THE PAST FOUR YEARS have been quite something. Four is the number of years I have spent most of my waking hours bashing at a keyboard writing about technology.
Since early 2012, when I first started at The INQUIRER as a naïve, fresh-faced reporter, I've been on the front line of many significant technology announcements, product launches and company takeovers as well as good old press parties, open bars and a million never-quite-fulfilling canapés (the mini fish 'n' chip ones are the best).
I am writing about my past four years in technology now because my time at The INQUIRER, the first real journalism job I ever had and my first gig in tech, is coming to an end, and this will be my last column before I venture into new things. (I'm not quite sure what these things will be, but I don't think I'm done with tech just yet.)
It's safe to say that a lot has happened over the past four years, and it's been a pretty crazy and unpredictable ride, but I'm not going to list what I think were the biggest events in tech during my time in the business. Firstly, most of it I would rather not relive, and secondly, anyone can find that out with a quick search on Google. Instead, I'm going to be shamelessly self-indulgent and note some of my favourite achievements; the best things I have done, seen, experienced, drank, eaten, sweated over and regurgitated during my time in tech so far, and why I think they were bloody great.
Something that sticks out in my memories of working here is my first trip to New York, a city I fell in love with straight away. It was the first opportunity I'd had to see the US, a place I'd been thirsty to visit since my pre-teen years, an era best summarised by a lot of running around causing mayhem, hyped-up on E-numbers. (I think many would agree that nothing much has changed.)
The trip was a visit to AT&T's Global Network Operations Centre, which is responsible for monitoring the company's network. It was just weeks after Hurricane Sandy had hit the east coast when we visited the centre, and it was fascinating to hear about the lengths the firm went to during the storm and the precautions that were made just before it struck. I learned how these efforts were part of a much larger strategy that has taken years of development and experience of similar natural disasters to ensure that customers don't run into network problems and weren't left without telephony, a pretty vital technology during a crisis.
The value of this trip, on top of all the over-excited Times Square selfies (see below), prompted my second visit to New York just a few months later when I went to see some product innovations from Acer. I stayed on a week in the city, working in Incisive's New York office. Left to my own devices, I think this was when I really came into my own as a reporter. Working in a different time zone meant it was the first time I was reporting independently and in charge of my own time and schedule, but with the same pressure to submit unique and original content before the team came online the following day. My boss at the time, Madeline Bennett, who also recently left The INQUIRER, gave me a free rein to chase stories and cover what I deemed were good investigative feature pieces.
I thought a good place to start was the city's startup scene, and after a week of nosing around and worming my way into events I probably shouldn't have been at, and talking to some of the growing community of developers, creatives, enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, it was evident pretty quickly that there's a large group of enthusiastic and innovative people all helping to drive the future of New York's tech industry.
One guy I met was architect Gordon Laplante who used online 3D printer designs shared by an open source group to build a 3D printer from scratch. Once it was built he used it to print parts to build his own much bigger version, all in the comfort of his living room in Brooklyn. Gordon has now built his own 3D printing empire, and it's amazing to see how the city's startup community has seen him grow into a big success from something he liked doing in his living room.
Travelling the world has been an incredibly enlightening and enriching part of my job as a reporter, and something I never expected. Getting to travel has been a bonus of an amazing job; a job where you get to speak to new people on a daily basis, constantly learn new things and are tested in such a way that you never make the same mistakes twice. This has opened me up to a whole new way of working and seeing things and, without sounding like a complete cheese ball, I feel I have developed some invaluable skills as I've grown from an inexperienced wannabe journalist into a more patient, thoughtful and developed writer and editor. I do realise I am going off on a tangent here, but what the heck? It's my last column for The INQUIRER, and I can write what the hell I want! (Suspicious looks over at the subs' desk.)
Something that is inherent to The INQUIRER is its coverage of the chip market, and as my main beat for the past three or so years I can't say it hasn't been challenging. It was definitely daunting taking over from Lawrence Latif after he left in 2013, and I felt I had a big hole to fill, especially considering that he has a PHD in computer science. Nevertheless, it's ended up being one of the most rewarding beats to cover during my time at The INQUIRER. From not really knowing that much about how a processor works, to writing in-death feature pieces about the ins and outs of how they function, it's been a very gratifying part of the job.
Having a good relationship with Intel, too, has been a very worthwhile experience as I am never quite prepared for what the firm has up its sleeve. The annual Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco gets better every year as it showcases the company's efforts to move away from the 'chipmaker' brand towards an all-encompassing Google-like company to power things such as healthcare and genomics that will actually help people and save lives.
Speaking of health, I can't not mention one of my highlights representing The INQUIRER on Acer's sponsored Three Peaks Challenge, which involved me and a bunch of other tech journalists hiking up the UK's three highest points in aid of Mountain Rescue, while using Acer phones to track our steps, of course.
To circumvent the risk of sounding boring, I have to give a nod to some of the amazing press parties and the Z-list celebrities that are usually paid to attend them (*cough* Samsung *cough*) over the past four years. Some especially noteworthy ones include EE's launch of its 4G service at Battersea Power Station, Sony's various events complete with ball pool, Call of Duty launches with Meat Liquor catering and Logitech's first Ultimate Ears bash, to name a few.
But undoubtedly one of the best things about working at The INQUIRER are the people I've worked alongside - Carly Page, the news editor, especially, who will continue to entertain your news-hungry minds with her witty lines. And how could I forget the readers? They are certainly not scared to voice their opinions, and definitely don't hold back in telling you if they don't agree. And that's always a good thing. It certainly gave me a thicker skin, and now I live for the comments. The harsher they are the better (come on guys, don't disappoint me on my last ever post!).
There's a million other things I could talk about in my last column, and how amazing it's been to feel like an integral part of an industry that is ever-growing and always throwing new, innovative things at you brought about by some truly inspirational people. But I'll stop here, and look forward instead of back, as I'm sure the next four years will be just as momentous, if not more so. Ta-ta for now! µ
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