Strange New Places
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So, I got a new job. Typically I reserve this blog for technical stuff/gardening, but I want to write this down so I can look back at it later.
Anyway, technically I’ve had this new job for a while now, but I only started this Monday (November 17). Had a nice 5 week break (big thanks to my previous company, who offered to pay out my notice period when I resigned), and while I did some programming and learning, I mostly just gardened, spent time with my family and played video games. Its important to take a break from time to time and recharge the batteries.
I already knew this going in, but this office is amazing.
Its weird how much of a difference this makes to me right off the bat. I mean, I understand how tons of tiny, daily annoyances can quickly ruin your motivation and productivity, but I didn’t expect to be so happy about there being monitors with adjustable arms. There are monitors on all of the walls that can be configured to show whatever helps the team (mostly burn downs and task boards). The lighting is great too, its no basement, and has a nice mix of natural and artificial light.
A nice workspace always tells me that the organisation actually cares somewhat about their workforce. It doesn’t have to be flashy and pointlessly expensive (that shows they are overcompensating for something), just well thought out and designed.
Maybe I’ve just worked at smaller companies or something, but this is completely new to me, probably why its making such an impression.
If you’re unhappy at your place of work you really should try to understand why and address the problem before you decide to leave. In my case, I had a number of frustrations that by themselves would not have been enough, but when combined were enough for me to decide that I needed something (and somewhere) new.
The last straw was when the project we were working on was cancelled due to circumstances out of our control, just when we were starting to whip it into shape and deliver regularly and reliably. Disappointingly, the company didn’t really seem to have any vision about what was happening next either. I wish them all the best moving forward, but it just wasn’t the place for me.
If you’re not hurting for money (which, if you’re smart with the money you make, you shouldn’t be) looking for a new job can be a fun experience.
When you remove that feeling of urgency (oh god, I have no money and no job, I don’t want to lose my house) you can pick and choose what you want, and you don’t stress so much about rejections. Its nice. That was the position I found myself in (I wasn’t going to quit until I had something better), but to be honest, almost anything looks better when you’re unhappy, so I don’t know how well I calibrated my expectations.
I’m now a Senior Developer at Onthehouse. They are an Australian company with offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The full name of the company is Onthehouse Holdings, and they were formed by a group that acquired a set of other companies with already established products and services in the Real Estate market, with the intention of combining all of those products and services in new and interesting ways.
As for the office, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are many thousands of words.
I took those photos earlier this week, after most people had knocked off for the day. Being later in the day, you don’t quite get to the see all the wonderful natural light that the big windows provide, but it really is quite nice. The office is at the corner of Adelaide and Edward, so the windows actually have quite a nice view down onto the street as well.
As a bonus, I can get to the train station without ever actually going outside. Take that weather.
The team that I’m in is relatively small (9 people, 4 developers, 1 tester, 1 business analyst/scrum master, 2 product owners and a delivery manager who manages other teams as well), but they are all working on a single product. It’s an installed application (with many satellite components) for use by Real Estate agents, to help them manage everything that they need to do. Its one of those monolithic applications. I’m pretty sure if a Real Estate agent/Property Manager needed to order a kitchen sink, there would be a button for that.
More importantly, its a successful application, and is already in use by a huge number of people in their daily routine.
Its nice to do product work again, especially with it actually being identified as product work and that made a priority, instead of just thinking “products” happen automatically. They don’t.
Critically important to me though, was that the people in power expressed enthusiasm for the product (and making it better) and had a vision about where he (and thus the company) wanted it to go. A cause to rally behind can really light a fire under your development team, especially when presented with a passion.
They are using the right methodology (Agile, Scrum specifically), the right tools (Jira, Confluence, TeamCity, Amazon Cloud Services) and they have the right attitude.
Everything can’t be all peaches and ice cream though. There is one downside.
The application is mostly VB6. From what I hear (I haven’t seen a lot of it yet) its not the best VB6 either.
VB6 is one of those languages that just will not die, because it was so easy to write. Its good because almost anyone can get in and get something accomplished. Its bad for exactly the same reason, and while those people might have had the best intentions, they didn’t necessarily have the skill and experience to do it well. Its important for organisations with large software assets written in VB6 to realise that the world has moved on since, and that they need to plan for its replacement.
Typically this would be a bit of a deal breaker for me. I want to move forward, not backwards. In this case my trepidation was overcome by the fact that they are slowly migrating away from the VB6, with the intent to eventually replace it altogether with something better. They’ve already made some inroads into this approach, moving components and features into .NET supported by services in the cloud (Amazon).
The fact that they have consciously decided against a rewrite (or they’ve already tried and failed a bunch of times) means they understand that rewrites never work, and are instead committed to evolution.
This is a much better approach.
I’m very much looking forward to working here at Onthehouse and overcoming the many challenges that the team will encounter. I think I have a real opportunity to do some good here, and to help delight some clients while also helping to move a great piece of software into a much better position.