Place your bets…

English: 2011 Grand National

English: 2011 Grand National (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the charms of a friend of mine is that he talks complete nonsense. He is like a breath of fresh air in any kind of discussion, because he always brings a completely different (and usually hopelessly wrong) point of view. He is almost a hedge fund of conversation. His nickname is Goober, and we term the nonsense that comes from him Gooberish. Very occasionally, when the planets align or during a solstice, Goober will start to suddenly become more lucid for a short while and start to make sense. This is the time when alarm bells, klaxons & buzzers should start going off in your head, because he is invariably still talking nonsense, but somehow, you’ve been taken in.

I remember one such occasion coincided with the Grand National. The Grand National is the biggest race in the UK horse racing calendar. People who spend their leisure time following races and having the occasional flutter tend to avoid the Grand National like the plague, but for a large proportion of the population, it represents an annual opportunity to have a go. The romance associated with the Grand National suggests that any horse can win the race. I would amend that and say “any horse not backed by me”. I’ve never won, apart from one year, thanks to something we now call Goobernomics.

Goober, in one of his rare articulate moments, persuaded us that the way to win on the National was to place a small each way bet on every horse in the race. He argued, successfully, that there were very few horses with odds of less than the number of horses in the race, and in fact, the vast majority had odds that were higher. Foolishly, we all followed his logic and handed over a big pile of cash. Goober disappeared out the door and the next time we saw him, he had a fist full of betting slips and a big grin.

As ever, we watched the race, confident in the fact that whatever happened, we were going to win. The race ran its course and the leaders crossed the line. If I remember correctly, there was even a photo finish to determine one of the places, but we didn’t care. Thanks to Goobernomics, we were guaranteed to win. We were busy congratulating ourselves and we nearly missed the bit where they flash up the winning horses so that there is no doubt over who came where. We started rifling through the betting slips looking for the leading horses that had come in first, second, third and fourth. As we assembled these betting slips, the awful realisation dawned on us that three of the top four horses had very short odds. We quickly did the sums in our heads and realised that we had lost.

I seem to remember that we got 33p for every pound we had bet. The power of Goobernomics.

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Who are they?

Clockwise from top left: Marge, Homer, Bart, S...

Clockwise from top left: Marge, Homer, Bart, Santa’s Little Helper (dog), Snowball II (cat), Lisa, and Maggie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my favourite episodes of the Simpsons is where Homer discovers he has a long-lost brother called Herb. Of course Herb is the complete antithesis of Homer. He is successful, slim with a full head of hair. He runs a successful car (or automobile in the native American) manufacturing company called Powell Motors in Detroit. Herb is overjoyed to learn of his brother and they start to spend a lot of time together.

After a while, Herb realises that Homer is the epitomical average American guy and therefore the best person to design a car for ordinary Americans, so he lets Homer loose and gives him free rein to design the next car from Powell Automobiles. Of course, being the Simpsons, it is an unmitigated disaster. The car that Homer designs appeals to absolutely no-one and Powell Automobiles ends up going bust.

 So where did Homer go wrong. Quite simple really – he did not focus on who his customer were or what they might want. He simply kept adding features until he could think of nothing else to add. What this did was inflated the cost (because there were so many features) and reduced the appeal, because who wants something that is average at everything.

Every time we develop a product, we need to ask ourselves some basic questions. Who is going to use this product?  What are their needs?  What are they going to want to do? It’s a really good idea to define these things in an audience statement so that everyone involved in the product is left in no doubt as to the niche you are trying to fill. It’s also a good idea to express the requirements for the product in terms of use cases.

A really simple idea, a use case is almost a story that defines what the user will end up doing with the product. The benefit in doing this is that everyone can visualise exactly what the product will do. The use cases “As a racing driver I want to get around a lap in the quickest time possible” will yield a very different product to “As a commuter I want to complete long journeys comfortably without using too much fuel”.

