Inside Tech’s Most Powerful and Covert Organization

First Day at Reckonate

⚫️ Human Resources: Okay! Let’s get started. Welcome to Reckonate, where dreams become reality! You can call me Mr. HR and I’ll be bringing you all up to speed on your roles and responsibilities here.

Today’s orientation is special! Reckonate has many trade secrets and tons of sensitive information, so training only covers the departments of the new employees. But you six are from all six departments, so we’ll be covering everything! Huzzah!

But just remember: there’s a reason you signed and read all 1000 pages of privacy forms… Secrecy is key. But! We’re also a fun and fast-paced business, so shoot me a hang loose if you’re still on board with respecting the need-to-know basis of our customer info! 🤙🤙🤙

⚫️ Human Resources: Okay wonderful! Any questions before we get you each set up?

🟣 New Employee: Yes, ahh, what offerings does Reckonate sell? What are we all working toward?

⚫️ Human Resources: Mmmm yes, an excellent question indeed! Reckonate is the most customer-centric company in the world. Other, lesser companies claim that, but only we deliver.

See, our organization is an expert in knowledge. Some customers seek old knowledge and we deliver. Some seek new knowledge and we analyze and deliver. And some seek refuge for their secret knowledge and we house it on demand. Got it?

… If there are no more questions, please follow me on a tour of your offices!

⚫️ Human Resources: Other big tech companies have coffee shops, cafeterias, and ping pong tables. We think of ourselves as old school cool with this one, simple common area.

🟢 New Employee: Umm, what good is a room with one table and no chairs?

⚫️ Human Resources: Right, it is unconventional, but this room’s value comes not from what it has, but rather from what it doesn’t. We can’t be discussing work with others outside our departments — we don’t want to leak customer information or deviate from our deliverables. This room has zero distractions!

Instead, we put one thing in this room: a sacred shared folder. Our customer files are our value. Instead of sharing files online or over email, we only use this Red Folder. It’s more reliable, more secure, and more old school cooool.

Most of you will be asked periodically to put a document in this folder or take the doc from it. I’ll explain when to do each. Okay?

🟢 New Employee: How will we find our document in this Red Folder?

⚫️ Human Resources: Oh yes! In this folder, there will be only one doc at a time. If you’re adding your sheet and one already exists, we ask you set flame to the previous document — that copy is no longer needed.

Ahh and there’s one more thing this room doesn’t have: *Clap clap*

⚫️ Human Resources: Lights! Our studies show you’ll be even more productive if we turn off the lights.

🔵 New Employee: But won’t we bump into each other?

⚫️ Human Resources: Oh no, we’re set up to have only one person in this Red Folder Room at a time. Trust your roles and responsibilities and we won’t have any problems!

Now off to the first office!

1. The Consultants

⚫️ Human Resources: This is the new home of our newest Consultant! There are a few other consultants just like you and you all get your own rooms. Like this one, each Consultant room comes standard with two phones.

When the first phone rings, pick up the handset. You can answer the call, but the caller will already be gone. Don’t be discouraged. Instead, your job is to burn any papers on your desk — destroy any old info. Then, go to the Red Folder and bring its doc back to your desk.

When the second phone rings, promptly bring your doc and put it back into the Red Folder. Then return to your desk for the next call.

Got it?

🟡 New Employee 1 — Consultant: Umm… so first phone rings: get doc. Second phone rings: give the same doc back. That’s it? No computers or email or internet?

⚫️ Human Resources: Yes, that’s it! We want each of you to be extremely productive, so we’ve streamlined all of the communication! Sure the job’s extremely boring, but why else do you think we had to hire consultants?

Get comfortable with your new office. The rest of us are moving on!

2. The Data Storage Runner

⚫️ Human Resources: WELCOME! Welcome w e l c o m e ʷ ᵉ ˡ ᶜ ᵒ ᵐ ᵉ ˙˙˙˙˙˙˙ to our great storage center. You all will be working with one or two documents at a time, but we have nearly one million docs filed away in this warehouse! One hundred aisles. One hundred filing cabinets in each. One hundred filing folders in each of those. And all of those organized by our Data Storage Runner!

🟢 New Employee 2 — Data Storage Runner: This… this warehouse is all run by me?

⚫️ Human Resources: Yes! More private and more streamlined. You might not have any forklifts or space for basketball games, but you’ll get plenty of steps in!

Oh, and these are for you.

🟢 Data Storage Runner: More phones?

⚫️ Human Resources: Oh yes. Our Consultant has one desk with one document. You have one million desks in the form of every single file folder. When your first phone rings, walk to the Red Folder. It will contain the aisle, cabinet, and file numbers for a specific document. Navigate to this folder.

Then! If the second phone rings, burn the doc in this folder and replace it with the contents of the Red Folder. If the third phone rings, replace the Red Folder file with this document, but first make a copy! We can’t be losing our precious information from storage unless we’re replacing it.

