Well hello there. I guess if you’re reading this you know already about the great Blog It Forward initiative here on SCN. I’ve been nominated by the great (Austrian!) Matthias Steiner on his BIF post, alongside industrious and illustrious colleagues such as Jon Reed, Dick Hirsch, Matt Harding, Alisdair Templeton and Oliver Kohl. Goodness, what excellent people with whom to be associated!
So, where do I start? Well, my name is DJ and I hack on SAP and related tech for Bluefin Solutions. I was born very young, in Manchester. Tim Guest has already mentioned a little bit about Manchester in his BIF post but I wanted to paint the picture a little more. Manchester is a city in the north west of England, and is often referred to as England’s second city (after London). It’s a fantastic place to live, a very in-your-face, matter-of-fact place that is confident and comfortable with its place in history. It’s where the Industrial Revolution was born; the Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point in history and kickstarted what we now recognise today as major manufacturing, agriculture and transportation concepts. Manchester is where the first ‘true’ canal was constructed (the Bridgewater Canal) which opened in 1761 – canals became the arteries of early industry in the 18th century and helped moved goods and raw materials around the country. Manchester is also of course the birthplace of the computer, and is proud to call Alan Turing, the father of computer science, a son.
I grew up on a farm only a few miles from the centre of Manchester, in a village called Woodhouses. We bred pigs – about 400 at any one time – and cattle, particularly the Galloway breed. The rest of the village, at that time, consisted of other farms, and not much else save for a few houses. Life was simpler and growing up it was pretty idyllic when I think back. Later the farm moved on to producing pig food, boiling up all sorts of stuff and making such a stink that we got frequent complaints from the neighbours and the next town. The vats that we used to use were two stories high!
I left Manchester for London, to study Classics (Latin & Greek) at the University of London, and after graduating, started work for an oil company (Esso) in London (computing, of course). Since then I’ve lived and worked in many places, most notably Germany (Esso AG, Deutsche Telekom, SAP, and other places) but also Denmark, France and briefly in the US. But now I’m back in the village where I started. Douglas Adams, author, of course, of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (and no namesake) once talked about “tiny invisible force tendrils” that tie every being in the universe to his birthplace, and I guess those force tendrils have eventually pulled me back to Woodhouses.
I got into computing at school, where we had a PDP minicomputer. Yes. This was 1977. In fact, an interview with me over on O’Reilly’s Radar site explains more about this, so I’ll point you there for more info. Suffice it to say I was completely mesmerised. This BIF initiative suggests I post a picture of myself or my home town, but instead, here’s a “picture” of something that will be forever etched on my eyeballs (in a good way) – the “ready” screen of my first personal computer – the Acorn Atom. 8-bit 6502 processor, 2k RAM.
Anyway, to the questions! One from Marilyn Pratt, and the others from Matthias.
What was your dream job as a kid?
That was easy. I wanted to work for IBM. Simple. I loved the idea of big iron, the lure of the massive computing engines, and (in retrospect, perhaps) the wonders of the ivory towers. I’d cut my teeth on proper multiuser machines (PDPs) and so appreciated what IBM had to offer. And so I applied for a summer job (between university terms) and went to work at IBM in Sale, Greater Manchester (Jackson House, Washway Road, to be precise). My job there was to understand, devour and document a system written in CLIST, running on VM/CMS (yes, VM as in Virtual Machine. Decades old technology :-). Absolutely loved it. When I went to work for Esso after University, I was almost immediately knee deep in MVS/XA, 370 assembler, JCL and VSAM, on an SAP R/2 project. Like a pig in the proverbial.
What made me start actively participating in the community and why would I recommend people give it a try?
I’ve participated actively in a lot of communities (including this one: I helped build SDN/SCN from the ground up, back in 2003):
- the London Perl Mongers (Perl was my first-love with regards to open source software and languages)
- the Jabber / XMPP community (I ended up writing Programming Jabber for O’Reilly)
- the Google Technology User Groups (I founded the Manchester GTUG a few years ago)
- SAP Young Rewired State (where I was a mentor this year, got SAP and YRS together in the first place, and co-coordinated the YRS Manchester team)
and of course am proud to be an SAP Mentor.
What got me first started actively participating was an itch I needed to scratch. Back in the mid 1990s we SAP hackers were pretty isolated and I decided to form a mailing list for us to get together. This list was called ‘merlin’, and eventually merged with another list called ‘sapr3-list’, and the combined community eventually became SAP-R3-L. Read more about this history in the post “The SAP Developer Community 10 Years Ago” (that post itself was 7 years ago, gosh!). After starting the list, the community was formed and the itch became scratched, but I persevered with running it (it was a lot of work!) because the benefits far outweighed the efforts. The community, the sense of belonging to a group of people similar to you, and and knowledge gained and shared, was brilliant. That still holds true today.
Give X to a community, and you’re likely to get X^2 back. If you’re not already actively involved, give it a go!
Passing the baton
Anyway, I guess that’s more or less it for my BIF post; I’m running the risk of boring you all to pieces. So now I have the honour of blogging it forward to individuals whose work I try to follow as diligently as I can – Jason Scott and John Patterson both of whom I admire for their work in SAP development, integration and mobile areas. In addition to choosing one of the questions I’ve already answered, I’d like Jason and John to answer the following questions:
- What one invention from the future would – or wouldn’t – you like to see here now, and why?
- If you had the luxury of choosing 5 conferences to go to this year, what would they be, and why?
Thanks for reading!