‘A flock of corporate seagulls arriving from abroad’…

Periodically the Badger catches up with the BOFH column in The Register. It’s a longstanding, insightful and amusing column, and if you’ve worked in IT you’ll relate to the content no matter what your role. A piece from a year ago relating to the arrival and manipulation of auditors has triggered the Badger to start thinking about his own audit and review experiences. That thinking, however, as been interrupted by a call from an ex-colleague in a tizz because their project was to be reviewed by a ‘flock of corporate seagulls arriving from abroad’. The Badger simply recounted the following to establish some calm.

Many years ago, the Badger’s employer was a subcontractor to a US IT prime contractor running a £500m UK IT programme. Prime and subcontractor teams were largely co-located, but relationship, commercial and cultural tensions meant things were difficult. One day the prime’s Programme Director announced that three ‘experts’ from his US head office were flying in to conduct an ‘audit’ to help improve matters. The Badger was to be interviewed during the audit.

The one-hour interview happened 48 hours later. The visitor spent 20 minutes emphasising his seniority, experience, and that he had a direct line to the US CEO, the next 35 minutes asking questions from a standard checklist, and the last 5 minutes double checking he hadn’t missed any. The Badger was unimpressed, but pleased. Why? Because the auditor did 75% of the talking!

Three days later the audit team fed back to the prime’s Programme Director and subcontractor leads in a sparky meeting. Their message? Fix non-compliances with company policies and processes and all would be resolved. No one believed it! The Programme Director openly called them ‘valueless seagulls flying in to get the airmiles and to crap on my team’. The Badger might have been a smidgen more diplomatic, but not much. The auditors said they’d report him to the US CEO! They did. Nothing happened. Their final report was shelved.

The Badger took this from the experience. If you’re interviewed by a ‘corporate seagull’ you’ve never met, then assess if they’re any good in real-time during the interview itself. It’s easy to do. Don’t be in awe. Watch for an ego, the priority given to structure and process, listen closely, and stay silent as much as possible. Only answer the questions you’re asked – don’t embellish, elaborate or offer opinion. You’ll quickly see that a poor seagull will focus on the interview process or themselves and not you or your tactics. A good seagull, however, will quickly see you as a challenge, dynamically adjust their approach, and try to run off with your chips! Stay steadfast to your tactics in both cases.

The Badger’s ex-colleague called back this morning. They were disappointed. Why? They were expecting seagulls but what arrived were sparrows. Where’s the fun and value in that, they asked…

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