🟢 Data Storage Runner: So I’m a glorified Consultant?

⚫️ Human Resources: Yes! But athletic too. You two even send each other documents sometimes.

See, if our Consultant has a document that needs storage, they’re called to put it into the Red Folder. Then you’re called with the warehouse folder location. After running to this specific folder, you’re called again — this time on phone #2 — which means you’ll go get that Red Folder document and bring it back to this warehouse folder. Simple as that!

3. The Engineering Department

⚫️ Human Resources: And here’s where we keep the Engineering Team! This bright bunch doesn’t just push papers, but actually creates new ones. No task is too large for this team as long as it’s broken down into bite-sized pieces!

🔵 New Employee 3 — Engineer: Hello there friends. Thanks uh for having me… Mr. HR, why is there a team of engineers instead of one or separate ones?

⚫️ Human Resources: Ahh yes, quite the counterintuitive habitat! But you see, the job is extremely important. It’s also a bit complex — just look at these phones!

⚫️ Human Resources: The first phone ringing means someone on the team must clear the conference table. You’re the new guy, so that’s probably you… Meanwhile someone must also go to the Red Folder and bring back the document. First phone, first document.

If the second rings instead, replace this first document with a new paper and write the word “Next” on it. Plane and simple.

To get the second document, wait for the third phone to ring and grab the document from the Red Folder again. When the fourth phone rings, answer it! You’ll hear a voice. Be it human or robot, they’ll tell you how to combine these two docs into one. It’ll be simple, like a math problem of sorts.

With your trusty co-workers, sprint your way to the answer and write it into a new document.

Finally, when the fifth phone is called, one of you will bring the new document back to the Red Folder. Keep the papers moving!

🔵 Engineer: Umm but sir, I count six phones not five.

⚫️ Human Resources: Oh, thank you! See, this sixth phone is mostly for special occasions. When the new document doesn’t quite capture the final answer, pick up the phone and call. When someone answers, immediately hang up. They’ll know what to do.

🔵 Engineer: … wait how does that help? Who are we even calling?

⚫️ Human Resources: Oh I can’t tell you that — that’s above your pay grade! But you’re maybe wondering how Engineering fits into the company. See, let’s say our Consultant has a document that needs to be combined with a second Consultant’s document. You all will do that work and send it back to our Consultant!

To do that, our Consultant will be called to put his document in the Red Folder. Engineering phone 1 will ring and you will bring back this Red Folder document. Then this repeats, but the other Consultant drops off his document and Engineering picks it up as their second doc.

Then, this fourth phone will ring and tell you to complete the “combine” task, which you do. Finally, Engineering’s fifth phone rings. You’ll return the new document to the Red Folder. Our Consultant can be called to pick it up from there! Maybe they will store this doc in the warehouse or something!

I think you’ll figure it out!

4. The Leadership Team

⚫️ Human Resources: Every organization needs direction. Sure, we’re serving our customers, but some team needs to make sure we’re following the visions of our customers. You, the Leadership Board, are just that team. Just the team we need.

Since following the vision is crucial, your responsibilities are simple. When the first phone rings, one of you will clear the table. Another one will get the Red Folder doc. When the second phone rings, return this document to the Red Folder.

🟤 New Employee 4 — Leader: So, uh where’s the customer vision here? Couldn’t a consultant do this job?

⚫️ Human Resources: Ahh astute! The difference lies in the contents of the documents. Consultants handle any old doc. The Leadership Board only holds onto the location of the customer’s next instructions — their next vision. Your doc will contain the aisle, cabinet, and folder of the doc the company must execute next!

Also! When the third phone rings, one of you will grab these next instructions from the Red Folder. Then they’ll delegate the actual execution by passing them through the mail slot.

🟤 Leader: …Which goes where exactly?

⚫️ Human Resources: To our penultimate stop: Project Management!

5. The Project Management Team

⚫️ Human Resources: Don’t be overwhelmed. The Project Managers — PMs — have a lot of phones, but almost none of them are new. Every phone we’ve seen so far pairs to one of these phones. See, Project Managers are in the business of calling departments to communicate tasks.

The Leadership Board slots over the instructions, which have a list of tasks. One by one, the Project Managers call out each task on the list. They might call the Data Storage Runner phone # 1 to task them with navigating to the specific folder written on the Red Folder document. Then a PM might call back to phone #3 to have them copy that specific document and put it into the Red Folder. Then, maybe the PMs call Engineering phone #1 to have them take this document from the Red Folder.

On and on, the PMs call each phone on the instructions list. But PMs can also receive calls! Remember that Engineering phone that was used to share special results? That’s connected to the PM’s first phone! See, sometimes a customer wants to execute some Plan B tasks if there’s a special occasion. This phone call from Engineering is that indication for Plan B!

Eventually, Plan A or Plan B ends and there are no more tasks on the list.

