Got a personal Yodeck player up and running at home. Bought the Raspberry Pi 4 directly from them, shipped and delivered in just a few days. Running Sky News from YouTube plus a carousel of weather, clocks and social media feeds. Need some more ideas for the display now.

Weeknotes #196 — Red lines

I felt a little bit off-colour last weekend. It was like I had a mild hangover, despite not having had anything to drink. Two colleagues were flying in from Johannesburg for the week; I planned to spend every day working with them in our London office, so I thought it was prudent to take a COVID-19 test. Two tests on Sunday came back negative as did another one on Monday morning. But a fourth test on Monday evening resulted in the dreaded double red lines.

I could only apologise to my colleagues that I had spent the day and evening with. Perhaps if it was a regular week, I would have stayed at home just in case. But I was excited to see them, was looking forward to a team night out and figured that it was just some other random lurgy that was going around.

It is almost a year since I knowingly got infected for the first time. I guess this is just how life is going to be now? This time around the effects were a little worse than before, although it was still relatively mild. I was never poorly enough take any time off work, but I did need a lot of sleep and didn’t feel up to any exercise. On Wednesday night I developed a mild fever but it was gone within 24 hours. Thankfully, none of my family have developed any symptoms despite sharing the house with me. Government guidance is to stay at home for five days.

This was a week in which I:

  • Spent Thursday with the Engineering management team in a strategy meeting. I was the only person attending remotely, with everyone else in a meeting room in our London office. A few of us had put together a broad outline of the meeting a few days before which we largely kept to. We dived into thoughts on leadership before moving onto strategy, bringing in a guest from the CEO office to go through the work that has been done at his level. Our plan is to have a quarterly session starting next year to look at things top-down instead of bottom-up. I’ve always liked Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy/Bad Strategy which has this definition:

The kernel of a strategy contains three elements:
1. A diagnosis that defines or explains the nature of the challenge. A good diagnosis simplifies the often overwhelming complexity of reality by identifying certain aspects of the situation as critical.
2. A guiding policy for dealing with the challenge. This is an overall approach chosen to cope with or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis.
3. A set of coherent actions that are designed to carry out the guiding policy. These are steps that are coordinated with one another to work together in accomplishing the guiding policy.

  • He also talks about how to detect a bad strategy:

To detect a bad strategy, look for one or more of its four major hallmarks:
– Fluff. Fluff is a form of gibberish masquerading as strategic concepts or arguments. It uses “Sunday” words (words that are inflated and unnecessarily abstruse) and apparently esoteric concepts to create the illusion of high-level thinking.
– Failure to face the challenge. Bad strategy fails to recognize or define the challenge. When you cannot define the challenge, you cannot evaluate a strategy or improve it.
– Mistaking goals for strategy. Many bad strategies are just statements of desire rather than plans for overcoming obstacles.
– Bad strategic objectives. A strategic objective is set by a leader as a means to an end. Strategic objectives are “bad” when they fail to address critical issues or when they are impracticable.

