Local Growth and Structured Expansion
Fri Jan 3 17:30:23 2014
For Shadowcat Systems 2013 was an 'interesting' year. By which I wish to bring instantly to mind the old proverb/curse 'may you live in interesting times'. We had periods of growth, change, evolution and also loss. We lost both long-standing and fondly liked staff who needed to move on in their careers, and of loved ones.
However, for many in the company it was also a period of personal growth and development. We managed to grow the staff at the central SC office and to expand our alumni of worldwide quality staff. At the same time we also celebrated those staff who stayed in our 'mad organisation' for another year.
As always Shadowcat kept a strong commitment to local and worldwide community organisations being members of many projects and groups which would just look like a directory listing if I were to repeat them here. However, I would like to reflect on the highlights of our year gleaned from news and blogs from the company site.
We started the year by adding our first intern for some time, in fact since 2006, to the staff. Tom Bloor joined us for a trial run as a programmer. Matt attended the Perl Oasis, first Perl event of the year, and gave a talk. Mark Keating gave a presentation at the Lancaster Tweet-ups on Open Source and we trialled a Lancaster Hackspace meeting in the SC offices.
It was announced in this month that Mark Keating and Matt S. Trout would both be giving keynote presentations at the YAPC::NA in Austin, Texas. Mark was to open the conference with his Perl of Christmas Past talk and Matt would close on the final day with Future Perl.
Shadowcat announced that it would be offerring cPanel and WHM support for those people wishing to develop modules and services for this platform.
Jack Knight who has been responsible for the caricatures and Steampunk Cats that we have been creating for use in our promotional items ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for his first exhibition and we were glad to be a part of that.
On a lighter note we decided this month to sponsor the Lancaster Beer Festival as part of our 8th Birthday celebrations which would happen in March~April.
This month was all about Ian as he chose to attend and speak at two separate networking conferences. The first was the OpenNMS conference in Germany and the second would be FlossUK in Newcastle. At both of these events Ian talked about Exim and Perl.
Mark also joined the local, Hermes, chapter of the Business Network International (BNI) as Shadowcat continued to grow its local community presence to complement the international presence in the Perl community.
April was the most mixed bag of months for the Shadowcat offices filled with both great joy, fun and fellowship and also loss.
At the start of the month we mourned the loss of Adrian Trout who passed away at the end of March. The loss was felt by a large number of the staff who had grown to love and admire Adrian over the many years we knew him.
Then we were lifted as the Shadowcat Team and Lancaster University hosted the Perl Quality Assurance Hackathon. Luminaries from the Perl world, and great friends to us all, visited Lancaster. A particular delight for me was to have Dave Golden, Ricardo Signes, Andreas Konig and Barbie all discussing an issue around a board in the Shadowcat offices. There were also many people who I had met only virtually along with friends of many similar events and conferences. It was a great joy for the staff to have the irrepressible Liz and Wendy of Djikmat as our guests.
First design on Grey t-shirt
April also saw the arrival of t-shirts bearing artwork by the wonderful Jack Knight and we may have traumatised the children of Lancaster by garrotting Pingu and hanging him from the office windows.
Pingu hanging from the window
Pingu on his Jibbet
The month of May was the start of a period of tumult and change in the Shadowcat offices as we moved from our old offices to a new unit that boasts more space and a better layout. This meant a period of planning and moving so as to create a minimum level of disruption as possible to the team, our clients and the services we provide.
In June we completed the move, well we completed phase one of the move, involving people but not configuration of services, to the new offices. Mark and Matt flew to Texas and presented keynotes at the YAPC::NA.
In this month Matt was invited to speak at the YAPC::Asia conference in Tokyo. Matt was unfortunately unable to attend due to personal reasons but it was a great honour to be recognised by the world's largest Perl event.
Setting up Desks
The auxillary server/network box
The Shadowcat Cats are Framed
Ian and Tom moving the larger rack (Darth Vader's Coffin)
We were now moved into our new offices so the first thing we decided to do was design and build our own access control system. We had the expertise and experience to handle the project, it would be unique to the company and we could code it in Perl.
