in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #193 — Big duvet

A good, solid week where I got lots done. I managed to move forward with most of my projects in some way. Our unseasonably warm October has moved aside for an exceedingly wet November, so far at least. Temperatures have dropped, so we’ve switched our summer duvet over to the incredibly deep, snuggly winter one.

This was a week in which I:

  • Remembered that I had a Monday 8am online meeting as my train pulled into the station at 8am on Monday. It was a bright, sunny day so I joined the Teams call on my mobile and joined on video as I walked the 40 minutes to my office. It worked well, and I was grateful for the additional hour in bed.
  • Spent time with our new Head of Investment Banking to talk through an important project that we ran in 2020, getting her buy-in for some follow-up work.
  • Joined our weekly project meeting for closing down one of our regional offices. Nailing down a critical path is tricky, with multiple ‘chicken and egg’ scenarios in that we still need parts of the company to be functional as we shut it down.
  • Had a meeting to discuss the technical requirements of one of our regional offices. We are likely to be vacating the premises in a year or two, by which point I am hoping that we don’t need an actual ’server room’ as part of the floor plan. Our vision is to have just a cabinet on the wall with some switches and links to our wireless access points, with very little else.
  • Spent time workshopping a short online talk that our digital product team will be giving in a couple of weeks’ time.
  • Met with our sister company to discuss the planned tactical and strategic technical refits of our shared space.
  • Created and delivered a ’learning hour’ presentation on the internal Scaled Agile Framework conference that I went to in Johannesburg in August. I deliberately didn’t spend lots of time creating new things to share, instead using the materials that we left the conference with. The talk seemed to have an impact in the team as a couple of people referred back to it in conversations later in the week.
  • Informed the vendor of the ‘location broadcasting tool’ that we are ready to move to the pilot stage. We’re going to try it out across our Engineering, People and Culture, and Marketing and Communications teams to begin with. I met with representatives from those teams to show them what the tool will look like. It’ll be interesting to see the take-up.
  • Had a technical session with our chosen password management vendor, talking to the Helpdesk team about what internal tool support looks like in practice. We have much to do if we are to be ready for a company-wide launch in January.
  • Joined a meeting with one of the largest microprocessor manufacturers in the world. Our CTO had invited them to our office to discuss their view of trends and predictions, their roadmap, and how we are thinking about their technology. Data centre owners are sometimes our clients, giving us a slightly different perspective on things.
  • Had further discussions on the design choices for an internal team blog that will be hosted on SharePoint. I spoke to friends about whether there are better platform choices, but it seems that for something internal that SharePoint is probably the right answer.
  • Completed my personal annual review for 2022. Nobody likes doing these reviews, but it is just the way of things. I felt for my boss who had to complete his part of the process to a deadline while he was away on holiday.
  • Raised the idea of having a formal role of Technical Product Owner (TPO) within our organisation. This was in place at the Swiss bank I worked for over a decade ago and it worked well. It was a formal title given to people in the IT organisation that meant that they were recognised as the ‘go to’ person for a piece of software or hardware. They had additional responsibilities on top of their day job that they undertook for the good of the community. It carried prestige as it meant that the person with the title was recognised as the leading internal voice for a particular technology. For example, someone might be the TPO of Business Intelligence software. They would have a day-to-day role where they used the software but were also responsible for:
    • Articulating why we as a company had chosen product X instead of — or as well as — other products in the market.
    • Coordinating licencing and ensuring we got the best deal, leveraging our scale.
    • Understanding and communicating the vendor roadmap within our organisation, and providing guidance on the appropriate versions to use.
    • Working with the vendor, bringing them into the organisation to give technical updates and increasing their understanding about how we were using their product.
    • Thinking about how we went about engaging with the product and whether it would make sense to, for example, offer the product ‘as a service’, taking away the need for others to setup their installations from scratch.
    • Act as a point of escalation on detailed technical issues and topics.
  • Met with my peers to discuss the format and agenda for our upcoming strategic planning day.
  • Had an in-person ‘random coffee’ with a member of our Transactional Products and Services team. I love that I’ve got to know colleagues like this through these randomised encounters.
  • Enjoyed a webinar-style meeting with our new head of Investment Banking, getting an insight into her fascinating and challenging career so far, as well as her first impressions of working with us.
  • Helped a colleague to see that they do not need to wait for permission to present themselves as being in a certain role. I remember years ago when I started to refer to myself as a programme manager on my email signature, as that was what I did. I owned the title and people didn’t dispute it. It felt like a big thing at the time.
  • Joined the excellent monthly Teams Fireside Chat where we covered a lot of detail on Microsoft Teams Rooms. I had lots of questions, all of which were picked up and answered. It turns out that there currently isn’t a satisfying solution for adding a Teams Room to a meeting where you aren’t the organiser.
  • Met with a prospective new school governor who found us through the Inspiring Governance service. It’s such a pleasure and privilege to speak to people who are willing to give up their time for an organisation that they have no prior links with.
  • Finished looking into whether we should move the school’s role of UK GDPR Data Protection Officer to an external body. At the moment, with finances so tight, it’s difficult to justify the cost.
  • Attended the annual HFL Education Governor Conference which this year had the theme of ‘Raising The Bar’. This has been a virtual event for the past couple of years. As much as I never like driving halfway across the county to Stevenage, I dearly hope that the next one is held in-person. I’m now of the view that there is a balance to be struck between in-person and virtual meetings; the annual conference seems like a good occasion to have people in the same room, meeting governors from other schools over a cup of coffee, despite the impact on the environment. The presentation from Jo Goodman of the Education Endowment Foundation was excellent. On Sunday I stumbled across this excellent Twitter thread which covered similar ground:

  • Attended my eldest boy’s parents’ evening online.
  • Finally took delivery of the new bike that I ordered in the summer. I was working from home when it turned up; I had to fight my urge to unbox it and start putting it together right there and then. It looks beautiful. I’m waiting for a gap in the weather to take it out for a spin, as I’m not sure pedalling it in anger on a Saturday morning club ride is the best way to start. Waiting for the right conditions feels like a poor version of a planned SpaceX launch.
  • Had another short meeting with a colleague from twenty years ago, hearing more about his plans now that he has moved to Australia.
  • Waited for British Gas to turn up for an appointment they made with me to fix some of the electrics in our house. They never showed.
  • Ran the line at my eldest boy’s football match. Got completely soaked.
  • Had our good friends over for dinner as their home renovations mean that they are currently without a kitchen. We watched the first few tracks of Joe Jackson live at Rockpalast in 1983 which never fails to blow my mind. What a band. We also ended up watching Harry Mack doing his thing in London, which had us laughing out loud at how incredible it is:

  • Had our windows cleaned for the first time in a year or so. The window cleaner covers lots of our street already. It’s a shame that it has rained so much since they were done.
  • Started subscribing to NowTV again so that we can watch the second season of The White Lotus. I love that we have to wait each week for the next episode.
  • Subscribed to BritBox so that I can watch Grange Hill from the first episode onwards. I remember enjoying the show so much, but in reality I must have only tuned in for a few years in the late 1980s. Hearing some of the racist language on screen is shocking.
  • Loved hearing a full White Stripes album for the first time at Album Club.
  • Had my first mince pie of the season. Too early? It’s never too early.

Next week: The Smoke Fairies singles gig is finally here!

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