  • Presented three items at our quarterly Architecture Governance Authority meeting and got the go ahead on all three. Two of the items are applications we want to enable on our Microsoft 365 tenant and the third was for a Password Manager which I plan to roll out early next year.
  • Set up our new ‘work location broadcasting tool’ which we plan to pilot over the next few weeks before making a decision on rolling it our across our organisation. It’s so simple to use, and plugs a gap in the way that the Microsoft suite works today. I also reviewed a draft agreement for our pilot which we need to finalise next week.
  • Took part in a retrospective, looking specifically at the way in which my immediate team works. It has been very useful to reflect on how we go about things. We started this process a couple of weeks ago and still have one more session to go.
  • Met with our Enterprise Architect for our bi-monthly catch-up and discussed an issue that I raised a few weeks ago.
  • Attended an Architecture feedback session, reviewing a number of architecture decisions that were made at the highest forums in the past few weeks.
  • Reviewed our options for setting up an internal blog that is accessible by the rest of the organisation. We have been looking at SharePoint for a couple of weeks but the feeling I get is that it just isn’t built to run a blog-style content management system without extensive customisation. We’ve decided to pilot using Viva Engage (previously known as Yammer), despite the very mention of it making us itch based on our experiences from years ago. There seems to be a very broad user base at our firm and it comes with a lot of blog-like features out of the box. We’ll experiment and review how it goes.
  • Joined a series of very insightful meetings with our heads of Finance and Risk, as well as staff in Compliance, to talk through our thinking about our digital initiatives and get their input.
  • Met with our cross-functional digital product team to talk through a presentation they have put together to gain support and buy-in for their work. We drifted into topics such as ways of working; it was useful to be reminded of the gap between how we work in technology versus the rest of the organisation. I have some follow up meetings and discussions planned off the back of this.
  • Attended our Information Risk Steering Group and gave updates on a couple of initiatives that I am running.
  • Met with our People and Culture, and Marketing and Communications teams to discuss a planned service provider change for employee discounts.
  • Joined our weekly project meeting for closing down one of our regional offices.
  • Had an unexpected view of a suburban area of Beijing through a one-on-one meeting with a colleague. Our office was closed due to a detected COVID-19 case, so he took the opportunity to show me around where he lives. It reminded me of a typical street in Queens or Brooklyn in New York City.
  • Attended a division-wide town hall meeting and won a recognition award with a small cash prize.
  • Couldn’t find a simple solution to get a timer to display on a Teams Room screen alongside all of the participant video feeds. I’d be interested if anyone has solved this.
  • Enjoyed a Learning Hour cybersecurity presentation from a colleague.
  • Loved seeing my colleagues from Johannesburg, albeit briefly. We had a brilliant night out with most of our department at the Singer Tavern followed by darts at Flight Club across the road.

  • Completed and circulated drafts of our school’s Pay Policy as well as the five (yes, FIVE) UK GDPR-related policies to the Governing Board, ahead of our meeting next week.
  • Reviewed most of the materials ahead of the Full Governing Board meeting.
  • Read through the materials ahead of our headteacher assessment and interview day.
  • Decided to change my approach to concert-going to one where I buy my own ticket and broadcast my plans to my musically-minded friends. I didn’t get to see the wonderful Kathryn Joseph on Tuesday night as I was ill. The friends I was going with decided not to go either and I couldn’t find anyone to take my three tickets.
  • Missed the cycling club’s AGM as I wasn’t well. I’ve not been able to participate as much as I would have liked to, especially in the second part of the year.
  • Was sent a replacement TICKR heart rate monitor by the lovely people at Wahoo after mine gave up after 11 months. I think there is a design flaw as it is the second that has died on me. The main unit is fine, but the poppers that hold the straps on always seem to get corroded.

  • Turned off my mind by continuing to watch some episodes of Grange Hill on BritBox. I’m now late on in series two and have started to make notes on some of the more ridiculous aspects of the show.
  • Switched off crossposting from this blog to Twitter. There’s a toxic person at the helm and I’ve decided to stop creating posts on there. I’ve recently set up a Mastodon account and the service has the feeling of Twitter circa 2009, in a good way. Years ago I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts; I plan to keep my Twitter account in place, partly so that I don’t break parts of the web and partly so that I can use to find accounts of people I previously followed on ‘the bird site’.

Next week: Assessing prospective headteachers, meeting with the Full Governing Board, getting back to the office and taking a day off to spend with my wife.

Surprised they’ve stuck to the format of two halves for each game in this World Cup.

You’d think they would have split them into FOUR QATARS.

📚 Finished reading Glyph by Adriana Caneva, Shiro Nishimoto and Anna Davies. A pretty little book with lots of interesting nuggets of information on the symbols we see and use, alongside beautiful examples in different typefaces.

