Thursday, 1 June 2017

Y2K Bug

It was January 1999, had just received an Appraisal letter and my contribution was appreciated in recent Standard Chartered Bank’s project. I had acquired a reputation of daredevil for any Technical Escalation and was promoted as Team Lead - Escalation. It was all going very smooth and was on Cloud 9.
And it was time where email was a new toy and something grabbed my attention and it was Y2K Bug. It was an awareness article on Y2K and possible issues. Honestly had not thought that a new year could cause such be problem and then realized its not just one year transition but a transition from 20th Century to 21st Century. It was interesting. And I started reading articles related to the same. Had attended few lectures in Computer Society of India and similar institutions and got the bigger picture of that. And then came across one tool which I found very interesting. It was Y2K Compliance tool for desktops. Out of sheer curiosity I ran that tool on our shared PC but was totally disappointed as it showed our PC as “Compliant” and then felt bad as one opportunity to upgrade it was lost. Then did tried same on couple of other PC’s and got mixed results. I compiled a result and next day met our GM with the same. He asked me what exactly that tool was and how it was doing the test and how authentic the tool was and asked me to find is there any way to make “Non-Compliant” PC’s compliant ones. PC Magazine was one of favorite those days and got some clue. What we see in Dubai “Computer Street” in Mumbai we had Lamington Road, been to few known places to check that clue. It was a PCI card and after installing it into non-compliant systems they were becoming compliant. Our GM was very happy he smiled and said “Swapnil, you have no idea what a service offering you have just discovered”.

I was then made Program Manager for Y2K Compliance. And first project was done for one Co-Operative bank. Sales team was very happy with the result as they were trying to sell new PC’s there but were not successful and then this project helped them to get the breakthrough. I was MOST WANTED person in the organization, for better reasons 😊

As transition was nearing we started seeing competition in this service. And as usual it became a price game. Then had chance to attend one seminar by CDAC (those who don’t know CDAC, that’s the origin of computerization in India and they design Super Computers) had never seen such in depth analysis of subject and it was convincing that millennium transition would be smooth. However news (or shall we say rumors) were surfacing that Year digit will be rolled to 00 and not 20 which will have problems for bank accounts, flight timings & their path and what not. At HW level there was nothing much possible and wherever possible software people had corrected the errors. But yet people were not confident or were not believing their support teams. 

And then just a week before transition I was told that I should be in office on 31st night, why me ? that too on 31st night (I didn’t had ANY reason for not to be present during that time but I still tried to protest) and then I was told that “if any problem arises someone should be there”. I said you can page me or call on my residence number but I was told what if pagers won’t work or phone line collapsed. I understood there is no point in arguing as the person who was talking to me was from department where usually common sense is absent. If phone lines were collapsed how the customer was going to ring us, probably this was beyond thinking level of that department.

On 31st morning everyone was greeting each other and deliberately discussing their 31st celebrations plans in front of me. People were making fun of me. And then our GM Services called me and genuinely said “Swapnil I know nothing much we could do if any problem arises but still I want you to be there in office just to give confidence to our sales team that we support them.” I had a lot of respect for him, he had joined that organization 28 years back as Trainee Engineer and today was General Manager –Services, I was relaxed after that. We had a small party and people started leaving early around 4PM entire building was empty. I was in Tech Support room, and our help desk coordinators on their desk. Just 3 of us. Usually that’s the time where problems used to get reported for escalation and it was routine for me. But this day it seemed to be only three of us on this planet. Not a single customer had any problem (Non-Y2K related) there was no printer problem, no switching issue, no server problems, we wished what if everyday is like this. But then at 6PM we were eagerly waiting for problem to be reported. Till 10 nothing happened. 11 passed, 11:45 still nothing, we had bought a cake in advance and at sharp 0000Hrs we cut the cake and it seemed everything was normal. None of the sales team members bothered to check but our GM Services & VP Sales did called, my other team members greeted, even some customers called and greeted us. That was the beautiful feeling to receive a customer call at odd hours and yet customer is happy. 

Next day we called all customers for whom we had done Y2K Compliance tests, and almost 90% results were correct. There were couple of systems did had issues but they were desktops, all servers had rolled over. I happily left office on 1st morning around 10AM and then spend time with family. And around 1130 in night my phone ranged, it was John from my help desk team calmly saying “IDBI Backup failed will you be able to attend”


  1. Good one ! Program Manager - Y2K compliance, Swapnil Gupte. Handling issues from the forefront is a quality of a great leader, keep it up !

    1. Thanks for the appreciation Madhav Patil.