in Weeknotes

Weeknote #22 — Johannesburg

A week away on business always goes by in a flash and this was no exception. I’m writing this from the plane home, sitting here on the tarmac at Johannesburg airport and not quite believing that the week is behind us already. And what a week; we finally kicked off a stream of work on our programme that I’ve been working on for over six months and it’s great to get this ‘cab off the rank’. We flew down with four team members from the vendor that we have chosen to work with, and for each of them it was their first time in South Africa. It was really interesting to see the country and the scale of the firm’s Johannesburg operation through their eyes. Years ago in a previous job I used to come down here once a month or so and I always love coming back — the people are so great and there is always such a warm welcome.

Our main event was a workshop on Tuesday with IT Architecture staff from across the firm. I spent Friday afternoon and evening getting prepared and making sure that everyone had their presentations and discussion material in order. My role was to run the day and to present an overview of my programme at the start, drawing links to why we had our attendees there and setting the scene for what we needed from them. The afternoon was spent in three ‘deep dive’ sessions where we captured a bunch of things for follow-up later in the week. The workshop could not have been better attended and our team felt very supported throughout the day; we all left feeling that everything had gone really well and we were all set for the rest of the week.

A colleague booked out a room in one of the big office buildings for the rest of the week so that our team had a well-advertised base for people to drop in and see them. From Wednesday to Friday there was a steady stream of visitors to come and cover a massive variety of IT architecture and infrastructure topics, giving our team direction on what was happening in the South African operation and what things they need to consider in the wider context of the firm. In a very real sense the work is just beginning but it could not have got off to a better start.

Unusually for a week away I spent a couple of evenings at the hotel with room service for dinner. Typically there are meals every night with different people but this time a few people were suffering with stomach issues so we didn’t go out so much. We had a great team night out at the Wanderers cricket ground for a braai and to watch the opening game of the World Cup. Those of us from the UK like to rib the local team about how mild their ‘winter’ is but once the sun went down we really felt the fact that central heating is non-existent in Johannesburg and shivered our way to the end of the evening. Great fun and lovely to catch up.

There’s always so much to do on a trip away. It always feels that time is best spent catching up with people and building relationships, which inevitably means that the email backlog stacks up and I end up having to do any ‘real work’ in the evenings, with a lot of it just being reshuffling my calendar for the remainder of the week. This means late nights, leaping into bed with my head still buzzing and very little wind-down time, and an increasing level of tiredness as Friday approaches. By the time I get to being at the airport I’m toast.

My iPad really came into its own this week. To get a ‘proper’ work environment I had to connecting back into the company’s remote desktop was via my laptop which felt laggy and clunky. It was great to be able to quickly deal with emails and documents from the iPad and also to use BlueJeans for videoconferences no matter where I found myself throughout the week. BlueJeans is a bit of a battery muncher but works really well.

Faces and names hidden to protect the innocent!

Faces and names hidden to protect the innocent!

Evenings in meant that, for the first time I can remember, I made use of the hotel gym. It was only thirty minutes on the exercise bike but I sweated buckets. Every little helps, right?

Next week: Keeping the momentum. Consolidating everything the team learned this week. Trying to work out how we can get software rolled out and data migrated in our final two countries whilst struggling with resource constraints at our supplier. Turning my attention to getting more things going, getting the next programme steering committee pack in place and putting together a roadmap for the remainder of the year.

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