Wednesday, 22 October 2008

What do you do here?

There was a young database administrator that won a good job at a mid size shoe manufacturing company. On his first day, excited, the young tech sat at his desk and immediately began working. Towards the middle of the day, an older gentleman, the owner of the shoe manufacturing company, walked up the new database technician, introduced himself and asked the young man "What do you do here?" The young tech smiled and said "I am a database administrator" and then continued typing away. The owner asked again, this time with a little harshness in his voice, "What do you do here?" Puzzled, the young tech once again repeated "I am the database administrator. I build and maintain the company's database." The owner, now with a forceful, almost angered pitch asked "What do you do here?" The young tech, now flustered, answered, "I am a database administrator! I....I'm sorry....I don't know what you are looking for me to say!"

The owner curtly said "If you don't say you make shoes then the door is over there!"

What do you do here?

Perhaps we can meditate on this question for a bit.


  1. I have sympathy for what the tech guy said, but I say hurrah for the company owner. Still, the company owner missed the point; he has an obligation to see that the tech guy was by no means wrong with what he said. The tech guy answered in a relative sense, his role relative to what others at the jobsite were doing. The company owner was looking to the ultimate purpose of the work of his company: to create shoes.

    I think, always, we should search for the ultimate point/purpose of what we are doing -- in life or at a job.

    Something I am now keenly aware of is that there are many organizations that raise money by appealing to the sympathies people have for the poor or homeless. These organizations may then wholly focus on the wellbeing of the organization and its employees such that the organization's purported purpose receives faltering attention. [I would put Sacramento Loaves & Fishes in this category.]

    What is our life about -- in a relative sense or in an ultimate sense? Perhaps Buddha was clever in addressing both senses by saying the point was to alleviate misery. At first we might come to Buddhism to address our own personal problems in a private way, but ultimately we can come to see that by forgetting ourself we achieve much more than what we might ever have hoped for.

  2. Great post Kyle..
    I'm new to all this, but I think that despite our individual activities, it's the "whole" that we need to consider, at least occasionally, rather than one's own ego-centric contributions and how "I" fit into the equation. Take the self out, and one can get down to business.

  3. That boss sounds like David Brent from The Office (original UK version). If a boss was prepared to embarrass and intimidate me in order to make some half-witted point about his idea about how we should think I'd start thinking that I'd made a mistake. I've had a boss like that.

    Some great Brentisms:

    Remember that age and treachery will always triumph over youth and ability.

    Remember the 3 golden rules:
    1. It was like that when I got here.
    2. I didn't do it.
    3. (To your Boss) I like your style.

    Show me a good loser and I'll show you a LOSER!

    Statistics are like a lamp-post to a drunken man - more for leaning on than illumination.

    The office is like an army, and I'm the field general. You're my foot soldiers and customer quality is the WAR!!!

    There may be no 'I' in team, but there's a 'ME' if you look hard enough.

    There's no 'I' in 'team'. But then there's no 'I' in 'useless smug colleague', either. And there's four in 'platitude-quoting idiot'. Go figure.

    Those of you who think you know everything are annoying to those of us who do.

    A problem shared is a problem halved, so is your problem really yours or just half of someone else's?

    Avoid employing unlucky people - throw half of the pile of CVs in the bin without reading them.

    Eagles may soar high, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.

    If at first you don't succeed, remove all evidence you ever tried.

    If you can keep your head when all around you have lost theirs, then you probably haven't understood the seriousness of the situation.

    If you treat the people around you with love and respect, they will never guess that you're trying to get them sacked.

    If your boss is getting you down, look at him through the prongs of a fork and imagine him in jail.

  4. Jody and Tom, some great insights.

    I was also looking at not only the surface level message of relative vs ultimate truth, but maybe something a little harder to see. Let me put it this way, using the owners last statement as a metaphor.

    "If you don't say you make shoes then the door is over there!"

    Perhaps I don't really make shoes, or databases or anything else for that. That door, the owner points to, maybe thats a freedom of sorts. I think I'll go out the door and see for myself. Does that make sense?

    Thanks for the comments.


    Justin - I love The Office, both the Brit and US versions. Great show.

  5. If one knows who is asking the question,which the tech guy did,then the that question can be answered according to the context of that question. The tech guy answered the question as though another worker had asked him. The owner was thinking of the tech as more than just a tech guy and the tech didn't catch it.