in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #195 — The fine folk of WB-40

Even by recent standards, this was an incredibly busy week. Things tend to slow right down at work in December as South Africa takes its summer holidays, so there’s a race to get things completed before people start to disappear. School governor meetings also came thick and fast this week, with lots of events that just happened to land one after the other.

Tiredness on Friday was hidden by my excitement of finally getting to meet the Internet friends that I have made through the WB-40 podcast Signal group. Matt Ballantine and Chris Weston couldn’t have known what they were creating when they started the show. They have brought together the most wonderful community of geeks that over the past few years have shared laughter and tears together. Meeting people in real life that I have only really known over a message group — and very occasional video call — proves to me that you absolutely can establish meaningful, supportive and productive relationships without being physically in the same the same place. It felt like a reunion, despite many of us meeting for the very first time. It’s a privilege to be part of the group.

This was a week in which I:

  • Met with a colleague in our Marketing and Communications team to discuss ideas for our planned password manager rollout. I originally wanted us to go live at the start of January as people return to the office, but this is becoming less realistic as we go through our lengthy vendor on-boarding processes.
  • Hastily pulled together submissions to our Architecture Governance Authority for a couple of applications that we want to connect to our Microsoft 365 tenant, along with the password manager software.
  • Completed some draft slides for my boss to use at an upcoming ‘people day’ meeting.
  • Met a colleague and a vendor for an interesting discussion on what was originally pitched as ‘career activism’; helping staff to take charge of their careers. The consensus is that ‘activism’ has negative connotations, so another name is in the works. Continued the discussion after the meeting and agreed that people don’t often stop to look at themselves and realise all the benefits they have of being in their current roles.
  • Spent a lot of time with our Digital team as they recapped where they are with their various products, and planned and delivered an organisation-wide talk to showcase them. They have been doing excellent work on tools that should allow us to make significant improvements to our understanding of our clients. The products range from simple to complex; the latter are interesting because they will take lots of our teams into uncharted territory.
  • Spent time with our CIO to structure and prepare for a strategy day that we have planned for next week. Two of my colleagues are coming over to London from Johannesburg, so we should have everyone in the same room.
  • Joined a meeting with our new head of Investment Banking to get her views on our business challenges. We’ve been talking to all of the senior leaders across our part of the organisation and will continue these sessions next week.
  • Took part in the weekly meeting with the Marketing and Communications, and People and Culture teams. Gave feedback on recent initiatives that we have been running internally and the impact that I think they have had on my team.
  • Had a catch-up with a colleague who is stuck in a COVID-19 quarantine hotel.
  • Took part in the weekly project meeting for closing one of our offices.
  • Was taken out for a lovely lunch by a colleague as a thank-you for giving her some spare theatre tickets earlier in the year. I’d never been to Cafe Below before, despite having walked past it hundreds of times. It was a pleasant surprise, with delicious food in a unique setting.

  • Reviewed the applications for the post of Headteacher at our school. The recruitment panel met to discuss our views and agree who we will put on a shortlist. The next step is for us to nail down the details of the assessment day and then spend a day in school observing and interviewing the candidates.
  • Met with our School Improvement Partner to hear her feedback after spending a morning in our school.
  • Completed our Headteacher’s annual performance review, sadly for the last time.
  • Chaired our school Finance, Premises and Personnel meeting. Had a call with our school Site Manager to discuss a couple of actions from the meeting.
  • Joined the HFL Education Hertfordshire Headteacher Update briefing. There isn’t a lot of good news about at the moment, particularly when it comes to school funding; the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that the real-terms spend in schools in 2024–25 will be 3% lower than in 2010. On top of this, at least one in six children are across the county are presenting with mental health needs, with the system stressed. It really feels that there is a national crisis brewing.
  • Joined a videoconference to learn about World Challenge, a 27-night expedition for children between the ages of 15 and 18. Our eldest son is mulling it over. It would be a life-changing experience, but it’s expensive. They told us that the children who do best on the trip are the ones that have strived to raise most of the money themselves.
  • Finally completed the treatment on my bad tooth that started in the summer, getting my second gold crown. I need to look at insuring my head, or at least making sure my family know to extract both of them in the event of my demise.
  • Made it out on Saturday morning for a cycling club ride. It was so good to see everyone again. I joined the club around this time last year, so going out in the cold and damp, with mudguards on my bike, got me thinking about how quickly the year has gone. I jumped straight back in with my usual speed group and felt pretty good as we propelled ourselves around the wet, pot-holed lanes.
  • Ran the line at my eldest son’s football match. It was a cold but gloriously sunny morning in Cheddington.

  • Watched the anti-climactic final F1 race of the season. Yas Marina is a good-looking place, but it rarely produces great races. As someone on Twitter recently said, “What should be the last race of the season and why is it Brazil?”
  • Met some close friends for a walk around the Christmas display at Kew Gardens. The displays are beautiful. The circuit is very, very long and we had parked a thirty minute walk away from the venue; by the time we neared the end we were all looking forward to getting back and relaxing at home.

Next week: In the office all week with our visitors from out of town. Seeing Kathryn Joseph. And meeting up with the cycle club for the AGM.

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