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! 

Weeknotes #142 — Referee!

A really busy week where I felt I was juggling lots of things, but never to the point where it felt out of control. I spent Monday and Wednesday in the office and had one or two chance meetings which wouldn’t have otherwise happened, but there were very few people in on either day. The trains are getting busier with each passing week, but are still quite a way from being as full as they were pre-pandemic. People are getting on with things, which make notices about COVID-19 from my children’s school to say that they are re-introducing more safety protocols quite jarring to read.

I had to spend a few evenings catching up with small pieces of work that I had promised to complete by the next day, including prepping for more school governor meetings. My working week finished with two consecutive 7am meetings with teams in South Africa, the first of which that frustratingly got cancelled at 6:59am. Starting that early meant that I couldn’t go on my bike first thing, but I made up for it with a rare evening session on the turbo trainer.

Our Virgin Media Internet service has been very flaky in our street this week. Going to the office on Wednesday meant that I avoided a lot of the issues. Despite the frustration of dealing with their customer service processes, I was still reflecting on the fact that our IT is more resilient when we are dispersed. In our company, this outage impacted only one person, whereas an ISP failure to one of our offices may impact everyone working there.

This was a week in which I:

  • Ran a short review of our department’s delivery roadmap and checked how we are progressing with items scheduled for this quarter. We’ve made big strides this year with our ‘ways of working’ and I’m developing some views as to how we can improve it further as we head into 2022.
  • Ran two more meetings on our Teams recording proposal. We’re now at the point where we’ve agreed what we want to do and it is with me to write it up and circulate the draft.
  • Completed the business case for implementing Teams telephony in two of our locations. It will pay off in the long term even before we factor in the better user experience and decreased complexity of our environment.
  • Joined a meeting to discuss a data protection law in one of our locations.
  • Had a number of meetings relating to firewalls and routing on our network and agreed next steps both from a technical and a process perspective.
  • Was pleased to hear that the pitch we gave at the end of last week for our big group programme has been taken up by one of the senior leaders on the team. If we can get something up and running it could have a big benefit to all of our clients and internal teams.
  • Met with colleagues to discuss how we can add capacity to a delivery team that would be dedicated to us, without necessarily funding a whole person.
  • Continued reading A Seat At The Table by Mark Schwartz. Reading the book comes at a perfect time for me as I am looking at how we try to refocus the role of IT at our organisation and bring everyone else along on the journey.
  • Had an impromptu discussion with a colleague about a project we ran in London last year, and the gaps that remain in our other locations. The gaps present a good opportunity to leverage the ideas that IT is not a ‘contractor’ or ’order taker’, but can work collaboratively with people in other teams.
  • Was given a demo of a digital signage solution. We are looking at replacing what we have in our main office with a view to rolling out the solution to all of our offices globally. There seems to be a whole range of functionality and prices out there. We are in the process of purchasing a couple of Raspberry Pis with PoE HATs to experiment with.
  • Watched an interesting talk given by our CTO on The Importance of Core Infrastructure.
  • Had my work laptop migrated to Windows 11 in order to test it along with a number of other people in the team. It’s less of a jump than it seems from the screenshots in the media; at first glance it looks like Windows 10 with the task bar icons centred. The improvements are subtle, but seem good so far.
  • Joined a PlanView webinar on Agile Planning Across Disparate Teams and Tools. PlanView seem to lean in heavily on using TaskTop as an integration tool, which seems to do an excellent job.
  • Had a ‘random coffee’ with the newest member of our support team. It was good to spend some time with him.
  • Had a catch-up with the Headteacher and Chair of Governors at the school where I am a governor. I am always in awe of the work the school staff do and how undervalued their roles are. They are incredible.
  • Joined the rest of the school Governing Board for a meeting on prepping for Ofsted, collectively answering a number of questions that had been gathered together from various sources by our Chair.
  • Took part in a meeting to discuss the draft results of a Hertfordshire County Council Commissioned School Visit. This was a deep-dive into our management of our Pupil Premium allocation. It was a positive meeting; it was very useful to get outside scrutiny and feedback.
  • Completed the Modern Governor training module on the Pupil Premium.
  • Reviewed the draft terms of reference document for our planned school Curriculum Committee.
  • Reviewed the Governors Programme of Business for the year with the Chair.
  • Scheduled a school Pay Committee meeting.
  • Met with an online friend that I know from the WB-40 podcast Signal group and one of his colleagues to discuss environmental sustainability in schools.
  • Solved a problem with my Ubiquiti Unifi Protect cameras where they didn’t seem to be capturing events consistently. It looks as though they need to be set to ‘always record’ after a recent software update.
  • Took delivery of a new sofa that we ordered in July after we found that the previous one wouldn’t fit in the house. We weren’t expecting it until Christmas, so it’s a great result that it’s already here.
  • Spent some hours in the garden gathering up the mass of leaves that were already scattered across our back lawn. I’ll have to repeat the process in a couple of weeks once the rest are down.
  • Refereed a football match for the first time in years. There seems to be a shortage of qualified refs and we struggled to find one for Sunday’s Under 15 game. I put my hand up because I thought it would be better than one of the managers doing it. I was nervous, and spent an hour on Sunday morning watching YouTube videos to remind myself of some of the details. The match went really well and I ended up enjoying it.

  • Enjoyed a Saturday morning club ride. It was damp, and I ended up with my first puncture in many months on my way up one of the climbs. Despite needing to change the inner tube, we still made it back to the cafe for coffee and cake at the same time as everyone else.

  • Enjoyed Album Club #129. Not an album that I would ever pick up and listen to on my own, which made it a perfect choice.
  • Watched a few superb music programmes on iPlayer. I first finished off Soul America which I had started watching last year. When Nirvana Came To Britain was superb; it is shocking to see how small their window of fame was. The first two episodes of The 80s – Music’s Greatest Decade? with Dylan Jones have been enjoyably fresh, with lots of footage beyond the usual clips that get brought back for this kind of show. Trevor Horn at the BBC is an excellent tour through so many of the songs that he was involved in (although not all of them are my cup of tea and I did end up skipping a few.)
  • My wife and I have also been making good use of our Now TV subscription with Dexter: New Blood, Succession and Curb Your Enthusiasm all appearing on our screen throughout the week. It’s a novelty to have to wait for new episodes to be released each week again.

Next week: Another typically busy week, with more school governor meetings and a couple of days in the office.

Weeknotes #141 — Voyage to Mars

Clocks in the UK went back by an hour at the weekend, which means that mornings will be a little brighter for a few weeks. The downside is that it is already dark at five o’clock. I’ve always liked the winter months. The cooler temperatures have been great for walking from Euston to my office in the City of London without feeling too hot and bothered by the time I get there. Now that I’m no longer paying for a season ticket, it saves me a £2.40 tube fare every time I walk.

It felt like a big week work-wise, with some thoughts about how I need to spend my time differently to make a bigger impact on the organisation. I need to find some time in the coming weeks to articulate what’s in my head and see if it can be turned into something actionable.

This was a week in which I:

  • Put together a short pitch deck for how we want to change a fundamental experience for our clients, and presented it in a three-hour ‘reboot’ session at the end of the week. The work is part of the big group programme we are participating in. My colleague who would usually deliver the presentation was on holiday, so it fell to me. Unfortunately I had lost the notes I made last week and so had to put together the materials from memory. It went well, but it looks as though we are going to need to think more about how we can do the work ourselves instead of someone else taking the ball and running with it.
  • Attended a Design Authority meeting for the big group programme.
  • Had another detailed discussion on the prerequisites for moving to Teams telephony in two of our country offices. Agreed a long list of actions to follow up on ahead of the next meeting on Monday, and tried to close out on the ones that I own.
  • Reviewed the terms and conditions for a compliance audio recording vendor.
  • Agreed an approach for cutting over to Teams telephony in the office where we already have a project in progress.
  • Met with Internal Audit to discuss our approach to Cybersecurity and IT Risk.
  • Took part in a management team workshop as part of the CliftonStrengths programme that we are participating in.
  • Had another one-to-one coaching session. I’m enjoying the interactions and having the time to reflect.
  • Saw plans that the team have made to make our office guest Wi-Fi accessible through a QR code that will be shown on the desktop background on our staff laptops.
  • Attended an interesting internal presentation on IT Operations.
  • Watched a webinar on using the LeanKit advanced reporting API via PowerBI.
  • Caught up with almost all of my random paper notes accumulated through meetings in the past couple of weeks, and resolved yet again not to leave it too long before getting through them in the future.
  • Renewed my website hosting for another three years. It feels expensive to do it in one go, but given that this site has been around since 2004 I’m unlikely to give up the writing and posting habit just yet. SiteGround have been brilliant since I moved there three years ago. This time they gave me a referral link valid throughout this month for three months’ free hosting for anyone that uses it.
  • Got my MacBook Pro back from Apple after sending it away for a battery replacement. The laptop is four years old and the battery had started to complain and cause some erratic behaviour. £205 got me a new battery including pickup from my house by UPS, transport to the repair centre in the Czech Republic and delivery back to my house again. From a note I found in the box it looks as though they have also replaced the top part of the case that surrounds the keyboard. It feels like a new laptop and I’m very pleased.
  • Updated our school’s Pay Policy for 2021–2022 based on the new template and circulated the draft to the Governing Board.
  • Spent some time updating our draft Schedule of Financial Delegation for school. I hadn’t realised that an updated template existed for this until I stumbled across it. We’re broadly in-line, but will need to review a couple of key changes at our next meeting.
  • Plunged into sharing a couple of recent blog posts on LinkedIn. It’s been interesting; there is a much longer tail of interaction than when sharing on Twitter. I had been nervous as it felt as though I was making a link between my work and personal lives, but the experience was a positive one. It was lovely to have a couple of people that I could talk through the pros and cons with before trying it out.
  • Took a trip to Deco Audio with a friend who is in the market for a hi-fi. Sadly the budget didn’t quite stretch to the £26,000 Avantgarde Acoustic Uno XDs. There’s something special about going to a hi-fi shop that makes me feel like a kid again.

