Two decades as a web developer

In mid-August 1998 I began my first job as a web developer, happily accepting the somewhat grand position of “webmaster” at Scottish Radio Holdings. Based at the offices of Radio Clyde in Clydebank, that first rung in the career ladder was a whirlwind of on the job learning fueled by the nervous excitement that came with being a part of a nascent industry.

I hadn’t ever worked as a web developer (not many people had!), nor endured the level of pressure that came with the workload of designing, developing and maintaining over 15 separate websites. How was I to know that one person couldn’t possibly do all that? It was my dream job in an exciting profession in an era – the turn of the millennium – that seemed to brim with untapped potential for what the internet could bring to the lives of everyday people.

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14 years and all that Jazz

Last month I watched my long-serving Honda Jazz leave from outside my house, almost fourteen and a half years after I’d driven it out of the showroom in Liverpool, bound for the scrap yard.

As the scrap merchant prepared it for departure, putting jump leads on the battery to give it some life, I busied myself clearing out the contents of the car, with Fliss coming over to help scramble items into either a bag of stuff to keep or one for the bin. With so many family memories centred around the car, I couldn’t help but feel sentimental at the finality of the moment.

A few months before when its MOT had been due I didn’t think it was worth the money to get it through and, when the due date passed, I declared it “off-road.” Feeling that it had had enough money spent on it over the years – from a couple of pricey low-speed bumps in its early years to a brutal £700 bill to replace a failed door deadlock and the exhaust, I decided that it was now in the state that it wasn’t a worthwhile investment to keep it on the road.

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A Curious situation

It was early September 2009 and I’d been working at Curious Group for almost a month when I got an unexpected call on a Saturday evening from Robert, the technical director. He asked if I could make an “off-site company meeting” the following afternoon and, although his demeanour was as cheerful as ever, he made it obvious that it was very important that I should attend. Without hesitation I said I’d see him the following day at the chosen venue, a bar called Home in Glasgow’s Merchant City, and the brief call came to an end.

My mind began running through all the possible scenarios that would require me to attend an off-site meeting on a weekend after less than a month with the company. The knot of tension in the pit of my stomach grew tighter as the results came in. None of the outcomes had an especially rosy outcome.

From the day I started, I’d been tasked with learning a handful of object-oriented programming patterns. It had been educational, sure, but it wasn’t exactly productive and maybe I wasn’t delivering on the promise I’d shown in my interview. The fact was I really needed the job and there’d already been a process snafu that meant I had been paid a week late. That had stretched my scant resources pretty thin, so redundancy without notice would leave me in a perilous position. I swallowed hard at the prospect of having the rug pulled from underneath me when tomorrow came.

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