The benefits don’t end with development of the product either. If we have the use cases, testers can immediately understand the natural paths through the system and can make sure their tests fully cover these paths (as well as looking for where the users might stray off the path. Because use cases are written in plain English, Sales & Marketing can immediately understand what the product is about and gear up their materials accordingly.

So if you want to end up with a Bugatti Veyron (and not a Homer special) – it’s a very good idea to think about who’s going to use your product.

The synergy of the network

A segment of a social network

A segment of a social network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the concepts I found challenging to grasp many moons ago during a course in business and finance was synergy. Maybe it was because I was only 16 at the time and the sum total of my possessions added up to one Casio calculator and a dog-eared biro but when he said that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts – I struggled to see what he meant. Of course I now understand that if you deliver two tons of metal, a few bits of rubber and some plastic to Massey Ferguson, you get a very different product compared to the same shipment arriving at Bentley with a commensurate difference in value.

Almost every mobile phone is pretty much the same form factor and made of similar materials and yet we place very different value on different brands. The whole perfume industry relies on people forgetting the inconvenient fact that the product they are selling is nicely scented alcohol served up in a nobby bottle as they hand over a small fortune.

Those who know me well will know that I enjoy playing games. Not the sort that appear on a computer screen because I spend far too much of my life staring at pixels as it is. I enjoy social games where the participants are vaguely humanoid. Some being more vague than others. The most satisfying games I play are also the most difficult to explain. Games which rely on the collective imaginations of the players concerned can result weaving amazing stories. The reason these games work is synergy once again.

The idea of a social network is not new. In the early 1930s, a self-published psychologist named Dr. Jacob Levi Moreno introduced the sociogram, the first formal attempt to map out the relationships within a group of people. Moreno’s sociogram — a cluster of individual points, or “nodes,” connected by straight lines — became a powerful tool for identifying social leaders, outsiders, and what he called the “sociometric star,” the person to whom all others are connected. [Source: Psybernet]

Social networks are built on synergy.

Facebook made its début on the markets this week amid a flurry of law suits and accusations. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third biggest with only China and India boasting larger populations. Something like 1 in 5 couples meet through social media. Opinions vary as to how much time people spend on social networks, but whichever estimate you believe, it is a very large number. Each individual’s contribution to the network is not worth much, but taken together, the value of all the contributions is much higher. Whether that justifies Facebook’s valuation I don’t know but I certainly didn’t buy any shares.

After one of those conversations one sunny lunchtime at the local watering hole where everyone walks away thinking they are going to change the world, we decided to get Yammer up and running. Yammer is a bit like Facebook for companies. My colleague installed it and sent me an invitation. When I signed up, I was asked to invite some other people. After 6 months or so, half the company was online after no promotion and no backing from the company. It’s fair to say that Yammer has revolutionised the way that we collaborate and communicate within the company.

There is a massive proliferation of different social networks available. Where they overlap, usually a winner emerges and the others die off. Where they are complementary, they are linking together. Already, a post you make on WordPress or a fresh pin on Pinterest can automatically appear on Twitter & Facebook. One day, they will become seamless and it won’t matter which social network(s) you are signed up to. Then we will really see some synergy.

News travels fast

 

English: The Fall of Nelson, Battle of Trafalg...

English: The Fall of Nelson, Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In today’s connected world, it is hard to believe that not so very long ago, events took a long time to become widely known. News was originally spread by word of mouth which meant that it travelled only as fast as the people who carried it. With the advent of literacy and language, people began to use the written word to communicate with the wider world around us.

Military communications relied on various methods throughout the ages. A company runner was often sent across a battlefield carrying instructions between different units. Sometimes he even survived the trip. Semaphore signals using flags or lanterns were somewhat safer and are still in use today between ships in the same formation.

