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BOFH: The PFY wants a reference

Immediately my suspicions are aroused...

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Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Episode 25

"So let's just get this straight," I say to the PFY as he hovers about my desk. "You want me to write a reference for you lauding you as a veritable workplace IT savant who can leap laser printers in a single bound, bend RFPs in his bare hands and generally manage an IT project with the ease of a veteran?"

"Yes."

"So you can get a job somewhere else and leave me with the task of moving all the IT infrastructure to a new site - at which time you'll no doubt reapply for your old position, and blame any integration issues on my workmanship?"

"No!" the PFY gasps. "I want to join a particular group of IT professionals and they won't accept nominations without the support of five people in the industry."

"Five? So who are you using? Me, right, but who else?"

"A couple of fellow bastards from the place down the street that frequent the pub, plus the Boss and the IT Director."

"Really - and you think that'll cut it?"

"I'm not sure they actually look at the references too carefully - and anyway I faked some reference templates and inserted them into the Boss and Director's Word hierarchy. If they deviate too far from the template they'll have to write the whole thing themselves and I think we both know they're about as creative as..."

"The team that nicked the Mac look and feel - yes. OK, well I suppose it can't hurt. It'll cost you a couple of beers though."

"No problems - when do you think you might have it?"

"It must be pretty bloody good if you're in that much of a rush."

"No, not really, but Richard Stallman is talking next week and I've been having some insomnia problems recently."

"Ah, OK, enough said, I'll get right onto it.”

Half an hour later I'm looking at a masterpiece of fabrication. Not only have I alluded to the fact that in his preschool years the PFY singlehandedly made a Babbage engine out of Meccano, I've also suggested that he was in fact the original developer of Windows but lost all his designs when he accidentally left his school bag on the tube while Bill Gates was in town on holiday. Able to to perform long division in hexadecimal in his head while writing Lisp code to parse foreign languages, the PFY also has a hidden side to his personality that many people don't know of, where he donates old computers to schools and helps senior citizens master the basics of computing.

So he should be sleeping soundly by the end of next week.

And so it was that the next afternoon my web-based study into the hobbies of supermodels is interrupted by the incessant ringing of the PFY's phone. He's still not back from lunch and he left at nine!

Realising that I won't be able to concentrate on the selection process a supermodel goes through to choose a volleyball outfit with the phone ringing, I pick up the PFY's extension.

"Hello I'm looking for Simon Tr..."

"That's me," I say.

"Oh good. I'm just doing a referee check for an Operations Management position and one of the candidates has produced a reference from you and I'd just like to validate the content - purely a formality, but something we have to do."

THE LYING BASTARD!

"Fair enough," I say, suppressing the urge to slam the phone down.

"So I'll just read the reference out to you and then ask you to confirm its content," she says, before reading my words back to me. "Is that the reference you supplied?"

"Not exactly," I say. "But it's pretty much there."

"Are there some alterations you'd like to make?" she asks.

"Oh no, no - the gist of it is there. The illegal dumping of computers, his time helping out the older lags in prison..."

"Prison?"

"Oh don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds. It was only remand and in the end the whole case was dismissed because the goat lived and the prosecutions vet just... disappeared."

"I..."

"But what I said about his technical ability is spot on. He can honestly look at the hexadecimal numbers in an image file and tell you how many women are in it and what clothes they're wearing - if any! Honestly it's uncanny and I wouldn't believe it myself if I hadn't had the misfortune to see him do it."

"You say he started in computing at a very young age with Meccano?"

"Oh yes, I've seen the family photos. It's such a pity that the police returned the set to his neighbours' place - but luckily being only four they didn't press any charges for burglary. That time."

"I..."

"I know what you're thinking - he must be a handful to manage with all that... enthusiasm, but I just try and stick to the basics of computing and rein him in. You know, keep customer-focused and supply a reliable and robust infrastructure for the best money possible."

"Really," she asks. "You're not looking for a change in career are you?"

"You know," I say. "I was just thinking that the other day..."

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