"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars"
Friday, 24 July 2015
The case of the sleepy engineer
K was working as a customer service representative in a big multinational. He got his job like many others at the time: the company decided to open an operation in an Eastern European country and since English speaking candidates were not abundant, he decided to try his luck and was selected. Previously he had forged his CV as a ” certified native English teacher” and this allowed him to teach English for several years in Taiwan. In reality, he was a citizen from a former European communist country.
K didn’t do particularly well as a customer support agent. His productivity was low, he was not committed to the tasks and mistakes were recurrent. He saw his job has a gateway to other possibilities in the corporate ladder but he wasn’t willing to put the effort. Things would happen naturally. Outside of the office he would party relentlessly and this also played a big part on his lower levels of performance. Sometimes, he would be caught at his desk deeply asleep, with his mouth open, almost falling of the chair.
Then came a new boss (not a local) and K’s shortcomings became too obvious to be ignored. Suddenly, his short corporate career seemed to be close to an end, when his new manager decided to put him on a performance improvement program, usually the last stop before the exit door is shown. K reacted with the tranquility of those that know that fate is on their side: he decided to apply internally to another job: quality engineer. The fact that he was not an engineer seemed to be secondary and the detail that he knew very little (or nothing) about quality appeared to be irrelevant.
To everyone’s surprise, his application progressed. Interviews were made and he reached the final stage. At that point, the hiring manager contacted K’s new boss and asked for feedback. The manager provided an honest evaluation, mentioning all the shortcomings of his employee. To his bewilderment, the comments he heard dismissed completely any concerns about K’s ability to do the job: ” He is a local, so therefore, more reliable. He will also be much cheaper than the other candidate, so this is a big plus! “. Needless to say that K got the job.
A big multinational company had a new quality engineer. One that was foreign to quality and ignorant of engineering. He was cheap and a reliable local and that was all that mattered. In the end the repeated naps at work catched up with K and he was fired one year later. But that was an irrelevant detail in K’s big picture: he could now apply to other quality engineer jobs without even having to forge his CV. The future looked bright…