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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next week: A week off work, spending some time with family and a couple of nights in a ‘glamping’ tent shed.
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.
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.
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.
I spent the first half of this week in a bit of a daze, with the tiredness from last week lingering on into this one. The weekend had made no difference. At one point I felt so run down that I did my first ever COVID-19 lateral flow test to see if that was an underlying cause of feeling so ‘out of it’; fortunately it was negative.
A big contributing factor could be the very weird period we seem to be going through right now. I’ve been struggling with the cognitive dissonance of it all. It’s bizarre to have calls with worried colleagues in Johannesburg who are having an awful, frightening and tragic time with their current COVID infection wave, to watching Euro 2020 matches on TV with full stadiums, to talking to our Headteacher about closing year-group bubbles because of infections, to hearing the UK government saying that we have to end our restrictions in the next few weeks. It feels bizarre to be stuck between seemingly having been through the worst of the pandemic with the infection figures clearly showing another wave. Ros Taylor did an excellent job on The Bunker podcast of articulating the unfairness of the school situation — we aren’t yet prepared to vaccinate our children in the UK, but we keep closing school bubbles and sending them home whenever someone tests positive. Surely we have to do something to keep them in school? The secondary school my sons attend have unilaterally decided that the children need to go back to wearing masks and my youngest one has told me that he’s in favour of it.
I was very grateful to have the members of the WB-40 Signal group to lend an ear (or eye?) this week as I got all of this off my chest and tried to make sense of how I was feeling. I’m so pleased to have found such a supportive (and regularly amusing) network.
This was a week in which I:
Caught up with a close colleague and friend who has been out of the office for the past nine months with a serious illness. Trying to summarise everything that had happened at work in the past nine months without overwhelming him wasn’t easy. It was so lovely to chat with him and I can’t wait for him to be back with us.
Spent time updating our architecture documentation with our current thinking for our technology stack. It was broadly correct, but the document hadn’t been touched in 18 months and needed a bit of a refresh. I also created a couple of overview slides to explain the major change between what we’re doing now and the approach that we had started out with in 2019. I’m not a technical architect so I was a little outside my comfort zone, but part of the joy of working in such a small team is that I get to do such a broad range of things.
Refactored our change roadmap by areas of focus as opposed to the sub-teams responsible for each change. It gives us a more collaborative view in that the whole team is responsible for achieving the deliveries, and is interesting in terms of the areas that have the most focus right now.
Completed a set of slides for one of our smaller offices, showing the IT infrastructure technology journey over the past four years. I’ll be presenting these at the local governance meeting for that country on Monday.
Met with my boss and a colleague on the large group programme to try and refine our thinking and approach to the work in our space. We have lots of good thinking and ideas but are letting it cook for a little while longer.
Attended a kick-off session for upgrading our meeting room equipment in another of our smaller offices. We are still gathering information and costs before we present the proposal to the local CEO.
Discussed the plan to roll out new information protection technology to our part of the organisation in the coming months. It’s a small change but has a significant impact on everyone’s day-to-day workflow, so we have been trying to balance the friction it will deliberately cause with the risks that we are minimising.
Met for a ‘pre-interview’ with a potential candidate for a technical role in our team.
Along with the rest of the company, started to experiment with ‘step-back Wednesdays’ where we have no planned internal meetings. I was concerned that it would mean the other four days would be a collection of diary car crashes, but people seem to be taking the opportunity to prune back the overall number of meetings or schedule them to occur less frequently. We’re trying it out for three months. I’m betting it will stick.
Attended a Gartner meeting on the same topic and heard about what similar changes had worked at other companies, and why.
Had a ‘random coffee’ catch-up with one of our business heads in London. It was really interesting to get his perspectives on returning to the office, particularly on the impact physical presence can have in landing deals.
Resigned myself to the fact that I am not going to change the wider company culture of having cameras off in meetings. I spent one meeting as the only person out of sixty attendees that had their camera on throughout. I know everyone has video meeting fatigue but there’s something about not being visible that irks me — I get much more value out of seeing everyone’s expressions and physically putting their hands up when they have something to say.
Tried out my new cycling shoes and adjusted the cleats to where I think they are most comfortable. Once they’re in a good place, replacing the cleats is easy as you just draw a template around the old ones, but starting afresh is a bit more involved. They are much more comfortable than the old pair I had been using for years.
Started to turn my attention to weather watching for next Saturday when I will make my first attempt at a long Audax ride. I’m excited to give it a go. I’ve taken Friday off so that I can get some rest ahead of the event.
