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spikey eye bw



Musings, questions and brief essays. The normal.

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Beyond ranting... (work musing)
spikey eye bw
As a kid when people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up I never really had an answer. For a while I talked about being a teacher. I still think I could be a good teacher, but it seems like an underpaid and soul sapping career. We did a questionnaire in the senior school that generated a list of potentially good jobs. Mine came out with social worker and prison officer. I don't think I'd make a good prison officer, I'd be too intimidated. I don't think I want to be a social worker because that depends on following ideals that aren't my own (I figured this out after applying to volunteer in a teen hostel for reprobates of some manner when I was unemployed).

For a long while I wanted to be a writer. Hell, I AM a writer. I'm always scribbling stuff. But I'm not a motivated and professional writer. You don't get a nine to five job from an application form or a CV as a writer. It just doesn't work that way.

I became a coder. It was a complete accident. I was doing stuff for the Red Dwarf Fan Club which introduced me to computers. I had access to computers at the polytechnic I was at and the internet was just starting to look like the next big thing. It fascinated me. I signed up with Demon Internet and spent much of my grant money on phone bills and ISP charges. I learnt HTML and built web pages. Then I happened to stumble across a job offer for someone who knew HTML. We were in Bristol at the time, Raz and I. However, this was pending finding a place in the Camberley area. The job was in London, the commute didn't look too bad and the pay, despite being paltry looked somewhat lucrative for someone currently without any money to call her own.

I went to an interview - it was fifteen minutes long, if that. Then I went all the way back to Bristol. A week later I was turning Quark Xpress files into HTML and uploading the FT Magazines to their home on the web. Nearly six years on, here I am - still.

Time passed. It was a weekend job but it turned full time very quickly. At one point I was working 9 days in a row, being paid per hour. The wage rose, slowly. They finally took me on as permanent staff with a contract and paid holiday and all (first thing I did was book a week off!). It was easy work - cut and paste, make a chart, screen capture, upload. Edit, tweak, tidy, build new site for new client, rinse and repeat.

Then things changed. The web turned dynamic and suddenly everyone wanted to put things in databases. Truth be told, most of the pages we were building weren't suitable for this - there wasn't enough commonality to have a template that was workable. Still, we bought the software that looked like it was the next big thing (it wasn't, it was buggy and horrible to use) and off we went. I learnt to code. It was fun to start out. Databases and loops and all manner of new toys.

They abandoned the tool after a year of painful use. We started using embedded perl - much nicer. This was the time of the dotcom boom. Work was fun. I had great colleagues, there was camaraderie among our team and it was all very new-media and relaxed but we got things done.

Things got kind of beaurocratic along the way. The company was floated and we tried to look all corporate, but beneath the spit and polish sheen we were still the same group, still having fun and building stuff that kicked ass - even if it was all financial stuff. I wasn't the greatest coder, but I had input beyond coding and my code was passable.

So then everything crashed and redundancies kept coming up. People moved on, things changed. Then it got really bad and the company was taken over. Things had become more and more strict and formal but with the takeover it really, REALLY changed. Now the beaurocracy is so bad that I sit around with nothing to do because the coders' time is being mis-managed. We don't get a say in how things are done any more, we do as we're told and we're largely invisible like some tiny hidden cog in the middle of the workings of a great big corporate machine.

I'm not sure I want to be a coder any more. I certainly don't have the motivation to go and learn the next big thing all by myself, although those around me are studiously learning new skills and making themselves marketable. I'd like to do that, but I don't know that I'm that marketable, really.

I've never been a wonderful coder. I like knocking out little programmes and things but I know full well they're hacky and inefficient and I can't wrap my head around some of the higher concepts of programming. Maybe if I hadn't done a poncy media degree (and a crap one, at that) then it would be different, but I'm not a real coder, I just play one at work.

So I come in, I do nothing, book my time to a project that we would be bug fixing if there were any bugs in it, and go home. And they pay me. They pay me an average coder's wage which is bigger than many other wages and I'm kind of used to the money. It makes it hard to get up the enthusiasm to look for something else more suitable. I've just heard that there's a lull coming up while they sort out our next project. That means we go into the resource pool. That means we officially have sod all to do but get paid for it anyway. Well, until they wake up to what they're doing and make us redundant, I suppose.

This afternoon I'm meant to have a one to one meeting to discuss whether I'm happy and how I want to move within the company, think about my career in general and so forth. Well, I don't care enough any more. I just want to be paid, really. Sad, isn't it? I mean, I'm not utterly skilless, but I don't know what I want to be (maybe it's because of the "when you grow up" clause - as far as I'm concerned I haven't grown up yet).

