So, my work does a weekly internal newsletter where they include a staff profile. This week it was my turn. The questions towards the end were submitted by colleagues. You’ll probably be able to tell where the standard questions end and those begin.
Position in Company:
Consultant / .NET Developer in the Glasgow Systems Team. Although currently on secondment in the Toronto office.
How long have you worked for IBI?
It’ll be six years this May.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
I’ve always enjoyed coding so my job’s pretty much my hobby. Which is nice. I remember getting told when I was but a youngster to “find something you love doing then work out how to get paid for doing it”. Since there’s not much opportunity out there for a career in sitting in a comfy chair while eating and endless bag of mint toffee and testing out the world’s latest and greatest entertainment systems, it’s lucky the internet came along.
Getting a chance to play around with new technologies and to push for us to (at least try to) stay on the cutting edge is a major perk. We’ve continued to improve year after year and I don’t see any reason that shouldn’t continue. The mobile TS site we put together was done before “responsive design” was really a thing, so good for us on that one. We do indeed rule.
What is the least enjoyable part of your job?
A difficult one. While days can be filled with hateful distractions sent from the Pits of Hell (Tom’s message/ringtone) and King Triton’s Palace (Scotland’s least waterproof window), there’s not much to dislike. Now we no longer work in Newton “Death Trap” Terrace, I can scratch that off of the list.
The worst part of a working day is always the commute. Mainly because Stagecoach’s idea of customer service is to maybe get to a destination on the same day it set off.
Their Kilmarnock -> Glasgow timetable is a work of fiction that puts Dan Brown’s body of work to shame.
The only actual work related stuff that’s not enjoyable is the infrequent requests from a client to which you think, “well, that’s stupid”. And then you have to come up with a slightly more diplomatic way of saying that. Well, I don’t; I leave that to the project managers. Graham once told me I was the most difficult person to manage. Maybe that’s why. Scratches chin.
But nothing really to complain about.
What was your worst job ever?
Telesales. For roof cladding. I did that after school for a few months at the same time I was doing the school show. So, classes till 3:15, rehearsal till 4:45, work from 5-9, home for dinner, bed, repeat. For £45/week. Ah, £3 minimum wage, how great was that?
I was rubbish at it though. I think you have to have a certain sociopathic streak to be a good telesales person and my sociopathic streak was the wrong one. The only highlights of any shift were getting to phone people called Cockburn or putting on bizarre accents to speak to people in.
One useful thing to come out of it was learning to never be out and out rude to telesales people or your number will just get pinned to the wall for more people to phone. If anyone phones you up about roofing, a new patio or kitchen, just tell them you’re in a council house. Threatening to find them and haunt their nightmares doesn’t work. Unless you actually do it. I never once phoned a prison.
If you could give your 18 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t get your hopes up about Phantom Menace; Lucas doesn’t actually know what “plot” and “dialogue” are except in the gardening and hostage negotiation sense. All that was missing from that film was a big song and dance number in the middle and a Jedi slipping on a banana skin.
Oh, and The Force is a weird infection like having tapeworm. George, come over here and have a look at yourself.
What would be your dream job (in a perfect world where finances weren’t an issue!)
That’s a difficult one. Most of the things I enjoy doing most, I probably wouldn’t want to do as a career. I love cooking but working in a kitchen seems like a less than pleasant experience. I love film and TV but a reviewer would have to watch endless stuff that they wouldn’t want to watch, probably involving Eddie Murphy in several roles. Being sarcastic professionally might work but Charlie Brooker has that covered.
I’d probably still be something in programming/development. I enjoy problem solving too much. Maybe working for Google or Microsoft in the “making up things” section. It’d be great to have the freedom to just go and take on any idea you have through to design and prototyping.
What is your favourite moment at IBI over the past few years?
So, I was against the idea of minimum pricing on alcohol. After all, why should I have to pay extra just because a bunch of ne’er-do-wells like their Tennents Super with a dash of Grouse? Then, I read that question and all of the shenanigans that spring to mind involve beer and making words with chips and body parts (we didn’t dismember anybody; this was more in a YMCA style). Maybe the government have a point.
But, anyhoo, the last big party we had down at the Hoxton in London was a great night. I assume it was a Christmas party since I was there (the Glasgow Office prior to Dee’s Iron Rule used to try and organise the summer party for when I wasn’t there). Wine, chat, beer, slurred banter, cocktails, singing: all good.
