May 232014
 

Yesterday I wrote about tech events in Fort Worth, Texas [“Cowtown and Code“] so it’s only fitting I expound on that theme with another alliterative article.  Today I’ll dare to get politically incorrect and lay bare one aspect of Cowtown culture that is simultaneously brag-worthy and yet fiendishly aggravating as well:

Folks are laid back here.

Stereotypical cowboy talk includes words like “mosey“, a colloquial verb describing walking much like glacial describes progress.  Like their trail-dusting forebears, Fort Worthians are usually in no hurry.  Whatever it is, it’ll wait.

This is at once endearing and maddening.  Sometimes it can’t wait, and that’s especially true with technology. Continue reading »

May 222014
 

June is looming and I’m excited: the second-ever Cowtown Code Camp is being held on the 14th and I hope to make it.

Last year it was thrilling enough that we even had this sort of event in Fort Worth; everyone in tech in DFW knows Addison, Irving, Frisco, Plano, Richardson and North Dallas are where you go for software and related events.  It’s a circle of cities that has held tightly to this honor for years, and facilitated a self-fulfilling situation.  Developers go because that’s where the events are, and the events are held there because developers go.  Breaking into that cycle, even for a single occasion, was special in and of itself. Continue reading »

May 212014
 

My current day job involves supporting safety systems on locomotives.  This is a relatively young field and can be thought of as air traffic control for trains.  Even though the associated technologies (GPS, cellular communications, data acquisition, etc) are mature, the overall development is fairly new.  This means we talk a lot about IT.  And not always kindly.

We’re part of engineering, so even from our geeky perspective IT is still a THEM.  Sure, I do some coding when I have the time but it’s just not under IT auspices.  And when our coffee talk turns to IT, as it frequently does, it’s laced with the usual fear and suspicion.  IT guys don’t play well with others.

As a fringe IT guy myself I know it’s a mistake to paint all software developers with a brush as broad as “coder culture”, but there are some stereotypes that I’ve seen generally run true. Continue reading »

May 202014
 

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. Continue reading »

May 152014
 

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. Continue reading »

Jan 102014
 

I’ve been working with various developer communities for several years, and there’s a common question I encounter regardless of the platform:

Q: “What should I work on?”

This isn’t always easy to answer specifically, because a great deal depends on the skills and interests of the person asking.  But there is an easy general response:

A: “Solve a problem for yourself.”

I’ve found that the developers not asking that question tend to do exactly that.  They have a need, see no available solution, and jump right into solving it for themselves.  Often enough, that tends to work for others as well. Continue reading »

Dec 062013
 

Greetings all!  It’s time to dive back into Windows Phone developer community land.  In this post I’ll be sharing the good and not-so-good news for WP development in my region, which is physically centered in the Dallas-Fort Worth area but also includes Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota.  I’ll summarize the year and share some ongoing/upcoming stuff too. Continue reading »

Nov 132013
 

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…

Oct 222013
 

appsweepstakes-216x100I’ve urged the Windows Developers in my outreach areas to enter their apps into Microsoft’s Tech Affiliate Sweepstakes on numerous occasions… but I haven’t really gone into just what that is.

The contest of course rewards a few randomly-selected developers and their community leaders each month for app submissions.  There’s a lot more to Tech Affiliate, however, than monthly cash prizes. Continue reading »

Oct 032013
 

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.

%d bloggers like this: