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My Masters Report

Posted by mattray on April 4, 2009

UT Graduation

I recently graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Masters in Software Engineering. I had a pretty good time getting the degree, especially since I enjoy most aspects of software development, from the business to the code. I also was fortunate enough to work with Dr. Eric White at the Center for Agile Technology, who helped me figure out my topic for my masters report and was invaluable for feedback and suggestions. We were both fascinated by the application of wikis towards permeating traditional documentation venues and the continued expansion of wiki-concepts into other areas of software development. So from our discussions and research, my paper emerged as “Overloaded Use of Wikis in Collaboration Software and Software Engineering”. It touches on wiki concepts and their expansion into other areas of development through Wikipedia, Trac, FitNesse and Deki. I figure I’ll split it up into a series of blog posts, but for the impatient folks out there, here’s the PDF.

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What Would You Say You Do Here?

Posted by mattray on May 25, 2008

I get asked that question fairly frequently, not by people who know Open Source software, but by people outside my realm of employment. “Community Manager for an Open Source systems management company” has gotten more than a few quizzical looks as they slowly back away. I tell people I encourage people to use our software, even if they don’t pay for it, which just creates more questions.

I’ve been at my new job for nearly 2 months and I’m just starting to feel like I’m getting my head around everything. As the Community Manager, my job is a weird hybrid between customer support, development and guerilla marketing. On any given day I can plan on working on something like reviewing documentation and assisting a community member with their ZenPack (a Zenoss extension); and end the day with a blog post, a dozen emails and several discussions about supporting another Open Source project. Some days I miss diving into a code-cocoon where the whole day disappears into a blur of writing software.

Keeping up with everything can be hard, I’ve recently started using the Getting Things Done methodology (a blog post about that soon) and I’ve found it really helps. The hardest thing is that I rarely feel I can focus on something for several days, I have too many spinning plates and have a hard time tuning everything else out. Hopefully with better prioritization and GTD I can fix that. I could also spend as much or as little time on any subject I come across. I could spend all day on IRC helping users, read documentation until I figure everything out, or learn Python as well as I’d like. But there is almost always something of higher priority bumping my schedule, so I’m keeping much busier than any of my last few jobs kept me.

This isn’t to complain though, I actually enjoy my job quite a bit. There’s constant variety so I’m never bored and I enjoy engaging most of the people I come across. Zenoss has a very passionate user-base, which is one of the things I’d noticed when I was evaluating the company. This makes my job a little easier, it feels good to work on a project that you feel proud about, as opposed to some random software that someone, somewhere is using (quite possibly not by choice). I really wanted to work for an Open Source company, or at least be in a position where I could contribute substantially to one, so I guess I’m doing pretty good.

So there you have it, hopefully the Bobs are satisfied.

Posted in career, community, sausage, zenoss | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

My New Gig

Posted by mattray on April 18, 2008

In case you hadn’t heard, I recently left my old job for a new job at Zenoss, an Open Source Enterprise Systems Management company. I am now the Community Manager, which is essentially a technical liaison between Zenoss and the Open Source developer community. My job is to help build, strengthen and support Zenoss’ community because they are the ones who use and help support, direct and write the software we provide as a company. I’ll be active in every community-facing aspect I can, and you’ll find me on the forums and mailing lists, IRC, blogs and email asking lots of questions and trying to find as many answers as I can.

While my last job was at one of “The Big 4” as a Java developer, I had a Linux consulting company on the side and I’ve been involved with the Open Source community in one form or another for over 10 years. I’ve worked in Systems Management, retail, distributed computing, banking, scientific and educational software over the years and I’ve been at several startups and founded a few myself. While I’m a fairly new to the Python community, I’ve coded in Java, Ruby, Perl, C, Lisp and many other languages professionally and for fun so I hope to get into the swing of things pretty fast.

I’ll be posting stuff here and at the Zenoss Blog from time to time on my experiences. Feel free to contact me with feedback, questions or answers:

  • Email: mray@zenoss.com
  • AIM: mrayzenoss
  • Twitter: mattray
  • IRC: #zenoss on irc.freenode.net as mrayzenoss

Posted in career, community, python, zenoss | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

My Job Went To India

Posted by mattray on March 31, 2008

Today was the last day of my job with a large, public software company. My job went to India.

The product I was working on had matured to the point where development was being offshored within the company and my job became expendable. From a business standpoint, I guess it makes sense, but I was a little bitter at first. It was my understanding that everything was going great, at least as far as we were supposed to know, and no one in management had ever let on that things weren’t going well until the hammer came down and the transfers and layoffs started. The worst part was that I had turned down a job offer a week before the first round of layoffs began (I said I didn’t see it coming, I didn’t say I wasn’t looking).

It wasn’t the first (or second, or…) time the company had offshored a product, and I work in an industry that it is the norm to have layoffs when times are good and bad. We were in a “culture of layoffs”, and despite management’s protests to the difference, we knew inside that someday it would be our turn.

My plan had been to complete my masters and then look for a new opportunity. My side business had mostly stalled out and I figured when I finished my thesis I would be ready for a new challenge. Unfortunately it got a jump on me before I was quite ready. I was offered positions within the company, but this event made it apparent that it has happened before and it will happen again, so off to greener pastures.  We were given plenty of time to get our affairs in order, and I had plenty of time to determine what was best for me.

I was already a fan of the Pragmatic Programmers publishing series, and I’d had my eye on My Job Went to India (And All I Got Was This Lousy Book) by Chad Fowler, so I bought the book the same day I found out what was going on. Luckily for me, the transition was easy and I had plenty of time to read the book.

The Book

My Job Went To India

All in all the book is a great introduction to career-planning for developers. I wish someone had given it to me when I was getting started (wouldn’t have changed much, but I might have appreciated it) because it points out a lot of things I’d been doing instinctively, rather than by plan. Tips like:

  • Master the domain you’re working in, don’t just skate by on programming alone.
  • Never tie yourself to a single platform or vendor.
  • Keep thinking about where your current job is going to get you, and work towards it.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, side projects make you more flexible.

There are 52 essays covering skill development, getting ahead in your career, marketing yourself and how to keep your non-coding skills growing. The book is essentially a politics and career companion to The Pragmatic Programmer, only with a titillating cover and title. It’s a quick read and I highly recommend it, especially to new developers.

Posted in book reports, career, sausage | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »