Monday, 20 April 2015


I don't often directly mention my day job or my employer on this blog, but it seems relevant to what I'm up to today, so I'll break form.

Today I start my sixth year at This is the longest period of time I've ever been in one position (I split my time at Straker NZ and Straker UK as different roles, as the jobs were quite different).

It's probably also been the best overall experience I've had in my working career, which now spans back to 1994 when I left polytech midyear to go do a network admin job fulltime.

I started my career at HostelBookers by sending a speculative email to Scott Mayes, the IT Director at the time. HB weren't advertising any positions, but I had noticed they seem to be advertising fairly frequently for CF roles, so if they didn't have one right then, they were likely to have one shortly. To cut this short they were thinking of hiring; so I came in, talked to their - then - Technical Lead Simon Baynes, hit the job and here I am.

Since my sixth week at Straker I have always been a "senior" developer, but HB made it clear I had a lot to learn. Fortunately I had/have a lot of colleagues to help (sometimes this had seemed like "help" (with the quotation marks included, a sin "yes, thanks, you've been a big help") but on the whole it's been in the positive, constructive sense). I ever learned a lot from people who had already left HB, by leaving behind large corpus of example code of "how not to write CFML code", "how not to do OO", and even "how not to do Fusebox". Seriously though: everyone writes bad code at times, but I've been able to use it as examples of what we should learn from. Then press [CTRL-A], [DEL].

But let's stick with the positive. Here are some good people:

Simon Baynes. He's already had his own dedicated article, so I'll not go on.

Marc Garner. Started off being my peer, quickly became my senior, and is now my boss. He's brought a level head when mine hasn't been, and had a balanced approach to juggling business needs with IT realities. He's also not sacked me a coupla times when he probably felt like it ;-)

Brian Sadler. The only person I knew who comes close to being as much of a grumpy old cu...codger as I am. Close. More constructively, he's converted my from someone who laughs at Agile to someone who embraces it and tries to champion it. Brian's also hit a keen head for OO and general programming design practices, when to abstract code, and when dogmatism needs to give way to pragmatism. Most importantly he's put Clean Code (or "Brian's Book" as we have fashioned it, mostly just to annoy him) on our collective team radar, which is now our primary programming policy. Not annoying Brian, but Clean Code.

Chris Kobrzak. Chris was my mate from a former job (at Pixl8), and I encouraged him to move to HB. During his tenure Chris became our JavaScript champion, and made it clear to us that our JS code is as significant as our server-side code when it comes to our overall solution. We'd all had to lift our JavaScript game whilst Chris was on watch. Chris has moved on now, and I think we're feeling the loss of direction and fist-shaking he gave us in this area.

Aaron Shaw. As well as what I mentioned above, Ronnie brought a lot of Other Stuff onto my radar, which has been a bit of an eye-opener.

Iwan Dessers. We're now on PHP instead of CFML, and Iwan is the technical lead. He brings a huge amount of PHP talent and experience to HB, at the same time listening to the team and facilitating us dealing with issues as a group, rather than taking an approach of delivering instructions from on high. He's also seems unphased by my bullshit, and just dilutes it with diplomacy. I'm learning a lot from Iwan both about PHP and about how to lead a team.

Russell Whitter. Poor old Russell needs to sit next to me every day. Russell's been a big help to me with my PHP, and has an infectious approach to ensuring code quality.

And there's a bunch of other people who made or continue to make life here a pleasure. Brendan, MJ, Daddy Duncky, JayBo, Ray and a bunch of others have/had made coming into work each day a fun thing to do.

Workwise, just as I was getting a bit tired of CFML and feeling I wasn't learning so much any more, we shifted to PHP and I had an "opportunity" to start learning a new language. I've said before and I'll continue to say so that PHP would not have been my choice and I don't think it's a step up from CFML, but it offers more career opportunities,a nd a lot more learning. Plus at my toothy age, I'm bloody lucky to be able to basically go back to being a newbie in unfamiliar territory, whilst maintaining my "senior" salary. This is actually a pretty good opportunity HB (or the overarching company WRI) has given me here.

Righto. As I haven't yet convinced Marc to pay me simply to write blog articles, I had better scarper.

Cheers all. Now... onto the... gulp... second half of my HB decade.