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Where are they now? – the personal edition December 27, 2008

Posted by Peter Hornby in chorale, personal, Uncategorized, worklife.
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The note in Tony’s Christmas card wondered what had happened.  This was a fair question, since verb. sap. has been completely silent since  late July (not that it was particularly prolific before then).  And since Tony is a substantial fraction of my readership, I feel impelled to bring things up to date.

What happened was that I got a job. 

I’d been looking around, with steadily increasing conviction, since March, and I’d actually interviewed at a couple of places.  Then, out of the blue, there came a suggestion from my ex-colleague and choir buddy Mike that I might consider talking to the company for which he, though ostensibly retired, was still putting in hours.  The company was Agilis Solutions, based in Portland, Oregon and run by an old friend of Mike’s who, like him, was an ex-Unisys VP.  I talked to a number of people at Agilis, liked what I heard, and, pretty much, that was it. I started in early August.

Agilis Solutions is a small software development house.  Typically, we work with software companies facing challenges in bringing their products to market quickly and cost-effectively.  We use a blended model which combines onshore technical leadership and project management with a strong group of smart, experienced offshore developers to allow projects to be completed more quickly, more cheaply and more effectively than would otherwise be possible.

So that’s the boilerplate out of the way. 

From a personal perspective, it’s going really well.  I mostly work from home, although more on that later.  The project I’ve been working on is also Oregon-based, as is my project manager, so I spend a lot of time on Skype with Oregon and Ha Noi, Vietnam, which is where our group of developers is located.  Lorraine and I share an office at home, which works remarkably well, even though it’s an understatement to say that it’s sometimes a tight fit.  The people at Agilis Solutions are wonderful – supportive, outgoing and friendly.  There are less then twenty of us, and it’s such a refreshing change to work in an organisation where you know everyone,  your boss runs the company and what you do actually makes a difference.

I spent a couple of weeks in Springfield, Missouri in September, working with the technical lead for the customer. In October we decided we had to make things move a little more quickly.  The initial plan was for me and the customer lead to spend two months in Ha Noi, working directly with the development team.  Lorraine, the intrepid traveller and selectively occasional corporate wife, thought that this was a splendid idea, and started buying guidebooks while I was trying to organise visas.  So, of course, it didn’t happen.  The team decided that they liked the  let’s-get-everyone-together plan, but the location was moved to Oregon.  So I spent nine weeks in Portland living and breathing the customer’s application, finally returning home a couple of weeks ago.  The work was intense, in a way which I hadn’t really experienced since my days in fly-and-fix field support twenty years ago, but there was a good positive atmosphere around what we were doing, and there were always my new friends at the Riverwood Pub  to keep me sane, which they mostly did.

So there hasn’t been much room for anything else since August.  Lorraine  had a successful Sawdust Festival, her second, in July and August, but the Winter Fantasy festival in November and December was very subdued.  No-one seemed to be buying anything.  In a sense, though, the Festival is its own reward.  We both love being there, seeing artists who have become friends in the space of two festival seasons – people like Christopher Jeffries (with his wife Jitka and their new son Ry), Greg Thorne and Ray Caruso.  We’re both looking forward to next year.

There’s one final thing to record.  The choir I’ve been singing with for almost fifteen years, the Saddleback Master Chorale, had a fund-raiser this year, something which, for some reason, has to be called an Opportunity Drawing.  We sold just over 300 tickets at $25 each, and the prize drawing took place last weekend at the group’s holiday concert.  Imagine our astonishment when my name was pulled from the hat!  So, slightly shell-shocked, we’re now the proud owners of a four-night Junior Suite stay in any Fairmont hotel or resort in the US or Canada, plus round-trip airfare to get there and back.  This is not going to be easy.  Fairmont operates the Plaza in New York, the Empress in Victoria, BC, and – my nomination for the most beautiful place on the planet – Chateau Lake Louise in the Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.  However, the current edition of the plan calls for us to use the prize to spend some time in Montreal, Lorraine’s birthplace, staying at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. It’s not clear when we’ll fit this trip in, but be sure that we will, and I’ll talk about it here, I promise.

So that’s the brief update.  Normal service will now resume.

(And, for readers with long memories, I’m still stuck on 1453!)