  • Had a lovely night out for dinner at Zaza in Berkhamsted with some old friends. I haven’t laughed so much in a long time.
  • After the washout of last weekend, got out and about again for a cycle club ride. A friend joined us for a trial ride and he’s keen to sign up so hopefully I’ll see lots more of him in the future.

  • Ran the line at my youngest boy’s football match. It was quite a big loss, but fun nonetheless.

  • Have been enjoying Munya’s new album Voyage to Mars which came out this week. Looking forward to getting a vinyl copy sometime next year.

  • Finished season 2 of Ted Lasso. The characters are so brilliant and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

Next week: Another busy one with two more days in the office, plenty of work meetings and a few governor sessions too. Plus Album Club #129.

Weeknotes #140 — Prophesy

My youngest son finished his COVID-19 isolation on Tuesday, so I was back in the office on Wednesday and Thursday. The family enjoyed having time off of school and work due to half term. The week wiped me out, but the terrible weather meant that I got to have two lie-ins on Saturday and Sunday; I couldn’t face going out cycling in torrential rain on Saturday, and the kids’ football was cancelled on Sunday. I feel wonderfully rested ahead of another busy week.

The trains are getting much busier now, and the journey home during rush hour seemed like a return to normal passenger volume, with no seats available.

This was a week in which I:

  • Agreed with the internal and external teams that the latest iteration of our network topology will be the one we use for the final site in our programme, before going back and implementing this updated design on the sites we have already covered.
  • Reviewed a draft service agreement for monitoring and maintenance of our IT infrastructure in the latest office that we completed our build. Only one more to go, hopefully by the end of this year.
  • Met with a potential new vendor to help us with a physical door access project. Reviewed a draft proposal that they put together following our meeting.
  • Reviewed a draft project proposal for software to control our in-office TVs.
  • Reviewed a written proposal for implementing RADIUS controllers across our sites.
  • Collaborated on preparing for a presentation I need to give next Friday as part of our big group programme. I have all of the notes and now need to prioritise bringing a draft to life in the next couple of days.
  • Took part in one of the steering committees for the big group programme, as well as a regular funding meeting.
  • Joined a discussion with our Legal team on software to manage contracts and other legal documents.
  • Ran one of our bi-weekly change approval board meetings, stepping in due to absences in the team.
  • Took part in a monthly Kanban board review with our Governance and Control team.
  • Gave a talk to our internal team on various ‘typography tidbits’ that I have picked up over the years, such as the history behind certain characters and how to use interrobangs, en-dashes, em-dashes, non-breaking and zero-width spaces.
  • Joined an online ‘town hall’ at the start of the week to hear from three of our senior leaders.
  • Had another useful one-on-one session with an external coach. I’m wrestling with how I can ‘plant a flag’ when my interests are broad and general. I have no idea how to pitch myself or what I do, but it seems important to try and do this.
  • Spent time thinking and discussing how that we can plant our flag as a team. I have some ideas, but I don’t have the bandwidth to spend enough time on them right now. Started reading A Seat At The Table by Mark Schwartz to see if there is anything there that an help.
  • Enjoyed two Album Clubs in successive evenings. The first with three colleagues from work, listening to Prophesy by Nitin Sawhney. The second was our regular Club, revisiting Achtung Baby by U2. Sitting down and focusing on listening to music is so wonderful, and it’s great to have these dedicated, regular spaces to do it.

  • Enjoyed an impromptu Sunday lunch out with my family at Rosanna’s in Berkhamsted. Avocado chilli sourdough toast with poached eggs was just what the doctor ordered.

  • Had a ton of children come trick-or-treating to our door. My wife had perfectly judged the amount of sweets to buy, and we ended up with just a couple left.
  • Subscribed to NOW TV in order to watch series three of Succession. Our TV subscriptions have multiplied over recent weeks and we’ll need to cull them again once we’ve finished watching our current favourite shows. Ted Lasso and the 11th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm are keeping us busy.

Next week: Another hybrid week juggling a couple of days in the office with a need to get some work out of the door by Thursday.

Weeknotes #139 — The T that you don’t want to see

My recent journeys to the office came to a juddering halt this week when my youngest son had a positive COVID-19 lateral flow test result. We quickly booked a PCR appointment for that morning and ended up with a positive result the next day. His symptoms weren’t too bad, but enough to justify some time on the sofa with a duvet. He’s stuck in the house until Wednesday and I can’t go back to the office until then.

The shame about it is that he was offered a vaccine through school a few weeks ago, but something went wrong which meant that he and a lot of other children in his year didn’t receive it. I’ve heard that it was due to the massive (unanticipated?) demand and/or how long the process took, but nobody has told us directly.

I’ve also spoken to my grandmother this weekend; she told me she’s yet to be offered a flu jab or COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, despite being in her 90s. With the numbers of cases, people in hospital and deaths all increasing here in the UK, it doesn’t bode well.

The rest of the family all thankfully tested negative on both our lateral flow and postal PCR tests. I didn’t feel 100% for a couple of days this week, with a general malaise, but now I’m back in the wild again it could have been anything. I am very grateful for the vaccines.

Not going into the office did mean that my week was more productive, with almost a full day on Wednesday put aside to work on writing a draft paper to be taken to one of our governance committees. Since publishing a post a couple of weeks ago about the pros and cons of returning to the office, I’ve had some conversations which have got me rethinking my assumptions. I need to put some time aside to write these thoughts up.

This was a week in which I:

  • Welcomed a new nephew to the family. It’s been a while since there was a new addition. His photos are super-cute, and we’re all looking forward to meeting him.
  • Put together the first draft of a slide deck to be taken to our firm’s Governance Committee, on the topic of mandatory Compliance recording. There’s a lot to unpack, and I learned so much through the process of putting it together. It got me wondering about how the Engineering/IT team in an organisation has to be made up of generalists who collectively know enough about all of the other parts of the firm in order to support and partner with them.
  • Reviewed and made some edits on our regular report for our company board.
  • Was contacted by the head of one of our departments to look at a SaaS application that they want to use for our year-end town hall meeting.
  • Had a Friday evening all with one of our country CEOs and caught up with all of the recent personnel and structural changes there. Heard that he has been having a poor experience with his home Wi-Fi and dropped him a note with some suggestions for upgrading to a mesh system.
  • Unusually, only had one meeting this week on the topic of our big group programme. Caught up on how data take-on is being implemented and what the rollout approach is.
  • Got set up with an external telephone number in Teams as part of a pilot. I’ve used it to make a few calls and so far it has been superb on both the desktop and mobile.
  • Raised an issue relating to our Teams meeting rooms and how long it takes for the join button in each room to become ‘active’ once someone schedules a meeting there.
  • Joined the second CliftonStrengths Team Effectiveness workshop for our Engineering team. I felt as though I got a bit more out of this one.
  • Attended one of the most incredible webinars that I have ever been to, on the topic of Creating a trans-inclusive culture hosted by BIE Executive in association with Fighting With Pride. I hadn’t expected to take so many notes! The stories shared really opened my eyes to experiences of the world that are so very different to my own, and what things I need to think about doing to promote inclusivity.
  • Took a call from someone surveying clients of my financial advisor, and gave some honest feedback.
  • Enjoyed a lovely ‘random coffee’ with a member of our team whom I work with every day but have yet to meet in real life.
  • Spent a couple of hours on Saturday putting together a ‘lightning talk’ on typography tidbits, to be delivered next week. I am really looking forward to delivering this.
  • Signed off on my tax returns and paid the accountant.
  • Ordered a replacement battery for my four-year old MacBook Pro. I had advice that I may want to think about getting a new laptop instead, but I’m not willing to splash out right now. The service from Apple costs £204. For that money, they sent a UPS box sent to my home for me to package up my computer and send it off to the Czech Republic to get its new battery and be sent back to me again. Being both a Mac and Windows user I much prefer using the latter; if it wasn’t for the integration with my mobile devices I might think about switching next time I upgrade.
  • Joined the Herts for Learning Chairs’ Strategic Information Briefing. The agenda is always so packed that the two hours fly by. We had updates on finances, cybersecurity, Prevent, improving board diversity, HR, the HfL Chairs’ Network, the role of evidence in supporting a Pupil Premium strategy and an assortment of other items. I need to process my notes to extract all of the actions.
  • Had a bit of an up-and-down week on the bike. Events seemed to conspire against my turbo attempts at the start of the week. Unexpectedly Working from home was a big help later on though, and I ended up going out for two lovely rides at the weekend. It was nice to spend more time with my eldest boy. He’s getting faster!

Next week: Back in the office again, catching up with my overdue document reviews backlog, and two album club evenings.

Weeknotes #138 — Random gift

A pretty regular week, with another couple of days in the office. On Wednesday I had another reminder of the ‘before times’ when the train turned up at the station and zipped right on past me due to being only two-thirds of the size that it was meant to be. Cue me running down the platform and being stuffed into a sweaty carriage with the other lucky commuters.

The garden is letting me know that autumn is here; we’ve had a few leaves falling down and await the first big windy day to strip them all from the trees.

