Supply, Demand, Fear And Loathing in the UK Software Industry

Fear And Loathing

John and I have worked together a few times over the years.

The first time was back in 1998 during the halcyon days of deregulation when the government was throwing money at the utility companies in an attempt to open the energy and telecom markets and make buying electricity, gas or telephone services more competitive.

That was the party-line anyway but the real reason was in making money for the people who already had the money to invest, i.e. the Tory Party demographic and the banks, pension companies and institutes which could make huge profits buying the UK infrastructure at bottom-dollar prices and their share prices doubling over night.

As individuals working in software development, there was lots of money to be made on that gravy train and even although John and I were comparative bottom-feeders, we still made a relative fortune on obscene hourly rates, but that’s supply and demand for you.

Deadlines were tight, the date at which the market was set to open was fixed in stone and our employer Scottish Power was desperate to be one of the first PES’s with its foot in the door and it’s grubby little hands in your wallet.

Of course the reason that deadlines were tight was because the early days of analysis and design had been undertaken by some of the major consultancies of the time, IBM,. Logica, Cap Gemini and they were too busy lining their own pockets with the freely available money directed from the public purse to actually give a t0ss about getting the job done.

They talked a good game, as they always do, the project managers and analysts were the kind of guys who were good at drawing boxes to represent systems or data sources and then drawing the lines between them to represent processes and data flows.

You know the type, all talk, all confidence and delivered nothing.

I hear on the grape-vine that these guys are still out there now, 20 years later working in banking and the privatisation of Scottish Water, the latest gravy train to come along offering free money to those who talk a good game.

It’s not really strange to find that these guys all know each other, a cabal of frauds masquerading as leaders when all they are good at is leading any unsuspecting PLC up the proverbial garden path.

Of course by that time, budgets have been agreed and half spent, lots of documents have been produced with diagrams of boxes and lines but not a lot of actual detail and no infrastructure or software architecture which will implement the new business requirements.

That’s when they call us bottom-feeders in, the mercenaries who drift from contract to contract getting the work done on a decent daily rate extending the contract as long as we can to keep the dosh rolling in as long as possible or until someone else makes us a better offer.

1998 and Scottish Power went live with half-@rsed systems that didn’t work, that had been badly designed and sparsely data-populated.

Let me elaborate, some @rsehole who will remain nameless had been so focused on the data flows to communicate customer comings and goings with other market participants that he had completely missed any changes to the customer service screen to deal with the new data flows and the changes.

Another @rsehole in charge of data population decided that half the customers weren’t in scope for initial population. So on day-1 when these customers decided to get their electricity elsewhere, their data content fell down the cracks between the systems never to be seen again.

Yeah, of course it caused a stushie, there were customer complaints, OFGEN were involved, but the consultancies didn’t care, the @rseholes didn’t care and the bottom-feeders like John and I aren’t weren’t paid enough to care.

If the truth be told, what John and I did, with most of the development team was party hard on the money we earned on the gravy train that seemed that it was never going to end.

Every time our contract was renewed there was another £200 per week thrown on the deal, a sweetener to keep us motived and interested, sticking with the project to get it over the finish line even although we knew that it was fecked. We were paid to fix the bad software, write the missing parts and cleanse the data, all of which should have been complete before the system went live.

Here’s a unobvious truth, a software developer will earn more money from a bad project than a good one and I can assure that we made a fortune.

There were quite a few marriages ended in that period. But that’s another story for another day.

That was then, this is now.

But back to John, he’s a good guy for a hun. ( Rangers Supporter )

Continue reading “Supply, Demand, Fear And Loathing in the UK Software Industry”

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Work Stories – Objectives?

Don’t you just hate the bullshit that you sometimes have to go through as an employee?

Six monthly appraisals and annual objectives,  what a pile of shit,  a tick-box exercise designed to show that the company are making an effort,  when in actual fact they don’t really care about you or your circumstances.

It’s bullshit … and I hate bullshit.

This is my first staff job in 20 years,   Prior to taking this job I’d been self employed,  IT Consultant with various banks.

