Tag Archives: business objects

I Quit

I quit my job. On Thursday I accepted a position at Small Energy Group and on Friday I gave my two weeks notice at Business Objects.

It wasn’t an easy decision, and a lot of factors played into it. The biggest is a chance to work on something that will have a positive influence in the world. Small Energy develops energy monitoring software that helps businesses reduce their energy consumption and lessen their environmental impact.

The other big factor is a chance to try something new. I’ve been at Business Objects now for just over 2 years – I’ve learned a lot, but I feel like I’ve been stagnating lately. It’s been a while since I worked on anything challenging and cool, and most of my time and effort seems to go into fighting inertia. You know the stuff that any large company with multiple software releases needs to deal with – bug fixes, integration work, build system organization, reverse compatibility issues, etc.. There’s also all the crud involved in the integration with SAP that hasn’t been entirely positive.

I’m looking forward to working at a start-up company, on something new and fresh with all the challenges that entails. I’m not looking forward to the long hours, but I think I’ll be able to find a good compromise.

My commute is set to change from a 10 minute bike ride to a 11 km, 35-minute bike ride over the Lions Gate Bridge and into West Vancouver. Small Energy has showers and facilities for biking – I was impressed to see a lot of their employees are avid bikers, including the CEO.

I’ll have a week or two off before I start work at Small Energy. I haven’t decided if I’ll go home to visit the family, or take the train down to Portland for a few days. I’m leaning towards Portland, but only because I want to avoid another flight this year.

Special thanks to Ben who provided an amazing reference for me! And to Graeme and Greg who first told me that Ian had moved to Vancouver to work for an environmental start-up. And to Ian, for providing that initial reference to the people at Small Energy.

Willkommen bei SAP

It’s official. I’m an SAP employee. Time to start learning German. I think there are still some legal details, but I have an SAP email address, so that’s enough for me.

We had our Day 1 introduction to SAP yesterday morning. A lot of buzzwords were tossed around, speeches were given, and important questions asked. It looks like business as usual, for the next year at least. From my perspective, not much is set to change. There will probably be some extra integration work, but they’re not changing compensation or benefits for a year (bummer) and my job is safe.

Speaking of SAP, the former chief architect has just made big news for planning an electric car network in Israel. It’s an ambitious project: 10,000-20,000 cars sold a year, 500,000 recharging points, and it should be up and running by 2011. I hope it succeeds.

In other tech news, MDA (which is probably the next biggest tech employer in Vancouver after Business Objects) has been losing employees due to its controversial decision to sell of its space division to an American weapons maker famous for making cluster bombs, depleted uranium rounds and landmines (CBC story). I’d be right pissed if I worked in that department, and would probably quit too.

Merry Christmas from the your friendly patent troll

I received two company wide emails at work today notifying us that we’re being sued by different companies for patent infringement. It might sound serious, until you realize the ridiculous state of software patent laws. I don’t want to get into the finer points of the debate, only to say I think software patents are stupid – they don’t encourage innovation, and only force software companies to spend millions of dollars on lawyers (money that could otherwise go to pay developers like me to create cool stuff).

The latest lawsuits are ridiculous. One by a “software” company for infringing on a patent for “System for transforming and exchanging data between distributed heterogeneous computer systems”. Maybe I’m missing something, but this is a fundamental part of any distributed system. This isn’t groundbreaking. Maybe there’s more to their patent, but considering they’re suing Business Objects, IBM, Microsoft, Sybase, and about every other major software company in the world, I doubt it. From Enterprise Backoffice Blogs “JuxtaComm are a subsidiary of Teilhard Technologies, a 10+ year old company that reinvented itself from a software firm to a patent revenue firm.”

The other lawsuit is from a subsidiary of Acacia, another patent trolling company who previously sued us (and the rest of the software world) for using hyperlinks on CDs. This latest lawsuit is for “Apparatus for applying rules to data sets”. Another ridiculously vague patent that probably never should have been awarded.

Even though the software patents are vague and never should have been awarded, that doesn’t stop trolling companies from using them for suing legitimate software companies for millions of dollars. Usually they don’t win the lawsuits, but often enough they’ll get out of court settlements (like Acacia got last time they sued BOBJ) because fighting lawsuits are expensive and can affect sales.

