Niall’s virtual diary archives – Sunday 25 June 2023

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Sunday 25 June 2023: 23:52. I ended up finishing my UK tax return rather later than expected – stupid scanner kept choking, in fairness it came with us from Canada a decade ago so it’s getting old, but it’s annoying when stuff nearly works but needs standing over – so I’ll need to make this quick.

There has been zero physical progress since my last post on my future house build as I went from wall building at the start of this month straight to Varna, Bulgaria for an ISO WG21 C++ standards meeting. To be honest, I didn’t much care for that meeting, I have been finding the atmosphere at WG21 meetings a touch negative since they resumed post-covid. There are a lot of people bitching about other people by name, others actively spreading negativity about other people by name, and well it didn’t used to be like that pre-covid. Last two meetings I must admit I’ve found them trying, I don’t care for people being mean to other people when what we’re supposed to be doing is standardising engineering practice. That ought to be collaborative, positive, be in terms of ‘how can I/we enable?’ rather than ‘how can I/we disable?’. Let’s hope it passes with time.

As much as my mood there was suboptimal and I found myself recoiling from participation from the endemic pervasive negativity, we did make substantial progress on P1030 std::filesystem::path_view. My enormous thanks to Elias Kosunan and Robert Leahy for staying up with me until the early hours to create a R6 based on LEWG requests earlier than day. I really do owe you guys a big one for that.

I especially thank Robert because I abandoned him at the end of that week by leaving MayStreet London Stock Exchange Group, where he was my manager and longest-putting-up-with-me coworker. I worked at MayStreet for four years three months or thereabouts, which is actually the longest I’ve ever worked anywhere in my whole life. The reason I stayed so long was the fully remote, the culture, the work, and the pay, all of which were up to the LSEG acquisition were well above average in the industry, and a combination of all four at once was rare. Unfortunately, the LSEG transition particularly impacted me more than most at the company – there was a generous payout if one stayed for three years after acquisition, but only if one signed an employment contract which required me to remove ALL my open source software from being open source. I felt that a showstopper for the monies on offer, LSEG were ‘take it or leave it’. Very much to their surprise at the time, I said no. I walked away from a six figure number rather than sacrifice my open source. LSEG HR was simply incapable of understanding why I would do that, they just didn’t get it. And that obviously started a clock ticking on me moving on.

For reference, old MayStreet did their very best to retain me, within what LSEG allowed them to do. The new contract it paid reasonably well, it had very generous expense allowances, and an immoral amount of vacation time. But total annual pay was capped by LSEG, there was zero accommodation to the Irish tax system which meant taxes were maximum possible, and there was no retention bonus like all the other MayStreet folk got. More importantly, I didn’t feel there was a long term future there for me – very clearly LSEG was going to grind MayStreet down by forcing out all the expensive staff and replacing them with cheaper staff, so MayStreet would become like the rest of Refinitiv. And that’s okay, they own the business now so they can do what they want with it, but that’s not somewhere I want to work.

Because I had no retention bonus, it cost me nothing to move on now rather than two years from now, so I started looking for a new US-based startup, as it tends to only be US startups who are willing to pay US levels of pay to fully remote European workers. I lucked out: I had been wanting to move into crypto finance, and a crypto fintech which looked promising turned up: They aim to build a better mousetrap of something well established, which I absolutely love in a startup. So after several months of campaigning, and also thanks to a particularly good recruiter named Chris Burgess, we got a deal done.

I started work at Monad at the beginning of this week, which has returned my pay to what I’d consider around current market pay for my skillset – MayStreet LSEG had implemented a pay freeze this year, plus hadn’t kept up with the increases in pay during the recent tech boom, which appears to have raised market pay by about 50% excluding inflation, so maybe 25% including inflation. So I’m back to market rates, and that enormously improves my ability to fund house building. But more on that later.

As part of new hire induction at Monad, I went straight from Varna, Bulgaria to New York where I had two days of onsite getting introduced to people and having meetings discussing what needs to get done and where everything is at. I returned home on Friday, and have been readjusting to all these time zone shifts with some difficulty since then.

It’s interesting to compare startups. I’ve worked for four or five at this stage now. They’re all unique. MayStreet very much had a ‘seniors only’ hiring policy, they only hired senior devs and usually ones from the WG21 committee at that. So most unusually you usually only needed to explain yourself once, and everybody was ridiculously capable. In this MayStreet was unique in my career, and I probably will never experience that again.

