Time for a change
4th November 2014
It’s 7AM, and I’m walking through the city of Nantes. It is dark, and only a few lights are on. Slowly, the city wakes up and gets ready for a new day. I need to get to the office early this morning, but I’m walking to the bus stop. I normally take the tram, but today, I need to walk. The air is cold, a reminder that winter is coming. Perfect walking weather.
I’m eating a croissant and a pain au chocolat; there are huge advantages to working in France. The boulangerie isn’t far from the house, and now I’m walking a kilometer to get my bus. I’ve already seen three trams going in the same direction, but I need to walk. I need to walk, because it helps me think. And there is something on my mind right now…
I can’t do this anymore.
I’ve been a consultant for a few years now, working for French consultancy companies. During that time, I have had some great jobs, but I will admit I’ve had a few bad ones. That’s the way it goes. As an embedded systems expert, I knew I’d have some problems. Nantes isn’t known for it’s embedded sector. Of course, there are some jobs and companies, but we have the headquarters of a few regional (and national) banks, and Java developers are a particularly sought after. There are some web start-ups, and like any city, web developers can find a job. As for embedded systems? Well, we have Rennes that isn’t too far away, well known for the telecommunication industry. I’ve done a few missions over there. Le Mans is known for medical companies, and once again, I’ve worked there too. Nantes isn’t known for this domain, but I love living here, and I don’t want to change. My girlfriend has a great job, and my daughter goes to school here and has some friends. Besides, I’m worn out.
French “SSII”, consultancy companies, are a great conversation subject for meals in technology companies. All major companies have consultants, and normally from several consultancy companies. On one particular mission, the project was managed by Altran, the project manager was Altran, the four “team leaders” were from SII, Altran and myself from Ausy. Other consultants were from Akka, Davidson, as well as the previously mentioned companies. The whole group worked as one to get the job done, each person having his strong point (and weak point). The job was for ST Ericsson, and it was awesome. Lots of new technology, great staff, and it turned out fairly well, despite some major changes. Other missions haven’t been so nice…
There was one company in particular that I was glad to leave. I had an interview with them with my consultancy company, only I wasn’t alone. There was a Russian girl with me, highly talented, but who wanted something closer to home; Angers. I wanted something closer to home too, and that was Nantes. I was fed up of the daily train trips. We both had an interview, and in the end, I was chosen, I don’t know on what criteria. On the very first day I arrived, the project manager told me, very clearly, that he would have preferred to have the Russian girl. Well, thanks, it feels good to be here too. That went from bad to worse, as everything I knew how to do just wasn’t listed on my mission profile. However, three rows along, they were working on ARM systems, and I wrote a book on the subject. Still, it was nice to see 68k development again. The real problems came with the travel orders. Okay, we have a problem in Brazil, time to go. Everyone needs a visa, except James! He’s British. Okay, well, here are your tickets. It’s 4PM, you leave tomorrow 6AM. Umm… My girlfriend is 8 months pregnant, she could give birth at any time, and you want me to go to the other side of the Atlantic? Not happening. Well, all hell broke loose, and long story short, yes, I did go. For two weeks. After a red-eye, I arrived at the manufacturing plant to see a lot of people waiting for me. “The machine does not communicate on the network!”. Well, after about 5 seconds of hazy analysis, I can see that the network cable is unplugged. Here, let me plug it in again. How’s that? Yup, it works. Well done. Now stay here for 2 weeks. Seriously?! You asked me to fly out to plug in a network cable? Their answer almost made me cry – we aren’t authorized to touch the machine.
Two weeks in a car manufacturing plant without Internet isn’t too fun. I didn’t put Minecraft on my CV, but I could have.
So now the most recent jobs. I’m an embedded systems expert, and I think I know my stuff. MySQL isn’t embedded, and in my personal opinion, was a very bad design choice. My suggestions weren’t very well received, and so I’ve come to the conclusion that has been in the back of my mind for quite some time now. I can’t do this any more.
I’ve written one book, and the second one is close to completion. I’ve always loved words, and now I’m trying to get back to a field that I loved. I’ve learned a lot about development and electronics along the way, and now I’d like to write about that, and teach others how it’s done. So, with a croissant in one hand, and my resignation nice and warm in my pocket, I’m off to work. I need to get a new firmware out by today, I have a few tests I want to run on the new SPI bus driver, I need to check on the results of a network stress test, and I need to see the boss.