Alex Dante (alex23) wrote,
Alex Dante
alex23

A good rebirth always needs fire

Heya. It's been a long time.

(...I shouldn'ta left you, without a dope beat to...)

One of my plans this year was to get back to journaling on a regular basis but here it is almost the end of the first quarter and I've yet to do anything about it. So I'm testing out Google Docs newish publish-to-blog functionality and using it to force out this first post. I'm hoping it's just this first post that's the hang up.

Last year I finally finished being a tech monkey for the QLD Dept of Primary Industries & Fisheries and made the move back into full-time coding. Amazingly, I was even able to find a Python-specific position producing web applications for a company that was 15 minutes walk from home. I was solely responsible for all development and was able to start to more fully integrate agile practices into my work flow.

Unfortunately, all of these elements - combined with the overwhelming desire to get the hell out of the soul crushing mundanity that was DPI&F - blinded me to more carefully assessing my actual employers. Let me summarise the experience succinctly: never work for a small, family-owned & managed business. For everything that was positive about this experience - and I have to keep reminding myself that there were positives, for e.g. my Python-fu has never been stronger - there was the owner's son, my immediate supervisor, there to counter it. A friend of mine referred to him as a "trust fund baby" and never was a label more apt: he started but never completed two (or was it three?) degrees, and yet his one semester of PHP somehow trumped my tertiary qualifications plus sixteen years of industry experience. If he wasn't chewing me out - publically, always publically - over the use of JavaScript in my web apps ("It's insecure! No company ever allows JavaScript!!!"), then he was doing so over the lack of JavaScript in my web apps ("It looks like crap! Why aren't you using AJAX?!") [for the non-coders out there, the J in AJAX is for JavaScript...]. He took two months to not set up a production server for me - the sys admin & myself ended up doing it - then decided the reason it was late was my having the audacity to start work at 9am, and nothing whatsoever with his turning up one or two days (at best) each week.

Eventually, what forced me to leave was the total lack of respect they paid me. Well, that and the fact that they kept taking on new development work when we hadn't successfully shipped a single product. It took me a while to realise that they had never done the type of work they were getting me to do, which ended up meaning absolutely no support was provided, and I was expected to do everything, from the base system level setup, through development & documentation, and on to on-going maintenance and even help desk support, not just the analysis & coding as I was told when I was employed. I would be derided for missing milestones that I had argued were unachievable; if I set more realistic time frames, they would change at the clients' whim. Even the whole agile approach was a waste of time, as I was told not to "bother" the clients with questions, which really hinders the whole idea of iterative development. Apparently I'm not a very good programmer for not being able to interpret all of the end requirements from single page specs of multi-domain systems. Man, the last system they pushed at me, the spec was 8 hand written scribblings that really should've ended up on The DailyWTF. No amount of logical criticism of their approach would get between the owners and their greed, it seemed.

Incidentally, now that enough time has past since I resigned, I can happily tell you to avoid Managed Solutions Internet like the plague, especially if you're looking for a co-location facility or net access for a business. In the ten months I was there, the air conditioning unit in the server room was alarming constantly; they would get someone to stand beside it and manually disable the alarm repeatedly when demonstrating the facility to potential investors. Their mechanism for finding out about network or power issues was to wait for the clients to complain. On three separate occasions they lost up to a month's worth of clients' network usage data; rather than fix these issues or take the loss given it was their mistake, the boss' son would make up usage data and bill the clients based on that.

But to hell with them, let's get back to me.

...because that's what I've been doing since I left. I've always been familiar with the phrase "his work consumed him", but until working for MSI I never really understood that the consumption was one of fire and I never appreciated that it burned away everything that wasn't essential to the work at hand. I know so much more now about linux development, source control management, web app development etc etc etc than I did before I began but anything that wasn't related to the projects just seemed to atrophy and die. Walking away from the job left me feeling incredibly light, partially from the loss of the weight my shoulders were carrying, but mostly, it seems, because I had been reduced to a function. Since then, I've been re-establishing myself: I'm trying to get back into reading long-form text instead of relying on web snippets, to read more fiction over technical docs, to produce music again, to just learn to relax again. Oh, and to reconnect with my social networks. Thankfully, my girl is incredibly understanding & patient and has been very supportive of my slacking off the past few months. I think the time spent in introspection has been worth it...and frankly, that I lost time for introspection should be telling of the intensity of the workload I was facing.

So hello again. Next time: less whining :)




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Welcome back, nooge. We've missed you.