Feeds

Dominic Connor

Contact Mail Follow Twitter RSS feed
Dominic Connor used to boss IT pros and quants around in banks, and now recruits people for less crappy jobs in the City.

The gift of Grace: COBOL's odyssey from Vietnam to the Square Mile

Cobol is the language most associated with mainframes, especially the IBM System 360 whose 50th anniversary is being celebrated or at least commemorated this week. But when COBOL was first spawned in the mid-1950s, it wasn’t intended for programmers. It was aimed instead at “accountants and business managers” – basically a Stone …
Dominic Connor, 08 Apr 2014
Sinclair ZX80

Your kids' chances of becoming programmers? ZERO

Almost overnight in the early 1980s, hordes of British kids embraced programming, as did many adults, delivering the most IT-literate workforce in the world. It was a big reason why the nosediving economy of the '70s and '80s didn’t crash and burn. Well, that or Thatcherism, you choose. Why BASIC? In the early 1970s and early …
Dominic Connor, 06 Nov 2013

The 10 most INHUMAN bosses you'll encounter: A Reg reader's guide

Your boss could well be a barely restrained psychopath. Indeed, it is probable that he is the living incarnation of Cthulhu himself. Or he may be a bumbling incompetent who'll sink your career along with his. You, the downtrodden techie, need to learn how to deal with him - and fast. First, stop thinking of him as a person …
Dominic Connor, 05 Nov 2013
Tojiro Senkou 15cm kitchen knife

A short, sharp tool kit to get you to the top in financial IT

Congratulations, you’ve started moving up the food chain. But there is still a long way to go. Having been an occasionally competent head of IT at a midsize City firm after working my way up, I’d like to share with you things I should have known then. These are the lessons I’ve learned at some cost to both my employers and …
Dominic Connor, 02 Jul 2013
The Playmobil bank set, complete with armed robber

How City IT is under attack from politicians, diesel bugs, HR

The stupidest thing I’ve ever said was “if it was a jet, the tower would have collapsed” on September 11th and I feel the same about RBS. As I pass it most days, part of me expects to see crowds outside, perhaps including the police and TV camera crews, because I can’t understand why it still functions. The Reg has covered in …
Dominic Connor, 27 Jun 2013
Resignation_videogame_02

When to say those three little words: 'I am quitting'

My despair as El Reg's resident job expert is that you people sometimes can’t even follow basic simple advice. For example, when I wrote about pay cuts, some arts grad commented that he’d immediately quit. I shall type this slowly so you understand: You... quit... when... it... suits... you. Not out of spite, not for revenge, …
Dominic Connor, 17 Jun 2013

Girls, beer and C++: How to choose the right Comp-Sci degree for you

You choose your degree when you’re still a child, even though at 16 or 17 you may not feel like one. When I look back at some of my own teenage decisions, I shudder, and you will too when you think back to your younger years. But perhaps, armed with the advice below, you can avoid the common pitfalls and stumbling blocks on the …
Dominic Connor, 14 Jun 2013

Think you're ready to make a big career bet? Read this first...

Disclaimer: Before taking any of my advice be aware that I once bet my career on OS/2 and that in all my careers articles my ambition is to help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made. The Politburo at The Reg wants me to stick my neck out and show some trends in this “future” thing that young people seem so keen on nowadays …
Dominic Connor, 31 May 2013
interview_suit_and_tie

So you want to be a contractor? Well, here's how it works

Back in the heady days of 1984, working on the development of Microsoft Unix (yes, that was a real product, AKA Xenix), we needed to write an Ethernet driver, but none of us really felt up to that. We needed to hire an expensive specialist. And so I met my first contractor, who turned up in a far better car than anyone else and …
Dominic Connor, 20 May 2013
shutterstock_interview_sidey

Is the IT industry short on Cobolers? This could be your lucky day

Let's make one thing clear: your previous jobs are not the reason why you were hired. You were hired for having skills that bosses need. People are employed because they are needed to do things that must be done, not because they can do something that is merely desired. It’s not all bad news. The current Big Data hype means …
Dominic Connor, 01 May 2013
Ferrari F430. Photo © by Rudolf Stricker

IT salaries: Why you are a clapped-out Ferrari

As a tech careers writer I regularly receive noise about the UK IT “skills shortage", which makes as much sense as saying there’s a shortage of Ferraris. I know this because, according to Blighty's Office for National Statistics, the average weekly pre-tax pay in “computer programming, consultancy and related activities” in 2012 …
Dominic Connor, 12 Apr 2013

