Another Long Week

Well it’s Friday again, and I’m on the train down to Nottingham. I have some time now to myself, to think, to reflect, and to write an entry for my blog!
This week was very intensive. I did an all-nighter Sunday night, and another Tuesday night. I racked up more than 80 working hours this last week, so effectively did two weeks work in one. This whole last month I’ve been averaging 60 hours a week.
It’s pay day today though, and I’ve got a rather large pay packet coming to me, so I’m happy. ^_^ The drinks are definitely on me tonight!!
I’ve been doing some really excellent work recently, and because of it I’ve got another promotion. I’m now the design authority for the Enterprise Project Management system I am producing, which means a lot more authority and responsibility. Hopefully another pay rise too; I’m talking to the boss about that next week.
So we are now examining the next phase of functionality. I’m writing documentation and getting everything ready for security auditing. We have to comply with BS779 because of the restricted and secret information that is being held on the system. We are entering an exciting stage of the project and I’m really looking forward to getting onto the next lot of functionality.
But enough about work. According to Nikkie I am now officially the best boyfriend in the world. Because I’ve been so busy this last week I haven’t been able to call her as much as I would like. She has been really busy too, doing her neurology placement in a hospital in Boston. She’s been feeling a little sad that we have both been too busy to keep in better contract, so to cheer her up I got a dozen red roses delivered to the ward she was working on in the hospital . She said she got such a shock when they arrived, and has had a massive grin on her face ever since. I’ve had a massive grin of my face all day too knowing about the surprise she would get. I can’t wait to get to Nottingham and see her.
In other news I talked to mum and Fragma last night for about an hour each. It’s the first time I talked to either of them on the phone since I got back from Australia! I know! How bad of a son/friend am I!! Mum had a lot of news to tell, and we chatted for ages. She told me that she had received a thing from the University of Queensland saying that I had been admitted to the Dean’s Honour Roll for my Bachelor of Business Management, which I thought was a scream. I hardly use my Engineering degree, let alone my Business one. I guess it’s good to put on my CV, but I still think of it as a bit of a joke considering the amount of work I put into it. Mum said she lost the lapel pin that came with it, but I told her not to worry. I’m never going to wear it.
After speaking to mum I called Fragma at work. He works harder than I do the crazy man! Nikkie reckons it is all his fault that I am working this hard. She says he is a bad influence on me :). We chatted about all my friends back home, what they are up to, what new things that have been happening. We also chatted the normal bollocks that we do. It was great to talk to him again. I’ve got to stop being so slack and call my friends back home more. I think I’ve only called Ads and Wulfen once or twice each, and Fragma only a few more times than that. I left some really great friends behind in Aus and I really need to start making more of an effort to keep in touch.
With that thought in mind I’m going to finish this blog entry here and spend my remaining battery power writing emails all of those friends of mine who have been slipping away recently. Expect an email soon guys!

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I Know Kung Fu

Modern hackers are ronin, wandering samurai who have no master. Their laptop is their katana and their mobile phone is their wakizashi. Their horse is named 3G and on it they can reach the whole world. They are the technological elite; highly mobile warriors of the information revolution.
I came into work yesterday at 3.30 in the afternoon, and left at 6.20 this morning. After two hours sleep I was back at work. I spent the whole night doing some serious hacking. I learnt an incredible amount of stuff and got some really cool shit working.
I am tired as hell, but damn I love my job.

It’s Midday on Sunday and I am on the train back up to Liverpool. I just said goodbye to Nikkie, gave her a great big hug, jumped on the train just as it was about to pull away, sat down and booted up my laptop. I’ve got to go into the office this afternoon to do some out of production maintenance work on the system. Geoff just called and one of the nodes on our SQL cluster has failed, so it might be a long night to get things back up and running properly again. The big advantage of having a high available infrastructure, with a backend SQL cluster is that you can afford to have and entire node fail and the system can keep on running.
So I’m sitting here thinking to myself, I have a very fucking cool life. I’m hacking together solutions for a living. I feel sort of akin to Randy Waterhouse in Cryptonomicon minus the WWII intrigue and global politics. I’m not jetting around the world setting up a data haven like he is, but when I step back and think about it, what I’m doing is pretty damn awesome.
I’ve spent the last week putting the finishing touches on a system that has been rolled out on a UK Ministry of Defence contract. It’s my system, running on Geoff’s infrastructure. It is dual redundant, highly available and scalable. It is totally secure, isolated from the outside world and is designed to meet JSP 480, which is the UK’s standard for networks that are going to contain restricted and secret documents. It’s an amazing piece of work and I’m really lucky to have had a chance to work on it.
I work hard on that during the week, and then I jet on down to hang out with my tall, blonde half-Dutch goddess for the weekend. I’ve got my trusty laptop at my side, akin to a pistol on my hip or a sword on my back. We’re going 3G now, so with the VPN software we are using I can jump on our secure network from anywhere and do some work. I’m a wandering samurai, a roaming hacker, a specialist doing an important job. And you know what; they actually pay me stupid amounts of money to do it as well!!!
Ok that may all be a really idealistic look at what I do, and totally glosses over the mundane, boring work that needs to be done to get everything working, but sitting here reviewing the last, hectic seven weeks I think it’s about time to get idealistic. I’ve done a really great job, and it’s moments like this which make it all worth it, which make you wake up and realise how bloody good you have it, how lucky you are to be living in such an exciting world. Not only living in that world, but playing a really cool part in it as well! Now that I’ve had time to reflect on it all I really can’t believe how lucky I am.

