Friday, June 15, 2007

She lost her job because she used openoffice

One of my friends (let's call her Alice) got her first computer recently. She had just joined a interior design company, and wanted to make her life easy by learning "office software". I asked her to be specific. She said she wants to learn "Microsoft".

"She wants to learn Microsoft"?

I made some alphabetical calculations in my mind and came up with "Do you mean Microsoft Office? Like Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc?". She promptly nodded in affirmative.

I asked her budget, and quickly came the answer "Can I get it for free?"

Being an open source enthusiast, I said "Well, if you don't mind using office software by another company, you can get it for free".

I wanted to tell her what open source is, and how can she benefit from it. But it appeared that she was just itching to get the download link. I downloaded, and burned a CD for her.

She went back and installed her brand new "office software", and started learning on her own. Smart lady!

After about 10 days, she calls me, crying on the phone "You know what... (sob) these damned people (sob)... they took my job (sob)... I'm fired (sob)... because my presentation didn't open (sob)..."

It took me some time to calm her down, and soon figured out what happened:

She had to work on an important presentation due on Monday. So she thought she'd work on it during the weekend at home. She used openoffice to make the presentation, saved it with her name (alice.odp), and took it along on Monday. She arrives in the office at 9am and everyone is waiting for her to make the presentation. She plugs in her USB drive in the computer confidently, double clicks the file, and the computer says "Windows doesn't know how to open this file. Choose another program from the list".

She chose Microsoft PowerPoint from the list, but the presentation won't open. PowerPoint says it's not a presentation at all! Her technical superviser tried to help, but even he had no idea how to open .odp files. Smarty also tried changing the extension to .ppt but it didn't work.

Her boss was infuriated because it was a very very important business presentation, it wasn't working, and the client left. Alice was fired immediately.

Now I'll think not twice, but thrice before advocating open source software to noobs like Alice.

I still feel confused, shocked, and guilty.

Who is to blame for this?

Her boss?

I think all of the above.


Matt said...

Blame... well, if you want to blame the cause, then it is likely proprietary software such as MS office and the bone-head companies that force their use that are to blame.

Fault... Who's? Well this one is a bit touchier. Truthfully it is your friends fault... if it was THIS important than the price of the office software should have not been as big of an issue. Also, if it were THIS important she could have simply read the 'save formats' that she was presented with when saving the ppt... I know that is a hard thing to swallow, but just about anyone who has saved anything on a computer knows the term 'format' - she should have made sure she was saving it in the right format...

Who is not to blame? Open Office, you, and her company are not to blame. In the end, when you use any software, short of technical faults and errors, the responsibilities fall to the end user.

Anonymous said...

The boss is an a**. Firing someone for making an honest mistake is just plane stupid. He/she obviously rules by fear and the woman who got fired is far better off finding another job somewhere else. Who wants to work for such a boss anyway.
It's akin to fundamentalists wanting to lynch people for minor offenses.... "she had sex before marriage! with her head!" etc etc. ad nauseum.

Harsh Shah said...

Well, I had a similar experience once. My wife's computer was broken, and she made a presentation for her final class project on my computer, which had office 2007 installed. She couldn't open the presentation in the class and was in trouble. Fortunately, the professor allowed her to make the presentation next week. But the point is, be very careful when advising noobs. At least advise them to run it by you if it's a very important task like job or class presentations.