I’m going to pull YOU in as a potential prizewinner. That means a FREE TRIP TO HELSINKI, FINLAND for you if I win the contest (Facebook contest winner gets two tickets) and you get drawn from the list.
Yesterday in my zeal to win a trip back to Helsinki, Finland I lost all common sense and spammed the crap out of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a few texting streams.
I know better. I should have done better. Impatience is no excuse, but it got the better of me.
There’s no funds or funny stuff required. Visit Helsinki has arranged a contest where contestants’ photos are displayed in a Facebook media album and all you need to do is Like those of your favorite participant. In this instance, me.
And in case you need further motivation, as I noted in the previous post here I’m working on a book about maker communities. One of the coauthors, Jarkko Moilanen, works in Helsinki and I’d like a chance to get with him face-to-face for a bit. I also hope to interview former Maemo/MeeGo community members (now with Jolla) to get their perspective on collaborative communities.
I have many friends in Finland and several of them have jumped in to help. But so far it’s not nearly enough– I’m being beaten pretty soundly by another contestant and could use all the assistance I can muster.
All of this has been a lot of work, especially in my very conservative locale. Every time I hit some sort of social or functional wall, I think, someone should write a maker community how-to book.
And when a common political rant emerged on the hackerspaces.org general discussion list on that very subject, it all came together for me: *I* should write that book.
My apologies: this article was accidentally scheduled for publication before it was completed. It is now updated.Okay, enough griping about Cowtown’s obstacles in attaining some degree of technological leadership– what are some resources currently available to improve the situation? Today I’ll go over some that are key, focusing on communities rather than places. Not all listed are exclusively oriented around technology, but it is at least included in their scope.
I’ve mentioned these organizations in previous articles, but it’s worth gathering them together and highlighting.
Last week I blathered a bit about where I’m at and hope to go. For those interested, I’m gonna share more details today.
In case it doesn’t come across in other contexts, I’m ultimately a maker at heart. Nothing pleases me more than to be designing, writing or building. Something. Anything. I’m even happy with repairing stuff– assuming the designers put reasonable thought into that aspect of their product. I’m convinced though that pointy-haired bosses excel at ensuring all products leaving their domain are as repair-unfriendly as possible.
For most of my adult life, I’ve made things at the direction of others. At Texas Instruments, as a (now-reformed) defense worker, I contributed to radar and guidance system design. At Stanley, I worked on ways of improving existing mechanics’ tools as well as inventing great new things that Marketing feared to approve. At Medtronic, I mainly supported development and testing of surgical tools designed to cut into your skull and spine. At Nokia, I designed quality-monitoring software solutions and supply chain processes.
All of that was wonderful.
I had been saving a cathartic piece on Nokia’s phone business for the day of its official absorption by Microsoft, but that day has come and gone and with its passing so too dissipated the desire to vent. I think I’ve shared enough here and there anyway, having only neglected to address the loss of my most recent working opportunity with Nokia. On that, I will only say I was highly committed and went above and beyond the call of duty, but was done in by a combination of local developer apathy and business politics. The only sticking point is that I was released from the Developer Ambassador corps just as our local Microsoft evangelists were being empowered to support Windows phone and contacting me with Big Plans. I’m not happy about being let go, but… ah well.
For a while now I’ve been limiting articles here to various community outreach items, but today I’m going to ramble a bit about personal stuff. Don’t worry: no drama.
As I’m sure most of you do, I tend to reflect a bit towards the end of any year… what’s been accomplished, what was missed, where corrections are needed… the usual crap an aging soul indulges. More and more the subject becomes what sort of life I want right now, as my sons venture into adulthood, and age discrimination (yes, it’s real) tries hard to reduce my career prospects.
Ultimately, like many, I want do Do My Own Thing. When I can manage spare time in the course of working two jobs, I’ve been hacking away at projects designed to get me there. Starting slow and simple with plans to progress to bigger, better things.
It’s when I sit down to code, often struggling to get into The Zone, that I’m struck by the main thing occupying my mind lately: the need to simplify. I’m surrounded by artifacts collected over a lifetime, a maintenance nightmare bordering on hoarding proportions.
While I’ve always had a tendency to hang onto books and certain knickknacks, it wasn’t until marriage/fatherhood that this took on a life of its own. Suddenly my collection combines with those of other household members, and a critical mass is reached. A point far beyond any one garage sale’s salvation. I need to get rid of it. I need time to get rid of it.
In younger years I was highly mobile. Without my own family trappings, I was free to wander at will. I just neglected to take enough advantage at the time. Now, burdened by familial anchors, I yearn for that twenty-something space-time agility. Too much house in the way though.