What irks me almost as much as the dumb patent lawsuits, is that software companies don’t band together to demand patent reform. Instead they support it and give big bonuses to employees who file patents. [/rant] I’m going to be in a moral dilemma when I get an opportunity to stick my name on a patent and collect the $1000 reward for my efforts.

Au Revoir Business Objects; Guten Tag SAP

I just came back from 5 days in New York to find that the company I work for (Paris-based Business Objects) has been bought out by German software powerhouse SAP – the 3rd largest software company in the world. For a hefty 4.8 billion euros (or $6.7 billion CAD) – the reason I first noticed something was wrong was our stock had jumped 25%.

At present, there’s now plans to change anything here at work, but I imagine things will look drastically different in 6 months. Maybe German language classes to complement the French ones already offered. I missed the company-wide meeting yesterday, so I don’t know too many details. The company big heads seem to be praising the deal, but only a few months ago they trumpeted our independence and vowed to keep us the largest pure Business Intelligence company. When Hyperion was bought out by Oracle back in March, there were company-wide emails saying how “the acquisition is good news for us and unfortunate news for Hyperion’s employees and customers”, and now we’re in the exact same position, but suddenly its great news for everyone. I call hypocrisy, but I’ll let them spin it however they want.

I also found out today that a few more co-workers are leaving the company. Is there a business equivalent of the turkey dump?

Where did my summer go?

Cute IslandThe past few weeks have been busy. I’ve attempted to salvage what’s left of the summer and spend as much time outdoors as possible. The weather hasn’t exactly cooperated, with cool temperatures and drizzle being the norm lately.

When the sun did come out, I tried to take full advantage. The two evenings lounging on the beach, drinking wine and eating cheese were awesome. We had a crazy BBQ on the roof at work, with bartenders, copious amounts of alcohol, volleyball, and limbo contents – the party was eventually shut down by the police around 10 (earlier BBQs this summer fizzled out around 6 when the booze was gone). It was also sunny for this month’s Critical Mass, and Emily attended for the first time. I think she was put off by the crowds of bikes and the slow pace, which led to more than one rear-fending. Luckily nothing crazy like in Minneapolis happened.

The weather wasn’t as nice for the two camping trips we went on. Three weekends ago, Emily and I went up to Strathcona Provincial Park in the middle of Vancouver Island. It rained on us all weekend, but between our rain gear, tent, and tarps we managed to stay reasonably dry. We did some hiking and canoeing, saw 2 bears on the road, and almost hit a deer.

For the Labour Day long weekend, we had planned on heading down to Olympic National Park in Washington, but the 3 hour border wait scared us off. Instead we took a quick ferry over to the Sunshine Coast and camped at Robert’s Creek which doesn’t take reservations and had a few nice spots open when we arrived. Again, it was drizzly (Sunshine Coast my ass), but we made the most of our weekend, doing some nice hikes at Smuggler’s Cove and the Skookumchuk Narrows. We also had roaring camp fires every night, which made the trip worth it. The first night we made a salad from local vegetables we had bought at the farmer’s market and the local grocery store, and roasted veggie dogs on the camp fire. Best camping meal ever! We also got to spend some time with Nim and Lucy who were on the coast too.

In between the camping trips, we spent a day at the Pacific National Exhibition. We had a blast. The wooden roller coaster here is the best I’ve ever been on; We loaded up on deep fried goodness (including perogies from Winnipeg’s own Hunky Bill); Looked at all the farm animals in the barns; And Emily won a big frog playing Whack-A-Mole. The frog has been named Fanny and has become fast friends with CJ, the gender-confused teddy bear I won last year at the PNE. Next year I’m going to memorize all these carnival game tips and come home with a giant gorilla.

Camp Site  Buntzen Lake  Picnic Table  Tent  Cook Stove  Silly Camping Tricks  Happy Hikers  Butterfly  Canoe Trip  Ready to be Paddled  Frog

Still Gainfully Employed

My one year anniversary at Business Objects silently passed by in June. With the constant hecticness at work (everyone is pushing hard to get our next big release out the door), I don’t think I’ve had time to reflect on my first year of permanent employment. By now I’m sure I’ve spent more than 2000 hours banging away at a keyboard, earning my salary by making words appear in the right order – sometimes my job seems so trivial – but I’ve enjoyed most of it.

