They told me to leave and don’t come back.
Now, I’ve never been fired from a job, but this was the closest I’ve been to it.
Everyone makes mistakes. And some of us consider those mistakes to be failures. But that’s not necessarily true. Not all mistakes lead to failure.
So, about 20 years ago, I worked for a now-defunct technology company that provided outsourced IT services. One of our clients was this particular bank. As an outsourced “resource”, they had me working on the most mundane and boring activities.
Being young and curious, I started experimenting with a vulnerability testing application. I left it running one night to see what it did.
The next day I reported for duty to find the office bustling with activity. Everyone’s network logon accounts were locked out, and phones were ringing off the hooks by people trying to log in but were unsuccessful.
Everyone thought that the bank was hacked.
At first, it didn’t occur to me that I had caused this. I was even helping with the investigation to find the culprit. I eventually realised that I was that culprit.
You can imagine the fear and anxiety I felt as I struggled to figure out what I should do. I stayed the rest of the day, all the while sweating bullets.
When I returned to my IT outsourcing office at the end of the day, I told my manager everything.
She didn’t appear as upset as I was. “Engineers are curious,” she said with a shrug. She told me to come clean to my supervisor at the bank, and then we’ll take it from there.
In the morning, I told my supervisor everything. He thanked me and said, go back to my workstation. Thirty minutes later, he called me back into his office and said it was too risky for me to stay on. I need to leave, and I won’t be able to return.
I was still afraid for my real job at the IT outsourcing biz as this was an important customer. But miraculously, my manager was very understanding and said it was probably a good thing as she had better use for me anyway.
And she did have better use for me. And I did go on to do better things – there and at other places as well. My career didn’t suffer.
So, what did I learn?
For one, not all mistakes are death sentences, and you can usually recover from one.
And come clean when you make a mistake. There may be consequences, but it could be worse if you don’t step up, and you will be respected for taking responsibility.
And most of all, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, instead learn from them and do better next time.
As a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake, has never tried anything new.”
So go forth, try new stuff, make mistakes, learn from it, and do amazing things.