The great clear-out

As previously mentioned, my parents recently moved house. As such I had to retrieve a fair amount of stuff from their loft, and also had to precide over the decisions to dump or keep various artifacts from my youth!

A lot of it has now found its way onto the modern day equivalent of a car-boot sale that is eBay. So, in the best tradition of abusing one’s readership (assuming any of you are out there) please feel free to take a look at my items for sale.

IBM Hursley recruitment open day

IBM Hursley Park

As I previously blogged, IBM Hursley is currently hiring. We are looking for software engineers with experience of Java, C++, and/or z/OS to work in development, test and service roles. In addition we are looking for information developers to support the development of our product range. More information on the vacancies can be found here.
The open day is taking place at the IBM Hursley site, in Hursley House (pictured above) this Saturday 29th July between 10am and 4pm. Details are being posted in the local press. Here are some directions to Hursley.

Natural sound and light show

Have just spent the last half hour staring outside our window at an amazing show of thunder and lightning which passed right over us and is still going on in the distance. Lots of forked lightning including one I saw one hit the lightning conductor on the spire of St. Marys Church. A decent electrical storm is a fairly rare occurence in the UK, but with the weather we’ve been having, this one has been overdue. Very impressive.

How am I affected by the flat world?

As previously mentioned, I’ve recently been reading The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. To be honest, I’ve only read the first four chapters so far, in which Friedman expounds his theories on how various forces and convergences have resulted in the “flattening” The logic is clear enough, and the arguments certainly persuasive, but I wasn’t too taken with how they were presented, particularly the excessive repetition of the same facts. There are only so many times you can read about India being able to take advantage of over-investment in fibre optics during the dot-com boom before you want to shout OK, I GET IT. The slight, but noticeable, lack of technical accuracy in some of his facts was also slightly annoying.

The message of the book however is clear and loud, and was drummed home to me today when I sat in on a talk in Hursley by C. Mohan, an IBM fellow (the highest rung of the technical ladder in IBM) and newly appointed chief scientist of IBM India. India and China (and perhaps to a lesser extent Brazil and Russia [collectively forming the so called BRIC emerging markets]) are clearly a source of bright, young and extremely capable computer scientists who are arguably (and this is a generic statement, not an IBM specific one) being under-utilised. That is to say that at some point these highly trained people will want to do more than the typically off-shored testing and maintenance roles. They will want to move up the food chain and take on more responsibility for the development and architecture of IT products and solutions. IBM now employs nearly 40,000 people in India, and we recently announced a further $6 billion investment. We have also recently opened a development lab in Russia, a Linux Development Centre in Brazil, and extended our R&D facilities in China.

As a developer in the western world, I can view this in one of two ways. I could see it as a threat to my job, or I could see it as an opportunity. If I took the former attitude, then I’d be taking a protectionist stance to try to inhibit colleagues from these emerging markets from gaining the knowledge to do my job. For instance, I may not co-operate with people over from Bangalore to pick up particular product skills. There are some reasonable arguments that might lead one to take such an approach, but simple economics mean that it is likely to fail. I once heard (and this is unsubstantiated, so don’t hold me to it as the gospel) that for the cost of employing one developer in a western economy, you can employ four developers in India. For each Indian developer, you can employ three developers in China. So, you can have me, or you can have twelve people in Beijing, all with PhDs. That’s what they call a no-brainer if I am not going to be willing to differentiate myself.

So, the only real option is to make myself part of what Friedman calls “the new middlers”. He defines a new middler using a variety of broad categories based around attributes such as personality, the ability to explain, adaptability, and the capability to leverage opportunities amongst others. My take on this as a professional in the western software industry is that I need to develop my skills in a way which will enable me to attain unique selling points which will keep me employable. I need to continue being close to our clients, be innovative in the work I do, and aim to manouvere myself into more of an architecture/visionary role in the medium term. For me, this is naturally where I see myself going, so I believe I am in a good position. However, I can’t afford to take my eye off the ball.

Over time of course, the current cost advantages of employing computer scientists in emerging markets will decrease as those economies develop, as infrastructure improves, and as naturally follows, wages rise. Mohan made the point that even though the average age of the Indian workforce is an amazing 24.4 years old (an advantage the Chinese economy can’t claim due to the impact of various government policies on the population demographic over the years) there is still a relative lack of IT graduates in India, leading to wages increasing to attract staff, and partly causing the relatively high attrition rate compared to western IT companies.

IBM Support toolbar released

The folks over at the IBM support have created a very useful support toolbar to help you access IBM support information across all our Software brands.

Support toolbar

You can opt to search all of IBM support, or just specific technotes or downloads for a particular brand. In addition, you can get quick one click access to the brand specific support and developerWorks pages. Once you get to the page you want via the toolbar, I’d recommend subscribing to the available RSS feed to get regular updates for the products you use. For example, the feed for WebSphere ESB.
You’ll also find quick access from the toolbar to your account information, problem reporting and many other useful pages such as product documentation.
The only downside is that it is IE only at the moment. The Firefox version is still in development.

How not to move house.

Majorca was lovely and peaceful – a much needed week of relaxing by the pool.

Unfortunately, my second week of vacation was largely spent helping my parents move house. After years of trying to convince them to leave the house they’ve been in for 28 years to downsize to a bungalow in a much nicer area, last Wednesday was the big move day. People can accumulate a lot of rubbish in such a long period of time, and despite my pleas, hardly any of it had been thrown out. Why they want to keep bits of old Lego around is beyond me (well, it isn’t, they are hoping that their hypothetical future grandchildren will delight in playing with it.)

I arrived on Thursday night to find to my dismay that a vast mound of stuff was unpacked, or packaged in fruit and veg boxes in such a way as to make them unstackable. Now I’ve never before dealt with people in the removals trade, but I suspected their job is made considerably easier when all they have to do is move and stack taped up packing boxes, and the odd bit of furniture. To their credit they didn’t throw up a fuss, and in any case I bought about twenty packing boxes and re-packed most of the loose stuff. The downside was that in this last minute rush there was no organisation of what was in each identical white packing box – a problem which would come back to bite.

The other downside of my parents’ hoarding relates to the fact they were downsizing from a three bedroom terrace to a two bedroom bungalow. This fact appeared to have eluded them. For instance, we moved two double beds and a futon. Thankfully the bungalow has a garage, and the skip I hired the next day was full within two hours!

By Thursday evening, we’d managed to get the bungalow into some semblance of organised chaos, with pathways through various boxes allowing navigation. A trip to B&Q to buy a job-lot of loft floor boards left my dad with a job to do whilst I drove back to Southampton to enjoy my final day of holiday and to see Billy Joel with Lana on Friday night.

Lana and myself then drove back up to Luton on Saturday and spent the rest of the weekend unpacking boxes, repacking them, shifting them up to the loft and building flat pack furniture.

The outcome of all this is that I’ve learnt that when it comes to Lana and myself moving, which will probably be in the not too distant future, it pays not to have too much to move. Hence I’ll be hitting eBay in style soon!

The other moral is to leave the relaxing sitting by the pool in the sun to the second week of a two week break from work.