Had a short road ride with my eldest son this week as he wasn’t feeling too great. He legitimately beat me up Bison Hill though. I am very proud of him!
Bought a Unifi G3 Instant camera with the intention of installing it outside of my office. It is an incredible piece of kit for the €25 price, with excellent picture quality in both light and dark conditions. You need to have a Unifi Protect system running to begin with, but it is a ‘no brainer’ simple add-on for that price.
Enjoyed watching as many of the Euro 2020 football matches as I can. It’s strange watching England now — I really want them to succeed, but nowhere near as much as I did when I was a young boy lying on the floor in front of Italia ‘90 on the TV. In some ways, it’s nice to not have any expectations.
Had a lovely family morning out at Topgolf. Learned that I really didn’t miss my vocation by not becoming a golfer.
Next week: A four-day week, with a ‘step-back Wednesday’ in the middle of it. Continued plugging away at the backlog of documents I need to review or produce. Turning my attention back to my school governor role with some evening meetings and preparation for our last Full Governing Board meeting of the year the week after.
Summer has been trying, and failing, to make a comeback. My shorts and flip-flops have once again been packed away and replaced by jeans and jumpers. At one point this week our house’s heating system awoke from its summer hibernation to reinforce the point about how bad the weather has been.
The UK seems to be in a weird space COVID-wise, with rapidly rising infections but people being quite relaxed about the risks. Schools seem to be having a very bad time of it, with classes and in some cases whole schools being shut down due to infections. At some point there will have to be a difficult decision made in terms of whether to (offer to) vaccinate children and/or to keep them in school despite infections. It is ethically dubious to vaccinate them for a disease that doesn’t seem to pose much threat to them, but it also seems very unfair for them to keep going through the stop/start process when infections are diagnosed and reported.
I’ve been so tired all week, and by Friday evening I had completely run out of steam. I’m not one for going to bed early and often stay up late reading, but I’ve also been waking up early having had bizarre dreams. Someone randomly mentioned to me that they hadn’t slept well this week either, and I wonder how much the atmosphere has a collective effect on our sleep patterns.
This was a week in which I:
Attended an online funeral for a colleague. We received notice of his passing a little while ago, which came as a shock as I wasn’t even aware that he had been ill. I didn’t know him well, but he seemed like a lovely man and it was moving to hear the speeches prepared by his wife and daughters. I’m glad I ‘attended’ as I got to learn a little more about him and his extraordinary journey through life.
Completed preparation for our Internal Audit meeting, and frowned when it was moved out by a couple of weeks at the last minute.
Updated my high-level infrastructure slides for our London office, showing the transition from old to new over the past four years. Submitted these as material for the governance committee meeting next week.
Pieced together further information on how compliance monitoring works for one of our communication channels, and updated the slides relating to this for the same governance committee.
Created a short slide deck for options for integrating LeanKit with JIRA, should the need arise, and submitted a summary to the governance committee.
Agreed on a way forward for putting together a Microsoft Teams telephony business case for two of our offices.
Agreed on next steps for upgrading a physical door access system in one of our offices.
Attended the first sprint playback session for a new AI prototype tool being developed in-house for client-facing staff in our region. I was very impressed by how much had been achieved in such a short space of time.
Met with more vendors to discuss the technical consultant vacancy in our team and received some interesting, wide-ranging proposals.
Reviewed the latest drafts of the monitoring, maintenance and support renewal agreements for three of our offices.
Attended more meetings for the large group-wide programme covering architecture, funding and implementation details for specific modules. I was asked with one day’s notice to present at one of the steering committees; a colleague and I quickly put something together and delivered a well-received presentation.
Had a random coffee with a Wealth Management colleague in Jersey. It’s always so lovely to meet someone new where there conversation is free-flowing and you feel like you could have spoken for two or three times as long.
Attended an excellent Herts for Learning webinar on the topic of systemic racism in schools. There was a lot to think about, and it was heartening to see the in-meeting chat being so thoughtful and considered despite there being over 200 attendees.
Finished Learned League 89 in a shocking position, only two slots from the bottom of the division. I had a fantastic season last time out and got promoted, so it was very sobering to find myself being relegated back down again straight away.
Had the car serviced and MOT-ed. I can’t believe a year has gone by since we bought it. It had done very little mileage and I was glad that nothing needed doing to it. Someone from the garage came to pick it up, and it was cool to see the AirTag tracker working as it made its journey there.
Bought some new cycling shoes. My old pair had done me well, but they are very long in the tooth and have 23,000km of sweaty riding to their name. I’m not sure if there is any science to fitting cleats into the right place — I’m used to drawing a template line on my old pair when the cleats needed changing. I guess I’ll find out when I start using them.
