Andrew Doran

Said goodbye to a colleague last week. Thankbox was a brilliant way to collect messages, videos and money for their goodbye — I think I even prefer it to passing round a card and an envelope full of cash in the office as everyone across the global team could contribute.

Weeknotes #112 — Emilio Romagna

This week wore me out. I slept badly on a number of nights, waking up in a panic and then seeing that it was an hour before my alarm was due to go off. The week was packed to the rafters with meetings, leaving only a few odd hours here and there free for any focused work.

We’re only two months away from the longest day of the year but it’s still very cold here in the mornings. Spring is making it hard for summer to move in.

This was a week in which I:

  • Managed the communications for an issue we uncovered on one of our systems. The problem had gone unnoticed for a few years. It was frustrating as I had asked questions about the tool on multiple occasions but never saw it through to a conclusion. There’s no major damage done, but gathering the facts and writing the communications was an additional overhead to an already busy week.
  • Took part in a pre-kick-off meeting for the next stage of IT infrastructure work in our Beijing office. We’re aligned internally on the big picture of what needs to be done and now need to move fast to get the work lined up with our external technical partner.
  • Attended a presentation where we got an excellent overview about how our part of the firm sources new clients.
  • Completed a review of an early draft proposal for support and maintenance of our New York office IT infrastructure.
  • Attended many meetings relating to the big Group-wide programme, including another ‘masterclass’ session held in conjunction with the software vendor. Refined our thinking on the presentation we are scheduled to give next Thursday.
  • Joined a webinar with the business head of our division and met new members of his immediate senior management team. Very impressed with how he responded to a question on gender diversity in that team.
  • Made progress with staff contract renewals.
  • Reviewed quotes for renewals of infrastructure licences in London and Dubai.
  • Attended the quarterly IT and Real Estate Services review for the Dubai office.
  • Said goodbye to a colleague who has been on the team for the past three or four years, first in Johannesburg and more recently in London. We’re sad to see him go, but it’s great that he’s driving his career and moving onto the next chapter in his working life.
  • Met with our new Head of Infrastructure and Operations who joins the team as a peer next month.
  • Had a productive risk review session with my peers in the IT management team.
  • Met up with a colleague in our Compliance team for a ‘random coffee’. A lovely half-hour covering a lot of topics, including our recent performances in Learned League.
  • Spent an evening catching up with all of my handwritten notes from the past couple of weeks, getting them into my to-do list system.
  • Attended the latest Microsoft 365 UK User Group meeting which had some excellent presentations on apps and customisations for Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Viva.

  • Made a bit of progress with planning some home improvements. Took a trip to Milton Keynes with my wife to look at sofas, and ended up indulging in a Pret-A-Manger lunch while we were there. I do miss office lunches.
  • Enjoyed a sunny Sunday morning bike ride with my eldest son. I had to raise his seat post by about four inches as he hadn’t been out on his road bike in a year or so. It was lovely to spend some time with him.

  • Collapsed in the evening with my wife in front of TV crime dramas. We’re making our way through both Spiral and Line of Duty, alternating between them as we finish each series.
  • Loved watching the Emilio Romagna F1 Grand Prix from Imola. It had all of the ingredients of a great race and lived up to expectations.

Next week: A hectic one, with lots more meetings again plus some deadlines to meet. I have a couple of evening Meetups in the diary but they may need to make way for getting stuff done instead.

Weeknotes #111 — Snow flurries

Another short week ‘in the office’ following my six-day weekend. Wednesday felt like a Monday, and I felt a little guilty about not feeling well-rested whilst everyone else on the team had worked a couple of extra days. The three days at my desk were productive, and it was good to be back at work.

Monday and Tuesday were spent pottering. My wife and I had a lovely long walk through the fields in our house. The weather has been crazy — snowing one minute and then glorious sunshine the next. When we started our walk we were freezing but by the time we finished it was beautiful.

This was a week in which I:

  • Spent some time at the weekend finishing off my presentation on my Ride 999 adventure in 2015, which I rebranded as Couch to 1,400km. I presented this to our team on Wednesday, a great opportunity to get some experience at delivering a presentation as opposed to reviewing and collaborating on a document.

