Capn's Blog

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"Flexible working hours"

It's half-past-11 on Sunday night, and I'm at work. Why? What would possess someone to leave their family and come to work?

My present company (OPEN Networks) produces ADSL modems. In particular, the modems are manufactured in Asia but we put our own software on them. The special software makes the modems substantially faster and more reliable that anyone else's, and it's because we have a team here (which I'm part of) that has worked hard to improve the software and fix so many bugs.

Some bugs are easier to fix than others. Usually a customer or our testing department tells us what to do to cause a problem. We can do that ourselves, find out what's happening inside, then fix it.

Some bugs are much harder to find. We may not know of a way to make the bug happen, and we will have to wait months to see the problem again.

We have one such fault that was reported nearly a year ago. It happens to quite a few customers but I've only seen it once before. And that means it's not possible to find and fix it.

On Friday, someone in the office had this particular problem with one of our modems. So I want to investigate the problem - haha, finally we caught a "live one"! And I have to do it before someone reboots the box, otherwise the problem will go away.

Sadly, I didn't get a chance to look at it on Friday. And I don't like doing it with people looking over my shoulder. So I'm at work tonight to investigate the problem.

I had one hypothesis for what's causing the problem, but I did some tests tonight and my hypothesis is wrong. Now I have to do some more thinking, imagine what else it might be. Then I have to work out how I can prove or disprove my theory. I'm going to keep doing that until I find the cause of the problem.

I always imagine customers using our products, and how frustrated they must feel when it doesn't work properly. If I can find and fix the problem, I will feel a great sense of satisfaction because I've made something that people can really use in their lives, and the product works well. That for me is why I like being a software engineer.

Which doesn't explain why I'm at work on a Sunday night. Well, it's give and take. I'll be getting in late to work on Tuesday morning and I have to leave early on Tuesday afternoon. My company is flexible about this. As long as I'm more or less spending enough time in the office and enough time working on problems, I can choose my own hours.

If I come in tonight, I have the hours to make up for Tuesday, I can work in peace, I'll look good to my peers tomorrow, and maybe I can even find the problem and get a buzz!


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