Tuesday, August 09, 2011

More AT&T War Stories: (10)

Here’s another AT&T story, more personal than the previous blog entry, and also driven by the attention that security guards pay to me.

My first consulting job at AT&T, in their tumultuous year of 1985, was in a group called the PIC, which quickly grew to unit of a hundred people, to enable AT&T to bid on complex government integrated computer contracts. On Day One, we were months behind schedule, and everyone worked frantically at everything.
I was managing a project, and I needed a specification that a manager in Chicago had just written. AT&T believed in Email, but hardly anyone used it, so I called the guy to see how fast I could get his document.

“I’ll be at a meeting in Jersey tomorrow,” he said. “Just join the meeting, and at the end we’ll find each other. I’ll give you a copy.”

He told me how to find the meeting. The building was familiar to me because many of my colleagues in the PIC ran frantic errands there to use its computers, which were better than we had at that time. So next morning, I went to, let’s call it, building Y.

Of course, the security guard did not let me in. He looked my badge over and told me that a PIC badge did not give access to Y. I insisted that it did, because many of my coworkers, wearing the same badges, had been working there. After a polite argument, he said, “I tell you what. I’ll take your badge and check it out. You go do what you came here to do. On your way out, stop here and I’ll give you your badge back." Consequently, I entered the building unbadged! I’m sure that every employee, consultant and visitor, except me, was badged.

The moment I entered the meeting, someone asked a question: “How much business are we doing in this suite of products? Are the numbers worth the effort we have to make in all these meetings?”

After a short silence, a senior manager replied. “That’s highly confidential information. Is everyone in this meeting cleared to hear it?”

The questioner assured us that everyone in the meeting was cleared to hear these sales figures. I was sure that this was not a good moment for me to object, so I listened, and I got an earful about a set of sick products.

After the meeting, I found my Chicago manager and got my document. Then I returned to the guard. He assured me that I was not allowed access to building Y, and in the future, he would be careful to keep all my coworkers out as well. My PIC friends all got upset with me!

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