Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My father's "formation of proper habits" and the workplace

On this New Years Eve, as I “review my life” and walk back (like Benjamin Button) a few decades, I’m quite struck by how long it took me to learn the proper maturity for the IT workplace, especially as it was in the largely batch mainframe environment in the 70s and early 80s, continuing all the way to Y2K in the culture of elevations and nightly (and end-of-month and end-of-year) cycles.
   
Or, say it’s about “formation of proper habits” as my own father used to lecture.
  
Maturity in the workplace had a lot to do with understanding the damage you could do before it was discovered.  So the recent flap at Target (in my favored city Minneapolis) has plenty of precedence in the old mainframe world.
   
One habit had to do with being extremely careful with production files.  It wasn’t until the late 1980s when mainframe installations started implementing security software like “Top Secret” (or simply RACF) that limited ordinary programmer update access to production files.  Chilton (in Dallas) did this in 1987.  At NBC, from 1974-1977 on a Univac 1110 system, we had old TTY terminals at our desk.  You could keep paper trail of your work to prove you did not access production files.  It was important not to lose the paper rolls.
   
Likewise, production closings at end-of-month were critical.  You learned not to schedule vacation across them.

Another risk was loss of source-load module integrity.  It wasn’t until around 1990 that installations started using source management software like Panvalet, CA-librarian, Endeavor and ChangeMan rigorously.  These packages would require that a source element by locked or “processed” before it could be promoted.  Some companies had these packages for a while before they woke up to the fact that they needed to be used correctly for security.  It was important for employees or associates to pay attention to the capabilities of these packages and follow the rules even if they weren’t always enforced at first.  

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