Why did I go staff? Continue reading “Work Stories – Objectives?”

Work Stories – Cairo?

egypt

So … I’m in the small kitchen area, leaning with my back against the work-top waiting on the kettle to boil.

It’s my second last day at this Bank in Glasgow city centre that currently pays for my time.

Well actually, the banks pays the consultancy that I’m working through and they pay me.

Everybody takes a cut, everybody makes a buck.

Only the customer pays somehow or other, the cost of the project is hidden away in their operating costs as a regulatory change.

And we can’t miss out on regulatory changes can we?
So .. as I was sayin’ ..    Continue reading “Work Stories – Cairo?”

Stepping Stones – Education, Investment, Careers, Family.

IMG_0609

18 Months ago  I wrote the following about my son and his journey through education,  getting a 2:1 degree in Cell Biology from Glasgow University and his frustration at being unable to get a job and I could see that it was getting him down that all his efforts hadn’t produced a result but some of his friends who had chosen other paths were starting to make a decent living as police officers,  joiners, etc.

As his dad,  I was worried about him,  particularly as the 18-25 year age group is the highest suicide rate for males.   Possibly because at that point in their life they realise that it hasn’t quite turned out the way they expected or that it looks on tv.

So I funded him through his Masters degree at Strathclyde Business school and we were both delighted at the volume of jobs that were waiting for him as a result.

https://dancingbhoy.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/train-stories-the-journey-continues/

When he was given a few offers,   we talked them over and decided on a job in Edinburgh with less money than one in Glasgow but with better long term prospects.

Frankly the job at Barclays Bank in Glasgow might have paid a few grand more but it was a dead end,  mopping up and investigating claims but not using the business analysis skills that he learned in his masters.

So he started at a software company in Edinburgh on a lower salary of 20k and has been involved in the design,  analysis and testing of their products.  Becoming a project lead for some of their key products.

Ironically he has picked up some more technical skills like database design and SQL as part of his role.   I say ironic, as that kind of technology and IT bored him when he was younger and he wasn’t interested in learning them .. but now he sees their value,  not only in the work-place,  but also as a means to making a decent living.

After a year,  they had bumped him to 25k,   more than he would have had with Barclays.

Unfortunately 2 weeks ago,   RBS closed down their separation and sell-off of their brand Williams And Glyn as a separate business,  causing his company to lose a lot of work and he was given his redundancy notice.

As expected,  he was worried,   he stopped in at mine after work for a chat and a bit of advice and perspective.

I told him that he should view this as a stepping stone,  that he had been making progress,  that he was investing in himself,  learning to talk the talk and walk the walk and that he now had sellable skills and experience.

Did he believe me? Continue reading “Stepping Stones – Education, Investment, Careers, Family.”

Work Stories – And he’s only tiny … ?

Is it the look in your eyes?
Or is it this dancing juice?
Hey baby
I think I want to marry you?

So its 8:55am and I come bounding up the stairs at work,   headphones on,  iphone in random and Bruno Marrs blasting in my ears.

Thats the kinda cheery upbeat song that I love listening to in the morning .. or any time of day for that matter.

Anyways,  I bounce up the psuedo-corridor between the already fully occupied banks of desks either side of me .. most people arrive well before me .. some as early as 7am .. what’s that all about?

But I don’t work for the bank,   I’m through a consultancy company and working 9-5 .. what a way to make a livin’.

The way I see it is if you’re only paying me 9-5,   then thats the only hours I’m turning up .. and only fools or the badly manipulated work extra hours for the man giving up their precious and valuable time for no extra payment.

Here’s the deal .. time= money  .. you want my time .. you give me money.

Simple!

As I bounce up the office,  smile on my face,  headphones still blasting,   I’m sure a few people can hear the bass as I get the occasional look … and depending on the look I either smile back at another kindred soul  .. or  .. a closed mouth smile and hope it’s pissing you off that I arrive later than you and leave before you too .. sucker!

