Weeknotes #60–61 — Storms

Somewhere over the Atlantic

Somewhere over the Atlantic

An incredibly eventful fortnight in which I…

  • Had a very busy week in London, getting ready to head to New York for the configuration and rollout of my client’s new IT stack.
  • Made a good connection with the account manager at my client’s laptop supplier. The devices have been brilliant and the support we have been getting has been very welcome.
  • Started to think about how we can respond to staff impacted by the coronavirus. It would be simple and easy to just delay our IT rollout in China, but much better if we can somehow work around the problem, bringing the new IT equipment to where people are to enable them to work more easily.
  • Was impacted by the Microsoft Teams outage for a few hours, along with the rest of my colleagues and bazillions of other companies around the world. It failed for a shocking reason, but it was refreshing to see a large company like Microsoft admit what it was. My client is so heavily-dependent on Teams that it caused a few problems, but a great feature of cloud software is that you don’t need to do the running around yourself to fix it — the best people for the job will work on it and let you know when it’s sorted.
  • Debated what a good post-incident root cause analysis (RCA) looks like. The write-ups from Monzo set the gold standard for me. Attaining this level of quality is probably unachievable, but it is great to have something to aim for.
  • Revamped our daily team ‘standup’ meeting. We’re trying out LightningTalks on Wednesdays. Eventually I hope that these can be shared with a wider audience but while we get them off the ground it seems right to keep it within the team. On Fridays we are running a ‘wins’ session as described in Christina Wodtke’s Radical Focus:

“In the Friday wins session, teams all demo whatever they can. Engineers show bits of code they’ve got working and designers show mockups and maps. But beyond that, every team should share something. Sales can talk about who they’ve closed, Customer Service can talk about customers they’ve rescued, Business Development shares deals. This have several benefits. One, you start to feel like you are part of a pretty special winning team. Two, the team starts looking forward to having something to share. They seek wins. And lastly, the company starts to appreciate what each discipline is going through and understands what everyone does all day.”

  • The wins session has been amazing right from the start, for all of the reasons above, plus the fact that everyone gets to speak. I wish we had started this years ago.
  • Was sent flowers by a colleague in South Africa. I had joked the week before when we met on a video call that he never wrote, phoned or sent flowers to me anymore, so he took it upon himself to rectify it. I don’t remember ever having been sent flowers before!

  • Felt proud to be part of the team that enabled a couple of excellent office-wide collaboration sessions to take place in London. My client’s CFO is one of only 70 women who have scaled all of the Seven Summits, something she has completed in less than a decade, and it was incredibly inspiring to hear her talk about how she did it. A couple of days later the space was used to discuss client strategy, and it was amazing how everyone had an opportunity to get involved. A wise person once said to me that if you find something difficult or challenging, do more of it, so I put my hand up to give feedback from my group to the rest of the office and I am glad I did.

  • Spent a lot of time at the weekend preparing for our school governor Finance Committee meeting. I felt I was well briefed to chair it, and we got through everything we needed to. Unfortunately I couldn’t make our full governing board meeting due to being out of the country, but I tried to read as much as I could for that one as well.
  • Went out with my old pal Mat to see the Smoke Fairies play at the beautiful Hoxton Hall in London. I first heard them in 2010 when Through Low Light And Trees came out and saw them live a couple of years later when they launched Blood Speaks. After that I lost touch and their eponymous album in 2014 passed me by. In January they released a new record, Darkness Brings The Wonders Home. It is incredible —possibly the best thing they’ve done — and we both can’t stop playing it. Live, they seem to have become much better, more confident players than I remember from all those years ago. The gig had the hairs on my arms standing on end from the first song. We’ve booked in to see them again when they play The Lafayette in October and I can’t wait.
Photo by Mat Harden

Photo by Mat Harden

Photo by Mat Harden

Photo by Mat Harden

  • Had a weekend of socialising, with a lovely dinner at Mat’s house for his birthday on Friday and then attending my first ever bar mitzvah on Saturday night. The bar mitzvah was amazing, with a big emphasis on getting everyone up to dance at regular intervals — including before any of the wonderful food was served. The dancing was helped along by a very vocal DJ and two dancers up on stage facing the crowd leading the moves. There was a lot of bringing everyone together in circles and dancing around the boy at the centre of it all as well as his family, and you couldn’t help but get swept along by the joy of it. The highlight of the evening for me were the speeches — a hilarious Stewart Lee-style delivery from the dad, an amazing poem by the boy’s younger brother and sister, and a final one from the boy himself. Everyone had a brilliant evening and went home smiling.

  • Watched as Storm Ciara put paid to my travel to New York on Sunday. In retrospect, with Storm Dennis now hitting and pulling down a massive chunk of wall between our and our neighbour’s front garden, it could have been worse. Virgin cancelled the plane and put me on a later Delta flight, which itself was then cancelled. A couple of calls to the travel agent got me set to go on Monday instead, compressing an already busy week into an even smaller number of days. What was bad for us going west seemed to be great for those going east — a couple of flights broke the records for subsonic transatlantic flight, with a Boston to London plane making the journey in 4h48m!
  • Once again had the privilege of enjoying one of Virgin Atlantic’s new planes. I spent the entire journey working, but had the wonderful tail camera on to see what was happening outside, and loved the view under the plane as we landed at JFK.

  • Enjoyed getting stuck into the rollout of another site. Seeing the office go live on our SD-WAN network console gave me a feeling of accomplishment, and watching our staff start to enjoy their new kit both inside and outside of the office was fantastic. Once again I was glad to have such great members of the team on site as they worked through the various challenges; IT infrastructure work does seem to involve much more improvisation than I am used to with software projects. Due to the storm delays and staff being out we still have a lot more to get done than I had hoped, so a lot of my week next week will be taken up with the one-by-one ‘white glove’ user process.
  • Loved introducing New York to one of my South African colleagues, who had never been to the USA before. I lived here for a twelve months almost two decades ago, but it feels like yesterday. We managed to cover a lot of ground in the evenings and on Saturday — Grand Central Station, the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, the Strand Bookstore, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the World Trade Center. It didn’t help that on Saturday the temperature was a bone-aching -8C with a frosty wind to boot, which must have been shocking for my colleague who came from her Southern Hemisphere summer. There was ice everywhere, and we even found a fountain in Bryant Park that looked like it was straight out of Tom and Jerry’s Mice Follies cartoon.

  • Had some lovely meals out and about in NYC. It has been great to spend time with colleagues without having to rush off to the next meeting, I am very grateful for the opportunity. I hadn’t been to the lovely vegan Candle Cafe since I visited with my friend Marc 18 years ago and it was great to find it in rude health.

  • Ran a few times in Central Park. When my knees don’t hurt, I really enjoy running, and love the fact that I can just put my trainers in my suitcase and run anywhere I happen to be.

Next week: Getting the New York user rollout finished, trying to shape the same in São Paulo, and attempting to turn the various pieces of work that the team are picking up into something that looks like a project portfolio.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.