I’ve worked in the Information Technology industry since 1986 when I joined one of the world’s largest oil companies as a trainee programmer. Back then it was all about mainframe computers and I cut my teeth programming in PL/1, FOCUS, ISPF/TSO and MVS/JCL to name but a few. Rumour has it that millions of lines of some of these languages are still churning away on mainframes around the world, however when the first PCs started to appear I said goodbye to the big IBMs and moved into the world of office systems and data networking.

I spent my first year at work in London and then relocated to Hamburg where two happy years were spent, most of them working in enduser support which meant that I had met everyone in the office from mailroom to boardroom and was fluent in German by the time my overseas posting came to an end. I moved back to London and continued in user support at the oil company’s head office, drifting into the Trading division after a while and getting back into writing code – in “C” this time. Around this time people started to link PCs together with thin wire ethernet run over the office carpet and a company called Novell brought out the first viable PC networking system, Netware, which I thought was the best thing since sliced bread and spent all my waking hours learning inside out.

By the early 1990s I had itchy feet again and headed to Australia for what would now be termed a late gap year or an early career break. Whatever you called it, I had a great few months doing the Aussie backpacker trail and then, finding myself in need of cash, ending up working for my previous employer in Melbourne in, you guessed it, enduser support. So PCs, Netware and even a bit of FOCUS on their mainframe it was for six months, then I headed back to the UK via Thailand and Nepal.

I spent the first year back in London working for a global petrochemical construction firm in Wembley and then landed my first job in the Finance sector, in a small fund management dealing room in St. James’. This job involved lots of user support, mainly with the often somewhat demanding fund managers (I suppose they were the ones making the money…) mixed with network support and looking after the market data systems. I had my first encounter with UNIX and a new pretender to the office LAN O/S throne, Windows NT. My boss also introduced me to this new thing called the Internet which he reckoned was going to be “quite big”.

The late 1990s found me in the City of London working at one of the top three global investment banks. As I had played around a bit with HP OpenView toward the end of my last job I took on the implementation of a network and server management system which used SunNet Manager, Micromuse Netcool, proprietary SNMP agents and an “escalation database” which told operators which support team to contact when particular alerts were received. With hindsight, we had built a CMDB and were doing ITSM long before the rest of the world caught on and ITIL became the latest must-have acronym.

By 2003 I was a Vice President (one of many – several thousand probably) running a team doing distributed systems, network and application monitoring for the bank’s offices from the UK to the Middle East. I had got heavily into UNIX by this time – most of the trading systems we monitored ran on Sun Solaris – and I still use the skills I developed back then on a daily basis.

2003 was also the year I started Feathered Owl Technology and went contracting, running large systems management projects at the UK’s biggest satellite broadcasting company and then, via a short stint back at the oil company where I had started my career, at a large private healthcare organisation.

My new-found flexibility as a freelancer allowed me to spend an increasing amount of time in the Alps pursuing my passion for skiing. I qualified as a ski teacher in 2005 and spent the next few years alternating winters in Zermatt with summers back in London contracting. By 2009 I was the director of the ski school and coming to realise that I quite liked living in Switzerland. Sadly things didn’t work out with the ski school and I found myself back in the UK for a year, during which I began teaching myself to optimise and develop websites and started an online winter holiday agency.

I relocated to the Val de Bagnes in Switzerland in late 2010 and now divide my working life between Information Technology, selling winter holidays online and teaching skiing. With Verbier’s lift system on my doorstep I am able to go skiing almost as often as I’d like to, whilst the Internet – which has turned out exactly as prophecised by my old boss – allows me to work for IT clients anywhere in the world.

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