A year ago today, I left Vodafone to join Portugal Telecom - or to be much more precise, to join SAPO. Most of my (overwhelmingly foreign) readership at the time went “duh?”, but it was a move that made a lot of sense when you realize that it is the place to work at in Portugal if you want to do not just Internet tech, but innovative tech.

So what’s changed? Well, first off, I’m heading a department where we tackle three different fields, each involving one or more teams: design (split into two teams focusing on different aspects, like branding consistency, information design, generic layout and site construction, etc.), big data (terabytes of fun) and intranet restructuring (which, as anyone dealing with anything even remotely resembling internal IT will readily tell you, is one heck of a challenge, triple so when you’re catering to a population of techies).

I’ve also got a few other bits and bobs (like a few of the Mac apps done in-house) but in general it’s a world of difference from what I was doing, and a year is barely enough to learn how to solidly plant my feet on all the stirrups required1.

So, what do I miss, then?

In a word, mobile. Or, rather, what mobile is becoming in this age of fully untethered devices.

When I left Vodafone I was up to my eyeballs in mobile, but even with a few choice nuts to crack (RIM, Apple and Android smartphones, as well as what eventually turned out to be Windows Phone), I had been drafted to roll out something that I ultimately didn’t believe in, and it ate at me for two years until I would rather herd cows and shovel their dung than stay in the telco business.

Even considering that I’d invested a decade in a company where I’d made friends all over the planet (and that global reach was one of the hardest things to part with), I sorely needed a change.

So I made my move, but in my usual oblique way decided to stay in the telco business by moving someplace where people shared the age old ISP credo, had a culture of relentless (and let’s face it, risky and sometimes stressful) innovation, and cool T-shirts (which reminds me that making sure the ones for last years’ Codebits scored high on geek cred was way more fun than I’d usually expect).

(Not, mind you, that I would wear a T-shirt to the office - I still miss wearing a suit to work every day.)

The main difference is, of course, control (or at least a better illusion of control). Whereas I would previously slave for months haranguing vendors and manufacturers to get their act together and fix their stuff while trying to get the business side in sync with, you know, the real world, I am now working with people who not just create entire solutions from scratch (including mobile apps and a custom-specced Android phone) but also have the know-how to fix stuff.

People able to take a vendor’s hand calmly, look him in the eye, and say “I’m so terribly sorry, old chap, but we think we can do better.” And then go ahead and start doing it.

So yeah, it’s fun, I believe in what I’m doing, and the people I get to work with are awesome (even if I find their lack of faith in Python disturbing sometimes).

There’s nothing quite like working with a bunch of people that share your mindset and ethos, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

If you want a sample of what it’s like, I recommend checking out Codebits - the admission process alone should give you a very good idea.

  1. Also, both my kids started going to pre-school exactly one year ago and have been recurrently sick with the various customary ailments (and then some), which added considerably to the amount of juggling required on those stirrups… ↩︎