(This is about a year late. I mostly blame 280 character platforms...)
This is the first part of a collection of memories, thoughts and lessons from my last two (!) decades in technology, in mostly chronological order. I thought I'd get this done in the course of 2018 but it wasn't to be. Confession: part of the reason why it's now in multiple parts is because it's taken me way too long to get anywhere with it). Maximum respect to the folks that are able to churn out solid articles on a monthly, weekly or even daily. So here goes.
In the years leading up to 2000, the Y2K bug was such a real (perceived?) monster such that major businesses (particularly banks and other financial institutions) scrambled to make bug fixes to their tech platforms as doomsayers predicted a technological meltdown. You may be wondering why developers opted to store the year portion of date fields as two instead of four bytes (i.e. 99 vs 1999). It turns out that that extra two bytes (one for each number) quickly grew as say financial records accumulated over time, and disk space was at a premium. As a junior developer, my first job involved poring through thousands of lines of code fixing Y2K bugs on payroll and accounting software. Not very interesting in the grand scheme of things, but I got to learn COBOL (that ancient language) reasonably well. Come 01/01/2000, the world didn't come to a crashing end. Some folks made a tidy some. Lesson here is that someone always benefits from spreading F.U.D.
My first experience with Linux was sometimes in 2000 during our university break thanks to Ken, and involved us deploying mail servers on Red Hat Linux 5 and 6. (I remember that if you didn't know what you were doing with sendmail, you could have nightmares trying to figure out my mail wasn't getting delivered). As usual, I learnt by diving right in and seeing how to survive. Compiling custom kernels in order to get certain hardware to work on client hardware (varying LAN cards etc) soon became a normal task. 18+ years on, getting your business email up and running on is essentially a few minutes work, and doesn't take that much technical effort or skill. I can't remember the last time I compiled a kernel (or had to to get stuff done). Continuous learning will always be a valuable skillset however even as technology evolves.
In 2001, owning a laptop was quite the exclusive thing. One day after leaving a client site, some cops on patrol stopped us, and couldn't imagine that Ken, then a CS university student, could afford a (used) laptop. Corruption was still a beast then then and if you refused to play ball, it was uncomfortable. Integrity has always been key part, but often a hard and lonely journey. Thankfully this episode ended albeit a day late /o\.
Our first entrepreneurial attempt was a spectacular failure. Led by the engineering genius (of a certain Edwin and James), in ~2000/2001, we built a school management system that was beyond its time (hardly any internet available to schools, SaaS model). After a few promising pitches, we felt were ready to conquer the world and began to spend cash that we didn't have. Needless to say, this failed miserably. Timing matters. Also don't spend $ that you don't have.
In circa 2002/3, I spent some months interning at Silicon Bazaar Kenya a (now defunct) company that played a key role in birthing the open source movement in KE and was a 100% open source business before its time. I'm really glad to see Open World thriving right now from those early days thanks to the pioneering work of Dorcas. I subsequently found myself quite involved with the FOSS movement, and was quite the vocal person. I remember getting into lots of heated debates with Microsoft evangelists over the OOXML standard. Look at Microsoft now though, one of the largest open source contributors today. How things have changed! I'm a major fan of Nadella and it's amazing what he's been able to do the last few years. The key thing for me now is to always focus on the user(s) of a product. (Call it growing old(er) and hopefully wiser).
[more soon including my take on skunkworks (I have a photo trove somewhere.) and the telco boom].