Went out for another 100km ride with my eldest son. He’s getting to be a really good rider and I really love going out on adventures with him. I hope he keeps his enthusiasm for our long rides.
Ran the line again for my longest son’s football match, his last of the season. I’m hoping I still get to do the job again next year when they move to 11-a-side.
Booked in a professional oven clean for the first time ever.
Followed along with the Euro 2020 championship as well as the F1. My wife and I have swapped our evening TV for the football, and occasionally the boys have joined us to watch some of it too.
Next week: A backlog of documentation to create and submit to various forums by the end of the week, and trying to get my sleeping back on track.
Yet another week of many, many meetings. South Africa’s Youth Day public holiday on Wednesday offered a little respite in the form of a few hours that I could block out to get some things done. Next week seems to be much clearer; I’m not sure why, but I plan to take full advantage of it.
The week started under a cloud as I learned that two people known to the wider team had both passed away from COVID-19 over the weekend. The problems brought by the pandemic are far from over yet, particularly for colleagues in other countries.
This was a week in which I:
Put together the first draft of a presentation for an internal audit meeting at the end of the month, on the topic of the IT infrastructure programme that I have been running for the past four years.
Saw the team get signoff on the next stage of our IT infrastructure rollout in Beijing. We are a little bit behind schedule but I am hoping we can complete the work at speed.
Received a presentation giving an overview on our IT network security and agreed next steps, focused around defining the problems we are trying to solve.
Concluded the initial reviews of the team’s Kanban boards where they had requested them.
Reviewed the department-wide roadmap with the IT management team for the first time, and agreed to make the reviews part of our regular process. I have some follow-up work to slice and dice the content differently, but it was a very useful start.
Reviewed the contract proposals for monitoring and maintenance of our infrastructure stack in three of our locations with our key vendor.
Had a couple of meetings on the topic of our big group programme, including a ‘masterclass’ on how our part of the organisation will be enabled and enhanced by a new platform.
Met with a colleague for a ‘random coffee’ and learned a lot about what someone in Equity Sales does in their role.
Had an exploratory meeting with a vendor on a vacancy in our team, to be followed up next week.
Discussed how to approach the challenge of tracking where staff will be located in the future in order to make planning meetings easier for everyone. Not as trivial a problem as it sounds, and not one that I’ve seen solved effectively by a product in the marketplace. I suspect that someone could write an Outlook plugin and make a lot of money in the coming months.
Met with a friend of a friend who wanted to talk through her idea for a web platform. I learned about differences between Switzerland, where she lives, and the UK which could have a dramatic effect on how viable the idea is. I’m not sure how much help I was.
Joined Herts for Learning’s Chairs Strategic Information Briefing. These sessions are invaluable, with lots of information imparted in an extremely short time. They use the Livestorm platform which is pretty impressive and slick functionality-wise.
Attended a seminar on What Does Zero Trust Actually Mean?, organised by Presidio. The session seemed a little bit unstructured and didn’t feel like a good use of time, so I didn’t stay for the whole thing. The BrightTALK platform also seems very dated and low quality when compared with others I’ve used.
Met with a consultancy in relation to continuing professional development for a member of staff at school.
Had a visit from a plumbing engineer to look at a strange patch that has appeared on the ceiling in one of our bedrooms. He was thoroughly convinced that it isn’t an internal leak as the surface is completely dry, which leaves me back at square one and scratching my head.
Finished off installing the trunking for the wired doorbell cables. I’m pretty pleased with the results.
Watched a lot of football, and have thoroughly enjoyed the Euro 2020 championship so far. I’m not a regular follower of football, but I do love a tournament. The F1 race at Paul Ricard was thrilling as well, and I’m looking forward to the next two weekends with back-to-back races.
Had my first night out with friends, at a pub, for as long as I can remember. It was great to feel a little bit ‘normal’ again.
Went for another bike ride with my eldest boy, this time only 45km but including a few local hills. I’m really enjoying our excursions at the moment. Only four weeks until we’re both attempting a sportive together for the first time.
Ran the line again at my youngest son’s football match. Last week it was crazy hot and this week I was longing for my gloves.
Said thank you to my boys for their lovely, thoughtful Fathers’ Day cards and present that they got me. (With some help from their wonderful mum, no doubt!)
Started reading A Russian Journal, the next book in my multi-year journey through John Steinbeck’s complete works.
Next week: Less meetings, just in time for me to complete a stack of work that has accumulated in the past few weeks.
