The story of the guy who moved abroad without his mailbox

Early tribes left their caves without their wall paintings. Crusaders went off to search the holy grail and let their wifes buckled up in chastity belts. Today, expatriates leave one organization unit for another and leave their mailbox behind. A true story.

Saint Nicolas day 2006 will remain in the memories because a brave employee of a large corporation got his excess back to corporate eMail. He had lost his access for two years. Haw can this happen in information age, in the times of efficiency programs and new management models, that someone is cut off from the lifeline of modern communication? Well, it it might be the change from country F with the IT-landscape type "AG" and software provider "I" to country "S" with IT-landscape "Doo" and software provided by "MS" company. This case is not foreseen in large companies where all systems are welkom-ed. But somehow the CIO may have decided to standardize on one somewhat proprietary system without taking care that the technological infrastructure was not available in also the smallest and poorest countries of this large group or he had forgotten to provide the necessary budget for all his entities. Maybe also that this country had changed his frontiers and name so often that they just had forgotten about its existence. Or maybe they wanted till the political situation had become more clear in this region, which did not happen in the last 150 years. Or the word of the iron chancellor Bismarck was remembered who thought that the whole area was not worth the bones of one Prussian rifleman. And who knows the difference between Slovenia, Slovakia and Slavonia; between the Serbian republic and the Republic of Serbia, between Transnistria, Moldania and Moldavia anyway? As if Europe was not already very complicated.

Anyway, the systems were different, and the small country had a cheap industry standard system connected via Internet and a user friendly interface. Mails got in and out. The expat did not miss his old mailbox.

Only one thing he was concerned: How to get his new eMail adress in the minds and address books of his contacts? Sure, every new contact got it served with his business card, and most of his old contacts would not need it anymore. And the real friends knew about him and had a thought that a new position might have a new address.

But it was in headquarters where the problem remained. Because the old address continued to exist. Maybe the mailbox was someway tucked away on a server far from his rightful owner, somewhat forgotten and therefore feeling offended. That is why the address defended itself with verge against the newcomer, this pale copy with only a slight difference. Whoever typed the name of the expat would see the old address, and only this one. You would have to push it away, type the new one and save it correctly, but even then the old address would sneak itself in first place. Forgone email-addresses are like divorced spouses. They do not disappear, they disturb. And this is why many mails still got into the old mailbox, the one locked to anyone including its owner. He did not know about it.

The sender knew. He got an answer, an automatic one. It is called "out of office" mail in techno speak, showing him the new address. But he got in only once. And maybe the owner had forgotten, maybe the system did not let him, but the "out of office" notice stopped six month after he left.

There was another twist to this situation: The large corporation had more than one system on the mail platform, and so the software was installed on the computer of the laptop, including a telephone hook-up. This was slow and expensive, but it worked. For the other functions. It was not possible for the mailbox.

The problem could be discussed in depth. In a nutshell, it was clear that it would be possible to access the mailbox from the new country, but it was not clear how this had to happen. For one big shot, a solution was found after two months (as he told), but for a small shot?

The request was made, and experts from country F talked to experts in country S in language E. Which is about as complex as to find a computer setup that shows correctly the special characters of both countries on one page. In short, notice was given that everything necessary was done. Who cares that it did not work.

After 18 month someone found out that the mailbox had been moved to a server at headquarters a year earlier. But this info was not really helpful because now no one knew exactly where. 24 months later the expat had moved from division D into division E. This has moved support responsibility. The problem did not move.

It is worth mentioning that there was no lack of answer. And the answers were politically correct, not just some F*** -word or the locally not unusual invitation for sexual contact with a close member of the family. No, there were always valuable answers "this and that needs to be done". Just the answers were not effective. The expert could not show that their solutions worked, and the small hints from the non-expert about the different technical landscape where disqualified. Was it not the expats fault that insufficient budgets had been provided? That existing solutions should have been replaced with corporate solutions so that expats would find their usual environment? Why bother that this meant the equivalent of seven years of salary for an IT expert in a 200 people company? Actually, it would have been cheaper to send an employee by car to headquarters to hand deliver the mails.

30 months later - a working solution had been found for two expats who had the chance to come from another country than F - there was a new approach. The technological challenge was to big. Had not the expat been IT manager and IT trainer? Did he not install email before the word Internet was coined? Had he not written his theses about this subject, at a time when his professor thought this was just a pipe dream and that the fax machine would bring the technological revolution? (His theses was rated D, his IT knowledge A+). Was he not the first to install an email account in his company, even financing the email access of his colleague in headquarters from his local budget, just to exchange files and avoid data retyping? Of course, these accesses were immediately canceled when he left the company, just to come back three years later when the headquarter had the idea to install email. At a higher cost. Anyway, the expat wanted this technological breakthrough.

Something else had happened in the meantime. The expat had become acquainted to the local culture in his new country. There, it just not seemed natural to go straight to a company and request the service that this company should provide. Eg just going somewhere, filing out a form and ordering an internet access. This process would seem brutally capitalistic and inhuman. The natural way for such a desire would be to ask a friend, who himself would have a colleague who would know some nice girl of the other company, who would then know whom to ask the get the name of the right person. And this person would then, with the hint that this job would be for someone from a famous company, do the job and get the feeling to have contributed to the glory of this famous company. Far more motivating - as he could himself never afford the products of this company - than the simple thought to have done his job for a meager salary.

This was what also worked in the big company. A friendly personal manage threw in a name. While looking up for this guy someone suggested someone else. And this guy hinted on another expert, who knew someone who could really get the job done. As the official process was kept completely out of the loop and the responsible person got the pure information, everything moved fast. Two quick tests, a ten minute phone call and two emails later the problem was solved.

The old mailbox reopened with 30 months of emails.


Upd. on.19. Dez 2010