Tonight was the kickoff meeting for the Roanoke Software Developers’ Forum. It was a decent crowd with Luna Innovations and NetVentures being the most notable representatives from Roanoke, and Mailtrust and CCS-inc, in addition to Brian and myself from Vision Point Systems, flying the Blacksburg flag. I’m sure I’ll end up commenting about the cross-valley interactions in many future posts. The dynamic is especially interesting to me since I live in Roanoke and work in Blacksburg.

The hope of this group is to expand what’s been started in Blacksburg earlier in the year. That group has blog here.

I look forward to contributing to the future roundtable discussions, instructional presentations, and social events that the group intends to sponsor. The hope is to mix the topics between broad topics that would be widely interesting to many people in the software industry, Test Driven Development for example, and specific narrow technologies or techniques that you’ll never get to hear about anywhere else (e.g. when to use PostgreSQL vs MySQL).

We’ll see where this goes, but anything that enhances the collective power and noteriety of technology in the Roanoke Region, is worthy of some of my and Vision Point Systems’ attention.

Jersey Again

December 16, 2008

My common Internet moniker is YankeeHoo. I thought it fitting to begin this sojourn into blogging while I’m near one of the roots of thisĀ  handle. Yankee, of course, refers to my upbringing in New Jersey, where I lived until I was 11. At the time of this writing, I am in a room at the very familiar Courtyard by Marriott in Basking Ridge, NJ. It’s a very interesting twist of fate that I have often returned to the Central Jersey region where I grew up. Over the last 6 years as a Vision Point Systems employee, I have probably stayed at this hotel on average of about 2 nights per month. While being an interesting part of my personal biography, I think the travel dynamic it exemplifies, may be of great interest to the general readers, especially those in SW VA or other geographically similar regions.

Roanoke, VA is about a 7.5 hour car ride from New York City. I would actually suggest this is an advantage for the region. I pulled into my client’s parking lot around 1:30 PM this afternoon after leaving at a fairly reasonable hour in the morning – enough time to get in some client face time, get some work done, and most importantly, bill hours. The potential to fly exists from Roanoke’s regional airport, but our company policy is to drive – not only because of cost and schedule constraints, but because it can take just as long to switch planes, rent a car, etc.

There are three points I want to make about this arrangement relating to consulting and business. I’ll start first with cost of living. Roanoke.org has a great cost of living calculator that allows you to see the disparity between the regions in terms of what resources would cost in various areas. We’ve been able to take advantage of this in our hourly billing rates to clients in the New York Metro Area and be very price competetive with local firms, while avoiding the headaches that come with comlplete offshoring.

My second point is that travel is required. We’ve been able to utilize many technologies over the years for remote support such as conference bridging, remote desktop, etc. These are great. However, one thing I keep getting reminded of, and was reminded of today again, is sitting accross the table from someone is sometimes the only way to understand if they really understand what’s being talked about, especially when designing complex systems.

My third and final point is geographic diversity and exposure is critical to any consultant’s sanity. I love living in Roanoke. I love the business community in Roanoke. The NCTC exemplifies the industrial diversity and relevance that the region has. At the same time, the culture, business environment, and way of life is dramatically different up here. I thoroughly enjoy coming up here (if sometimes only for the pizza). I also enjoy coming home, sometimes tired from the drive, but always recharged from the exposure.