Why is the ‘first day of the week’ setting “pretty important” for a digital calendar? Isn’t this just aesthetics? What happens if it is wrong?

📚 Finished reading Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Another text that I picked up as we think about what returning to the office looks like. Super easy to read, with teeny chapters on a wide variety of topics relating to remote working.

I attended a webinar today. I saw a button labelled ‘viewing certificate’, so I pressed it and was handed this. One to frame and put on the wall. So proud!

It’s barely the afternoon and I’ve already received two telephone scam calls today. Both times I asked the person on the other end of the line how they sleep at night and both times they hung up. The scams must work, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. Makes me mad.

Weeknotes #120 — Lean business case

Back to five days at work after luxuriating with Monday and Friday off the week before. It took its toll. I had so little time that I could call my own between all of the various scheduled meetings that it was difficult to make significant progress with anything. Frustratingly, my to-do list looked broadly unchanged at both ends of the week. In the evenings I found myself struggling to stay awake in front of the TV before the clock struck 9pm. My bike training programme on TrainerRoad has ramped up in both intensity and duration so I was up a little earlier than usual on most of the weekday mornings, and this will continue for the next few months.

This was a week in which I:

  • Worked through a monitoring system issue with our Compliance Officer in New York and agreed to follow up with the vendor.
  • Reviewed a draft ‘lean business case’ for a proposed piece of work in our team. Templates only prove themselves when you come to use them in anger. It has been interesting to try and get our heads around the hypothesis for the entire initiative, which could be months or years of effort, versus getting to the ‘minimum viable product’ which is unlikely to have much of a short-term payoff. I haven’t seen many examples of lean business cases, let alone good ones.
  • Met with our Head of Operational Risk to ensure we were aligned ahead of the next regional governance meeting.
  • Promoted the concept of Kanban work-in-progress limits to our sub-teams. There seems to be a good understanding of why this is a good idea and it will be interesting to see it implemented in the coming weeks.
  • Made contact with a couple of our vendors to discuss a Microsoft consultant vacancy in our team.
  • Created the first ‘random coffees’ pairings for one of our global business teams. They have decided to try it out for their own group, beyond the region-wide setup I’ve been running for the past year.
  • Had my own random coffees — one with a member of my team and another with our Head of Risk. My pairing spreadsheet told me that it had been 50 weeks since the Head of Risk and I last got together for a chat. It’s gone so fast.
  • Joined an online live event to get an update from our division’s Chief Executive.
  • Attended an architecture overview session on our firm’s plans for data management. I ran a project to build a data warehouse from scratch back in 2004–5 and it was interesting to hear some of the terms from that era again, alongside many new ones.
  • Had lots of interesting discussions peppered throughout the week about the thought process of returning to the office and what form it takes.
  • Caught up with an old colleague on a new project we are both involved in. It was fascinating to hear what he had done since we parted ways six or seven years ago, and contrast it to how I’ve approach things. I’ve never had a long-term career goal whereas he planned a number of different moves and executed them. It was inspiring to hear how he went about it.
  • Installed some D-Line Micro Trunking to hide the wires for our two new doorbells. They are excellent and the process couldn’t have been simpler; even I with my extremely limited DIY skills have managed to make them look quite good. I’m short by a couple of lengths so I’ll have to finish the job off next week.
  • Put my new pictures up in my home office. They are fabulous, but I wish the glass was non-reflective as they are a bit difficult to see.
  • Went for a solo bike ride on Saturday morning, following a route I found on Ride With GPS. I’m not sure I’ve ever sweated so much on an outdoor ride; at one point I could barely see with all of the salt going into my eyes. I’ve ordered a couple of headbands to try and combat it for next time. The route was a bit hairy in places with some very dodgy pot-holed and grit-covered single track roads, but it was great to try something new. There are so many blackflies and greenflies around this year; my legs came back looking like a car number plate from the 1980s.
  • Bought some new cycling shoes from my local bike shop. I’m hoping to break them in over the next four weeks before my big ride.
  • Tuned into as many of the UEFA Euro 2020 football matches as I could. I was as stunned as everyone to see the footage of Christian Eriksen’s collapse and resuscitation on the field during the Denmark v Finland game, and even more stunned when the teams resumed playing later in the afternoon. I hope he makes a full and speedy recovery.
  • Ran the line for my youngest boy’s friendly football match. I really enjoy doing it. I was very grateful for an early kick-off as it was a sweltering day.
  • Booked a holiday for next year with some close friends. It’s over a year away but it’s something to look forward to.
  • Attended an Album Club in person for the first time since February last year. We had a cautious approach, with a well-ventilated room and a couple of people sitting out in the garden. I’m grateful for the videoconferencing services for seeing us through the past 18 months, but getting together in person to socialise is so much better than online.

