Imperial Adventures

Just over a month ago I posted a brief note about job news, saying that more details would be forthcoming. I was, as I said then, just waiting for some paperwork.

It took longer than I expected to get that paperwork sorted out, but I received and returned the contract yesterday afternoon. On Monday I start work at the Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU), part of the School of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College.

That’s quite a mouthful, but in short I’ll be working on programming something called the The Rapid Inquiry Facility (RIF), which is an open-source tool for studying health statistics.

I’m neither a medical researcher nor a statistician, but I am a programmer (or a software engineer, if you want to be fancy). Our job is to understand the needs of someone — usually referred to as “the business,” but I’m guessing that will be different in my new job — and translate those needs into actions in software. That basic definition doesn’t change according to the problem domain. Whether it’s sending payments from one bank to another, checking a person’s right to work on a government database, or doing something with statistical data about health issues, the programmer’s job is to understand what the user needs and make things happen on a screen.

The big difference for me, I think, will be that in this new role I’ll have the chance to contribute to doing something good in the world. As I said at my interview, I’ve mainly worked in financial software, and while, sure, people need banks, it wasn’t the most socially-usefully thing. The last half-year working at the Home Office had some value, but I was a tiny cog in a huge machine.

At Imperial I’ll be able to feel that I’m actually contributing something useful to society, as well as doing what should be really interesting work.

Oh, and: I’ll be back in Paddington, which I know from my Misys days, and it’s a much shorter commute than to Croydon.

Imperial Adventures

Relaunch

If you pay attention to URLs and such — and if you’re reading this at all — you’ll be aware that my blog is not sited at the root or home page of the devilgate.org site, but at devilgate.org/blog/. For a long time the home page has been a very basic one, with just a few links to the other places you can find me online.

As of today, it still contains those links, but is a slightly more modern, sophisticated page, and has a new focus.

That new focus is job-hunting. I’ve been working at <name redacted at company’s request> for more years than I care to think about — well, <name redacted at company’s request> and one of its precursor companies, BIS, that it bought up in the 90s. And this is the first time I’ve named it in public on the internet. Edit: And unnamed again, for now at least.

The reasons I never named it before are to do with keeping work and the rest of my life separate; and more to do with the fact that, as quite an elderly tech company, it didn’t really have any concept of its staff having an online life outside of it — or even inside of it. At least until the last couple of years, when it launched a Twitter account and a YouTube channel… and the less said about them the better.

The same agedness is part of the reason why I have never contributed significantly to any open-source projects: my contract effectively disallowed it.1

And I’m making it public now — and I’m relaunching my front page — because I’m not going to be working there much longer.

Even in the teen years of the 21st century, we are not past the time of jobs being moved offshore, it seems. Well some jobs, at least; and <name redacted at company’s request> have been moving development jobs to our — to their, as I should learn to say — offices in Manila and Bangalore for years. It was only a matter of time, really.

So about three weeks ago, me and the four other remaining developers in the team were told that we would be leaving at the end of June.2 It wasn’t a shock, or even a surprise. In fact, I think we were all fairly pleased, in the end.

I’ve been expecting it for at least a year, since the last of the developers in another team were sent on their way. To the extent that I’ve been looking around, have been for a couple of interviews; because I didn’t want to be just hanging on there for the redundancy money. That would be a terrible reason for staying. And while the work was still OK, I didn’t have to find a job, so I felt I was in a position of strength.

Now, of course, I’m quite pleased that none of those opportunities came to anything, because I do get the redundancy money. And my CV is up to date, and my LinkedIn and more importantly Stack Overflow profiles are looking reasonably good.

I’m treating this as an opportunity: I’m keen to learn new things, have new experiences, and hopefully work in a development environment with releases more than twice a year, and with end-users I actually get to talk to.

So things are OK, but I am looking for a new job. So if you happen to know of anyone who’s looking for a Senior Software Engineer, or Lead Programmer, or similar, with a lot of experience in Java and various other languages (and who is currently learning Swift), then send them my way.

And I don’t mind being public about all this now, because I fully expect any company I work for in the future to have a more open, progressive attitude to its employees being citizens of the net.

Well, unless Apple are recruiting.3


  1. And, to be fair, I never bothered to seriously investigate changing that. []
  2. Unless we find other jobs within the company, which is extremely unlikely. []
  3. They are, as it happens, but their “London” site is in Uxbridge, a kazillion miles on the wrong side of town. []
Relaunch