Job titles

I couldn’t resist telling my own story, after I came across this blog entry in which Karen Vancampenhout describes a typo that was made in the abstract of her paper as it was entered into the ISI web of science.  Having the name of the tree you’ve studied changed from ”Pinus sylvestris” to “Anal sylvestris” does seem like a bad april fools day joke… but, it reminds me of one of my own adventures.

About a decade ago, while I was doing my undergrads, I worked as a programmer at an insurance company in Toronto.  In a moment of sheer generosity, the head of the department got every one of the IT people (including us lowly co-op students) a pass to spend an afternoon checking out one of the big computer shows that was visiting.  For a co-op student, that meant an afternoon of not working, a pile of potential conference swag and access to some fantastic new stuff tech demos.  Sheer win!

Obviously, all of us IT geeks were excited when the passes came – considering that this was 1997, they seemed pretty spiffy.  You would wear them on a lanyard so people could see your name and when you walked into a booth, you could swipe it to give the vendor your name, contact information and job title.  At some booths, it would even appear on a screen so that the sales people didn’t have to squint to read who you were from the name tag.  In BIG glowing letters.

And, alas, that’s where the problem began.  Whoever it was that filled in the card for me had put in my full job title of “Programmer/Analyst”.  Not a bad title for a biochemist doing a comp sci job – and I was pretty proud of it for the most part.  Unfortunately, the conference badge didn’t have enough room for the whole thing.  You can guess what it was shortened to.  Yes… “Programmer Anal”.

I had to walk around all day, showing this badge to everyone, swiping it at all the booths I visited.  Of course, there was no hiding the unfortunate job title “modification” from my colleagues.   (None of whom were unfortunate enough to have the same job title as me.)

Lets just say that I saw an awful lot of smirks from vendor sales people – and the people in line behind me.  For the record, I “lost” that badge pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the whole affair.  Having swiped my card at a lot of booths, there were a lot of companies who had it entered into their databases.  When I went back to the insurance company for another co-op rotation, I got a nice big stack of glossy vender magazines – all, naturally, addressed to me as Anthony Fejes, Programmer Anal.