  • Attended a ‘masterclass’ session for the big group programme we are becoming more and more involved with. I took full advantage of the Q&A function in the meeting and it is good to know that my perception of key issues we need to navigate isn’t wrong.
  • Agreed to a meeting later this month where we’ll take people through the programme and how our part of the organisation will interact with it. For a while it has felt like I’ve had more questions than answers, but over recent days things have started to become clearer. We’re not completely there yet, but I’m comfortable that we have enough to review with a wider set of people.
  • Logged a couple of risks that my brain had surfaced during the downtime over the weekend. My mind really does ‘join the dots’ when I’m busy doing something completely different.
  • Finally said hello to our new IT team member in our Beijing office. It’s taken a while to get the paperwork in place to on-board him and he joins us at a great time. We will now have a ‘follow the sun’ setup across our three regions for any ongoing issues that come up.
  • Reviewed a number of documents, including a project closure report for some work we’ve done over the past 18 months in London, an engineering standard, and our existing support and maintenance agreement for two of our locations that we want to use as a basis for a third.
  • Had a meeting on how we will refine and communicate our strategy to our team.
  • Dug into the setup of a couple of our key systems, trying to get myself and a number of other technical team members on the same page as to how they work.
  • Worked on some staff contract renewals.
  • Gave my body a treat by investing in a Roost laptop stand and Logitech MX Keys keyboard. Now I’ve made the change, I can’t believe I spent a year at home hunched over my laptop. My back is already thanking me.
  • Attended the first part of a webinar on Advanced Story Mapping with Kevin Callahan, but left early. I’m getting quite good at managing an exit when I no longer think I’m going to get value from a session. Lockdown has made me acutely aware of how valuable my time is. The session was good, but it isn’t directly related to any work I’m doing right now.
  • Had a short meeting with an old friend who has an upcoming interview with a high-profile technology company. He has a background in academia and is just finishing a PhD, so is doing his research ahead of his conversation.
  • Paid to get our washing machine repaired. Although I’m sure it isn’t the cheapest way of doing it, going back to the manufacturer website and getting their own engineer to come out and do the job is always fast, seems honest, and the cost doesn’t feel too outrageous.
  • Replaced a toilet seat. Never a fun job, but it’s lovely when it’s done.
  • Gave outdoor cycling a miss in favour of some long stints on the turbo trainer and a long run. I have loved going back outside on my bike over the past couple of weekends, but I’m waiting for the temperature to rise by just a couple of degrees before heading out again.
  • Saw my youngest son’s team get a well-earned draw in their football match against the strongest, unbeaten team in the league.

Next week: Another one packed full of meetings and online events, but there is a Formula 1 race to look forward to at the end of it.

📺 Just finished watching season 3 of Spiral (or Engrenages if you’re French.) It took a couple of seasons to get going, but it is well into its stride now. A brilliant mix of characters that are all flawed in their own way. I’m so glad we still have five seasons to watch.

📚 Finished reading Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. A vampire novella published 25 years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula. For a reader in 2021 the plot was obvious and not scary at all, but I can see why this is considered an important book given the context.

At a free Meetup. Someone posts this into the chat window as the speaker is getting warmed up. Why would you do this? There’s no obligation to be here!

📚 Started reading Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. It’s time for a little 19th century gothic horror. Pushkin Press books are typically superb.

📚 Finished reading Forever Employable by Jeff Gothelf. Very short; more of a long essay than a book. Gives a basic framework for how to start building a career around your own personal brand, and a few useful questions to ask yourself before you set out.

Weeknotes #110 — Six-day weekend

I decided to take Thursday and Tuesday off work, further extending the already long Easter weekend. The boys and my wife are all off school so it made sense to get away from the keyboard when they are around, although we hadn’t made any plans.

The three days where I was at my desk felt like they were filled with a lot of ‘busywork’. There are lots of upsides of working in a large multinational company, but there are sometimes downsides too. Hopefully this is just a blip and won’t be an ongoing feature of the weeks ahead.

