Life lessons: what not to do when deleting a database
In college I had the best job ever. I did data entry and database backups for a medium-sized medical group. I would come to work each day at 5:45 a.m., perform the system backup, make sure everything was up and running, and then do some data entry before heading to my college classes.
As horrible as this sounds as a college student, it was perfect for me. I could still go to classes, hold down a job, and have my afternoons free. I even discovered that I liked the serenity of eating toaster pancakes (yes, those exist) in an empty office building each morning.
After several years I’d worked my way up to doing basic hardware installs, resolving printer issues, error reporting, and overall IT troubleshooting.
As a college student on the five-year self-pay plan, I picked up as many hours as I could; and when presented with the opportunity to do a very important system restore, I jumped at the chance. Due to some unrecoverable error, I needed to restore to a backup from five days earlier, which meant re-entry of all of the data.
“No problem,” I thought.
After classes on a Wednesday I drove 50 miles in rush-hour traffic (about 2 hours) to retrieve the backup tapes from the vendor who had done a repair, then back to the office and do the restore. I was nervous but excited.
But I was tired.
I’d arrived at work at 5:45 a.m., gone to classes, then come back to the office after the drive to Los Angeles. By this time, it was around 9 p.m. I was nervous. I was hungry. I ordered pizza.
Deleting the database
I had a final conversation with my boss about exactly the steps to delete the database. My pizza was getting cold. I was stalling because the thought of deleting the entire database was overwhelming and daunting.
I talked myself out of my fear: “It’s just a billing system; there’s not even any medical information you’re deleting,” and “You could re-enter TEN DAYS of data in a pinch and it wouldn’t be that difficult.”
I mustered every ounce of courage and performed the delete.
And within a millisecond of hitting the enter key I realized my mistake. While I was busy inflating my own ego to bolster the nerve to delete the data, I forgot to perform the very last thing my boss told me: “PRINT THE APPOINTMENT SCHEDULES.”
I had somehow blanked out the fact that my office wasn’t the only data entry point. The appointment schedulers at three different physical locations had been making appointments for the last five days and I had just deleted all of those appointments without printing paper backups – about 300 appointments.
I knew that in the morning I’d receive the wrath of eleven physicians, three office managers, one IT manager, and hundreds of future patients who’d be waiting 2+ hours for their appointment because there was no record of their appointment.
I knew I would be fired. I immediately called the IT manager at 10 p.m., “I forgot to print the schedules.” Dead silence. “You didn’t print ANY of them?” “No.” The answer was “No. I didn’t print any of them.” The pizza went uneaten.
What to do?
I had to come up with a solution. I knew the most negatively-affected group would be the physicians and the front office staff. So the next morning I offered up my head on a silver platter to hopefully save my job.
I offered to physically drive to the largest clinic and assist at the front desk. You have an angry patient who’s had to wait 2 hours? Lesly will go talk to her in the waiting room. Furious physician with a schedule that’s triple-booked? Send him to Lesly. Office manager trying to re-route patients to other offices or appointment times? Let Lesly do that for you.
I wasn’t fired. My life was miserable for several weeks but I kept my job.
What’s the moral to this story? I didn’t institute the intelligent solution to dealing with data. At that time, the solution was paper. And while I was busy inflating my ego, I’d neglected to remember that important solution.
And as you go forward with your job in tech, consider intelligent solutions from Crayon. But most of all, don’t let your ego get the best of you. Don’t be like Lesly, and don’t be like Jim because Jim wasn’t so fortunate.