Next week: Looks much the same as this week, perhaps with even more meetings, and the same puzzle of how and when I will be able to get anything else done. I have some deadlines to meet so something’s got to give.

🎶Just got back from my first in-person Album Club since February last year. It was joyous to sit in the same space again and have more than one conversation happening at the same time.

Weeknotes #119 — Red legs

A three-day week at work, top and tailed by a public holiday and a Friday spent with my family. I’ve swapped the jeans and socks for shorts and flip-flops, but nobody I work with is any wiser. I was grateful for more time away from the keyboard and another long weekend.

This was a week in which I:

  • Overslept on Tuesday due to the Sleep Cycle iOS app deciding to terminate at some point in the night. I know that this is always a risk with a third-party app that isn’t part of the operating system, but it’s been pretty solid over the eight years and many iPhones that I’ve been using it. It threw out my cycle training sessions for the week which left me feeling mildly annoyed. It’s interesting how much I’ve been able to make exercise a part of my life since the pandemic hit, and losing it is the biggest fear I have with going back to the office.

  • Completed a deck of slides on the IT infrastructure story of our New York office ahead of a Management Committee meeting this coming week. In the three days at work I had thirty minutes here and there between meetings to get the work done, and I felt as though I was always just picking at it instead of sitting down and getting absorbed in the task. It was interesting to do the work and see visually how different it is from the Beijing deck I put together recently. Three more sites to go.
  • Put together some additional slides for the same meeting on a recent process failure and the work we have done to put it right.
  • Presented options for in-room meeting equipment in one of our offices and agreed on a solution with the CEO.
  • Reviewed and discussed the need for redundancy in public cloud installations that we use, and agreed on next steps.
  • Agreed our approach for initial monitoring and maintenance contracts for our sites where we still need to complete our back-end infrastructure rollout.
  • Spent time reviewing the epics/projects on one of our sub-team’s Kanban board with the head of the team. To be concluded next week.
  • Had my first regular one-on-one meetings with a couple of members of the team that I don’t speak to regularly. It was great to have a space to catch up and get aligned.
  • Attended a talk held by our Marketing and Communications team on the preparation for our big investors conference that takes place at the end of the month.
  • Watched a very entertaining talk by our Head of IT Governance, Risk and Compliance on the importance of risk management.
  • Attended Visualise Your Agile Strategy and See Your Roadmaps in Context with Craig Cockburn, organised by the Agility Leadership Network.

  • Caught up with some school governor emails. I have such a massive backlog of work to look at for school and I am not quite sure how I will get on top of it all.
  • Spent Thursday evening and a chunk of Friday afternoon setting up Home Assistant on a Raspberry Pi. Our new doorbells are fantastic, but I wanted to solve the problem of their being no audible chime in the house when a button is pressed. In a few hours and with the help of a ton of Googling I managed to create a script that pauses the Sonos speakers in my house, plays a doorbell chime mp3 and then resumes whatever was playing on the speakers. There is so much to Home Assistant and I want to write up my experience so far in a longer blog post, if I can prioritise it.
  • Took my youngest boy and three of his friends to Topgolf in Watford. I had no idea that such a place existed — it effectively turns a driving range into a digital bowling-alley experience. It wasn’t cheap but they had a lot of fun and it was great to see them out enjoying themselves.
  • Had a family dinner at Pizza Express. Due to the iffy weather we had to eat inside which I didn’t feel very comfortable with. We’ve got used to takeaway food over the past year, so the price of the meal felt enormous for a visit only lasting an hour or so.
  • Went out on the bike with my eldest boy on Saturday for his first 100km ride. I’d created a route that looped around Luton and I had no idea that the surroundings were so beautiful. We stopped for a perfect lunch at the Surfin Cafe in Ampthill and fuelled up with sandwiches and drinks. About ten miles from the end of the ride his front wheel started making some strange noises, and with just one mile to go he hit a pothole which gave him a flat rear tyre, so we walked the few hundred metres to the local bike shop and dropped the whole thing off for a service. I’ve been using a new Garmin Edge 830 for the past couple of weeks and it is so impressive — incredible battery life, rolling ascent/descent profiles and information on climbs as you go. It’s a massive upgrade from my seven-year-old Garmin Edge Touring in every conceivable way.
Somewhere in Bedfordshire

Somewhere in Bedfordshire

  • Regretted not putting sun cream on my legs before the bike ride. I only ever seem to go red on my nose, neck and arms and made sure that they were coated in factor 50, but my legs now look ridiculous.
  • Enjoyed an alfresco dinner with a couple of close friends at Rosanna’s in Berkhamsted. We hadn’t eaten together in so long and it was great to see them.
  • Watched my youngest boy’s side win a friendly 10v10 football match as I ran the line.
  • Loved watching the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. It was sad to see Verstappen lose out on a win through no fault of his own, but great that Hamilton’s error meant that the championship race is neutralised.

