Weeknotes #227 — Unmowed

The week felt too short for the amount of things I was trying to cram in. Something had to give this weekend, so the lawns are going to go unmowed for another few days. Feeding them a couple of weeks back seems to have made no discernible difference, with the hardy weeds giving me a look of defiance every time I pass them. We may be reaching the stage where professional lawn help is required.

This was a week in which I:

  • Continued with the Digital Literacy presentation roadshow on Large Language Models and Generative AI. This week I covered three more departments as well as our company’s Executive Committee. Just a few more to go before we start to move forward with next steps.
  • Met with our CEO, CFO and CIO to agree a way forward for an experimental initiative, working with an external vendor.
  • Met with a colleague to prepare for a workshop next week. We are rebooting an initiative that we started in 2020 and first want to check in on how things have been working since.
  • Worked with my team on our objectives for the remainder of this year. Our next step is to plot them onto our roadmap.
  • Took part in our quarterly Architecture Governance meeting.
  • Attended the first company-wide Generative AI working group.
  • Continued to spend time time helping colleagues get set up with our password manager. Next week, we’re planning to change tack slightly to try and accelerate the process.
  • Met with a second potential vendor for clear writing training.
  • Hosted our Head of Loan Syndication and Distribution at our weekly Learning Hour session. It was fascinating to get an insight into this part of our business.
  • Helped a colleague with a difficult email, giving feedback to another team.
  • Attended our monthly Architecture Community of Practice meeting.
  • Bought Emily Webber’s Team Onion book. Emily has one of those websites where I just want to read all of the content.
  • Reviewed the materials for, and Attended, the final school Full Governing Board meeting of the year.
  • Watched my eldest boy compete in the 1500m at the English Schools Athletics Association Track and Field Championships in Birmingham. In his heat race on Friday he was tripped by another runner, but managed to get through to Saturday’s final on appeal. He was a bit disappointed with his result in the final, but it was a tough race with an extremely competitive field. We’re so proud of him.

  • Rearranged my eldest son’s bedroom while he was away. He’d been asking for a major change in where everything was. We’d been putting it off as it looked as though it was going to be like Austin Powers trying to turn a car around in a corridor. In the end it turned out to be a few hours work. A nice surprise for him when he got back from the athletics.

  • Enjoyed a friend’s 50th birthday party at The Lounge by Graze Life in Berkhamsted.
  • Said goodbye to one of our next door neighbours who is moving house next week. He’s lived in the house since the late 1960s, so it must be a massive change for him. We’re looking forward to meeting whoever moves in.
  • Had a doctor’s appointment for a random injury that doesn’t seem to be going away by itself.
  • Booked the car in for a service and MOT with only a few days to spare before it runs out. I have so many ‘little jobs’ that need doing, but I struggle to get them ticked off the list when there are bigger things going on.
  • Enjoyed two weekend bike rides, out early with the club on Saturday and then solo at a more civilised hour on Sunday.
  • Watched Gods of Tennis on BBC iPlayer. Just like Gods of Snooker before it, this is an absolutely superb series. The first episode, on Billie Jean King and Arthur Ashe, was unexpectedly emotional. What incredible people.
  • Was insulted by Amazon.co.uk:

Next week: Presentations and workshops.

Weeknotes #226 — Debuts

An incredibly busy and enjoyable week. There was so much going on, but I felt as though I was in my element. On occasion it felt like a bit of an endurance test; Tuesday was a 7:30am to 8pm session at my desk, but it didn’t feel that hard. Because of the early starts and days in the office, I didn’t manage to get on my bike trainer all week. I really felt it when Saturday’s club ride rolled around.

It’s been so hot here. On Tuesday morning we had a crazy intense thunderstorm with plenty of thunder and lightning. As soon as it passed, everything got warm and muggy again. It looks like things are changing this week; we’ll still have summer but it will be a few degrees cooler.

From LightningMaps.org on Tuesday morning

From LightningMaps.org on Tuesday morning

This was a week in which I:

