Last Thursday, Andreas Rötting came to me and said that they had received a request from Wolfsburg for someone to work on a project for them and that my skill profile (which was on file) appeared to match. On Monday, he said that Dr. Oeftiger had proposed a meeting on Wednesday morning and asked whether I could make it. Since I didn't really have much to do (just playing around with Access in order to get some experience; nothing I couldn't interrupt), I said yes.
So yesterday I went down to Wolfsburg. It was my first time, though a fair number of co-workers have been working there already, either full-time or a couple days a week. gedas, our parent company, has a branch there because of the vicinity to the Volkswagen plant (their parent company), and they occasionally shoot jobs our way to help us out.
Following Ralf's suggestions, I got a train earlier than I had to (meaning I got to get up at five to catch the train at half-past six, rather than the one at quarter past seven), which was good since my train was ten minutes late in Hanover and I had eight minutes to change… so I then continued on with the next train (forty-five minutes later) and still got there in time.
First, there was an interview with Dr. Oeftiger and Mr. Söllter(?), where they asked me about my qualifications. How much experience did I have with C? How well could I work independently? How well could I produce documentation? How long would it take for me to write a C library to parse XML?
That question stumped me. A library to parse XML? Um, I think you've got the wrong person for that; I don't think an XML parser is particularly easy to implement. Don't people usually use existing XML parsers rather than implement their own? ("For example?" "Um, not sure, I've only read about XML but have no practical experience, but 'expat' came up fairly often; I think it's widespread, but it may be in Java.") I think it'd take me years to get it right. "Sorry, we haven't got years."
But it then turned out, after talking with Mr. Söllter for a bit, that they're already using an XML parser (Xerces, from the Apache project) and they want to write an abstraction on top of that for a certain kind of XML document they use internally (so that developers can say, for example, "Give me all test results for test number 11" without having to worry about the internal representation of the XML document containing all the test data). Oh, well that's a completely different kettle of fish then. Maybe a couple of months? They seemed to like this timeframe a lot better.
At any rate, after about an hour, they appeared to be satisfied that my skills matched their requirements. They would have preferred had I had some experience in electrical engineering, but apparently that wasn't crucial. They were also happy to hear I had worked with Tcl already. (Apparently, they use "about 80% C, 10% Tcl, 1% different stuff such as Java".)
Next step was to introduce me to Heike, the technical lead for the project I would be joining (which currently consists of Berthold, the project leader, Heike, and Rolf [also from datenrevision in Hamburg]); she said they had scheduled a project meeting for that morning so Dr. Oeftiger (who told me that in that company they say "Du" to each other and introduced himself as "Uwe" then) showed me around that part of the company briefly and then suggested I attend the project meeting already.
During that meeting, they planned roughly what they would be doing (since they wouldn't be able to implement an API for the entire document in the time budget they had received) and who would do what. Now I'll have to see that I get a laptop for when I work in Wolfsburg and come up to speed, probably starting next week.
I had feared that I would be working in Wolfsburg five days a week and seeing Stella only on week-ends, but Berthold said, "I'd like to see you at least once every two or three weeks to see how things are going", which was just fine with me. So it looks as if I will be able to spend a lot of time in Hamburg and just go down there every once in a while for a day or two at a time.
On the way back home (around noon), I noticed that the signs in the railway station said "Golfsburg" rather than "Wolfsburg" (the "W" had had a sticker stuck over it); that amused me a bit.