Owning up to mistakes

Watching the Super Bowl this past weekend was an emotional roller coaster leading up to one of the most emotional ending for any fan. A high if you are a Patriots fan or low if you’re not. I was in the not category, the reasoning behind that is another story all together.

For those of you that do not know what happened, the Seahawks were less then a few feet away from winning, instead of handing the ball to their running back to blast through the defense they decided to throw the ball with a lot of defensive players around. Unfortunately that pass got intercepted and the game was over. the announcers, twitter, facebook and all other social media went insane with the amount of traffic asking “what were you thinking?”.

Looking back on that it got me to thinking about  some of the missteps I did during my long career and how I handled them. Each one I owned up to, there was no real reason not to. Non of my missteps were illegal, some did cost time and money to fix but nothing that was an exorbitant amount. Probably the biggest issue I caused was deleting about 75% of clean test data in a database by accident. It was a department initiative to clean up the data and automated test scripts to improve execution efficiency. Myself and another QA analyst worked on the project for over six months. It was tedious and involved using a mainframe that was very particular on the instructions that would be coded in. During one of my data moves to the new “clean” database I did not notice that I accidentally hit the space bar at one point in keying my move instructions. Because of that the system moved all data from the “sandbox” data base that was used to sanitize the data before moving to the clean database. That move included all the garbage data and other non-functional data that need specific one off scripts to work.

Needless to say there was a very large knot in my stomach as I noticed the move was taking longer that it should and there was no way for me to stop it. Months of work looked to be thrown out the window and the project would be at square two, some of the stuff that was moved was clean in both databases. I didn’t try to hide it or fix it before anyone noticed. I went to my boss and broke the news. He was a little upset but was happy when I also told him about how I planned on fixing it. We were lucky to find out that the system did weekly back-ups, so we only lost about a weeks worth of work after it was restored.

There are plenty of stories out there where one small mistake can have huge consequences. Yesterday I heard about Toy Story 2 was accidentally deleted (http://thenextweb.com/media/2012/05/21/how-pixars-toy-story-2-was-deleted-twice-once-by-technology-and-again-for-its-own-good/). I am sure others have experienced something like that, especially in IT where a simple keystroke can do so much.

Out of all of this is I feel that owning up to the mistake and working with others on how to fix it shows a lot of leadership. Even if you may not want to lead a group or team, it shows that you are taking responsibility for your actions.  It is better to do that then let it fester, but that is another blog altogether.