Celestial Weasel (celestialweasel) wrote,
Celestial Weasel


Many years ago I worked for a company called Istel. It was in many ways a seriously fucked up company. I can slag it off now because it is no more. It started off as the systems part of British Leyland (possibly the best argument against the American government bailing out the big 3 car companies), then it was floated off in a staff and management buy out - that is to say the group CEO got 3 million pounds when it was sold, I didn't. Then it was bought by AT&T, which by that time was in the post-deregulation pre-split into 3 bits stage. Istel therefore had the following cultures overlaid
i) crappy British state owned car company
ii) managers from the aforementioned crappy British state owned car company playing at businessmen, based on all they had learned from watching ludicrous BBC dramas about businesses such as The Brothers written by people who knew as much about business as they did
iii) cosy American private monopoly
iv) ex-cosy American private monopoly trying to reinvent itself as 21st century global telecoms / computing company
The results were not pretty. The fact that Scott Adams worked for a baby Bell says something I think, and I did have a boss who looked and acted remarkably like the Dilbert boss (a few years after I left he died of a brain tumour which was, of course, not something I would wish on anyone).

When I started there my job title was 'Senior Operational Research Analyst' or as my pay slips etc. proudly said 'SNR OR ANAL'.

The bit I worked for was marginally less fucked-up than the rest of it, and therefore was under assault by the corporate antibodies. We produced our software in C and FORTRAN for PCs and workstations, and someone was appointed to head development of our bit to try and force us to use a ludicrous in-house CASE tool (remember CASE boys and girls?) called IAA, the Istel Applications Architecture. One of my colleagues benchmarked a sample program and found it to be 300000 times slower than an equivalent C program. It had its own bizarre names for things, I think a subroutine was an EOG and a function an ET, or something like that. We managed to see this threat off, though when the next ludicrous idea came along I left.

By tradition, no-one from our bit ever went to the company Christmas party. There was a story which may or may not have been true that the police were called to it 3 years running.

This was in the West Midlands from which we fled, we are now back in the region of Oxford. It is hard to imagine such a thing happening at the OUP Christmas party.

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