Freelancer

Original post date: December 2012, Update: December 2015

There is a mountain just couple of kilometers south of our weekend house that is actively blocking our view toward unknown and beyond. It is not too big, just about one kilometer high, rounded in shape, overgrown in surrounding forests with large plains on the top. In the past, from the years of my early childhood till today I had different feelings about that mountain. First, it was the real edge of the world when I thought there was nothing behind. Then I grew into my teen ages when I unsuccessfully wanted to conquer it and plant a flag on the biggest rock of the highest peek possible. When that was over I dreamed about living there in a forest shack in sort of utopian kind of equilibrium with nature itself. There was a time when I just hated it for blocking my nightly sky from the southern constellations and galactic center lying somewhere in the direction of Sagittarius and Scorpius. Now, I only want to pay her a visit someday and see how mountain was looking at me all those years from the opposite direction. To feel the raw and pure freedom while glimpsing back from the highest ground in the neighborhood that is peeking there for millions of years in the past and no doubt for millions to come.

Crni Vrh & Ulanac, mountain peaks

Every time when we are spending days at our weekend house first thing we see when we approach the village is that mountain. She is also the last sight we see when we return home. Over the years this wild mountain left a deep stamp in my mind simply because I built an equal sign between a feeling about something pure and truly free and this remarkable natural monument. In a way it was her that influenced me the most when it comes to choosing jobs in my entire career so far. During my education, especially within my university time, I had different plans for my professorial life after receiving my degree. My life was streaming in a way parallel with computers and their growth. They matured more or less in the same time with my generation and it was no big surprise we hooked on and understood each other very well. Ever since, I learned and practiced more programming languages than I could count on my both hands and modestly speaking I could say about myself that I stood out of average programmer profile. Even though my acquired and from time to time recognized knowledge opened many doors for different careers in different industries here in Serbia and on couple of occasions abroad, sometimes intentionally and sometimes by pure chance I rejected all the 'big' opportunities and tried to keep as much freedom as possible and avoid desk or cubical jobs in big circles. I know I probably lost big part of the fortune in a form of money and material things but from the opposite point of view I got lots of free time and also flexible professional time I am the only tailor of.

But, for a moment, let me share a small update to the old post with couple of thoughts I've got on my mind on this very evening, just a day away from the new year eve. Actually two things inspired me for updating this post after three years of the first draft. First is the mountain, of course. Recently I learned that there is slight possibility that this particular peak, called 'Crni Vrh (Black Peak)' I was referring to, is actually an old extinguished volcano. I found this information in one Serbian newspaper and tried to explore this more. I contacted professor Pavle Premović referenced in the article* and talked with him about this possibility and even though this is still not confirmed he pointed me in the further literature (mainly research of famous Serbian scientist Jovan Cvijić) to study about Serbian old mountains and extinguished volcanoes. I am sure I will be returning to this topic and this very peak in the future, especially after I found that numerous deposits of volcanic rock Andesite was found in this formation. From our last short visit to the peak last month, I even found couple of strange looking rocks obviously rich in quartz, so stay tuned, I might have interesting story about my 'freelancer inspiration mountain' in couple of months.

Freelancer by Jake Lingwall*

Second inspiration is of course, the book. I have just finished reading of Jake Lingwall novel 'Freelancer' and simply put, it is one of the best SciFi stories I read in a while. Jake is also a software developer, probably also freelancer like myself and with this debut novel he is definitely standing side by side with other great Verne type of SciFi authors I wrote on the blog on several occasions. If you add to his 'Freelancer' story a hint of Cyberpunk flavor, what you get is one great entertainment you should not miss. I am not going to spoil the plot for you and all I can say is that I already purchased the sequel published couple of days ago.

But let's get back from the update diversion to the main story and my glimpse to the freelance world. I am aware that not all occupations are capable of this lifestyle and to tell you the complete truth, even now in my freelancing environment I am not exactly and completely free. Even though my only tool (besides little gray cells) is a small laptop computer and even though I usually work from my office, living room, bed or once or twice from under the apple tree of our weekend house's back yard I still have obligations toward my partners and established deadlines. However, it is a very good feeling that next year will be twenty years from the time when I wore the tie for the last time. The big event was my wedding and even today when I look pictures of me from then I again get another proof that I made a good decision. The person on those images and me are no doubt two different individuals.


To better understand freelancing in the area of software development, let me describe one of my typical working day happened recently. I got up around 8AM in the morning, performed all usual activities with no rush and with not big concerns for my appearance and outfit, made a breakfast for my wife and son, went to living room where I decided to work this month, turned the computer on and start planning my daily duties. It was the day when we scheduled deployment of a second update of one of our important software to the equally important customer. Mark, colleague of mine and project leader went to the customer's office and started testing of data flow between three software modules we worked on in previous week or so. All possible issues they caught during testing I had to fix in real time during work hours. On several occasions I intervened and fixed issues and bugs and everything went smoothly, much better than I anticipated. I even had enough time to go downtown for some errands, to pay some monthly bills and to sledge Viktor to the school before lunch. Later in the late afternoon I found couple of hours at the end of the day to work on another project I was also engaged to. When a day passed well like this I enjoy the rest of the evening much better and if I remember correctly on that specific day Viktor and I played a little with cubes building a small castle for piggies that bunch of angry birds toys destroyed little later in a flash of a second. The day ended with two extremely funny episodes of Tim Allen's "Last Man Standing". I have to admit, it is not always like that, having a perfect and enjoyable day - often there are also those other days completely opposite. For example, when Mark and I worked on that very same project for the first time, couple of months ago, due to some unseen difficulties we broke all possible deadlines and ended both finishing the last line of the code during our vacations. We were on our vacation in Greece where I had to finish remaining functions and to do that I had to position myself on one small area in the room where wireless internet was only stable enough with only three lines on WiFi strength meter. Bad thing was that air conditioner was the strongest on that very spot and it was either that or to go outside and work by the pool on 40ºC (104ºF). Good thing was that we managed to finish it and to satisfy the customer at the end. On a bright side because of this unplanned engagement I managed to avoid frying and burning of my skin on a big scale.

Anyway, working a a freelancer is my choice but to be completely honest now, it is not very secure comparing to stable and situated jobs within big corporations or educational environments. This is the main reason why I accepted long term and full time contract when my partner offered couple of years ago. Today I am working in a little bit modified freelancing engagement. I still work from my office or places of my choosing but I do it full time and exclusively for my partner in Denmark. I surely have some tails from my former life and people I worked before and when I have free time when they call I gladly help with my advice or consulting but i only do that simply because a man can never be an island really. Everybody needs to have and maintain friends and acquaintances, otherwise the danger of real solitude is inevitable.


I have one regret though. Even though, after 20 years in software development, within some of projects I was involved with where my code is still running and useful, I have that feeling that I still didn't make some real contribution in my professional career. This is probably just an illusion and maybe caused by my dilemma I had back in high school when I chose software development over science. Like I said in last year post named Computer Life - First 30 Years, I was on the edge by choosing my professional career and was ready to go for science, most likely in physics or astronomy as those two fascinated me at the time the most but computers in those times were equally mysterious and challenging and they won in photo finish.

Image refs:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B019IBL744/ref=series_rw_dp_sw
** http://www.onextrapixel.com/2012/07/23/how-to-be-more-productive/

Refs:
*http://www.24sata.rs/mapa-srbija-je-izgradena-na-ugasenim-vulkanima
http://tesla.pmf.ni.ac.rs/lgc/pprem.htm


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