Well, I spent a little more time over lunch yesterday reading some of the archived entries in the blog of La Petite Anglaise. Whilst she doesn't have a spectacular story to tell, there is nevertheless that "something" in her musings which makes it worth going back for more. Plus of course there is the general idyll (at least from a third party's perspective) of somebody who "ups-sticks" from England and goes to live in one of the most wonderful cities in the world.
It is one of those blogs which is so well written that you feel you're
getting to know the person - a real "who I am". I suspect my own blog
confines itself to "what I did" without going too much into the "who"
is probably not as good a read as a result.
One of this woman's entries was about how she'd met her boyfriend, and
occurred to me that I could talk a little about my history, what I've done in my life and how I
came to meet Jacqueline.
Well, I spent roughly the first half of the nineties in my first job,
in Oxford. I grew to hate the confinements of the job and as a consequence
remember it as a pretty unfulfilling time. I had a couple of relationships
none (as far as I was concerned) was serious. Going nowhere.
In 1994 I got my "big break" work-wise, when I managed to find a job in IT
for a very prestigious software house. Since I hadn't come from an IT
I was naturally full of trepidation, and initially somewhat concerned as to
whether I'd "cut the mustard". To my surprise I found that not only could
the job, but I could do the job pretty darned well. I got into not just
programming but leading projects and doing project management stuff, and this
whetted my appetite. My social life completely tailed off, since I was
putting in 13-hour working days - I remember I frequently used to fall
the pub on Fridays, people thought I was drunk - but work-wise things were
Trouble was, I'd got a taste for project management but there was limited
scope at this software house. First and foremost I was a programmer to
eventually I started looking...
The next job was something of a rollercoaster. Lots more money and
performing the role I wanted to do, this place was an internet startup
in the very early days of the internet (1995, before Microsoft had even
a usable version of Internet Explorer!), peddling a B2B application. Plus
I got to go and work
in the US on and off for a year. Massive buzz, long hours, but in
was very stressful and put me off managing projects (or more specifically,
managing people) for good, and made me a lot wiser to marketers peddling what was essentially
This was literally one of those life-changing jobs. The company started
with venture capitalist backing, but the guys fronting the company were
sufficiently good salesmen that they managed to hook Barclaycard, obviously a
massive name - this is a good indicator or just how slick these guys were, and what the market conditions were at the time. Now, all we had to do was develop the solution... In came the
unrealistic promises/deadlines - all the kind of stuff that 10 years' more
experience you'd either walk away from, or at the very least turn around
"you're not paying me enough for this shit".
Not content with the Barclaycard coup, these guys got themselves
Chase Manhattan, and the push was on to corner the US market also. In
was to drive this push technically that I spent a lot of time over there. We
started off, around February '96, working from the offices of the venture
capitalists, just outside Washington, DC (close to Dulles). Terrible place,
completely put me off the USA. Bleak highways interspersed with housing estates and
malls. No kind of hub at all, very much "The 'Burbs".
Then, as things with Chase firmed up, the location got moved down to
Fl, where Chase had a massive facility (so too did the Yankees!). This was
like it. Wonderful climate, plus a city with a bit of history (I loved it in
Ybor). Since it was obvious that these guys would need to recruit for
US operation (and since it was clear that the US operation would be the main
operation), I made it known that I'd be interested, they duly picked up on
offered me the Head of Development role, and we got the lawyers involved to
finalise the visa etc.
It was during this time in Florida that I started going on business
to New York City. Now, there was a place I grew to love. My kinda town!
was working (or at least going to meetings) on Wall St itself. We were
more and more closely with Chase, and it soon became clear that they had
quite some importance on the joint venture - they pressured the company to
its base in New York as opposed to Tampa. Of course, this was everyone's
to riches, and nobody was going to say "No" to Chase.
And that's how I ended up in New York. As I said, I loved the place. Chase
had just taken over Chemical at the time so we got one of their old offices
on Water Street, right on the waterfront at the southern tip of Manhattan. We
even got ourselves installed in apartments (I'd grown to hate hotels) in
Park City, allowing us to walk to work each morning (ironically right through
the World Trade Center complex). A wonderful time.
However, things weren't to last. The time got close when I would cease
an employee of a UK company travelling over to the USA on business, and would
become a genuine US employee. It was just before christmas '96, and all the
visas had come through. Everything was clear. However my world shattered
in a meeting with the chairman of the company, I was given the formal job
and told that it would be on the same terms as had been talked about in
Now, the cost of living in NYC is about the highest in the USA, and
to some pretty definitive web sites) was around 3.5 that of Tampa. In real
terms, this meant that the beachfront apartment and the Porsche which I'd
in Florida would actually equate to a shared house/apartment, probably not
in Manhattan. We'd been in New York long enough to become acquainted with the
work environment there - basically, anyone who was any good was a contractor,
and anybody who wasn't a contractor was literally considered to be
deficient in some way. And, we knew that a contractor could easily pull $1000
per day. So, that's what I asked for. Three times what was offered to me. I
remember the guy (who had been totally pleasant until that moment) glaring
as I was talking to him. I suppose it didn't help that about four other
exactly the same position as me had said exactly the same thing to him -
of course we'd talked about it.
So that was the meeting that changed my life. The rest, as they say, is
history. I flew back to the UK a couple of days before Christmas, a planned
visit to say Hi to family etc. and also to move out of the house I'd been
sharing in Oxford, and settled back to wait. In the end I spoke with one
directors, who was the guy who'd originally hired me all that time ago and
was someone with whom I'd gelled quite well. As I'd thought, I'd pissed the
chairman off so much that the offer had been rescinded. Still, I needn't
in the short term because there would still be some handover work, which I
could do as a consultant rather than as an employee. The first time it was
discussed it was three months, then one month, then one week....
Of course, in the end nothing came of any of it, and my US
experience was consigned to my memory banks. Do I ever wonder, "what if?".
Well of course I
do, but I think life since coming back from the USA has been pretty good to
me, so I really can't complain.
The one thing I did have on my side was money, since basically for most of
the previous year I had been living on expenses. fortunately this allowed
bide my time and to set up my own consultancy company, waiting for the
to come along. Again, at the back of my mind there was always this fear
wouldn't make it (plus I had to accept that as I consultant I would have
far more "hands on" technically than I had been as a manager). However,
providence obviously played a part, because within about a month of realising
that nothing was going to come of any consultancy work with my former
I had secured a six-month contract with IBM (whose strongest selling point
that IBM is a great name to have on a cv!).
Since returning from the USA I had been staying up with my mum in
(I must chat about my deeper past someday!), but the contract with IBM was
outside Winchester. At that time, I thought it totally inconceivable that I
could live anywhere other than in a large city, so a couple of weeks
contract was to start I checked out a map and headed to the nearest urban
within striking distance of the contract.
And that's how I ended up in my ultimate batchelor pad, a lovely little
in the prestigious waterfront area of Southampton.
But talking about that and my adventures on the south
coast will have to wait until another time...