I've been doing this OSS thing for nearly 13 years, but can't seem to escape.
From time to time I will bump in to an ex-colleague, someone I experienced the early days of inventory-centric service fulfilment with, and they will give me a pitying look almost to say 'aw, you're still in OSS?'. And, down the pub, my pals who I still share the telco software industry with excitedly talk about their latest side-project and exit strategy: Their pre-funding start-up or great idea that will get them in to something far more glamorous like enterprise software, databases, or lion taming.
Maybe I should have a side project? Perhaps I should accept the head-hunters call to have a chat about opportunities in the #sexybilling software industry? Because, I sometimes think, I might be a bit bored of OSS.
Why am I still doing this?
Because even though it feels like I've been trying to solve the same problems for 13 years, the industry's problems are not static. New tech, new services, new challenges and new solutions. Every year you have to look at the same recurring problems (data, integration, process automation…) with a fresh and open mind.
While it's made me old beyond my years, it's sort-of been in a good way. Being in a niche within the relatively small telco software industry gives us great opportunities to experience a lot and build a varied career. Thanks to some great colleagues, I've never felt held back in OSS. I still find it hard to believe they let me do marketing now.
Telcos change their habits at a glacial rate. But that's because they're the guys who have to deliver reliable services and, typically, actually make money doing so, without pimping out our personal details or pushing adverts at us. Telco has had its own bubbles and hype, but this is an industry based on good old-fashion profits. Likewise, in OSS you have to create products that offer a return on investment. You have to solve real business problems. And you have to build a sustainable business. It's not sexy, but it's keeping it real.
So, should I retrain as a professional swimwear photographer? No. Not yet.
OSS has been good to me. And the good friends I've met through this industry would probably admit the same. For all the pub talk about doing something else, we all find ourselves happily stuck in this little telco software niche.