Seeking a New Contract

I’ve just finished a highly-challenging and intense contract and I’m now looking for a new short contract.

I’ve got a lot of experience and mainly on the Microsoft stack of .Net, ASP.Net, C# & SQL Server.

I’m flexible on time from 1 day per week and at reasonable rates.

I do remote working but the occasional over-night stay will be fine. Prefer contracts in the Greater Manchester area.

If you’re needing some help on a project then do get in contact. I am on LinkedIn.

My Experience of British Gas

My letter to the CEO of British Gas. While I hope he can accomplish something, I rather doubt it.

Sir,

 

I am writing to complain about a serious issue with your IT and customer services.

We are the tenants of the building at xxx

We are a tiny community service company helping vulnerable people with legal matters. We have no public sources of funding and depend entirely on the generosity of those we help. Our revenues amount to no more than £30,000 per annum, a tiny fraction of your salary. From this we must fund pro-bono cases, staff wages, rent, maintenance and utilities.

Our staff are local community members and we all suffer from various mental and physical ailments. We are not competent to engage in verbal sparring or negotiating on the phone.

We “acquired” your services in December 2013 by moving into the building above. Our leasing agent supplied British Gas with an initial reading. On three occasions your meter reading agents G4S read our meter, the last being November 2014.

We had been paying our bills on time as per the invoices which came to us. As we are very focused on the community, we have little time to peruse through fine details of bills. We assumed that the meter readings were correct and the billing amounts were correct as the meter reader has just been around.

We were very shocked with our November 2014 bill which was over £xxx. For a tiny business like ours this would cause severe hardship.

We immediately enquired with your customer service staff, who were for the most part, very unhelpful. Initially your staff denied that meter readings for two other dates did exist. It took three letters for your staff to admit that meter readings were taken and that they exist with G4S. After a further two letter we were finally able to acquire these readings. Why is it so hard to ask British Gas for those readings?

Had we been aware of the correct billing amounts and gas consumption we would have had knowledge to adjust our boiler settings appropriately. Since British Gas decided to withhold the valid meter readings we had no incentive to do this so our consumption was higher than it should have been.

However, we believe that your IT systems were at fault. That the non-application of the readings to our account should have been detected and corrected and our bills updated accordingly. It seems that when it came to our building your systems seemed to have entered a black hole. Your staff continually simply blame us openly and feel no sympathy in reality. And I would add that your customer support staff, particularly Bxxx and Cxxx Wxxx are unable to grasp the nature of our complaint.

Cxxx Wxxx appears to see our letters as an opportunity to practise her, apparently, excellent skills in the art of the fob off.

Additionally while we are in dispute British Gas have now sent Debt collectors to our address which distressed our staff. We had asked Mrs. Wxxx to ask your Ability To Pay team to contact us as mentioned above we are not confident in verbal sparring or discussion on the phone. She ignored this point. It also appears that she either does not understand our complaint, or understands it but she is hiding information.

Bxxx and Mrs. Wxxx also supplied a internet link address to a website which does not exist. Specifically:  www.britishgas.co.uk/energytrust

In any case the British Gas Energy Trust does not help businesses, so why are you staff supplying both a non-existent link and to an entity which would not assist us anyway?

As it appears that repeated communication with your customer support staff will lead nowhere. We have written to you to ask to look into some points.

  1. Why was no initial reading applied to our account
  2. Why were the two meter reading by G4S not applied to our account
  3. Why are your systems not able to detect that two meter readings were failed to be applied to our account.
  4. Why were these readings not applied in retrospect and updated bills sent
  5. Why are your staff not sending us a deadlock letter
  6. What are you hiding
  7. Why are you sending debt collectors for a bill which is still in dispute

We are expecting that for the withholding of readings and the IT systems failure that British Gas would refund £xxx as a goodwill gesture.

We anticipate that you would be able to supply us a response within 7 days. Should you need further time we expect that it would only be ethical to cease the debt collection on our account.

We await your response in the matter

I don’t expect anyone in British Gas to help out here. Its more likely to end up back at Customer Service and back on the merry-go-round.

The desire to strive on

I’m currently in a funny place. I have no real job. I should get a real job. But then my lifestyle is affected. Mind you the distinct lack of money is probably affecting my lifestyle more.

This is the funny thing about the western world. living on subsistance is seen as failure. You’ve not got the big house with a swimming pool and with twin Range Rovers on the drive. Now that is truely failure.

What has happened to the world I grew up in where having fun was the key to life. We all have lost that. We all think that working 45 hours a week and buying an XBox is fun. Well okay an XBox is fun, but it’s not the only fun thing that can happen.

