That’s right – I’m moving from Imaginet to Northwest Cadence (NWC) at the end of this month. That’s the high-level version – read no further if you don’t need back-story! A huge thanks to all at Imaginet for an awesome 4 years. It was a pleasure working with all of you.
Getting into ALM
I’m often asked how I got into ALM. Well, I studied Computer Science up to Masters at Rhodes University (which was an awesome 6 years!). When I left in 2002 I knew I could program – and one of my favorite courses of all time by Prof. Terry was building our own parser and compiler (using Pascal) so I knew I had enough meta-knowledge to learn any language. My first job was for a small company (Systems Fusion) that made ISP software using C++ and CORBA on Linux. Those were the bad old days – CVS for source control and builds that took about 3 hours using make files. Blegh!
During that time I got married, and my wife and I didn’t enjoy the Johannesburg lifestyle. So I called up an old study mate who happened to be working for a financial services company in East London. In Oct 2004, we moved to East London and I joined Real People (a financial services company). We had around 20 developers in the MS stack – SQL server, webservices and ASP.NET websites. The team were very cowboy, using zip files for source control and deploying to Production to test. Even though I didn’t know what ALM was at that time, I knew this wasn’t a sustainable way to do development.
After 2 or 3 months, I got my grubby paws on Team Foundation Server 2005 beta 2. I (eventually) got it installed and configured and we adopted TFS as our primary ALM tool. Our processes were still chaotic, but at least we were starting to utilize good source control, branching and even automated builds. Over the next 5 years, I became the architect and ALM-guy for the team – when I left in Oct 2010 we had around 60 developers, 15 team projects, 250 build definitions and I’d done countless customizations to work items, templates, reports and builds. I’d also learned (intuitively) a lot about process – the good, the bad and the ugly! We did a lot of things right in those days – but we also had lots of room for improvement.
During my time as the “accidental admin” for TFS, I spent a lot of time on forums and blogs as I tried to figure out how to do stuff in TFS. Sadly, it appeared that there were very few people in South Africa that were doing any ALM using TFS. Or if they were, they certainly weren’t publishing any content!
In 2009 I attended my first TechEd Africa. There I listened to an ALM talk by legend Chris Menegay, who explained that he ran a company called Notion Solutions that did ALM consulting in the US. I loved the idea and thought that there was probably some scope for ALM consulting in SA. I saw Chris again at TechEd Africa in 2010 and this time asked if he did any work in South Africa. We hit if off and Chris offered to hire me or help me start ALM Consulting in SA. Eventually we started Notion South Africa in Oct of 2010, and I officially became an ALM consultant. At around that time, Notion Solutions became part of Imaginet.
When I was studying my Masters, I was sponsored by a company in Seattle – a startup that was focusing on FireWire technologies. During June of 2000, the company flew me to Seattle for a 3 week working holiday. It was my fist time flying (I was 22 at the time) and my first time to the US. I instantly fell in love with Seattle – I got to see some of the city, meet a few people and even go camping while I was there. I didn’t even mind the rain! In fact, I loved it so much I decided to move there.
Unfortunately, the startup company was unable to offer me a position at the end of 2001 when I graduated – they’d gone under in the dot bomb. And so my dream of moving to Seattle went cold.
Zoom forward to 2011 – I was awarded my MVP award in ALM. In Feb 2012, I got to attend the MVP Summit in Bellevue, Seattle. It was great being back in one of my favorite cities of all time! I attended the summit in Feb 2013, and then the summit was changed to Nov, so there was another summit in Nov 2013. Each time I visited Seattle, I was more and more keen to live and work there. Also, one of my best mates from Rhodes moved there in 2006 or so to work for Adobe – even more incentive to move there!
At MVP Summit in Feb, 2012, I shared a room with Chris Menegay – an experience in itself! When we were chatting, I mentioned that I’d love to live in Seattle. Chris said I should chat to Steven Borg, cofounder and strategist of Northwest Cadence – an ALM company based in Seattle. I didn’t approach Steve then – I wasn’t ready for a move yet. However, at Summit in Feb 2013, I made a tongue-in-cheek comment to Martin Hinshelwood: “If I moved to Seattle, would NWC hire me?”. He immediately suggested that I chat to Steve (I didn’t know that Martin was in the process of moving back to Scotland), which I did. Steve and I hit it off from the first conversation we had, and over the next couple of months we got to know each other and we decided I’d be a fit for NWC (and NWC would be a fit for me!). We’re now processing legal paperwork to get me over to start working – and while we wait, I’m going to be working remotely for NWC from Cape Town (I moved from East London to Cape Town earlier this month).
This is going to be an exciting transition for me and my family – but I must mention that I learned a lot during my time with Imaginet. My colleagues were an amazing bunch to work with – a lot of the “old guard” (the original Notion Solutions crowd that I met when I joined) have moved on – most of them to Microsoft – but I still have frequent contact with most of them. Big ups to Steve St. Jean, Ed Blankenship, Donovan Brown, Abel Wang, Dave McKinstry and others! I’ll never forget how confident I was on my first ALM gig – because I knew that if I got stuck I could always reach out to some of the most knowledgeable ALM Consultants on the planet simply by mailing the internal distribution list we had called “NotionTech”. Later it changed to ALMTech, but it was still the same level of awesomeness!
I’ll still be involved in ALM (though I won’t be working much in SA anymore) and I’ll continue to blog here, so you’ll still see plenty of content from me.