Spotting a Big Data faker as you set up Big Data for someone

Having read my last Big Data piece, I fear that some of you will try to blag your way out of the declining Oracle/Java/VB market without the legs to support what’s on your CV. This article is not for you: it’s for the poor souls who have to catch you out whilst trying to get in someone who’s at least mildly competent. There are …
Dominic Connor, 28 Mar 2013

Reg man bested in geek-to-geek combat - in World War 3 nerve centre

During the Cold War, Neatishead in Norfolk was theoretically the worst place in the UK to live: the nearby RAF base would be target Number One if the Russians nuked us. This was brought home to me in a guided tour by a retired officer, whose old job was to run Blighty’s air defence. Standing in the 1980s-era Cold War control …
Dominic Connor, 28 Mar 2013
Apple iPad 4

iPads in education: Not actually evil, but pretty close

Education in the USA has long been a stronghold of Apple, the venerable Apple II being cheap and tough enough to survive in that hostile environment, skool. But Apple’s gouging of UK consumers meant the prices were so high back in the day that it was worth flying to New York and paying air fares hotel and taxes to buy the beast …
Dominic Connor, 26 Mar 2013
Apple Power Mac G4 Cube

Apple share-price-off-a-cliff: Told you that would happen

I was allowed to write this piece because in November I wrote to our glorious editor after a London Quant's Group seminar to say that the price of Apple shares would tank sooner rather than later. As you all know, that’s just what happened - from just shy of $800 to the mid $400s. The reason I don’t make all that much money out …
Dominic Connor, 25 Mar 2013

Help save the endangered QUANTUM OWL, pleads Reg man

I’m sitting in Faraday’s lecture theatre where electricity was first demonstrated, taking part in yet another Royal Institution near-death experience. You need to drop your simplistic idea that the RI is about the Christmas Lectures we all know and love: it runs by far the largest UK science outreach programme, hitting around …
Dominic Connor, 25 Mar 2013
Wrapping Tidal Enterprise Scheduler around Hadoop

I used to be an Oracle DBA ... but now I'm a Big Data guru

As the demand for Oracle skills fades along with VB and as even Java loses its shine, the smart developer is looking at what will pay the bills for the next decade. As an ITpro you have to bet your career every few years and Big Data is too obvious an opportunity to pass up. The problem being that it’s not a single product that …
Dominic Connor, 20 Feb 2013

Where were the bullet holes on OS/2's corpse? Its head ... or foot?

My last piece on OS/2 was in part a mea culpa, a history of my part in its downfall. However, I can't claim all the credit. In fact, if I'm honest, there were hundreds of reasons why OS/2 failed, and most of them had nothing to do with me. So, here are some of the real corkers. Once upon a time, IBM made extraordinary money out …
Dominic Connor, 26 Nov 2012

IBM insider: How I caught my wife while bug-hunting on OS/2

The unholy alliance of IBM and Microsoft unleashed OS/2 25 years ago with a mission to replace Windows, Unix and DOS. Back then, I was a foot-soldier in that war: a contract bug hunter at Big Blue. Here’s how I remember it. By cruel fate, an even crueller editor has decreed that a quarter of a century later I must write an …
Dominic Connor, 23 Nov 2012
Sweatshop with boss, c.1888

How to spot a terrible tech boss within SECONDS

Having been an occasionally competent manager I know that nowhere in the spectrum from micromanagement to management-by-email suits everyone. In fact, you people don’t even know what sort of boss you want. Your imaginary “manager I like” is really just the opposite of your most hated real-life superior, but what's missing is the …
Dominic Connor, 12 Nov 2012
shutterstock_interview_sidey

Mmm, what's that smell: Coffee or sweat? How to avoid a crap IT job

Do not try picking up a girl with the line: “You’re not as fat as my current girlfriend; if you sleep with me I’ll drop her as soon as she’s finished painting our bedroom.” Trust me on this, it doesn’t work. It should set off alarm bells in anyone's head. Yet during job interviews, hopefuls are told things like: “We’re ditching …
Dominic Connor, 05 Nov 2012

Is running IT for the Olympics the worst job in the world?

It's going to be the Worst Tech Job in the world ... or the best. It all depends on how the Olympics IT works this summer. Michele Hyron will be either in front of a Parliamentary committee explaining why the tech at the Olympics was a fiasco, or enjoying a well-earned rest - because she is ATOS's chief integrator for the Games …
Dominic Connor, 23 Jul 2012
The Register breaking news

How to screw LIBOR and alienate people

The financially illiterate arts graduates MPs who tried to question Bob Diamond last week never stood a chance of getting down to how it was possible in the first place to screw with the single most important set of numbers in finance. So if you know an MP or someone at the Financial Services Authority, pass this on to them. …
Dominic Connor, 10 Jul 2012
The Register breaking news

So, that vast IT disaster you may have caused? Come in, sit down

The RBS computer fiasco gives me an excuse to write about a sideline I have in interrogating IT professionals who are suspected of doing bad things. Sometimes it is quite hard to objectively tell the difference between incompetence and malice. In fact it is rare that either are the root cause of the worst screw-ups. The most …
Dominic Connor, 03 Jul 2012
The Register breaking news

Do you work in IT at RBS? Or at the next place to get hit ...?