From a purely work point of view, getting the TS mobile site out there was pretty good. It’s a solid bit of modern technology and did everything we wanted it to.
Coming over to Toronto was rather splendid as well.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Since I’ve joined the over-30 group, I’ve come to realise that’ll I’ll probably never play football professionally. I guess there’s no more than a 27% chance of that happening now. Anyway, who has the time?
Hopefully I’ll still be coding and understanding what I’m doing. Not sticking to .NET 4 because “it worked fine back in 2012 and it’s what I know”. Coding (and still enjoying it), living somewhere nice, in a house that’s big enough for a big kitchen and isolated enough for a piano. That’d do.
I could be ambitious and say managing director of IBI but then they’d have to change the name to IBWI or WIBI and that’s just silly.
Has anyone been a major influence in your life and why?
I’m not sure there’s anyone in a family who isn’t a major influence, but…
I used to stay at my papa’s (my mum’s dad) at weekends when I was growing up. My two uncles on that side of the family stayed at home then and the three of them were big influences on me.
My papa was a massive movie lover (he mentioned quite a few times some article which read ‘one day’ a TV would be like a big glass plate you could hang on the wall; just wish he’d managed to see that) and of music. I know a lot of Jolson numbers off by heart thanks to him.
My uncles were both into Scottish history, politics (Danny was one of the first SNP councillors and was the first SNP Provost for Kilmarnock & Loudon), and music (Willie plays guitar and piano and can pick up just about anything straight away).
Danny was really into cooking so I used to help him out in the kitchen every weekend. Willie was a programmer at the time and introduced me to computers via the BBC micro he had.
I pretty much robbed all of my hobbies from them.
I also get my sense of humour from the three of them so blame them.
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be, and why?
I’d like to have the ability to relax more. If I’ve got nothing to do, I feel like I’m wasting time. If I’ve got time off work, I’m mucking around with code on the second day because I’m going stir crazy. I tend to get up quite early on holiday and the weekend as well because I feel that if I’m sleeping, I’m losing time that could be spent doing whatever.
The only time I’ve really just relaxed was on holiday in Turkey a few years ago because we were in a big resort with no internet and nothing to do except relax. It was great but really not cost-effective to do regularly.
Do you have a song or piece of music that sticks out above all others and why
Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I don’t think there’s anything else out that there compares as a complete composition. Wish You Were Here is better lyrically but DSotM (check out me and my acronyms that, with this added explanation, have taken far longer to type than if I had just typed out ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ again) is in a league of its own.
I got it as a Christmas present one year when I was in my mid teens. I’d heard of the band and album but never listened to anything they’d done until then. So, I stuck the headphones on and was totally blown away by the layers of music and the idea of using a full album as a medium for a concept.
There’s a 5.1 mix of the album that I managed to listen to last year even although it required moving furniture around and recalibrating speaker set-ups to listen to. It was good.
What would be your Desert Island disc choices?
8 songs only. Horribly difficult.
Natalie Merchant – My Skin
I heard this for the first time while channel hopping (through the 5 channels of the time) and catching her performing on Jools “Must Keep Walking Backwards or the Fabric of Reality Will Tear” Holland. Lovely song, great voice, beautiful arrangement. I’ve still never managed to see her live. She played in Glasgow about 10 years ago and I thought, “I’ll catch her next time”. She’s not been back.
Crowded House – Italian Plastic
I managed to miss Crowded House for the entirety of their original incarnation and only heard their music after they’d split up and their greatest hits was advertised to death on TV. They have so many great songs but I love the whimsical lyrics of this (courtesy of Paul Hester).
Kiss – God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You II
Heavy guitar, powerful voice, crowd-sung chorus, talking over the outro, what’s not to love? I think the first time I heard this was at the end of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. Kiss’s version is still the best.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son
If I could have any type of singing voice, it’d be this one. The music is as brilliant as it is simple. Two guitars pretty much competing against each other to drive the song with an unbeatable vocal over the top.
Maria McKee – If Love Is A Red Dress (Hang Me In Rags)
Yep, that lassie who sung “Woooaaaahhhh, show me Heeeaaaavvvveennnn”. She’s much better at this. This song’s all about the voice. If there’s a better female vocal on record, I’ve not heard it.
