Saturday, 31 December 2005

Year End Thoughts

With 4 hours left to the end of 2005, it's time to reflect on how the year has gone and prepare for the coming of the new year. Overall, it has been a good year for me, though it has felt like I've been hanging on for dear life on to a runaway train. For FOSS, it has been a great year it continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

The greatest challenge in 2005 was for Exoweb to find and integrate good people into the team as we ramped up to satisfy client demands. Exoweb grew from an 8 man outfit when I joined in 2004 to a 34 person company today, and is still growing rapidly. We would actually be larger if we had not had such a tough time hiring good people. In the last year, we have streamlined our HR process, allowing us to screen 10 times the number of candidates we could previously, with minimal impact to the daily operations of Exoweb.

Beyond just increasing bodies though, Exoweb feels so much better a place to work in now. It was a nice place before that, but in the last year, we have managed to strengthen the company culture, added a bunch of really smart people and started processes to ensure that we are constantly improving. I can honestly say that the current Exoweb team is the smartest, most competent tech team I have had the pleasure of working with. It is both a joy and a challenge to work with intelligent people who are far more knowledgeable than you in their areas of expertise. We may or may not have the stellar brain matter that Google is reputed to have, but the current team can definitely give any other team a real challenge.

2006 will bring its own challenges, no doubt. The company culture is relatively young and it will be challenged quite a bit as it tries to accommodate the changing desires, needs and eccentricities of our growing and maturing developers.

Another thing that I am proud of is that Exoweb's contributions back to FOSS projects are growing. While we mostly filed bug reports in in 2003 and before, we started contributing code to small projects in 2004 and that trend has only accelerated in 2005. Since we became active users of django, several patches have been accepted into the main trunk and we should hopefully be contributing even greater functionality soon. We have patches in various other small projects such as EaseXML (formerly XMLObject), and identified performance improvements in projects such as PostgreSQL. We recently instituted a contribute-back policy, where developers can spend up to 10% of their working hours on FOSS projects, just contributing back to the community that makes our business possible.

Incidentally, the usage of FOSS is on the rise in China, even if the community does not appear to be that visible as yet. A growing percentage of the candidates going through our HR process are listing FOSS skills and projects on their resumes. More and more companies are using FOSS technologies in their daily work. We are also getting more business inquiries specifically seeking our FOSS skill set.

Finally, every competent FOSS person I know is fully employed and in huge demand. I know, because I tried to poach every single one not working in Exoweb :). For those who kept asking, "how can you find a job with FOSS skills?" a year or two ago ... HAH! Everyone I know has options - if they were not happy where they are right now, they could find a new job so very easily.

It has been a good, busy year. I am really looking forward to 2006 - more challenges, more growth and hopefully a bit more free time to relax and really play with technology again.

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