Back to five days at work after luxuriating with Monday and Friday off the week before. It took its toll. I had so little time that I could call my own between all of the various scheduled meetings that it was difficult to make significant progress with anything. Frustratingly, my to-do list looked broadly unchanged at both ends of the week. In the evenings I found myself struggling to stay awake in front of the TV before the clock struck 9pm. My bike training programme on TrainerRoad has ramped up in both intensity and duration so I was up a little earlier than usual on most of the weekday mornings, and this will continue for the next few months.
This was a week in which I:
Worked through a monitoring system issue with our Compliance Officer in New York and agreed to follow up with the vendor.
Reviewed a draft ‘lean business case’ for a proposed piece of work in our team. Templates only prove themselves when you come to use them in anger. It has been interesting to try and get our heads around the hypothesis for the entire initiative, which could be months or years of effort, versus getting to the ‘minimum viable product’ which is unlikely to have much of a short-term payoff. I haven’t seen many examples of lean business cases, let alone good ones.
Met with our Head of Operational Risk to ensure we were aligned ahead of the next regional governance meeting.
Promoted the concept of Kanban work-in-progress limits to our sub-teams. There seems to be a good understanding of why this is a good idea and it will be interesting to see it implemented in the coming weeks.
Made contact with a couple of our vendors to discuss a Microsoft consultant vacancy in our team.
Created the first ‘random coffees’ pairings for one of our global business teams. They have decided to try it out for their own group, beyond the region-wide setup I’ve been running for the past year.
Had my own random coffees — one with a member of my team and another with our Head of Risk. My pairing spreadsheet told me that it had been 50 weeks since the Head of Risk and I last got together for a chat. It’s gone so fast.
Joined an online live event to get an update from our division’s Chief Executive.
Attended an architecture overview session on our firm’s plans for data management. I ran a project to build a data warehouse from scratch back in 2004–5 and it was interesting to hear some of the terms from that era again, alongside many new ones.
Had lots of interesting discussions peppered throughout the week about the thought process of returning to the office and what form it takes.
Caught up with an old colleague on a new project we are both involved in. It was fascinating to hear what he had done since we parted ways six or seven years ago, and contrast it to how I’ve approach things. I’ve never had a long-term career goal whereas he planned a number of different moves and executed them. It was inspiring to hear how he went about it.
Installed some D-Line Micro Trunking to hide the wires for our two new doorbells. They are excellent and the process couldn’t have been simpler; even I with my extremely limited DIY skills have managed to make them look quite good. I’m short by a couple of lengths so I’ll have to finish the job off next week.
Put my new pictures up in my home office. They are fabulous, but I wish the glass was non-reflective as they are a bit difficult to see.
Went for a solo bike ride on Saturday morning, following a route I found on Ride With GPS. I’m not sure I’ve ever sweated so much on an outdoor ride; at one point I could barely see with all of the salt going into my eyes. I’ve ordered a couple of headbands to try and combat it for next time. The route was a bit hairy in places with some very dodgy pot-holed and grit-covered single track roads, but it was great to try something new. There are so many blackflies and greenflies around this year; my legs came back looking like a car number plate from the 1980s.
Bought some new cycling shoes from my local bike shop. I’m hoping to break them in over the next four weeks before my big ride.
Tuned into as many of the UEFA Euro 2020 football matches as I could. I was as stunned as everyone to see the footage of Christian Eriksen’s collapse and resuscitation on the field during the Denmark v Finland game, and even more stunned when the teams resumed playing later in the afternoon. I hope he makes a full and speedy recovery.
Ran the line for my youngest boy’s friendly football match. I really enjoy doing it. I was very grateful for an early kick-off as it was a sweltering day.
Booked a holiday for next year with some close friends. It’s over a year away but it’s something to look forward to.
Attended an Album Clubin person for the first time since February last year. We had a cautious approach, with a well-ventilated room and a couple of people sitting out in the garden. I’m grateful for the videoconferencing services for seeing us through the past 18 months, but getting together in person to socialise is so much better than online.
Next week: Looks much the same as this week, perhaps with even more meetings, and the same puzzle of how and when I will be able to get anything else done. I have some deadlines to meet so something’s got to give.
A three-day week at work, top and tailed by a public holiday and a Friday spent with my family. I’ve swapped the jeans and socks for shorts and flip-flops, but nobody I work with is any wiser. I was grateful for more time away from the keyboard and another long weekend.