Allison Crowe – A Murder of One
The original song is an upbeat Counting Crows one but this arrangement wins out. Just a singer and a piano – doesn’t need any more than that.
R.E.M. – Country Feedback (live version)
Strange one since the album recording isn’t anywhere near the best version of this. Live, they slow it down and Michael Stipe puts every ounce of feeling into it. Not bad for four chords on repeat.
Pink Floyd – High Hopes
Despite seemingly being a total ass-hat, Pink Floyd’s best era was still when Roger Waters was doing the bulk of the writing. Still, High Hopes (the last song of the last album and post-Waters) has just about everything – syncopated piano, bell chime, choral backing and one of the best lap steel solos. There are better Pink Floyd tracks (Great Gig in the Sky, Wish You Were Here) but none than can easily be listened to out of context of the rest of the album.
Now available as a playlist on Spotify.
Where is your favourite place to visit and why?
Florida. Disney World. Universal. Despite my outward appearance as a burly guy who could be leader of a local bear community, the theme parks in Florida are still my favourite place to go. I get bored very easily so the constant bombardment of COLOUR! MUSIC! STUFF! WOO! that you get at the parks is amazing.
We went there for our honeymoon and then again the following year and it’s the most fun I’ve had on a holiday. You do feel like you could do with another holiday to recover from it afterwards but that’s all part of the fun.
The second trip, we went on that “It’s A Small World” ride. I was ready to try and drown myself in the 3ft on water after a couple of minutes. Don’t go on that.
Describe yourself in 5 words.
Sitting at a desk now.
Is it true you bring grown men to tears with your rendition of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen?
I thought that happened when I tried to sing it with the one second delay at the McGuyver Office Karaoke Party (turns out cheap mics and a laptop do not a karaoke machine make) and I saw a tear in Graeme’s eye. I’m sure he said that was just down to all of the onions on the pizzas.
I’m a total karaoke junkie though. And like any karaoke junkie, I’ve got my small set of songs that I like to do (Tom also has a set of 5 karaoke songs but they’re all “To the Moon and Back” by Savage Garden). Any trip to a karaoke place requires careful planning – you don’t want to go up and do your best numbers when the place is empty, but leave it too late and someone else could go and do your song or you could run out of time. It’s a tricky situation.
It’s the Rufus Wainwright version I go for. Leonard Cohen is a legend but his version sounds like it was arranged by a five year old with a Casio keyboard and a rubber mallet. And I’ve not been able to think of it in the same way since I saw Watchmen.
Toronto: what’s the language all aboot?
The accents of the locals aren’t that difficult to understand. They do have a bit of an issue with mine. “GitHub” somehow comes out as “get help” to a Canadian lug-hole. I’ve had to attempt to do a Canadian accent a couple of times to get a point across. That’s wasn’t pretty.
On the plus side, the (amazingly polite) moochers who approach you in the street can easily be gotten rid of with a strongly accented “Av nae chinge, pal”.
The worst part is coming up with a funny (to me, at least) comment then having to slow it down to deliver it. I’ve lost about 15 Sarcasm XP points since I’ve been here.
I’m hoping I don’t pick up too much of the lingo. I wouldn’t like to come back to Scotland, go into a take-away and ask for “a slice and a pop”.
Is the real reason you had a weak disposition that night when a few people consumed 8 bottles of red down to you just being a complete and utter lightweight and not the fact you gave a pint of blood earlier in the day?
There’s a horrible misunderstanding about that night. I wasn’t “being ill”, I was making room for more wine. I was ready to keep going.
I’m sure I mentioned that to Dee before getting up and bouncing off several walls to leave her sitting herself for 20 minutes. She might not have understood since she was (apologies about strong language) rather inebriated.
Maybe I’d have been better off sticking to some better man-drinks like Cale 80 or Malibu.
Red wine is known to help the heart though so, if one glass is good, how can a third of eight bottles not be even better? That’s the principle that has made me the man I am today.
“what’s it all aboot?”
A group of childhood friends return to the small Maine town they grew up in to face an ancient evil they thought they had defeated long ago.
Is that really your profile pic on skype or is it of Eric Cantona?
What do you see when you look at me? A developer? A beardy slap-head?
When monkeys follow the banana pickers, it’s because they think their shoes look comfy.