Really enjoying digging into the ooh! directory. Blogging is alive and well in 2022. I love the 1990’s-era Yahoo!-style taxonomical approach to the listings, including the ‘NEW!’ badges. I’ve found some great blogs that I’ll be adding to my Feedbin.

📚 Everything You Need to Know About the Menopause

There are some things that happen in life that people don’t talk about, despite the commonality of the experience. Recently, a group of my online friends started discussing their, and their partners’, experience of the menopause. One person shared with the group, and all of a sudden the stories came pouring out. I knew the basics, but I didn’t realise how much of a difficult — and sometimes devastating — experience it could be.

My wife and I are both 45 so it felt like a good time to learn a lot more about it. Kate Muir’s book, Everything You Need to Know About the Menopause (but were too afraid to ask) is an excellent place to start.

The key points I took from the book were:

  • Dealing with the effects of the menopause over a long period of time is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the Victorian era in the UK, people used to die at the average age of 59. With average life expectancy now extended by thirty years, women have to live in a post-menopausal state for much longer.
  • There is nowhere near enough education about the menopause. We learn about puberty at school but not about what happens to half of the population in later life. Given how reluctant people are to talk about it, access to information can be difficult.

The divide between those who have menopause support and knowledge and those left to suffer is massive.

  • More worryingly, the lack of education also extends to the medical profession. The book contains horrific stories of undiagnosed and misdiagnosed patients, including the case of one woman ultimately being given electroshock therapy after being diagnosed with ‘treatment-resistant depression’. It turned out that her symptoms were caused by hormone deficiency:

Although the menopause will happen to every woman in the world, and has massive health consequences, according to a Menopause Support investigation, 41 per cent of UK medical schools do not give mandatory menopause education.

… in one study of around 3,000 British menopausal women, after complaining of the onset of low mood or anxiety, 66 per cent were offered antidepressants by their doctor instead of hormones.

  • Some good news is that there is freely-accessible information out there for medical professionals, for example this 90-minute video from Dr Louise Newson on assessing perimenopausal and menopausal women, and safely prescribing HRT during remote consultations:

  • Menopause leads to other major health issues — osteoporosis (brittle and fragile bones), Alzheimer’s (dementia) and heart disease. There are some things you can do to combat a reduction in bone density, such as high-impact exercise, but on their own they are not as effective as when they are combined with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Using body-identical transdermal estrogen after the age of 50 halves a woman’s chances of breaking a hip and reduces her chances of having a heart attack.
  • A Women’s Health Initiative study in 2002 made people extremely wary of HRT. It turns out that there are different types of treatment; compounded ‘bioidentical’ tablets are awful as there is no reliable way to know what they contain, whereas body-identical hormone cream does not carry the same risks:

We need to question the conventional wisdom, which says that HRT causes breast cancer and that the risks of taking HRT outweigh the benefits. What most people – including me, until I began my investigation – think they know about HRT is wrong on two counts: every form of HRT is not the same, and the terrifying cancer-scare headlines which erupted with the Women’s Health Initiative Study back in 2002 refer to the older, synthetic forms of HRT that have now been superseded by a completely different products.

The bad news: In the general population, 23 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed per 1,000 women. If women take the old, synthetic HRT, an additional 4 cases appear. If women drink a large glass of wine every day, an additional 5 cases appear. If women are obese (BMI over 30), an additional 24 cases appear. The good news: If women take 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week, 7 cases disappear. If women take estrogen-only HRT, 4 cases disappear.

