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Access To Disparity


Anybody who’s bothered to know a little something about me knows that I love to develop and maintain Microsoft Access database applications.  I live for that stuff.  I started working with Access way back in 1992 and have not looked back.  I love working in Visual Basic and its close cousin VBA.  I spend a lot of time trying to make my applications as intuitive as possible for my users to use and I spend a lot of time making damn sure that their needs are met to their utmost satisfaction.  That means I sometimes go beyond the scope of a project to incorporate a suggestion that wasn’t considered in the early stages.  But instead of seeing this as a chore I welcome the challenge of making a database design flexible enough to take that type of hit.  I must say that the vast majority of my users are happy with my work.

I got my current job because of my heavy Access skills.  The company had a department that was looking for someone who could do Access and do it quickly.  Their previous Access developer had just given notice and they were scrambling to find a replacement.  I was unemployed at the time so I could start the very next day if necessary.  I’ve started other jobs under similar circumstances.

My interview happened the day before the Wednesday just before Thanksgiving, just before lunch.  The office was pretty hectic with people trying to wrap up their work before taking the long weekend off.  They guy that was interviewing me had two pagers and a cell phone on his belt.  We were interrupted with beeps for his attention about every five minutes.  I could see he was getting frustrated.  I did my best to remain as oblivious and as patient as humanly possible.  Although they were looking for Access specifically, they were also looking for someone who could do SQL and Crystal Reports development as well.  I admitted that I could do the job, but my favorite by far was Access.

My interviewer said I sounded ideal but I had to take a test to prove I had what it took.  I took a written test with questions regarding memory storage sizes, dataflow diagrams, coding results, and the like.  There were even a couple of essay type questions.  While I did pretty well on the quiz, I wasn’t perfect.  But the interviewer assured me that no one was perfect, but he was impressed with my answers.  I was hired to start not quite two weeks later.  Considering the company’s need for someone to start as soon as possible, that two weeks seemed like an eternity and I had assumed somebody else got the job.  It’s happened before.  So I was elated to get the news.  The economy was sucking pretty hard at the time.

Even after I started I was not out of the woods.  I was hired as a contractor with a thirty day probation.  After thirty days, if I do well, I would be given an eighteen month contract.  I got through the thirty days with flying colors.  And after just six months of working I was offered a permanent job.  I jumped at the chance.  And while my Access chores dwindled to virtually nothing, I was happy to have a job even if it meant doing SQL and Crystal Reports, which I loathe.

Elsewhere in the company another department needed some help with their Access development.  Their developer suddenly quit and they were left with their pants down around the ankles.  My supervisor asked if I was interested in helping and again I jumped at the chance.  I rarely pass over an opportunity to do Access work.  In a week’s time I had learned their systems and was producing results.  Somebody mentioned that I should put in for a transfer.  But the company policy was that you had to put in a year at your current assignment before applying for other jobs.  I was only six months into my position.  I was told that as long as everyone agreed and that there were no objections the policy could be broken.  I talked with the head of the other department, but it was too late.  The department managers had hired someone off the street just the day after I started working for them.  The guy was going to start in another week or so.  I continued to work for them until he started.

The guy came in smoking!  He had credentials.  He had references.  He had a little project leadership experience.  He had everything the company could ever hope for, with the minor exception of zilch with Access.  I started transitioning the work to him.  But he was painfully slow with picking up the basics.  The guy couldn’t even spell VBA if a gun was held to his head.  How the hell did this guy get through the Access test?  But it was a different department with a different hiring procedure.  The people who hired him were management and they had no Access experience.  As far as they were concerned, one Access developer is as good as another.

My next thought was that this guy won’t be around for thirty days.  After people see how poorly he executes I’m sure to get another chance at the job.  But the guy didn’t get a thirty day trial period.  He didn’t get hired as a contractor.  This man went straight to company payroll.  I was flabbergasted.  The guy was given every benefit of a doubt on a fast track while I was trying to prove to everybody what I could do.  The people I used to work with on the various Access applications are trying to get me to work on their projects on the side.  As much as I would love to there just isn’t enough time to do what I need to do.

Now, we’re trying to work out another deal.  The department has an opening for another Access developer.  That’s a surprise.  They’re not going to get rid of their first developer.  They just want to supplement his work.  The problem is that my current team says they want me to stay and do the SQL and Crystal.  And while it’s nice knowing I have options, I doubt if I stay.  Making Microsoft Access development my top priority is a dream job.

But I have no doubt that my real job is to train the other guy.  Once he’s up to speed, I’m sure that my value to the department will evaporate.  He’s being given every opportunity to become a good fit for the company.  I’ll have to justify why I should be kept.  And if the department ever has to cut back I’ll be the one that will have to face the abyss of unemployment.  I can’t help but see the disparity between the two of us.  The good news is that he’s so awful that I shouldn’t have anything to fear.  Access for Dummies couldn’t help this guy out.  But then again, it will probably be my fault that I couldn’t make an Access developer out of him.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - Posted by | Life, Microsoft Access, Thoughts


  1. There is always something else going on in workplace politics, but making yourself useful and providing good customer service is probably as good a plan as any. I assume when you say the guy came in “smoking” that there was something impressive about him, and not that he was in violation of whatever clean-air act might be in place. Impressive tends to get hired. Though you’re no longer impressed (if you ever were) management has it’s own sometimes mysterious way of dealing with things, and they sometimes need a political player in the tech team. Well, let’s hope you can work out a good division of labor with this guy, and also that he never connects you to this blog.

    And: you’re absolutely right about Access versus Crystal Reports. I haven’t used Crystal in a while, but as I recall, Crystal was a bit “lighter” in terms of its demands on the system (and heavier in its demands on the designer).

    Comment by Bettina Hansel | Wednesday, October 7, 2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the feedback Bettina Hansel,

    When I said he was smoking that was what I was told. The people who hired him assured me that he would come into the company and hit the ground running. I didn’t actually meet him until a week later. I had emailed him a couple of times. But he was going through orientation and was meeting with the user community. Our first meeting was actually with a couple of users who I worked closely with. He let me lead the meeting and I was trying to let the users know that he was going to take over. He never met with them again.

    Crystal Reports is okay. My biggest problem with Crystal is that it does too much for the designer. And when it’s time to fine tune a design, it is a pain in the ass!


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Wednesday, October 7, 2009 | Reply

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