the only certainty is change

24 02 2014

hello world.  long time no blog, eh?  yeah.

i was reminded on the weekend of how much has changed, and that at least a few distant friends don’t have any other mechanism to keep up with my dizzying lifestyle, than this blog.

so, what’s been happening?  well, quite a lot, but over an excruciatingly long period, so on average, not much!

18 months ago I had a chance encounter with a dear friend in Melbourne who had just returned from a week-long NLP course.  she was casually flipping through the supplied course notes, and began an exercise on me, related to ‘what makes you happy’ or some such topic.  i was required to answer the questions with minimum thought and as quickly as possible (which is not my normal mental stance ;).  what came out of my mouth surprised even me!  to cut a 10+ minute Q&A session story short, basically I made the realisation that I’d never been so happy in my work/career as when I was designing electronics & small computer systems – my original first career throughout the 1990s!  WTF?  where did that come from!??

that realisation came just months after I lost my #1 client.  so in a lackadaisical manner, I began poking my head back into the career I’d left behind, curious to see what had happened in my absence.  the answer to that turns out to be both a lot, and no much.  not much, in that virtually all of the principles of electronics engineering haven’t changed a bit, even many of the same electronics components I was using back then not only still exist, but are still in common use to this day.  microcontrollers (small microprocessors with a bunch of ‘peripherals’ all on the same chip, forerunners to the modern ‘SoC’ – System On A Chip – that are used in all manner of mobile devices these days) are more or less the same, just  better, faster, etc.  it’s far more common to write code in C rather than assembler for these microcontrollers now – a new challenge for me.

and of course two other things happened in the 00s:  “wireless communications” and “the internet”, both of which have had a huge impact on the industry and the kinds of products / solutions now possible.  the kids these days have a name for the latter – IoT, the “internet of things” – gadgets given an internet connection and the ability to be controlled remotely and to ‘collaborate’ amongst themselves, via the internet.  zowee!

at the same time, as a kind of knee-jerk reaction to the loss of client # 1, I designed myself a website (the first proper website I’ve had other than mere place-holders), got business cards, and all done with a decent, consistent branding, colour scheme, artwork, etc.  and I attended “breakfast networking” many times over the ensuing year, to try to drum up new business.

regular readers might remember how I’ve said before I never had to lift a finger to acquire the clients I had in Melbourne – they literally fell in my lap from a variety of circumstances, and sometimes I felt a little guilty for that.  well, surprise surprise, that ‘dream run’ in Melbourne didn’t exactly prepare me for the hard slog of recreating a new stable of clients in cold hard Sydney.  i also think the market has evolved somewhat throughout the 00’s & into the 10s, and the expectations that small-businesses have of their IT support provider has risen.  being a one-man-band is now somewhat less appealing to a large & growing number of small businesses, no matter how much cheaper they can be.  ultimately that year long effort came to all-but-nothing.

throughout 2013 I was also spending a lot of time getting my head back into my old career of electronics design, my “first love”, using Freelancer.com to take on a select few jobs to push my limits in new areas of technology whilst leveraging what I already knew for the bulk of it, to come back up to speed in the industry in a relatively low-risk way.  although it’s been wildly unprofitable (and I could rabbit on somewhat about the pros & cons of the ‘global marketplace’ unleashed by sites like Freelancer.com and others), it IS serving its intended purpose.

with that as a back-drop, and the awkward cross-over of careers, the small-biz IT consulting side of things was dealt the final nail in its coffin with the loss of client # 2 in mid-2013.  since then i’ve been living on dregs, the smell of an oily rag, etc, and surviving only with the gracious generosity of J and my parents, whose been very patient in supporting me through this period.

so much for the new remote-working lifestyle I dreamed of a couple of years ago, especially when, for a short while, it seemed I was closer to it than I’d first expected!  gone.  poof.  financially dependent on others – a very new, unprecedented and uncomfortable reality.  and an old dark doggy friend has made an unwelcome return; not as much as years past, but definitely present.

but you know what?  it couldn’t have happened that way anyway.  my heart wasn’t in IT any more, & client # 2 were right to walk away (even if the way they did it – to suddenly lock me out overnight with no warning, no organised change-over – was not in their best interests, but rather the actions of a bean-counter who seems to think everyone else in the world operates as deceitfully and subversively as she does).  the mere thought of working in IT now is energy-sapping.  i’ve done it to death since 2000, and I’m now heartily sick of trying to bridge the ‘digital divide’ (between the ‘knows’ and the ‘know-nots’) that is inherent in a world of tech that’s forever advancing, but with clients whose notions are still too often stuck in 1999 (it’s not that it can’t be done, but it’s a tiresome endless slog against ordinary computer user’s desire to keep doing things the way they’ve always done them).  i’m tired of trying to hold back the tide of IT security threats and keep my clients safe, and the responsibility that comes with it, when there really is there’s no such thing as security when it comes to any sufficiently motivated intruder, where by just about any measure the IT industry is losing the battle of keeping their systems secure.  and I’m tired of spending most of my time reacting to problems, and too little of it being creative.  I walked away from creativity when I put electronics design aside to move into IT consulting.  it was fun for a while, but i’m just not up to the challenge any more.  someone else can do it now.  bye bye IT.  :)

what now?  that’s an open question.  i’m redesigning my website to put myself up as a designer of bespoke electronic & microcontroller systems.  i’m open to collaboration with person(s) skilled in the ‘I’ of “IoT” (Internet Of Things).  but of course ‘networking’ and getting known / a reputation & getting in front of people remains a challenge.  stay tuned…

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