person's problems are related to the fact that they are trying to do some very complicated things in a very primitive tool. A lot of business logic is buried in sloppy copy/pasted vba code within the forms, and when they use stored procedures, they're usually called from concatenated "exec ..." strings within Access and no parameterization.

    I recommended that they look at something like "Access Apps" in Access 2013, which allows you to build a data-centric sharepoint app in Access without having to write much code, and then force the person to use SSIS and SSRS for some of the more advanced reporting/cleanup tasks. This was the actual quote from my boss:

    "You're over-thinking it.. We are just looking to keep him busy so he can't make any more enhancements to the system and break things."

    So, basically their solution is to pay for this person to go to class (on top of continuing to pay their salary) so that he can't fuck anything more up.


  • sockdevs

    ok.... who is he related to and/or who is he sleeping with that they just don't fire his ass?



  • The crazy thing is that it's neither. The dude is about as much of a loner as you can be, and he isn't related to any of the owners. I suspect that he has some mental issues and my only guess is that it's a combination of feeling sorry for him and being afraid of him at the same time.



  • Then he's not even TR :wtf: - the people above him who know he's useless to the point they keep him busy to keep him away from actual work are.


  • sockdevs

    .... that is not a healthy business environment.

    either he's trainable and can improve or he's an untrainable menace that needs to be fired.

    based on your description it's likely the latter. sympathy is all well and good, but it does not belong in business. particularly not when it's about hiring/firing.



  • @accalia said:

    who is he related to and/or who is he sleeping with

    Probably would have been better off with an exclusive or there...


  • sockdevs

    Husband and wife is not a relationship?


  • sockdevs

    @Buddy said:

    Probably would have been better off with an exclusive or there...

    yeah, but .... well i chose a different path. ;-)


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @accalia said:

    he's an untrainable menace that needs to be firedpromoted to management

    Filed Under: PHBTFY



  • I agree. They are setting themselves up for disaster when something happens to this guy and nobody knows anything about maintaining their system any more. I hope to be long gone before then.

    I am mostly insulated from this mess, and my boss did tell me that he agrees with me, but the junior dev works in another department and their department heads don't want to do anything to remedy it. Ultimately, it's their call and they would rather bury their heads in the sand.



  • I think that the solution here is called a "pension".



  • Japanese have a concept of just sitting an employee down in a cramped shared office and giving them exactly zero duties (while requiring them to come to work each day). For when they come across those employees they can't/won't fire for whatever reason, but they also want to keep away from important work.

    Maybe find a little 1-person office and do that with this guy. Put some duplo blocks in there or something.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    blocks in there or something

    They already gave him Access and look at what he did.



  • He works there for a decade and is still junior? Now that's a :wtf:!


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @loopback0 said:

    Then he's not even TR :wtf: - the people above him who know he's useless to the point they keep him busy to keep him away from actual work are.

    If they're not going to optimise his employment status, at least they could stop him from pushing stuff into production. Get someone with competence to untangle the mess (or burn it to the ground and start again, whatever) but keep him out of everyone else's hair.



  • Sounds like this company is providing a public service. By keeping this guy employed, the rest of the world can live free of the fear of accidentally employing him and all the consequences that follow.



  • This story jus made me sad... Poor guy!



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Maybe find a little 1-person office and do that with this guy. Put some duplo blocks in there or something.

    Worked out well for Initech.



  • Same three months of experience 40 times.


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