in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #143 — Owls

There was a lot going on this week. I had too many late nights and early mornings, and must have had a lot on my mind as most mornings I kept waking up an hour before I needed to. By Friday evening I was frazzled, but I still managed to get my son and I up early on Saturday morning for the weekly cycling club ride.

At work my department has an agreement to go in together every Wednesday. This week I couldn’t make it as I had been asked to join a workshop starting at 7am and had to go to school for a meeting in the late afternoon. I topped and tailed the week with days in the office instead. It felt good to be there on Friday as I had a few physical things to get done in the office, taking delivery of some new equipment and getting it set up. It made a change from the days where I’ve felt I needed to be in the office just to reach a time quota.

Reading Ton Zijlstra’s weeknotes about COVID-19 entering his house in the Netherlands1 made me realise how different things are in different places. He has been prepping for a call from the track and trace team, a concept that I haven’t thought about for a while — is track and trace even still a thing in the UK given that close contacts of confirmed cases no longer need to isolate here? Mask wearing on public transport seemed to drop off a cliff this week; no more than half of the people I encountered on my commute were wearing them. In a coffee queue in London, someone used ‘air quotes’ when talking about COVID-19 as if it didn’t exist — it seems that while this is a marginal view, it is far less marginal than it used to be.

This was a week in which I:

  • Started the week with an unwelcome gift from the cats. Whoever told me that cats make great pets as they generally look after themselves must have been thinking of something else.
  • Had a number of very useful discussions in the team about how we go from being the IT infrastructure team to being able to add value ‘higher up the stack’. There is lots to be done. Reading A Seat at the Table was useful for thinking about this.
  • Picked up a new project relating to our organisation over the next few years that needs to be planned ‘from right to left’.
  • Participated in our quarterly IT architecture review forum and approved the proposal for some new software infrastructure at each of our sites.
  • Reviewed the current data for cost recovery to our part of the organisation for the big group programme.
  • Reviewed a draft standard for software and firmware updates.
  • Reviewed a subset of our team’s risk log relating to backups and restores.
  • Saw the team finish failover testing and complete their preparation for moving to Teams telephony at one of our sites, and prepare for some physical infrastructure work at another site. We still have a lot to get done in the closing weeks of this year.
  • Joined two town hall meetings on the same day, one with our Engineering/IT colleagues across the globe and another with everyone in our division of the company. The push to go back to the office is strong.
  • Abandoned the all-day workshop where I was a remote participant as it was too difficult to take part.
  • Took delivery of three Meeting Owl Pros and spent time setting them up. I used one for a meeting on Friday afternoon to good effect and plan to get colleagues outside of IT to use them next week. Our main goal is to try and make hybrid meetings less painful for remote staff, and from our limited experience they do seem to go some way to achieving it.
  • Retired my four-year-old iPad and got up and running with a new iPad Pro. The magic keyboard is a very cool piece of engineering, and I’m loving the new trackpad.
  • Watched a talk by one of my colleagues on the project to implement Aadhaar, a unique identity number in India which has vastly reduced costs for businesses that use it.
  • Had a superb one-on-one coaching session, the third of four. We covered a lot of ground. It is so useful to have someone independent to talk to about challenges at work and to reflect on things that I can do differently, and where I have already achieved some of my goals. I have the final session booked in for a couple of weeks from now.
  • Attended a Meetup on Use-Cases or User Stories… or Both?. The presence of Mike Cohn drew me in. Conclusion: both are useful in the right hands in the appropriate situations.
  • Joined a webinar to get an overview of Microsoft extended detection and response (XDR). It was a perfect length, with just enough information to get the gist of the toolset without all of the details.
  • Attended the school where I am a governor in order to hear from all of the subject leads to understand whether they have a knowledge and/or skills focus and why, what schemes are used and what the strengths and priorities are. It was an invaluable session. The distinction between knowledge and skills was particularly interesting — for science, for example, skills have been much harder to teach remotely and therefore there is more catching up to do. I wonder if this observation is equally applicable for adult remote working too?
  • Took part in a vision, mission and strategy session for the school with fellow governors. Every time I have been involved in this kind of work the definition of those terms has always been unclear; there seems to be a myriad of interpretations out there. Despite those challenges, we had a good conversation about how to reorganise the work done so far and how to take it forward.
  • Met with Joe McFadden and Olivia Partington of CarbonThirteen to discuss the Climate Emergency and how we are approaching it as a school.
  • Enjoyed a brilliant club ride with yet another wonderful group of people on Saturday morning.
  • Ran the line for two football matches in a row on Sunday. I love it when both of my son’s matches are local and the timings work out like that.
  • Watched the second and final part of Ed Balls’ documentary on social care. It’s a whole world that I didn’t know or think much about prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Spent time fixing broken YouTube embeds on this blog. Something changed in WordPress which meant that anything with a youtu.be URL didn’t render so these all needed updating to the equivalent youtube.com URLs.

Next week: A packed working week, more school governor meetings and a day off to meet the newest member of our family.


  1. Get well soon Ton! 

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