Just before I arrive at my desk I press pause on the headphones.  I get a nod from Robb the ex-paratrooper .. the kinda guy you just know would beat the shit out of you …  now retrained in management reporting .. theres a jump as big as mine from Shipbulding to IT and Banking.

Robb and I are kindred spirits,   neither of us really give a feck,   it’s an easy means to the most rewarding end and he sits with his headphones on all day listening to dance music .. I like him.

Robb asks .. so what are you listening to today? .. as he does most days.

Bruno Marrs .. I reply expecting a slagging for being such a girl.

( Not that there is anything wrong with being a girl! )

But Robb just nods his head in complicit agreement.

At this point Scott,   the senior manager,  grey,  late 50s,   bright and charming but very old school..  and the guy who signs my paychecks comes over and says …

Bruno Marrs … He does some good tunes .. but he’s only tiny.

Really Scott?

Does being tiny make you any less talented?

To be fair,   I’m sure Scott never meant any offense,  he’s not that kinda guy and one of the softest guys I know .. he’s just old-school … but it stuck out like catching a splinter on a bannister that makes you alch.

 

Talking Fast, Thinking Slow!

He sits directly across from me at my bank of 6 desks.

He looks the part,  always dressed sharply, fashionable hair and fuzz.

But my God,  does he talk one load of shit.

Not only does he talk shit,  but he does it at the top of his voice.

I’m sure that his patter and fast talking impresses the young girls,  but not this “old” dude ..  the guy is all talk .. he opens his mouth before engaging his brain .. talking fast,  but thinking slow.

He never ever thinks things through,  always jumps to the obvious conclusion and never considers the wider implication that changing one thing may have on another.

Listening to him most days gives me a headache, dealing with him is painful.

The guy that sits beside him isn’t much better.

Both of them in their late-20s think they know it all,  couple of wide-boys that either start or finish each sentence with “man”.

Call me old-fashioned but their bad diction and lack of vocabulary is an indication of insufficient education and abilities both in and out the work-place.

There is the proof that having a university degree does not make you clever.

Its been a while since I’ve wrote a blog entry,  at least two weeks,  the system I’ve been been brought in to get up and working is now fully operational.

The guys sitting across from me are part of the team who were working on it for over almost two years before I started.

When I started the project was over a year late and 5m over budget at 20% complete.

Now that its live,  the team I’m working within are moving to a support model rather than development.

There’s going to be job losses … . 2 from 12.

Guess who?

 

 

Work Stories – Having Faith? 

 

It’s 5pm and I’m leaving work. 

As i get up to put on my jacket, I notice that unusually everyone else is too, not just in my team but it seems that the full office is leaving. 

As I get to the central stairs, they are crowded when they are normally empty and it seems that the full building is leaving. 

Hmmm … I’m noticing a pattern. 

I ask one of my colleagues who is also leaving what’s going on?

It seems that there was a call within the management for voluntary redundancies three months ago and the people selected were told last week. 

Today all of the staff were emailed to attend a mandatory meeting with one of the U.K. Group directors later this week. 

Seems that there is a restructure and job losses on the horizon. 

I’m pleased to see that people are rightly voting with their feet, 5pm and we are outta here. 

Me, I’m self employed, I lost any delusions of loyalty to a company many many years ago. 

Work pays the wages, affords a lifestyle, but keep it in perspective and remember your real life is much more important. 

As I mentioned to my colleague,   If you get offered redundancy take it,  it’s not often that ordinary working class people get the chance to grab a lump sum and stash it in the bank.  

Don’t worry about being out of work,  there is lots of opportunity out there for anyone with sellable skills or determination 

Just get your CV updated and on the jobsites and the phone will ring. 

Have faith in yourself. 

Once the new job arrives spend half the redundancy on a holiday with the family or do something you always wanted. 

It’s only money.  Use it to buy time. 

4am and I’m wired to the moon. 

It’s cause and effect you see,   Early night Sunday,  up early yesterday,  out like a light last night and my awake switch flicked on at 3am today.  

I should sleep or I’ll probably be knackered  tomorrow but can’t. 

Better not turn the tv on!