Donald Kenney (
Last Update: Sun Feb 12 20:12:46 2017


To: G. Pyrrus
Vice President
Superdigitronics Corp.
From: A. Mariner
Program Manager
Subject: Manpower requisitions

As you made clear in your comments at our Program Status review of Tuesday last, I have been somewhat remiss in staffing ALBATROSS. I'd like to apologize for my somewhat incoherent response. I hadn't anticipated that particular question. I'd been up most of the night working on the briefing, and I've been under some strain, besides which, sometimes I do things that just aren't too cool. Anyway, I'm sorry.

I'd like to explain, hopefully with greater lucidity, exactly why I've been late with the manpower reqs. I gathered from your remarks at the PSR that you don't feel an explanation is important, and that all you want is the reqs on your desk by 8:00 this morning. That's fine, and they'll be there, but I think you're going to want an explanation of some of the more, let us say, exotic, aspects of the requisitions.

The principle problem I have encountered in formulating staffing requirements has been that it has taken me six weeks to figure out exactly what the ALBATROSS proposal actually proposed. As you may, or may not, be aware, that proposal is written into our statement of work. One Lt. Col R. G. (Bulldog) Gunshy has been assigned as our contract monitor. Gunshy has a masters in math and a Phd in Computer Science. He has just finished a two year assignment working with Senator Proxmire on improved contract monitoring procedures. He's sharp as a tack, and is convinced that we're out to rob the government somehow. (who, us?) We're not likely to get much past him.

Anyway, I think I'm beginning to get a picture of what we promised. There's certainly a lot, and, as a taxpayer, I can't help but be impressed with the bargain the people of this country have gotten. Suffice it to say that anything we neglected to promise was probably due to lack of imagination rather than reticence or forbearance on our part.

After carefully assessing the magnitude of the task facing us and our meager resources, I have concluded that, given superb management, very good technical people, lots of enthusiasm, and some moderate amount of good luck, we might be able to deliver about 16 weeks late if we can staff up immediately to 20 people and hold that level for 18 months. Of course, if any of our key technical people quit (and, on this one, they're all going to be key technical people) it might take us a little longer.

As you are no doubt aware, our proposal team estimated the task at 13 people for 16 months. During proposal review, Marketing got it cut back to what their intelligence told them the customer could afford -- 9 people for 14 months.

To round out the picture, I must mention the point which you emphasized at the PSR. This is a fixed price contract and there's no follow-on. We can't afford to overrun it. In view of all these factors, I think you'll agree that a somewhat unusual approach to staffing is appropriate to this project.

My reqs are attached.


A Mariner


Must be capable of designing, coding, documenting and checking out the entire ALBATROSS system in 14 months while the other 8 of us cover for him. Don't care if he can get along with people -- he won't have to. I would expect him to be fairly junior in that I doubt that anybody with any substantial amount of experience would be foolish enough to take this job on.


Should be a senior type with lots of experience with Mil Spec documentation. Should be expert in writing incomprehensible gibberish subject to a wide variety of interpretations. Should also be adept at interpreting said gibberish. An aggressive briefing style and the ability to completely dominate a meeting are highly desirable. Ideally, everybody will come away from his writing or presentation with no clear idea what was said, but convinced that he was probably right. He doesn't have to be incidentally -- we aren't going to use his design.

CODERS -- 3 each

Programmers -- any background will do. At least one should be well-kempt and well spoken in case we need to dredge up a programmer to show off to the customer. Should be somewhat restrained in using computer time for own purposes as our budget for that isn't any too generous either. Doesn't matter if they really can program and might be preferable that they can't. I don't expect these slots (except maybe the well-kempt part) to be difficult to fill.


Our customer has a whole covey of configuration managers who are apparently supposed to keep us controlled and visible. We need someone to interface with them and make sure that doesn't happen. Whoever fills this slot is going to have to be able to operate without direction because I don't know word one about managing configures. Allowing for the fact that "without direction" has several meaning ("lost" is one) I have never met a CM type who wouldn't fit these requirements.

TEST TYPE -- one each

A mediocre programmer with precognition might actually help us, but I doubt anyone who could foretell the future would get mixed up with this project. barring that, any cocky, self-assured, ill-informed, thick-headed dunce will do just fine. Should be able to write large volumes of boring, confusing and essentially meaningless test specs and reports rapidly and efficiently. Our customer has a Capt. Dreadnought who is a whiz at statistics and could be dangerous. If would be nice if our test type was either so good or bad at statistics that he tangled Dreadnought up in knots.

SECRETARY -- one each

I would prefer that whoever fills this slot is either pretty or can secretary. I can only tell about one of those during an interview and intend to hire accordingly. Lest anyone accuse me of male chauvinism, allow me to point out that I would be the first to defend the right of female supervisors to hire male secretaries on the same basis.

BOSS - one each

The position is currently filled, however, I'm going to go home and call my old fraternity brother Sam Marzipan out in Cleveland to see if that job he offered me at the last reunion really exists when he's not bombed, and if it's still open. If it does, and it is, I'd suggest that you start looking around for either a fallguy or a genius type for this slot. clearly, it's tailor-made for one or the other.


Copyright nineteen-sixty something by Datamation Magazine. (Note, I'm the author of the pieces, not the copyright holder. I don't think it's likely that whoever holds the copyright nowadays will want them taken down, but they have only to ask ...)

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