I struggle to live in this world where a stay-at-home dad with a minimal salary is considered a life failure.

Contrast that with a close friend who has worked on his business for over 20 years and has nothing to show for it. And now, when he is at his lowest, he can’t even get a job. He is an engineer and me a computer scientist. Neither of us can get jobs. So we must just carry on as we are on subsistence wages until the end.

Why did we not recognise the end was nigh? Why were we unable to see the trend in technology where anyone over 35 is unable to obtain employment.

We were seeing things through rose coloured glasses. Imagine being older than the company CEO who looks on with distain at a 55y/o employee who has to go home at 5pm to be with family. Oh the horror! I can imagine the thoughts “he is not dedicated. lets not train him up and replace him with a younger, cheaper model who already has been taught XYZ”. Let’s not fool ourselves, these thoughts do occur. And they are illegal.

I am a victim of ageism.

Join my fight. Let’s strive on together.

Why older IT workers can’t get jobs

As I approach my fifth decade of life (that’s 50 for you kids under 20) have I become less and less marketable as a IT worker? Let’s see. First the evidence and than my own personal experience.

Evidence

There have been many many, let’s say countless statements by older IT workers that once they reached a certain age, job opportunities and the opportunities to progress dried up.

Just take a read of these articles:

SAP News – Ageism in the Tech Industries

Channel 4 – Is the IT industry guilty of ageism?

IT industry paying high price of ageism

Some workers have even gone so far as to have plastic surgery and lie on the CVs about their experience. They may take 15 years off their CV with false dates.

There is some pretty strong evidence that the IT sector discriminates strongly on age. So why is that the case and why is it allowed. Do the law-makers look the other way or is it the fault of us older guys that we have ended up where we are? Let see.

My Experience

I started working in 1993 for a medium-sized software company in Ottawa Canada. I was bright-eyed and bushy tailed and I loved UNIX and hated Windows. But I loved programming and turned out I was good at it. I became interested in computers and programming when I saw the VIC20 with tape drive and 3.5k of RAM.

During my career I worked for a few companies and moved up the experience ranks. I always had a passion for technology and thought to myself that remaining a programmer would be a good move. But when I looked at the company structures and the people who made it to the top, not one was a programmer who then jumped to senior management. All had, at some point, moved to the management side. It was at that point that I knew that at some point within the next five years I would have to get away from programming.

Unfortunately for me at about the moment that I should have become a manager or a team-leader, I was a contractor making good money and I had just moved to the UK. I kept up the work as a contractor and gave little thought to finding a management position or a permanent position for the next 10 years.

And that is where I made my mistake. Although I had kept my skills up to date (I program in .Net, jQuery, JSON, SQL Server) I was just a programmer with little difference than hiring a guy with 5 years experience all in .Net. So recruiters would look at my last three years and then see years of Access, than some C++, but no Agile, SCRUM – or whatever the latest fad is – and chuck my CV in the bin.

Presently I do some freelance work which involves cleaning up and improving software which was written and developed by a completely unskilled “programmer”. Interestingly this person has a Arts Degree. As well I work for another company doing the same. And this is pretty common occurrence, young company hires young programmers, they have no idea what the word “Architecture” means and just hack it together. When problems occur, seek experienced bloke to fix it. Well, that’s me.

Conclusions

Its far cheaper for companies to hire new talent and train them up. But this is where the UK industry falls over, because UK companies simply don’t train people. So the UK recruiters have to find the people who already have the skillset matching identically. So a guy like me who is asking for top dollar simply can’t get a foot in. Sure if I took £25k instead of £50k I’d have a chance.

This is the sentence the older IT workers end up with, your experience actually going against you. This is why it is important that you do no stress that you are experienced beyond a certain amount of years. Only put on your CV the experience pertaining to the advertised job, leave everything else off. And ask for a reasonable salary that matches that job.

There are number of tips on how to present yourself here.

Dunno whether any of those will work. But at present I have become a trouble shooter and that’s probably where I’ll end up.

My advice

My advice to the older workers is to lower your expectations if you are wanting to work as a programmer. The other option is be a freelancer or a contractor, but either way your salary expectations will need to be a lot less than your true worth.

To those approaching their 40th birthday, I’d argue that if your company offers training to move to a project management or management position, I would take it. Experience in management will get you a job anywhere at the salary that you are worth. If no, than do not even think about leaving your present job no matter how crap it gets. It’s a lot better than long-term unemployment.

To those starting out. Be aware that your programming career may only last 15 years. Then you MUST think about progressing away from programming as I have mentioned above. Don’t ever think that you will be a life-long programmer. My experience and those of many others have shown otherwise.

Happy programming!