This was a week in which I:

  • Took part in a Friday afternoon workshop on the big strategy questions facing our team and how we think we can hone our mission statement for the coming years.
  • Picked up a couple of new short projects, one in our Cybersecurity space and another relating to the physical infrastructure in one of our offices. My team’s workload is maxed out from now until the end of the year.
  • Reviewed an updated specification for implementing Teams-based telephony in two of our offices. Asked for reviews from the other internal sub-teams that are involved in the work.
  • Continued follow-up work on mandatory call recording.
  • Presented the initial proposal for Teams-enabled conference rooms in one of our offices and agreed follow-up actions to revise the plans.
  • Reviewed a proposal for monitoring and maintaining our conference room equipment as well as the quality of our voice and video experience globally, and agreed follow-up actions with the team.
  • Had a follow-up meeting on a network routing issue and agreed how we will tackle it.
  • Took part in a technical discussion on the implementation of authentication technology for our most remote offices, and agreed a simple high-level solution.
  • Agreed to terminate an old leased line Internet connection in one of our offices.
  • Took part in our monthly risk review meeting. Completed a blog post about how we use LeanKit to facilitate our risk management process.
  • Had a broad discussion with a senior manager about what ‘digital transformation’ means and the risks of being left behind as the world changes.
  • Caught up with a week’s worth of Kanban board updates across the entire team.
  • Attended a talk on the strategy of our Infrastructure and Operations team.
  • Watched a ‘town hall’-style demo of a new in-house built software suite that solves business problems we were working on nearly a decade ago. The way in which the old project had gone about things, with a system that had a monolithic architecture, was a textbook example of how not to do it. It was amazing to see the current team doing so many things right using a modern agile methods and a much more incremental approach to the design.
  • Was rightly told off by a colleague for having enquired about their family for the third or fourth time and not remembering what they had told me before. I am terrible at this. I spent a few minutes re-looking for a personal CRM system where I can store this information and look it up again. Contacts+ looks good, but the data that you store is accessible by their employees. I’ve settled on using CardHop for now, which is a little step up from the built-in Contacts app on iOS/iPadOS.
  • Had a representative from Owl Labs come to our office to give us a demo of the Meeting Owl Pro. The technology is impressive, and offers a significant upgrade for the experience of someone attending a meeting remotely where most of the discussion is happening between participants in a meeting room. It has a camera facing a 360° mirror to obtain a panoramic shot, and then zooms in on up to three places in the panorama from where sound is emanating. It’s not perfect — the video quality is relatively low and the remote participant needs to ensure that Teams shows the incoming video stream in its full width — but it was impressive all the same. I am hoping we can obtain some devices and see how they can work for us as hybrid meetings become much more common again.
  • Had a random coffee with a colleague in our Wealth Management team who only joined us six months ago. It’s always interesting to hear about what the experience has been like to move companies when everyone has been out of the office.
  • Had an online conversation about whether calendars are openly visible or showing ‘free/busy’ only at work. There is a lot of merit to having an open culture where everyone can see what everyone else is up to, with private appointments being tagged as private, but if you don’t start from that place it would be a massive shift to flip the bit from closed to open. In these days of online calls I would also be concerned with random people having access to digital artefacts that go along with the meeting, such as whiteboards and chats.
  • Had a wonderful lunch with an old boss, having not seen him since the start of 2020. He’s from Beijing and has been on assignment here in London for the past six years; talking to him about current events always gives me new perspectives.
  • Met with a couple of school governor colleagues to refine the draft vision work that we started some months ago. I was glad to find that it was in pretty good shape and only needed a couple of tweaks. Next step is to socialise it further with the team.
  • Joined the 16–17mph group for the Saturday morning club cycle ride as my son was away attempting his Duke of Edinburgh bronze award. I managed to hold my own, particularly up the hills, and only got dropped by some of the riders as we pummelled our way on a long drag back into town. Fun!
  • Ran the line for my youngest boy’s football match away at St Albans. A fantastic end-to-end match which they won 2-1.
  • Had a wonderful dinner out at Thai Cottage with friends we haven’t seen in a long time.
  • Caved in and bought the Bluetones’ Expecting to Fly boxed set and the reissued Return To The Last Chance Saloon. I love these albums. They were definitely one of ‘my’ bands back in the mid-1990s. Having the b-sides from the era of the first album on vinyl is a dream come true — the songs are superb. The pressings sound amazing and I’m glad to have added them to my collection.

  • Made a concerted push in my effort to complete  The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914. I’m over 90% done, with nearly 300 highlights made, and I’m now on the final chapter. There is a lot to unpack.
  • Mowed and fed the lawns. I find it very difficult to judge whether I’m I under- or overdoing it with the ‘feed and weed’, so I’ll guess I’ll find out in a couple of weeks.
  • Started watching Ted Lasso after hearing so many people talk about it, including one of the FT business podcasts that I regularly get in my feed. We’re six episodes in and I love it.
  • Received a wonderful gift from Sharon O’Dea in the Netherlands, home of Tony’s Chocolonely. Such a wonderful random thing to do, via the WB-40 podcast Signal group. Thank you!
Thank you Sharon!

Thank you Sharon!

  • Bought a fancy new expensive watch (minus the fancy and expensive) after mine stopped working just after midday on Monday.

Next week: Another couple of days in the office, workshops and coaching, two school governor meetings and an Album Club.

Weeknotes #137 — Mercurial World

Pre-pandemic, this was the time of the year where someone could paint your house pink and you wouldn’t know until the weekend.

Pre-pandemic, this was the time of the year where someone could paint your house pink and you wouldn’t know until the weekend.

Commuted into London on Monday and Wednesday, the first time I’ve gone in on multiple days in one week since March 2020. A day in the office is exhausting, partly because of the early starts to get there on time, and partly because of all of the distractions that come with being around so many people again. On both days I barely made a dent on my to-do list, and was grateful to be back home again the following days where I could be more productive.

There is an assumption that being together with colleagues is unquestionably better in some sense, and this is an assumption that I have shared. However, I’ve been pointed at the work of Liz Stokoe who is a Professor of Social Interaction at Loughborough University. She debunks the myth that “93% of communication is non-verbal” by asking how we can hold conversations in the dark or develop relationships via the telephone, and states that “(in)effective communicators are (in)effective communicators regardless of modality.” I’m still thinking deeply about this, and how I feel much closer to my colleagues that have always been physically remote to me as we have worked together through the pandemic. I’ve ordered Liz’s book, Talk and have added it to my reading list.

This was a week in which I:

  • Vowed never to stay late in the office to attend an optional video meeting again. Being on a Zoom call with Simon Sinek was pretty cool, but with a late finish and a reduced train service I was home way past dinner time. I missed my family.
  • Started thinking about the discipline of Service Design as it applies to our business, spurred on by some ideas from our CIO and discussions I have had with the members of the WB-40 community. On their recommendation I have picked up a copy of Lou Downe’s Good Services and hope to get around to reading it shortly. I’m interested in how things differ when the client expects a ’white glove’ service and won’t just be serving themselves via a webpage.
  • Joined a meeting with one of our senior business leaders to review the roadmap for the big group programme, its impact on our part of the organisation and how we plan to take it forward. We received so much useful feedback that will help shape the work over the next few months.
  • Had a meeting to discuss how we will resource this work.
  • Met with a cross-functional team to review our WAN routing strategy.
  • Completed some template slides for our 2022 priorities, to be submitted to our business function CIO.
  • Attended a ‘masterclass’ on setting learning objectives and linking them to training in the various HR tools.
  • Reviewed our draft Operational Risk self-audit ahead of its annual submission.
  • Ran a cross-functional meeting to look at mandatory compliance recording and how it fits into a world where there are so many ways of people speaking to each other. I have some follow-up work to do before we meet again in a couple of weeks’ time.
  • Reviewed the first draft of our revamped department financial forecast for 2022.
  • Picked up a new project to move our endpoint monitoring and antivirus to a new platform over the next few months, and allocated it to one of my team members.
  • Had a one-on-one coaching session as part of a broader team effectiveness process within our department. I haven’t had any coaching for quite a few years and it was great to have someone to bounce things off of again. I have some homework to do before the next session in a couple of weeks’ time.
  • Took part in a workshop with the rest of the department as part of the same team effectiveness work, based on our CliftonStrengths assessments.
  • Attended an update session run by our Corporate Services department to get up to speed with all of the work being done in that space.
  • Watched a ‘town-hall’-style overview of a digital solution put in place by our Investment Banking team in South Africa.
  • Received an update on our approach to third-party risk management.
  • Published two weeks’ worth of Wins, and got our weekly random coffee pairings sent out.
  • Joined our school Full Governing Board meeting in-person, at the school, for the first time in 18 months. It was lovely to meet some of the new governors that I have only previously met via Teams. In preparation, I had to review the latest version of Keeping Children Safe in Education as well as a crop of policies. I agreed to continue as vice-chair for another year.
  • Had a lovely catch-up call with an ex-colleague that I hadn’t spoken to in a couple of years.
  • Enjoyed another Berkhamsted Cycle Club ride on Saturday morning with my eldest son. We tried running in the 15–16mph group this week and had no problems keeping up. The early morning mist was stunningly beautiful, and I spotted a fox as we journeyed along a country lane. We finished the ride with a coffee and croissant at Musette Cafe in Aldbury, before a trip to the local bike shop for a quick tune-up and to buy some mudguards ready for winter group rides.
  • Took a trip with my wife to Tring to visit Our Bookshop. They opened in September 2019 and I had bought a few books from them during lockdown via their Bookshop.org website. I was a bit disappointed with how small the shop felt compared to the photos, but they seemed to be doing a fantastic trade with a constant stream of people wandering in. We popped by Musette cafe on the way home for a coffee and cake, my second visit that day.
  • Mowed the back lawn, possibly for the last or penultimate time this year as the days draw in.
  • Bought a vinyl copy of Designer by Aldous Harding, which sounds superb. The album is my current obsession, and I find myself singing the songs all the time. The videos are striking in a way that I haven’t seen in many years.

