Wednesday, May 26, 2004

New business venture

A very good friend of mine has propositioned me to go into a business venture with him. We're contemplating opening a bar/lounge targeting the upscale clientele and featuring a distinctive wine list.

The more thought I give it, the more issues I come up with. One for example is the issue of smoking. As most of you know, smoking is commonplace at bars and clubs. So with impending (June 1, 2004) legislation banning smoking at all bars and restaurants, you can imagine how much it will affect business.

I quit smoking last fall. Occasionally, I will social smoke as the temptation is still too hard to cope with in a bar environment (which I don't frequent as much as I used to). So I see the arguments for both smokers and non-smokers. But putting aside the health and moral issues of smoking. I need to look at this topic in a different light now, how it will affect my business. Simply speaking, I'm of the opinion that banning smoking in bars will decrease business. Sure there will be the non-smoking patrons that will be attracted because of the cleaner environment, etc. But my feeling is the smokers outnumber the non-smokers. So, my partner and I are throwing around the idea of making our lounge a private establishment for smokers. We're confident that making the business a private club with membership required will give us the loophole required to allow smoking within the lounge. Being private also enforces the 'upscale' image we're aiming for.

Right now the biggest hurdle is finding a location. Our initial searches haven't been too promising as alot of stores are zoned as "retail" and not "bar/restaurant" which we require for obvious reasons.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Shelf life of a developer

I work as an independent consultant in the I.T industry. I specialize in Java Enterprise development and have been working in this industry for a decade now. I am compensated very well for doing what I do. I earn more than most of my friends and peers, I can afford most luxuries (within reason of Carrera GT for me) in life. So why am I so despondent about my career?

Simply because I honestly have no faith that I can stay employed in this field and make a decent wage, til the age of retirement. It's not that I have no faith in my skills, my skills are totally irrelevant in this regards. What we produce is quickly becoming a commodity. In less than two decades, we've seen our trade go from a highly specialized one to a profession that has practically no barriers of entry.

A large part of this can be attributed to the ease of information exchange across the Internet. Without the ability to download entire development kits, without free technical support found in forums, witout mailing lists and newsgroups to find answers to our problems, we'd still be where we were a decade ago when vendors charged exorbitant amounts of money just to buy the tools to develop with and you had to PAY for help. I argue that this "free" phenomenom has tainted our workforce with less than competent people. Yes, there are many smart people who got their start by way of this free information but you'd be hardpressed to prove that those outnumber the number of incompetent programmers who rode in on the dot com wave. Programming isn't simply an exercise of using an API to write a program. There is the whole aspect of analytical skills and the discipline of problem solving that you don't obtain from the Internet. These skills are what separates the good programmers from the bad ones. Without a governing body to uphold standards, our workforce is watered down with people who lack these disciplines.

Ok so if I have these problem solving skills, etc. Why should I be afraid? Profit and greed that's why. Nowadays, companies are so enamoured with profits and short term stock prices that this addiction to short term wealth breeds a corporate culture that disregards long term planning for the well being of the company. Good products and building for the future is not the norm anymore. Cheap costs, high margins and speed to market are almighty. Ok ok ok, but why are you so paranoid about your job as a developer?!? Because greed means companies would rather hire a lower skilled, lower paid programmer to do the same job. Because lower pay means they can still screw up 3 times before getting it right and still save money in the end. Because I can't compete with the hordes of graduates coming out of school or offshore.

To exacerbate the problem, everyone one of us 30 something year olds thinks we should be the Architect or Technical Team Lead in our company. Well hate to inform you but, there aren't enough of those positions to go around.

So how much longer can we survive in a market with so many dynamics working against us? I'd like to switch vocations but I've already been spoiled and it'd be difficult to find a new career that rewards me so generously (even more difficult to realize that it might not happen and I would have to downgrade my lifestyle).

My daily dose of bliss

My wife, Daphne, and I had a first child recently. A baby boy, Ethan, born on Jan 28, 2004.

Every morning, I get up for work. My son gets up about the same time and I've noticed that he is most cheerful at this time of day. Watching him for those few minutes before I leave for he playfully looks back at me with those deep eyes and starts smiling, is such a delight that I really can't describe the feelings. The tranquility of the morning, the sunshine illuminating the bedroom, and my son smiling at my wife and I.

Those 5 minutes every morning impact me so much throughout the rest of the day, I pray that everyone is as lucky as I am to have such a loving family.

Whatever it is that you love, take the time to cherish it and allow yourself the opportunity to reflect on what is truly important in life.