There is a plaque in Kensington marking how the news of Nelson’s death was broken. After he was killed in the battle of Trafalgar just off the coast of Cadiz, the ship carrying his body pickled in a barrel sailed to Falmouth where the news was sent by rider to London. Even after riding through the night changing horses at every opportunity – it was days before the public knew about Nelson’s death. As time went on, despatch riders exchanged their horses for motorcycles and advances in radio and telecommunications rendered them pretty much obsolete altogether.

In the wild west, news was propagated by the pony express – literally men on ponies riding from town to town spreading news of anything noteworthy. As the railroads crept across continental America, telegraph lines were built alongside and before too long, a message given to a telegraph operator in one town could be relayed to the other side of the country in a matter of hours.

The first recognisable newspapers came about in Venice around the 17th century. Costing one gazetta (a small coin of the time), these handwritten sheets gave the reader an inkling of what was happening in the world. During the industrial revolution, great advances were made in technology and it was possible to buy a printed newspaper for the first time. Many of the newspapers we recognise today (such as the Times or the New York Post) started at around this time.

In order to populate the newspapers with stories, they relied on correspondents. They were so-called because they would send in the stories via letter. Any such letters from far away climes would travel on packet steamers across the oceans to deliver their stories to the newspaper office ready for publishing. The further away the correspondent, the longer the delay.

When I was growing up, if you wanted news you either read a newspaper or tuned in to the television at 6PM or 10PM.

Today, there are whole networks and channels devoted to bringing the news into your life 24 hours a day. There are hundreds of sites all over the internet dedicated to providing the very latest news. It can be a matter of seconds before a story becomes world news. Satellite technology means that correspondents can report direct from very remote locations live as events unfold.

Not only that, but smartphones have become so sophisticated now that every user is a potential correspondent. Nowadays, we get breathtaking footage of disasters as they unfold – often in high-definition. Revolutions that might have once been quietly suppressed by brutal regimes are now headline news. There have been many high-profile cases where people have attempted to stand Canute-like against an unwelcome story by taking out injunctions. With Twitter, the news seems to sweep over them like an angry wave.

If only more of the news was good news!

 

A special thing…

 

English: Untidy Desk

English: Untidy Desk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It didn’t occur to me at the time, but when I walked into the Rose and Crown one Saturday afternoon clutching a thick tome all about Active Server Pages (ASPs), my life was to change yet again. The place was nearly empty save for two gentlemen sat on stools at the other end of the bar. I ordered a drink, opened up my book and started reading. Despite concentrating on the vagaries of Internet programming, I could not help but overhear snippets of their conversation. Apparently, they had been out on a company bash the night before and were a little the worse for wear.

Before too long, one of them looked over and enquired about my book – “What’s that – a computer book?” or something equally eloquent. After a few pleasantries were exchanged, the conversation turned to my professional life as they asked what I did for a living. Although I had enjoyed 6 excellent years at Pentyre, the work had started to dry up and I was intrigued when the two men started to talk about the company they worked for. Although their description of the company did not sound that exciting – what intrigued me was the passion they felt for their work.

I agreed to come along for an interview to find out more and a few days later, I was back in the Rose and Crown, the chosen venue. Arrayed in front of me was pretty much the entire company. As I sat there nervously, I was bombarded with questions from my would be colleagues. All of them shared the passion I had seen in the first two men. The company was called jBASE and had recently been acquired by another larger software house; Temenos (a Greek word meaning “a special thing”).

They liked me and I liked them and I readily accepted their offer of employment. Before too long, on my first day, I turned up at their offices. I had been given no directions, but managed to find my way to the top floor where I found a locked door. Before too long, someone else came along. Another recent joiner. Neither of us had the key, so we stood there chatting. Eventually, the door was unlocked and we were led into the office. The place was an absolute tip. There were computers everywhere. Some of them on people’s desks, some piled up haphazardly and a number of them atop a pool table which bowed disconcertedly under the strain.

There was not an inch of clear desk space in the building and I was led to my own cluttered desk. I was introduced to my new boss. I could barely see him behind piles of ageing computer manuals and printouts. As I logged into my machine – an email popped up. “Hi – my name’s Jason – I am sat opposite you!”. It was a sign of things to come as the only sounds in the office were the tapping of keyboards and the loud hum of fans straining to substitute for air conditioning.

