Working It Out

More than a year ago I was laid off. Which happens to be a rather common occurrence in the game development field. Like many people in that situation I went into a frantic “search for new job” mode. I was lucky to land a new job at Phosphor Games. Which proved to me how outstanding the Chicago game development industry is.

But, alas, I wasn’t as happy as I thought I could be and more importantly I wasn’t as productive as I have been in the past. I’m the kind of person that needs big challenges to drive me. So I went looking for a place I could pursue those challenges. And after a chance encounter with an old colleague at a bar, after a game development meeting, I decided to listen to his work proposition. And, quite unexpectedly, I found what I was looking for. Everything I heard and everything I though made me think “I like this challenge.”

I’ll be starting a new job in April helping out CodeBeast get their Chicago office off the ground. I’m excited to tackle this challenge. Saying that I’m certain everything will work out would be highly out of my character.. But I can say there will be many fun challenges to work out in my future.

I love my daughter for… #1-10

What now feels like ages ago, during a time of high stress, I started writing a diary. Not entirely a diary about myself.. But a diary about my observations of my then two year old daughter. It was therapy against the stress and trying times. If I could find something that made me happy each day and write it down it would “reset” my mind and help me move away from the stressful events. It eventually because something else. It became a way for me to capture and remember what I couldn’t from the hundreds of photographs I normally take of life around me.

Eventually that part of my stress went away. But another came, and thankfully also passed. Now that life looks as bright as it has ever been I’m taking up the diary again.

What follows will be a multipart recounting of the once only Facebook diary entries. They will both be re-edited to correct obvious language mistakes and will sometimes contain some more explanation (if I remember). After the retelling I will resume the diary as best as I can.

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A short time ago, in the Twitter space, a local game developer complained about a game development scheduling conflict. Which prompted from a second game developer the wish for a comprehensive event calendar. For which my immediate thought was “that’s something some programming can solve”. And hence I started working up a quick Python script to merge a bunch of calendars into one. And like the best programmers I stole a bunch of code someone else had written and edited for my use!

I’ll hopefully be adding different kinds of local development calendars. But for now you can get the game development calendar here. It is currently composed of the following other calendars:

If you have a calendar you think would be good to add to the above list please contact me here on on Twitter. Note, the calendar must be publicly accessible and in iCalendar format.

Crisis Management? Management Crisis!

I’ve been both in a position of being managed and of doing management over time, and some times both at once. While talking to a fellow developer about his development problems I realized one difference between management styles when dealing with crises. Companies, and teams, that succeed do “crisis management” when crunch time comes around. While those that fail do “management by crisis” which creates a “management crisis”. Wait, you say those sound the same.

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Salary Unreality

Last time I was a “company man” was 13 years ago while working for Jellyvision. At that job my salary was eventually adjusted to match industry averages. And until January of this year I worked on my own company. At times this was doing contract work and at others doing my own projects. Working on your own almost certainly means that your salary both fluctuates and is considerably under market rates. But one has an advantage of managing the salary such that, in my case, I could create a 6 or more month safety buffer. At the end of 2013 I decided I was tired of the all the management, hassles, lack of stability, and not having retirement funds in favor of getting a job with Wideload/Disney.

Now to the present.. I was given a lay-off notice from Disney only a few months into the job. Which means I’m now looking for a job. And as part of that I’ve been doing research as to the current salary landscape in the Chicago area. I’ve been programming long enough, 20 years professionally and 10 before that, to not really be in the usual job titles. If I had to pick a job title at this point for myself it would be “Veteran Programmer”. Instead I looked at the salaries for “Senior Programmer” and “Programmer” (and the alternate “Software Engineer”). What I found was rather depressing.

Since 2001 base salaries have, on average, gone up 10%. Which might sound OK.. Except that’s 0.8% per year, a paltry amount. I know, it’s still something. But if you also add that the inflation rate between 2001 and 2014 is 32% it means that we’ve taken a pay cut of about 20% in the last 13 years! Makes you wonder how people are expected to be optimistic about their future and the future of their children.

How do I tell my daughter in 20 years when she enters the workforce that she is likely to be earning less than her parents?