The Value of an Education, New Brunswick Style

UPDATE: To make this farce even better, it appears that for this year’s calculation rules have re-classified my two adult sons as dependents (including one who has not lived at home for 3 years). Neat how the government can on the one hand call them dependents for student loans, but not dependents on my taxes. Welcome to the era of DoubleThink!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about The Value of an Education talking about the debate that is going on as to whether post secondary education is worth the cost, especially given the debt load student loans put on new graduates.

Well, as I learned last week (I should have known it earlier, but was not paying attention when it happened), our new provincial government here in New Brunswick, led by Premier David Alward, has taken the decision out of our hands. It seems my children no longer have the choice as to whether or not student loans are a good investment in their future, since the province has already decided they are not.

I could explain the new rules that have me so annoyed, but I will link to someone else who explains them well.

I will likely be able to adapt to this change, for my youngest anyway. Unfortunately, there will be many who cannot.

Mr. Alward, this is not the way to build an educated workforce in this province.

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Health Care: It is an EQUAL Right

I was at the Georges Dumont Hospital this morning, and saw a number of signs (on hospital property?) related to our provincial election, reminding Premier Graham the French-language health care is a right.

I would like to remind the creators of those signs that health care is an equal right, and as such should be provided equally, fairly, and effectively to all citizens of the province regardless of language or any other characteristic. Unfortunately, this is not correctly the case in New Brunswick. We currently have two health care systems in the province – one of which is bilingual, and the other essentially unilingual French.

As we all know, our health care system (not just ours, but nation-wide) is at real risk of collapsing under its own cost. It is unsustainable as it currently exists. Add to that a situation in which there are two health care systems, each with its own management, bureaucracy, and other costs. With additional complexities created in trying standardize procedures and processes, and in establishing province wide programs to improve health care.

Why do we have this situation? Is this required in order to provide equal health care in both languages? NO. This situation is perpetuated purely to stroke the ego of one group within the province.

Do not misunderstand me (and don’t you dare misquote me!) – I fully support equal health care rights for everyone in the province. Does this require duplicate bureaucracies? NO! Any rational, reasonable, mature groups of people should be able to come to an agreement which eliminates  unnecessary overhead, and yet maintains equal quality of service for all New Brunswickers, and does so without giving one group in the province preferential treatment over others.

Transitions

So, today I am moving on from Whitehill Technologies (now Skywire Software). I do so with many mixed feelings. When I look back on what I have achieved here, many things stand out. Helping to grow the company to the point where it became a meaningful acquisition target I think is a tremendous accomplishment. We have also developed a great deal of very cool software, and more importantly, software for which real people were willing to pay real money. To have accomplished this from Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, is a great demonstration of what we can achieve in this region, and is something which I hope to repeat in the future.

The most important aspect of the journey, though, is the people. Having spent the better part of 9 years here, I can honestly say that there are very, very few people I have known here with whom I would not eagerly work again. I would also like to think that I have contributed to the growth of many developers (and other staff). When I joined Whitehill, the development team was very young. Most had only a couple of years of experience. It is extremely gratifying to me to see what has grown out of that team – people who have become technical leaders, managers, and all-around leaders. I cannot express the respect I have for what this group has become. I like to think that I contributed in some way to that growth.

Looking back, there are many people who stand out. I miss the early days with Bob, and Bonzo, and the excitement of working with a small, tight team. Then, of course, there was the winter in a construction trailer in the parking lot with 8 other guys, porting Transport to Java.

There are too many people to list all of them here. First and foremost, I want to thank Steve Palmer. Steve has always been the epitome of professionalism, respectfulness, and generally “doing the right thing”, and I consider Steve to have been an important mentor to me. Among the early developers, Shawn Hogan, who had leadership written all over him 8 years ago, has fulfilled that potential and more. Jerome Sabourin, Greg Clouston, Andrew Sharpe, Anita Richard, Rob Stote and too many others to mention. I am very proud of, and have the utmost respect for, all of you.

It has certainly been an interesting ride.

All of you, take care. I look forward to seeing and working with you all some day in the future.  

BREAKTHRU – New Brunswick’s Business Plan Competition

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) is running a search for “the next generation of New Brunswick entrepreneurs”. So, all of you would be entrepreneurs should definitely check it out: BREAKTHRU – New Brunswick’s Business Plan Competition

(I know, this was announced 2 months ago – I can be a little slow posting things!)