Monad is much more a tradititional startup – there are lots of twenty-something old devs, and three Gen X senior devs including me. Apologies now in advance for the use of Gen Something labels which some readers may interpret negatively, however I’m not sure at this late hour what would be better – We’re there to enable and facilitate the Gen Z’s. In any case, the Gen Z’s they very much treat their work life as being interchangeable with their private lives, much like the later Gen Y’s were doing but even more so, I couldn’t really disambiguate from spending time with them where they thought one began and another ended – which in itself is the wrong way to think about it, because they’re all just ‘fused’ from their perspective, as there is no separation.

I as a Gen X obviously can’t and never will understand that, so I won’t even try. Common to all younger people irrespective of generation is focus and concentration, specifically that they lack both due to being easily distracted. That was the same for my generation when young; people were complaining about it in Roman times so it’s certainly universal. It will be mine and the other ‘old men’s’ jobs to help them become more productive.

Anyway, the new job means that I think the cash funding gap should be closed by the end of the summer, before when the mortgage Approval In Principle expires. Assuming that build commencement could now occur before the end of 2023, I appointed lots more expensive design people. Here’s a list of them all, for completeness, in order of appointment:

  1. Robert Ryan, Passive House Certifier

    Robert (Bob) is one of the two Passive House Certifiers in Ireland, based out of Wicklow. His fees are what they are, they are actually set by Passive House HQ in Darmstadt so if you want certification, that costs what it costs.

  2. Stephen O’Leary, Architect

    Stephen is a qualified Passive House designer, with offices in London and Cork. His fees to date have been reasonable for the quantity of work done in my opinion. His is a brand new practice, only been in business for a year when we brought him onboard.

  3. BTP Consultants, Mechanical & Electrical

    They are UK based. I just appointed them for M&E having found nobody in Ireland willing to take on this project, which was disappointing. I tried really quite hard to find a M&E designer in Ireland ideally a small business who was not tied to a specific manufacturer, and would be independent. Everybody I approached in Ireland either refused the work, or didn’t respond at all. So I gave up, sourced the M&E design work from the UK, and to date (two weeks in!) they do seem okay, albeit rather expensive.

  4. Hilliard Tanner, Structural Engineering

    Hilliard is becoming something of a minor legendary engineer around southern Ireland, so I was very glad to have snagged him, however also slightly appalled at his expense because he is most definitely not cheap. He is based in Fermoy, Cork. I went to meet a bunch of other engineers around Cork, and I gotta be honest, I was not impressed. Hilliard impressed me, he has different opinions to me but he can justify them, and I didn’t have to teach him what I’m building here. He also answers email, and what you see is what you get with him. Most other consulting engineers around here could learn a thing about those small things, like replying in a timely fashion and actually studying the plans to have an idea about the client’s project before taking a meeting. Hilliard has come across as reliable, and that is very much what you want from an engineer. So I pay his fee, quality usually costs money.

  5. Still remaining unchosen: landscape and garden designer

    We originally had a landscape architect before even Stephen was appointed, but she rescinded her agreement which was unfortunate. We have made half hearted attempts to appoint a replacement, but because the garden keeps radically transforming in our minds, it seems a waste of money until we’ve definitely settled on what we’re looking for.

  6. Still remaining unchosen: possibly a lighting designer, and possibly a kitchen designer

    Megan is keen on a lighting designer for the main living space, probably due to anxiety about what I’ve got in mind for lighting the main living space. So I’ll probably buckle on that to relax her.

    She also mentions a kitchen designer, though if I’m blunt, I think she’s spent so much time walking around her future kitchen in VR that I don’t know how much a kitchen designer could add to that. I also have walked from the hob to the pantry, to the fridge, counted steps and spent time within VR where all the appliances are expected to go. I think we’ve optimised those placements as far as they can go – any further improvements mean sacrifice elsewhere.

House build spend

Which brings us to this, as it’s been three months since the last house build spend update. This will be up to 1st July 2023:

  • Spent: €195,759
  • Committed to be spent soon: €21,303
  • Current three month averaged spend rate: €3,696 per month

The four biggest ticket items in the past three months were: (i) Mains electricity connection fee (ii) M&E design deposit (iii) Continuing architect fees (iv) Even more ‘lego’ concrete blocks.

I think that’s the lowest monthly spend rate since I started this, so we have been successful in hoarding cash for the mortgage application. Obviously, that’s going to worsen shortly with all those design fees going out in the next three months. And, who knows, maybe a deposit to a builder? That alone would take the monthly spend rate over €20k per month. Sigh. That’s so much money .

Anyway, I don’t expect much further spending outside fees owed until the mortgage approval gets closed, certainly a month or two from now. It would be nice to see mains electricity activated however, so the fees for a RECI electrician to do the certification would need to go out for that.


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