This was a week in which I:

  • Said goodbye to a friend and colleague in our Americas IT support team. It never fails to amaze me how quickly things move in the US, with two weeks being the standard notice period.
  • Met with the Americas IT support team to talk about handover and support while a replacement is hired.
  • Continued to coach some of our teams in their daily standup and Kanban board review practice.
  • Met with some of the management team to discuss how we can continue to improve ‘team effectiveness’, and what opportunities there are for upskilling when at least half of our team don’t work directly for our organisation.
  • Reviewed the areas of focus for our team for the remainder of this year. We sit in the intersection of a large number of different, larger constructs, all of whom have their own way of representing their aims and objectives. We need to define something that speaks to all of these that is also useful for our team in their everyday work.
  • Got final approval to on-board our new Beijing IT support team member, after some last-minute unexpected hurdles. Hopefully he will start with us next week.
  • Started to think about how we can get a couple of important infrastructure projects completed this year with a constrained budget.
  • Attended a number of architecture discussions for the large group-wide programme that we are involved with. We all make sense of the world through the lens of what we’ve seen before; I can’t help but think that the core of a big SaaS CRM programme is just like an ERP programme of 20 years ago. Am I wrong?
  • Met with the CEO of a very interesting organisation that gets young people involved with company boards to bring fresh thinking to real business problems. Hopefully this will be the start of something good.
  • Attended a very interesting short talk on work a ‘hackathon’ run by our internal AI and Data Analytics team where they used a number of months of historic client revenue data to make predictions on future revenue.
  • Met with a colleague to discuss some upcoming contract renewals in our team.
  • Attended the CAE Live webinar on the topic of ‘Purpose, People and Poverty — The Future of Technology’. Like most events of this type, half of the value is in the attendee chat and questions from the audience. It was fun to be promoting the virtues of micro.blog and the IndieWeb at an event with Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
  • Received an email out of the blue from an ex-colleague and friend that I worked with 15 years ago. He is a Buddhist, and funded time away on camps in India and Nepal through working in IT in London. I’ve now learned that he didn’t return and instead built a home in the Himalayan foothills, got married and wrote a book. It was so lovely to reconnect.
  • Joined the Microsoft 365 Security and Compliance User Group and attended a meeting on ‘Teams Architecture for Compliance’ with Albert Hoitingh. I learned that the ‘code snippet’ component of a Teams message currently gets completely ignored by the auditing processes. (Who knew that it was more than just formatting?)
  • Celebrated our eldest boy’s 14th birthday, his second in lockdown.

  • Managed to get out on my bike for my second ‘real’ ride of the year. I was gutted to find that the beautiful path through Eythrope Park to the grounds of Waddesdon Manor is now closed to the public. Apparently a cyclist was rude to one of the Rothschilds, which when coupled with the increased number of people using the route at speed has resulted in it being closed permanently. I had to take a detour by the relatively horrible A41 to get back onto my route.
  • Saw my youngest son play his first football match this year. It’s great that activities have started up again.
  • Joined some close friends in their garden for cake, the first time I’ve socialised in person with anyone for months. It was cold but we made the most of it, and it was so lovely to see them.

  • Went for an Easter Sunday lunch visit to my parents’ back garden, the first time we’ve seen them this year. We enjoyed the best weather of the weekend, and at one point even started applying sun lotion. It was lovely to see the boys off of their games consoles and making their own entertainment, reinventing ‘blow football’ on the table tennis table.

Next week: Another couple of days off before heading back ‘to the office’. Returning to the turbo trainer to keep out of the cold and snow.

📚 Other than the fact it’s April, this was a perfect highlight to pop into my inbox this morning.

📚 Read The Forgotten Village by John Steinbeck. Weird little book, with every page containing a grainy still of the film of the same name alongside a small snippet of text. Better to watch the film than to read this, but the film isn’t that great either.

Starlings have taken to nesting in the eaves of our house every year, always in the same spot. They are beautiful, and make the most lovely noises. Their nesting site is too high to see, but we get to hear the chicks when the parents return.