Bill Roper (billroper) wrote,
Bill Roper

Passing the Ethics Test

Sit back, folks, because Uncle Bill is going to tell you a story. I promise that it's true. I know that it is, because it happened to me.

I've been at my current job for 38 years now, working for three (or more, depending on exactly how you count it) different companies, ever since I got out of the Kellogg Graduate School of Management with my freshly minted M.M. (Master of Management, which is what the school called it instead of the more familiar M.B.A.) with a concentration in Finance. I was frantically slinging code back then, which makes it not so different from today, although the languages were different and the computers were a lot slower.

I was a Vice President, despite being a code slinger, because I was one of the early recruits to the business and because the company had Vice Presidents like some households have mice. There was not a lot of management involved, although there was a lot of code and a lot of finance.

One day, I got a call from a headhunter. This wasn't entirely uncommon, but I wasn't really looking to go anywhere. This was an unusual call though, because the headhunter wasn't looking for someone to sling code -- he was looking for a Chief Financial Officer for a tech startup somewhere in the Chicagoland area.

This was intriguing, because it clearly wouldn't be a lateral move. And I'm bright enough that I could probably have managed to handle the job, but I was also green enough at the time to realize exactly how much of a cram course that I'd be embarking on.

So I was listening to the headhunter and then he got to the part where he explained how the company was looking at some aggressive interpretations of various accounting rules, so a candidate would have to be prepared for that.

Uh huh. So they were looking for someone that they could hire to sign off on their "aggressive" approach. Right. The correct title for this job wasn't C.F.O. The correct title was "Fall Guy".

I made my two saving throws -- the first against unethical behavior, the second against greed and stupidity -- and suggested to the headhunter that (given the nature of the position) he should really look for someone with more experience in the area and that I wouldn't be interested in interviewing for the position.

No one has since come looking for me to fill a C.F.O. position, which is fine by me.

There is a moral to this story. It is even a moral that remains applicable in the year 2020.

I leave it to you to tease it out.
Tags: musings, stories, work

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