16 July 2020

On reflection…

Bill Robinson


On reflection…

Opencast consultant Bill Robinson is retiring. Here he reflects on his career over three decades.

32 years ago I started work for South Tyneside council as a junior programmer.

One of the first requirements was to provide some data analysis for a councillor’s question highlighting ward by ward winners/losers as a result of the new council tax that was being rolled out in England (after being so warmly received in Scotland).

He was very keen to get the figures and was delighted to note that the richer (conservative wards – yes, they do have a couple in South Tyneside), were firmly the winners.

I realised whilst we discussed the work that there was a bug in the logic which meant a fix and rerun was required. However, the councillor didn’t feel this was necessary, so we left it at that.

Next day front page of the Shields Gazette contained the headline “Tories council tax windfall” (sic) with a table of figures that looks exactly the same as my dodgy analysis from the day before.

Thus began a lifetime of learning how to do IT right – by making mistakes….

In recent years it’s been great to see our industry make tremendous improvements in the delivery of digital and technological solutions for our business and clients. I’ve heard many people state that there has never been a better time than now to be in IT and I agree.

So, why am I packing it all in?

I absolutely love my job, love working with data, getting the quality right, getting the performance right, sharing and learning from colleagues.

But I also love being outdoors, finding the universe in a blade of grass or a rock pool. I love cycling, walking in the hills, sea kayaking, planting trees. I want to learn to grow food, live small, campaign on social issues.

I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to do so. My final and best employer has supported my transition to a new way of life by enabling a career break two years ago so we could road test our ideas of living small. They subsequently supported four day working on my return.

I know that Opencast will continue to flourish – there’s something amazing happening almost every week within it. I’ll keep a careful eye out for more of the deserved success that the people working here will inevitably have.

So after 32 years of making mistakes am I about to make another? Who knows? I can’t wait to find out. We’ve escaped up to Scotland to enjoy this next exciting step in our lives. Slàinte mhath!