So if you see any 9-5 jobs for faux-coders who really want to be writers, let me know. I'll send on my CV. Meanwhile I'll have to think of some way of bluffing my way through the meeting with my line manager this afternoon...

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Stupid thought time - why not try consultancy? I get to avoid writing code, get paid a decent toy budget, and get to tell people how to do stuff better...

Well, it's a thought but your job seems to involve knowing lots of things I don't know. And I'm not sure I can summon the enthusiasm to learn them at the moment. Maybe it'll pass and I'll find some enthusiasm under the bed or something...

I tend to see the fun side of things as not knowing stuff, and having to learn it quickly. So for recent clients and prospects I've had to learn about everything from sandwich delivery to running mobile telephone operators, and from Java web services to Microsoft commerce platforms. I guess, in my case, it's because I consider a day wasted if I haven't learnt something new, and this gives me much more of an opportunity to do that than anything else I've tried...

I don't really see myself as having made any career choices along the road to here (I often refer to "career as being a verb, not a noun"), I just chose what seemed most fun at the time, or at least avoided unemployment...

So how would someone go about getting into that line of work, anyway? "Hi, I know nothing but I'm willing to learn" doesn't seem like a particularly viable job search strategy, really.

Of course, that's the other problem. I've never had a proper interview - well, not a successful one. I've only had one real job. The world of job searches is quite a frightening one even if I figure out what it is I want to actually be doing.

"A poncy media degree (and a crap one, at that)". Ahhh, I understand that. I might not be able to identify with much, but I'm in the same situation there.

I'd be happier with my degree if I'd gone to a proper university instead of a polytechnic and if the course had been better organised and taught. Back when I was applying for universities and polytechnics they were different things and you had to fill in a different form for each (UCCA and PCAS). There was a charge for each form to be paid - I think it was about £8. I didn't have a good self image back then. I thought I stood no chance of getting into a real university so I saved the fee by only applying to polytechnics. Stupid, stupid, stupid move... Ah well. Too late now, huh?

Get some employer/local authority etc to pay for you to do a snazzy part time Masters in Functional Java Applets or summmat - time off, fun people to play with and a whole new CV!! (My motto: when in doubt, go back to university..)


Yes, just like me you can be in the same job and have a massive debt!

I meant to put the first line here...

"Or you can do it full time. Yes, just like me etc"

But you did go to a University, the University of the West of England, I'm guessing (current employer of Doug Bell, known to missfairchild, green_amber and myself). It just wasn't a university when you were there.

Re: University of WOE

Actually, don't you think Doug is the next person who might like a code??

To Max: try talking to Jane Carnall. She has this story that she was accepted to Napier College (in Edinburgh) to do coding (natch); arrived at Napier Polytechnic and graduated from Napier University. I may even have missed a step..

Basically no one knows what unis are any good anymore. Bristol Poly as was, had a better rep in its day than many unis (eg Salford). I'm not sure about UWE nowadays.. I sometimes think of putting Bruntsfield Primary School University on my cv and see what happened. I am now about to get in car and go to first acting class, incidentally, at "Q. Margaret University College" .. don't ask ME..


Re: University of WOE

I didn't go there. I went to "London Guildhall University" (aka City Poly aka Shitty Poly) who are, ironically, good at churning out computing graduates and okay on the Law side but absolutely crap at media stuff (or they were when I was there). It's not so much that I didn't go to a uni that matters, it's that I was dumb enough to cut down my choices and take a poor option when I could have found something better.

Re: University of WOE

Ah, misunderstood why you were in Bristol.

Re: University of WOE

I did a dumb thing too. My university had only changed to "university" status a couple of years before I went there -- most adults and people in their last year still called it Preston Poly. I only needed two C's and a D for A-levels to get in. Due to a combination of not having the balls to leave home, and pessimism about my A-level results, I applied to the university of central lancashire.

As it turns out, I got an A and two B's at A-level, and could have gone to any fairly-good university of my choice. But it was too late.

When I got there, I realised the Film and Media Studies degree was all theory with no film-making experience, the department was run by incompetents where nobody communicated with each other and the tutors didn't have a clue what they were doing, and the university was generally cheap and lame and run-down.

So I don't think my 2:1 in Film and Media Studies means much. Especially with no work experience or examples of work (something the university didn't even really mention or promote).

Oh well.

Re: University of WOE

Being Bristol-based myself, "University of WOE" is much more apt than the commonly used title of "UWE"

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