This month was also the announcement of the London Perl Workshop which would be staffed by a large number of the Shadowcat Team. It was also the start for our newest team member. Bobby, a 10-year-old rescue dog from the local charity was adopted by Ian and Claire and quickly became a familiar sight at the SC offices.
Little Bobby Tables
In August Matt S. Trout once again gave a keynote at a major Perl event, this time at the YAPC::Europe held in Kiev. Meanwhile the short passage that Mark Keating wrote for the frontispiece of The Empty House, a book to raise funds for the Undershaw Trust, was translated into six languages. Mark has now been published, albeit just one page, in several countries.
Text in 6 Languages
We joined the Chamber of Commerce as part of our continued drive to be a strong member in our local community.
During July we competed for a Small Business Award as a part of the White Cross Business Awards 2013. In August we were happy to receive an award of three thousand pounds to help towards staff expansion and training. It was a great challenge and something we had never before considered and we were extremely grateful to be considered and to be in receipt of the award.
Mark Keating receiving the Business Award at the Shadowcat Systems offices on Wednesday, 21st August
Mark joined the first cohort of the Lancashire Forum in September after a succesful application. The initiative is aimed at bringing together business, government and academia and to helping companies to grow. Mark was delighted to be given the opportunity to attend the six month programme of events.
In the continuing new office developments Mark and Ian altered a treadmill to become a walking desk for Mark (and any other staff member who wishes) to use in the office. It is part of a continuing focus on staff health and welfare that is being developed in the company.
Mark and Ian were both enrolled onto a project management course at CETAD in order to further their own personal skills utilising funds from part of the award we received from White Cross.
Tom, the intern we employed earlier in the year, was finally offered a full-time position in the Shadowcat offices in Lancaster. Tom had proved himself a capable learner and a fun member of the team and was a natural fit for the offices. It was a great experience taking a new learner into the fold, helping to guide their development and seeing them progress and finally being able to employ them full time.
Shadowcat showed a continuing support for the local community by electing to be a sponsor of the Social Media for Women conference to be held in Preston in November. The event would be open to all but have women-only presenters.
November is always a busy month for the Shadowcat Team as we organise the madness that is the yearly London Perl Workshop, however we added to that this month with a brace of new staff and events.
Ribasushi and Kieren Diment both joined the list of developers working as the main team while in the Shadowcat offices we took on extra admin help in the shape of Claire. At the same time we appointed Ian Norton as a general manager and moved towards improving our methods and processes even further.
We presented at the Manchester one-up conference where Mark gave a talk and Ian ran a workshop for the university students.
Once again the young Jack Knight delivered a new caricature, this time of the newly-titled Ian done in glorious cyberpunk engineer form.
To finish the year the team were working hard to organise projects over the holiday period. We started to wind down a year filled with expansion and experimentation and a year focussed on local growth.
We didn't stop the fun that accompanies the Shadowcat life, it is our brio to mix pleasure and whimsy with the very serious and stress filled world of software development. Jack Knight finally popped into the offices for a coffee and to sketch our newest recruit, and later the same month we took possession of another wonderful sketch from him of Claire.
The wonderful Jack Knight of Knight Time Creations
Jack scetching while mapping out ideas with Claire
December also saw a refresh of the look of the Shadowcat website and a re-organisation of some of the material.
As always I write these reviews at the start of the New Year. In my usual manner I am often critical of making promises or resolutions at the start of a year, it seems inappropriate until one has finally wrapped the previous year. I always like to take a few weeks to settle into the annum and determine the best approach to the year. I would not have started 2013 thinking of so much expansion. I considered company growth but not to the level we achieved.
However I do have some plans and ideas and so does my prescient partner, Matt, and we hope to fulfil a vast number of things throughout this year.
One thing is certain, you will learn of them in the news section of the Shadowcat Site.