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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The trade off - my day job

Ever wonder what other triathetes really do all day? I mean, we may know the profession of our friends, training partners and competitors but if your triathlete friends are like mine, we don’t discuss our day jobs a whole lot because it’s really secondary to our love of the sport of triathlon. So I thought I’d try to describe what it is I do during the work week which helps fuel my participation in the sport from a financial, logistical and mental perspective.

I say “mental” based on the adage that says “absence makes the heart grow fonder” (more fond, whatever). And certainly as I sit here toiling away the day, dreaming of warm summer days of training and the excitement and adrenaline of race day, I become more and more appreciative of the sport and the fact that the Lord has blessed me with the ability to participate and compete against myself and others.

I’ve written before on the how my employer supports the logistical aspect of training and how I feel it has made a crucial difference in my development as a triathlete so I won’t go into too much detail on this subject. All I’ll say is that, again, I’m blessed to work for a company that makes commuting by bicycle convenient, provides terrific benefits, provides onsite restaurant (we all know how triathetes eat) and workout facilities, body comp’ing, etc, and free entry into any of the races and events that we sponsor. For instance, I won’t have to pay a dime to race in the two 10ks that I’m running this winter or the 24 Hours of Booty ride in Charlotte later this summer. Now, if I could just convince them to sponsor the SCTS I could get out of all those darn triathlon entry fees. Not a bad idea actually.

So some folks may already know that I’m a software developer. I should say that I come from a long line of software developers, well, as long as a line of software developers could be. In other words, my dad started out as software developer also. He’s floated to the top of the technological food chain and no longer writes code, but he’s still a techi at heart. The term “software developer” is a very broad term. I mean, that could mean anything from the old school mainframe green-screener to the 12 year old kid designing the family website in their bedroom at night with the latest WYSIWYG tool.

Specifically, I develop a system called Harmony, which is Colonial’s web and offline enrollment system. Currently we're pretty much finished the web side of the system and so I’m now working on the offline system, which is considered a "smart client" and intended to enrollment capabilities on mobile computers. Basically, this means that it can run while disconnected from the Internet and later, when an Internet connection is available, sync with the main back end system used my the web version.

I’m using the latest “bleeding-edge” technology on the Microsoft platform. I’ve gone through several evolutions and introductions of languages and platforms and the latest is a mix of a new language call XAML (pronounced Zam-mel), based on XML, and a language called C# (pronounced C Sharp) which has been around for a few years, and SQL for database programming. Again, I have to give kudos to Colonial for the kahones it takes to build your most import systems on bleeding-edge technology.

I continually choose to position myself within the industry on the bleeding edge for several reasons. The first is a combination of marketability, exclusivity and financial. While there may be less wide scale demand for those with bleeding-edge skill sets, you are recruited at a much higher salary/bill rate than those whose only skill set is on the industry standard. As well, the majority of the time, tomorrow’s industry standard is today’s bleeding-edge which in my mind means that if you’re not on the bleeding edge you’re off the back of the pack in cycling terms.

Enough of that already. What does my workspace look like and what have I been building for the past few years? Here are some pictures:

My workspace, very blah (sorry for the blurry cell phone pic):

Obviously the system is much too large to give you an idea of all its capabilities, but here’s a glimpse of it through few screenshots from my local (development) build.

Harmony web system:

Harmony offline system:



I should say, that while I'm thankful for my career and all the benefits it provides me and my family, there is a certain distaste that I have for the "corporate machine". You see, no matter how good the company treats its employees and how much it does for charities and the community, the primary function of the company is to generate the almighty dollar. Now I'm not saying that making money is inherently a bad thing; not at all! What I'm saying is that by the very nature of the corporation in its zealous pursuit of the almighty dollar, employees such as myself are relegated to being nameless, faceless, resources on a project plan. In other words, a tool; a cog in the wheel of the machine. So it's a trade off that I've willingly opted into. In exchange for this money and all these benefits, I've submit myself to the machine. I've willingly offered my days as a sacrifice to their greed stricken goals so that in exchange I can take the money and benefits and provide for my family and explore my own capabilities in the sport of triathlon. Wouldn't it be cool though to be a pro triathlete?

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