CDOT, the Colorado Department of Transportation, was the victim of a cyberattack that cost millions of dollars last year. They refused to pay the ransom requested, and instead had their technical people working “20 hour shifts” to try to dig them out of the mess, which apparently took about a month.
First off, anyone who’s managed knowledge workers knows working 20 hours straight is stupid. After somewhere between 8 and 15 hours, computer programmers start to make enough mistakes that it takes more time to fix those mistakes than is gained by working extra hours. Like the Pony Express knew, you gotta rest your programmers to keep your overall speed up.
Second, Kevin Klein, Colorado’s director of homeland security and emergency management, said at a recent conference, “We switched from Doritos and Mountain Dew to actual food.” As far as I can tell, he’s serious that the CDOT employees who were working 20 hour days, were living on junk food. That’s another management mistake that shows why I’d never work for the government. The Pony Express also knew that you’ve gotta keep your ponies nourished. Software engineers are the same way. Yeah, you can live for a few days on junk food. But if you know you need lots of work from your employees over the long haul, feed them well. The best software managers I’ve worked for know this and have been quick to bring in food when the team’s in “crunch mode”.
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Note that Governor Hickenlooper eventually declared a state of emergency due to this cyberattack, which enabled them to get help from other government agencies. That allowed the CDOT engineers to stop working 20 hour days and start eating real food again.