Last orders...

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lastorders.jpgLast night I had some beers with some guys I used to work with. They were celebrating the latest round of redundancies. What was interesting was that generally the people that I spoke to that were still employed seemed less happy than the people that had been 'let go'...

I worked at Interlink between 1994 and 1997. It was my first real programming job, until then I'd been a plumber by trade and a programmer in the evenings. They wrote software for cash machines and point of sale terminals and host software to manage them and connect them to external networks, such as VISA. It was a good place to work. At the time they had a bit of a history of employing programmers with 'non-standard' backgrounds and there was quite an eclectic mix of people. It didn't feel that strange to be a self taught C programmer who used to be a builder and didn't have a degree. A few weeks into the job I discovered a name I recognised in a source control comment, Chris Stangroom, and realised that someone I'd known for ages had worked at Interlink a couple of years before. It was amusing trying to work out if it was the same Chris Stangroom, I described him as 'a guy who a bit hyper, runs around waving his arms and legs a lot, and often screams like a girl' and they knew it was the same guy...

I started in the customer services department, dealing with 'customer specific' changes to the suite of software. Every customer had their own special requirements and the core software was customised to order. The first thing I did was write a driver for a credit card embossing machine; I can't remember which one. It was fun work and made me realise that the stuff I'd taught myself was valuable and that my route into the industry had left me with stronger skills than many of those that took the more conventional university route.

Systems Engineers, as we were called in customer services, also had to travel to client sites in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe to deliver and install the systems. I wasn't much in to the travelling and so I eventually moved into the development team. This suited me better and I did some good and interesting work and was eventually promoted to deputy development manager. It's nice to know that code that you wrote in 1996 is still being used and didn't have that many latent bugs...

Interlink grew quickly from 30 or so people in a converted house in Walthamstow, E17 when I joined to 70 or so in offices in Goswell Road, EC1 when I left. It continued to grow and was then bought in around 2000 by CR2, a Dublin based company with a 'complementary' product base.

Now it looks like things are on the way down, which is a shame. After this round of redundancies there are around the same number of people in London as there were when I joined them. Admittedly they have overseas offices as well now, but it's definitely a big change from the boom times...

The message that came through loud and clear last night was that Interlink used to be a good place to work, but it hasn't been for some time. That's a pity. This isn't the first round of redundancies they've had and those that are left don't expect it to be the last. Most of the people that I spoke to that had been 'let go' seem to feel that it's a welcome release. They'd wanted to leave but, well, it's hard to decide to leave your job, especially in the current climate. Now that decision has been made for them...

Good luck guys.

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The picture at the top of the page is Carson's round. Being an aspiring uber gadget geek he had to make a list of the drinks he needed to get on his iPaq. He then waved it at the bar staff to place his order (he had hoped that the bar staff would support bluetooth...). He took the picture on his 3G phone and then emailed it to me for the blog... Alright?

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I've updated my website with some of my gadgets!

Look out for more exciting updates in the near future!

Talking of gadgets, just downloaded
http://www.sharpreader.com/

whilst I'm up here and have a spare moment...

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