Did I ever tell you about the time I was a software tester?
It’s kind of a funny story the way I tell it.
I was working for a corporate travel management company. I loved my job but didn’t love the company and was, of course, looking for a way to make more money. My friend and co-worker asked me if I was interested in becoming a software tester for Ceres, a software company across the hall. She had knowledge of the job opening because her friend was the receptionist.
The only problem was that the way she pronounced “Ceres” sounded more like “Sears.” So I applied fully thinking I was applying for a job with corporate Sears. It didn’t matter that the only Sears around was at the local mall. I thought maybe there was some room in the back that did corporate work.
Yeah. I was young and dumb.
This was during the dot com boom and most technology companies were hiring anyone with a brain and a pulse. Needless to say, I was hired and began a long and illustrious career in the high tech sector.
I had no experience, no knowledge, and certainly no training. I’m just lucky I had my brain to rely on. It was the kind of company that gave new meaning to the term “turnover.”
Because it was a software company with a lot of proprietary secrets, we had a code lock on the door. Anytime we went to the bathroom, we had to enter a 6 digit code to get back into the office. It wasn’t unusual to come back from lunch and find that your 6 digit code didn’t work. That usually mean that someone had been “released” from their responsibilities. And we usually breathed a big sigh of relief when it wasn’t us.
It was quite a while before I felt confident in the fact that I was around for the long haul. But it wasn’t without a big learning curve.
I’ll admit that my naivete only helped me in the job. I’d be curious about a part of the software application and set off to ask the developer. Other testers warned me. Don’t bother them! Developers need to be left alone!
Instead, I thought, if they want me to test their code, they need to help me understand what’s supposed to be going on.
So I walked into the offices and asked my questions. And I think I earned a little respect and started the beginning of a somewhat beautiful relationship.
Developers write code. Testers test it. I don’t write code. Never have, never really want to. But I had to understand the logic of developers to really understand what was going on.
Mike was one of my very favorite developers. My very favorite.
He was stereotypical of most software developers. Extremely bright and very quirky. But he broke the mold in that he appreciated testers. He appreciated people that could break his code. He appreciated having a conversation and debate about how something should or should not function. And what set him apart from other developers was that he respected what we did.
He was friendly, approachable, and very willing to teach and to learn.
I started working with Mike in 1999 when I started with the company. He was there in 2000 when we saw our little start-up company acquired by a large tech firm. Many people earned large paychecks as a result but he was a conservative spender. I paid off my credit card debt and bought a bicycle. He paid off his house.
He eventually traded in his 1980-something Mustang for a Nissan 380ZX. I eventually bought a house and some furniture but he was still Mike. Same old, same old.
A few years later our little ol’ company was turned upside down by the big corporate world. We were both still there in 2004 when most of our friends and colleagues were let go and te work was outsourced to India.
Mike stuck it out while I transferred to another department. I just couldn’t stomach it. And a year or so later, I left.
It’s 7 years later and to the best of my recollection, it’s been 7 years since I’ve seen Mike. I’ve changed careers and moved out of state and life moved on for both of us.
And then, I got an email completely out of the blue on Saturday. It was yet another former colleague that I hadn’t heard from in years telling me she had some news she’d like to share and asked me to call her. I couldn’t imagine what the news was but since it was 10 minutes until dinner time, I decided to wait to call. And in that time, my mind raced and created a million different stories.
I called after dinner and left a message and then she returned my call shortly thereafter. It was about Mike. It was about Mike and an unknown illness and hospice care. Without saying it, she told me that Mike was terminal. That his time was short and that treatment wasn’t an option.
And then I was left to process that information. I haven’t seen or worked with Mike in 7 years. I’ve since moved out of state. And yet, here I was with this news. Wondering what to do.
I asked for his email address and his physical mailing address. I told my husband (who also knew Mike) and my friend who was visiting. And when they asked me what I would do since our history was so distant, I couldn’t help but answer.
I’d like to think that I had a big enough impact on someone I worked with 7 years ago that they would want to send me a message of support and love, even after all this time.
And that’s exactly what I intend to do. I don’t know how to find the right words. Or even how to say them. But I clearly believe in the power of words and I only hope I can find the right ones.