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 – Razzle Dazzle! 

Give them the ol’ razzle dazzle ..Razzle dazzle them!

So .. I’m sitting here at this humongously wealthy, largest communications company in the whole wide world, certainly the UK with its 27million customer base.

You know the one.

It’s a bright sunny day in this part of Central Scotland, even although there was traffic chaos and a two hour journey getting here today from Glasgow due to the heavy overnight snowfall.

Not that the snowfall was actually that heavy, it’s just that the authorities and commuters of this tuppence-ha’penny little part of the world aren’t prepared for it.

It begs the question .. How do Sweden, Finland, Iceland manage function successfully with months of snowfall?

Anyway, where I’m sitting, at a desk near the foyer on the top floor which is lit up by the low sunshine emanating from the rooftop windows on the floor above. For some reason the building owners took the blinds down last November.      

It’s quite pleasant for me. But the two people sitting opposite can’t see for the sun shining directly in their eyes.

Fantastic .. trying to get some work done .. but too dazzled to see your screen.

Solution .. old cardboard boxes and cornflake boxes cellotaped strategically to the back of their monitors in an attempt to block the offending light.

Don’t you love that .. 

The biggest and the smallest company  all in the one go!

Video taken from the movie Chicago, one of my favourite musical featuring Richard Gere.  

A bit mixed on the tune,   but he’s decidedly better at singing than Pierce Brosman in Mamma Mia. 

Work Stories – Meek Inheritance?

And the big book said  … Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

Do you remember getting taught that at school as well as other Beatitudes from the Sermom On The Mount?

Here’s a wee reminder …  if you’re interested …

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatitudes

Basically Jesus is playing to the audience,  telling all of the unfortunates,  the poor, sick, bereft,  etc that their prayers will be answered.

He’s also encouraging positive behaviour in praising the peacemakers, the merciful, those of pure spirit,  those who are persecuted for believing in him telling them that they will be rewarded in heaven.

Yeah fucking yeah!

Thus isn’t a bible lesson ..  not that I have any feelings against the bible.   Generally speaking it has some rules on how to live your life regardless of what religion you may have been born into.

Yep an accident of birth tends to set the tone for most of your life,   Whether it’s the genes you inherited,  religion, location, environment, culture.

Thank the baby Jesus that I was born in this part of the world where I’ve been educated enough so that I can login here at 3am and write about whatever nonsense is on my mind without fear of persecution.

Maybe you’re reading this shit and agreeing,  maybe not,  but the fact that you can pick up your iPad and read this anytime you like,  that you have internet access, that you can read,  that you can afford an iPad or whatever device is an indication of how fortunate you are.

Aren’t we lucky?      Continue reading “Work Stories – Meek Inheritance?”

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?”

Glasgow Memories – RainTown

I’ve got a love that I cling on to
And I’ll stay there til the end
Just you laugh
Cos you’re loaded
Things look different from there

My favourite Deacon Blue song,  happy memories of growing up in Glasgow in the 80s.

Christmas 1988 and I listened to that album RainTown on repeat sitting in my flat on my own while a few miles away a family party was in full swing.

Sometimes you just need to be alone.  Continue reading “Glasgow Memories – RainTown”

Stepping Stones – Education, Investment, Careers, Family.

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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.”

#Celtic – More Than A Club?

 

The Celtic legend Tommy Burns once said “When you pull on a Celtic Jersey,  you don’t just represent a football club,  you represent a people,  a cause.”

Even the club itself uses the mantra of “Celtic More Than A Club” to sell season tickets,  that somehow the club retains the ethos originally set out by the founding members including Brother Walfrid that it would be a focus for charity to help the poor of Glasgow and predominantly the east end of the city.

I used to believe that,  I bought into it with my hard-earned cash paying for 2 season book for over 20 years sitting in the Jock Stein Stand when it opened and in the Lisbon Liions stand the year or two before that.

 

But what was that cause?

Who are these people that the club represents?

Continue reading “#Celtic – More Than A Club?”