Last date in Newcastle: the end of an era

August 31 today; last day of the month and my last working day at the University. The time does go fast.

It was 9 years and 11 months (not 10 years :-) since I first landed in Prof. Santosh Shrivastava‘s office for an interview. Few days later I started the advanced MSc course in Computer Software and System Design (CSSD), as it was called then.

Only few months later I found myself sitting in front of another interview panel, this time going after a PhD scholarship to do research in the area of high-performance, distributed computing. The work was to be done with a young lecturer who was just starting his career in Newcastle after having been extremely successful in the industry (ICL). (Dr. then, now a Professor) Paul Watson chose me to be his first PhD student in Newcastle (what a mistake :-)

On October 1, 1996, I am given an office to share with another new PhD student. First impressions?… Skinhead, army trousers, ugly looking, from the Black Country :-)) Hmmm. Scary! I think it turned out well though. We started on the same day and we submitted our theses with few hours difference four years later (he beat me to it but I got my own back by defending mine first :-). We had an excellent time. Memorable years. BTW… that officemate and my best pal since then is no other than Dr. Jim Webber of ThoughtWorks.

After the PhD I worked as a post-doc for the HiPPO project and as a Senior Software Engineer at the HP Arjuna Labs (now Arjuna Technologies) still in Newcastle. In Novermber 2001 the Greek government decided that I was having way too much fun and so I should go back to give them what I owed them… 16 months of my life getting trained on how to be a soldier (yeah, right… cleaning toilets, pealing potatoes, and doing the dishes). Anyway… wasted time. At the end I managed to do only 12 months by taking advantage of a change in the drafting law (don’t ask how… only in Greece you can do this).

In January 2003, Paul offers me the chance to jumpstart my career again and makes me Chief Software Architect (we couldn’t come up with another title:-) of the North-East Regional e-Science Centre. It was a great opportunity to get back into action after not having done any research work for a while. Through this post, Paul gave me the chance to travel around the world to meetings, get to know many interesting people, and work on my ideas. How do I repay him? I get us into an argument against IBM and the largest, most famous research group in the world in the area of Grid computing (Globus) who at the time were the main forces behind OGSI. Things turned out ok though. I think we are all friends now even though there were some heated moments back in 2003/2004 :-)

So, we are now in 2005 and I’ve decided to leave Newcastle for new challenges. With the US Visa process now successfully complete I am ready to start with Microsoft on September 12. It was a difficult decision leaving Newcastle. It is due to the people and the environment in the School of Computing Science and the University that I now have the opportunity to work with the best people in the industry. Thanks to all the Arjuna folks, technical and clerical support folks, students, research associates, lecturers, professors, and everyone else in Newcastle for a wonderful 10 years (minus the Greek-army-holiday :-) Thanks to everyone!!! My time in Newcastle was memorable.

I am not planning to disappear from Newcastle. I am going to check with Microsoft‘s legal department to see whether I can accept the visiting post I was offered here in Newcastle. I would very much like to keep in touch with everyone here.

As an end to this post I wanted to publicly thank Prof. Paul Watson. However, I don’t seem to be able to find the right words. Where do I start? Paul has been fantastic throughout these years. I’ve learned lots and lots from him; not only about technology but also about what makes a good researcher, how to be a team player, how to make work fun. He was the best supervisor a PhD student can have and a fantastic boss. He also welcomed me to his family (thanks Sophie, Ben, Andrea for everything) and he’s been a great friend throughout. He’s the nicest guy around. Thanks for everything Paul and sorry you had to wait 10 years until you could discuss cricket with me (I still remember Xenophon Balaskas of South Africa from our first meetings in 1996 though :-)

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