Although it sounds dysfunctional – it was an amazing company to work for. In the early days we were an autonomous company, but as time went on we became assimilated into our parent company Temenos. Although Temenos was a larger company, they had much in common with jBASE. Passion was evident throughout the organisation. Being very entrepreneurial in nature, process and procedures have always lagged somewhat behind the relentless drive for growth. By any conventional measure, Temenos has been a phenomenally successful company and I have enjoyed working there immensely.

By far the most dynamic organisation I have worked for, Temenos is not for everyone. If you are looking for a job where you are told exactly what to do – you had better look elsewhere. If you want to become a force for transformation in the banking industry, look no further.

 

The other woman

I love my wife dearly, but there is another woman in my life. I met her just under three years ago and I have to say, I wasn’t particularly impressed at the time. She seemed somewhat immature and demanding, giving little back in return. Despite that, we ended up spending lots of time together and I suppose it was inevitable that my feelings towards her would soften.

My wife knows the lady concerned – she introduced us on one Summer evening. She was immaculately dressed in white and although she had people attending to her every whim – she didn’t look too happy. She had the most amazing eyes though – they seemed alive and followed every movement. There was an intelligence inside her that belied her immature façade.

My wife persevered, and despite my inner apprehension, I ended up holding her. There is an amazing photograph taken by my wife which catches the exact moment that she captured my heart. We locked eyes, smiled at each other and at that precise second – I was bewitched. From that instant, my life changed irrevocably. She dominated my thoughts. I could not wait to see her again, and again, and again.

Baby Maisie

An infectious smile – Baby Maisie

As time went on, she grew in sophistication and we reached a new level of mutual understanding. Always bubbling over with energy and passion – she inspires me and drives me to achieve more than I ever could before. I never tire of her smile. Even in temper – she is impossibly cute. The strength of her scowling frown is matched only by my inner amusement.

She has a way of stripping me of my inhibitions. I have read to her, danced with her, sung to her and played games with her – uncaring about what others may think. I am lucky enough to own some nice things, but the possessions that mean the most to me are the pictures she has drawn and the images we have captured of her. I am not alone in my affection towards her. She has brightened many lives and will brighten many more.

Despite her admonishment and insistence that she is a big girl, she will always be baby Maisie to me.

By bluedeckshoe Posted in life Tagged

Beam me up Scotty!

 

Abstract icon of Enterprise NX-01 of Star Trek...

Abstract icon of Enterprise NX-01 of Star Trek Enterprise (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the big comfy armchair that was BP, my second employer “Pentyre” was more like a roller coaster. After the comfort of a blue chip company, I was brought down to Earth with a bump when I was summoned in to an all staff meeting the week after I joined. The entire company easily fitted into a small room. I was one of 7 software developers. The MD explained that a customer had reneged on a bill and the company was in real trouble. Some of the directors were going to forego salary for a couple of months and hopefully, everything was going to be OK. Had I made the mistake of my life ?

I very nearly ended up missing out on working at Pentyre altogether. I had already accepted a job with another company, but there was a recruitment consultant who just wouldn’t take no for an answer. He insisted I visit Pentyre to see what they had to offer. So after work one evening, I turned up outside their offices for an interview. First appearances weren’t too promising – a converted factory with a tatty sign outside. I was shown up the stairs into a demonstration suite. There were various devices around the place; pagers, phones, cameras, alarms, flashing lights.

I was interviewed by the MD himself. An unassuming middle aged man called Malcolm, impeccably dressed, short with wispy white hair. He gave me the potted history of the company, which didn’t take long. After a long career in IBM, he had taken his terms and used his severance money to start up the company. He then took me through a demonstration of what their software could do. It was a dazzling display as he made the various devices do their stuff with just a click with his mouse. The inner geek in me was hooked.