I’m free to be whatever I, whatever I choose, and I’ll sing the blues if I want.
I’m free to say whatever I, whatever I like, if it’s wrong or right, it’s alright.
Free, to be whatever you, whatever you say, if it comes my way it’s alright.

Written while listening to Whatever by Oasis.

Shopping and Reunions

So Saturday Nikkie took me shopping in Nottingham. I really needed some new winter clothes. Since I hadn’t bought anything new for myself in ages I decided to spurge and spend a hell of a lot of money. I figure that I’m working full time now and I’m earning good money, so I shouldn’t look like a shabby student anymore. It is about time to scrub up and care about what I look like a little more. So Nikkie took think as a sign to go to all the posh shops! I bought jumpers from FCUK and shirts from Ted Baker. I’m generally clueless about labels and which some things are better than others, however after trying on some of the stuff in Ted Baker I understood why it was so expensive. This was really, really good quality stuff. I promptly spent £95 there without even thinking about it.
So anyway I bought a whole new posh wardrobe and now fit the image of a well paid professional. I feel a whole lot better about myself too, I didn’t realise that good clothes made this much difference.
Saturday night the old Church Avenue gang got back together for the first time since April. Bruce, Ben, Graeme, Nikkie, Viki and I all met up at the Pitcher and Piano and promptly slipped right back into where we left off 4 months ago. Everyone had stories to tell and we had a great time catching up. As I was now a big successful working man it fell to me to buy a bottle of champagne for us to celebrate our reunion with. We all got drunk and happy and I was struck with how much I had missed all of them.
I’m heading back down to Notts next Friday, so we’ll all go out together again, and it will be just like old times.

Exhausted

It’s 8pm Friday night and I am on the train down to Nottingham. I am taking tomorrow off work. It will be the first Saturday for as long as I can remember that I am not working.
I really need the break.
The end of this week marks the end of the big initial phase of development for the Enterprise Project Management system I am working on. We met our deliverables; we got them in on time and on budget. In fact we got the system implemented ahead of schedule!
To meet the extremely tight schedule that was imposed upon us I had to work sixty hour plus weeks. Now I need a rest.
So I’m going down to Nottingham to meet up with my beautiful girlfriend Nikkie, and we are going to have a nice, fun, relaxing weekend, totally work and stress free.
I can’t wait to see Nikkie again. I just want to fall into her arms and forget all the stresses of this past week. She makes me feel so at ease when I’m around her. I forget all my troubles and am simply happy.
Nottingham here I come!

Driving Places

Well I am on the train again. It’s Sunday night and I’m on the Manchester express from Nottingham. From Manchester I’ll get a train across to Liverpool Lime Street, and then another one up to Crosby. The whole trip will take me a little over three hours. I could have driven. That would have only taken me about two and a half. However then I wouldn’t have had the time to write this blog entry! I am not that good a driver to be able to concentrate on the road at 90 mph and type on a laptop at the same time.
Oh yeah, so I’ve got a company car now. It’s pretty funny how it all works out. I borrowed one of the bosses cars while he was on holiday (they are all registered and insured under the company, but the big boss has like four of them for his whole family). So while he was away I was allowed to use one of them, and even though he has now returned, he hasn’t asked for it back. I do use it for company work some of the time. I had to drive down to Telford, where all our Regional Project Managers are based, for a meeting a couple of weeks ago, but for the most part I use it to drive the 5 minutes between work and my flat, and sometimes under the river to my cousin’s place, and just once down to Nottingham and back. I have mentioned in passing to the boss that I’ve still got one of his cars, but he said nobody was really using it at the moment, so I could use it for the time being. Awesome!!
I love my job. I’m living rent free in a company flat, five minutes down the road from work. I’ve got a company car, and I’m getting paid great money! I’ve got no real expenses at all. I’m saving heaps and still having a great time.