  • Gave the presentation on Large Language Models and Generative AI six times, to seven different audiences. This is the second presentation under our Digital Literacy initiative that I’ve delivered in this way. Every session is also a rehearsal for the next one. It’s absolutely true that practice makes perfect; I feel as though I am nailing the delivery of the key messages and it seems to be landing well. One person even came along twice as they found it so engaging that they wanted to have another run-through! I’m about halfway through covering all of the teams in our part of the organisation and am starting to think about what comes next in this space.
  • Have been invited to an internal working group on AI technology.
  • Met with a contact from the London CTOs Meetup group who was keen to talk to other attendees from the recent AI-focused sessions.
  • Continued one-on-one sessions for on-boarding colleagues onto our password manager. There are still a few weeks to go in order to get the percentage where I want it to be. I’ve updated the tools we are using to track the data so that we also get a view of those people that have signed up but are not using it yet, as they may also need some help.
  • Met a colleague in Johannesburg who had heard about our Digital Literacy initiative and wanted to learn more.
  • Quickly pulled together a ‘one pager’ for an initiative that we are trying to get off the ground, ahead of a meeting with a key decision maker.
  • Met with a colleague that I am working with on an initiative to change how we manage ‘unstructured data’. We’re planning a kick-off session with a working group to take place in a couple of weeks.
  • Discussed the work we have done to agree a minimum standard for internal interfaces.
  • Spoke to a vendor in New Zealand about their ‘clear writing for busy readers’ training. We all had to take some pain on the call; 7am in Berkhamsted is 6pm in Auckland, which seemed like a good compromise. We’ve been talking about this initiative for a long time but it feels like we now have some momentum.
  • Attended a full-day quarterly hybrid meeting to check in on the technology work across the whole of our division. A couple of our team members took part in a ‘fireside chat’ format discussion and did us proud.
  • Ran our monthly Lean Coffee meeting.
  • Represented our team at a fortnightly steering committee meeting for a security initiative.
  • Ran our team meeting and ‘wins’ session.
  • Caught up with a colleague in our team in New York who is back at work after having had a baby. It’s lovely to hear his anecdotes and see that his whole family are doing well.
  • Had lunch with an old colleague that I worked with 15 years ago. It was so great to see him. In an hour we barely scratched the surface of all the things we wanted to talk about.
  • Attended the half-termly HFL Chairs’ Strategic Information Briefing. It’s interesting to learn that there is a push to have a Governor in a ‘link role’ for digital technology, doing things such as making sure the web filtering is tested and monitored correctly.
  • Had two Album Club nights to go to, back-to-back. Both featured debut albums. At the WB-40 Album Club we heard the first Sea Power record, The Decline of British Sea Power. This was followed up with the Housemartins debut, London 0 Hull 4 at the original Album Club.
  • Met up with some of my oldest and greatest friends at a pub in Chertsey. Another night where it feels as though there isn’t enough time. We’ve started planning a long weekend away together for next year.
  • Struggled again on Saturday’s club ride. Somehow over the past 18 months I’ve gone from being one of the first riders up the hills to bringing up the rear. I’m now trying to cut down on snacks — or ideally, eliminate them — as I know I’m a teeny bit heavier than I was. On Sunday I decided to go out for a second ride, this time solo so that I could go at my own pace. It was one of the hottest rides I’ve ever been on; by the end of it I was completely covered in salt. The route took me past the ruins of Old Gorhambury House, which I had never heard of.
The ruins of Old Gorhambury House

The ruins of Old Gorhambury House

Next week: The second 50th birthday party of the season and the final school governor meeting of the year.

Weeknotes #225 — Secret flip-flops

Put a patch of grass next to a pub in the summertime and watch it fill up with people.

Put a patch of grass next to a pub in the summertime and watch it fill up with people.

Hot. So hot that I’ve had to give up on my 40 minute morning walk from the station to the office in favour of the tube.1 I love getting the exercise, but I can’t face being a sweaty mess when I get to work.

On Monday I missed an ‘end of days’ level deluge in Berkhamsted which flooded the streets and shops. By the time I got back from London it had largely dried up, but the humidity made it smell and feel like Singapore in the late afternoon.

In the summer, it’s lovely to work at home in shorts and flip-flops (that nobody can see on video calls), but the lack of air conditioning can make it uncomfortable as the afternoon heats up. I’m grateful that I have a balance between the two places to work.

This was a week in which I:

  • Felt like a space cadet on Monday morning, struggling to get myself into gear. I’m guessing it was from the cycling over the weekend — both days were very sweaty and I’m not sure if I managed to get all of the electrolytes back into my system. I’m not quite Roger Daltrey (in more ways than one) but I remember him writing about this in his book:

  • Continued the roadshow on Large Language Models and Generative AI, presenting to two more teams as well as our CEO.
  • Worked with our Compliance team to respond to an industry survey on AI.
  • Met with a prospective vendor to check in on the status of a proposed piece of work. Cold-called an internal contact that is already working with them to find out more about how things have been working. They couldn’t have been more helpful. It’s so great to work for a company where people are happy to pick up the phone and assist you. Prima donnas are very hard to come by; it really makes a big difference.
  • Enjoyed some more one-to-one enrolments of staff onto our password management platform. It’s such a delight when someone ‘gets it’ and becomes enthusiastic about how it will make their lives easier. Hybrid working makes scheduling and keeping these enrolment appointments much more difficult, but we’re still making good progress.
  • Met with a colleague to agree the next steps for an initiative to change how we manage unstructured data. I’ve put some draft slides together for a kick-off in the next week or two.
  • Spent time looking at how to move us towards a department roadmap again.
  • Joined a couple of meetings to prepare for an all-day workshop next week.
  • Hosted our weekly Learning Hour with a guest speaker, a colleague who is focused on building out an internal AI platform.
  • Got on top of my main work to-do list. Writing down my process inspired me to plough through it, closing out old items and getting the others to where they need to be.
  • Met with the school IT service provider to talk through the results of their hardware survey and agree next steps.
  • Had a check-in meeting with our District School Effectiveness Adviser and our Chair of Governors.
  • Attended the latest Hertfordshire Headteacher Update webinar.
  • Cheered my eldest son finishing his last GCSE exam. He’s got himself a job over the summer which will be great experience for him, and also put some money in his pocket.
  • Enjoyed a fast Saturday morning cycling club ride in an excellent group of ten riders. Hilly terrain where I had to work hard to keep up. One downhill was interrupted by a fallen tree. We also had a mildly terrifying moment when we found a patch of road completely covered in gravel from the recent rains, with no time to slow down or stop. I held on and hoped that I would roll straight over it.
Navigating the fallen tree.

Navigating the fallen tree.

  • Had a fun Saturday night at a friend’s place, taking it in turns to play music that we love, riffing off of each others’ tunes. We’ve had these evenings on and off over the past thirty years, but these days I don’t need to cycle over to his house with a rucksack full of CDs. Like last time, I’ll try and put together the tracks we played into a post.
  • Booked tickets to many, many gigs. Between how and the end of September I’m going to see Julie Byrne (including Katie Von Schleicher), PJ Harvey, Grant Lee Phillips, Marika Hackman and the Smoke Fairies. I seem to spend my all of my pocket money on gig tickets and physical music at the moment. And I love it.