Another Big Day for Whitehill

It was announced yesterday the we (Whitehill Technologies, Inc.) are being acquired by Skywire Software. This represents another big day in the evolution of Whitehill as a software company. It is also another great example of a successful, viable, important software company being born and grown right here in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. If you want to read more about the deal, you should look at the news releases – there are lots out there. I think congratulations are in order for Paul McSpurren and all the others who put this deal together. Well done.

It is an interesting time for me to look back over the last 8+ years I have been at Whitehill. At the time I joined, we were barely out of the “startup” stage, having only about 30 employees, and probably a similar number of customers, 1 product, and a lot of heart. A large number of people have stayed with us for the whole ride (this continuity I think has been a major factor in our success). It is amazing to me to see how far we have come.

I would like to thank everyone with whom I have worked at Whitehill all these years. Well done, everyone. It has been a wild and interesting ride to be sure, but I am proud to have been part of it, and to have worked with all of you (not that I am going anywhere – just feeling sentimental!). Everyone involved, past and present, should feel proud as well. 

I am also looking forward to the future here – and to all of the challenges and opportunities before us.

Research Expo for the University of New Brunswick Faculty of Computer Science

This week I attended the Research Expo for the UNB Faculty of Computer Science. This is the 4th year they have held this event, and I have attended every year. I enjoy the opportunity to see what research is being done, talk to the researchers, faculty and students, and hopefully explore opportunities for collaboration between the Faculty and industry in New Brunswick. The format for the event has remained pretty much unchanged from previous years, with undergraduate and graduate students presenting posters of ongoing research, and faculty members presenting short (~10 minute) talks on their activities. One variation this year was the invitation of industry representatives to speak alongside the faculty presenters. The idea is to encourage collaboration between industry and the university by giving the university better visibility into the research activities in industry, and into the issue which industry is trying to address. I was happy to be invited to be one of the industry speakers.

All of the speakers, and especially the students presenting posters, deserve a great deal of credit for taking the time to participate in this event. While all of the research activities are interesting and worthwhile, a couple jumped out at me, either because I was previously unaware of the work, or just because it is cool J.

The first I would like to point out is a presentation by Dr. Dawn MacIsaac regarding work at UNB’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering. I was not aware of the work they were doing in the area of using artificial intelligence to control powered prosthetics. I admit I know very little about this, but I found their work impressive, and would encourage people to check out their site.

Among the industry presenters, I was intrigued by Dale Ritchie’s talk regarding his new business, Pitch Mobile, developing audio based learning games for mobile devices. I look forward to seeing how this progresses – it is cool stuff.

Among the poster sessions, I think I was most impressed by Microphone Efficacy for Facilitation of Mobile Speech-based Data Entry by Scott Durling, Jo Lumsden and Irina Kondratova. This is an area of personal interest for me, and I spent quite a bit of time talking to Scott about their work. I was impressed.

Finally, there was an announcement of a new UNB Faculty of Computer Science SOA Lab, supported by Sun Microsystems.

Brad Nickerson and many others deserve a lot of credit for continuing to put this event on – I think it is really worthwhile. I look forward to next year’s event!


 

Welcome to my blog

Well, I have been meaning to start this for some time, but like everyone, other things just get in the way.

A bit about myself. I have been working in the world of technology for 20-odd years. Currently, I am VP of Technology at Whitehill Technologies, Inc., where we specialize in Document Composition and Document Automation technologies, in the Legal and Financial services spaces. Prior to that I worked on internet conferencing using early VoIP, and on large military communications projects. Before even that, I worked in satellite control, and remote sensing. Going way back to university, my focus was on theoretical physics and astrophysics.

Currently my interests revolve around most aspect of software development, from technologies to management, and in the area of defining sustainable, repeatable processes for innovation within technology organizations. I also have a particular interest in Tablet PC technologies – I have been using one for several years, and I love it.

On the personal side, I still have a strong interest in all aspects of science, especially physical sciences, as well as philosophy and comparative religion. In addtion, I am into music, playing guitar (badly, I am sorry to say), and reading almost anything I can lay my hands on.