in Work

Time for a change

I left my job today.

Since I graduated from university I have only ever worked for two companies, albeit in a lot of different roles that have included being a software developer, a business analyst, a business manager and a project, programme and portfolio manager, sometimes with multiple hats on at the same time. I feel very lucky to have started my career by landing in an amazing team and for all of the education and opportunities that then stemmed from this. Leaving my first company after 11 years in 2010 felt like a giant step — I remember worrying whether I was just good at working at that firm or whether I had value to offer more generally. My fears were soon allayed once I started and it gave me a massive confidence boost to know that I could make a switch to something new. I continued to learn, working with interesting people on challenging problems across a wide variety of different functions. The past seven years at this company were very different and it has been great to get access to senior people and a breadth of understanding of how an investment bank works, things that would be much harder to do in a larger firm.

As of tomorrow I will be working for myself for the first time, offering my services to clients as a portfolio, programme or project manager. I’ve always considered myself to be a very risk-averse person when it comes to employment so deciding to ‘go solo’ is a big change for me. I’m excited by the challenge — it will be motivating to be judged solely on how happy my clients are and whether I am continuing to add value to them. Over the past few weeks I have had to get to grips with small business accounting, insurances of many different kinds (both for my new small company as well as my family) and getting used to the idea of no longer being an employee. Hopefully I have everything covered and I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough if I haven’t. My new working life — and a new adventure — starts on Monday and I’m very much looking forward to it.

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  • The past couple of weeks have been so busy — this week reaching a ‘having difficulty breathing’-level of busyness — with regular gasps when remembering things I need to or have committed to do. Despite having a good ubiquitous capture tool and a reasonably solid GTD-esque reminder system I still found myself juggling to get through the week without dropping anything.
    In my current role I have fallen off of the Inbox Zero bandwagon and am struggling to prioritise the time to get back on again. I remember reading a post by Michael Lopp which said that he gets all of his inboxes to zero every day. How? Surely he must take a brutal approach to processing it. Someone I know recently invested in a ‘GTD coach’ and a couple of weeks later is still finding themselves doing a lot of capturing and processing and not as much actioning as they would like. The coach’s advice is that the GTD process will reflect back at you when you have too many commitments and you need to do something to pull back on them. I’m just not sure what I can pull back on right now.
    My calendar seems to be perpetually full. I’ve thought about defensive scheduling, but most of the meetings are with people who are getting work done for my programme and the cost of me having some time back is a potential loss of prioritisation, direction and focus in the team. I’m going to have to do something about it soon as there are some big things to get done before the end of May: on-boarding workshops with our new chosen vendor to help us with where we’re ultimately heading, working through the details of the programme plan with each of the stream leads, integrating the work across all of the streams and creating an approach and plan for hiring. All of this while we continue our software rollout in our final two countries and work on fixes and updates for the locations where we are already up and running. I’m going to have to take a hard line with prioritisation as much as I can, and across the team we need to make sure we are as spending as little time as possible on the old/current infrastructure platform. We have a small team and need to keep everyone focused on making where we are going great.
    Late on Monday afternoon I suddenly found myself picking up and coordinating the communications around a significant production issue. As the team is small, if something like this happens it is very easy for us to get sucked into managing the detail. Looking back, it was interesting and unusual in that it only impacted us and not our primary infrastructure supplier, as in the past problems typically hit both of us at the same time. As we continue to move further aware from their infrastructure stack there will be more cases like this. The key thing is making sure that everyone has the same understanding of who is responsible for ownership and communications, no matter where the problem originates.
    My contract with my client has been renewed for another year, which is great. The first year of being a contractor has gone by so quickly; I can’t believe that it’s been 12 months since I was preparing to leave my old job and venture out on my own. I still have a long list of things I want to do with the company I’ve set up, not least of which is finishing off my website which has been on my to-do list for months.
    My evenings have been spent keeping on top of governor work. May is the time that we close out on last year’s budget and agree on the next one, and I’ve put a lot of time into getting my head around the various views of school financial data so that I can confidently sign them off. The staff at our new Financial Services supplier have been great; it was lovely to get my long list of questions answered so quickly, while the context and reasoning was still fresh in my mind. Next week we have the penultimate Full Governing Board meeting of the academic year and as usual we have a lot to get through; I’m going to have to be on-form as Chair in order for us to finish on schedule.
    SATS week came and went in a flash. We’re so lucky that our eldest boy didn’t seem fazed by it at all. The school is so supportive; the year 6 teachers sent the fantastic letter below to everyone they had a special in-school breakfast all week, making sure that they were all settled in order to do their best. I’m clearly biased, but I’m so happy that our boys ended up attending this school.

    Our younger boy has made us proud by being chosen as ‘player’s player’ of the season in his football team. He’s so pleased to get the award and it’s great to see him have some sporting success when usually so much of the awards and plaudits are focused on his older brother.

    The hastily-assembled WB40 podcast book club tackled our first book, The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The plan was to read the first three chapters (as that’s the assumed distance into a typical business book required for you to understand what the rest of it will say) and then discuss it. It’s been great to join in but I’ve been worried about leaving a trail of half-read books all over the place. So, after reading the first three chapters I ploughed on and finished the book, helped significantly by having the audiobook version to accompany my commute. It’s a good read and has sparked some very interesting discussion, but my conclusion is that in this case the three-chapter rule is correct. I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing book reviews recently but will try and put something together on this one.
    I managed to remember to cancel my trial Economist subscription before they hit me with a big charge. They seem a little sneaky in that there is no automated unsubscribe option and you need to send an email to them in order to do it. “That’s how they get ya.”
    Next week: More professional diary wrestling, running our next Full Governing Board meeting and then hosting Album Club #87. My turn to host felt like miles away and now it’s here, and I still haven’t settled on an album choice. Here are some tracks from the shortlist of three:


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