Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Memory lane

You know when you're so tired with work and just wish you could take a long break, that time when you wish everything would quickly disappear, when you wish for all the time in the world to catch up with that tight deadlines? You just wish that whatever god given talent you have, you couldn't stop longing to be somehow more brilliant just to solve that hard equations in 2 seconds. Please please please, you pray, if I hit F5 please no more errors. But they keep on messing with your mind with their little error messages and cryptic paths showing to some library. Oh well. It happens to everyone of us.

I'm blogging during working hours. I got this list of pending tasks waiting next. I just solved that tricky join-tables auto-generated-form I-want-it-this-way-not-that-way cakephp thing that had taken me 3 days so chill ok. Give me a break.

For the record, I'm not that tired as described in first paragraph. That's just for dramatic introduction. :p I'm lucky coz I had a couple of long breaks in the past 6 months. I was just thinking of something. Sometimes I do get tired and pissed but around that time usually I'll think about what I love most about my job. And believe it or not, this is something I like doing for the rest of my working life. I love coding, I love the problem solving stuff going on it in, I love the discipline of writing codes and above all, I just love the logic. 1 + 1 is always 2. If you say otherwise, you're insane - go to rehab.

I was thinking about my former workplace - SYABAS. Boy how I loved working there. I joined PUAS just after I graduated. The HR Senior Manager at that time gave me a choice, programmer at HQ or at one of its district branches. Of course I chose HQ, I knew it would cost me more traveling but it would worth it. There I met amazing people. I was quickly assigned a mentor and quickly became part of the team. It was a very friendly and family-like atmosphere, we still keep in touch with each other now. The great team aside, what got me excited, though I never understood it at the beginning until later, was how big the IT potential was in assisting the day to day operations - to supply clean water throughout Selangor & KL, and it was up to us so to speak to automate stuff, make their life easier. When I first got there almost everything was done manually or the technology was outdated. I have to agree part of it was because of limited budget.

The HQ IT department then only consist of 20+ people, app team there with 5 of us. Kak Izan was (still is) the lead. The first thing was to get intranet up - it took a year to get all PUAS staff to get used to it (training, training, training - can't blame them it's human nature to forget). En. Suhaimi was (still is) the big boss, he is a man with a vision with so many bright practical ideas. I think within 3 years after SYABAS takeover he went from a senior manager to a general manager and now something higher than a GM. I can safely say whatever IT infrastructure and applications there now came out from him, mostly. All that and he is such a humble person. I have high respect for this man. An open source enthusiast also, if I may add.


The intranet, can you believe it, was developed from scratch. It won a government award for its functionality a year later. When I left in 2006, a module that lets anyone logs in and see their workspace was being developed. If I can remember correctly, user can login and see their upcoming meetings, things need to be approved, private messages, etc. There were independent systems too - telemetry (monitoring water level in reservoirs etc), billing, accounting, HR, customer service. All this was using different technology and we had to get all of them together and integrate. Linda was working with inventory system that should talk to the accounting system to manage in and out/ purchasing of pipes, machinery, trucks, valves etc. Nisa was working with online bulk payment for those company that has branches all over the place and want to monitor transactions of each. This app of course need to talk to accounting also. Husna was working with online submission of new plans for the housing developers for approval. What was done manually that could've taken weeks was cut down to a few days. Me? I was kept busy with online mapping, digitizing pipes layout. Such horrid experience. Do you know that back then they didn't document it properly, everything was inside engineer's head. There was also some other system being developed at the same time.

I remember the fun when we found local celebrities addresses. And there was this one thing that would blow siren when something was wrong - I forgot what it is. Also the mass sms system just sitting nearby we could but didn't abuse. We painted the training room on our own - that one is unforgettable haha! We had Nagios to monitor the connections to our district offices on suspended monitor so we all could see (this simple solution saved us alot of time investigating when something happened).

They have come a long way since then. Numbers of people has grown I think. I don't know how it is doing now anyway. Back then, there was already so many systems but how did we handle it? By documentations. I was told to follow the ERD, the flowcharts and the wireframes established beforehand. This way it's kinda easy to know where to plug a new system to an old one. New people coming in also can just have a look at that and can catch up pretty fast from there. Any probable amendments, talk to Kak Izan first. Now she is such an open person and smart. Also she knows how to talk and reason. She gave me a good lesson in database design while I was there. She has earned my respect so long ago, together with Nisa, Husna and Linda.

In the end all this word of love and hurrah, so why did I left? I couldn't stand the shitty pay and discrimination by the very upper management.

Oh and if you're curious, new systems then were developed using PHP and MySQL. There was also various technology involved at that time at system integration level: Oracle, Sun, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, ASP.

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