September 08, 2005
The Dune Project

I already mentioned this in one of the first posts to my new blog at Sun -- at long last I'm allowed to tell people about the project that's kept me busy at work for about the last year and a half, and which will keep me busy for much of the near future (here's the press release in German). The press release has actually been out for a couple of months, but we've had to hold back until now for reasons that I'm not at liberty to talk about. All I'll say about that is: IANAL, and thank God for that. Anyway, the project is signed and sealed, now we have to get it delivered.

I wrote in the other blog what little I could about the work that I'm doing. Technologically, what we're doing is exciting, and I have some responsibility that is challenging and fun. But living your life while you're working on a project like this is a challenge as well.

Many of us who do custom software development have to travel a lot to where the work is, because customers generally require that the development work is done on site. Most often it's because you have to use their equipment, and because they're paying a lot of money for that IP and want to keep it within their four walls. For practical reasons, being on site is usually the best way to get a project done, because we can consult with the customer on short notice.

The dream, of course, is to find a project in the city where you live, so that you can get to work like everyone else does in the morning, and go back to your own home in the evening. But in the aftermath of the Internet bust, we're generally obliged to take a job wherever we can get it. This is especially true in northern Germany, where it's still not easy getting business in the IT market (things are a little better around Frankfurt, where much of the German banking industry is located, and in the south around Munich). So for many of us, the work week consists of travelling to the customer Monday morning, checking into the hotel Monday evening, and then do little else but work or hang around the hotel until Thursday evening or Friday when it's time to travel home. On the weekend you get to live in your own apartment (except perhaps for the crunch time just before a pressing deadline, which sometimes takes up the weekend as well).

So we counted ourselves fairly lucky when we got a substantial project in Hannover, an hour and a half south of Hamburg. After all, there are some people who commute an hour and a half to work anyway (although those are admittedly the extreme cases). So starting in February of last year, I drove the car back and forth between Hamburg and Hannover for a total of two and a half to three hours of driving every day, four days a week (occasionally five). That's 1200 to 1500 kilometers a week (about 750 to 900 miles to you Amerkins), in all about fourty to fifty thousand kilometers in 2004 (25,000 to 30,000 miles). Now I like to drive, and spending three hours a day in the car is a great way to get the time to listen to CDs, but I have to admit that after a while it got to be quite a chore.

At Sun we get fast German company cars to drive, and being as I am a night owl and not a morning person, some mornings I was in a bit of hurry to get to work. I could get to Hannover in record time, but unfortunately I got my picture taken doing that a few times too often, so that for a few months this past spring I was, uh, not allowed to drive. That left me with little other choice than to take the train to Hannover Monday mornings, and live the hotel life during the week. I have to admit, it's not all bad -- it's nice to have somebody make your breakfast, clean up your room, and make your bed with fresh sheets every day. And it was certainly a lot less hectic getting to work in the morning. But on the other hand, I don't know anyone in Hannover, so there was little else for me to do but work long hours and entertain myself after work with the TV and the mini-bar in the hotel room. And I noticed that I rapidly got out of touch with a lot of my friends in Hamburg, just fell off the radar screen, so that before long my whole world consisted of almost nothing but work and the hotel.

Now I can drive back to my own home after work and sleep in my own bed at night (and yes, I'm being careful about the speed limit on the autobahn). It's a relief, although I think I will make use of the hotel once in a while, for a change of pace. We're in this project for the long haul now, so I and everyone else on the team has to see to it that we get the work done but also live a life at the same time.

2 comments:

What about information for those of us who are interested in what you're up to but don't speak German?
cameron - September 09, 2005-15:30
Hi Cameron, just click on the link under the text "project that's kept me busy at work", or copy and paste this: <http://www.the-dune-project...>. That's the same press release in English. L.G.
geoff - September 09, 2005-15:42
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