Ten Years On

This is a speech I made to mark my 10 years at Beca:

Ten years ago, last Saturday (18th April 2005 to be precise), I joined Beca as a software developer. I know this because the notes against my name in Active Directory clearly indicate that’s when Trudy set up my account. It’s probably a testament to my own poor memory that this is the most accurate record of this life event.

I pretend that it’s not a big milestone to me, but to be honest it actually really is. Huge in fact. I have been obsessively checking that comment in AD for quite some time, awaiting this day.

Ten years is longer than I have attended any academic institution, primary, secondary, or tertiary. It’s longer than I have ever lived at the same home. It’s longer, in fact, than I have lived in any country apart from South Africa. Ten years is longer than the duration of all of my romantic relationships combined. Given that my parents divorced when I was 9 and remarried when I was 13, 10 years is even longer than I have had the same legal guardians as a child.

It’s been a decade of change, both for me and for the company. We’ve gone from one CRT to two flat screen monitors, the Auckland office has been refurbished and we feel more global, even though we no longer have the UK office. BAT came into being then disappeared but its lingering effect is felt even at the executive level of our business.

My original desk at Beca 2005
My original desk at Beca 2005

I can vividly remember key moments in my career: my first interview was with Richard & Dean. Richard asked me a question about maintaining state in a web application and we talked about that for half the interview. My second interview was with none other than Thomas and Robin, where they carefully explained that the “Beca Connect” model was kind of like CMMI. I remember nearly loosing Llanwyn’s cat when I lived at his house in Texas for 2 weeks and the moment when Llanwyn suggested we turn my “palava” into a “pavlova” when I complained about only having 500 Mb of RAM in my PDP.

I remember every Christmas party, especially the first one (with the obligatory bus disaster), supported by the many photos I enthusiastically took at the time. I recall projects I was involved in, from the sublime to the trivial, with such clarity that it’s hard to believe that some of them happened over 9 years ago now. My first job was upgrading the DSR VB6 application from Access 97 to Access 2000 (Dean’s handiwork, I believe). Aah, those were heady days of wonder and idealism!

At the same time though, there are some events that entirely escaped my notice: when did I learn to play office politics? When did I learn how to encourage people? When did I learn to make speeches? When did I learn to give guidance, or direction? For that matter, when did the words “guidance” and “direction” even begin to feature in my language? At what point precisely, did I grow up?

Grow up. I think that’s the right term.

I remember, many years ago, looking at senior people in the business and wishing I got paid as much as I assumed they did whilst wondering what it was exactly that they did. I remember wishing I knew how to progress in my career properly and not knowing much about how to get to where I wanted to be, or even where it was I wanted to be at all.

I do things today that would have terrified me 10 years ago. It’s not that things have become more complex, they’ve just become more uncertain. My primary mode of work has moved from using tools like Excel to writing Word documents, to preparing PowerPoint slides to the present day where much of my job seems to be just talking to people until something good happens.

Looking back on all those memories and especially the pictures of the time, I am reminded of how many people make up “Beca” in my mind who are no longer here, and how what once was a tight little team of people in “BAT” has matured and spread itself around, completely out of character with the original shape. Beca the company has changed so much as to be unrecognisable from itself 10 years ago.

Here’s an excerpt from a diary entry from around October 2005: “I also changed jobs from one that had me so busy I was literally on the verge of a nervous breakdown to a really good one that leaves me with way too much free time to think about things on the weekends… So, it wasn’t too surprising when, in about July of this year, I suddenly awoke to the realisation that I may not, in fact, be as straight as I thought.”
Yes, it turns out that 10 years is also longer than I have been conscious of my own sexuality.

You see, for me, Beca has never just been a place to go to earn money. Beca is a choice I made for myself 10 years ago and a choice I continue to make on a daily basis.

I know that may sound a bit corny, a bit like I have drunk too much of the corporate Kool-aid after all these years, but the more I reflect on it, the more I realise that it’s true.

I often refer to my move to Beca as my “first selfish choice”. That’s not to say that I haven’t been selfish in my life. Rather, I feel that deciding to leave my previous job and choose a job more suited to me was the first time I made a conscious decision to go for something that I wanted rather than to just slip quietly into the next phase of my life, as had always been expected of me. This one selfish choice triggered a cascade of choices which left me happier, more robust, and more integrated as a person. I have a lot to thank Beca for.

I thought for week for an appropriate conclusion to this speech, but I really couldn’t figure out how to end it, so I thought I would just say this. Freddy accuses me of loving my work too much, but he’s only partly right.

In my previous job, working for Cecil, I came to the realisation that I had made an emotional investment into the organisation itself and that an organisation or a company could not possibly reciprocate such an emotional investment. The best place to invest one’s emotions is in a person.

So Freddy is partly right, but it’s you that I love, not my work. I love you guys.

As a cohort you have changed as much if not more than I have over the last 10 years, but you remain in essence and in character the same. Thank you for being part of my journey for the last 10 years, you all mean the world to me.

One thought on “Ten Years On”

  1. Hey Steve, I’m digging up all my high school colleagues to see how they are doing. Glad to see you doing well. I sent you a LinkedIn request

    Imraan Lockhat (DHS)

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