Lets pretend this is all fictional and not at all based on a real story I can’t talk about.

It’s year one and you have a very small company. Your engineer is building you a big piece of software, and the first thing he builds is the sign-up page that takes in a name. He tests it with his name, “Jeff”, and it works. QA puts in their name, “Jim,” and it works. The PR is approved and now it’s live.

Ten years later you have large company, and you hire man named José. José is testing out the software and he puts in his name, presses submit, and… does it work?


Maybe his name comes back correctly, or maybe it’s “normalized”, or maybe it’s correct in some places and not in others.

José submits a ticket.

Jeff, now a senior architect, looks at this ticket and says, “it’s a Unicode problem.” He dives into the code, and learns that it’s actually a pervasive problem. Those early pieces of code are now load-bearing core libraries with well-known edge cases that other programmers are accustomed to. That will have to be changed, and that’s a big risk, and architects hate risk.

Separately you have sales team. Even if you only sell in America, they’re going to be selling to CEOs and Veeps and directors and many of them will have non-anglicized names. They will meet with someone named, I dunno, Satō. When Satō enters his name into your system, will it show his name?

Our names are piece of magic. This is the first lesson from How To Win Friends and Influence People. Our ears are attuned to it. I can hear my name across a crowded room, and my hearing is subpar.

When Satō enters his name into your sytem, and it doesn’t work, will your salesperson close the deal?

How much money are you losing because you haven’t fixed this? How much money will it cost to fix this so late in the game. How many press releases will you send like this? When will you stop losing money?

(Cover image from https://sketchplanations.com/fixing-bugs)