Next week: A week of early morning meetings, and — count them — two album club evenings.

  1. “But the tube is hot too!” I hear you cry. Not the Metropolitan, Circle, and Hammersmith and City lines which are wonderfully air-conditioned and don’t go deep underground enough to be uncomfortable. 

Weeknotes #224 — Two bottles required

A great week that seemed to cover all bases. It was great to be back in the office again for a couple of days after two weeks weeks of being at home.

This was a week in which I:

  • Set up a series of meetings with the different teams in our organisation to present our primer on large language models and generative AI.
  • Had an impromptu office chat with one of our CEOs about this same topic as Monday came to a close. I shared my small write-up on trying to understand how ChatGPT works which he then passed on, which ultimately resulted in some more conversations and connections later in the week with people I wouldn’t usually have spoken to. Working out loud and sharing definitely brings rewards — as does going to the office and taking the time to have a random conversation.
  • Spent time in a couple of meetings talking about the work we are doing for a new product to help provide insights to and for our clients. Doing things for the first time brings a new set of challenges and things to think about.
  • Met to discuss an initiative we are trying to get off the ground with an external vendor.
  • Used a Microsoft Loop component shared in a Teams chat channel to gather information from across the department in response to a request from Compliance. The technology is useful and impressive, but not many people seem to know about it. It helped to be able to pin the component to the chat and see updates in real time without having to navigate off to another application or browser tab.
  • Continued one-to-one on-boarding sessions for our password manager. We’re making steady progress every day. I really enjoy the teaching and learning aspect of this work. It’s fascinating to see what parts of our internal marketing campaign had landed and what had passed people by. Made a mental note to book some contingency time in as some of the meetings overran.
  • As a counterpoint, had some feedback that the internal marketing campaign has been very ‘aggressive’. I was pleased that it had been noticed. We’ll tone it down once we reach a critical mass of people that have been on-boarded.
  • Prepped for and attended an all-day culture workshop for our IT division, a virtual version of an in-person session that took place in South Africa earlier in the year. There is a lot of value in getting people together, even if it’s online. It was useful to reflect on the difference that one or two colleagues make when we have hybrid events, making a deliberate effort to empathise with attendees online and bridge the gap between those people in the room and those of us dialled in remotely. The 7:30am start took its toll later in the week.
  • Met with colleagues to discuss the clear writing course for our team that I have been trying to get off the ground for many months. It feels like we’re getting some momentum around this now.
  • Received the final version of a video interview with our Chief Information Security Officer, with manually-edited subtitles now burned in correctly. We’ve added it to the carousel of information displayed on our main digital signage screen in our collaboration space.
  • Caught up with a colleague who had raised a request with our team a few months ago. It was useful to show him ‘into the kitchen’ to see where it is on the backlog and give context to all of the other things that have taken priority.
  • Enjoyed an internal presentation of a case study on how we go about doing service design within our company.
  • Attended the latest Thoughtworks Technology Radar webinar. It’s useful to spend an hour every few months geeking out on the latest tools, techniques, platforms, languages and frameworks.
  • Joined this month’s Teams Fireside Chat with Adam Curry and Kevin Peters of Microsoft. It was interesting to hear about the what the differences will be between Teams Premium and Copilot when working with meeting summaries.
  • Met with some colleagues to talk about our personal information workflows. I’ve recently written mine up. It was interesting to hear such a broad range of approaches, from someone who gets by just with OneNote and ToDo, to someone who uses so many tools that they think their whole setup is now working against them. I’m still thinking that it is less about the tools and more about the practices of looking at them on a regular basis. The meeting was set up over Christmas but had been bumped through the calendar a number of times as other things cropped up.
  • Enjoyed a lovely all-team meeting where we focused on checking how people are doing. We don’t do this nearly as often as we did during the pandemic and need to remember to do it more.
  • Completed all of my mandatory online training courses and attestations for the year. We were assigned them at the start of the week and are given months to complete them, but Friday afternoon seemed as good a time as any to smash through them all so I never need to think about them again.
  • Attended a mandatory training session on our gifts and entertainment process.
  • Had a plumber come to try and fix two of the three toilets in our house. One of them had a leaking flexible connector and the other has a leak from the flush mechanism. Of course, only one could be fixed and we’re now on hold, waiting to hear when the correct part has been received for the other one.
  • Had an extremely hot cycling club ride on Saturday morning, despite our early start. Most of us usually only take one bottle of water with me on a club ride, but quite a few of us ran out before we got to the end. Next Saturday looks even warmer. Despite Strava telling me that I’m getting fitter, I feel like I’m falling a bit behind most of the other riders in our usual group. I probably need to work on my nutrition in addition to the indoor and outdoor rides.
  • Popped to my mum and dad’s house to fix their Wi-Fi. They’ve recently had super fast fibre broadband installed, but only seemed to get decent speeds when sitting close to the router. It took next to no time to put in a Ubiquiti Amplifi HD mesh system which has increased both the speed and coverage. I have Ubiquiti components in my own house; they are rare technology products in that they seem to be so much better than when I first bought them thanks to the various firmware updates over time.

