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Pastures New, New Challenges

29 Oct 2019

After 14 and a half years at Intec, I’m moving on to pastures new. I’ve learned a lot and developed in ways that were never envisaged by anyone when I started at Intec. I’m very fortunate to have had a company that backed me, and I think we’ve both benefited greatly. But I’ve always sought to embrace opportunities and accept responsibilities throughout my career. And now is no different.

It was always going to take something momentous for me to leave. After all, I was at my previous company - the only other company where I’ve had a permanent job - for over five years. I’m not one to leap from one job to another. My career is like my development, taking the time to properly understand what I’m doing, committing to it beyond just the short-term, which hopefully enables me to do it well. I’ve always been willing to step outside my comfort zone, not straying too far, so I can leverage both my existing knowledge and all the skills I’ve gained in all aspects of life. So it’s not a huge surprise that I’m not moving away from the platform that has been the core of my career - Domino.

I’m moving to HCL, working with Michael Alexander, Stephan Wissel and co on innovation around the HCL Digital Solutions products.

It’s a significant move, a little scary, and one which will challenge me in new and different ways. But it will allow me to be involved in the future of our products in a way that was not possible at a Business Partner or Customer. Now is an exciting but important time for the products that I love, products I started my career with and products I’d like to end my career with too. Whether vendors, business partners, customers, technicians or users - it’s a key time to modernise, revitalise and grow all the products.

I’m conscious that the IT world has evolved significantly over the last decade. The demands for software, both in terms of architecture and user interface, have changed massively. But I believe it’s very true that those who are not mindful of the past are doomed to repeat its mistakes. Equally, I believe that staying a slave to “the way we’ve always done it” is also a recipe for disaster. To attract new audiences, I think it’s important to be aware of how they work. But there’s also a need to bring existing people on that journey. It’s a challenge, requiring a need to look at the current and future landscapes from a wide variety of aspects, not only in broad strokes but also in detail, all at the same time. And across all of this, any attempt to please everyone is doomed. The key is a vision and an approach that will grow the platforms and keep them vibrant for the next 20+ years.

There is an elephant in the room here: XPages. I’m not moving to HCL to lead an XPages team. I’m not moving with a specific vision to re-energise XPages. I’ve never sought to hide that there are no easy answers for XPages. I’ve also frequently blogged that I believe Domino applications are why the platform is still used, not XPages.

I doubt I was employed for my XPages knowledge, but for the knowledge I gained by going through and beyond XPages - Java, servlet knowledge, deep understanding of Domino objects via ODA, CrossWorlds, OsgiWorlds, OpenLiberty, SpringBoot, Vert.x, Node.js, React, JAX-RS, OpenAPI, GraphQL, Node-RED, Docker and more. These are the skills I’m expecting to be drawing on, as well as diving into a host of additional technologies, integrating them with the deep knowledge of Domino I’ve gained over the years, not only the limitations but more importantly the strengths. I’m grateful to many in the community who have been patient and helped me learn. I wouldn’t be in a position to take this step otherwise.

Although I’ll still be part of the OpenNTF board and will still be blogging and speaking regularly, this does mean there will be a gap in the community. It’s not for me to comment on the size of that gap. Like Stephan Wissel, I expect to still answer some queries on StackOverflow and in Slack channels. But there is a level of XPages understanding that will, over time, be removed from my brain. The good news is that the vast majority of my knowledge, if not everything I know, has already been put out into the public domain. The key parts are understanding the XPages lifecycle, understanding that everything in XPages is Java - all covered in sessions like “The Eureka Moment” and “Marty, You’re Not Thinking Fourth Dimensionally”. The remainder comes from wanting to understand, from diving into the source code and debugging - ODA, Extension Library and more. Thankfully there are many who are blogging and speaking already.

At various times I’ve made requests for people to get involved in the open source projects I’ve worked on. The success has been limited at best. But in the future, I expect my professional and personal inclinations will lead me to involvement in other open source technologies. As I’m less in a position to output code, I expect to adopt a broader remit than development - governance, documentation etc.

It’s the right time for me to start stepping away and time for others to take up the baton. If there are queries about setting up environments or how things work then, as ever, I will be willing to advise. I’m not going away any time soon.

But the longer it takes for people to step forward, the greater the likelihood that related technologies will evolve so that the old answers no longer work. I came across that recently, when trying to add Font Awesome to XPages - the answers I gave on a Stack Overflow question some years ago were now out of date. For this particular topic, however, the standard approach worked - at least when considering an XPages application as a standard web application project rather than an NSF. But as the old answers no longer work, it will require the community to find out for themselves the kinds of things previously learned by the likes of Jesse Gallagher, Nathan Freeman, Tim Tripcony and others - something I do not envisage being an easy task.

So it’s a time of change, but also a time of opportunity for all. Embracing opportunity and responsibility has brought me to this point. Hopefully it will take others on a similarly exciting journey.

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