The REAL Initech (Information Technology)

Paul M. Foster (11 January 2012 00:13:24 Revised )

I wanted to tell you about an experience a friend of my recently had, that you might find amusing, or maybe just stunning.

We'll call this friend of mine "Peter". Peter was an out-of-work computer programmer who got a contract job at a huge software company. Let's call that company "Initech".

Peter had never worked at a company this big before. The company had just downsized its space and so the office where his cubicle was located was the home for 20 or 30 other cubicles, all about three feet wide. Wait... Did I really mean to say three feet wide? Yeah, I did. And that wasn't all the programmers in the company. That was just some of them.

I won't bore you with the details of Peter's day-to-day routine. That's not really the point. But the lessons he learned from the experience bear repeating. I'll put them in list form, in no particular order, just the way they were relayed to me (although they were relayed to me with a lot more gesticulation and emotion than I'm going to express).

You may think Peter was exaggerating about this stuff. I assure you, he wasn't. Peter's not the kind of guy to embellish things. And Peter wasn't the only new programmer hired on at the time. There were others. And when he consulted them about all this (just to ensure he wasn't going insane or something) they reacted with the same level of incredulity he had to all this.

Now, if you've ever seen the movie Office Space, you immediately know why I'm calling my friend "Peter" and why I'm calling this company "Initech". But what's really funny is that, toward the end of the month Peter worked for this place, he decided to order the "Office Space" kit from ThinkGeek. It includes various items from the movie, including a coffee mug with the name "Initech" on it, and a genuine TPS Cover Sheet. His idea was to bring the mug in and drink his water from it throughout the day, and tack the TPS Cover Sheet up in his cubicle, just to see if anyone noticed and got the joke.

The kit came in the mail the day they laid him off, so he never got the chance to see if anyone would get the joke. Their explanation for the lay off was that he obviously had the programming skills for the job, but didn't fit in with the "corporate culture" at the company. Just as well, because he hated the job.

(Incidentally, neither ThinkGeek nor Office Space sponsored this post, nor have anything to do with it. Also, I'm not attempting to impugn the reputation of Datamation magazine. I haven't seen a copy in years. But years ago, it was the "go to" publication for people in the computer industry who wanted to think of themselves as well-educated. As for "academics", well, I don't think much of them.)