  • Enjoyed a friend’s 50th birthday celebration at her house. Barbecued burgers, a night of karaoke and lots of old friends.
  • Said a very early morning goodbye to our youngest boy who has headed off on a school trip to Belgium. The children his age missed out on events like this due to the pandemic, so the school are making an extra effort to do something for them.
  • Continued watching Poker Face, Natasha Lyonne’s latest TV series. It’s fun in places — enough to keep us watching — but there’s something about the fact that there is very little jeopardy for the main character that makes us wonder whether to give up on it. The series is heavily styled on 1970s TV murder mysteries, which is fun to begin with, but I can’t help wonder whether there is a reason that these fell out of fashion.
  • Have fallen down a gigantic Kinks rabbit hole. I’ve been listening to a lot of Lola Vs Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, from 1970, which gets better every time I hear it. The strength of the songs reveal themselves over time. When I get in this zone with new music (new to me at least) I always find myself obsessively looking up cover versions on YouTube and am rarely disappointed.

Next week: The final week of our eldest boy’s GCSEs; we have our fingers firmly crossed.

Weeknotes #223 — Many workshops

Caught this rainbow as I went out into the garden early one morning this week.

Caught this rainbow as I went out into the garden early one morning this week.

For the second week in a row I unexpectedly found myself at home every day. Very early morning meetings coupled with a train strike put paid to any ideas of heading into London. It’s been good to be at home but I’m looking forward to going into the office again.

The boys have been off school for the half-term holiday. Our eldest son is midway through his exams, with two weeks to go before he gets to have eleven weeks of summer holidays. The lucky thing.

This was a week in which I:

  • Completed a final review of a draft lean business case for an important piece of work we are looking to do with an external vendor. We met with the vendor at the end of the week for an update on where we are.
  • Watched a playback of an important internal product that our team have been working on.
  • Attended a town hall meeting for our global IT division. It reminded me again of how difficult hybrid events are, but that this is now what we’ve come to expect. Encountered keynote speaker Bruce Whitfield for the first time; he’s very well-known in South Africa but was completely new to me.
  • Joined a meeting to start to plan for the equivalent town hall meeting to be held at the end of the year. Our department will be ‘hosting’ the event, so it’s up to us to plan the format and content.
  • Went to a briefing on an all-day online culture workshop due to take place next week. I have a very small part to play in presenting on the day.
  • Attended a workshop on The Art of Storytelling. I’m not a seasoned presenter, so deliberately following a story arc seems like a level up from where I am now.
  • Joined a workshop to start to discuss our organisational design across our technology division.
  • Attended the monthly Architecture Community of Practice meeting.
  • Had our monthly departmental risk review meeting.
  • Met with colleagues to discuss an upcoming move for one of our offices.
  • Ran our monthly Lean Coffee session. Found myself getting the hang of InVision Freehand.
  • Had a lovely catch-up with a colleague that runs our API practice.
  • Spent time trying to understand my personal information workflow. Just the act of writing it down has helped me to tweak things a little. I’ve now started to annotate where the pain points are so that I can look to improve and simplify it. There are little tweaks around the edges; I managed to manually remove all of my spurious tags in Remember The Milk that had been hanging around in the tool unused for about a decade.
  • Hosted the first round of a new Album Club group that I’ve found myself in. Being the first ever comes with a little bit of pressure in that I didn’t want to put everyone off. I treated them all to Siren by Roxy Music. It blew all of our minds that the album is 48 years old.

  • Decided to deal with the problem of my home office TV being unreadable unless I’m sitting with the blinds down, cave-like. Bought a new heavy-duty cantilever bracket and fitted it at the weekend. Like all my DIY projects, there was a little bit of drama, and the bracket doesn’t seem to be level to the naked eye despite the spirit level telling me that everything is fine. But the problem I started with is solved. I’ll make some minor adjustments when I’m at home this week.
Distressing image.

Distressing image.

  • Bowed out of the Saturday cycling club ride in order to cycle to Oxford and back. My eldest son was competing in a race there, so this was a good way of combining a longer distance with seeing him compete. It’s the longest — and hottest — ride I’ve done for a while, so I was feeling a little jaded for the rest of the weekend.
An incredible time of year to be out cycling.

An incredible time of year to be out cycling.

  • Enjoyed — I think? — the finale of Succession. What horrible people. But what compelling viewing.

Next week: Back to a regular schedule again.

Weeknotes #222 — Workflow

Our beech tree has been shedding a tremendous amount of male catkins over the past two weeks which have blanketed the garden. This may happen every year, but I have never noticed it before.

Our beech tree has been shedding a tremendous amount of male catkins over the past two weeks which have blanketed the garden. This may happen every year, but I have never noticed it before.

My plans to go into the office this week were hampered when I caught a cold. I sounded worse than I felt — I was in full Barry White mode — but a quick straw poll of friends informed me that heading into work is a no-no in this post-pandemic world.

It’s taken me a while, but recently I’ve been enjoying a mix of working from the office and working from home. Two or three days seems to be the sweet spot for me.