He then took me on a tour of the building. At the back of the building was an area that looked a bit like Q’s workshop out of the Bond movies. There were machines everywhere in various states of assembly. On the benches there were oscilloscopes and multimeters. Propped up against one wall was something called a protocol analyser. The last time I had heard of anything like it was during an episode of Star Trek. Dominating the middle of the room was a train set. I looked at Malcolm quizzically and he nonchalantly explained that the reason it was there was to test the train radio system they were developing for the London underground.

I was mesmerised. I simply had to work for this company. As we went back up the stairs to talk turkey, it was obvious I was hooked. Malcolm asked what it would take for me to go and work there. A brief exchange later, the deal was done. I started work there a few days later.

It was an amazing place to work. The nice thing about working as part of a small company is that every single person really makes a difference. Every few months or so, there was a new assignment – usually involving some brand new technology. My first job was all about pagers. Back then, if you had a large site, the only way to keep in touch with your workforce was to give them a pager. I also developed a building management system, some modelling software for a steelworks and CCTV systems for prisons and nuclear reactors.

My time at Pentyre taught me the power of small teams working together without constraints. The productivity was amazing. There was no demarcation; you sold, designed, built, tested, installed and supported every bit of software that went out the door. Not all the technology was all it was cracked up to be. We worked on a project to detect faces in crowds. I couldn’t get the face recognition software to recognise me standing perfectly still at less than two paces. Voice recognition was similarly inaccurate being unable to determine the difference between “Chicken Tikka Massala” and “Land Rover” even when spoken slowly and deliberately.

The technology failure that has tickled me to this day was DCOM. Launched with some fanfare, DCOM (or Distributed Component Object Model) was Microsoft’s attempt at a computing model for distributed computing. In order to test it, we set up two machines. On the first, we coded a simple button with the label “Sausage” which would then send a message to the second machine which would respond with the on screen message “sizzle”. It was the simplest test imaginable and we were used to getting such things working.

Even so, after a whole morning of messing about with various different settings, we simply couldn’t get it to work. Frustrated, we went off to lunch. When we returned – there was the “sizzle” message on the second machine – we obviously hadn’t left it long enough!

 

A big comfy armchair

Line art drawing of an armchair

Line art drawing of an armchair (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I once asked a candidate during an interview why he had chosen to leave a company like IBM after 18 years. He told me that the company was like a big comfy armchair and that he wanted to pull himself out of it into the wide world to see what’s out there. Having worked for BP, I understood the analogy perfectly. Like most schoolchildren, I underwent a week of work experience. The teacher who was organising who was going where asked me what I would like to do. I didn’t have a clue. My aspirations varied wildly according to my whims and I had no firm idea what I would like to try.

He came up with a few options which didn’t sound particularly exciting before offering “How about office work?” I gave in more out of boredom than conviction and before I knew it, as a tender 15 year old, I found myself in the reception of one of the world’s biggest oil companies. I quickly learned I was going to work in the mailing room. Because it was all new to me, I was fascinated. I enjoyed working with people and felt mightily important when the telex alarm went off and I had to run up to the third floor and deliver an urgent message.

When it came to the choice between staying on at school to study A levels or to go out into the big wide world, I was again stumped as to the right thing to do. So almost by default I found myself staying on. After a few weeks, it didn’t really feel like I had made the right choice and I found it harder and harder to find motivation. My mum could sense what I was thinking and suggested to me that I look for a job. I knew exactly where I wanted to work. I had enjoyed BP so much, I wrote an unsolicited letter to them, citing my recent work experience and expressing a strong desire to go back and work there.

When I was invited in for an interview, I was cock a hoop. When the letter came through offering me the job, I was at school. Someone passed on the message to ring my mum at home. When she told me about the job offer, I literally danced down the corridor. A passing teacher admonished me but it did nothing to dampen my fervour.

