In March a friend told me he'd spoken about my coding and website to an IT company who seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing. I couldn't help feeling sceptical but after exchanging a few emails with the contact given I soon felt very positive about it - they had seen my website and not run a mile - the job must be mine!
After sending my CV I was asked to complete a pair of programming tasks, one in the C++ language and one in PHP. Both tasks were to process the same data and provide output showing the data arranged and sorted.
Because I am not very familiar with C++ I coded the PHP version first to get a good idea of what was required. Some days passed and I had an interview. The code I returned to them was amongst the best received. I'd dotted my Is and crossed my Ts. I was competing with university graduates.
Some time later they contacted me for a second interview. I had been very negative in my last interview they said. They would (if they were to offer the job to me) pay for me to go onto a computer science course at the local university. Where do you stand on intellectual property rights I asked? The answer shocked me. All code I would write in their employment regardless of whether it was written in work hours or not would belong to them. Exceptions would have to be arranged, but they would prefer for my focus to be on their work not my own or the projects of others. I'd need to be 110% dedicated and spending large portions of my own time outside of work was a given.
I'd need to get over my confidence issues in order to grow.
Despite the alarm bells clanging away and being unnerved by the seriousness of the picture presented to me, at some point not long after the second interview I had put my concerns behind me and was feeling positive once more and ready to give it my best shot.
But at the back of my mind still lurked those nagging concerns over intellectual property and so I decided to seek out a solid answer because of the doubts expressed over the precision of the answer given to me in the interview. I went on holiday and went mountain biking almost every day. I worried about having to give up cycling for the job.
In the end I decided that databases and web development just wasn't worth the sacrificing of my freedom over. I just can't get that excited about these things. The whole situation reminded me of how a BTEC National Diploma in Computer Studies course had turned me off of IT back in the mid 1990s.
So why were this company interested in me? I have a rare skill combination, IT skills with an arts background. They wanted to exploit this for my creativity. Programmers are traditionally methodological and work in an ordered and sequential manner. Creatives traditionally have a more scattered approach making links between unlikely sources. They hoped I would be situated somewhere between these two. I found all this rather flattering.
Unfortunately for them and my bank manager things don't quite work out like that. With my arts background leading me to question and be critical of society, is it any suprise I became involved with free and open source software? Software which gives the user the right to redistribute modifed versions of itself is the antithesis to intellectuall property and patents. It's the type of software I now choose to use out of principle and live with it's faults.
What I have since often wondered, is if the company expected my reaction to their stance on intellectual property or not? They let me stew over it for two full weeks before responding with what was for all practical matters, a carbon copy of what I had been told originally.
It was a blow I was unable to respond to until a further two weeks when questioned. I decided to tell them I had lost interest in an IT career and told them why. They proceeded to advise me on what not to do in interviews, which, from my perspective, boils down to this: do not under any circumstances be loyal to who you are.
Personality transplant anyone?
This is what bothers me the most about all this. I won't be accepted for who I am because who I am is full of defects and holes and negative charges. You see this elimination process running through all of society especially the mass media. The reduction of scope of who we can be. An abundance of dichotomous definitions painting everything in black and white. Doubters need not apply. There's no room for negativity. Only the enthusiast of cleaning toilets will get the jobbies.
There's some pathways in my thoughts I've been treading recently concerning this thing called life. It leads me to think how surreal our society is. It leads me to think how surreal life could be. How absurd is it what we are? How surreal is it to look at ourselves going about our daily business as if nothing else exists. As if nothing else exists. No other potential.
So every day I go to my minimum wage job. The type of job which guarantees I'll never earn enough for automatic deductions from my wages to be made to pay off the student loan I took on in order to graduate as a batchelor of arts in fine art. The type of job where I perform the same minute long routine every minute for seven and a half hours a day (the routine changes from day to day). A dead end job through and through.
You'll quickly discover on browsing my website my interest in Art, and yes, an artist is another career I once believed I wanted.
Running in the dark.
A few nights ago I dreamt I was running in the dark. I knew the roads and for a while at least knew where I was and where the corners were. I had a bicycle light and was holding it up above my head trying to see ahead but it's light was dimming. I could see nothing around me it was pitch black and still I was running and running. A cyclist was up close behind me and could be heard huffing and puffing. I slowed to let him pass and just caught a flash of his bicycle frame as he did. I no longer knew where on the road I was. I could expect to run into a building or a ditch or parked car at any time now. It was pitch black and I was running in the dark.
A few nights later I bore my dream in mind as I cycled home from work in the dark. This time my lights worked, but, only a small circle of light surrounds me. I can't see for far but out in the open can be seen from far. I turned my lights off momentarily to see how dark it was. Almost as dark as my dreams. Stopping while cycling home in the dark - it's an hour's journey - usually leads me to wonder what I'm cycling at night in the dark for. Because I can is the closest answer.
In a few years time I'll be forty and the question is, where do I go from here?