What I Actually Do All Day

My friend Jacqui, who came to visit me around this time last year recently emailed me asking what I’ve been up to. Last time I talked to her was April, and I had told her that I just started working at a “small telco in Liverpool”, and that’s about it. So she wanted to know what was new with my job, and the email I started writing in reply kept growing and growing as I tried to tell the story of what I am actually doing now.
So after all of that I though I would post that except from the email here for the rest of you out there who are wondering what on Earth I am doing all day at work. It doesn’t go into full details of everything, I was intending it as a summary of sorts, but it does the job. So without further ado:
“The job is great. Fantastic even. The contract we’ve currently got has meant that everything has scaled up tremendously and I was really lucky to get in just at the start of it all. Let me see, since I last talked to you I’ve got a promotion, totally changed my job role, got a pay rise AND got flown on the company dime back to Aus to get my visa sorted out and do some training on the side.
I am currently implementing the “Enterprise Project Management Solution” for the big government contract we have gotten. Basically UK ministry of defence have this project called the Defence Infrastructure Initiative (Future) and it’s worth about £4 billion pound over five years. The project involves upgrading all of the IT infrastructure of all the MOD bases in the UK. There are thousands of MOD sites in the UK, so it’s a BIG project. Anyway a group called the “Atlas Consortium” won the contract, and it is made up of companies like EDS, General Dynamics and Fujitsu. They in themselves are all really big companies. Compared to them we are small fry. We are a GD subcontractor. GD are responsible for organising all of the site surveys and designs for all the sites, so they send in guys to look at the current infrastructure, design new stuff, and ultimately re-fit all the bases. What the have contracted us to do is project manage all the guys they have on the ground, who are themselves sub-contractors.
So basically we have a whole lot of project managers who go out on MOD sites and oversee the work and make sure everything is on schedule and help iron out any problems they may have. They attend meetings and submit reports and track the project progress. This is currently done with a mixture of paper reporting and excel spreadsheets. What _I_ am doing is implementing an IT system (using Microsoft Project Server 2003) which will help to automate a lot of this process, providing an Enterprise Project Plan which is published and accessible over the internet and allow dynamic reporting on the project status.
This system didn’t exist 5 weeks ago. I hadn’t even head of Project Server 8 weeks ago. I was sent to back to Australia in July to get my visa, and do some certified Microsoft courses in Project Server (it turned out to be cheaper to do it at home with the exchange than it would have been to do it in London). I went back to Brisbane, spent three weeks there, two of them intensively studying this stuff, seeing my friends and family in when I could, before coming back to the UK and getting totally thrown into the thick to things. I’ve now been SC “Security Cleared”, which means I can now have access to restricted documents (which will be stored on our system, because some things, like even the location of some of these bases, is restricted) and I’m all trained up and have gotten stuck right in.
I’ve got a deadline for the 22nd of September to roll out this system to the Regional Project Managers and to GD. I’m on schedule, but it’s going to be tight. I’m working with 3 other guys on the project, but they are all responsible for setting up the infrastructure, the network and servers for my system to work on. I’m the only project specialist, so it’s pretty full on.
Ok, sorry to ramble for so long, but it’s pretty convoluted. I am really enjoying the work, though I’m doing 60 hour weeks at the moment. It’s very interesting. Both challenging and stimulating! Plus I am getting paid in pounds!! I had forgotten how cheap things are in Aus compared to the UK. Money wise I’m in a pretty good job, earning a decent wage, in the UK I live comfortably, can save a bit but still have fun. The bit I’m saving though, if I can save the same amount each year, will make me absolutely minted when I eventually come back home. I hated the exchange rate when I was living as s student and eating into my aussie savings. I’m loving it now I am earning pounds and building up British savings.”
So there is a brief overview for you. I don’t plan on doing this forever. There are good opportunities in this area at the moment, lots of jobs out there for Project Sever consultants, but I’m sure I’ll move onto other things. Maybe back into software development, maybe more towards systems integration. Right now the industry is in a really exciting place, there is a lot of cool technology out there, and I’m feeling like a sponge, soaking up information. I am learning a lot technically, but I am also learning a lot about business, about “how things really work”. I’m in a strange position because I am doing technical job, but am having to interface at the highest level of the company. I am getting the sort of exposure I didn’t think I’d get for years.
Oh yeah, and I’m getting a new kitchen in my flat too! It was water damaged while I was in Aus, so it’s getting totally refitted; new cooker, benches, cabinets, washing machine, the works.
It’s 10.15pm on a Saturday night, I’ve spent all day in the office working, and now im on the train down to Nottingham to visit my girlfriend. Writing all of this, thinking about all of this, has may be realise how fucking awesome I’ve got it at the moment. How lucky I am. I’ve got a wonderful girlfriend means the world to me. I love her. She loves me. I’m in a great place, got a great job. Things are fantastic!
I hope everyone else is as happy as I am.