  • Was very happy to find that Magdalena Bay’s debut album Mercurial World was released on Friday. I bought it without hesitation when it was announced, but will have to wait a few weeks for the vinyl to turn up.

Next week: Another couple of days in the office, a strategy session and meeting another ex-colleague for a catch-up.

Weeknotes #136 — It was DNS

A normal week, full of more meetings than usual. Wednesday in the office was good for collaboration but not that great for getting things moved on.

This was a week in which I:

  • Ran an internal review of our team’s roadmap, checking how well we did in Q3 against what we said we would deliver, and reflecting on how we take any lessons from this into future quarters.
  • Met with colleagues who are establishing a Teams mandatory compliance recording capability, with a view to using it within our part of the organisation.
  • Met with Procurement to discuss and agree principles and processes for purchasing IT consultancy in the future.
  • Had a one-on-one with a colleague in Beijing, the day after the team completed the new network infrastructure implementation in that office. It was great to know that our connection was flowing through all of our newly configured equipment. Updated our submission for the next local governance committee meeting to reflect that we have now got most of the back-end infrastructure work completed.
  • Reviewed the proposed DNS strategy for our part of the organisation.
  • Met with our Internet Service Provider in Dubai to discuss our current and future needs in that office.
  • Had meeting with a vendor to clarify some details on our planned move to Teams for telephony in London and Dubai, and the support of our telephony infrastructure in all of our offices.
  • Had an initial discussion with our head of Operational Risk on our annual self-assessment, and walked through the tools we use to manage our operational risk on an ongoing basis.
  • Joined a meeting to discuss our organisation’s ecosystem and platform strategies.
  • Had an introductory meeting with an external consultant who is helping us with formulation and articulation of our strategy. Followed this up with a one-on-one meeting later in the week to explore some ideas.
  • Met with one of the steering committees for the big group programme and had an update on the architectural approach. Designing and customising a system to be used across so many countries and teams is no simple task. Also reviewed our own internal plans for delivery.
  • Attended an interesting talk given by one of our team members on Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), neither of which I previously knew about. DKIM uses DNS to store public encryption keys so that email can be verified as having come from the sender, which seems like a clever idea to me.
  • Watched a presentation and demo on a new client-facing part of our website.
  • Met with our Marketing and Operational Risk teams to agree a short update to all of our colleagues on the new data loss prevention tool that we rolled out.
  • Had a virtual ‘random coffee’ with our Company Secretary. I’m looking forward to bumping into him as we spend more time in the office in the coming weeks.
  • Met up with an ex-colleague from our Marketing and Communications team. It was so good to see her, and to reminisce about the work we collaborated on a couple of years ago.
  • Published my thoughts on returning to the office, something I had been working on for the past few weeks and thinking about for even longer.
  • Interviewed a prospective new school governor. It’s always exciting when somebody new expresses an interest.
  • Completed one of our tax returns for the year.
  • Reviewed and filed all of my personal scanned documents from the past two years. I need to make this a weekly habit to avoid it becoming a multiple-hour job in future.
  • Decided that our wasp nest had to go. The noise inside our house was getting so much louder, and the entrance to the nest was directly overhanging our elderly neighbours’ garden. Chris from Approved Services Pest Control fixed it for us about an hour after I called him.
  • Picked up a new road bike for our eldest boy. His recent growth spurts resulted in him outgrowing his old one. I love it that it’s something we can do together, so we decided on an early Christmas and birthday present for him. It had its first outing on the Club ride on Saturday and he seems very pleased with it.
  • Ran the line for my youngest boy’s football match. I was so glad that we played on the dry Sunday instead of the washed-out Saturday. They lost for the first time this season but I am sure they will be able to take a lot of lessons from the game.
  • Completed my year’s programme of TrainerRoad cycling and started a new one. My training has ramped down a little bit as I have replaced my Saturday and Sunday turbo sessions with a Cycling Club ride and the boys’ football matches. It’ll be interesting to see how much fitness I can keep as we go back to the office.

Next week: Returning to the office for multiple days in the week for the first time since March 2020, an in-person school governor meeting and a Zoom call with Simon Sinek.

Weeknotes #135 — Running the lines

I was determined to grab hold of this week and take control of it before it grabbed hold of me. Last week’s lack of my usual exercise routine had me feeling worn out by the time Friday evening rolled around, and I didn’t want to let it happen again. By Friday this week, I had done my usual sessions on the turbo trainer and was ready for another early morning Cycling Club ride on Saturday. On Sunday I ran the line at both of my boys’ football matches, one after the other. By the time I plonked myself on the sofa to watch the Formula One on Sunday afternoon I was ready for a rest.

Cold early autumn mornings were burnt off by the sun and were followed by beautiful warm afternoons. A late summer gang of wasps have moved into a roof cavity of part of our recent extension, but they are as out of the way as can be so we just plan to leave them there. They’ll go eventually, and whatever nest they have created may deter another group from using that same space in future.

The UK seems to have gone bananas again, this time over perceived fuel shortages. I’m grateful that we’d filled up before the news spread that companies were having to ration supplies to their filling stations. Going through town on Sunday afternoon I could see that stations were shut, presumably now out of fuel. It feels like we’ve been living in a cycle of crazy news for the past five years; I’m not sure how much of it is because I follow things much more closely versus the world, and particularly the UK, actually going potty. It’s probably both.

We’ve had a letter home from my childrens’ school to say that they are moving back to having more of a COVID-secure protocol in place, with the return of masks in communal areas and the suspension of assemblies. I know that they are doing everything they can to keep school going, with as many children in school as possible. It feels like a very fragile situation.

This was a week in which I:

  • Agreed a plan to terminate a leased line Internet link in one of our smaller offices, saving additional costs.
  • Started to look at different approaches for moving to Teams for PSTN calling in one of our offices after receiving a vendor quote for running the service. Strategically we want as many things delivered ‘as a service’ as we can get, but not if it is substantially cheaper to run them ourselves.
  • Spoke to one of our regional door access technology vendors in order to refine their quote.
  • Spent more time discussing the top-down thinking for our big group programme, how it will impact our part of the organisation and how it will be presented to senior colleagues.
  • Reviewed a template to be submitted up the line on our priorities for 2022.
  • Completed a series of 360° assessments on my peers as well as my manager ahead of some group and individual coaching sessions.
  • Went to the office on Wednesday for the third week in a row. There were more people on the morning commute but happily a greater percentage of them were wearing masks. The journey home was something else though. The office is definitely starting to get noticeably busier, with many people joining various Teams meetings from there throughout the week. This week was good for bumping into lots of different members of the team as well as business colleagues from wider areas and having those impromptu chats that don’t happen at home, but another reminder of the challenge of trying to get things done in an open plan space.
  • Joined a ’town hall’ meeting with our regional CEO and members of his management team. It had been a while since we had one and it was great to see so many people again. The team running the session gave a tour of our London office via Teams on a mobile phone, and it struck me how much confidence our colleagues now have in both the tools that we have given them and how to use them effectively. We did worry when the camera wandered through areas of the building where we have no Wi-Fi, but it all held together.
  • Used a meeting room to put the Logitech Rally equipment through its paces. We had only installed this equipment a few weeks before the first lockdown in March 2020 as part of our office refurbishment and I want to get familiar with it. The technology is excellent, and we are looking at how we can expand its use so that we can join more than just Teams meetings from the devices.
  • Caught up with all of the recent work items raised and completed across the team’s Kanban boards.
  • Completed the background reading and then chaired our first school governor meeting of the year, our Finance, Premises and Personnel Committee. A governor colleague has said that they are willing to take up this Committee Chair role, so I am stepping down from this position after many years. We also received a very useful update on the latest School Development Plan.
  • Reviewed the draft minutes for the FPP Committee and completed most of the actions that were assigned to me.
  • Took delivery of a new dishwasher, the second to make it up the driveway after the delivery guys dropped the first one. Doing the washing up was a novelty for a couple of days, but I am grateful that we’ve automated most of the process again.
  • Hosted the first Album Club with three other guys from work, via Teams. I played Joe Jackson’s Night And Day album from 1982. As requested, they didn’t hold back on their thoughts on the record. I’m loving any excuse to sit down and listen, really listen, to music at the moment. Looking forward to hearing what the next host will play.
  • Had Friday night dinner at a friends’ house. It’s so lovely that we don’t need a babysitter anymore and can just nip out for a couple of hours, safe in the knowledge that things will be fine at home.
  • Enjoyed another Saturday morning out with my eldest son and some lovely cyclists of Berkhamsted Cycle Club for a club ride.
  • Bought a bunch of records from a market stall in town. They were all £2 to £4 each so I figured I could take a gamble. Some are better quality than others, but they all seem quite well-used. I’d been after a copy of the Bee Gees’ Spirits Having Flown for a while. Sadly the title track jumps, so unless I can repair it I’ll have to stick with the digital version. What a beautiful song.

  • Continued to plough on with The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 by Richard J Evans. It’s very interesting and well-written, but I feel like I have been reading it for ages. I’m looking forward to some lighter reads and a little bit of fiction again once I’m done.

Next week: An incredibly meeting-heavy work week, the final one before we start to go back to the office more regularly in London.

Weeknotes #134 — Dropped dishwasher

A really busy week where I generally felt quite tired for the majority of the time. Partly this was due to lack of exercise; I missed my Wednesday session due to going into the office, on Thursday I had to be up and ready for a scheduled delivery at home and on Friday I prioritised sleep, having had people over to my house until very late the night before. I drew a line under the week at 6pm on Friday and went out for a much-needed run.