UBC Ropes CourseI had my first annual performance review in July. I got a glowing review and a nice pay increase for my hard work over the past year. The recognition felt good, and although I don’t need to the money, I didn’t protest. I’ve managed to establish myself within the team and have been given quite a bit of responsibility. I’m looking forward to finishing off this release so we can start planning for the next release and I can take full ownership of a few features, but that seems a few months off yet.

Work isn’t all stress and hard work. On Friday we had a team Fun Day, which we spent team building and swinging Tarzan-style at the UBC Ropes Course. It was loads of fun and I did leave with stronger friendships with my teammates.

The green revolution that started at work last quarter seems to be gaining momentum, powered by some enthusiastic executives and loads of environmentally concious employees. At our last quarterly all-hands, we heard presentations about the latest environmental initiatives we’re taking on. There’s an effort to set up all the computers at work to hibernate when they’re not in use. This may seem silly at first, but almost everyone I know leaves their 2 computers on all the time (including overnight and on weekends). I turn mine off for the weekend, but it’s too much of a pain to try and shut it down on a daily basis. I’ve tried to hibernate it, but something on the LAN wakes it up after a few seconds. Supposedly a solution is in the works and will be rolled out to everyone’s computers soon. That initiative alone should save tons of electricity.

Think Before You Drink
Originally uploaded by Eva Marieville

The employee suggested initiatives were:
– Planting a tree for every million dollars of revenue the company makes. This one sounds like a PR stunt, but it will result over 1000 trees planted each year.
Thinking Outside The Bottle and removing bottled water from all the vending machines at work, providing all employees with an aluminium water bottle, and discouraging everyone from using bottled water. This was my favourite and it won the contest for an energy efficient fridge.
– A partnership with a local auto dealer and a credit union to provide discounts on Prius purchases and cheap financing. I have mixed feelings about this. Hybrids are definitely better than most cars, but it still means someone is driving instead of considering other forms of transportations.

The only other interesting part of the meeting (aside from the free lunch) was a Q&A question asking about Microsoft’s entrance in the local market and its affect on Business Objects. For now, it looks the company is taking a wait and see approach. The executive who answered assured us Microsoft was a good thing for the market in Vancouver because it will bring more people to Vancouver for tech jobs. He’s probably right, but I think they’ll be a bit more worried when loads of developers start jumping ship. Within the last month, I’ve seen two Waterloo grads, who started around the same time as me, quit and take jobs with Amazon, who pays almost $30,000 a year more. If Microsoft starts paying its Canadian developers the same as the developers in Redmond are making, either Business Objects is going to have to give big raises or watch as developers leave.

I’m still fascinated by the opportunity that Microsoft may present. I’ve said in the past if Microsoft was in Canada I’d work for them. Well now they are, so I guess I should at least consider it. It’s too bad they’ve decided to locate in a business park in Richmond – a black hole in terms of transit. I’m curious to see what kind of culture develops in their new office.

Veggies and Streetcars

Nothing much new here. My projects at work are progressing at a steady pace. Ultimate every Monday is always a blast and my team is always fun to play with. I went for a 18km run on Sunday – I felt good and think I’ll be ok for the Half Marathon in a few weeks.

Supposedly we’re getting a Roof-top garden at Business Objects. That’s news to me and everyone else I work with. Funny there were no announcements at work about this and I had to read about it in the Globe and Mail. This pretty cool.

Vancouver is planning a Streetcar line from Granville Island to Science World – with a potential extension all the way to Stanley Park eventually. I think this is a great idea. Granville Island is tough to get to using transit and this would connect most of the city’s tourist attractions on one rapid transit line. No word on where funding would come from yet.

The other exciting news coming out of Vancouver is the recently announced Ecodensity initiative.

EcoDensity is a bold new City direction that gives priority to creating sustainable development that reduces Vancouver’s ecological footprint through high quality density accompanied by services and amenities. It respects features that make a neighbourhood livable while creating more affordable housing choices. The right kind of quality density can be one of the best tools to help lower our ecological footprint.

Some of the better ideas include:

  • Promote more density along transit routes and near Skytrain stations
  • Adjust building bylaws to enable easier to incorporate energy-saving technologies
  • Alter building bylaws to allow more use of grey water/rain water harvesting at home
  • Require at least one parking space for car sharing vehicles in all new developments
  • Create car free neighbourhoods

Some of the better ideas are pretty radical, so I doubt the big heads that run the city will implement them, but this is still a great initiative. Hopefully it isn’t watered down too much.