About Me

Where do I start? I have had such a varied career over the years, now coming up for 15 years!, it's difficult to know the right place to begin my tale, but begin I shall.

Although I was born in the town of Congleton in Cheshire, I lived in the nearby village of Holmes Chapel until I was 17, attending Hermitage Primary School and Crewe County Grammar School (now known as Ruskin High School). In 1982 the whole family moved to the Leicestershire market town of Hinckley, where I attended the sixth form part of John Cleveland College. I finally moved to Birmingham in 1996, having worked in and around the midlands (gigs and computing) for several years, and have now set up home in Rubery. From here you can look out onto the Lickey Hills and Waseley Hills, and a few miles further on are the Clent Hills. It reminds me of when I was quite the adventurous soul in Cheshire.

I left school in 1984, and in early 1985, while working for UniChem Ltd, I got together with a young band called Thursday Child from Nuneaton. This was to be the start of a love affair with gigs that is still going strong. I and a few friends decided they needed a road crew and offered to help them out at gigs they were doing in the local area. The band only lasted about a year and a half, but it was great fun while it lasted. During the same time, I also got involved with the up and coming progressive rock band IQ.

As I needed something to help me out while I followed my passion for gigs, I enroled at Coventry Lanchester Polytechnic (before it was officially a University) in September 1985 as a Computer Studies student. Don't tell my parents but most of my grant got spent of travel expenses to and from gigs up and down the country!

In 1987 I completed my HND at Coventry Lanchester Polytechnic, and joined GEC Telecommunications to work on their design package, called EDCAD. EDCAD was the tool used to design a System X digital telephone exchange. Utilising an in-house designed AI (Artificial Intelligence) expert system and the Pafec DOGS CAD system, EDCAD could create detailed floor plans, wiring & cabling plans and parts list, which were all used to build and install a single telephone exchange. GEC Telecommunications became GEC Plessey Telecommunications (GPT), and with the change in name came a major restructuring program together with several rounds of redundancies. Around the same time I was made an offer to turn my hobby into a profession, and tour Europe.

In 1992 I became a professional Lighting Engineer, Drum Technician & Stage Manager for the rock band ARK. Over the course of 4 years, I toured over half the countries in the EU, averaging around 200 gigs a year. I have worked with the famous, the not so famous, and "who???". The fun being with unknowns, but the money being with the famous. One day I may write my memoirs, but I don't think anyone will believe me! After 4 years on the road, moving up towards doing the big gigs like the Metallica & U2 type tours, I opted to go back into computing industry.

In 1996, the adventurous and imaginative side of my nature got me my next job at JPM International Ltd. who are a fruit machine company. While there I helped to write several machines for the bingo, pub, casino and video quiz machine markets, including an amalgamation between a fruit machine and a crane grabber, called Star Turn. If you'd have been to the Mecca Bingo Hall, Acocks Green during 1997, you may have seen it in the arcade room. Following completion of a video quiz machine, I decided I needed a change.

In March 1998, following a very friendly interview, I was accepted into the world of medical software and AAH Meditel on their System 5 project. System 5 is a practice management software package for General Practice surgeries, providing clinical and patient administration. My role as Analyst/Programmer was to ensure that the software met the requirements to pass Y2K and RFA4 compliance. In addition I furthered my knowledge of web design, by designing the System 5 Intranet Web Site, as well as offering help and advice in creating other web sites on the company's intranet.

However, during June/July 1999 several stories arose about a merger with a competitor, Torex Ltd., which was eventually finalised in August 1999. The company was renamed Torex Meditel Ltd., and several redundancies were handed out. Although I was considered a valuable part of the programming team, my passions for web design did not seem part of the company's plan for my future. As such I decided to cast my net (pun intended :) ) and see what else was on offer.

And so it came to pass, a few days after my birthday, I joined the ranks of the illustrious web development company tw2.com, who along with their sister company Third Wave, provided some of the UK's best advertising and web design packages. It was my first professional position as a Perl programmer, although I also utilized my skills in HTML, JavaScript & Java, developing web sites for some very exclusive clients.