I’d love to dump the house, along with the bulk of its contents, and move into a motor home. Then drive/park where ever needed, wanted or interested. I’m just not sure if my wife is as ready for that as I am, despite occasional claims along those lines. She’s starting up her own thing, and it depends on shipping/receiving handmade goods. The shipping part is no problem, but what about receiving raw materials? We need a mail service that can follow mobile people.
Hmm… I smell another project…
I recently wrote about a long shot opportunity I thought I had to attain a “dream job”. In the aftermath of failure, a friend mentioned that we don’t always land our dream jobs. I had to reply that I did have one, once, in a quality assurance role in a former Nokia factory from 2005 to 2007.
Of course defining a dream job is very personal, and for me there were some distinct, key elements that inspired me to literally race to work most mornings and hate leaving some times:
- Management trust. My boss made it clear she trusted everyone on her team to have the necessary skills and do the right thing on every occasion. She never hovered over us, never micromanaged. And when I doubted myself on a tough, critical project, her faith in me got me past a brief approaching-deadline panic and on to a satisfying solution.
- Clear goals and communications. I was never caught off guard with ad hoc expectations. I always knew what I was supporting. In fact a large part of my role was to improve the team’s data mining and reporting solutions so that we ALL knew.
- Ideal work environment. On the first day my boss was embarrassed, she said, that I would have to sit near the edge of a mezzanine overlooking the factory floor. I thought she was kidding– for a Maker, that was workplace heaven! Not only that, but cube walls were almost non-existent– so low that I could actually see my colleagues at any moment. That may bother others, but I loved it. Out of the maze and right over the frying pan! Not to mention that I got to spend a lot of time in a test lab.
- Travel opportunities. When I was told I would be going to Finland sooner or later, I was terrified. I had never left the states and did not know how I would handle a foreign country. A trip to Mexico was not really a big deal; it was just southern Texas with different laws. But not only did overseas travel turn out to be tolerable, I actually enjoyed it. I’ve been to Finland 13 times now and eagerly look forward to getting back as soon as I can.
- Beneficial training. Oh, the training I received! Useful. Interesting. Not the usual rote lecture stuff but engaging sessions where I came away a much better employee and person. Nokia had training down to a fine science.
- Opportunities. For a while, the sky was the limit in Nokia. I have a feeling it will be again before too long.
- Enjoyable culture. I’ve worked for many companies but only found myself truly at home in two: Texas Instruments and Nokia. A large part of that was culture. The previous bullet points are reflections of rich, rewarding corporate culture. Where employees feel empowered and even encouraged to contribute, and not just treated as cogs in a cube farm. True, no company is perfect and even TI and Nokia had some cultural failings, but they were still far above many of their peers.
Of course those attributes work for me but may not for everyone. They thing to take away though is that a dream job is one that easily fits your aptitude and interests. One you might even do for free, for fun. I think we can all agree on that sort of definition.
But I’m eager to hear from others: what defines your dream job? Please add to comments.
Well, here I go again: my current day job contract is ending prematurely, apparently due to budget constraints. This happened earlier in the year but I was saved by a last-second extension. This time there seems to be no such rescue. I did pleasantly interview today for a different role with the same employer, but as with most things, there’s no guarantee.
Many of you might be surprised to learn that my Nokia work these days is part-time. I say that based on the reaction of locals when they learn of it. I have spent a lot of time around Dallas-Fort Worth at various meetups and events so I can understand the amazement. It’s the most full part-time gig I’ve ever had.
But, part-time doesn’t pay the bills, and being the sole breadwinner of this bunch, I need to find something new ASAP. What usually follows that statement is the traditional query from interested parties: “So, what are you looking for?”.
What I’m really looking for is to make the Nokia thing go full-time. I have thoroughly enjoyed whipping up the enthusiasm of mobile developers. But there are no hints of that possibility so I’m not banking on it happening.
Even more, I’d love to get my own business going. I’ve shared some thoughts on that previously. Technically, only time and some skill shortcomings have gotten in the way. That said, I have been steadily working on a number of potentially big projects as I find time, and at some point hope to take advantage of BizSpark or AppCampus offerings and get something launched.
But, right now I have to think short-term. Very short-term. While I have not had a true vacation in four years, and one would be really nice right now, renewing my tan between sips of margarita doesn’t pay any bills. Well, not for me, anyway.
You can see my raw skills here, but specifically, I’ve been working with SharePoint lately. I’m 95% self-taught– not sure if that’s good or bad. I wouldn’t mind continuing on that path, as painful as SharePoint development can often be, but I’m open to possibilities in the engineering, manufacturing or information management fields. Heck, I’ve been dusting off solid modeling skills the past year or so and could happily plug back into that world as well– especially with 3D printing catching on. Fun stuff.
Anyway, just thought I would inform everyone where I’m at. If you don’t hear from me, I might just be on that unpaid vacation. Mentally, anyway…
Update: found a new gig within days of losing the other one. Whew!