This was a week in which I:
Overslept on Tuesday due to the Sleep Cycle iOS app deciding to terminate at some point in the night. I know that this is always a risk with a third-party app that isn’t part of the operating system, but it’s been pretty solid over the eight years and many iPhones that I’ve been using it. It threw out my cycle training sessions for the week which left me feeling mildly annoyed. It’s interesting how much I’ve been able to make exercise a part of my life since the pandemic hit, and losing it is the biggest fear I have with going back to the office.
Completed a deck of slides on the IT infrastructure story of our New York office ahead of a Management Committee meeting this coming week. In the three days at work I had thirty minutes here and there between meetings to get the work done, and I felt as though I was always just picking at it instead of sitting down and getting absorbed in the task. It was interesting to do the work and see visually how different it is from the Beijing deck I put together recently. Three more sites to go.
Put together some additional slides for the same meeting on a recent process failure and the work we have done to put it right.
Presented options for in-room meeting equipment in one of our offices and agreed on a solution with the CEO.
Reviewed and discussed the need for redundancy in public cloud installations that we use, and agreed on next steps.
Agreed our approach for initial monitoring and maintenance contracts for our sites where we still need to complete our back-end infrastructure rollout.
Spent time reviewing the epics/projects on one of our sub-team’s Kanban board with the head of the team. To be concluded next week.
Had my first regular one-on-one meetings with a couple of members of the team that I don’t speak to regularly. It was great to have a space to catch up and get aligned.
Attended a talk held by our Marketing and Communications team on the preparation for our big investors conference that takes place at the end of the month.
Watched a very entertaining talk by our Head of IT Governance, Risk and Compliance on the importance of risk management.
Caught up with some school governor emails. I have such a massive backlog of work to look at for school and I am not quite sure how I will get on top of it all.
Spent Thursday evening and a chunk of Friday afternoon setting up Home Assistant on a Raspberry Pi. Our new doorbells are fantastic, but I wanted to solve the problem of their being no audible chime in the house when a button is pressed. In a few hours and with the help of a ton of Googling I managed to create a script that pauses the Sonos speakers in my house, plays a doorbell chime mp3 and then resumes whatever was playing on the speakers. There is so much to Home Assistant and I want to write up my experience so far in a longer blog post, if I can prioritise it.
Took my youngest boy and three of his friends to Topgolf in Watford. I had no idea that such a place existed — it effectively turns a driving range into a digital bowling-alley experience. It wasn’t cheap but they had a lot of fun and it was great to see them out enjoying themselves.
Had a family dinner at Pizza Express. Due to the iffy weather we had to eat inside which I didn’t feel very comfortable with. We’ve got used to takeaway food over the past year, so the price of the meal felt enormous for a visit only lasting an hour or so.
Went out on the bike with my eldest boy on Saturday for his first 100km ride. I’d created a route that looped around Luton and I had no idea that the surroundings were so beautiful. We stopped for a perfect lunch at the Surfin Cafe in Ampthill and fuelled up with sandwiches and drinks. About ten miles from the end of the ride his front wheel started making some strange noises, and with just one mile to go he hit a pothole which gave him a flat rear tyre, so we walked the few hundred metres to the local bike shop and dropped the whole thing off for a service. I’ve been using a new Garmin Edge 830 for the past couple of weeks and it is so impressive — incredible battery life, rolling ascent/descent profiles and information on climbs as you go. It’s a massive upgrade from my seven-year-old Garmin Edge Touring in every conceivable way.
Somewhere in Bedfordshire
Regretted not putting sun cream on my legs before the bike ride. I only ever seem to go red on my nose, neck and arms and made sure that they were coated in factor 50, but my legs now look ridiculous.
Enjoyed an alfresco dinner with a couple of close friends at Rosanna’s in Berkhamsted. We hadn’t eaten together in so long and it was great to see them.
Watched my youngest boy’s side win a friendly 10v10 football match as I ran the line.
Loved watching the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. It was sad to see Verstappen lose out on a win through no fault of his own, but great that Hamilton’s error meant that the championship race is neutralised.
Next week: Another week jam-packed with meetings, and an Album Club at the end of it.
Summer finally arrived! The weather took a turn for the better towards the end of the week and we have just spent the bank holiday weekend basked in sunshine. It may not last long, so we’ll make the most of it. The lawns have finally been mowed and it feels like we’re back in control of things.
Our eldest son was stuck at home once again, having to self-isolate after close contact with someone at school who had a positive COVID-19 test. Being only one of a few people at home was very different to the whole class, or whole year, being off. No shared lessons or check-ins. When we look back in the years to come, perhaps some of the benefit will have been that he’s had to self-start and manage his own time productively, way ahead of when it’s expected of him as a student.
