That was fun while it lasted
My project over at the Oregon State Public Health Labs is quickly coming to a premature end.
I was hired to evaluate some open source software and build a proof of concept Laboratory Information Management System. After a month and a half of analysis and project scoping, it was recommended that the open source software be put aside, and they proceed with custom development to meet their complex and unique business processes.
Everyone seemed pleased with the recommendation. I had secured buy in from key committee members before hand, and we were ready to proceed. That is until the business owner forgot that he would have to pay for it.
The budget discussed was the same as it was pre-evaluation. In fact, it was going to be cheaper and faster to do greenfield development than to try to work around the third party’s deficiencies.
But apparently, he forgot.
So, his decision was since I can’t fund full development, I might as well not do a proof of concept.
And here we are. Limping along with maybe another day or three of employment as they dot their i’s and cross their t’s then its back onto the market. What a great time of year to look for a job!
Serves me right for working for the man I guess…
Just landed a new gig as an Architect for the Oregon State Public Health Labs. Going to be working on a multi-state open source Laboratory Information System, designed to help track disease vectors and epidemics.
Should be interesting. Lots of data, and a relatively new field for me. Plus, its the first position where I am really not expected to code, but to lead and mentor the development staff.
Out in Hillsboro for a short time, which will be a horrid commute, but then setting up an office in the Lloyd District. Thats a nice straight shot across the bridge for me, so the bike/walk pattern can continue.
This article is a really good read for those who are either considering starting a business or are working at a new venture. As someone who is doing both, a lot of the “rules” really hit home for me.
Some of the rules that stood out for me are:
#7 No Offices.
At first my inclination was to agree, and then throw the caveat in about someone needing privacy. His counter is that there should never be anything private in a startup, and upon reflection, I agree.
#9 Keep The Organization Flat
Absolutely. Communication is only possible amongst equals. People who demand titles and hierarchies are interested in success – but primarily their own.
As I work on getting the day job financed, and kicking off the two side projects, I’ll definitely keep these rules in the front of my mind.
Paid Summer Vacation
So, my work life just got interesting; and by interesting I mean tumultous, uncertain, and nervewracking.
Its no secret that we have been trying to find financing for our little startup. The investment environment right now is horrible. We’ve had people bemoan the fact that would love to fund us, but cash is tight. A recent deal with a European investment group would have given us a hugh chunk of change, but the deal was extremely unfavorable to our continued ownership of the company. On the bright side, there are two deals in the oven right now. They just wont be ready in the next month or so.
So, today, some hard choices were made. At our current operating costs, we couldn’t keep payroll going. We made the decision to lay everyone off, while we continue to chase financing. We are, however, giving severance in an amount to make up the difference between our salaries and unemployment insurance. With just those expenses, we have 3 months or so to nail down a deal.
My personal plan is to kick back for a month or so. At that point, there will be some solid news of the financing. If it looks like its going to happen, hang in and wait to start up again. If not, use the next two months to find a new permanent gig.
Its the middle of July, I dont have to go to work, and am getting paid my full salary for the next 3 months. I guess there are worse ways to lose a job.
So… following up on yesterday’s post, I was deposed today for my expert witness gig. I was told it would probably take two hours or so. Five hours later, and I was finally done.
First up were the biography questions. Who the hell am I to think I can make these opinions? Where do I get off acting like a know it all? Those kind of questions. It was funny. At one point they entered my Linked In profile as an exhibit. If you’ve seen it (and yes I am not linking to it on purpose – gotta keep public and private somewhat separate , yknow?). Well my Linked In profile, has some humorous entries in it. Case in point: areas of specialty. Now is it my fault that I am an expert at “kicking ass and taking names”? When that was read into the record, the court reporter had to stifle a laugh I calmly explained that I use Linked In begrudgingly to keep in touch with old coworkers and not to market myself.
So, after an hour of getting my ego bruised, and you all know how fragile my ego is, we moved on to a series of questions regarding my knowledge of the case outside of my forensics report. The whole gameplan up to this point was for me to do a “clean room” analysis of the code – no knowledge of the business and legal wrangling that had occurred. It was hoped that by doing this, my analysis would have that much more weight as a true neutral party. Opposing council was flummoxed. They had obviously fed their expert the conclusions they wanted and he couldnt believe that I was answering “I have no idea” to all of his questions.
Next, we moved on to my report. Very interesting. As it turned out, he didn’t directly question any of my conclusions. Instead, he tried to play games with timing and dates. I thought I handled myself fairly well. At any rate, I never shouted out “Don’t be an idiot”, which is more than I can say for my last three bosses.