Next week: Another week jam-packed with meetings, and an Album Club at the end of it.

Overslept as the Sleep Cycle app stopped working on my phone sometime after 2am. This has happened a few times over the years, but worryingly a couple of times in the past week. I wish there was a way to find out why. I’m going to have to set a native backup alarm as well.

Weeknotes #118 — Sunshine, cycling and barbecues

Summer finally arrived! The weather took a turn for the better towards the end of the week and we have just spent the bank holiday weekend basked in sunshine. It may not last long, so we’ll make the most of it. The lawns have finally been mowed and it feels like we’re back in control of things.

Our eldest son was stuck at home once again, having to self-isolate after close contact with someone at school who had a positive COVID-19 test. Being only one of a few people at home was very different to the whole class, or whole year, being off. No shared lessons or check-ins. When we look back in the years to come, perhaps some of the benefit will have been that he’s had to self-start and manage his own time productively, way ahead of when it’s expected of him as a student.

Having him at home meant that I slowed down a bit at lunchtime in order to spend a little time together, instead of rushing around doing the household chores. We watched the news and I dadsplained a bit about how the House of Commons worked.

This was a week in which I:

  • Quickly prepped a summary slide for our London Governance Committee on the different communication channels available to employees and how they are governed and monitored. Later in the week I took a guest slot at the meeting to present for ten minutes on the topic, which seemed to go well.
  • Got the feedback that our presentation for the Beijing Governance Committee was well-received, paving the way for us to complete the IT infrastructure work that we started last year.
  • Watched the team peel back the layers on one of the important systems that we took over from our previous infrastructure vendor to understand how it all hangs together. We’re nearly there in putting the full picture together.
  • Spent more time in meetings on the big group programme. I’ve been struggling to get very excited about it, but I do need to get on the bus. This week I was introduced to the concept of take, shape or create — i.e. whether we just have to do something that is being forced on us, whether we can influence it or whether we make it up ourselves. For the past few years I’ve had the good fortune to be almost totally in create mode, and I am struggling a little to find how to effectively shape this work with so many people involved across the company. I will keep plugging away and hope that the enthusiasm will come.
  • Created a draft outline of material to present to our Internal Audit team, and agreed it with everyone involved in the process. Now to pull the content together.
  • Spent time with another of my peers, reviewing their Kanban board and getting it to a good starting point.
  • Attended a monthly check-in for two of our teams who don’t run regular stand-up meetings, and gave some thoughts on how to tweak the format to make it more effective. It’s a fine balance between people saying they never hear about something and them saying that they get too much information.
  • Added regular 1:1 meetings to the diary with two permanent members of the team.
  • Attended an IT ‘town hall’-style meeting for our division of the company. Not much news, but it the first one under new leadership.
  • Discussed our firm’s approach to cloud computing with our senior IT Architects for this area.
  • Attended a meeting where we learned about how our company has established an ‘incubator’ presence in Mozambique.
  • Met with our Artificial Intelligence team to review their proposal for using their tools in our part of the business. There is a lot of excitement about the possibilities that may open up.
  • Attended a presentation by a member of my team on the tools used by our Compliance department.
  • Had a random coffee meeting with our General Counsel. Really interesting to hear how he ended up in his role.
  • Joined the HeForShe Summit as a viewer. The movement for gender equality is so important, but the event didn’t live up to my expectations — it seemed to be a stream of pre-recorded videos and interviews with various state and business heads, with a text chat room alongside.
  • Had my bike serviced by the local bike shop, ahead of my planned first Audax ride in July. It’s running like a dream now. Did one of the fastest 100km rides I have ever done on Saturday and went for a fun ride from Berkhamsted to Ascot with my son on Sunday. I am in love with being out on my bike at the moment.
  • Spent most of Bank Holiday Monday setting up two Ubiquiti video doorbells on the house. DIY isn’t my forte but it went well. I discovered that decent drill bits make a massive difference, particularly when you’re trying to get through steel. The units look great and the functionality is superb. I need to tidy the wires up, but that’s a job for next weekend.
  • Went to my brother’s house for a barbecue. It’s been such a long time since we got together and it was wonderful to see him and his family. It made me realise how grown-up our boys are becoming now. Like an idiot I spent too much time in the sun and now have a pair of very red arms.
  • Decided to take Friday off to spend with my family, giving me only three days in the office next week.

Next week: A three-day week with plenty to do, our first night out for an adult dinner in over a year and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

🎶 A year after it came out, I’m still obsessed by Katie Von Schleicher’s album Consummation. How do more people not know about this amazing record?

📚 Just fumbled my way through an answer to my 11 year-old’s question of “What’s a liberal?”, prompted by him seeing Ian Dunt’s book on our kitchen table. Thought that would be a better approach than me saying “I haven’t read it yet.”