Having him at home meant that I slowed down a bit at lunchtime in order to spend a little time together, instead of rushing around doing the household chores. We watched the news and I dadsplained a bit about how the House of Commons worked.
This was a week in which I:
Quickly prepped a summary slide for our London Governance Committee on the different communication channels available to employees and how they are governed and monitored. Later in the week I took a guest slot at the meeting to present for ten minutes on the topic, which seemed to go well.
Got the feedback that our presentation for the Beijing Governance Committee was well-received, paving the way for us to complete the IT infrastructure work that we started last year.
Watched the team peel back the layers on one of the important systems that we took over from our previous infrastructure vendor to understand how it all hangs together. We’re nearly there in putting the full picture together.
Spent more time in meetings on the big group programme. I’ve been struggling to get very excited about it, but I do need to get on the bus. This week I was introduced to the concept of take, shape or create — i.e. whether we just have to do something that is being forced on us, whether we can influence it or whether we make it up ourselves. For the past few years I’ve had the good fortune to be almost totally in create mode, and I am struggling a little to find how to effectively shape this work with so many people involved across the company. I will keep plugging away and hope that the enthusiasm will come.
Created a draft outline of material to present to our Internal Audit team, and agreed it with everyone involved in the process. Now to pull the content together.
Spent time with another of my peers, reviewing their Kanban board and getting it to a good starting point.
Attended a monthly check-in for two of our teams who don’t run regular stand-up meetings, and gave some thoughts on how to tweak the format to make it more effective. It’s a fine balance between people saying they never hear about something and them saying that they get too much information.
Added regular 1:1 meetings to the diary with two permanent members of the team.
Attended an IT ‘town hall’-style meeting for our division of the company. Not much news, but it the first one under new leadership.
Discussed our firm’s approach to cloud computing with our senior IT Architects for this area.
Attended a meeting where we learned about how our company has established an ‘incubator’ presence in Mozambique.
Met with our Artificial Intelligence team to review their proposal for using their tools in our part of the business. There is a lot of excitement about the possibilities that may open up.
Attended a presentation by a member of my team on the tools used by our Compliance department.
Had a random coffee meeting with our General Counsel. Really interesting to hear how he ended up in his role.
Had my bike serviced by the local bike shop, ahead of my planned first Audax ride in July. It’s running like a dream now. Did one of the fastest 100km rides I have ever done on Saturday and went for a fun ride from Berkhamsted to Ascot with my son on Sunday. I am in love with being out on my bike at the moment.
Spent most of Bank Holiday Monday setting up two Ubiquiti video doorbells on the house. DIY isn’t my forte but it went well. I discovered that decent drill bits make a massive difference, particularly when you’re trying to get through steel. The units look great and the functionality is superb. I need to tidy the wires up, but that’s a job for next weekend.
Went to my brother’s house for a barbecue. It’s been such a long time since we got together and it was wonderful to see him and his family. It made me realise how grown-up our boys are becoming now. Like an idiot I spent too much time in the sun and now have a pair of very red arms.
Decided to take Friday off to spend with my family, giving me only three days in the office next week.
Next week: A three-day week with plenty to do, our first night out for an adult dinner in over a year and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The endless pre-summer continues, with barely any let-up in the cloud and rain. Our lawn is now so long that the grass blades have literally gone to seed, and anyone who drops something out there is in serious danger of never seeing it again.
It was another busy week. At the start I had been feeling like I had lost my mojo and was feeling a little melancholy, but my zest came back as the days went by. The weekend was very strange in that we spent most of it socialising, in stark contrast to the past year and a half. Although I wasn’t used to it, getting together with friends and family was just like riding a bike. It was so lovely to see people. I am not sure I want to go back to cramming everything into the two days though; I went to bed on Sunday having not finished all of the personal jobs and getting nowhere near finishing these weeknotes. There’s a healthy balance somewhere.
Meeting up with people felt like a step back to normality. But on Sunday evening a text message and email landed to say that our eldest is a close contact at school with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. He now has to self-isolate for 10 days. There’s a lot to be grateful for — his own tests are negative and we’re all fine, and I am grateful that my wife and I have had a vaccine — but it felt like a cruel end to the weekend. I do wonder how long this stop/start will go on for.
This was a week in which I:
Finalised the Beijing IT infrastructure journey presentation and submitted it to the committee where it will be presented.
Met with our Internal Audit department to discuss the scope of a potential audit later in the year, and agreed an approach to preparing for it.
