About me

Some info about me, my background and history

Professional history

I have worked in a couple of different industries, in a number of different countries, ranging from medical application development (at Siemens in Germany), financial modelling (at a startup in Australia), audio signal processing (at AudioAuditing in South Africa) and lately in the enrivonmental engineering field (at Synergetics in Australia).

My skillset includes project planning and layout, software architecture and design, and software development in a number of languages and technologies including

  • C/C++
  • Matlab
  • Python
  • Perl
  • PHP, Javascript, (X)HTML/XML
  • MySQL, PostgresQL, and SQLite

Although most of my professional work was done under Windows XP, I have been using Linux at university and later at home from 1998, starting with RedHat 4. Some of my latest development work at Synergetics is being done under a POSIX framework, making development on different systems remarkably similar.

For my full resume, please see the following Google document link:

Personal background

I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and attended Linden Highschool, an Afrikaans-language highschool in the north western suburbs of Gauteng. At school I was never very athletic, and joined the school’s marching band and choir. We were allowed four chosen subjects with which to matriculate, my choices were mathematics, science, computer studies and German. This last was mostly because my parents wanted their children to be able to speak German. I was never very good at it, which is strange since later in my life I chose to live in Germany, and did so for four years. I am now better at it.

After leaving highschool I chose to go to university in Stellenbosch, in the Western Cape. This university is about 1500km from Johannesburg, so it was quite a change. One of the overpowering reasons I chose to go there was that I had thoroughly made up my mind to live close to the ocean, so that I could start surfing. This little fact I had to keep from my mom, for obvious reasons. “It’s where I will get the best education, really!” and so on…

And so began my studies in Electronic Engineering. The first two years were great – I loved engineering mathematics, and at the start of the third year we got into integrated circuits, which were the “real secrets” I was there to learn. By the end of the third year though, I must say I was utterly done with the other stuff we had to learn. Who, after all, gave a good damn about control systems, I beg you?

The fourth year was really good though – I was lucky to win the draw for the only final year thesis subject that looked remotely interesting to me: Stereo 3d reconstruction of human faces. I had a blast with the topic, and even got to publish it.

After that it took me a while to decide, but decide I did, and so I started with my Master’s Degree in Electronic Engineering. The topic was going to be a continuation of my bachelor’s thesis, and it got off to a good start, but at the end of the year my project leader quit his job at the uni to start his own engineering business, taking some of the brightest minds in our lab with him.

Which left me without a project leader, and without a project. Again I was lucky: an Applied Mathematics professor took over as my project leader, and introduced me to the topic of Structure from Motion, a related topic to the abandoned one. It is a much harder problem, but I tried to wrap my head around it and came up with a solution which applied a new development in Kalman filtering to an existing SfM algorithm. Published a paper, got a Master of Science (Cum Laude), and I was ready to take on the world…

… or at least, the German part of it. After doing a short trip to Europe to try and line up some interviews with a number of interesting companies, the one which ended up wanting me was Siemens Medical Solutions in Forchheim, in Bavarian Germany. Of course, Siemens is a large company, employing a lot of foreigners, so getting me a visa was a breeze, and we was there within two months: me and my broken German.

At Siemens we worked on applications for end users (ie. medical doctors) which enabled them to work with the gigantic (mulit-DVD) datasets produced by the latest Computed Tomography (CT) scanners (also built by Siemens). It gave me a lot of experience in using C/C++ in a team on a large application, which rubbed some of the academic tendencies off – in the real world, software development can be as (if not more) pragmatic as a lot of other engineering disciplines.

My time there also enriched my German speaking skill. It is still not perfect, and I shy away from written German, but I can still hold a conversation!

But the experience that I got out of Germany, which I value most, was the exploration it afforded to me. We had to work a certain number of hours during the week at Siemens; if you worked more, and you either got to take the extra time home as a payout, or you got to take the time off. I had a lot of long weekends, to put it another way. And the other way in which we chose to spend it (“we” being me and a number of friends, mostly rock climbers, mountain climbers and skiiers) was to explore to the Alps!

So very quickly I picked up snowboarding, improved my rock-climbing skills, and climbed a couple of very high mountains. Most of all I came to love the feeling of snow crunching underfoot, breathing in ice-cold air and sweating at below-zero temperatures(!). As a South African, having seen snow 3 times before in real life (each time when a cold-snap in Jo’burg produced 3 centimeters of what was more ice than snow and which evaporated before the day was out) the Alps were a wonderful, beautiful playground, something I could not get enough of.

Of course, I also saw the rest of Western Europe, going to places like the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, the Czech Republic, England and Ireland, whenever we did not go into the Alp countries such as Switzerland, France Austria and Italy. I managed to fit a little bit of Sweden and Norway in too, in the end.

During the last couple of months in Germany I realized that I missed the sea. In fact it was right after I came back from a surftrip to Ireland, so no surprises there. Thus my attention drifted to finding a place where I could both snowboard and climb, as well as surf. That’s when I settled on New Zealand. To make a long story short, I left Germany, travelled back to South Africa, spent a number of months there, and then went to New Zealand.

Except that the last bit is not really true; I did leave South Africa, but I came to Melbourne, Australia, instead. Reason for the change had to do with a job-offer I could not refuse: via the network of contacts at Stellenbosch Uni, a friend of a friend was told that they needed a software developer with a sufficient background in mathematics to work on foreign-exchange market modeling; I was apparently that person, so off I went to Melbourne.

Melbourne turned out to be very good, and very bad. Good because I am still here, and have made loads of friends, get to climb semi-regularly at some of the world’s best sandstone, get to snowboard (when there is snow!) and I live 500 meters from the beach. Granted, a beach with no waves, and I have to drive a bit to get to waves, but (1) they are there and (2) they are good!

The bad in Melbourne had to do with this magic forex company I started working for. Hindsight is 20/20, mostly because the rear-windshield is free from all the bullshit that flies into your face from the front. Which is why it was hard to tell at the time exactly how much mismanagement (of funds and information) was going on, most of it coming from the boss. Who, it happens, still owes his former employees (yours truly included) a shitload of money, and (as it turns out, unsurprisingly) owes even more money to a bunch of other people from his former failed business. Those were hard times, but fortunately I am back on track, have found a new company to work and have put all of this behind me.

So here I am, living in Melbourne, mountain-biking, rock-climbing, snowboarding and surfing, and working for the environment. How good is that?

peace out

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