in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #186 — Half mast

The feeling of everything being on top of me continued into this week. I really struggled at the start. I could feel myself getting frustrated and a little snappy in a couple of meetings where I felt that we weren’t being efficient, knowing that I still had a pile of things to get on top of. The weight started to lift in the middle of the week as I got a few wins under my belt and could see the work in the rear view mirror.

The pivotal moment was a midweek meeting with a vendor, long-postponed throughout the summer as key people on their side or our side were out on holiday. The meeting started off as a pitch for a sophisticated tool for monitoring the quality of audio and video calls in our organisation, but it them morphed into something very different. They are offering a tool and services that could be of massive benefit to our organisation, hitting the sweet spot for multiple projects that I need to make progress with before the end of the year. I could sense the possibilities, and feet the pressure lift from me as we talked. It’s early days, but I’m excited and feel like I have my mojo back.

Coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II has not abated, with marks of respect everywhere you look. It’s going to be interesting to see where the country’s opinion of the monarchy moves to once the funeral starts to fade into the past. It’s been worrying to see a handful of people arrested for minor protests, presumably under the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act that came into force this year.

A week in which I:

  • Was given a start date for a new joined in my team. I can’t wait to get him on board.
  • Attended the weekly project meeting for the closure of one of our offices. Agreed a default timeline for when we can start to decommission the IT equipment that is in place, assuming that someone doesn’t take on the office lease sooner.
  • Had a meeting with our client-facing colleagues to propose a proof-of-concept to them and seek their help in taking it to the next stage. The preparation that the team did for the meeting was well worth it as they understood the proposition immediately and bit our arms off to be involved. I’m excited for the work happening in this space.
  • Joined our monthly risk review meeting, where we got our teeth into key person dependencies. It’s so difficult to build strength, depth and resiliency in a small team.
  • Completed a draft response to Internal Audit for a review that they are working on. It was interesting to review our technology setup through the eyes of people that are coming to it fresh; we have already spotted a number of improvements that we can make.
  • Met with a large number of people in our department to review our network risk profiles and what we should do about any identified gaps.
  • Discussed and agreed our approach to an RFP that we are due to issue shortly. Was amazed at how quickly one of my colleagues could turn our discussion into an illustration.
  • Was enthused by a vendor meeting where they presented something that hits all of the right buttons for an initiative that I am working on right now. Excited to see where this goes.
  • Got our digital signage players showing photos of Queen Elizabeth II every five minutes in place of the usual news feeds and dashboards. We also attached a player to a Cisco Spark Board which sits idle for most of the time, mainly because it doesn’t easily integrate with anything else that we use.
  • Met with a technical sales manager for one of the leading password manager vendors. Also had an initial call with a completely different vendor. The products in this space have matured so much over the past few years.
  • Joined our quarterly architecture meeting where we covered the strategy for infrastructure and operations, product roadmaps and security logging.
  • Had a super early 7am start in order to participate as a judge in our annual internal ‘Hackathon’ event. It was wonderful and heartbreaking in equal measure. The judging process was brutal, with a very strict 10 minute rule being applied for each presentation. I really felt for one of the teams; they presented a fantastic idea which had one critical flaw that they hadn’t seen. When you’re close to the detail on something it is hard to take a step back and see that there is a fundamental issue.
  • Presented at our weekly Learning Hour meeting on the topic of card scoring in LeanKit.
  • Met with another department to discuss how they use JIRA. I last used the software over a decade ago, and our team doesn’t touch it at the moment. As we look to start to develop products within our department we may get pushed down this road, so I want to start to learn a little more about it.
  • Confirmed a last-minute business trip to meet a new joiner in our team, making sure he gets up to speed with the environment, how we do things and the team culture. I’ve not been to this office in a couple of years, so it will be good to see how things are going there.
  • Applauded our team that completed a major IT infrastructure change in half a day over the weekend. We’ve further rationalised our hardware, moving more components into software.
  • Attended an company-wide IT town hall-style webinar.
  • Agreed to attend an internal technology architecture conference next month.
  • Flew to New York, where I’ll be spending the week getting a new member of our team set up in their role. I had the good fortune to be sitting next to the CEO of 100 Women In Finance, a non-profit organisation that focuses on women working in the finance industry. We struck up a conversation that went on for four hours straight. I’ve been thinking about how interesting it is that we pay more for premium aircraft seating that isolates us from others, but it robs us of chance encounters like this.
  • Rushed to another GoodSAM callout in my town, this time at a local bar. Fortunately an ambulance and crew were there by the time I arrived. The app offers no clue as to what you should do in this situation. Interrupting the ambulance crew is not a good idea if they are already working on the casualty. The only option I could see was a button marked ’drop call’, but I have no idea what happens in the control room when I press it. Does anyone follow up?
  • Had a couple of governor meetings and worked on some draft communications from the board. Followed up on the next steps for a broadband fibre upgrade.
  • Attended a revision workshop for parents at my sons’ school. It wasn’t quite as immediately practical as I had hoped, but it was good to spend some time thinking about how we approach helping the children with their work. The person leading the workshop had met the children earlier in the day; I hope that he made an impact on them and inspired them a little.
  • Started watching season two of Only Murders In The Building. We’re only one episode in and I love it already. We’re giving up with the latest series of Borgen — Power & Glory as sadly it’s just not that interesting. Bring back Kasper Juul!
  • Watched a drama unfold in the back garden when a baby squirrel dropped out of our beech tree while another hung on for dear life. The parent was going mad and I thought he or she was going to attack me. I managed to keep our cats away and the parent eventually rescued the fallen one.
  • Had a great time at a friend’s 50th birthday party, which had a gold theme. I was worried about my trousers as the reviews said they were completely unbreathable, but it all worked out fine.

Next week: New York City, for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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