The contract was agreed last week. I get an email from the client giving me my system login details. I am surprised they can get their support people working on a weekend, whilst in lockdown. Perhaps it is me who is mad, looking at my emails on a Sunday? However, I file the information away and shut the door of my home office.
The client’s laptop turns up by courier, with a sheet of instructions. It boots up and I spend a couple of hours working through the various registrations and security checks. The login details do not work, so I phone the assistance number given in the instructions. I get through to someone but we struggle to understand each other. Eventually, he links in remotely to my laptop and fixes the problems. I find the information my sponsor wants me to read and spend a few hours going through it. By the time I have read it all, my dinner has gone cold.
We have an early morning team call to get started. It is held by videoconference and it feels a bit odd. It had to be early because my client has back-to-back video calls for the rest of the day. I am the only one with video on. I find out later that I was the only one on the call not in my pyjamas.
I start work and try to use the client’s laptop with its 13” screen and tiny keyboard. I find a pair of magnifying spectacles and try again. After a while of poking various buttons, a message comes up and tells me that I will be locked out if I don’t do a mandatory online security course for contractors. This requires a new program to be installed. I download the program. I cannot install it because the security system on the laptop stops me installing anything.
I call the assistance number and get through to the same person again. We still cannot understand each other. Eventually, he dials in to the laptop again and installs the software for me.
The dog is sick on the carpet. I discover from my wife that this is a “major life crisis”. I am told, clearly, it is my dog (not ours) and the carpet will be ruined forever. Moreover, it is patently clear that I have let the dog eat things – again. I learn that letting the dog eat things is a heinous crime.
One washed and dried carpet later, I am back to the laptop. I normally work with an arrangement of four screens with a 30” screen in the middle. I find this is the best way to work on several complex documents at the same time. So, I decide to connect my 30” screen to the laptop. It is a simple HDMI plug.
An hour later I call my assistance number and the person connects to the laptop and gets it working again (with my big screen attached).
I start the security course and find it is 17 modules, each of which lasts six to nine minutes. Then there is a test at the end. If you don’t pass the test, the system will not let you in.
The security course does not recognise my login, so I start the “Forgotten Password” routine. An hour later I am locked out of everything. My assistance man dials in to my laptop and unlocks it. It is after 18:00 so I finish for the day.
I start the security course. All is going well and I now know some more about IT security. Then my phone rings. I miss part of a module. When I have finished on the phone I have been logged out. I start the course again.
The dog is sick in the kitchen. I clean up. I start the course again.
The client rings to say that the presentation that I am due to give this afternoon has attracted a lot of interest. It now needs to start at 17:00. This is so his boss can dial in from overseas. I say OK and go back to the security course. I have been logged out. I start the course again.
At 16:30 I do some final tweaks on my presentation and join the call at 17:00. Several important attendees have not yet dialled in, so we wait. After 30 minutes, once the client’s boss has arrived, I start and have the weird situation of presenting to a camera and getting virtually no feedback. I miss the eye contact with my audience, but I soldier on.
After about 45 minutes I stop. I invite discussion and questions. To my surprise, they have been listening. The questions go on and only run out at about 19:45. I am pleased that the client seems to be happy with what I have said to the team. However, the dog has the ‘hump’ as he has not had his walk, my wife is not talking to me and my (dried up) dinner is in the microwave.
I start the security course again. I take the test at the end of the modules and fail. Most of the questions seem to be about software development. I don’t do software development. I take the test again and scrape a pass. My laptop is now prevented from getting locked. Whoopee!
We start with a call at 09:00 and then go into a series of virtual meetings. We make good progress and I am feeling chipper about how things will go from now on.
I go for lunch. I return and try to log in to my computer. A message comes up: “Your password is out of date. Please follow the change password procedure.” I do this. An hour and a half later (including a call to the assistance number and the technician connecting to the laptop) I am operational again. During this time, I have joined two calls by phone. However, most of the conversation was about documents shared on the screen, so I could not contribute very much. When I finally join on the laptop, everyone is slowing down for the weekend. Ah well…
So ends my week. I have delivered about 10 hours of useful work and spent 53 hours working. I have battled the laptop and won (at least for the time being). I am now a proven expert on software development security processes. I have a weekend to repair damaged marital relationships and walk the dog without letting him eat anything. Perhaps this is how to overcome adversity, just keep going, deal with problems as they occur and try to keep each crisis in proportion?
This article was written by Andy Haigh.
Andy is an expert in bidding and tendering, specialising in competitive formal bids into EU Public Sector organisations. He is an authority on EU procurement legislation and can bring all these capabilities together to initiate and drive major complex bids through to a successful completion.