This was a week in which I:

  • Finished the first version of a presentation on large language models and generative AI. By the end of the week my boss and I had delivered it three times to various groups of people, refining the message as we went. It seems to be landing well.
  • Continued work on getting more of our colleagues signed up to our password manager. Colleagues in the deskside support team covered the one-on-one sessions that I had scheduled for the week as I couldn’t be in the office. Getting people set up remotely is just too difficult, with the mixture of devices that they have to use.
  • Completed the setup of single sign-on for our digital signage platform.
  • Had a couple of conversations about the architecture of interfaces that we have built with upstream systems and what we need to do to improve them.
  • Represented our team at the steering committee for a Group-level cybersecurity programme as well as the lower-level working group later in the week.
  • Met with a consultancy that we work with to discuss how we can upskill our department in the art of storytelling.
  • Attended an online internal People and Culture-hosted summit.
  • Had a brief pre-meeting with colleagues that are running an organisational design workshop next week.
  • Met with a researcher who is organising a follow-up to the London CTOs chat on Leveraging GenerativeAI (including ChatGPT) in Business and Organisations.
  • Enjoyed a Random Coffee with a colleague I hadn’t spoken to in some time.
  • Joined an online Microsoft event entitled Optimising the Employee Experience in the Age of AI. The speakers, Bruce Daisley and Alexia Cambon, were both engaging and interesting. I keyed in a question about the role Microsoft should be playing with regard to the negative aspects of these new AI tools, but it didn’t get picked up.
  • Briefly joined a meetup for people who are taking the Center for Humane Technology’s course on the Foundations of Humane Technology. I signed up to this a few weeks ago but haven’t managed to start it yet. The meetup was very welcoming but not quite what I thought it would be; it felt a bit like a therapy group.
  • Spent some time thinking about my personal workflow and the apps I use. I started to draw it out and can already see why it feels like there is so much friction. I’m not quite done with the ‘as is’ diagram yet; once I have it down I’ll start to look at how I can simplify things.
An incomplete draft of my workflow.

An incomplete draft of my workflow.

  • Attended our school Full Governing Board meeting, the first with our new interim headteacher. We sadly said goodbye to another governor, a colleague from the local community that we recruited through a letter drop, who has been with us for many years.
  • Had a checkup at the dentist. No need to go back until early 2024!
  • Failed to finish my first difficult workout of the week. It’s such a strange thing when this happens; I’m determined not to give up, but then suddenly find that I’ve stopped. I used up the rest of the time with an easier workout.
What failure looks like.

What failure looks like.

  • Found myself with a broken spoke 10km into the Saturday cycling club ride. Nobody likes to be the guy that holds everyone else up and I figured the problem might be terminal, so I told the group to carry on without me. I managed to secure the spoke around a couple of the other ones so that it wasn’t rattling around and then figured that I’d carry on. It turned out that someone had another mechanical; I managed to catch up with the group at the top of Bison Hill. It is a beautiful time of year to be out cycling. I popped my bike into Lovelo in town who fixed the problem in no time.
  • Hoovered up all of the beech catkins and remaining piles of leaves in the garden. There’s still a bit to do to prep it so that we can enjoy sitting outside this summer.

Next week: Yet another four-day work week, and the start of another Album Club.

Weeknotes #221 — Interesting

This week I spent four days in the office in a row, as if I was single-handedly trying to bring 2019 back into fashion. Going out after work in London is fun, but getting home just in time to go to bed and then doing it all again six hours later, not so much. It was lovely to get back to my home office on Friday.

Being in the office was useful as the week was peppered with people who needed a helping hand in getting set up with our password manager. It’s such a lovely feeling to walk away from someone’s desk after they’ve realised how much easier it will be to use the software instead of whatever they have been doing up to that point.

This was a week in which I:

  • Spent most of the week in between meetings working on a presentation about large language models and generative artificial intelligence for a general audience, which I hope will help our staff to get up to speed. It still needs a bit of work, but the first run through with a group of people close to the topic has been booked in for Monday.
  • Continued conversations about the team that I run and where our focus lies. It feels like we need to increase the amount of time we are spending on the ‘portfolio management’ part of what we do, but it’s difficult to see how we can reduce the effort in other things.
  • Drafted some rough criteria for when a piece of work should have some involvement from my team.
  • Set up a tracking spreadsheet for all of our staff and where they are in the process of getting set up with our chosen corporate password manager. Recruited our Helpdesk team to join me in tackling the remaining staff one by one.
  • Sat with three members of staff to get them up and running with the password manager, and lined up some more appointments for next week.
  • Attended the formal Governance Committee for one of our regional entities to give a brief IT update.
  • Reviewed the recommendation to procure some IT services.
  • Caught up with one of my colleagues to review the ‘brands, products and objectives’ for the function that they run.
  • Briefly tried out Google Bard. The interface is interesting when compared with GPT-4 in that all of the response text appears at once. I’m not sure if I prefer the text to slowly appear as if it is being typed, or I am just used to it. The quality of the responses didn’t seem to be as good, so haven’t yet gone back.
  • Attended our Diversity and Inclusion forum.
  • Enjoyed a Learning Hour talk from a colleague in our Finance team on Why Banks Fail. We have quite a few guests speakers lined up in the coming weeks which is quite exciting.
  • Had a few conversations which got me wondering whether someone’s viewpoints and values of cultural issues depend on the time horizon that they think about and whether their concerns go beyond the span of their own lifetime.
  • Joined the first part of TechSmith’s Level Up, but left soon after when I figured I would be able to watch the key presentations at a later date. Their products are great and I think we could be doing a lot more to get better use out of them as part of our Digital Literacy initiative.
  • Wandered along to Interesting, a couple of hours with nine splendid presentations on various topics. It was lovely to bump into Paul again; we carried on with our chat all the way back to Berkhamsted. I also said “hi” to Alice as an admirer of her blog, and thanked her for recommending it in her weeknotes. It’s lovely to go to something so random. Stef Posavec’s name was familiar; a quick search of my own blog revealed that I’d taken one of her evening classes at The Guardian back in 2018. (Thank you, external brain!) Hilary Nightingale’s talk on the shopping lists that she has found and collected over the years made me chuckle. Sarah Drummond’s talk about the Don’t Say Gay film she is making, all about Section 28 (a series of laws across Britain that prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities), got me thinking about how things can fade into obscurity if people don’t keep them alive in our collective consciousness. And Jeffre Jackson’s talk about misophonia was superb. I always feel like a bit of an outsider at these events as everyone seems to know everyone else, but I’m not sure how true that is.

