Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thinking Outside of the Box

It was announced today that IBM won the bid. This is exciting news, but to be clear, I was not aware of who was going to win this bid. And since I haven’t decided whether I prefer moving on or wait to find out what will happen next, I figured I’d start talking about my approach towards finding my next job. I now find it interesting pondering on what could be next and what I may be able to do with my future.

I’m taking a deep look into who I am and who I want to be. Over the past decade I’ve generally allowed my career to drive my future. Whether or not it was for the best, it’s time I take back the controls and drive my career where I want it to go. My career has predominantly focused on Microsoft, but in 2008 I completed my Masters in Systems Programming and Design, which involved mostly non-Microsoft specific technologies. To expand on these skills I clearly need to incorporate more of them into my job. Sure, IBM could help me out with that and my job application was a smart move. But I still need to identify a lot more opportunities in order to safeguard against finding myself laid off with no where to go. Still important, though, I must not forget my roots and I should find new ways to expand upon my knowledge of Microsoft technologies.

The next thing I want to look at is whether or not I can break away from business applications and expand into different styles of development. I looked at jobs posted by non-business specific companies, like NASA, and they are mostly looking for true Computer Science experts. I do have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science; however, my business background makes it a tough sell for those focusing on non-business problems. But I’m not going to decide what I can’t do and over the next few weeks I’ll see if I can identify a few of these positions in which I feel qualified. I'll then test the waters to see if I can spark some interest in this arena.

Lastly, I’m also going to investigate how I can break into the mobile technology industry. Over the past decade, and in particular the past five years, there has been an explosion in mobile device development. I will clearly have difficulty getting into this area, but having a strong background in application development I’m sure I could get a job by using a little elbow grease to develop a demonstration application I would use to show my abilities. Mobile web development would be interesting to me as well, which might serve as a launching pad into device development.

Overall, this is going to get interesting…and quickly.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Discovering the Silver Lining

As previously blogged, my organization is in the process of deciding on an outsourcing provider in which to transition much of its IT function. Although there still exists a fair possibility I will remain employed with the organization, or directly acquired by the outsourcer due to my experience and intricate knowledge of this organization, I have decided to use this opportunity to investigate new job possibilities. I figure now is the time to try and determine if job opportunities exist that will help build upon my career.

IBM is among the considerations for outsourcing vendors. Outside of this situation I would still be interested in working for them for various reasons. On reason in particular is while working on my Masters degree I completed classes in UML design and Java programming, which was a nice break from my Microsoft centralized background, and was something I truly enjoyed. Since my organization hasn’t adopted UML or Java, and IBM is heavily vested in these methods and technologies, I decided to apply for various positions within the organization. Although some applications were quickly declined because of a lack of fit, one position has remained in review for a few weeks now. If nothing else, this has become a motivator for me because it demonstrates I am marketable and I may be attractive to an organization I admire. Regardless of whether or not I get this position, I have discovered this small glimmer of hope has motivated me to worry less about the future and to focus more on creating my future. I’m surprised to have found this silver lining so soon. I hope I can remain focused on this positive and avoid allowing the worry and stress to once again settle in.

The Approach of the Outsourcers

From my understanding of regulations regarding layoffs which may affect a large number of employees, an organization must announce their intent to execute the layoffs no later (ie no fewer) than 60 days before-hand. Recently my organization, a large corporation in the Philadelphia area, announced such plans. The company is pursuing outsourcing of most of the IT functions wthin the business from one of two vendors. Considering they have announced to all employees the two vendors under consideration are Accenture and IBM, it’s probably safe for me to speak of it in this blog.

I’ve decided to blog about my experience with this outsourcing decision for multiple reasons. First, the outsourcing will certainly affect me. I may be among the select few who are not outsourced, because of my intricate knowledge of many of the critical applications which support the business; however, my assumption is that I will not be selected to remain, but instead selected to “re-badge” with the chosen vendor. Of course, I may also be among those or are simply asked to leave. Second, this situation is naturally causing a wide range of emotions and stress in my life and blogging about it is a safer outlet than wearing my heart on my sleeve at work.

As frustrating as it is to have my job hung over my head once again (we went through layoffs just a year ago), I’m actually grateful to my organization for being upfront and honest about the situation. Beyond making an obligatory announcement of the pending layoffs, they have chosen to remain as upfront as possible by allowing lower level management to speak openly about the information they know. Of course there is confidential information that I won’t hear, but at least I am hearing regular updates regarding where management is in their decision process, and will soon hear about their intended schedule to transition responsibilities to the new vendor. This benefits me and the organization as well. For myself, I have been given ample notice to begin a selective job search for my next job, ideally finding the perfect job I frequently wish I’d try to find. For the organization, it opens the possibility that I’ll leave before they have to offer me a severance package (severance is still not promised but there are indications they are creating a fair severance package).

To keep this positive, I’ll say that I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my career, but I am also struggling with fighting off the desire to go into “survival mode” and simply take the first job I can get in order to assure my mortgage will continue to be paid. I’ll blog more about the search for my next job, but I leave with the remark that I am curious to find out who the selected vendor will be. They are both promising organizations and I have to say I might actually be excited about the possibility of being re-badged into IBM. Having twenty years experience in application development, I would welcome the opportunity of working in a technically progressive organization where I can move around. I might even find a position where I can use my PhD researching skills. It could be an interesting twist of fate.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

At least my fingers don't hurt

I've successfully eased back into a few days of an exercisie regiment, but my muscles are feeling it. Two days ago, my 8 year old daughter was kind enough to help me out by telling me to drop and give her 20, then do 18 sit-ups, participate in a brief run between the kitchen, dining room, living room, and back, and finally end with side stretches and bending down to touch my toes. We then made our way to the Y where I dropped her off in the kid's gym and made my way to the adult's fitness center. Yesterday we eased it a bit by heading to the Y again and taking a casual swim in the indoor pool.

