David's Blog | Misc ramblings about things in general, work and technical items of interest.

CAT | Work



Reinventing the Wheel

In the IT field probably once a day someone says “lets not reinvent the wheel”.  I am starting to wonder what would happen if we did reinvent the wheel?  It’s been a few 1000 years since it has been invented and I think we would be smarter now. Maybe we’d do a better job and come up with something better.

The original wheel was stone and over time has changed and included spokes and been made out of different materials, had rubber tires added, etc. So what if those people never reinvented the wheel?  I think reinventing the wheel is something we should all think about the next time someone tells us not to.

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NJ Transit Fare Increase

Below is the email I submitted to NJ Transit proposing the 25% increase in fares.
I am very disappointed with the proposed increase. I have calculated that since I started commuting in June 2005, my fare will have gone up 55%. That is an unbelievable increase in a time when folks are not seeing pay increases and often pay decreases associated with the economy.
In that same time frame, I’ve seen no noticeable improvement in service. The cars are nearly the same as they were when I started commuting with the small exception for the double decker cars which aren’t used on my normal express times. I am often on rail cars that were refurbished in the 1980’s, let alone originally manufactured in the last 20 years.
How much money is being spent by NJT on the Ridgewood station and Rutherford stations? Why spend all that capital money now when there is a budget problem? It makes no financial sense.
On my standard in/out train, I know there are at least 2 groups of 7 total commuters that have formed car pool groups and are going to abandon NJ Transit. That’s about a $1600/mo loss and it’s just 2 groups I know of. Those 2 groups losses require 28 people’s increases to just break even. So instead of a $400 increase in revenue from those 7 commuters, your decision is resulting in a $1600 loss of revenue.
You have to make hard decisions as any business does, but I don’t think most/any businesses solution is to raise prices 25% for their customers. In fact, it’s probably the last thing they do before the “Closed” sign is permanently on their door.

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Big launch weekend

Spent all day/evening both Friday and Saturday at the office launching a major release of the web publishing platform. Sunday was spent at home with the morning wrapping things up. We only hit a few snags along the way of which just 1 was even of any concern. I guess that means as far as major releases, this went pretty smooth. It was a complete front end re-write, a significant back end change, a data migration and hardware swap all in one.

That means I have about 5 mins between when I think everything is fine until the first panic call of the day.

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The first week at the new place

Well week one at my new job has ended. Instead of a 4.5 mile drive, I have about a 70 min commute into NYC. Now granted the weather this past week was gorgeous, but the commute has been fine and almost relaxing at the end of the day.
I’m involved in the preliminary investigation of a large new project and I’m getting a great education across many areas of the company. The folks have all been terrific and helpful and I’m looking forward to week 2.
I’m in a great area of NYC. Lots of activity and lots to do if you want to get away for a bit. If you’re a shopaholic, you’d be in trouble.
Now to plan a nice long hike for the weekend.



The end… The beginning…

My last day, after 17.5 years, was very interesting. I keep waiting to feel sad about the whole thing, but I don’t think that emotion hit me.
In the morning I was treated to bagels by my buddy Vinnie. I hung out downstairs as I went through my emails and cleaned things up. Shortly after going up to my desk, I was getting calls/IMs asking when I was going over to the other building so I went over there to say goodbye to folks. I thought it would be quick, but 1.5 hours later and I wasn’t done. Stayed over in the other building and had my last employee lunch with some friends and then had a meeting with the person replacing me that was in from California.
I returned to my office to start packing up the remainder of items and then get things in order for walking out the door. Around 4:30 I think I was done and the only thing left to do was set my Out of Office message and leave a voicemail message indicating who to contact now. Didn’t see anyone left on my floor. I walked down to see if anyone was waiting on the 1st floor, but they were in a meeting so I headed out and met up with someone heading over to the Marriot. Off I went – so long Sony.




2 more days…

I have 2 days left at Sony before it is time to move on. The number of calls, emails and instant messages I’ve received from everyone has been overwhelming. Folks that have left Sony years ago but I had active email addresses for have emailed and called.
When folks contacted me after I sent out the email, the first thing they said falls into 1 of 3 categories:
Group 1) They wanted to offer their sincere thanks and best wishes.
Group 2) They said they were getting choked up reading the email (especially the end).
Group 3) They were disappointed I didn’t mention *them* in the email. They weren’t really serious but enough people mentioned it that they fall into their own category. Almost everyone I sent the notification to could easily have a paragraph or more written about our adventures together over the years.
2 more days!