This was a week in which I:

  • Turned my explainer on how Azure Information Protection works into a set of slides. I then used Zoom to record me giving the presentation, and uploaded it onto an internal Teams channel. Hopefully it will go some way to reducing the number of issues my colleagues have been having. I really enjoyed putting it together, with a few photos from Unsplash and animated GIF ‘screenshots’ created with SnagIt.
  • Attended our monthly Information Risk Steering Group.
  • Met with our chosen vendor to review the technical implementation document for rolling out Teams telephony in one of our offices in the next few months.
  • Took part in our monthly department Risk Management meeting. Noted that we don’t always need to wait for a technical risk mitigation; sometimes just raising awareness with people is enough to start to reduce our risks.
  • Attended our quarterly Architecture Design Authority meeting and reviewed a proposed Infrastructure and Operations strategy.
  • Joined a workshop on our network’s DDI (DNS, DHCP and IPAM — yes, I can’t believe there is an acronym for a set of acronyms) setup. We agreed a direction of travel, which should ultimately result in a third formal iteration of the design we started out with in 2018.
  • Spent another Wednesday working in London. There were more people on the commute with fewer masks, and more people in the office. Our team have now decided that this is the best day for us all to be in, given that we now have a Wednesday ‘meeting free’ policy.
  • Hosted a talk by a colleague to our internal team on the Equity Sales business. It was very interesting — there was so much material and so many questions that we ran out of time.
  • Joined a number of meetings relating to our big group programme. Had further discussions on the business case and timeline for the work, as well as how it fits into our broader objectives.
  • Attended a ‘digital showcase’ meeting on our renewable energy project funding platform.
  • Was delighted to see one of our biggest sub-teams getting on top of the contents of their Kanban board; the results shown on their cumulative flow report is a tribute to all of the hard work that they have been putting in.
  • Had a random coffee with a colleague in our Wealth Management business.
  • Completed my CliftonStrengths assessment as part of the Team Effectiveness work that we are doing. I can see myself in the results, but I am not sure if this is because the assessment is ‘accurate’ or that it is designed to feel this way to everyone no matter what their results are. It’ll be interesting to see the results from the rest of the team and start to discuss them.

  • Started using a Logitech MX Master 3 mouse in my home office. It’s absolutely lovely, not least because it allows me to switch between Bluetooth connections with my work PC, iPad and home computer at the touch of a button. I’m still learning its features, and accidentally discovered the handy audio and video mute buttons in Teams while I was on a call.
  • Attended two online webinars in succession on Tuesday night and started reflecting on my life choices a few minutes into each. Unless the speaker is incredible, the topic is deeply interesting, or there is a high degree of interactivity, I find myself quickly losing interest at these events. Pre-pandemic, when we went to Meetups in person, if the presentation was poor there was at least the promise of networking afterwards. Mostly I sat there wondering why I was taking part live when I could put the recordings into a ‘watch later’ queue. However, once I had turned up, it was difficult to leave without being rude.
  • Nearly took delivery of a new dishwasher after our previous one died following 11 years of what felt like constant use. The delivery guys took our old one away and then dropped the new one on our driveway before it even got to our house. We’ve had to get through a few more days of washing up by hand while we wait for its replacement to arrive next week.
  • Took my eldest boy for his regular orthodontist visit.
  • Having formally joined Berkhamsted Cycling Club, went out for an early morning club ride with my son. There were only four of us in our group but it was a lovely ride. A misty start gave way to sunshine on a day that made you feel grateful to be alive. I’ve picked up some official cycling tops for the club so next week we will look the part as well.

  • Ran the line for my youngest son’s football match. They won 4-1 which now means that they are top of the league. It felt like a fraught match, with so much shouting from the coaches and players, but the boys did brilliantly.
  • Had our garden contractors come and replace the pieces of turf in our back garden that didn’t ‘take’ when they put them in the first time. Laying turf in a heatwave is not a great idea.
  • Spent some time on the lawn, applying a pet-friendly ‘feed and weed’ mix in what I hope is the right quantity. I should be able to see in three to four weeks.

Next week: Trying to put some time aside for strategic thinking, if I can extract myself from the day-to-day. Plus our first school governor meeting of the year.

Weeknotes #133 — Cycling Club

An unusual week, not least because I finally made it back to my office in London after a year and half of working from home. To be back felt simultaneously novel and familiar; it’s amazing how quickly we adapt when things change.

On Monday I felt very run down and tired, and wondered if it was because I had been overdoing my riding and running. Cycling around Silverstone had been much tougher than I expected. I lost a lot of salt, and other than the one electrolyte-filled drink that I brought with me and drank as I cycled, I didn’t do anything to replenish it. Things improved throughout the week, but I never managed to properly catch up with rest.

This was a week in which I:

  • Spent time face-to-face with our CIO and a couple of my peers to assess where we are and to start to form ideas about where we need to go in the next few months. Two hours was just long enough to get lots of material out of our heads. The next steps are to let it brew a little and then try to shape it in the coming weeks.
  • Started to deal with some end-user issues relating to Azure Information Protection. We’ve put it in place primarily as a ‘speed bump’ to protect against data loss with external parties, but my gut is telling me that we need to provide more training than we have done so far. A small number of people have mentioned issues to me, but I am sure the pain is being felt more widely as I know most people work around problems without reporting them.
  • Took part in a discussion on how we protect material non-public information in one of our key systems.
  • Had a couple of meetings with sub-teams on the big group programme to discuss where our part of the organisation is and what our plans are for the next few months.
  • Reviewed the cost structure for the big programme with our internal team.
  • Delivered a talk to our Engineering team an internal body of knowledge that our staff should aspire to learn. I’ve put together a document with an outline that I am hoping the team will collectively own and update.
  • Took part in the launch of ‘Team Effectiveness’ training and coaching being run for our team. We’ll each be completing a CliftonStrengths profile and using this as an entry point for broader conversations about how we work as a team. The group delivering the training and coaching seem to be very good and I am sure that we will get something out of it, even if I am a skeptic about the validity of this kind of assessment and profiling.
  • Got back on top of my work emails, getting them down to less than 100 for the first time in a few years.
  • Joined a number of webinar ‘town hall’-style meetings, including one with the leadership team of our Wholesale Division, one with the CEO of our Angola office and another with our Group CTO.
  • Had a random coffee with a colleague from our Wealth Management division in London.
  • Reviewed and discussed the IT service agreement for our school, prior to its planned renewal in a few weeks’ time.
  • Attended Governors and Inspection training hosted by Helen Jones at The Training Centre by Aspire. An incredibly useful two hours, but left me feeling the weight of all of the things we need to get done in the next few weeks.
  • Along with my eldest son, joined Berkhamsted Cycling Club after going out for a trial ride on Saturday morning. I’d been thinking about joining the club since it was set up a few years ago, but it always seemed pointless as my family commitments meant I wouldn’t be able to join the club rides. I’m really pleased that my eldest boy and I have found something that we can do regularly together. The club members couldn’t have been more welcoming, and it will be worth forgoing a lie-in on a Saturday to get out riding with them.
  • Ran the line for my youngest son’s first football match of the new season. Great to start with a victory, particularly as he is now playing 11-a-side on a seemingly giant pitch.

  • Watched an incredible weekend of sport, with Emma Raducanu’s stunning US Open victory and a thrilling Italian Grand Prix.
  • Realised I have a major book problem. I have around 1,400 purchased unread books, plus over 2,000 in my wish list. A book was recently released that highlights that if we are lucky we only have around 4,000 weeks on the planet. I think I’m going to need to drastically prioritise.

Next week: Another day in the London office, meeting old friends and hosting Album Club in-person for the first time since 2019.

Weeknotes #132 — Cycle Silverstone

Monday saw our last public holiday before Christmas here in the UK, extending my time off and making it a four-day week. I had planned to go into the office on Wednesday to start getting used to being there again, but I had forgotten about a dentist appointment booked long ago. I’m planning to try and go in this coming week instead.

Autumn seemed to set in before August was done and I found myself reaching for my jumpers and slippers again. However, it looks as though summer will be making a small fight back over the next few days so the jumpers are back on their hangers.

This was a week in which I:

