[Courses] [Careers] Jacinta Richardson

Jacinta Richardson jarich at perltraining.com.au
Sun Mar 6 03:45:29 EST 2005

Mary wrote:
> On Thu, Mar 03, 2005, Jacinta Richardson wrote:
>>I did really well.  I realised that I was willing to learn about software, 
>>and never picked up an interest in knowing about hardware; so I chose the 
>>Software Engineering stream.  It was so much fun knowing that I could get 
>>the computer to do *exactly* what I told it to.
> What made you realise this? First year programming courses or something
> else?

I guess it must have been the first year programming courses.  Part of it was 
bound to be the whole "Hey, I'm actually *good* at this!" kind of thing, but a 
lot of it was realising that I could make things happen the way I wanted. 
Telling the computer to add 3 and 4 isn't very exciting.  A calculator can do 
that.  But a simple program which reads in scores, drops the highest and lowest, 
works out the mean: that's a good start.  Then reading in lots of scores, 
assigning gold, silver and bronze medals on not trivial criteria (think of the 
consequences of equal bests) and I started to appreciate that programming was 
not only useful, but fun!

>>My final year project was the first time I really noticed any 
>>discrimination. Because I would rather get things done or spend time at 
>>home relaxing rather than going to the pub with my team mates (at the end 
>>of a long day), it was somehow assumed that I was not a team player.
> Was this discrimination of the "you're a girl" type or of the "you don't
> drink with us!" type?

The discrimination didn't come from my team mates, on the whole, although by not 
spending social time with them, I certainly didn't help my case later.  The 
project was assessed by two very harried lecturers.  One of these lecturers 
seemed to do a lot of his assessing over drinks at the pub.  He never saw me 
there, I never spent time socialising with him and thus I presume he assumed I 
didn't spend as much time on the project at the others.  The other lecturer saw 
that I was fairly outspoken on issues such as giving up (more) weekend time to 
work on the project and on similar issues and admitted afterwards that that, and 
the other lecturer's opinion were the reason my mark was so (comparitively) poor.

Neither lecturer seemed aware of how much actual work I had done.  When I 
pointed out that I had committed 90% of *all* the changes in the last few weeks, 
that helped a bit.  Like any university project, there were key players and 
bludgers.  Of our team of 18, myself and a guy called Michael were the miracle 
makers.  His miracles were noted because he spoke up about staying up all 
weekend to pull them off.  Mine were not, because (stupidly) I assumed they 
spoke for themselves.  (Which they did - to certain other team members, but to 
be fair the lecturers can't be expected to noticed everything.)

In my team of 18 there were 3 girls (including me).  We were all key players. 
There were about 4 male key players as well.  Although I have no proof that it 
was sexual discrimination, all three of us girls got lower marks both than we 
expected and than the guys got.  Some of the bludgers got higher marks than us, 
which *really* bothered me.

>>* At the end of the year Paul and I noticed that our direction and the 
>>other people in the company had diverged.  So we broke off and started Perl 
>>Training Australia (PTA).  Some of my long term clients came with me, and 
>>others stayed with the previous company.  I continued to work full time for 
>>ITS and casually for PTA.
> What kind of casual work were you doing at the time? I've always found
> finding casual computing work above "get this computer on the network"
> difficult to find.

I did various kinds of casual work over my career.  Most of the casual 
consulting I did during University and that I somewhat formalised when we 
started the first company; was database back-ended web development in PHP or 
Perl.  I also did some Y2k testing.  I gained all of this work from a few 
friends of friends (one who has stayed a steady client of mine all the way since 

The tutoring work I did at the university was also "casual".  Before the start 
of each semester we'd be encouraged to re-register as a tutor/demonstrator. 
Then in the first week, once we'd gotten our timetables, we'd mark down our 
preference spots for tutorials.  We'd be told what we'd received and we'd run 
those sessions for the rest of semester.

Technically the work I did for the first company we set up was casual, but 
that's just a fancy way of saying that I wasn't a director and we all brought in 
our own work, and worked on it.  The business got a cut of the income from our 
work and we all did our best to make the business bigger so it could generate 
its own work.  The work I did was carried on from my clients I'd had while at 
University, so it was all database back-ended web development.

My casual work for PTA was very different.  Paul set up the company and did most 
of the running of it.  I helped out by managing the advertising, organising 
public training courses, handling my long-term clients etc.  In a small business 
you get to do pretty much everything.  Of course most of my work was done during 
the evenings and on weekends, because I was also working full-time, but I 
presume the help was invaluable.  ;)

>>* Now I'm manager, director, training coordinator, trainer, training 
>>materials writer and developer.
> What proportion of time you do spend on each of these things? Which of
> them do you feel you enjoy the most?

It's back to being a small business owner.  I spend *all* of my time on all of 
these things (and more).  But I'll see what I can do.

Being a director doesn't take much time.  Probably about 2 hours a year.  The 
Australian law says that, as a director, I am required to have a sound 
understanding of the company's financial position and make yearly statements to 
the effect that we're solvent.

About 60% of my time is spent on being the training coordinator.  This involves 
planning the next year's public course calendar (keeping in mind any new courses 
we wish to write and any conferences we wish to attend), advertising the 
courses, taking course bookings, organising training facilities, organising the 
printing of notes, buying airplane fares and accommodation, handling enquiries 
and all other course planning related thigns.

Currently about 5% of my time is spent actually training.  This is because Paul 
is a better trainer than me and someone has to man (or woman) the office.  I 
still get to help out when we have large classes.

About 20% of my time is spent working on training materials.  This includes both 
writing new courses and updating current courses.

The remaining time is spent on development and management.  This is never enough 
time to finish all of the projects which we've foolishly said yes to, but we 
manage somehow and our clients still love us.

I enjoy all the training related stuff most.  We used to be much more a 
development shop, but development doesn't pay well, is always hard to properly 
scope and has much less closure than training.  With a training course, it's 
over when you walk out the door at 5:30pm (or so).  Some clients will contact us 
with a few questions from time to time, but on the whole once we've done the 
training that's it - until next time.

With training, there's no niggling "could you change all of the font tags to 
xyz?", or "this doesn't work quite like I expected, could it do a, b, c as 
well?" etc.  Or the things which are hard to quote on when you're asked to 
itemize the quote, but which end up taking more time than the original work. 
The deadlines are easier too.  You don't find that a project sits in the 
decision stage for 3 months and then must be done *right now*!

Actually, that last bit does happen with training occasionally, but we can 
usually manage it.

I'd like to like development more.  I really miss coding.  But my problem is 
that development work is about 90% management and 10% coding and, by and large, 
the customers only want to pay for the coding bit.  Writing training materials 
is fun though.

all the best,


    ("`-''-/").___..--''"`-._          |  Jacinta Richardson         |
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