  • The experience of the menopause is yet another burden for women that can hold them back in their careers. It typically turns up at a time when they already have a lot on their plates, trying to sustain a career whilst dealing with moody teenagers and ageing parents. Hot flushes can be debilitating. Thanks to reports on COVID-19 we have heard a lot about ‘brain fog’; unfortunately this is another symptom of the menopause:

When scientists ask menopausal women about their symptoms, 80 per cent report hot flushes, 77 per cent report joint pain, and 60 per cent memory issues. Aside from these three, further plagues of the menopause include: heart palpitations, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, headaches, panic attacks, exhaustion, irritability, muscle pain, night sweats, loss of libido, vaginal dryness, body odour, brittle nails, dry mouth, digestive problems, gum disease, dry skin, hair loss, poor concentration, weight gain, dizzy spells, stress incontinence – and last but not least, something that might be from a horror movie: formication, which means an itchy feeling under the skin, like ants. I had that. Quite simply, the majority of women battle through the menopause, and only a lucky few are symptom-free.

  • Suicide is at its highest for women aged 45–49, and at its second highest in the 50–54 age group.
  • Some women have to deal with menopause much earlier in their lives than they would otherwise expect. Early onset menopause, and medical menopause (i.e. following a medical procedure), can both be extremely traumatic. One in 40 women experience the menopause before they turn 40.
  • Women actually produce more testosterone than estrogen. According to menopause experts, testosterone is an essential hormone that should be replaced and yet it is not officially prescribed ‘on licence’ on the UK National Health Service as part of HRT. It shouldn’t be considered a ‘lifestyle drug’ just used to enhance a person’s libido, but “a life-saving hormone that will preserve [women’s] brains, bodies and long-term health.” It enhances “cognition, muscle, mode, bone density and energy.”
  • There is a ‘window of opportunity’ at the start of the menopause to begin estrogen replacement which reduces the chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  • However, promising research is growing on older women starting HRT a decade or more after the menopause.
  • There is a small group of oncologists are looking at prescribing HRT to breast cancer survivors following a good recovery, used in conjunction with anti-cancer drugs such as tamoxifen. It may be that in some cases, the quality of a person’s life post-menopause outweighs the risks.

The book is a must-read. It has increased my knowledge from next-to-nothing to a broad, general understanding of something that half of the people around me will go through at some point in their lives. I’ve bought a second copy to be left in our book-swap rack at my office.

🎫 I have three tickets to the amazing Kathryn Joseph at the Islington Assembly Hall in London tonight that I can’t use. Please let me know if you are interested in them. No charge!

Weeknotes #195 — The fine folk of WB-40

Even by recent standards, this was an incredibly busy week. Things tend to slow right down at work in December as South Africa takes its summer holidays, so there’s a race to get things completed before people start to disappear. School governor meetings also came thick and fast this week, with lots of events that just happened to land one after the other.

Tiredness on Friday was hidden by my excitement of finally getting to meet the Internet friends that I have made through the WB-40 podcast Signal group. Matt Ballantine and Chris Weston couldn’t have known what they were creating when they started the show. They have brought together the most wonderful community of geeks that over the past few years have shared laughter and tears together. Meeting people in real life that I have only really known over a message group — and very occasional video call — proves to me that you absolutely can establish meaningful, supportive and productive relationships without being physically in the same the same place. It felt like a reunion, despite many of us meeting for the very first time. It’s a privilege to be part of the group.

This was a week in which I:

