This software-based simulator is huge. It's more than a decade old. It's the division's cash cow. And the project to deliver a new version written in C++ is on track to miss its February delivery date by about four months, says a senior software engineer pilot fish.

Fish isn't on the six-engineer project team — he's the company's expert on object-oriented design. But when his boss approaches, looking very apologetic, fish knows what's coming.

"I realize this type of work is beneath you," the boss says. "But you're the best person to get this program back on track. Would you mind doing mid-level engineer work for a few months?"

No problem, says fish, and dives in. Over the next few months, he redesigns several major components of the application and personally writes 20,000 lines of code, and the team delivers the system before Thanksgiving — three months early.

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