Canada, LOL, and Randie

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Canada, LOL, and Randie

A Zone Leader talks about some ineffective items he has encountered recently, confirming that roles as IT professionals are not as easy as they look.

· Agile Zone ·
Free Resource

Every so often, I enjoy taking things into a different perspective. In this article, I want to talk about some experiences which have caused me to think about how I am communicating with others — not only in IT, but in my daily life.

But...I Am Not IN Canada!

About every six weeks, I place an online order for a container of liquid iron for my toddler son to take on a daily basis. From my home in the Midwest portion of the United States, I open up a browser, navigate to the website, and start my shopping experience. Where things get a little off track is when I start looking at the pricing — especially during the check-out phase of my online order experience.

To illustrate what I normally see, I attached the following screenshot:

Pricing problem

Do you see where the issue is?

To someone outside the United States and Canada, it might be hard to see what the matter is with my order. I decided to circle my issue. Basically, the website believes I am placing the order from Canada. So the pricing for all of the products is in Canadian dollars, which are not the same as US dollars.

The first time this happened, I looked all over the website and could not locate where I could tell the e-commerce solution that I am shopping from the United States. Not even near the Canadian border...in fact, probably five solid hours of driving away from the closest border to our neighbor nation to the north.

Without any luck at changing my settings, I decided to give their online support a call. Within a few minutes, I was informed that the website determines the end user's country of origin via the IP address which has contacted the site. Having a cable provider based in the United States, I was even more confused.

The technical support person indicated that my IP address originated in Chicago. Again, Chicago is still in the United States.

I gave up on trying to convince the guy on the other end of the call that I was using the site in a different country than is being assumed. I was the customer here and nothing I could say would convince the gentleman that I wasn't in Canada.

Every six weeks now, the order becomes a bit of a game: try to figure out how much my bank account will be charged when the Canadian currency is converted into US dollars.

Not Knowing — And Using — Can Be a Bad Thing

I have been waiting to bring up this topic for a while now. It's all about misunderstandings.

In technology, we tend to have quite a few acronyms for things, too many if you ask me. In fact, one item on my backlog is to "take the no acronym challenge" where I will go for a prolonged period of time without using a single acronym. Stay tuned for that article in the next few months.

Those who are not aware of an acronym can quickly become frustrated, when they cannot figure out the context of the discussion. What is even worse is when someone assumes the acronym means something drastically different than the actual meaning.

Consider this text-based dialog:

Funny text message

Lots of Love?

Imagine sitting at your desk at school, when you hear your phone alert you of an incoming message. You read the first part of the message to alert you that a loved one has unexpectedly passed. Then, at this very sad moment, the LOL acronym is added.

While this dialog makes me laugh, it truly brings home the struggles that others feel when they are not completely in the loop on what a particular aspect of the technology is all about.

Randie's Grand Slam...To An Empty Stadium

Lastly, we have a guy on our team named Randie. Randie and I first worked together twenty years ago. In all of those years, I have concluded that he is a brilliant technologist, always eager to take on the most challenging tasks.

As such, he was assigned to a database migration project, which was going to normalize a data model and clean up years of bad design decisions. The result of his work produced an updated schema and a repository filled with entity changes and conversion scripts. Using a scaled-down version of the original database, he was able to validate every change and every line of code.

Sounds like a huge win, right?

Well, it turns out, the client Randie was working for never took the next step. As a result, none of the benefits could be realized. Now, several years later, the database has changed even more, so Randie's original work continues to lose value — since additional time and money would be required to make everything usable again.

While you might think that Randie would be extremely upset, the reality is that he was really calm and collected about the end result. After all, Randie realized that he was given something very challenging and was paid for his time and efforts to complete the project. What's more, the client paid our company, which really ended our obligation to the initiative.

Randie did an incredible thing...but no one at the client's company was able to experience the results.


The call with the technical support team trying to convince me that their website is correct was comical. I had to end the call, because the person would not believe that I was accessing the website from the middle of the United States. How many times have we taken the word of technology over the word of another human being? I must admit, it felt kind of violating knowing that the IT person believed the website more than me.

Having someone interpret the meaning of something incorrectly is certainly a learning point for everyone involved. In my years of being an IT professional, I realize everyone is on a different plane when it comes to knowledge. Just out of college, I realized that the mainframe programmers had years more experience than I did, but I had a great deal of knowledge about programming on microcomputers. After some period of time I began to realize the benefits experience has in contrast to knowledge of a given segment of technology. The lesson to learn here with the mom sending LOL incorrectly is to take a minute to level-set and make sure everyone has a solid base understanding.

Finally, I think we can all learn from Randie. We need to remember that we have opportunities as IT professionals to work through challenges in a manner that we truly enjoy. We also get paid for the effort — both monetarily and via the experienced gained from any difficult endeavor. While it is easy to get caught up on how the customer utilizes (or simply does not utilize) the solution — that really is not something we should ever worry about.

Have a really great day!

Further Reading

How to Work With Difficult People Without Losing Your Cool (or Your Job)

13 Different Ways to Successfully Set Your Professional Goals

acronyms ,agile ,agile adoption ,context ,dev life ,developer lessons ,team building ,technical support

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