Saying Goodbye after 17.5 years

I had been thinking about what to write as my “Goodbye to Sony” after 17.5 years. Today I went on a 12 mile hike along the Appalachian Trail and thought some more about it.
I’ve come into contact with a tremendous number of people over the years that include employees, ex-employees, consultants and vendors. In some way, each and every one of these individuals affected me in some way. Here are the highlights (and sorry if I spell anyone’s name wrong as it’s been many years for some)…
I left my last company after 4 years and was hired by Bill Wolf to work along with Dan Bardzell on our EDI implementation. It was a good introduction to Sony where I met a lot of folks that, up until the move to SD, were still active employees on the business side. EDI is now managed by George Perini, and George’s expert knowledge and care & feeding of EDI will be missed when he leaves.
After a couple of years, I was lucky to be involved in our IEF Case Tool implementation. With Phil Kunz, Greg Lordi and Joe Pinto, we made sure the platform was not a cause for concern. When Stock Locator (John Larsen, Helen Simon, Jim Sarcinella, etc) went live, it was the first production IEF application that TI wasn’t personally involved in. After Stock Locator, SMART & Prompt were subsequently deployed and both had a very long life. And though I had no desire to move to Plano, TX, the TI folks never stopped asking if I wanted to work for them.
When the IEF focused on OS/2 as a deployment platform, I felt Windows would be better so I moved into Gary Fisher’s group. We brought Powerbuilder in (v1.x or 2.0 back then) and along with BJ Safdie created some tremendous Client Server applications (many against Sybase & DB2 using the MicroDecisionware gateway) to showcase the technology.
A new VP was brought in for “Planning” and I worked for Steve Charatz for a couple years. Under Steve, the most fun I had was when we had a couple years where we brought kids in right from college and trained them. Ari Schneiderman was in the first class and is still here. Others moved on after a few years, but I still think it is an excellent idea.
Eventually, I worked for Jim Furey and was involved with the implementation of the Ft Myers Call Center. Along with Rafael Orsini, Vinnie Farinaro and others from NJ, we spent a lot of time and effort implementing the platforms as well as involved in the building of the temporary & permanent facilities. I spent way too many holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and Valentines Days with Rafael, Jim and others in Ft Myers. The days were often long but the final result was beyond remarkable.
After many years working for Jim and Service Company implementing many web based systems for practically no cost but with tremendous payback, I had the opportunity to move to my current group. E-Strategy was managed by Steve Morrissey and the group had an extensive list of platforms to be deployed. While Steve was here, we deployed eWorkplace portal and LDAP, Digital Asset Management, a Content Management System, consolidated web hosting and webMethods for B2B and A2A integration. All platforms were extremely successful and still all active today.
In E-Strategy & E-Services, I had the opportunity to work with a tremendous group of folks. Most are gone now with a few still remaining (at least through this week). On top of the list is Steve Oliver. Steve is the brightest, hardest working individual I have met in the 21.5 years I’ve been in IT. Steve has been involved in almost every platform we’ve deployed and his ability to make things work is unmatched. When Steve leaves Sony, Sony will lose a talented individual they will never be able to find again.
Within the E-Services group, a few have already come and gone, like Roseann Good, John Selle and Sudhir, a terrific consultant we had for a few years. Still here through the end of this week is Kamal Panchal and Jerry Kaplan. Along with Srini, our consultant for the past couple of years who relo’ed to SD, they made sure the Intranet and Internet platforms were always up and running and spent countless hours (usually after work – why is that?) getting things going again if there was an issue.
There are many, many more folks I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. For those that remain at Sony (temporarily or permanently), I wish you the best. The next year or two will be tough but I hope things turn around. The relationships I’ve built with the users and other IT folks is not something you can transition. The relationships are what allowed me to do things quickly and effortlessly. For those that have already left, I hope you’ve found something you enjoy to do.
People have asked me why I’m still working so hard and still smiling. After 17.5 years of giving 100%+, I certainly wasn’t going to stop now. When I leave at the end of the week, I want everything working so no one can place any blame on those of us leaving that worked so hard in implementing and supporting all the platforms we worked on. I’ve got a job secured when I leave, which obviously helps, but when I think about it, maybe it’s that when I started at Sony I was a 24 year old kid and now when I’m leaving, I’m married to a beautiful wife and tremendous mother, have 2 gorgeous and intelligent daughters and a bright future ahead of me. How could I not be smiling!!
Best of luck to all and please stay in touch,