Those nice people at RBS have provided me with a worked example for how you can best get through fan-hitting situations without having to take up minicab driving or going to work in local government. What I’m writing applies to the any of the very worst of screw-ups, when technology has gone so wrong that the IT director cancels …
Dominic Connor, 29 Jun 2012
The Register breaking news

Quitting your job? Here's how not to do it

You can't take it with you... There is a tradition of “off-site backups” for handy bits of code and data that you’ve worked with at your current employer. At most firms you could fit every line of source code together with a complete customer list on the free USB stick you got at a conference. This is a really dumb thing to do …
Dominic Connor, 29 Mar 2012
The Register breaking news

You're crap and paid too much for the little work you actually do

You’re not getting paid as well as you should. I know this not only because you’re bothering to read this, but also because most techies are crap at extracting cash from their employers. It shouldn’t shock you too much to learn that I, as a City headhunter and former contractor, focus quite hard on money - so here's a few ideas …
Dominic Connor, 21 Mar 2012
The Register breaking news

Think your CV is crap? Your interview skills are worse

The applicant stared like a rabbit caught in headlights at the interviewer. shutterstock_job_interview_in_story Image via Shutterstock He did not have a clue how to answer the question, so he decided to mumble something unintelligible because it would help him sound more clever as he racked his brain. Was it a fearsome query …
Dominic Connor, 17 Nov 2011
The Register breaking news

Why your tech CV sucks

No, really. Your CV really, really stinks. I read these things for a living and the quality varies a lot more than it should considering what you are selling. Over the next few years you are asking to be paid more than the cost of a Ferrari and the desk space, computer kit and coffee you use over that time means you cost at …
Dominic Connor, 10 Nov 2011
The Register breaking news

PowerPivot: a new spin on understanding your business

The Catch 22 of business intelligence is that to understand your business, you have to deal with vendors who want to “understand your business”, better known as “see how much we can charge you”. You then have to hope that something you don’t know might be really valuable. The most useful results are surprises not suited to the …
Dominic Connor, 26 Oct 2011
Java Toaster - sunshine toast

Put down the Java manual

Apparently, there is a perceived shortage of C# and Java programmers. Certainly a good percentage of all job ads are for these languages. That’s good if you already have these skills, but a much weaker signal when deciding what to learn if you’re a newbie. As far as I can tell you’re not allowed to graduate from high school in …
Dominic Connor, 04 Oct 2011
The Register breaking news

How to go from the IT dept to being a rogue trader

How to be a rogue trader As a City headhunter I’m repeatedly asked to explain how lone traders find themselves flushing billions of dollars down the toilet. Rogue traders can pop up just about anywhere, and so I’ll share this curriculum for you to follow, which is not specific to any bank: this is just the way it works. Being a …
Dominic Connor, 20 Sep 2011
The Register breaking news

No wonder CompSci grads are unemployed

Recently a director at a huge bank asked me “Do British students learn algorithms?” At first I thought he was joking, but even though he was paying three times what the average new grad gets paid, he felt despair. Because of similar experiences I was surprised to read that only 17 per cent of CompSci grads from last year haven’ …
Dominic Connor, 01 Nov 2010
The Register breaking news

Should you lose your religion on your CV?

Your CV should tell prospective employers who you are - but should that include details of your religious faith? I headhunt science grads for banks, and recently received a CV with the applicant's religion right at the top. We’ve always told people not to do this for purely pragmatic reasons. Whatever your religion, there are …
Dominic Connor, 30 Nov 2009
The Register breaking news

Bear squeeze blues: How to destroy a bank

With the banks apparently unable to cope with the markets anymore, the poor dears, short selling has been banned to protect them. HBOS is being taken over cheaply, even compared to what a mortgage bank is worth in this rotten market. Allegedly, "spivs" conducted a whispering campaign, and used short selling to make money out of …
Dominic Connor, 29 Sep 2008
The Register breaking news

Furse should not resign, she should be sacked

The farce of the London Stock Exchange not only crashing but failing to get its systems up and running again should surprise no one. Well, no one except LSE boss Clara Furse, who demonstrates little understanding that technology is crucial to her business. I’ve worked for members of the London Stock Exchange and everyone …
Dominic Connor, 13 Sep 2008
Microsoft .NET logo

