Friday, 30 September 2016

Weeks 3-4 at QA Consulting: Enterprise Architecture, Lowry, Gnomes

"When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Before last week I didn't think I had inherited my dad's seemingly irrational hatred of garden gnomes, but now I'm starting to reconsider my position. There's something vaguely sinister about the little ceramic monstrosities, from their rosy cheeks to their bulging eyes to the way they seem to infest gardens all over the country like an invasive species. Surprisingly, though, the fact that the fictional company we've been dealing with in the past couple of weeks of training specialises in "gnomes, gnome accessories and garden ornaments" is far from the most worrying thing about it. Judging from the information we've been given, the company is almost certainly committing tax evasion, and may also be either a money laundering scheme for a drug cartel or some sort of neo-Nazi cult.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. These two weeks have been devoted to the wonders of Enterprise Architecture, and that means lots of group work. Some of the highlights have included conducting interviews with the fictional company's various incompetent employees, attempting to facilitate a workshop, and writing terms of reference documentation for just about everything. On the whole, I can certainly appreciate how useful this skill set is to have, and the group work has gone quite smoothly (more so than the majority of group projects I did at university, at least), but personally I'm not sure I enjoy this whole business side of things quite as much as the technical aspect. Hopefully this will change when I work with an actual client. One with fewer gnomes, ideally.

Last week's training was temporarily relocated to a large conference room in the Lowry theatre / art gallery (not to be confused with the Lowry outlet mall directly opposite, although that did become the go-to place for lunch), which meant a shorter walk each morning as well as free biscuits! The downside was that the building's wifi was terrible to the point of being virtually unusable. The building itself is quite nice, though I can't speak for the actual art gallery portion as of yet -- one of these days I'll make time to visit, as I am a big fan of L.S. Lowry's artwork.

At the weekend I made my first proper venture into the heart of Manchester, and in doing so gained a new appreciation for how quiet the area around my apartment really is. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at a major shopping district being busy on a Sunday afternoon, but this was far beyond anything I had experienced back in Nottingham. The streets, despite how wide they were, were so crowded that trying to navigate them was like swimming into a tidal wave, and the massive buildings on all sides only added to the claustrophobic atmosphere. I tried to take refuge in the Manchester Arndale shopping centre, but not only was this building somehow even more crowded than outside, it also seemed to comprise an alternate dimension wherein the normal laws of geometry didn't apply. If you've ever read the book House of Leaves then you might be able to picture it; otherwise, just imagine an M.C. Escher painting. Corridors looped around on each other in ways that shouldn't be physically possible, stairs were placed apparently at complete random, there were lifts that appeared to go nowhere at all, and shops that at first looked like mere holes in the wall opened up into caverns that went on seemingly forever. The worst part is that the range of shops is much better than what's nearby, so I will inevitably have to brave the crowds again in the future.

Since I've spend the majority of this entry complaining about how stressful everything has been, I will wind things down with a picture I took a few days ago of a rather pretty sunset:

Just out of shot: around half a dozen other people also taking pictures of this sunset.

- Sam

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