So, I finally did it. I got rid of my beloved Prius.

The saga starts in about November 2013 when my car started refusing to start more often than not. I suspected the 12 volt battery which I replaced. So pleased I was with my self-diagnosis that I decided to also top up the oil.

So, I tipped the contents of the bottle I had prudently stored in the boot for just such the occasion. Unfortunately, what I thought to be oil at the time turned out to be antifreeze. Now, anyone who has anything more than a passing acquaintance with cars will know that mixing antifreeze in with your oil is a big no-no, the antifreeze, when it cools, can form little crystals that could damage the engine.

So, I tried to drain the sump (three words I hoped to never use in my life though I am somewhat proud I know them at all) and subsequently stripped the bolt’s head!

The 24 hour mechanic charged me a small fortune to drain the oil and replace it but they returned it to me in a non-working state.

I walked all the way to the nearest mechanic to buy another 12 volt battery, only to find that replacing it did not fix the problem. The local Toyota dealership declared it was the battery and offered me a discount to sell me a battery for $4,000, which they thought was the problem.

My father’s friend George graciously agreed to fix it. Turned out that the overnight mechanic had overfilled the oil which means the car could not turn over at all.

The car ran well for about 4 months and then refused to start again. I didn’t have the heart to do anything about it for over a year, so the poor thing literally gathered dust in my garage for over a year.

It wasn”t too bad, because my partner Freddy has a car.

Until a few weeks ago when Freddy was rear-ended on the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The image below doesn’t look that bad until you notice the rear wheel is sitting at a rather unnatural angle. 

The insurer declared it a write-off, paid the few thousand dollars it was worth and we were left 100% car-less.

So, we recently embarked on a number of public-transport supported missions to dealerships around the Auckland region. We wanted something new enough that it would retain some value, but not new. We managed to get a second hand 2014 Holden Commodore in Freddy’s favourite colour: blue. I think Freddy may love that car more than me!

We need money to find the new car and paying registration, insuranc e and parking for my non-working car doesn’t make any sense. So, today, at about 3pm, I called a car removal company and got them to remove my poor sad Prius.

I love that car, it’s been with me through some of the best and worst moments of my life. I have filled it with boxes to move from place to place, I have driven clear across Texas in all directions. Dallas to Galveston, across to central Arkansas. I have driven it to the top of New Zealand’s North Island via 90 mile beach, I have taken it on the ferry to the South Island. It was my safety, my independence, my first car, it nearly killed me twice and saved my life countless times. I have slept in it countless times and ferried countless others to safety in its arms.

As the truck took it away, I touched its rear bumper affectionately and whispered to it my thanks.

Click on the link below to join me in a nostalgic tribute to my little Prius on a Flickr album. DSC_0402

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.