Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reflections from the UK part 1

Now we're down to our last month(ish) in the UK, I am in a reflective mood.

I've enjoyed my time in the UK and Europe and the UK contracting scene has been kind to me so I have no real complaints. IT recruiters in the UK are about as trustworthy as a fox who has become self aware and started selling cars, but it's all part of the game and once you know the rules, it easy to play along.

I have done five contracts in the 18 months or so since I've been here. All doing C# or C++ in various guises. Four have been based in the Midlands and one in London. Travel has been from 25 minutes to 2 hours (each way) and pay rate has differed by 100 quid a day from the low to the high rate. The longest I have been out of work is 3 weeks, which included a week holiday.

So, like I said nothing to complain about really.

The market for contractors has dried up a bit in the last 18 months, and rates have definitely come back. Still there is plenty of work for the right skills, but I'm glad we came when we did.

I've met some tossers and some good bastards along the way. Some really good devs, some really shit devs and one freak (in terms of coding ability). I actually thought before I came that my skills might not cut the mustard, but save the freak and one maybe two others, I consider my skills to be superior to others I have worked with. I think that as Kiwi's we are early adopters and probably because of our smaller teams and budgets, have to get to know a lot more technologies and nuts and bolts than the guys here.

Companies here seem to be a little more conservative, backward thinking, and resistant to change. The majority of the companies I worked for still used Source Safe, and had old C++, VB or 1.1 code lurking around. C# 2.0 is used more often than not, but 3.0 isn't even being considered.

I was shocked at the lack of structure in a lot of places too. I'm not talking little companies here either, in a lot of cases we're talking large multi-nationals, or software used in high volume, mission critical places. Only one place had Unit testing, only one place had continuous integration and only one place used any sort of Agile practices. All of those were the same place! In my opinion a lot of the issues in companies like this is the middle management. To a company, the middle management are next to useless and create more problems than they solve.

A NZ company just wouldn't have the budget for PM's and Middle Managers, so management tends to take a more hands on approach and from my experience, is the better for it.

Next time on the muppet show I will discuss how I could fix roading issues in the UK in one easy step.

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