In my career I've had three big
fork()s in the road, so far.
My higher education started off with a Computer Science degree back
in 1990 from University of Bristol UK, with a class size of less than
20. My final year project was a parallelized graphics renderer
written in occam.
At the end my degree, I had applied to do a PhD in computer graphics, but a couple of days before that offer appeared: I got a job offer for a parallel computing position, which I accepted.
Fork #1: Parallel Computing
If I had started the PhD, the other fork path would likely have ended up as me working as a computer graphics renderer or pipeline engineer working for a big CGI or SFX firm, probably in the US.
Instead, I went to work at the University of Kent at Canterbury (UKC), now
called University of Kent, in Canterbury, UK of course. There I worked on the Meiko parallel
computer at a blistering 25MHz - a relatively unheard of speed in
with dozens of nodes, each capable of thousands of lightweight
processes based on CSP (lighter than threads, look it up). I helped
operate the Meiko system: rebooting, rewiring it (literally wires)
between the nodes and racks.
Deeper into that, I got into organizing materials for the
Internet Parallel Computing Archive,
the software to manage it and hand-compiling Apache on
SunOS and IRIX to run it. This led to my first home page location
Fork #2: Web and Metadata
If I had continued with parallel computing, the second fork alternate path would have likely been going into research, getting a PhD, working on high performance computing, supercomputers and probably ending up in the US.
Instead, I improved the archive, developed metadata to manage it in IAFA
Templates and expanded to work on web metadata, Dublin Core and
onwards to RDF and Semantic Web. I wrote software in Perl, presented
at multiple web conferences from WWW3, workshops and attended many
Dublin Core working groups.
Meanwhile, around 1996, my day-to-day work changed to be web-focused, working on
the UK Mirror Service at Kent, installing machines, operating them,
making backups and keeping things running for the entire UK academic
network, a network called HENSA. I also ran the computer science
department's (first) web site
http://www.cs.ukc.ac.uk. This was where I
learnt operations, web tech and started using Linux.
In 2000, I took up an opportunity to go work at the Institute for
Learning and Research Technology
at the University of Bristol as a technical researcher entirely on
software and metadata in the emerging RDF and semantic web area. At
that time, I created the Free Software / Open Source
Redland RDF libraries all written in C
and supporting multiple language bindings, developed and tested these
across multiple OSes via build farms. I worked for several years on
the software, RDF, semantic web and other standards work in EU
research projects such as SWADE, SKOS, as well as lots of W3C
projects and working groups for RDF, SPARQL and Turtle. I learnt so
much about organizing my time and working in a fast changing
I was asked in 2005 if I'd like to come take the work and experience I'd developed in the semantic web work and deploy the software at Yahoo! in USA. I said yes.
Fork #3: Corporate USA
The third fork's other path would have been continuing in the UK and EU University sector, working on open source and web technologies as they evolved. Possibly, I would have ended up working in some large UK IT firm, deploying web tech or teaching web tech in Universities.
At Yahoo! in Sunnyvale, I entered a whole new world, in which there
were highly specialized roles, such as Product Managers and
Operations Engineers to go along with Software Engineers. After
multiple positions and not working on coding or web technologies, I
ended up far away from my happy place.
In 2012, I moved on to software engineering roles at a social news
startup, Digg, which closed up shop, then subsequently at Rackspace
Hosting in San Francisco in 2013. In both cases, I was increasingly
working Hadoop big data applications, as well as running and operating
Hadoop which was now called DevOps.
That led to joining Twitter in 2016 finally as Site Reliability
Engineer for the Data Platform operating the Hadoop clusters with
software addressing the day to day issues, automating the routine
tasks and working on strategic projects like cloud for data platform.
Finally, I arrived at the job title that matched what I'd been doing
for a long time and I loved working in a group of SREs, always
learning and helping.
In 2022, Twitter also sold its furniture and, well, that's
So here we are in 2023 and I'm excited to announce I'm joining
Google as a Staff System Engineer in the Site Reliability
Engineering part of the Google Cloud organization.