Back in early 2001, a friend of mine got a job through a headhunter as the senior network administrator at a company located in the CBD. A few weeks later, the headhunter recommended another guy for the junior network administrator position. The senior position required five years hands on experience managing servers. The junior position required only two. The senior administrator would manage 80% of the company’s servers, with the junior administrator taking responsibility for the rest. The junior administrator was recruited to cover those areas in which my friend had no experience, specifically two Lotus Domino/Notes servers that were the backbone of the company’s messaging infrastructure.
For the uninitiated. Notes is the client software (think Outlook) and Domino is the backend server (think Exchange). When people say Lotus Notes Server what they mean is: Lotus Domino Server.
After talking with the junior administrator a few times, my friend started to have some doubts about his technical abilities. He seemed to have very few war stories, the sort that sysadmins share when they meet at the pub on a Friday night after work. It was possible of course that the junior administrator had led a blessed life where nothing had gone wrong, but bells started ringing when the junior administrator freely admitted that he’d used braindumps to achieve his NT4 MCSE qualification. The NT4 MCSE was something that had impressed the recruiter and put this guy ahead of other candidates for the junior administrator position.
Braindump: The practice whereby the question and answers to popular certification exams are stolen and made available to those who are unscrupulous enough to cheat their way to a credential rather than to prove their ability with the vendor’s product by passing the exam on their merits.
In the past, developers had been responsible for maintaining the organization’s servers. An expensive consultant had visited the company in the recent past and recommended that trained administrators be employed to manage the servers. Management had taken that advice on board when creating the senior and junior administrator positions. The developer who had configured the Lotus Domino/Notes server had since moved on to bigger and better things, though he still kept in contact with my friend’s manager and they had lunch from time to time.
Several weeks after the junior administrator’s employment, the disk drive on one of the Lotus Domino servers failed. This particular disk drive had hosted the OS and the Domino program files. What made this worse was that this particular server hosted the mailboxes of all of the company’s executives. One piece of luck was that the separate disk array hosting the executive’s mailboxes seemed to be fine. At this stage in my friend’s career, she’d seen plenty of servers crash. Crashing servers to her were an unpleasant, but not wholly unexpected part of the job. Although it could be a tedious task to put a crashed server back together, given that the mailbox data was still intact, this should be no biggie for the junior administrator.
It became clear that it was a biggie for the junior administrator when, two hours after a courier had delivered the replacement disk drive, NT4 still hadn’t been reinstalled. The junior administrator was stuck on one of the early installation screens. Getting pressure from his bosses about their lack of email, the manager called my friend over to see if she could help out. After examining the installation for a few minutes, my friend asked the junior administrator if he’d loaded the vendor supplied driver software for the motherboard and disk drive array. After the junior administrator returned a blank look, she realized that he had no idea what she was talking about. My friend restarted the installation, entering the appropriate disks when necessary and the NT4 installation started to progress. When she asked the junior administrator about how he could miss this, the junior admin replied that he was more a Domino/Notes specialist than an NT4 jockey.
By this point even more time had passed, my friend’s manager was catching even more heat from the executives. Originally the manager had argued that the company needed trained professionals to manage the mission critical servers. Now that he had the trained professionals, the executives were wondering why their email had been down for the last five hours. Exasperated, the manager asked my friend to ride shotgun on the repair of the server as it was beginning to become apparent that the junior administrator might not know as much about IT as his resume suggested.
Once NT4 was up and running, my friend asked the junior admin if there was any special preparation required for the installation of Lotus Domino 5 on the server. Was there a specific order to things, or should they just install service pack 6a, outstanding hotfixes and then attempt the installation of Lotus Domino 5? After seeming to think about it for some time, the junior administrator told my friend that he thought that this was a pretty good idea. My friend located the relevant technet CD-ROM and patched the NT4 server so it was completely up to date. Given that she knew nothing about Lotus Notes/Domino and the junior administrator had claimed to be a specialist, it was at this point she turned the computer over to the junior administrator. All that the junior administrator had to do was install Domino 5 and import the executive mailboxes located on the second disk drive.
Except that the junior administrator was unable to get Domino 5 to install. My friend asked the junior administrator what was wrong, why was he unable to install Domino? The junior admin, in a fit of honesty, admitted that he had no idea. He thought you just put the CD-ROM in and kept clicking OK. The manager, overhearing this, pulled out his cellular phone and called the developer who had originally configured the server. For an exorbitant fee the guy was willing to come in after he had finished work and take a look at the broken Domino server.
Several hours later, when the developer who set up the original Domino server arrived, the junior administrator, being able to contribute nothing of substance, was sent out for pizza. The developer booted the installed server and spent about two minutes with it before turning to my friend and asking “did you install service pack six on this computer?” My friend replied that she had. The developer shook his head and informed her: “you can’t install Domino 5 when service pack 6a has been installed. Domino can only be installed on service pack 5. There are a whole series of special hotfixes required to get it working with service pack 6a. Anyone who has installed a Domino 5 server in the last to years would have to know about the service pack six issues.”
When the junior administrator returned to the office with the pizza, my friend and the developer quietly asked if he’d ever actually installed Domino 5 on an NT4 server before. After a few moments the junior administrator he admitted that he had not. Queried about his NT4 experience he admitted that the only time he’d installed NT4 server was during an MCSE course at the local training center and that he’d never set one up in a production environment. It turned out that rather than being a network administrator at the sporting organization, this guy had been a data entry operator who had done a little bit of help desk work. He’d taken out a loan and done a few NT4 courses and then fudged his resume to make it look as though he had systems administration experience. His Lotus experience, fudged to look as though he’d worked 2 years as a Domino/Notes administrator was in reality limited to using the Notes client and changing the backup tapes for a real Domino/Notes administrator. Prior to getting the job with my friend’s company, this guy had never actually administered an NT4 server, let alone a Domino server. My friend suggested that this guy go home as he had nothing to contribute to the repair of this server.
When the junior admin came in to work the next day (after my friend and the developer had restored the server) he told my friend’s manager that he’d found another job and would be leaving the company. In technical parlance this is called jumping before you are pushed as the manager was more than ready to fire him. After the guy had left, my friend’s manager had a rather terse conversation about experience verification with the recruiter who had recommended the guy for the junior administrator position. He’d relied upon the recruiter to screen for this sort of rubbish and was rather annoyed that he’d employed someone in a position he’d fought hard to create who didn’t seem to have much of a clue. The last my friend heard, the "junior administrator" was back doing data entry work