  • Met with a colleague in our Marketing and Communications team to discuss ideas for our planned password manager rollout. I originally wanted us to go live at the start of January as people return to the office, but this is becoming less realistic as we go through our lengthy vendor on-boarding processes.
  • Hastily pulled together submissions to our Architecture Governance Authority for a couple of applications that we want to connect to our Microsoft 365 tenant, along with the password manager software.
  • Completed some draft slides for my boss to use at an upcoming ‘people day’ meeting.
  • Met a colleague and a vendor for an interesting discussion on what was originally pitched as ‘career activism’; helping staff to take charge of their careers. The consensus is that ‘activism’ has negative connotations, so another name is in the works. Continued the discussion after the meeting and agreed that people don’t often stop to look at themselves and realise all the benefits they have of being in their current roles.
  • Spent a lot of time with our Digital team as they recapped where they are with their various products, and planned and delivered an organisation-wide talk to showcase them. They have been doing excellent work on tools that should allow us to make significant improvements to our understanding of our clients. The products range from simple to complex; the latter are interesting because they will take lots of our teams into uncharted territory.
  • Spent time with our CIO to structure and prepare for a strategy day that we have planned for next week. Two of my colleagues are coming over to London from Johannesburg, so we should have everyone in the same room.
  • Joined a meeting with our new head of Investment Banking to get her views on our business challenges. We’ve been talking to all of the senior leaders across our part of the organisation and will continue these sessions next week.
  • Took part in the weekly meeting with the Marketing and Communications, and People and Culture teams. Gave feedback on recent initiatives that we have been running internally and the impact that I think they have had on my team.
  • Had a catch-up with a colleague who is stuck in a COVID-19 quarantine hotel.
  • Took part in the weekly project meeting for closing one of our offices.
  • Was taken out for a lovely lunch by a colleague as a thank-you for giving her some spare theatre tickets earlier in the year. I’d never been to Cafe Below before, despite having walked past it hundreds of times. It was a pleasant surprise, with delicious food in a unique setting.

  • Reviewed the applications for the post of Headteacher at our school. The recruitment panel met to discuss our views and agree who we will put on a shortlist. The next step is for us to nail down the details of the assessment day and then spend a day in school observing and interviewing the candidates.
  • Met with our School Improvement Partner to hear her feedback after spending a morning in our school.
  • Completed our Headteacher’s annual performance review, sadly for the last time.
  • Chaired our school Finance, Premises and Personnel meeting. Had a call with our school Site Manager to discuss a couple of actions from the meeting.
  • Joined the HFL Education Hertfordshire Headteacher Update briefing. There isn’t a lot of good news about at the moment, particularly when it comes to school funding; the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that the real-terms spend in schools in 2024–25 will be 3% lower than in 2010. On top of this, at least one in six children are across the county are presenting with mental health needs, with the system stressed. It really feels that there is a national crisis brewing.
  • Joined a videoconference to learn about World Challenge, a 27-night expedition for children between the ages of 15 and 18. Our eldest son is mulling it over. It would be a life-changing experience, but it’s expensive. They told us that the children who do best on the trip are the ones that have strived to raise most of the money themselves.
  • Finally completed the treatment on my bad tooth that started in the summer, getting my second gold crown. I need to look at insuring my head, or at least making sure my family know to extract both of them in the event of my demise.
  • Made it out on Saturday morning for a cycling club ride. It was so good to see everyone again. I joined the club around this time last year, so going out in the cold and damp, with mudguards on my bike, got me thinking about how quickly the year has gone. I jumped straight back in with my usual speed group and felt pretty good as we propelled ourselves around the wet, pot-holed lanes.
  • Ran the line at my eldest son’s football match. It was a cold but gloriously sunny morning in Cheddington.

  • Watched the anti-climactic final F1 race of the season. Yas Marina is a good-looking place, but it rarely produces great races. As someone on Twitter recently said, “What should be the last race of the season and why is it Brazil?”
  • Met some close friends for a walk around the Christmas display at Kew Gardens. The displays are beautiful. The circuit is very, very long and we had parked a thirty minute walk away from the venue; by the time we neared the end we were all looking forward to getting back and relaxing at home.

Next week: In the office all week with our visitors from out of town. Seeing Kathryn Joseph. And meeting up with the cycle club for the AGM.

Ran out of kettle de-scaler, so I used Google Lens to search for the product using a photo of its bar code. I think the results are a bit too literal.

Weeknotes #194 — Smoke Fairies IV

This week has been a struggle. Every now and then I go through a phase of self-doubt, questioning everything I’m doing for my job and wondering whether I’m on the right track. It’s happened so many times before and it always passes, but while it’s here it feels like there’s a cloud hanging over me. Back when I started work in 1999 I quickly moved from software development to analysis and project management and that’s where I’ve stayed. But I’ve always wondered what would have happened if I had dived deeper into coding and built my technical skills.

