Work - Swindon/Cork '94 - '96

So I graduated. And, as you do, I looked for work, but the "Celtic Tiger" was still a cub and I also wasn't very good at looking for work. I turned down at least one opportunity because they wouldn't let me be a developer without having me spend six months as a tester first. And hey. What are Claris doing these days, anyway?

I was turned down by another company on the grounds that my choice of roles - sysadmin or developer - indicated that I didn't really know what I wanted to do. Hey. That never stopped me before.

Eventually, I strolled into Motorola one afternoon to catch up with a few folk I'd kept in touch with there, and ran into the HR guy.

Waider: Heya Joe. Any jobs going? *laughs*
Joe: Well, Tony's putting together a team. Go talk to him.
And Tony said, "Sure, come back in two weeks for an interview."


The interview was little more than a formality; I seem to recall us spending more time talking about the ZX spectrum than anything else. Oh, and I was paraded around the office in a suit, since most of the people who knew me from my previous stint at the Circle-M Ranch hadn't seen me in a suit before. Actually, they'd not even seen me in anything approaching decent clothing, much less a suit.

So I got my ID badge, company credit card, assorted employee doco, and a one-way ticket to Swindon.

Swindon is GREY. There's no other way to describe it, really. It's a dormitory town, meaning half the population gets up at 7am to get a train to London. Motorola's documentation centre is banged right up next to the M4, and there was a small developer section there too. Our job was to take the project they'd developed, learn its workings, and bring it home to Cork. Estimated time in Swindon was six months.

In the seven months (!) I was there, I learned all sorts of new things about how little you can enjoy life outside work. English people aren't, by nature, particularly friendly - it's not unfriendliness, mind, merely indifference - and the rest of the Irish crew lived 40 miles down the road in Bath because they all had cars and I didn't. The girl I was going out with was 800 miles away, and things were rocky, so that wasn't fun either. There was no TV in the house, although everything else was provided and for the most part paid for. After about a week of being bored senseless in the evenings, I went into town and bought a guitar to keep myself amused. And a few weeks after that, I had Gonzo up and running, and I started to figure out this Linux thing. My assorted nethead friends did a lot to keep me sane while I was in Swindon, so I tended to stay in the office until all hours.

Even among the Irish crew, I didn't quite fit in. One of the guys did a passable impression of Butthead simply by being himself - constant "huh huh" laugh, everything sucked, and so forth. And the others were that bit older than me - not enough to make a fuss about, but enough that it made a difference. I think we had maybe one social night out in the time I was there.

Gloom! Doom! But then there was the good stuff. From a geek point of view, I got into Linux, HTML, emacs, heavy wizardry in C and Perl, source code management (always a good one for the resumé), and a few other odds and sods. And in the non-geek department, I managed to install myself as a local in the nearby American steakhouse/bar (run by a guy from Tyrone) which got me an invite to the place's invitation-only birthday party. Hey, I'm not completely without social skills, alright?

In the end, though, the gloom and doom prevailed. I went through the whole process of discovering that companies like those lampooned in Dilbert not only exist, but that Scott Adams is probably toning DOWN stories he's told because noone would believe them. I found myself fighting procedure and systems to get my job done on a daily basis - here's a suitably non-disclosing example: I went through a period of churning out useful developer-oriented web pages from the bug-tracking system, the constant churning being necessitated by the changes the IT guys kept making to the network in the interests of security. It was frustrating; I'd built a system that would generate hyperlinked punchlists for each release, cross-referenced by developer, so you could find out what bugs you were supposed to be working on for which release without having to navigate through the nightmarish bug-tracking tool (I'd love to know if this predates bugzilla or not!) And eventually, the IT guys did something that I couldn't cater for, so I shut the whole thing down and replaced it with an explanatory image.

And shortly after that I went to my boss and asked him how I should go about resigning.