Spent more time in many meetings about the big group-wide programme. The work is so vast and spans so many areas that it is often difficult to navigate or understand at what level the conversation is taking place. I have enough material to start to craft our approach to the work for our part of the organisation and now just need to prioritise the time to create a draft.
Had too many meeting clashes. Lots of meetings now get recorded and at one point on Thursday I seemed to be constantly one meeting behind and watched everything on catch-up throughout the day.
Coordinated a detailed analysis on the different communication paths open to staff in the organisation, and the status of each one from a monitoring and compliance perspective. I had to summarise this information into a single slide over the weekend. As George Michael might didn’t quite sing, you’ve ‘got to get down to get up’.
Discussed with a colleague in HR how we could go about moving highly confidential data from one place to another in a safe and secure way, and evidence that access to the data wasn’t misused.
Spent time walking through another of the team’s Kanban boards, helping to get them to a start line for managing their work.
Took some colleagues through my ‘random coffee pair generator’ with a view to them using it for their own team. In doing so, I realised quite how complicated it is and how proficient you need to be in Excel to make it work. There is always so much value in walking through a process to see it through someone else’s eyes.
Had my own random coffee with a close member of the team. It was lovely to talk about non-work things for a bit.
Pondered how our organisation has grown into two schools of meeting culture, those that keep their cameras on and those that only put them on when talking, if at all. Keeping the camera off always makes me think that the attendees are doing something else. We have a written team rule of “cameras on if you can” and I think that is probably the right approach.
Wondered why more people don’t take the time to reject or cancel the meetings in their diary when they know they will be on holiday. It avoids people turning up to meetings that don’t (can’t?) exist, and is cathartic!
Attended our school Full Governing Board meeting. I’ve now come to the end of my second four-year term as a governor, and signed up to continue in the role for a while longer. We have a healthy pipeline of governors now, but it takes at least 6–9 months for a new governor to become effective, and even longer to think about stepping into a Chair or Vice-Chair role. Hopefully over the coming year or two more people will get additional experience of different roles.
Agreed with our school Full Governing Board that the majority of our meetings will be run remotely via Teams, with one or two held at the school each year. We are much more effective online, and are able to start and finish broadly on time, every time. As a school in the commuter belt around London we no longer need to deal with people messaging that they will be late because the trains are invariably messed up. Everyone agreed that we will avoid the ‘hybrid’ model of some people in the room and some remote, which is the worst of all worlds.
Loved meeting my wife’s parents to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. We had booked a garden tent at Cowley Manor with the idea of spending the day in the garden, but the weather had other plans. The hotel asked us if we minded moving to a private room instead, which turned out to be an incredible free upgrade. It was so lovely to spend time with them again and flick through their wonderful wedding photos. My wife has an amazing talent for organising special events and she outdid herself once again.
Had to do a school and work pick-up and drop-off for the second week in a row in order to take my eldest boy to the orthodontist.
Appreciated the work of our handyman as he spent three days installing new internal doors in our house. We never loved the cheap ones we put in when we moved here; when the handles started falling off we had to prioritise getting them changed. I could barely lift a single one of them so I’m not quite sure how he did it, but we’re really pleased with the results.
Enjoyed the F1 Monaco GP despite the racing being a yawn-fest. I am sure the races were more exciting and had some overtaking even just a few years ago. It’s interesting how one result can turn the tables on the championship. I can’t wait for Baku.
Next week: More of the same at work, and taking my bike for a service ahead of the big rides in a couple of months’ time.
A cold, wet week. In our garden, the giant beech tree has suddenly burst into green and everything is growing as if someone has pressed the fast forward button.
Once again I barely left the house. With infection rates so low (relatively, at least, for the UK — we’re not quite as fortunate as somewhere like Australia) there has been more discussion about returning to the office. I hope that whatever happens, I am still able to spend most of my working life at home. I’ve never seen my family so much as over the past year, nor had the opportunity to exercise for five or six days a week on a consistent basis. Of course it is important to get together in person, and even more important for new joiners, people at the start of their careers etc. to be around others in the firm. But I am hopeful that the pattern of going to the office five days a week just to spend most of my time on Teams calls is behind me.
I spent some time this week trying to get on top of my work and personal email backlogs, but as ever it feels like a losing battle. I wish I was as good at email as Michael Lopp, but I’m not and it irks me:
Email: I’ll respond in a timely fashion. I have two inboxes: work and personal. Both of these are empty at the end of each working day.
I seem to have to pick my battles with what I can keep up with. This week I’ve been on top of the very busy WB-40 podcast Signal group messages, but have not been as involved in the micro.blog community as I would have liked. There’s just not enough time to do it all.