  • Caught up with our school’s IT provider and our Office Manager to talk through where we are with our various IT infrastructure projects.
  • Reviewed material for next week’s Full Governing Board meeting. Created a version of the budget that allows us to compare the figures to our year-end actual spend figures for the same categories.
  • Met up for a drink with a raft of colleagues that I first met when I started work in 1999. One of the group now lives in Australia and is the catalyst for getting everyone together when he’s back here. They are lovely people and it was great to see them again. I was so lucky to start my career in that team.
  • Bought and set up another pi-hole as a secondary DNS server. I previously had my router pointing to a single pi-hole for its primary DNS and to OpenDNS for secondary, in order to avoid my whole family shouting at me if the pi-hole went down. But some of the clients on the network seemed to always query OpenDNS, so the advert blocking wasn’t as comprehensive as it should be. Adding a second pi-hole solves the problem. For now, they are configured completely independently and are both running the default block list. But the pi-hole remote app allows me to see a consolidated set of data.

  • Finally took delivery of a mini hard drive interface that I ordered from Amazon US over a month ago which enabled me to wipe two more old hard disks.
  • After almost a week off of my bike, the Saturday club ride was brilliant. It was a chilly start but soon warmed up; I’m going to have to take the plunge and ditch my full finger gloves for next week. We covered some very different territory from our usual roads. I had my first puncture in a while and realised that the time to try to learn how to use my CO2 pump isn’t when I have 11 other cyclists waiting for me to get going again.

  • Finished watching series two of Slow Horses. AppleTV+ does have some excellent shows at the moment.

Next week: Presenting about AI, a school governor meeting, and meeting an old friend.

Weeknotes #220 — Tog downgrade

Another four-day week that felt like five. For some reason — or multiple, I’m not sure — I’ve been sleeping badly again. It feels as though there’s a lot going on.

Things have started to warm up so we decided to make the switch to the summer duvet. I think we’ve called the switchover point just about right. I can’t believe that for so many years we just had one duvet that we used all year round, waking up late on a summer weekend feeling like two strips of beef jerky in a desert cowboy’s saddlebag.

Our eldest son finished his last day of school this week, with his exams starting in earnest from Monday. We have our fingers crossed for him. In five weeks’ time he’ll be all done, with a long summer stretching out ahead.

This was a week in which I:

  • Realised that the feeling I have had over the past week or so since watching The A.I. Dilemma has been similar to how I felt in the second quarter of 2020 while the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing. In both cases I have had to try to concentrate on my work, which felt trivial in the context of the ever-growing threat outside the door. I don’t like to think of myself as an anxious person (does anyone?) but I’ve started to question this a little bit.
  • Watched the recording of a discussion on the issues raised by The A.I. Dilemma that was hosted by the Center for Humane Technology. The concept of a multi-polar trap is useful; it feels like a good encapsulation of the arms race currently in progress. The video and the slides from the session are available.

  • Discussed how getting our staff up the A.I. knowledge curve in a short space of time is an imperative for my Digital Literacy initiative and started to discuss ways that we can approach this.
  • Finished the draft of the breakdown of brands, products and objectives for our team. In our fortnightly department team meeting I presented an update on the structure and function of our team, touching on these brands and products. We had an excellent discussion, with some challenging questions from colleagues that have given me things to think about.
  • Attended the monthly Information Risk Steering Group meeting. There are a lot of initiatives that I am involved with or running right now that feed back into this forum.
  • Ran a training session for ten colleagues on our new password manager. It was an interesting hour. Everyone came out of the session further along the journey of signing up, importing passwords, setting it up on their devices and using it in their day-to-day life, but it felt a bit chaotic with everyone getting stuck at different steps. I don’t think this format is well-suited to the topic and won’t be doing it again. There are other tacks for us to try on the journey to getting as many people on-board as possible.
  • Joined the fortnightly working group meeting for a cybersecurity project.
  • Attended our monthly departmental risk review meeting.
  • Met with colleagues to discuss how we can move forward with training courses on clear writing for our department, personal development planning, and Microsoft Copilot.
  • Made some quick updates to the list of applications and IT systems used by our part of the organisation.
  • Talked about why you would want to bring the work to the people and not the people to the work.
  • Enjoyed a Learning Hour session on a recent trip taken by some colleagues to the offices of one of our technology vendors in the Republic of Ireland.
  • Joined Matt Ballantine for a chat as part of his 100 Coffees project. We had an hour together and covered a lot of ground.
  • Attended an interesting Thoughtworks webinar hosted by Martin ter Horst and Rebecca Parsons on The State of Responsible Technology. They recently sponsored a report published by the MIT Technology Review which I’ve now added to my reading queue.
  • Made the first half of this month’s Teams Fireside Chat, which always gives me some interesting insights.
  • Joined an internal webinar on the South African banking sector.
  • Attended a Better Value Sooner Safer Happier meetup with Mike Burrows on the topic of Between spaces, scopes and scales: What the scaling frameworks don’t tell you. The session left me feeling a bit baffled, as if my brain wasn’t competent enough to really grasp the topic properly.