I have a few things on my ‘big milestones’ list that I haven’t achieved yet this year. Now that there are only a handful of weeks left this year, the things not done are nagging at me. I don’t know whether it is because I’ve had to get involved in other work, or whether I just gravitate to projects and tasks that are less nebulous and easier to move to the ‘done’ pile. Having so much latitude in my job is a real blessing, but is also sometimes difficult to navigate. It will pass.

This was a week in which I:

  • Met with a colleague to discuss our approach for improving management of unstructured data across Microsoft 365. This project will be ramping up over the remainder of the year and into next.
  • Worked on a draft outline of a presentation for an annual senior management meeting focused on our staff.
  • Took part in a retrospective for my immediate team, looking at how we work and thinking about how we can improve our processes. It was so useful to go through this in a guided way; we haven’t been this introspective in some time.
  • Attended our monthly risk management meeting. We’ve made great progress in closing out some items and moving forward with mitigations for others.
  • Shared an overview of my team’s remaining key deliverables for 2022 in our department meeting.
  • Took part in the weekly project meeting for closing down one of our regional offices.
  • Spent time with colleagues in a sister department to discuss ‘ways of work’ and how they might approach improving their culture and processes. It feels as though I am building a good rapport with the team.
  • Went through our ‘ways of working’ journey so far with a recent joiner in our team. Next week we’ll look at how we can take it forward from where we are right now.
  • Enjoyed a Learning Hour presentation by one of my team members on how to use the Invision web app.
  • Saw our team complete a major network infrastructure change in one of our regional offices, completing the work that they have been doing across all of our locations all year. It significantly simplifies our setup and puts us in a good place to build out additional capabilities.
  • Attended a ‘digital showcase’ session where a colleague presented on our API marketplace offerings.
  • Attended a Better Value Sooner Safer Happier meetup on the topic of Tilting at Supertankers: Business Agility in Large Organisations. It was well-presented and well-received, but I didn’t feel as though there was enough new information in the presentation for me.

  • Distributed the materials for, and clerked, our school governor Pay Committee meeting. We had lots to cover. I now need to put aside some time to write up the minutes.
  • Had the privilege of seeing the Smoke Fairies play live again, for a ‘one night only’ show where they played all of their singles in chronological order. They didn’t disappoint. I first saw them live ten years ago when they launched their Blood Speaks album; they get better every time I see them. I’ve been supporting them on Patreon since they got it set up; it’s lovely to get a steady stream of home-made live performances on a regular basis in return. Getting home from the venue was a drama as the trains out of London were messed up, but it was worth it. Towards the end of the gig they played a song that was released during lockdown, No Matter How This Goes, Just Make Sure That You’re Kind. It brought back memories of what a stressful time the pandemic was. Watching live-streamed gigs from the Smoke Fairies and others was a little slice of joy.

  • Did a double-take when I saw someone standing next to me that I remembered noticing at the Blood Speaks gig in 2012, as well as the Cate Le Bon Cyrk album launch that happened around the same time. It turns out that he is Roger Mairlot, known (affectionately?) as the ‘Gig Slut’, and attends hundreds of gigs in London every year. Next time I see him I will say hello.

  • Finally got to take my new bike on a ride after a little break from all of the rain we’ve had. I rode out to Milton Keynes to see my eldest son take part in a Chiltern League cross-country run. It was joyous. We are going to have a lot of fun together. I can’t wait to get back to Saturday morning rides with the bike club.

  • Met up with a couple of close friends on Friday night to go for a pub dinner. It had been a long time since I’d seen one of my friends in the flesh and it was great to spend time with him.
  • Went to a dinner party with some friends who live a couple of streets away. They are amazing hosts and nobody went without a drink or something to eat for more than a few seconds.

Next week: A bulging diary, culminating in — at long last — meeting the people of WB-40.