This was a week in which I:
Had to take one of my boys for a planned hospital visit at Monday lunchtime. This meant I needed the car, which meant I had to do the morning and afternoon school runs also. Somehow I found myself standing behind the protective shield in the x-ray control room, marvelling at the images as they were created.
Attended our bi-monthly Information Risk Steering Group.
Finished the first draft of my slides showing our IT infrastructure journey and future planned project for our Beijing office. Presented this to the team and got some useful feedback.
Saw the team close out on a couple of long-outstanding projects, including getting our small IT team up and running in Beijing and removing our final on-premises user-facing shared drive.
Attended a couple of architecture presentations on key technical work taking place in the organisation.
Pulled together a draft summary of all communication channels, both inside and outside of the organisation, along with relevant references for how they are governed.
Prepared for and chaired the school Finance, Premises and Personnel Committee meeting. I really do prefer the online sessions as we seem to keep to time much more easily than before.
Saw our London office increase its capacity as the COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease. I’m still nervous about being inside with other people, and would much prefer not to be. But if I’m being honest I’ve also enjoyed becoming a bit of a hermit. Life feels so much better now that some of my time is my own, and not just dominated by everything I need to do for work, school and family.
Enjoyed a lovely random coffee meetup with a colleague who has recently moved from Johannesburg to Brisbane, as well as a coaching chat with a colleague in London.
Ran the line again for my youngest son’s football match, his last league game of the season. The pandemic meant that the season was over before it really got started, but we both really enjoyed the games that we did have.
Enjoyed a Friday night Album Club, with more Talking Heads.
Resolved to fix the guttering at the back of the house, if it ever stops raining for long enough to do so.
Delighted in the things my teenage son has been cooking as part of his Duke of Edinburgh scheme. Tomato soup, homemade bread and a pad thai have all been excellent this week.
Finished season 5 of Spiral. My wife and I have agreed that we need a break from police dramas for a bit.
I notice the weather a lot more now that I’m working from home and not squirrelled away inside a big office. We’re just a few weeks away from the longest day of the year, but my jumpers were out in full force again. Conditions have been cold, windy and rainy with the odd blast of sunshine. Things start to warm up next week but it still looks showery. Hopefully summer will put in an appearance soon.
Monday was a public holiday in the UK and although I only worked for four days, it felt like a full week. My mind may be playing tricks on me, but I still feel as though I am getting over my first COVID-19 vaccine as I struggle to stay awake in front of the TV at the end of the day. Or it could just be that I’m getting old.
This was a week in which I:
Spent time putting together a slide deck on the IT infrastructure journey so far for one of our regional offices, in order to bring the senior management up to speed with where we are and what we still need to do.
Completed my backlog of document reviews of project completion materials and invoices as well as new project proposals.
Met with the vendors we are working with for our flagship conference to refine the IT plans and associated quote.
Met with our primary IT vendor in the UK to get aligned on a very long list of projects and licence renewals.
Attended a detailed information briefing with the finance team working on the large group programme that we are involved with.
Hosted a talk by our Head of Procurement on the new system and processes that are now in place.
Had a short random coffee with our head of Wealth Management in the UK, and another with one of our Compliance officers. Good to catch up with both of them.
Spent a little time adding our latest full-year actual financial data into our budget projections for school, ahead of our next Finance Committee meeting.
Took delivery of a bunch of internal doors to replace the ones in our house. We put the current ones in when we moved here almost two decades ago and have never loved them. They’ve started to fail, with handles coming loose, so it’ll be nice to give the house a little refresh by replacing them.
Cleaned the windows on our house again, fighting back against the dive-bomb onslaught from the town’s bird population who have used us for target practice.
Went for my first haircut at the barbershop in over a year. My wife has done a brilliant job learning how to use the clippers, but this weekend it was easier to nip in and out to get it done.
Had a random flat tyre on my turbo trainer. I’m guessing that the inner tube punctured just due to age as it failed near the seam. I’m glad it happened on the weekend as I had the time to replace it and get back in the saddle.
Finally purchased a proper amp and speakers to go with my turntable. I bought everything through Deco Audio in Aylesbury, who have been nothing but super helpful. It was fun to get the boxes home and assemble everything, trimming speaker cable and trying not to lose too many copper wire strands in the process. The results are amazing, and I’m already hearing things in my records that I’ve never noticed before.
Saw my youngest son’s team win their latest football match. It feels like we’ve barely got started, but the end of the season is just around the corner.
Next week: A hospital visit with my eldest boy, a school Finance Committee meeting, and more of the same on all fronts at work.