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Where Did the Database Go?

Where Did the Database Go?

Internships are by nature learning experiences, opportunities to become more familiar with a company, field, or industry.  If arranged correctly, they can mutually benefit both the employer and employee, with the former receiving eager, inquisitive workers and the latter gaining exposure to a possible career path as well as earning credibility when looking for future jobs.  Interns learn a lot about what to do on the job, from standard industry practices to more detailed company processes and procedures. 

 But perhaps more importantly, interns often learn about what not to do and how to respond maturely when mistakes are inevitably made.  Working with mentors and being given lower-risk assignments allows interns to really learn the ins and outs of a company by making non-catastrophic mistakes and thus gaining confidence while learning valuable lessons.

There are a wide range of mistakes that can be made in the business and insurance world, varying in severity and embarrassment.  The classic “reply all” email can cause either inconvenience, the revealing of a potentially personal message, or worst of all, release of confidential information to any number of unintentional recipients.*  Both interns at Kuzneski have encountered frightening situations during exploratory projects in our initial weeks at the company.  My well-meaning counterpart was tweaking some details on our website the one day when, much to her alarm, the entire site disappeared!  After some initial panic throughout the company, our web assistant was able to log in and quickly return the site to its normal state.

I had my scare this week when trying to organize our client database.  I had created a sample client and couldn’t figure out the exact significance of a particular field, so I changed its text from “Employer” to “What does this mean?”  Since it was only a sample account, I assumed this wouldn’t do anything in the system as a whole.  About 10 minutes later, I heard an agitated voice: “Where did all the policies go?  The whole system has disappeared!  Nothing is there!”  We all clicked around to check that it wasn’t a computer glitch, but nothing was showing up for anyone.  After more digging, the only thing anyone could say was, “Wait…what does this mean?”  Somehow that sounded familiar.  After a few seconds of terror, it set in that somehow I had changed a field that started a domino effect, scrambling the entire database.  Fortunately I was able to remember what I had changed and had everything restored to its original state by the time web support was able to return our call.  Nevertheless, the incident put quite a little scare into everyone, particularly me, because if I had somehow erased our whole database, that could have been pretty bad.

Fortunately, with so many things done online in the modern age, it is usually fairly simple to undo mistakes, restore previous versions, and quickly account for any accidents.  That being said, everything online is connected, so one accident can result in many unexpected repercussions.  With a bit of common sense and caution when navigating such things, though, nearly all catastrophes can be avoided.  The biggest thing to remember is that if an accident does occur, one must remain calm and level-headed.  Unless someone is working in the high-clearance inner core of a project or program, all mistakes are likely small and easily reversible.  As long as no one starts clicking wildly and changing a whole slew of things trying to locate the error, a simple, logical backtracking of steps will usually result in a quick resolution of the problem.

Just as important as fixing mistakes, though, is learning from them.  In my situation, I learned that the blue words change data for the whole system, even if you start in an isolated account.  The first time you make a mistake it is simply an innocent accident; if you continue to make the same error, it can fringe on becoming a significant problem and reflects poorly on you as a worker.  Using blunders and scares and learning experiences, however, demonstrates true concern and appropriate internalization of proper procedures.  As long as it resolves correctly so that everyone can engage in good-natured ribbing afterwards, mistakes simply become funny learning memories instead of being long-lasting blemishes.

*Note from Paul’s mentors: While we did tease Paul and his counterpart, neither truly had the clearance to crash or delete our data.  Also- the horror stories we shared with our interns about “reply all” and confidential data being shared accidentally did not happen here at KFG.  We used these stories and our experiences to show that mistakes happen; let’s learn from them so we don’t make them ourselves.

Paul Birch

Paul was a KIG intern during the summer of '16 where he earned himself the nickname "Pauly-B." In 2019, he graduated from Penn State University with a Bachelor's degree in Risk Management and Actuarial Science. He is now an actuarial analysis at Aetna, where they probably just call him "Paul."

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