Since it's New Year's Eve, the Y is closing within an hour and I'll have to forego heading back to the gym. (Oh darn the luck! :) ) Anyway, the first few days of my exercising has been successful, not overwelming, and I'm actually not as sore as I could be. The trick will be to find a routine when I head back to work next week and then begin my next quarter on my PhD.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Yeah, this is going to leave a mark.

I've decided to join the national campaign of "Oh my gosh how much did I eat over this holiday? I need to exercise!" For most, and unfortunately that includes me, history shows this is an agressive two week campaign that innocently tapers to a slow-down to accomodate for important things in life, like work and school, and then dramatically falls off all burners to be replaced by TV, e-mail, web-surfing, and anything else that can fill the guilt of not exercising. But even if it's another failed attempt at "getting into shape", I need to do something to convice myself I'm not getting older or getting fat, I'm just experiencing a temporary aging anomoly that can easily be corrected.

Tonight I started rationally and decided to see if I can jog to the end of my street and back without having an ambulance bring me home. As I was dressing through the minor giggles of my wife imagining various scenarios of how I will need to call for help, she suggested I bring the dog. "Good idea, honey!" Underdressed in thin sweats, I bravely venture into the 33 degree dark outside with the dog, where no one will recognize me, and we begin to slowly run. As expected, this was a rude introduction into the need to shape up. Between the overly excited dog pulling as hard as she could, and the lack of under-coating in my attire, I had a bad dream sensation of not runing fast enough while being chased inside a sub-zero freezer. But my determination kept me going, it started to feel less cold, my breathing felt good, and I was begining to feel like this was going work. No way is this going to suddenly stop like my attempt at blogging did. But fate speaks to you before it acts, and before I realized what was happening, the abrupt stop came true. The dog was tangled around one leg while running on the other side of a mailbox, experienced a face-full of mailbox post, and I nearly super-fly'd the sidewalk. Then breathing became difficult, legs were starting to feel pain, hands were numb from the cold, and I wasn't even at the stop sign only a tenth of a mile away. We successfully made it to the stop sign and then ran back, but it is now clear to me that I need to take this much more seriously than I thought. I'll see if I can use blogging about my attempt to get in shape as my motivation to keep exercising, and try a new beginning once again.

More to come. (I hope!)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Grid Computing and you...

Grid Computing is a computer term that you might have seen or heard mentioned in the news. Grid Computing is where a client can send a massive computing assignment over the internet and the assignment is broken into chunks and distributed among multiple computers which compute their part of the assignment simultaneously. As assignment chunks are completed, they are passed back to be collected as the final answer. The final answer may be the end result, or it may result in additional studies. This computing methodology is used by large research and industry firms, universities, and government agencies. The point of doing this is because multiple computers working together can get an answer to a large problem faster than one really fast computer is likely to do on its own.

But what does this have to do with any of us? If you’re interested in ways you can help discover new drugs, better our understanding of future climate change, investigate outer space, research mathematical theory, or even search for extra-terrestrial life, the Berkeley University of California has created software that can enable you to participate in volunteer grid computing to research a common good. There are many projects in which you can donate the computing power of your PC, without sacrificing the PC for your own use. You see, the majority of your computer CPU processing (90-99%) is spent waiting for you to give it something to do. The Berkely software (BOINC) fills this unused computing time by computing research data instead of letting the CPU idly wait. When you later use your computer, the software halts until you're done, and then continues again when you are no longer using the CPU.

While I’m sleeping, eating, watching TV, and at work, my computer is actively computing research data for new drugs, physics, discoveries of outer space, and even searches for extra-terrestrial life. By downloading the BOINC software from the Berkely University of California, you can participate in research projects that can benefit from your computer, and still use the computer for what you want to do.

Go ahead and give your computer something to do…

Learn more at

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Smummer

Earlier today my wife sent an Internet e-mail with pictures of smart car conversions. You can see the pictures at (; although they were probably originated elsewhere.

Hook, line, and sinker, I was duped! After opening the e-mail and looking at the pictures, I probably had a 20 minute discussion, with my cube neighbor, about which “Smart Car Kit” would be the coolest to buy. Without any regard to the fact that it was an Internet e-mail, I immediately assumed the pictures were real and was ready to trade in my car for a smart car and find a conversion kit. Luckily the office smart-ass clued me in that I was being the office dumb-ass and asked if I ever heard of Photoshop.

Since I can't really buy one of these, I decided I would create my own dream smart car, called the "Smummer". It's not the first miniature Hummer on the web, but it's mine. After web searching other miniatured cars, I've discovered there is a lot of this on the web. I hope that the auto industry is looking at this and considering it as a potential market. I can imagine that many people would purchase one if it was cost effective, gasoline efficient, and had some reasonable level of safety for the driver. I certainly would buy one! Driving in the city would not only be fun, but something I would look forward to.

If you are curious how this is done, there are a lot of "how to" tutorials for miniaturizing a car. I'll give "ajrichar" a thank you for his tutorial at ( It's easy once you know how, and provided you have Photoshop. There are many sites where you can find these pictures. Here are some more pictures of miniatures (