Finally, we came to the opposing expert witness report. I spent about 45 minutes, tearing it to shreds, without giving them too much ammo.
Phew – 5 hours is a long time to be recorded with every word you say written down.
When we left, our council said I did good job – blah blah blah. On the other hand, he did ask if I could be available when we depose their expert witness. He said they could really use my insight to help direct questioning. Another 5 billable hours? Hell yeah! I might just be good at this.
Depo-sition that is. Yep, tomorrow is the big day – my first deposition as a software development methodology expert. We – the attorneys, the client, and the other experts (bioinformatics – its a health/medical related case) – met yesterday for a strategy session.
Most of it was to discuss the opposition’s expert witness report and help them tear holes in it. It was remarkably easy to do that. It felt like their expert had barely looked at the application and was using boilerplate for most of it. For a couple of hours we went through it section by section, giving the attorneys arguments on how to discredit it.
Of course, this had me thinking – if we are doing this, the other side would be as well. Fortunately, we moved on to looking over our reports. Spent about a half hour on the other expert report, clarifying points, etc. When it came time to review mine, everyone agreed that it was spot on and didn’t need defending. W00t!
Funny thing is, they spent maybe 15 minutes prepping us for deposition. One of the take aways for me was that we aren’t there to educate opposing council. If they ask us about points in their reports, and to justify why we might differ, we are supposed to be as truthful and forthcoming as possible, while saying as little as possible. They can’t revise their reports (and neither can we) but anything said can be used to direct council when it comes to trial/arbitration. If we tell them that whole swaths of their report are bogus, and they go back and see that its so, they know to change their arguments to avoid those sections.
Anyways, it should be interesting. I get to blather on and act like a know-it-all, and no one can complain because thats what they hired me to do!
My Side Project
I previously hinted at the fact that I am involved in a side project of sorts. As I finish up today, I thought I would spill the beans.
I was recently engaged by a software development company to act as an expert witness in a lawsuit they are involved in. Now, I’ve never done anything like this before, but I do have a grip of experience in software development and software development methodologies. I also happen to be good friends with a developer at that company and he recommended me for the gig.
To be honest, although I was interested from the jump, I was also a bit hesitant. Having no experience in it, I also had no idea what would be required from me. Nevertheless, I met with the CTO of the company and he explained the finer points of the case. While I won’t go into the specifics of the case, the claims brought by the other party were ridiculous. I figured it would be fairly easy to make this case. So, I accepted the job.
Basically, the work involves going through source code, writing a report to address the technical claims of the lawsuit, and making myself available for deposition and/or testimony.
Now, like I said, I know one of the original authors of the code. We consult each other on technical matters on a weekly basis – sometimes more often. Sometimes simple things – would you do A or B in this case – sometimes more complex – what are the merits of a certain framework – things like that. Even on a good team, it helps to have a bit of an outsider’s perspective. This also helped me to jump into the code and get a fair understanding of it in no time.
So now, three weeks later, I have put the report to bed. Barring any last minute changes requested by council, I get to sit back. Its a nice addition to the corporate bio, right next to the patent and the awards. It does have me thinking though. I wouldn’t mind doing this again. I guess its time to investigate how to go about getting my name out there as a potential witness for other clients. Even a couple times a year would be some nice extra scratch.
After a busy couple of weeks, my standard 4 books at a time routine wasn’t really satisfying my need to read (its kind of like the need for speed, trust me). Currently, I have in process Valis by P.K. Dick, Ulysess by Joyce, Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis (just finished), and Simple Genius by D. Baldacci. Most are rereads so 10 minutes here and there is fine.
To break out of the rut, I hit Powell’s and looked for something new. In the Sci-Fi section, an employee recommendation suggested that if you are fan of Neil Gaiman (I am) then you would like Sean Stewart (whom I now do).
Picked up Mockingbird since it seemed the least “pulpy” of the titles on the shelf. I’m glad I did. The book has a tone similar in feel to Anansi Boys. You know: voodoo/magic exists, but it never becomes the real theme of the story. Its the characters, and their relation to the magic, that drive the story.
Being a “stormtrooper atheist” (at least for the time being), most people are surprised by my fascination for all things related to religious magic, including voodoo. To me, its so easy to draw the corollaries between the loa and psychological archetypes. When someone is ridden, its akin to acting out on subconscious desires. Needless to say, this book didn’t disappoint in this area.
Another awesome feature of the book: The Method. Instead of a simple afterword by the author, he spent a couple of pages detailing his mindset and motives when writing the book.
So, now I get to troll the web, see what else he’s written and check another one out.