When you are in the resistance stage of stress!

The resistance stage of stress is the second stage of stress, where your body develops an increased capacity to counter the stress. It is OK for a short period. But it leads to body exhaustion if one remains in this stage for a longer time.

I once reached this stage for a week last year while executing one “point of sale” order. Fortunately, everything went well after a week, and I needed one whole week of rest to recuperate.

And the story goes like this…

We own the brand KISS POS point of sale system, and we have hundreds of installations in Wellington and other parts of New Zealand. I came across this “Four Square” owner who wanted to break away from the Four Square franchise and run an independent store (Those readers who are not from New Zealand, Four Square is a chain of grocery stores in New Zealand).

The owner asked me to help him achieve this transfer as seamlessly as possible. I checked the database of his present system. It was not too difficult to import the database to my database. But knowing these people, I explained to him that every software has its good and weak points. You have been using this software for the last 10-15 years, and you are too used to it. Although basic functionalities in all POS software are pretty similar, still you will have to become used to the new software. He agreed.

Then came the real problem. The customer’s software had bi-directional communication between the EFTPOS machine and the POS system, whereas ours has unidirectional communication. What it means is KISS POS will send the “dollar amount” information to the EFTPOS machine, but you will need to check on the EFTPOS machine display whether the transaction is denied or accepted. And he wanted that feature.

and asked our prospective customer if he was ready to use my KISS POS without this feature for three months; we will develop and provide him with this additional feature after three months. He agreed.
And that was the beginning of my reaching the resistance stage of stress.
I met Verifone’s technical guys and understood the process. I designed my road map for this integration. Posted job on Victoria university’s “Student job search website”, giving the details of what we required to do. I interviewed ten students. Finally, a girl asked me whether she could get more time to estimate the number of hours needed to complete the job as it is her first part-time contract. She comes back after two days with one-third of the software module already done. I was surprised. I said you have not yet got this job. She said she wanted to know the number of hours required perfectly well, so she decided to complete a part of it. I checked the work, and it was well done.

I started wondering whether she was simply naive or super bright at this stage. If she is inexperienced, I liked her ethics. If she was too smart, she outsmarted me in my own game. Either way, it was a win-win situation for both parties. Anyway, I gave her the job contract. She completed the job in time.
It was time to take the software to Verifone and Paymark for certification. We went to their office very confidently, assuming everything was in place, and there was no reason the software would not pass the test. I showed all the functionalities to the engineer in charge by physically interfacing the KISS POS machine with Verifone’s EFTPOS machine. I thought he would be impressed with our achievement in such a short time.

but let us make an actual transaction. He made a dummy sale on KISS POS, data reached the EFTPOS machine, and suddenly he pulled the power chord of the KISS POS machine. I restarted the machine (At that moment, I realized what he wanted to show, and I knew the software had failed the test). What an oversight on my part. Anyway, we started the machine, and as I expected, this guy said the transaction had gone through, but the customer insisted on receipt. Where is the receipt? When we switched off the machine, KISS POS sent the data to the EFTPOS machine without retaining the data in the database. Under normal circumstances, it retains the data after receiving an acknowledgement from the EFTPOS machine.
I accepted that we needed to sort it out, and we fixed the problem literally on the same day. The next day, we got certification from Verifone and Paymark both.

Now, my friends, the story doesn’t end here. Worse was yet to come and the real drama was about to begin.

But I saw a wicked kind of smile on his face. He said everything looked okay. We did the final testing of the software one last time in my office. Then I phoned the client that we were ready to install the new software. We reached the site early when a few customers were in the shop. Installed the software and gave training to the customer, and he understood it fast. We left the premises at 10 AM.

And we started the celebration a bit too early because…

We started celebrating our success when I got a call from the site that the software had crashed and was not responding. Oh, I thought, one of those things and asked him to restart the machine. It started working. My project engineer gets another call at 12:30 that it has crashed again. We decided to visit the site. I found that software crashed after every 10-15 transactions when EFTPOS was used. I checked the memory usage and found that the software used a certain amount of memory for every transaction. Still, instead of releasing the memory after the process is completed, it holds the memory. After 10-15 transactions, it held enough data to crash the machine. It is solvable, I thought. It may be an oversight by the developer.

I called her and asked her to sort it out. To my shock, she started googling the problem. I was utterly taken aback. Then I realized although she was a good student, she has never worked in a professional environment where software goes live in actual working form. She tried for a night but failed.

I had two problems seeking my urgent attention.
1) Damage control at the site where the software has already gone live.
2) I had to find an immediate solution to the software problem. I didn’t want to lose this customer.
Ooff!! That was the time my head went spinning. Everything was possible, but I didn’t have time.
I sat with a cup of long black, thinking about what should be my next move. I made a plan.
It was time to call the developer to tell her that I give full credit to you for the work that you have done, but I can’t afford to take a risk with you anymore. So I am sharing this portion of the job with somebody more professional and experienced. She accepted it gracefully.
I downloaded “Teamviewer” on my phone and then called the client. He picked up the phone; I took a long breath and explained to him the whole story. I asked him to continue using it and call me whenever it crashed. Every time it crashed, he would call me; I would open up my team viewer, send “Alt-Ctrl-Del”, end the process and rerun the software.
In the meantime, I called a company in Australia, explained my emergency and described the problem. I didn’t even bother to negotiate. They came out to be great people. I uploaded the source code in their dropbox, and they started working on it. In the meantime, I kept using my phone to use team viewer and kept killing the process, causing the crash.

I felt so relieved when it struck 10 PM because that is when the shop closes. In the morning, I had a solution from the Aussies.
I will never forget that one week that I passed. Now I feel good that I was able to overcome that stressful situation.
I have come across many such situations where I have reached this resistance stage of stress. One before this was when we had launched KISS POS for the first time in the market. But I will keep that story for my next post.

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