Microsoft launches student Java and LAMP challenge

University computer science departments are rapidly becoming Microsoft-free zones, as Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP (LAMP) combine with Java to become the de-facto standard environment for students of programming. Microsoft knows from history that this will be fatal in the long term, hence its decision to extend free availability …
Dominic Connor, 21 Feb 2008
The Register breaking news

How to lose $7.2bn with just a few Basic skills

As I swept through Kent and Calais on a Eurostar last week, the financial markets again threw some entertainment my way in the shape of the SocGen debacle. My last Reg piece explained that the credit crunch was partly fuelled by VBA and that is what appears to have happened again. However, Eurostar trains don't have Wi-Fi, and …
Dominic Connor, 31 Jan 2008
Microsoft Office logo

Viva VBA - alas

In the early 1990s when Visual Basic (VB) first infiltrated Excel to become Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), it helped push Microsoft's then-fledgling spreadsheet so far ahead of others that most people today are not aware many competitors even existed. Lotus Development - since consumed by IBM - turned down a chance to …
Dominic Connor, 21 Jan 2008
The Register breaking news

Original thinking in a derivatives market

At some point in the latter decades of the 20th century, someone sat down and thought: wouldn't it be nice if all the money in the world was controlled by scientists rather than accountants and nice chaps from Eton? Now, as we march headlong into the 21st century, full of sub-prime fallout, to a decent approximation, what we're …
Dominic Connor, 07 Sep 2007
The Register breaking news

Exceptional C++ and More Exceptional C++

This pair of books brings together a variety of small but annoying puzzles mediated by Herb Sutter through the news:comp.lang.c++.moderated newsgroup. However, any irritation is in a good cause. Each puzzle illustrates an important point in C++ that many of us still get wrong. An early example is exception safe programming, …
Dominic Connor, 26 Oct 2006
The Register breaking news

C++ Futures: Lambda Functions

The use of “lambda” originates from functional programming and lambda calculus, where a lambda abstraction defines an unnamed function. Lambda functions or Lambdas in C++ are one of the more interesting things to look forward to in the next C++ standard; giving us the ability to treat functions as first class objects at last; …
Dominic Connor, 22 Sep 2006
The Register breaking news

Financial instrument pricing using C++

C++ is the most used language in that most lucrative of fields: financial engineering. Yet most of the people who use it for derivatives have no formal training in programming, and often use C++ as little more than C, or even as a mutant form of Fortran. The results are not always pretty. Duffy tries to show how modern OO and …
Dominic Connor, 28 Jul 2006
The Register breaking news

Variables Won't Constants Aren't:

I first read the lament to the capricity of programming in the title of this piece in Creative Computing, years before C was devised. But it’s still true that there is no way, not even one, of being absolutely sure that a value you set in C or C++ won’t change. This is despite the fact that in the 30 years following the …
Dominic Connor, 26 Jul 2006
The Register breaking news

Excel scientific and engineering cookbook

Most people have a schizophrenic attitude to Excel, seeing it as “trivial” because they can use it with almost no training, but too difficult to use on more meaty problems. By way of response, David Bourg delivers a set of recipes that cook up some increasingly non trivial problems. The cookbook style does however mean that …
Dominic Connor, 20 Jul 2006
The Register breaking news

Dining out on the ID card fiasco

When they make the film of the great ID card fiasco, it may well open with a dinner at the National Liberal Club, where the Great and Good of the IT industry (and your Register correspondent) warn of impending doom. The Real Time Club has invited Professor Ian Angell of the London School of Economics to dinner to explain just …
Dominic Connor, 19 May 2006
The Register breaking news

C++ divided by CLI

At the ACCU conference recently, one wag in the audience referred to Microsoft’s C++/CLI as “C++ divided by CLI”, which neatly summed up the prevailing mood. The 10,000 classes in .NET can’t work with ISO C++, and you may ask why anyone in their right mind would try to bring out a platform in this day and age that couldn’t talk …
Dominic Connor, 05 May 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Déjà Vista

As Vista slowly slips further into the mists of the future, I sometimes wonder if anything has really changed since I was on the losing side of the IBM-Microsoft OS/2 war. Why do we now hear of huge re-writes in a product that's supposed to be almost ready? As a former O/S (Operating System) bug hunter, it sounds rather …
Dominic Connor, 06 Apr 2006
The Register breaking news

Interviewing C++ developers with extreme prejudice

These days I do a bit of pimping (a.k.a. "quant headhunting" in polite company - a "quant" is a quantitative analyst doing high-value numerical analysis) for expensive people at banks. It may scare or delight you, but a lot of the financial markets are run off C++ with Excel VBA. The first pass across the prospective intake is …
Dominic Connor, 17 Mar 2006