  • Got through all of my new emails and Teams messages that had accumulated during my week away.
  • Resolved to try and deal with messages and emails on the ‘first touch’ much more, which did lead to me feeling much more productive than usual. I’m going to try and keep this up.
  • Provided details to a vendor on the existing phone system in one of our offices so that they can quote for a Teams Direct Routing service to replace it.
  • Closed out on a final quote for a door access system upgrade in one of our offices, after many weeks of back and forth as we refined our requirements. We now need to finish off the architectural details before we can commission the work.
  • Agreed with colleagues in Finance on an approach to our piece of the business case of the large group-wide programme that we are taking part in.
  • Presented a proposal to the entire IT team on how we should go about organising our internal data. Received good feedback and agreement that this is something we need to do, and soon.
  • Sat in on a demonstration of a prototype put together by our internal AI group to help with greater understanding of current and prospective clients for our part of the business. Enjoyed the discussion and debate on the next steps.
  • Attended a presentation by colleagues working in behavioural science on improving product adoption. This got me wondering how much a well-crafted email, or a document written with the reader in mind, falls under behavioural science.
  • Met with a new team member who joined while I was away.
  • Had a lovely random coffee with our Head of Operational Risk.
  • Signed up to LeadIn 4-D specifically to watch Matt Ballantine talk about his PlayCards project. I’ve heard Matt talk about it quite a bit, particularly in the WB-40 podcast Signal group, but had never really ‘got it’. Matt’s presentation was excellent and had my brain whirring; I called him later to download all of the notes I had made. It was a nice side-effect to have joined the LeanIn 4-D community too, and I’m looking forward to exploring it.
  • Reviewed the latest iteration of the school’s COVID-19 risk assessment as well as the new Outbreak Management Plan.
  • Looked at a contract renewal for the school’s IT service provider.
  • Cleaned up the majority of my ‘blog post ideas’ folder and found many posts that I had more than half written but then never finished off. I am going to try to breathe life into them, and to generally write more.
  • Went through the car insurance renewal dance and saved over £100 by finding a new provider instead of renewing. Spent 50 minutes on hold with my current insurer before getting through to someone who could stop my auto-renew.
  • After a week of running, had a good week back on the turbo trainer. Strava is telling me that I have gone ‘well above normal range’ in terms of physical stress and I can feel it.
  • Had another migraine. I am starting to conclude that they are almost solely down to tiredness. Fortunately I never get debilitating headaches, but the aura is a total pain in the butt as I am unable to see properly for half an hour or so before the headache kicks in.
  • Had an unmentionable number of fillings at the dentist. Some of my old ones had failed and fallen out over the past couple of years and needed to be replaced. I am so grateful to have the superb dentist that I have, especially as the work was done under the NHS. It was amazing to ‘watch’ her work on multiple teeth at once.
  • Took part in Cycle Silverstone with my eldest boy. After a long queue for registration, hitting the track felt wonderful. The tarmac is super-smooth and it felt amazing to be pedalling around there. But tackling 50–60km was something else — the lack of downhill meant that it felt like a tough turbo trainer ride, and I was very grateful to find the food table at the finish.

  • Enjoyed the Netherlands F1 race. Very happy that Max Verstappen won, given the turnout of the crowd and the fact that the race didn’t happen in Zandvoort last year. Based on what we saw on TV, the Dutch really seem to know how to have a good time!

Next week: Back to the office for the first time in 18 months, and trying to keep cool as we get the last of the summer sunshine.

Weeknotes #131 — The Great Outdoors

A wonderful week’s holiday. On Monday evening we were joined by some good friends who had rented a neighbouring lodge for four nights; it was lovely to spend some time with them, and fun for our children to have some friends around as well. We’ve holidayed together before and they are great company, but we agreed that it was much better to have separate apartments where we didn’t feel under any obligation to start socialising the minute we heard other people were awake.

We were fortunate to stay at the stunning Bowland Retreat Lodges on their second week of taking paying guests. They will eventually have ten bespoke rentals, thoughtfully located on their site to maximise the enjoyment of the views. They are all finished to an incredibly high standard and we felt very privileged to have stayed there.

I never seem to have any problems in putting work to one side and switching off, which I think is a good thing. As the new week approaches I need to remember what all of the important things were before I left.

This was a week in which I:

  • Thought about visiting Blackpool, but at the last minute switched to take a look at Lytham St Annes and the confusingly similarly-named neighbouring town of Lytham instead. Lytham St Annes seemed like a quite generic seaside town. My children wanted to spend some time at the pier arcade, so I waited outside and people-watched for a while. We then jumped back into the car for the short trek south to Lytham, which turned out to be much more peaceful and beautiful.

  • Got back into running. I didn’t take my bike on holiday but I did pack a pair of trainers. After a run with my wife and eldest son on the first morning of our holiday I went out solo the next day, and suffered for a couple of days afterwards. Running seems to use completely different muscles to cycling and I always spend a few days wandering around like a geek version of John Wayne whenever I pick it up again. There’s a simplicity to just going out without all of the cycling faff which I love.
  • Took a trip to Whitewell for a lovely short walk that involved crossing an amazing set of stepping stones across the River Hodder. Our lodge had a set of leaflets called Walks With Taste In Ribble Valley, each with a round walk and a suggested location for lunch or dinner. We followed the route on the Whitewell leaflet which was a good setup for some longer walks later in the week.

  • Visited Lowland Farm to take their beautiful alpacas for a walk. I had no idea that alpaca fur is so soft! Our youngest boy reported that this was the best part of the holiday. We all loved it.

  • Had a couple of meals out, neither of which were particularly great. We enjoyed getting together in one of the lodges and cooking our own food a lot more.
  • Wandered back to Malham with our friends so that they could see Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar for themselves. We brought swimming gear and towels for the children as they wanted to brave the cold waters of the plunge pool. It is such a magical walk that we were happy to do it again.

  • Revisited Billy Bob’s Parlour in Skipton with our friends so that they could grab an ice cream, milkshake, burger or coffee (and in one case, three out of the four in one hit!) It was interesting to see that the ice cream parlour was constructed with the help of the EU.

  • Ventured on a magnificent walk up and down Pendle Hill. We’d been looking at the hill all week as we mooched around Clitheroe, wondering whether we could climb it, and a quick web search found a very useful step-by-step guide on the best way to do it. We started at Barley, winner of the Evening Star’s ‘Best Kept Village Competition’ in 1975, according to a plaque above the car park toilet. The whole walk was stunning — past two reservoirs before turning up a steep ascent to the top of the hill and then down a set of very long, very steep stone steps to get to the other side, with a mile’s walk to get back to Barley. It was the kind of walk that made you feel glad to be alive, and wanting to be nowhere else.

  • Enjoyed a wonderful afternoon in Romsey, seeing lots of family members all together for the first time in years. After our six hour holiday drives to and from Lancashire I wasn’t looking forward to another four hours in the car but it was worth it. The time went too fast, but I am hoping that we’ll be able to get together with everyone again soon.

Next week: A public holiday to get my house in order before starting back at work again.

Weeknotes #130 — Clitheroe and Malham

The second four-day week this month as I took Friday off. It felt like a productive four days, and I don’t have too many loose ends to come back to when I return.

This was a week in which I:

  • Had my mid-year review with my line manager. A really useful discussion which helped me to understand and articulate where I am work-wise right now.
  • Got a piece of work completed that had been in progress for much longer than I had hoped, providing a learning syllabus for our IT staff.
  • Agreed a strategy for our compliance recorded lines solution, and met with the Group technology owner to clarify our requirements.
  • Met one of our telephony providers to discuss their proposal for Teams Direct Routing as a Service. The less technology that we need to own and run ourselves, the better.
  • Agreed the communication strategy for rolling out Azure Information Protection to our organisation, and reviewed the email introducing staff to the topic. Hopefully it will be focused on what they will experience in terms of ‘speed bumps’ more than the theory behind the ‘why’.
  • Reviewed a draft training course on Information Risk that is due to be sent to all of our staff.
  • Had a number of meetings for our big group programme, including a couple focused around the financial business case for the work. The part of the company that I work for has a very different approach to costs than the rest of the Group, so we agreed to follow up with the business case template owners to go into this in detail. Separately we agreed to proceed with a proof-of-concept for one of the system modules.
  • Met with the technical members of the IT management team to assess our requirements for an architectural capability and what form it should take.
  • Aligned with a colleague on a data and analytics project that we are running and shared all fo the information I had on the business case for the work.
  • Joined and left a webinar in the space of five minutes as it didn’t seem a good use of time. I’m quite comfortable with dropping off if the platform is mostly one-way and there is little chance of the presenter seeing me go and thinking that I’m being rude.
  • Had to rush to pick up my son after he called to say he had come off his bike, hitting a tree and smashing his hand. We’re so lucky to have a wonderful friend a few doors away from our house who works as a paediatric matron at a local hospital, and my son took himself off to see her for a quick triage. We ended up going to hospital to have his hand assessed; fortunately nothing is broken, but three of his fingers are very bruised.
  • Took delivery of a new tumble dryer, after our last one seemed to continuously default to a ‘third degree burns’ setting. It lasted over a decade and it’s amazing to see how the technology has changed; our new one is a ‘heat pump’ design which reuses the heat inside of the machine instead of pushing it out into the room.
  • Had my wife’s parents to stay with us for a couple of nights for the first time in two years or so. It was lovely to have them there, and felt like another step in getting back to normal. (My fingers are crossed and my breath is held, but UK infection rate seems to be ticking up again.)
  • Spent most of Friday driving to Clitheroe, a four-hour drive which turned into a seven-hour mission including a stop for lunch. We’re here for a short break, handing our own house over to my brother-in-law for their own break from their usual surroundings.
  • Had a day in Clitheroe itself, exploring the town and the (extremely tiny) castle.

  • Headed up to Malham for one of the most beautiful countryside walks I have ever been on. I know that the UK has a lot to offer, but I forget how stunning it is until I see it again.

Next week: More exploring in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and some friends come to join us on holiday.

Weeknotes #129 — Meetups

Normality came a couple of paces closer this week as I attended more in-person meet-ups. COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths all seem to be flatlining here in the UK and it feels like we are at the ‘let’s just live with it’ stage. From next week onwards, the government no longer require us to self-isolate if we have been a close contact with a confirmed case. It really does feel like the bulk of the pandemic may be behind us here, and I hope that’s true. The next big discussion will be about whether our population gets ‘booster shots’ while the majority of the rest of the world remain unvaccinated. Given that we have already cut back overseas aid this year I am doubtful that we will be good global citizens, but I do hope we do the right thing.

