About Russ

About the Author – Russ Flynn MBCS

Russ

Born and raised in the “heart of England”, I grew up with a mixture of passions, loving the outdoors (climbing in particular and later orienteering) but also transfixed on the world of computers. From my very first 128K Spectrum, I knew that computers would play a large part in my life.

I have been developing PHP applications since around 2002 and in late 2007 embraced PHP5 and the object oriented approach, which has opened my eyes to an extremely powerful methodology which I am using to great effect in current projects utilising the Symfony PHP framework. I also have experience with a range of programming languages/technologies including Pascal, Java, Javascript, C, MySQL and XHTML/CSS.

From around 2006 I have been extremely focused on web standards, accessibility, search engine optimisation (SEO) and security, and am a proud professional grade member of the British Computer Society.  I became a Zend Certified Engineer in Sept 2008 and also hope to become LPI (Linux Professional Institute) certified within the coming months.

Work, education and all thatIt was darker than this picture makes it look...

After a drawn out university career (7 years), where the balance was too far to the “outdoors” side of the scale to make any real educational progress, I caught a lucky break. Volunteering at the Outdoors show in Birmingham as a camera operator for the British Mountaineering Council, I got talking to the head of a software & new media company – horizon. An interview followed, and I landed a job as a “software developer/events officer”.

The Horizon years

Me with Peter Nicol - Squash legend

My previous jobs (all part time) had included delivering newspapers, instructing at a climbing centre, receptionist, student activities development officer (SADO!) and working in a factory run by my parents. Horizon was my first step into the “real world” of work.

Working with a small team of developers, we were responsible for creating and maintaining several websites – the most important of which became psalive.tv and 247.tv, the first dedicated to the Professional Squash Association world tour and the second to any other event or sport we could cover, including bowls, modern pentathlon, snooker and Real Tennis amongst others. The “catch” here was that not only were we to produce, maintain and support the online services, but we also had to provide the content.Wearing a gift from a sheikh

Over the exhausting but exciting 3 years I was at Horizon, I travelled all over the UK, and also graced the countries of Sweden, Kuwait, Bermuda, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Macau and the USA. Most of the time alone, but sometimes with a colleague – we were responsible for filming, producing, editing and broadcasting the event we were covering, as well as maintaining the website it was being broadcast on and supporting it’s users.

Eventually, after becoming a senior developer, project manager and competent on-site producer, a combination of factors led to my decision to leave Horizon and move abroad to Oslo in Norway, and so my international job search began.

New language, new country, new thinking

Without going into all the details, I managed to land myself a job at Linpro, based just on the Oslo ring road 10 minutes out of the city. This was to be a change in many ways for me, as whilst everyone in the technology field (and most others) in Norway speaks embarrassingly (for a Brit who can barely speak GCSE level French) good English, I was to be here for a while – so I began to learn Norwegian.

Not only was I learning Norwegian, but also Linux – for you see Linpro (the clue’s in the name) is a company that specialises and limits itself to open source, or so called “free” software solutions, and has made a very successful business model from it. My previous development was all Windows based, and consisted of such dirty methods as coding in Editplus, uploading to the production server and hitting F5 to see if it worked. Nowadays we code locally using a rich IDE such as Eclipse, then use version control (namely SVN) to commit our work to a repository which is then synchronised with a staging server, regression testing along the way.

This move has pushed my professional development in a new direction, and I feel that whilst Horizon gave me a wealth of experience in debugging, thinking on my feet and high pressure situations, Linpro now gives me structure, better development methods and access to a team of co-workers who are proud to be the best in their field.

I’ve also moved from a form of traditional project management which can only be summarised as “here’s what the customer wants, design it, develop it and implement it – oh, and I want to know exactly how long it will take”, to the world of Scrum. These methods may well pop up from time to time in this blog, as I discuss the pros and cons, but for the time being, I like Scrum and if I could go back in time I’d have used it at Horizon too.

Current/recent Projects

My most recent project is a new Media portal for Deichmanske Bibliotek, which has been named “Reaktor”. If you can read Norwegian, you can read the development blog, otherwise you’ll have to look out for my posts on the subject.

I am currently working on a membership administration system for the Norwegian Scout federation, using PHP5 and the Symfony framework.

2 Comments so far

  1. Blair on July 10th, 2009

    Hey, i stumbled across your blog while playing Norwegian translation games (I’m bored at work).

    I’m really interested in how your finding life in Oslo. My girlfriend’s Norwegian and we’re moving there from NZ in April next year.

    I haven’t met any english speakers who’ve made the move. I’ve got a couple of Swedish mates who reckon life will be hard for a while but thats expected I guess. I’ve been trying to learn Norsk from the book and CD Learn Norwegian, its pretty good I reckon but I need to be a bit more consistent and work a bit harder, got tonnes of time though!?!

    Anyway I better get back to it but if you have any advice that would be great.

    Cheers

  2. Russ on July 10th, 2009

    Hi Blair!

    Well, I’ve been here for almost 2 years now and the language learning has been pretty slow – but that’s mostly because of Norwegians to speak English!

    There are some situations where you can feel a bit alienated, when you are alone with Norwegians and they “forget” you are there so you can spend hours in the corner at a party listening to “white noise”. What I should have done, is just jumped in – most Norwegians will switch to English in a heartbeat and won’t think anything of it! Of course you will find some who will continue to speak Norwegian because they believe that making you hear something you can’t even begin to understand is the best way for you to learn…

    Work can also be tough. I’m lucky to be working for an IT company, where the software we use, the programming languages and the wider community are all English based, so it’s no problem to do my job. There will still be meetings, lunch times, social times, customer encounters etc. though where you can feel pretty left out.

    One thing you should talk to your girlfriend in the early days about, is all the “admin” stuff you will go through. When we lived in England, I was able to deal with the house, car, taxes, bills, laws, regulations, etc. In the first year we were here, everything ended up in her name! I just could not get my head round all the paperwork, which is rarely available in English (The tax people have started a limited flow). It’s a real blow to your masculinity not to be able to talk to the mechanic (unless they speak a high level of English) or sort out car insurance, etc.

    My main advice would be to stick with it. Norway is a great place to live, and Oslo is a nice city with nice people, and after a year or so I was able to at least understand what was going on in a conversation, even though I could not reply back (except in English). Life is much easier now, and my memories of last year are full of skiing, cycle trips, swimming in the fjord, etc. Not of any kind of struggle to get by… That stuff passes.

    I think I will blog about this… First I need to drive the missus to the bus station…

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