🔴 New Employee 5 — Project Manager: Then what? Are there more instructions somewhere?

⚫️ Human Resources: Oh yes! There are thousands of instruction documents in the warehouse. It’s just a matter of Which instruction is next?

See, the customers would love to have the instructions indicate which aisle, cabinet and file has the next instructions. Sadly, the PMs and employees have no way to send locations over the phones. Instead, the customers use a clever trick: they put the next instruction in the next folder in the warehouse. To get this next folder location, the PMs call around to eventually get Leadership’s document with the current warehouse location into Engineering where that odd “Next” document is added. For example, if the file was in aisle 1, cabinet 1, folder 34. Then, the “Next” doc will be in folder 35. In short order, Leadership gets their “Next Location” doc!

Then the PMs continue calling around until the Data Storage Runner can get the doc at this location and Leadership can pick up these new instructions from the Red Folder. Finally, the PMs call Leadership to slide over these new instructions into that mail slot. It’s streamlined!

🔴 Project Manager: Whoa whoa. So the instructions never end… because every set of instructions tells the PMs to call around until they’ve got the next set of instructions?

⚫️ Human Resources: Precisely!

🔴 Project Manager: But what happens at the last folder in the warehouse? No more documents, so no more instructions?

⚫️ Human Resources: Oh no. The Engineering team combines “Next” with the last folder location, their result is special: the very first warehouse folder location. Engineering calls the PMs with this special case for any Plan B tasks and the Leadership Board eventually gets the instructions from the first folder — back to the beginning!

However, the instructions don’t have to get to the end of the warehouse. Sometimes the customer wants to jump to a new instruction document at a certain aisle-cabinet-folder address. They simply put this doc next and change their preceding instructions a bit to accommodate the right PM calls! Soon the Leadership will be slotting over the instructions from this new address.

🔴 Project Manager: So let me get this straight. The customer’s instructions can move documents from the warehouse to departments — and vice versa, combine documents via Engineering, set the next instruction location and load up the next instructions?

⚫️ Human Resources: Correct —

🔴 Project Manager: — And the customer somehow precisely loads all of this into the warehouse?

⚫️ Human Resources: Right. Which brings us to our last department!

6. The Customer Representative

⚫️ Human Resources: The last department is arguably the most important: you are the Customer Representative. The bridge between worlds. The interface for intellects. The kiosk of knowledge!

When a customer wants to use the Reckonate services, you will ensure the documents get to and from this cherished patron. When the PMs call your first phone, if you have a customer with more documents, you are to take the next one. Then put this one into the Red Folder and return to the kiosk. When the second phone rings, bring the Red Folder document to the customer. The customer may jump for joy or be crushed because this document is part of the final knowledge they’re looking for!

🟣 New Employee 6 — Customer Representative: And if there isn’t a customer?

⚫️ Human Resources: Then the PMs will run some default instruction that will have them check back a bit later! This repeats until a customer arrives and leaves satisfied. That’s it! That’s the whole company.

Powerful Covert Organization Secrets: It’s a Computer!

🙋🏻‍♂️Me: I tend to bring analogies far past their breaking point. This is no different. Our esteemed “Most Powerful” and “Covert” Reckonate* tech company is simply a computer! You’re surely reading this article on some device. At the heart of that device is a magic chip that does whatever you, the Customer, tells it to do! When you clicked on this article link, your computer-chip’s Customer Representative relayed your request document through the Red Folder and into storage. Eventually, the computer gave you heaps of resulting documents back in the form of pixel colors that are currently forming words and stick figures on your screen!

And that’s all computers really do: You (or someone else) told the computer to do something. Then, the computer probably translated this command into thousands of data and instruction files. After executing the many tasks, the computer gives the customer something back.

Our computer had those six departments. In fancy (and real) computers, there are no new departments. Every function of the computer brains falls within one of these six departments. Sure, the real departments are more complex, but not by too much! If a computer hardware geek were to summarize any section of the computer chip, it’d probably sound like part of one of these departments.

This simplicity seems impossible. Computers can do almost everything! And we’re supposed to believe their inner working can be described in this one failed Disney screenplay and story-board?? It’s true, but a lot of computer magic comes from their incredible speed. My laptop can have the PMs make ~3 billion calls per second. Each call triggers the execution of the tiniest task. Seemingly nothing happens. But when these tasks stack up, the computer gains the ability to do unbelievable things.

If you want to learn more about how computers tick, check out this 20 minute video, this amazingly-approachable book, or this online course. As computers continue to weave into every facet of life, you’ll have more control over them and peace among them!

*Reckonate = Reckon it = Evaluate it = Compute it. Also, Reckonate like electorate — the people who reckon/elect.

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Technology is overhauling society before our very eyes! Does that trend scare you, excite you, or something in between? Well, same here. John and Zach explain how something works in a *fun* and *deep* way.

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