Friday, September 05, 2008

Life Update

I'm on vacation for the next week and finally able to catch up on my blog. I'll be in Vancouver Washington visiting some family for the next few days, and I'm looking forward to the cooler weather and not having to waste my life at my job for a week. As you can imagine I have a lot to catch up on, so instead of trying to do it all in one gigantic post I'll split it up over a few different ones over the course of my vacation. For this first post, I'll just talk about life in general. In the next few days I'll talk about how my racing season has been going and about Allacrost.

So outside of exercising, life isn't all that exciting. I'm really starting to hate going to work everyday. Not because I hate the people, or the culture, or the environment...but because I hate the work I do itself. Now the reason I took this job in the first place was because I wanted to gain experience in developing driver software, but I've been working at NI for almost a year now and have made almost no progress toward that goal. My first eight months or so were spent in training (somewhat irrelevant training) and rewriting a test application for VXI that was written in the late 80s and had seen little progress since then. That code base was undocumented and not understood by anyone, so it took me a long time to dissect it and figure out what it was trying to do and how I could re-write it. The application itself was actually moderately complicated as well. (It was a multi-threaded app so there were a lot of synchronization and timing issues to deal with). I didn't mind working on that so much, because I got to actually develop code and design a solution.

But nowadays, I loathe my work. The VXI driver software has a lot of issues with it. To name a few:

  1. All the people who developed the driver and who have experience with it have long since left the group or left the company
  2. The driver stack consists of multiple layers which are tightly coupled together (too tightly IMO), which makes it difficult to understand an individual component by itself
  3. Documentation on how the driver works is very incomplete in some areas, and non-existent in most others
  4. The software design is poor, making it very difficult and very frustrating to understand

Even worse, my job isn't really to develop driver software as I was expecting it to be. Its to take this very buggy, poorly written code and make minor improvements and fix the hundreds of bugs filed against it. I describe my job as a "software maintainence engineer", or the equivalent of keeping an old, dying person on life support for as long as possible. Sounds enthralling, I know. We have an upcoming release of our driver which changed probably less than 20 lines of code (none of which were by me) and supports one new controller. This seemingly simple change requires months and months of testing to get out the door (every release seems to be like this). While I have no complaints about thorough testing, I do have complaints over the fact that the other part of my job is to do most of it myself. I do have one software technician working with me on testing though, so its nice to have someone to share the pain with (he hates it just as much as I do). But I find it utterly ridiculous that months of my time are being spent following instructions step-by-step written down on a piece of paper. I became an engineer and went to graduate school because I wanted my work to be interesting and challenging. A freaking high school kid could do this testing as well as I could. My group has made it known that we don't like the testing situation and our managers (whom I have the highest respect and regard for) are trying to do what they can about this, but the fact is that I work in a group that mostly maintains "legacy" products and software so the company doesn't really care to invest in the resources that we would like to have.

So as a result, I've become more and more cynical and disinterested in my job. I love everything else about the company, but the disinterest and dislike of my work continues to drain me. I'm very unmotivated these days and that feeling is bleeding outside of work into my personal life as well. I submitted my bi-annual review earlier this week and laid everything out, stopping just short of saying "if my situation doesn't improve, I highly expect to leave the group and/or the company in the near future". I mean really, I took the job for driver development experience and I'm not really getting any of it, so I'm having trouble finding reasons to stay in my current position.

Outside of work my life has been pretty bland. I go to the movies or out to eat with people sometimes, but not much else. I did meet a great girl named Kristina a few weeks ago though and we've made a list of things we want to do in Austin. The only problem is she and I are both pretty busy so its hard for us to find time to get together and do these things. (By the way the relationship is purely platonic). Because my training and racing takes up so much of my free time, I haven't been able to visit the animal shelter much lately. Hmm, I watched a lot of the the Olympics (I never watch sports by the way) and enjoyed those 2-3 weeks. I kind of wish they went on longer. I've also been keeping up with politics this year for the first time in my life. I can point to two people who got me into this: George W Bush and Barack Obama. Bush got me interested because I look at him and what he's done and couldn't help to wonder "How on earth did such a man get elected to the presidency not once but *twice* by the people of this country?". Obama I started to learn about a few months before he announced his candidacy for the 2008 election. I really respect him for who he is and what he stands for. Unlike the Bush administration, Obama seems genuinely interested in helping all Americans, not just friends in high places.

So yeah, I'm totally an Obama supporter. I've even made a few donations to his campaign, which is the first time I've ever contributed anything to a politician. But I really, -really- want him to be our next president. If I had more time and energy I wouldn't be adverse to helping his campaign in other ways as well. The thing that entices me the most about Obama is something that most people would never think of and probably don't care about. Its the manner in which he makes decisions and works with people. I read a great piece in some Chicago-area newspaper a while back (I'd link it if I could remember) that spoke about how Obama was incredibly inquisitive about a matter in which he didn't have a lot of expertise in. I think he analyzes an argument or a problem much like a good engineer would to be honest (almost amazing that he's a lawyer then, haha). And he's not just trying to push his own agenda, I believe he sincerely wishes to work with republicans and conservatives to arrive at a compromise. Contrast that to Bush who does asinine things like vetoing bills to provide health care for poor children because he's paranoid about the uprising of social medicine. And like Abraham Lincoln, I believe Obama will put not just liberals and democrats in his administration, but those whom disagree with him as well. I think that is an excellent idea and I have a lot of respect for a man willing to do something like that.

Anyway I'll end on that note. See you next time.

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Blogger Sean Leather said...

Hurrah for life update! Hurrah for Obama! It's good to hear from you again.

2:35 AM  
Anonymous ElonNarai said...

Who, too bad about how your work is going. All I could say is just try and keep going but then again I wonder if that is what you want to hear. As for politics... Well, I have met a few in my past (two) and both times I left with a good feeling only to find out that the good feeling was based on absolute nothing. I hope that Obama does give you a good reason to be happy to support you ;)

3:01 AM  

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