A Day in the Life of Lennart Thelander, Senior Systems Developer
March 1, 2017
Our guest for this month’s Day In The Life series is Lennart Thelander, Senior Systems Developer at PostNord Logistics TPL. Lennart is one of the godfathers of our Retrospect forum and has been dispensing great advice since 2003. Today, we get to hear about his personal side. Thanks Lennart!
Lennart, what do you do on a typical day?
I work as a system developer on a Warehouse Management System (WMS). The WMS keeps track of exactly where every item is located in the warehouse. It also tells the warehouse workers where to find the items needed for an outbound order and where to put the new pallets from inbound deliveries. Sometimes we have meetings with new clients who wants to store their goods in my employer’s warehouse. We need to make sure our WMS can communicate with the client’s business system. I also run our small Retrospect installation.
What was your background? How did you get involved with where you are now?
I worked for many years as a system developer for a company that made and sold advertising systems to newspapers and magazines, mainly in Europe and America. My part was writing software that planned the number of sections and pages in the paper or magazine. Then the software placed all the ads in the correct position on the correct page. I also ran the backups of over 60 computers, using Retrospect and disk backup sets. A tape autoloader was used for archiving and off site storage of backups. The client computers were a mix of laptops, desktops and servers. The ”user” computers ran Mac OS X or Windows, the servers ran Windows or Unix. With the decline in the newspaper industry and owners who wanted to centralize the staff to the US, a number of staff were laid off almost every year here in Sweden. In 2015 it was my turn, along with a few others. One of them was another system developer. The two of us found a company seeking two senior system developers for their WMS. We both applied and both started our new careers in April 2016.
What is your favorite part of your job? (And why?)
When I have created new functionality in the computer system I work on, so the users can perform their tasks more efficiently. I like seeing my work being used as a work tool.
What is your least favorite? (And why?)
When I made a mistake (a bug), so the new functionality doesn’t work.
What was the most embarrassing or funny thing to happen at work?
One incident was quite a shock (rather than funny or embarrassing). In the beginning of February 2015, I was celebrated after 30 years of employment. I got flowers, a golden pen, a gift card and a diploma. Just six weeks later I was laid off. That was real shock to me.
What is your strongest quality?
I plan things carefully, and I never give up until I’m satisfied with the result.
What are you most proud of?
I have created software that successfully have helped over 200 newspapers and magazines all over the world to plan and produce their publications.
How has your job changed since you started? How do you see it changing in the future?
Since I have only been employed less than a year, I don’t really have anything to say about this subject.
Quick, there is a fire? What do you grab before you run out of the building?
My wallet, camera and laptop. In the winter also my jacket. (Yes, I do have backups of the laptop safely stored, but it’s so much easier to have it up and running without having to buy a new one and restore.)
Any backup horror stories? What advice would you give folk in the field?
I do have two horror stories.
For my former employer, I ran the backups, but wasn’t part of the IT department. One day the IT department handed out a secondary computer to an employee, without telling me and without installing the Retrospect client, so I could not see it on the server. When the hard drive failed, there were (obviously) no backups. Thankfully, it was the employees secondary computer, so no important files were lost, just a bunch of good-to-have files. (If it was a replacement for the employees primary computer I would have noticed that the previous computer was no longer being backed up.) The lesson here is to periodically check the list of clients in Retrospect against the actual computers in the office and in the server room.
The other horror story started out in the Retrospect forum. A small company ran Retrospect and had scheduled recycling of the only media set every two weeks. (They hadn’t heard about grooming.) Unfortunately, one employee was traveling at one time when the media set was recycled and his laptop was stolen. So no backups of that computer. What to do? I replied that they could try to recover the .rdb files from the media set member. They didn’t really know how to do that. I replied that if they were located near Helsingborg in Sweden, I could try to help. It turns out that the guy who ran the backups lived here in Helsingborg(!) and worked an hour’s drive away. So the next day he came to my office with the disk media set member and a new hard drive to save the recovered files. I set up ”Data Rescue 3” to recover the .rdb files. Data Rescue ran for some 24 hours, recovering some hundreds of .rdb files. Then I set up Retrospect to recreate the catalog file. It did succeed!!!! There were no snapshots (I think), but by letting Retrospect search for files belonging to the stolen laptop, I was able to restore all important documents. The lesson here is to have more than one backup at any one time and to use grooming instead of recycling. One of the backups should ALWAYS be off site. Think fire, theft, flooding, lightning, hurricanes, you name it.
How do you spend your free time, if any?
I’m interested in trains, both real and model. I have lots of model trains, but no layout to run them. I’m also interested in photography, space exploration and genealogy. I do read quite a lot, mostly about railroads. I also like to read about the Apollo Moon landings and the Apollo project in general. My spouse and I take care of her family farm in the Swedish countryside. We go there about once a month to take care of things and walk in the forest.
What skill would you most wish to have?
I wish I could remember everything I read and hear.
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
I would buy a new electric car and also do more traveling.
JG Heithcock is CEO of Retrospect, Inc. and has eighteen years experience in the storage and backup industry.