📚 Pledged for a copy of LAN Party, a crowdfunded book about multiplayer gaming in the days where everyone had to bring their kit and wire it together.

Weeknotes #193 — Big duvet

A good, solid week where I got lots done. I managed to move forward with most of my projects in some way. Our unseasonably warm October has moved aside for an exceedingly wet November, so far at least. Temperatures have dropped, so we’ve switched our summer duvet over to the incredibly deep, snuggly winter one.

This was a week in which I:

  • Remembered that I had a Monday 8am online meeting as my train pulled into the station at 8am on Monday. It was a bright, sunny day so I joined the Teams call on my mobile and joined on video as I walked the 40 minutes to my office. It worked well, and I was grateful for the additional hour in bed.
  • Spent time with our new Head of Investment Banking to talk through an important project that we ran in 2020, getting her buy-in for some follow-up work.
  • Joined our weekly project meeting for closing down one of our regional offices. Nailing down a critical path is tricky, with multiple ‘chicken and egg’ scenarios in that we still need parts of the company to be functional as we shut it down.
  • Had a meeting to discuss the technical requirements of one of our regional offices. We are likely to be vacating the premises in a year or two, by which point I am hoping that we don’t need an actual ’server room’ as part of the floor plan. Our vision is to have just a cabinet on the wall with some switches and links to our wireless access points, with very little else.
  • Spent time workshopping a short online talk that our digital product team will be giving in a couple of weeks’ time.
  • Met with our sister company to discuss the planned tactical and strategic technical refits of our shared space.
  • Created and delivered a ’learning hour’ presentation on the internal Scaled Agile Framework conference that I went to in Johannesburg in August. I deliberately didn’t spend lots of time creating new things to share, instead using the materials that we left the conference with. The talk seemed to have an impact in the team as a couple of people referred back to it in conversations later in the week.
  • Informed the vendor of the ‘location broadcasting tool’ that we are ready to move to the pilot stage. We’re going to try it out across our Engineering, People and Culture, and Marketing and Communications teams to begin with. I met with representatives from those teams to show them what the tool will look like. It’ll be interesting to see the take-up.
  • Had a technical session with our chosen password management vendor, talking to the Helpdesk team about what internal tool support looks like in practice. We have much to do if we are to be ready for a company-wide launch in January.
  • Joined a meeting with one of the largest microprocessor manufacturers in the world. Our CTO had invited them to our office to discuss their view of trends and predictions, their roadmap, and how we are thinking about their technology. Data centre owners are sometimes our clients, giving us a slightly different perspective on things.
  • Had further discussions on the design choices for an internal team blog that will be hosted on SharePoint. I spoke to friends about whether there are better platform choices, but it seems that for something internal that SharePoint is probably the right answer.
  • Completed my personal annual review for 2022. Nobody likes doing these reviews, but it is just the way of things. I felt for my boss who had to complete his part of the process to a deadline while he was away on holiday.
  • Raised the idea of having a formal role of Technical Product Owner (TPO) within our organisation. This was in place at the Swiss bank I worked for over a decade ago and it worked well. It was a formal title given to people in the IT organisation that meant that they were recognised as the ‘go to’ person for a piece of software or hardware. They had additional responsibilities on top of their day job that they undertook for the good of the community. It carried prestige as it meant that the person with the title was recognised as the leading internal voice for a particular technology. For example, someone might be the TPO of Business Intelligence software. They would have a day-to-day role where they used the software but were also responsible for:
    • Articulating why we as a company had chosen product X instead of — or as well as — other products in the market.
    • Coordinating licencing and ensuring we got the best deal, leveraging our scale.
    • Understanding and communicating the vendor roadmap within our organisation, and providing guidance on the appropriate versions to use.
    • Working with the vendor, bringing them into the organisation to give technical updates and increasing their understanding about how we were using their product.
    • Thinking about how we went about engaging with the product and whether it would make sense to, for example, offer the product ‘as a service’, taking away the need for others to setup their installations from scratch.
    • Act as a point of escalation on detailed technical issues and topics.
  • Met with my peers to discuss the format and agenda for our upcoming strategic planning day.
  • Had an in-person ‘random coffee’ with a member of our Transactional Products and Services team. I love that I’ve got to know colleagues like this through these randomised encounters.
  • Enjoyed a webinar-style meeting with our new head of Investment Banking, getting an insight into her fascinating and challenging career so far, as well as her first impressions of working with us.
  • Helped a colleague to see that they do not need to wait for permission to present themselves as being in a certain role. I remember years ago when I started to refer to myself as a programme manager on my email signature, as that was what I did. I owned the title and people didn’t dispute it. It felt like a big thing at the time.
  • Joined the excellent monthly Teams Fireside Chat where we covered a lot of detail on Microsoft Teams Rooms. I had lots of questions, all of which were picked up and answered. It turns out that there currently isn’t a satisfying solution for adding a Teams Room to a meeting where you aren’t the organiser.
  • Met with a prospective new school governor who found us through the Inspiring Governance service. It’s such a pleasure and privilege to speak to people who are willing to give up their time for an organisation that they have no prior links with.
  • Finished looking into whether we should move the school’s role of UK GDPR Data Protection Officer to an external body. At the moment, with finances so tight, it’s difficult to justify the cost.
  • Attended the annual HFL Education Governor Conference which this year had the theme of ‘Raising The Bar’. This has been a virtual event for the past couple of years. As much as I never like driving halfway across the county to Stevenage, I dearly hope that the next one is held in-person. I’m now of the view that there is a balance to be struck between in-person and virtual meetings; the annual conference seems like a good occasion to have people in the same room, meeting governors from other schools over a cup of coffee, despite the impact on the environment. The presentation from Jo Goodman of the Education Endowment Foundation was excellent. On Sunday I stumbled across this excellent Twitter thread which covered similar ground:

