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mdxi (4658)

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Journal of mdxi (4658)

Sunday July 31, 2005
12:50 PM

New Job

[ #25990 ]

Thursday I started work at my new job. N was kind enough to drive me (we're planning to swap off the driving as much as possible while I'm crashing with her and J) and upon arrival I was dog-n-ponied around for introductions, then I started a clean install on my workstation. All the production stuff is Debian machines. Two of the guys I work directly with bring in their Powerbooks and work using them; the third prefers to have Windows on his workstation. I put Debian on mine, as I'm trying to maintain a measure of separation between me and work.

As the install was wrapping up (slooooow network at work), I was surprised by being taken out to lunch. We went to Malaya, a small restaurant with a menu which is half Malaysian and half Americanized Chinese (knowing nothing about Malaysian cuisine, I can't say how Americanized it is, but everything looked pretty homestyle).

I had a savory chicken soup whose name I can't remember -- it was basically shreds of chicken and lots of onion in a tangy-sweet broth which was based on soy sauce. My entree was described on the menu simply as "pot roast on rice noodles", and that's basically what it was. The beef was roughly cubed, with a good amount of fat still attached to some pieces (that's a good thing; think pho) and had been simmered in some sauce which had a really awesome procession of flavors: salty/spicy followed by tangy followed by sweet. They served it on your choice of egg noodles or rice noodles, but rice noodles are clearly the proper choice. On the side was a small mound of what looked like lightly stir-fried spinach, but the leaves were a bit larger than the fresh spinach I'm used to seeing. And then two little breaded and fried things, which I determined from the appetizers menu to be fried chicken dumplings. Take minced boiled chicken, blend with just enough binder (mostly flour, I assume) to let you roll it into thumb-sized cylinders, bread in a spicy coating, and deep fry. Awesome stuff all around.

On the way back from lunch I was given a tour of our server farm, which is hosted at Internap. Pretty standard stuff, but impressive for the amount of redundancy and backup capacity built into the design.

Once back at work proper I was handed my first actual assignment: add a slideshow viewer to the content management system. This is a really really simple thing, but it was (I think) chosen as a crash-course in seeing how things hook up to each other as well as the people side of the process. I got a list of requirements from the person who acts as the liason between us and the customers, then spent the rest of the afternoon asking my team what I should do. The problem wasn't that I couldn't figure out how to do it, but rather that I could see many ways to do it, and was trying to figure out the best, most House Style way to get it done.

This bit ended up being particularly interesting, as I've never really worked with a group of competent people before. Every job I've had in the past has basically had my acting alone, though I was nominally part of a group of people assigned to a task. I would be given something to do, and I would go and do it, then report back when done. Here, the dynamic seems much more open and everything seems to be discussed back and forth.

The afternoon was wrapped up with a group review of a new perl module that the lead developer was interested in for purposes of the upcoming overhaul of one of out projects. Everyone adjourned to the conference room and he toured through the POD and gave examples of how he envisioned it being used in-house, then asked for comments and questions.

Basically, it's the same give and take and flow and cross-pollination of ideas that I've become accustomed to via distributed development online, but happening in the real world. It's the damnedest thing.


Friday morning I drove myself, since I'd be heading back to Eatonton after work. I got to work fairly early and spent a while perusing our wiki, reading news, and doing some tweaks on my workstation. Then I sketched out my initial plan, UI thoughts, and db schema for the slideshow tool (focusing mostly on the editing portion; there's precious little to say about the actual output aside from "and then it dumps a stack of web pages").

I sat in with Vince and Linda's lunch, which was half work and half hanging-out. Then, at L's suggestion, I put my design work on the slideshow on the wiki so that everyone could look it over.

After doing that, I headed up to what the elevator provocatively describes as the "Roof Garden". It's not very garden-y, but it is pretty cool. The building I work in is one of a group of disused industrial buildings, across from the south side of Georgia Tech campus, which have been converted into ubertrendy office space. Whoever designed the conversion did a neat job of it though, leaving the massively thick exterior brick walls and huge (like 12×18 inch huge) timbers exposed throughout, then putting in modern hardwood or carpeted floors and lighting. The overall effect is really neat, and is probably making them huge sums of money. Anyhow, the specific building I work in was a candy factory, built at the turn of the (20th) century. Our suite occupies roughly a third of the top (4th) floor. The elevator runs to the roof, however, where a large deck has been constructed. The views aren't pure art or anything, but it's a surprisingly quiet and breezy place. There's a 5-track railroad only meters from the south end of the building, and more low-rise aging industrial waste beyond that. North is gatech. East is the high-rise city center of Atlanta proper, about a mile away. I'll take pictures this week.

Later on, I had a discussion with Vince about the merits of various software engineering support tools (CVS, svn, svk, wikis, Trac, RT, and so on). He's just starting the task of pulling the development process out of the manually-versioned morass it's currently in, and into something more sane and modern, but he's been strapped with just keeping things running during their period of chronic understaffing, so he was receptive to the information I could provide.

Then Linda wanted to talk to me about Corporate stuff. Basically gave me the hello-orientation-welcome speech that she was too busy to do on Thursday. It was refreshingly bullshit-free, and it was neat to learn that it's actual written company policy to hire exceptional people and pay them what they're worth instead of hiring flocks of marginal hacks and paying them as little as possible.

I am cautiously optimistic.

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