As some of you know, I changed jobs at the beginning of September. More than six weeks later, I’m very happy with my decision. I signed a confidentiality agreement so I can’t talk about details (obviously), but I am very happy with my prospects.

Despite being stuck with a project from hell, suffice to say that my Microsoft Excel skills which had been stagnating, have leapt to the fore again. So far I’ve learnt a lot about banking practice, funds transfer pricing, customer value management, business banking management information systems (this is where I’m working), and Basel II.

While I was finding my feet last month, I helped the senior developer with a problem: Excel reports are generated during a month end run, and over 3000 of these things have to be generated. Usually this would require active human monitoring, because Excel would not release the server’s resources and the server would eventually crash and require rebooting. We managed to build a web service in ASP.NET that controls Excel through COM. Now the Excel process is killed as soon as a report is generated, which means a) no need to generate 3000+ reports all at once, and b) no need to actively monitor the server. Hundreds of hours a year have been saved as a result, because now the reports can be generated on the fly by the users.

In the next couple of months (our deadline is 10 December 2006), a new colleague of mine and I will be developing over 150 reports in SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services. I’m very excited about this, and although there are serious reservations about us being able to come in on schedule (raised by our project manager to the boss), it is an excellent growth opportunity for me, because I’m limited in experience when it comes to SQL Server 2005.

Anyway, before we get to that, I have another two projects to finish up. The first one is the Excel from hell one (see above), and the second is an automation process that should save two man days a month for generating another report (it’s a big report). I have already moved the report’s database from Access to SQL Server, and the longest query takes just over 2 minutes, pulling hundreds of thousands of rows from our main datastore. This used to take between 10 and 15 minutes in Access. All the other queries run under a minute, and half of them run in under 10 seconds. I’m a fan of efficient SQL.

Although I’m happy I moved companies, I must admit that I would not have been as on top of my game here if it hadn’t been for the processes that we followed at the old company. It helped me plan my work better, think of alternative solutions to problems, and ultimately become a smarter worker.

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