  • Attended my eldest boy’s parents’ evening online.
  • Finally took delivery of the new bike that I ordered in the summer. I was working from home when it turned up; I had to fight my urge to unbox it and start putting it together right there and then. It looks beautiful. I’m waiting for a gap in the weather to take it out for a spin, as I’m not sure pedalling it in anger on a Saturday morning club ride is the best way to start. Waiting for the right conditions feels like a poor version of a planned SpaceX launch.
  • Had another short meeting with a colleague from twenty years ago, hearing more about his plans now that he has moved to Australia.
  • Waited for British Gas to turn up for an appointment they made with me to fix some of the electrics in our house. They never showed.
  • Ran the line at my eldest boy’s football match. Got completely soaked.
  • Had our good friends over for dinner as their home renovations mean that they are currently without a kitchen. We watched the first few tracks of Joe Jackson live at Rockpalast in 1983 which never fails to blow my mind. What a band. We also ended up watching Harry Mack doing his thing in London, which had us laughing out loud at how incredible it is:

  • Had our windows cleaned for the first time in a year or so. The window cleaner covers lots of our street already. It’s a shame that it has rained so much since they were done.
  • Started subscribing to NowTV again so that we can watch the second season of The White Lotus. I love that we have to wait each week for the next episode.
  • Subscribed to BritBox so that I can watch Grange Hill from the first episode onwards. I remember enjoying the show so much, but in reality I must have only tuned in for a few years in the late 1980s. Hearing some of the racist language on screen is shocking.
  • Loved hearing a full White Stripes album for the first time at Album Club.
  • Had my first mince pie of the season. Too early? It’s never too early.

Next week: The Smoke Fairies singles gig is finally here!

New experience last night. At some point I was dreaming about being on a football pitch doing some warm ups with a bunch of other people. Someone had a shot at goal and I dived to cover the ball, then woke up as I found myself actually diving out of bed towards the floor.