I have a lot to thank BP for. During the 8 years I was there, I progressed from the mail room through a brief stretch in a clerical role before moving into Information Technology. Not many employers would have sent someone to college for 6 years, let alone given them a day off each week to do so. I was well trained in every respect having attended residential courses on everything from creativity to interaction skills. The meals at BP were legendary. Every lunchtime, we were treated to a 3 course meal of restaurant quality food for the princely sum of 5p. There was even a bar on premises. A heavily subsidised sports and social club offered regular trips to the theatre as well as excursions overseas.

So if it was all so good – why did I leave? I can certainly relate to the big comfy sofa analogy. To a certain extent, when you work for a company like BP or IBM, you become a little bit institutionalised. But it was more than that. When I joined BP, there were about 300 people in the systems division. When I left, there were just over a tenth of that figure after all the outsourcing, not great if you wanted a career in information technology. But if I’m really honest – the main reason for my departure was boredom. If you are writing software, oil is not the most exciting subject you could choose.

Some aspects of it interested me, like the exploration side and the huge structures at refineries and oil terminals. If you are a sci-fi fan like me, it’s very hard to stop yourself imagining them covered in stormtroopers. But when it comes down to it, it’s all about pumping around petrochemicals, storing them and changing them into other petrochemicals. Accountants joke about actuaries being boring, but I would imagine that even actuaries are quite exciting compared to the project that finally finished me.

Statuary reports.

If those two words sound boring, I really haven’t managed to convey the sheer mind numbing, soul sucking mundanity of them. When my boos told me my next project was producing statuary reports, I asked him what they were. “No idea” he said, but the government says we have to have them. And there were a lot of them. I was going to spend the next year of my life writing them. After a couple of months, I decided I just couldn’t take any more. I began to look for another job.

Those were the heady days when you put your CV out one Friday morning and by the afternoon, you would have 5 interviews lined up. By the following Friday, you would have at least two job offers. When I handed in my letter of resignation, my boss told me not to be so hasty and that he would see what he could sort out. A few days later, he called me in and offered me a big pile of cash. But only if I finished the statuary reports.

My head hit the desk with a thump.

Information overload

Big Data: water wordscape

Big Data: water wordscape (Photo credit: Marius B)

Information is the most valuable tool we have. Without reliable information, decisions can only be made on hunches. One of the main benefits of computers was that they were supposed to help us deal with information, but there are some unfortunate side effects. Partly because of our hunger for ever more power and partly because of progress in making bigger and better computers, they have steadily grown ever since they were invented in a phenomenon is widely referred to as Moore’s law.

Not only that, but devices have become cheaper and cheaper. The Sinclair Spectrum was priced at £179 at launch 30 years ago, a sum probably equivalent to double that now. That was a machine with no screen, 48K of memory and no storage. Nowadays you could have a tablet, or a phone or even a couple of netbooks all with power that would completely dwarf the humble spectrum. As computers have become more affordable, they have proliferated.

And not just consumer devices. It now makes perfect sense to use computational devices in almost every setting thanks to the cheapness and the ingenuity of the Chinese. IBM told me at impact that there are 9.5Bn connected devices in the world today growing to 20Bn in 2015. All of these devices are producing data at an alarming rate. Storage companies fall over themselves to tell you how fast this data is growing, but take it from me – it’s exponential.

The other side effect of computers is that the average human being now has the attention span of a hyperactive goldfish. Because the answer is available from Google in 0.2 nanoseconds, why would you want to read a report or a book? Twitter delivers a constant stream of news in 140 character long chunks. This means that we are no longer happy to do lots of analysis to get our answers, we want to know instantly.

So how do we make sense of this muddle?

