Charles Schwab & Company
|Welcome to my musings about the workplaces I've inhabited. These pages follow in the tradition of my travel pages. I market myself on the pages dedicated to my résumé. The two ought not be confused.|
During much of 1997 I was the Contract Senior Technical Lead for Charles Schwab & Company's intranet. I was part of a great team, one that delivered content to everyone in the San Francisco headquarters (and someday, pipes willing, to the branch offices).
The Schwab Daily News - a pictoral newspaper - replaced a faxed version dispatched to each office (and posted by each floor's elevators). A team of writers upstairs on the twenty-first floor worked with our crack staff of bit-twiddlers and graphic artists to produce a lively, colorful, and rather informative rag. We were all rather proud of it. We overcame a lot of technical and political problems about supported browsers and technologies. Things were either too simple and thin or too complex and too fat to stuff down the available pipes. Never a dull moment. (Not to mention being an oasis of productive Macintosh users in a desert of struggling Windows users.)
The first member of what would evolve over the year into a very small staff located fifteen floors above San Francisco's Financial District, I took over an unwanted hallway office and turned it into the ultra-hip "fishbowl" (so-called because of the large plate-glass window that dominates the workscape. The novelty stick-on goldfish were added in honor of the name by our boss from the stock of memorables from a shop she ran in Sausalito.) It was a collection of misfits, oddballs, and cutting-edge geeks. No wonder the other employees were drawn to our office in droves. They'd never seen anything like it. No polo shirts here, nor boat shoes. Bald heads, good music, geeky posters, hardware scattered all over the place.
One of the high points of my contract tenure at Schwab was putting on the Human Resources offsite in the Napa valley. I was given the task only a month before the annual meeting was scheduled to happen. I coördinated delivering ISDN with Pacific Bell, routing with my local Internet service provider, and PC and UNIX hardware with a local rental company.
The picture at right shows be in the fishbowl during the week before the offsite. I had three Sun Microsystems SPARCstations with Solaris 2.6 serving web pages with Netscape's Enterprise Server. Perl CGIs were the gateway between the browser (both Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator) and the database (Oracle).
Two of the SPARC boxes are sitting on the rack at right, with one monitor and keyboard being shared between them. Another - with a smaller monitor - can be seen behind my left shoulder. (During the offsite I had a triply-redundant system in case of problems. After all, it's my only my pride at stake here.) Behind my right shoulder is a monitor being driven by my PowerBook. A Macintosh IIcx acting as a test web server and our stereo boom box is on the shelf above me. (It's sometime around midnight, and I'm barefoot, wearing aikido gi pants and a Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory tee-shirt given to me by my dad. If memory serves, a Crash Test dummies CD is playing.) The person taking the picture has their back against a plate glass window to the outside.
The view through that window (albeit at midday) is shown below.
We delivered a tidy package of process, content, and maintainable well-debugged sofware, all working together to provide the mostly non-technical Schwab company audience with an easy-to-navigate daily newspaper (with an archive and search engine), personal home pages (with a dynamic CGI to allow easy editing), and much of the corporate policy in searchable, readable format. We win!
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