My enjoyment for gigging never stopped during this time, although it did dwindled somewhat. Since 1994 I had been working with the Birmingham Jazz Series Concerts, which take place around Birmingham throughout the year, where I provided the lights for concerts at The Adrian Boult Hall, as well as acting crew boss for many of their gigs at other Birmingham venues. In 1995 I started working with two Leicester bands, Prolapse and CUSP. Sadly both Prolapse and CUSP no longer exist, but the memories still remain.

Taking over my passion for gigging, my interest in Perl led me to attend the O'Reilly OSCON (Open Source Conference) in Monterey, California during July 2000. While there I got to know several people I had previous only known online, and several inspired me to start Birmingham Perl Mongers on my return to the UK. The group has grown more and more successful, to the point we are now the second largest group in the UK.

In March 2001, tw2.com was dissolved and the entire workforce was required to look for other opportunities. I was very fortunate in that I was able to quickly find a job working for Questions Internet & Information Systems. In the course of working with the existing systems, it became obvious that a rewrite was required to re-established the LEA Intranet product. Assigned the title of Head of Intranet Development, I designed the system that is still operational today. However, unfortunately, in 2002, the parent company Questions Media Group lost financial support and once again I found myself working for a company that was about to be dissolved. While 5 members of the original team elected to form their own company, i2Q, and continue the improvement of the software, I elected to search for alternative employment.

After a few months attending several interviews, I finally accepted an offer from MessageLabs Ltd. Initially starting as a regular software engineer, I carved a career path through the roles of Senior software engineer, Team Leader, Technical Architect and Development Manager. As I knew the company well, and our products and services, in July 2006 I was asked to help manage the Critical Problem Resolution team, which ultimately meant providing 24/7 support in any emergency that required development involvement.

After 4 years, the company was facing a major change, and a new CTO was brought in to evaluate all the positions in the company. The CPR team it was decided were no longer required, and to be fair I have to agree. The role that the team had been created to do was no longer critical. Thankfully other senior members of the management team within Research & Development realised that losing the team members themselves was a disastrous move, set about finding us roles within the organisation. As such, from March 2007 I became a QA Automation Specialist. Essentially this has meant being a dedicated developer for the QA department, working on designing and writing testing tools to ensure we are releasing quality products into our infrastructure.

Since forming Birmingham Perl Mongers, the group has gone from strength to strength. We now hold both social and technical meetings each month, the technical meetings featuring talks and presentations both from group members and specially invited guest speakers. I have personally spoken at just about every technical meeting, presenting talks on a variety of subjects for both beginners and experts alike. Having cultivated my online Perl profile, I have also spoken at several Linux User Groups, Linux conferences and Perl Conferences, and am now a regular speaker at the two major Perl grassroots conferences, YAPC::Europe and YAPC::NA.

Following YAPC::Europe::2003 in Paris, a number of us thought it would be worth Birmingham Perl Mongers hosting the conference. We elected to submit a proposal for 2006 and won the bid. And so at the end of August 2006, YAPC::Europe::2006 took place in Birmingham, with myself as lead organiser. The event was considered a success and helped to raise the profile of both Perl Monger user groups in the UK and Birmingham Perl Mongers in the West Midlands, to the point our numbers have continued to grow and our technical meetings are growing ever more popular, both for attendees and guest speakers asking if they can present talks.

Once I got involved in the Perl community, I also started become more involved in the idea of Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS). As such I became a CPAN Author, and now contribute several modules. In addition I also maintain the CPAN Testers Statistics site, having previously been a CPAN Tester, and have a hand in maintaining one of the software projects used to test distributions uploaded to CPAN. As a consequence I regularly present talks on testing and CPAN Testers. Due to an interest in helping the OpenGuides movement, I also administrate the local OpenGuide to Birmingham.

To help raise the profile further, Birmingham Perl Mongers took it upon themselves to organise a "World Tour" of UK Perl Monger groups in 2006. The idea was partly to raise the profile of UK Perl groups, but also to advertise the forthcoming YAPC::Europe::2006. For 2007, we have decided to do things a little differently, and are currently embarking on a speaking tour, visiting numerous Linux and Perl user groups in the UK.

So that's where I am right now. Who knows what the future will hold, It would be nice if my company, Miss Barbell Productions, could take on a more dominant role and allow me to do the type of work I most enjoy, Web Development, but we'll just have to wait and see :)

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