I have always been a fan of infographics as a mechanism for presenting complex information. Ingeniously through pictures, infographics helps the reader to understand the big picture. Spatial and relative relationships are easily picked out, but detail is not. Newspapers use info graphics to great effect – especially when trying to explain concepts like exactly how much money we all owe thanks to the financial meltdown. This is a great site to see some really good examples; http://www.coolinfographics.com/

Big Data was a much vaunted concept at IBM Impact too. If you want to process the huge amount of data available today, then traditional methods are just not going to work. Reading all the data into a relational database and then running a query will mean you need a huge building to house the storage, a power station to feed the computers and half a century to wait for the result. The only way to process this data is as a stream – a bit like the water coming out of a firehose. Then you need to use something called complex events processing to look for relationships between the data.

One of the most interesting concepts in dealing with the information overload is the semantic web. The idea is that computers need to make sense of all this data themselves and answer any questions we have. This is the technology behind the Siri voice response software in the latest iPhone. There is even a search engine. It’s not perfect by any means – try searching for “Who is the richest man in France” or my personal favourite “Who is the sexiest woman” 🙂 But what is interesting is how often it does get it right.

One day – the characters in Star Trek the next generation talking to their computers will look positively antiquated – and I for one can’t wait.

I hate my job!

"Hate" cartoon, "Comics Rock!&q...

“Hate” cartoon, “Comics Rock!” Fantagraphics Bookstore, Seattle, 12/16/06 (Photo credit: photophonic)

Most people spend around about a quarter of their entire lives working, so it always piques my interest when I hear someone say “I hate my job!” The reasons for such vitriol are legion but for many people, they simply say they’re bored. Working usually involves people, so it’s no surprise that some people say they don’t get on with their boss or their colleagues. For some, they are unhappy with their remuneration or their commute. In a lot of cases, the lack of prospects is enough to turn people off their employment.

When I hear that people hate their jobs, I am intrigued to know what action they have taken. After all, I wouldn’t want to be spending that much of my life doing something I didn’t enjoy. The question catches some people off guard which suggests to me that they don’t really hate what they do (or certainly not enough). At the very least, I would expect them to be actively looking for an alternative.

Maybe they have their hearts set on a role, but there are barriers to entry. In which case, I would have expected them to have started looking into what’s involved in overcoming those barriers. If qualifications are needed for the role, then have they looked into what would be involved in studying for those qualifications. We are lucky in this country to have lots of options for part time study into all sorts of subjects at almost every level.

A requirement for experience often feels like catch 22. How can you gain experience if you can’t get on the ladder in the first place? There are often ways to gain similar experience in tangential roles or volunteer work. If you can show that you have made an effort to acquire the right experience, particularly if it’s on your own time, it is bound to strike a chord with a sympathetic employer.

Speaking of sympathetic employers, it’s well worth talking to your current employer about the reasons for your itchy feet. Most employers don’t particularly want to go through the pain of recruiting a replacement, so most will at least listen. It may be that something can be changed about your current role to make it less onerous or maybe they have a role that’s more in line with your aspirations.

Having worked for only three employers, there have been thankfully few times I have hated my job. The first company I worked for was a blue chip establishment. I stayed there for a total of 8 years, so it can’t have been all bad. I have a lot to be grateful for. They paid for me to study part time for 6 years. So why did I leave? Firstly, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was such a small cog in such a big machine, I began to wonder if it made a difference whether I turned up or not. In addition, I wanted a career in software development. When I joined the company, they had hundreds of people in such roles. When I left, there were less than 3 dozen.

My next employer was akin to a start up. With less than 20 employees and only 7 software developers, there were no concerns about making a difference. There was a very tangible link between your actions and the success of the company. The assignments were varied and a huge amount of fun. Why did I leave them? Unfortunately, the work ran out and I could see the writing on the wall.

So that leaves my current employer. I have been with them for over 12 years. It’s fair to say, it’s my most challenging role so far and I love the variety and the people. It’s also small enough to feel like you make a difference. Is it a perfect employer ?-Not in the slightest! I think I have had a handful of pay rises in the whole time I have been there. The hours are long and I have to travel a lot. The thing that keeps me is that anything is possible and that’s an intoxicating feeling.

The only thing that might tear me away is if a writing career opened up…