  • Hosted a relatively informal school governor get-together at my house to discuss roles and responsibilities for next year.
  • Joined/set up a third Album Club, this time with some friends from the WB-40 podcast community. Our first online meetup is towards the end of this month and everyone is busy pondering what they will play when it’s their turn.
  • Loved this week’s cycling club ride. The shorts came out, although I hedged my bets by sticking to full-finger gloves. The route was pretty flat and it felt like we smashed it.
  • Signed up to go to Interesting next Wednesday evening. Looks…interesting. Alice Bartlett’s weaknotes told me about it.
  • Thought that our cats were making friends with a beautiful big black cat that has been appearing at our back door. Then they had a fight and we haven’t seen it since.
Cat stand-off in the Berkhamsted Serengeti

Cat stand-off in the Berkhamsted Serengeti

Next week: Four days in the office, meeting up with old friends and attending something Interesting.

Weeknotes #219 — Word wrestling

A four-day week of two distinct halves. Work felt quiet with so many people in the team out of the office. I love it when there are big chunks of empty space in the diary that I can use to get things done.

On Wednesday afternoon I joined the London CTOs group for a virtual meetup on the topic of Leveraging Generative AI (including ChatGPT) in Business and Organisations. It fascinated me that most of the conversation focused on the rate of change and the ethical considerations rather than specific business problems that were being addressed through the technology. James Conroy-Finn suggested taking a look at The A.I. Dilemma, the recent video from the Center for Humane Technology. After a long day, I settled down to watch — and afterwards couldn’t stop thinking about it. It left me in a funk that I carried into the office the next day and all the way through to Saturday when I got it out of my system.

When something starts to interest or bug me, I get the urge to work out my feelings through writing about it. Getting the words down feels like wrestling, but it’s so satisfying when it’s done; it feels as though my brain is freed-up again. Clicking the ‘post’ button this week was a big weight off — for now, at least, as I know I’m barely scratching the surface on the topic. I also figure that I will never be a writer, as getting out a blog post that takes just eight minutes to read can be a four or five hour effort spread across commutes, evenings and weekends.

This was a week in which I:

  • Completed a thorough review of a lean business case for a new initiative at work.
  • Spent more time with my immediate team, refining our ideas for the ‘brands and products’ that we provide to the rest of the organisation.
  • Revised and refined the text for our quarterly report to the company board.
  • Met with a new joiner in our team to welcome him and introduce him to my corner of the world.
  • Was given a fantastic idea by our Marketing and Communications team for how we can try to drive further adoption of the new password manager that we have introduced at work.
  • Attended a presentation on cloud security given to our internal Technology Architecture community. The talk got me thinking about how complex the cloud platforms have become, wondering how people can possibly keep up with all of the concepts and facilities available to them. I guess that there a need for some kind of automated ‘reconciliation’ of a cloud configuration back to a blueprint or spec. I also guess that this exists already.
  • Joined a meeting to hear feedback from two senior Architecture forums that took place in the past month.
  • Met with colleagues to look at the processes around our Information Asset Register and the impact or overlap to some work we have planned for this year.
  • Enjoyed a Learning Hour session with our Head of Tax as our guest speaker. Getting people to talk about what they know is fascinating. We have a healthy pipeline of talks to take us to the end of May.
  • Prepared for, and chaired, our school Finance, Premises and Personnel Committee meeting at school. It was great to spend time with our new interim Headteacher.
  • Was very proud of my eldest son who ran a personal best of 4m02s in a 1500m track race. His time means that he is in with a good shot for representing our county at national level.

  • Did some much-needed housekeeping on my wife’s laptop, upgrading the operating system and making sure that her Time Machine backups were working.
  • Had a fabulous Friday night out with friends, taking full advantage of their home karaoke setup to sing songs ranging from Young MC, Omar, Billy Bragg and Elvis Presley. All bases covered.
  • Met up with my family for a barbecue for my niece’s birthday. We found ourselves together on a beautiful sunny afternoon sandwiched between days of rain. Getting together for an afternoon is always too short, especially after we were spoiled by a whole week together last year.
  • Started watching Silo on AppleTV+. So far, so good. I love a dystopian drama, especially at the end of a week of thinking about AI.

Next week: Another four-day week, with a busy diary again.

Weeknotes #218 — Aldous Harding

A strange week, with a busy start and a quiet end. The quiet was exacerbated by being in the office on a Friday with just half a dozen other people.

This year’s Freedom Day in South Africa landed on a Thursday; combined with another public holiday on Monday, most people decided to take Friday off in order to make it a very long weekend. Here in the UK we have two four-day weeks coming up which inevitably make things a little fragmented.

