A few people have commented on how quiet my blog has been over the last few months, and it’s mainly been related to the direction my contract took for a period of time.
My current contract is orientated towards producing solutions primarily with open source products. Wireless redirectors based around squid, master/master postgresql and master/slave Mysql clusters, Xen VM farms, spacewalk servers, nothing overtly cutting edge, but nicely technical work that every now and again takes me out of my comfort zone and into areas that mean I learn something new.
Unfortunately, when you’re good at giving people what they want, you tend to come to the attention of other areas, and I recently found myself seconded without any notice or input into working on the deployment of systems I knew nothing about. Namely, Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office Sharepoint Services.
Whilst the work was challenging, both technically and mentally, and if faced with a contract that will be a walk in a park and pays well, versus one that is technically challenging, but pays lower, I will always take the technically challenging one, I’ve completed the work with a better understanding of how the two systems operated, how they co-operate, and how they just plain won’t talk to each other, and increased my technical knowledge in areas that I never expected to, as well as technologies and subjects I thought I knew pretty well, but found I had a lot more to learn.
Am I happy I had to do the work? no. Both me and my wife noticed an increase in depressive episodes (more on that later) during the time, and I’ve put on 6kgs in the last 2.5 months, surely a sign that I’ve been in a “destructive phase” of my life, as well as being thrown in the deep end working with production systems I know nothing about, and can’t easily find references for.
Am I glad I had to do the work? yes. It’s taken me well outside my comfort zone, and made me revisit decisions on my choice of career path (IT rather than other areas), but has also made me rethink the way I’m doing things, and I now have a long list of better ways those things can be done. That has come about from working with contractors whose skills lie in the closed source path, but who look at problems from all angles, and are happy to accept an open source solution to a closed source problem, and are happy to share their knowledge in the way a closed source system works, even though their employer’s policy may not lie down that path, which means I can now reach the root cause of a problem long before I could previously have done so.
But, at the end of the day, I’m back in my comfort zone, spending the day migrating lists from exchange DL’s to a shiny spanking new mailman box, and understanding what every error means, and how to fix it without spending days googling obscure error codes…