My origins in a secret research lab

~ 2 min read | Category: Newsletters

My first job after university was working in a futuristic technology lab out in the middle of nowhere.

It was British Telecom’s Research Labs in Suffolk, on the site of an converted air base. Thousands of people all doing secret research into the “future of communications”.

But it was actually a kind of mental torture…

You see, I worked in a small group surrounded by dozens of other groups. And everyone around me seemed to be working on much cooler stuff than me.

So while my peers were working on robots, virtual reality, and even a computer-animated talking head that deaf people could lip-read, I was stuck creating software to analyse hundreds of boring financial reports.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t last very long in that job.

A year later I’d moved to London and was working at the top of the Centre Point building, right in the heart of Oxford Street, helping publishing companies get to grips with this new thing called the “world wide web”.

I was still writing software but it seemed much more relevant to the real world than the work in the lab.

And one of my most enduring memories is of the first time software I’d written “went live” on the internet. It was a simple discussion forum - topics, comments, that sort of thing. Primitive by today’s standards but cutting edge back then.

I remember heading home that evening knowing that this “thing” I’d created was still running on a server somewhere, having a life of its own. I mean, I hoped it was doing what I’d programmed it to do, but maybe not.

What if there was a horrible bug? It was kind of scary.

It took me a few weeks to get comfortable with that loss of control.

Eventually I got to enjoy it though. I liked that something I’d created was working in the background even when I was doing something else.

So it’s not surprising that years later I’m immersed in the world of online courses.

Courses are something else you can build once then let loose into the world to have a life of their own. Something else that works tirelessly for you while you’re off doing something else.

Quick reality check though. That won’t happen unless you actually get your course “out there”.

It doesn’t have to perfect. It doesn’t even have to be finished. But it does need to be out there, so that real people with real problems can put your ideas and methods to the test.

After all, the clue’s in the name. At some point your online course needs to be, you know,

online. 😉

(By the way, if you’re feeling stuck, take 30 seconds to write down your best guess about what’s keeping you stuck. Sometimes just getting clear on your obstacle helps to shift it out of the way.)

See you soon,



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