This was a week in which I:

  • Met up with lots of my London-based colleagues for an afternoon social in Hyde Park. I hadn’t been on a train in 18 months and expected it to be quite profound, but the journey there and back actually felt quite mundane; I haven’t missed commuting in any way. It was so lovely to see everyone again and the hours flew by. I finished the day by going for a wonderful Greek dinner at Mazi with a friend and colleague who has been out of the office with a serious illness for most of the past year. Seeing him was just what I needed, and I left for home with a renewed sense of purpose and a warm glow from all the laughter we shared.
  • Attended a meeting to get an overview of our proposed post-pandemic working arrangements in London. It struck me that as our IT team is geographically dispersed, ‘being with everyone in the office again’ isn’t quite the same thing as it is for other teams. Before the pandemic, I spent most of the working day at my desk on Teams calls, so it will be interesting to see what kind of working pattern makes sense for me.
  • Saw the next part of our IT infrastructure implementation get moved out by a couple of weeks staff in one of our locations suddenly found themselves working from home again due to COVID-19. The team are trying to move things around so that we get the work done in a different order and stay on track overall for the quarter.
  • Reviewed a revised statement of work for the IT infrastructure implementation in our final office on our rollout schedule.
  • Discussed the current state of protection for confidential data in one of our key global systems.
  • Participated in our our monthly IT risk review meeting.
  • Started some more Kanban coaching with another member of the team.
  • Completed my mid-year performance review on our new performance management system.
  • Caught up with my messages, emails, and Kanban board notifications after being out of the office for a week.
  • Attended a presentation on our company’s new multi-factor authentication application.
  • Enjoyed a random coffee with a colleague who moved from Lagos to London just before the pandemic started. People are so interesting, and it’s great to get to know them in this way.
  • Enjoyed an in-person Album Club once again. If everything stays as-is COVID-19-wise, we’re probably back to being in-person for the foreseeable future.
  • Attended the first few sessions of Micro Camp, which started straight after I finished work for the day. It’s such a wonderful community to be a part of, and the event was a lovely opportunity to interact with so many like-minded people in real time. Kimberly Hirsh’s talk on Learning in Public on Your Blog was super inspirational; I’ve already watched it twice and it has got my brain whirring on things I could write about.
  • Celebrated my 17th wedding anniversary with a family day out in London. We took the train into Euston and wandered around Camden before strolling across to King’s Cross for an early dinner at Dishoom. The food was good but not as exceptional as I had been led to believe; I enjoyed my lunchtime falafel from Camden Market a lot more. The sun was shining, and as we strolled around, eating our post-dinner ice creams, it felt like we were on holiday.

  • Spent Sunday afternoon at our friends’ house for a lovely barbecue. It was lovely to relax in their beautiful new house, enjoying the food and being outside in great company.

Next week: A four-day week as I am taking Friday off as part of another short break. The diary is full up so I know this will mean cramming all of the work into those four days. Plus a visit from my wife’s parents, who haven’t been to stay with us for a very long time.

Weeknotes #128 — Up On A Hill

After a busy few months at work and a giant bike ride that circumnavigated London without actually going into London, I was ready for a week off. As always, time has zipped by and I’m back to work again tomorrow, but only for a couple of weeks before we have another holiday.

This was a week in which I:

  • Spent Monday recovering from the big ride. It was a beautiful day so we headed up to Dunstable Downs for a coffee and a wander, and found that they had turned a field into a makeshift sports and games playground. We tried out the volleyball and football before deciding it was too hot for running around so much.

  • Got back on my bike on Tuesday to ride to the other side of Oxford with my eldest son. Cycling through the town brought back memories of being there in the late 1990s, wandering across a bridge, heading back to a friend’s house after having danced for hours in a club.
  • Met my wife and younger son in Eynsham for lunch and ice cream before driving the rest of the way to Ross-on-Wye to see my wife’s parents. It was so lovely to see them again. After 18 months of being in lockdown it strangely didn’t feel like a big change to be back in their house. We had a nice alfresco pub dinner at The Royal, enjoying the beautiful summer evening.

  • Was sorry to see that the lovely old bookshop in Ross-on-Wye had closed down. It was always one of my favourite shops to visit when we went back there.

  • Relocated to the Up On A Hill glampsite for a couple of evenings to spend with my wife’s family. The cabins were brand new and the site had everything we could wish for. On Wednesday night we cooked pizzas and on Thursday we sheltered from the rain in the open barn-style seating area as we tucked into fish and chips. The weather wasn’t great but the family did make it up Hay Bluff and we spent an afternoon wandering around the bookshops of Hay-on-Wye. We played outside when the sun was shining, and played Scrabble under cover when it rained. A really lovely couple of days.

  • Struggled on the turbo trainer despite all of the riding I’ve been doing. Maybe I’ve been overdoing it.

Next week: Back to work, an Album Club, and venturing into London to see my colleagues for the first time in 18 months.

Weeknotes #127 — Loop

A really enjoyable week. Work seemed to scoot by at a pace, which was fine to begin with but got a little troubling as the end approached. I have next week off as holiday so wanted to tie up as many loose ends as I could.

It occurred to me that having Monday off meant conditions were perfect to attempt a circumnavigation of London on my bike on Sunday. My friend Ian had lamented that he couldn’t make the Audax ride a few weeks ago and agreed to attempt this one with me. We had a wonderful Sunday, starting at 5:45am and getting back home just before 9pm. I’d been thinking of doing this for years and it was great to finally complete it.

This was a week in which I:

  • Completed an overdue root cause analysis report for an issue that occurred with one of our systems a few weeks ago.
  • Had my team meeting that was carried over from a diary car-crash at the end of last week, and reviewed what needed doing before two of us would be out on holiday next week.
  • Said goodbye to a colleague that has worked in the department for the past couple of years. He and his wife have left South Africa to join their daughter’s family in Australia. It’s very sad to see him go as he’s played such an important role on the team, and has been a lovely person to work with.
  • Met with the stream lead for the group programme that we are participating in, as well as participated in the work being done to roll out financial templates for associated business cases.
  • Agreed with another peer to help coach them with their team’s Kanban board.
  • Took the newest member of our management team through the theory of why our current ‘ways of work’ looks like it does, and got some useful feedback as to how it can be tweaked further.
  • Discussed the IT support and operation model for two of our offices.
  • Enjoyed an informal talk from one of our staff on the new Instant Coffee feature in LeanKit.
  • Used the Instant Coffee feature in a small session run by the two LeanKit product managers as they solicited feedback on the ‘mirrored cards’ feature. LeanKit is my favourite tool that we use at work and I was very happy to give some insight into how we have been using it.
  • Had two ‘random coffees’ with colleagues as one had been postponed from last week. Both were great and it was lovely to catch up with them.
  • Raised an issue in GitHub for the first time, for the micro.blog iOS client. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to make a positive contribution by helping write some of the code too?
  • Joined two more of Tortoise Media’s ThinkIn sessions, one with Jess Phillips MP and another with John Amaechi. I think a big part of the enjoyment of the sessions is the in-meeting text chat — active participation is much better than just sitting through a webinar that you could easily consume as a podcast. The chat is expertly curated and guided by someone at Tortoise Media, which helps a lot.
  • Had a wonderful night with my old friend, swapping music and getting lots of new leads for artists to check out. The following evening we went out for a delicious meal at Tabure with our wives. They are such great company and we had a lovely time.
Spot the clown.

Spot the clown.

Next week: A week off work, spending some time with family and a couple of nights in a ‘glamping’ tent shed.

Weeknotes #126 — Martha and the Vandellas

In the UK we build our houses for a northern climate. Double-glazed windows and plenty of insulation keep us cosy and warm. But those wonderful inventions are cursed when the odd boiling hot day turns up. We’ve just had a week of heat which has made it difficult to keep cool in my home office, and even more difficult to sleep. My colleagues in Johannesburg have the opposite problem where their houses are not built for the cold, so they have also been struggling with overnight temperatures of -5°C. (Interestingly, I heard John Gruber on a podcast this week talking about how bad Celsius is as a measure of temperature — with Fahrenheit, zero is dangerously cold and 100 is dangerously hot. It seems more logical than being concerned about the freezing and boiling points of water.) Of course, the hot weather disappeared as soon as the weekend arrived.

We’ve also had another week of the landscape gardeners at our house, building some decking and adding their finishing touches to our back garden. I’ve had to be up early in order to get on my bike trainer and get ready for their potential early arrival, leaving me more worn out than usual. The results are great — we’re so happy to now have a back garden that we want to spend time in. Unfortunately, a heatwave wasn’t the best time to be laying turf and I’m a little unconvinced that the brown areas will come back despite all of our watering efforts. They’ve agreed to fix them if they don’t ‘take’, but hopefully it won’t come to that.

The bike has been a real challenge this week. On Tuesday I found that I couldn’t finish the hard workout that was scheduled, and I found myself riding out the time on a much gentler setting. It’s bizarre, given how much I’ve been out doing long rides at weekends. Hopefully next weekend’s cooler temperatures and a little more rest will mean I am back to normal.