iPods show flaws in Corporate America

I was given a link to an interesting article – Hide Your IPod, Here Comes Bill. It describes the usage of iPods at Microsoft and the concern that it’s a competing technology to what the company offers. Now MS doesn’t offer a HW device but their software product works with other vendor devices and not the iPod.
As I started reading the article, what popped into my head was “Well, create a solution that meets the needs of the customer”. Instead, Managers at Microsoft (the company referenced in the article) are concerned with not providing a solution, but instead, hiding the fact that they don’t have one. This isn’t a Microsoft specific issue as it seems to be the norm today in Corporate America.
At the end of the article, one Manager states:
“I don’t really care if it pisses them off,” he said. “I’ll argue why they’re doing it wrong. If you want me to stop using it, give me a product that works and is as easy to use.”
That’s one person I would hire in a heartbeat!

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Now performing on the Lido deck…

The company I work for is relocating the vast majority of it’s IT operations from the East Coast to the West Coast. I wasn’t interested so I declined relocation (as did the majority of the others offered relo). Yesterday we had a group meeting. We’re all gone in the next 6 to 9 months, yet the “state of the company” was presented as well as an update on the major projects underway.
I equate yesterdays group meeting to being on the Titanic and as the boat is going under, an announcement comes over the loud speaker promoting a new cruise next month.
Do they know we’re leaving? Have they not realized this yet?
You can’t make this stuff up!

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I’m in IT. Have been for 20+ years now. I work with a bunch of folks that I would match up against any Corporate IT team for all around expertise. We’re the team that “gets it”. We do it all because we’ve done it all. What takes others days or weeks takes us minutes or hours. What they can’t comprehend, we understand without even needing it to be explained.
So how does outsourcing come in? Well, we’re outsourcing. Have been for a while but we’re outsourcing more and more. Started, as I’m sure it has elsewhere, with outsourcing of Production Support. They said it was to free up our resources for more value added work. Sound familiar? It’s now moved into new development and many other areas of our organization.
Let’s look at what makes this special team so good… we’ve done it all. We started off as programmers back when you needed to know how to program. We worked on all platforms (Mainframe, Client/Server and Web), all operating systems, multiple languages, all the hot technologies, databases, applications and production implementations and support of everything we worked on. We knew whatever decisions we made and systems we implemented we were going to be responsible for and live with for years to come. We’ve come up through the ranks, we know what works and what doesn’t work, we know how to diagnose problems and how to get things working again, quickly. We can solve problems on platforms and in applications we’ve never seen before by asking the right questions.
We’re the crucial middle portion of the IT organization that pretty much gets it all done. We interface with Sr Management and we interface with developers. We know how to communicate effectively at all levels and we make things happen. We push for the platforms we know we’ll need to keep the organization going in the future. We know the strategic direction (heck, we implemented them all) and we make decisions that align with that direction.
So, who will move into our positions in the future? Who will be the folks that truly make the projects succeed, the platforms work, turn the visions into reality and think beyond just a single program or a single system? With all the positions below us being outsourced, there’s no one in the organization to step up into our position! Who will set the direction of the company and see it through to fruition? Who will be the enforcers of the strategies and align decisions with those strategic directions? I fear that there will be no one to do it.
Consultants don’t have to live with choices or decisions they make – they develop and move on. The long term viability of their solution is of little concern as they won’t be around to deal with the problems. Sr Management cares about the next quarter and they too don’t care about the long term consequences of doing things quick and dirty and cheap. They too will likely be gone when the true impact of their short sighted decisions brings the company to its knees.
Not much we can do now but sit back and watch an organization that we cared so much about, that we’ve built with our sweat and blood, start to crumble before our eyes. In a matter of a year or two, what took decades to put into place will be gone. Like a disease taking over someone’s body, outsourcing is eating away at the organization. Might not look bad from the outside right now, but as the disease progresses, and all the vital organs are attacked, the major life supporting systems will fail and then die. So will IT and so will the company.

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