This was a week in which I:

  • Presented details of my long-running IT programme to Internal Audit, giving them an introduction to our part of the organisation, what we’ve done over the past few years and how we’ve been doing it. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and love talking about it.
  • Created a series of slides showing the IT infrastructure journey for our office in Brazil. Presented these slides at the monthly review meeting with the in-country CEO and Office Manager. We now have a suite of slides for each country whose IT we are responsible for.
  • Fleshed out a ‘lean business case’ for a project to start compliance recording for Teams, hopefully leveraging an initiative already happening elsewhere in the company.
  • Reviewed the next iteration of the design for our IT infrastructure back-end in Asia, which will hopefully be closed out next week.
  • Continued to edge forward with a physical access project, getting the thoughts of our CTO and requesting some more information from our vendor.
  • Attended our Information Risk Steering Group meeting. Encountered the FAIR Institute for the first time, which looks worth investigating further.
  • Had a walk-through of a handover document prepared by a colleague who has moved to Australia and leaves us at the end of the month.
  • Was given an overview of one of our business departments and some in-house tools that they have developed to run some of their key business processes. The developer is leaving so we are putting in an interim setup to manage the tools.
  • Attended a monthly internal catch-up on governance, control and cybersecurity, as well as a separate session on firewalls and networking.
  • Joined some meetings for the large global programme, and was given an overview of a financial calculator for project business cases that fall under the programme.
  • Reviewed a lean business case for a proposed Marketing project.
  • Spent more time coaching teams and individuals in our department on their Kanban processes. I really enjoy this part of my work.
  • Had a wonderful catch-up call with an old colleague in Johannesburg. It always takes a little to-ing and fro-ing for our diaries to align but I’m grateful when they do.
  • Spent a lot of time thinking and talking about the ideas in How To Be An Antiracist, which I am about a third of the way through. It’s excellent; every time I finish another chapter I see things in a slightly different way.
  • Got to the dentist for a checkup for the first time in two years due to the pandemic. As I suspected, it isn’t great, and I’m booked in for some work in a couple of months’ time.
  • Took delivery of one sofa where we should have had two; the larger one got into our house but we couldn’t fit it through the doorway to our lounge. Fortunately we could get a complete refund from the shop. Unfortunately a new order for another smaller sofa won’t be fulfilled for 20 weeks. Happy Christmas!
  • Met my brothers for a night out to celebrate their birthday. It was lovely to see them as well as my sisters-in-law. Dining out feels so fragile and I am still nervous about being indoors with lots of random people. I am hoping I don’t end up with a ‘ping’ from the COVID-19 app that I came in contact with anyone who subsequently tested positive.

  • Watched my youngest boy take part in his football club’s annual tournament. His team won the group and then lost to another team 1-0 in the final which was a superb result.

Next week: A final week before some time off, which I feel very ready for.

Weeknotes #125 — Hillbuster

An unusual week in which I found myself surrounded by people again. We have landscape gardeners working at our house, trying to transform our back garden from a botanical fever dream into something we’d be happy to have people come and visit. We’re hoping it will be lovely to look at as well as easy to maintain, as none of us in the house have very green fingers. I’ve been on tea duty in between meetings, keeping the workpeople well-watered and nourished. So far so good, and they finish up next week.

I was pleased to have quickly recovered from last week’s mammoth bike ride, and hopped back on the turbo trainer from Tuesday onwards. The coming week is going to be a challenge for indoor biking with soaring temperatures here in the south of England, but I’m going to give it a go. Now I’ve got some fitness I’d really like to keep it, as I know that if we do make it away for a short summer break that cycling opportunities may be limited.

Looking back over the week, I seem to have subconsciously stepped back from the UK news, probably for my own sanity. Instead, my worries have been about my colleagues in South Africa as they have seen their country go through the worst riots and looting for many years. People who always have a smile looked genuinely terrified at times, and it felt so helpless to be so far away with very little options for making a difference.

This was a week in which I:

  • Had my second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. I am so grateful for the NHS and the seamless process to get the appointments booked and the jabs in my arm. I felt very few side-effects this time, which sounds similar to others that have had the same shot.
  • Saw my lovely youngest boy turn 12 on the day he was released from his COVID-19 self-isolation.
  • Completed a first draft of an internal ‘IT curriculum’ document for the team, listing topic areas and resident experts in each topic within the team. I’ve had lots of very valuable feedback which I will include in the next iteration.
  • Reviewed and agreed the final version of the closure report for our New York office infrastructure project.
  • Reviewed the low-level design and implementation plan for our IT infrastructure in Asia which we hope to deploy in the next few weeks.
  • Agreed with one of our teams to try an experiment with their Kanban board, adding two new card types to distinguish everyday work from project work. A quick informal write-up of what you plan to do and how you will judge its success goes a long way.
  • Took part in our monthly risk management meeting.
  • Met with our head of Operational Risk to get aligned ahead of the next cycle of senior management meetings.
  • Had a lovely random coffee with a colleague in HR I hadn’t spoken to in a very long time.
  • Was pleased to see my colleague in meetings again following his long illness. It’s so great to have him back.
  • Had an excellent end-of-week catch-up with my boss, covering a lot of bases about where we are, where we are heading and more besides.
  • Attended an all-hands meeting about legal developments in one of the countries in which we operate.
  • Joined the Headteacher, Chair of Governors and members of the school senior leadership team for a feedback meeting from our Improvement Partner. It’s always so good to get some external feedback on how things are going.
  • Attended our final school Full Governing Board meeting of the year. I can’t believe that another academic year is behind us already. I felt as though I had to cram the reading in, but by the time the meeting came I was well-prepared.
  • Took my eldest son and three of his friends to Aqua Parcs in Milton Keynes early on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful, fresh day and the complex that they had there made it feel like we were all on holiday. I spent an hour in the shade with my book while they all had fun on the inflatables.
  • Took part in the Hemel Hillbuster on Sunday with my eldest son and my friend Ian, riding a lumpy 100km to raise money for the Dacorum Emergency Night Shelter.

  • Got rid of our old sofas in anticipation of new ones arriving. Manoeuvring heavy furniture around doorways and down the drive was not the optimal activity for a hot Sunday night. One of the couches had done nearly 20 years’ service and had started to come apart in a big way, so we were overdue a refresh.
  • Joined my first Tortoise ThinkIn, on how pop defines the 1980s. It ended up being an hour-long Zoom love fest for all things 80s, and a lot of fun. I didn’t anticipate being on a call with Martyn Ware, Dylan Jones and Sarah Champion but that’s exactly where I found myself. At some point I was brought into the discussion to extol the virtues of Hue and Cry’s Labour Of Love, a song I never get tired of hearing.

  • Enjoyed hearing the Young Knives for the first time, a new Album Club discovery.
  • Loved watching the new three-day event format for the Formula 1 race. It kept the drama going and seemed to be a great success.

Next week: A meeting with Internal Audit, work finishing in the garden, trying to get some sleep during a boiling hot few days and looking forward to a cooler weekend.

Weeknotes #124 — Audax

A four-day week. My upcoming monster bike ride dominated my thoughts as I watched the changeable weather forecast getting more locked in as the days ticked by. I took the Friday off in order to get a lie-in and an early night as I knew I would have to be up at 4am on Saturday for the ride.

The week was busy, but had a pleasant feel to it thanks to the meeting-free Wednesdays that we are experimenting with at work. Wednesday came at just the right time after a busy couple of days, and initial feedback across the team is that most people appreciated the initiative.

The pandemic is never far from our thoughts. Schools and pupils are having to cope with so much right now. On Wednesday my eldest boy was sent home with a message that he had to self-isolate due to close contact with a positive case. On Thursday morning he got a message to say that he could go back to school as a follow-up test was negative. Then on Friday I had a text in the afternoon to say that our younger boy now has to self-isolate due to his contact with a positive case. Keeping people safe and stopping the virus from spreading makes a whole lot of sense, so much less so when the TV is showing masses of people at sporting events and in the pubs, bars and streets.

I continued to feel for colleagues in Johannesburg as I heard that two more people known to the team had passed away from COVID-19. It makes hearing about ‘freedom day’ in the UK even more jarring.

This was a week in which I:

  • Presented to our IT Architecture Governance Authority on the second major iteration of our network topology, and got the green light to continue down the simplified path that we are on.
  • Attended a kick-off meeting for our Beijing IT infrastructure project and agreed next steps.
  • Contributed to the IT submission for our company Board report.
  • Attended our IT governance meeting for Dubai and took the attendees through my slides on our IT infrastructure journey.
  • Reviewed and edited a lean business case for a potential new marketing initiative.
  • Reviewed CVs for a technical consultant position in the team and agreed who we would take through to interview stage.
  • Spent time refining a business case for moving two more of our offices to Teams PSTN calling, along with mandatory compliance recording. Spoke to a colleague in the wider group who is already some way down the line in doing the same thing, which may make the work significantly more straightforward. Got an introduction to very knowledgeable Unified Communications specialist via LinkedIn who has been super generous with his knowledge.
  • Agreed to defer some detailed technical design decisions until a key team member returns from a long absence next week. It’s going to be so good to have him back.
  • Asked a team member to help out with taking ownership of an application developed outside of IT using modern Microsoft 365 tooling. It’s interesting how the problem of critical Access databases springing up in business has shifted technologies but is still fundamentally the same challenge.
  • Attended a school strategy planning meeting with our Chair of Governors and another colleague, making good progress on an updated mission and vision. I spent some time writing it up on my day off work and am glad to have had the time to move it forward.
  • Conducted annual reviews for two of our school governors. I wish I had started the practice when I was Chair as it was very worthwhile to take the time to reflect and thank the governors for the work they do.
  • Enjoyed a relaxed day off which included a lovely lunch with a friend in town. We agreed that we should do it more often.
  • Had our oven professionally cleaned for the first time, and it looks just like new.
  • Enjoyed the final week of matches in the Euro 2020 championships. Yes, even the final 😊
  • Took my bike out for a 327km ride, leaving my house at 5am, starting the 307km Audax ride from Aylesbury at 6am and getting back there around 10pm. A really beautiful route through some amazing towns, villages and countryside. I was gutted that Strava didn’t record the last 30km or so — I am guessing that the ride data is held in my iPhone’s RAM while it is being recorded, and it was struggling with swapping data every time it tried to do something different like receive a phone call. Next time I think I may rely on the Garmin as it seems more reliable. A man from West London Cycling had his GoPro with him and made a short video of the ride which captures the essence of it. On Saturday night I was ready to pack my bike away for good but by the end of the weekend I started thinking about my next adventure.

Next week: Vaccine shot #2. The last school Full Governing Board meeting of the year. Album Club. And work starting on our back garden, hopefully turning it from a weedy mess to somewhere that we would actually want to invite friends round to visit.