This was a week in which I:

  • Spent time with some of our senior executives, bringing them along on the journey to getting set up with our new password manager. A couple of them had missed out on the Don’t Get Hacked presentation where I had framed the need for the tool, so I took the time to bring them up to speed. I also sat with some of them throughout the week to clarify a few points and help them optimise their setup. It’s labour intensive, but a good investment considering that the help is a pull rather than a push. I’m hoping that they will champion the tool within their teams. Adoption is creeping up globally, but not as quickly as I would like.
  • Got booked in to run a workshop in a couple of weeks’ time for one of our departments to help them get up and running with the password manager.
  • Fed back to my team about last week’s ‘brands, products and vision’ discussion and debated the best way to take it forward. We need to give this some focus to get it nailed down next week.
  • Discussed where we are with a significant initiative that our team wants to drive forward, which may lead to a number of business opportunities.
  • Had a catch-up with an external advisor on where we are with our overall strategic journey for our team.
  • Reviewed the progress of a proof-of-concept for reorganising our department’s unstructured data.
  • Had a Lean Coffee session with the team during our weekly Learning Hour slot.
  • Joined the monthly Architecture Community of Practice meeting. Enjoyed a fascinating discussion about the problems caused by inconsistencies between periods/full-stops and commas as delimiters in currencies. Computers are hard.
  • Confirmed that we definitely have foxes living under our garden building. As I sat there working I could hear them scrabbling around, at one point just below my feet. I’m pretty sure that the building has deep enough foundations — giant screws — so that it won’t be impacted by any burrowing. I quite like having them there.
Ground screws. Not an art installation.

Ground screws. Not an art installation.

  • Was disproportionately elated by a free lunch at Island Poké in Bow Lane. I’d never been in before as there is always a queue. Being in the office on a Friday does have its advantages — the city is dead, so there was hardly anyone around and the poké queue was non-existent. It was the end of a long week and I couldn’t quite make up my mind about what to have. I apologised for changing my mind halfway through the order and also mentioned that I’d never been in before. The next thing I know, it was on the house. Delicious.
  • Enjoyed another great Album Club night, listening to something that I would never have picked up on my own. I’m hosting the one in May which is only a week away, so I spent time at the weekend stocking up on supplies. I think I’ve chosen an album too.
  • Finally got to see Aldous Harding at the Barbican after a COVID-19-related delay of a year or so. I had two tickets but my original date had pulled out, so I roped in Nick from Album Club to join me. The seats weren’t great but it didn’t matter that much; the music was absolutely class from start to finish. She is an incredible performer. Chrissie Hynde agrees. I’d bought her latest album, Warm Chris, when it came out last year but had only played it through once. Hearing the songs live I realise that I’ve been missing out.

  • Enjoyed this week’s cycle club ride. We managed a great average speed despite it being a pretty hilly route.
  • Finally — FINALLY! — got my home NAS drive to where I want it to be. I upgraded the hardware a few years ago as the old device went ‘end of life’. At the same time I added two more disks, going from two to four, with the intention of adding resiliency as well as ensuring that the data is encrypted. I couldn’t work out how to easily move from an old ‘legacy’ unencrypted volume to a new encrypted one, and never seemed to find enough time to dive into the problem. This week I bit the bullet and dived in. The whole process has taken days, with migrations of data between volumes, changes to the RAID array, and cleaning up and moving files that no longer make sense to keep there. I’ve also taken the time for a fresh cloud backup to Backblaze B2 which itself now has more features which can only be used on a new backup container. NAS drives are brilliant things, but they don’t feel like they are for the casual user.

Next week: A four-day week and hosting an Album Club.

Weeknotes #217 — Den under den

A frustrating stop-start week. After two weeks off at home, it was good to get back behind a keyboard again. However, family medical appointments meant that I was out of the office for two half-days which made it feel like it was a bit of a staggered return. Towards the end of the week I felt as though I was getting my teeth into a few things again. I’m looking forward to next week being the first full ‘normal’ week in some time.

This was a week in which I:

  • Headed into London and decided to leave my coat at home as we’re now deep into April, with temperatures rising (a bit). What seemed like a good idea in the morning seemed foolish in the evening as it felt much colder on the return leg. I hadn’t appreciated how much the sun is hidden by the tall buildings on my journey home.
  • Spent time with my team working on our strategic ‘brands, products and vision’. Reviewed this with the management team alongside those from my colleagues and got some very useful feedback for shaping it further.
  • Met with a colleague to agree next steps on our joint project on managing unstructured data. I also created a Teams thread to outline the work that we’re doing and to get feedback from the rest of my department.
  • Caught up with the vendor for our password management tool and discussed how we can increase signups and usage of the tool. The meeting generated some great ideas, such as putting something into the tool that people want (or need) and can only access by signing up, as well as running adverts on our digital signage players in the office.
  • Worked with colleagues and an external vendor to get access to one of our externally-hosted tools, in order to give access to another colleague to be able to raise tickets. I like the structured way they took us through the security process as it gives me confidence that people would have a hard time socially engineering their way into the system.
  • Updated our Team Charter with some new draft statements sourced from the team a couple of weeks ago. Having this in the team has been so beneficial over the past couple of years.
  • Finished updating our department financial forecast with the agreed foreign exchange rates for the year.
  • Discussed how our team uses Planview AgilePlace to manage risk and whether it would work for a sister team. It’s a natural fit for us as we already use the software to manage our work; using it solely for risk management feels like ‘sledgehammer to crack a walnut’ territory, but I’m not sure of a better tool.
  • Took part in the monthly risk review meeting.
  • Had a good discussion about psychological safety and how well we really know our team. Generally I feel like I have the pulse of the organisation — but doesn’t everybody? A small number of times over the past few years I have had to question myself on this. It would be good to explore how we can get some true insights and improve this further.
  • Gave a tour of our office and server room to an executive from a sister company, who are looking at potentially revamping their own space.
  • Enjoyed a meeting with the executive team from our Côte d’Ivoire office, learning more about the country and our business there.
  • Joined two meetings to learn more about ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence tools. I don’t think I’ve ever known a hotter topic in technology.
  • Joined this month’s Teams Fireside Chat. It’s consistently a very useful hour with some incredible people.
  • Played with the new SnapChat lenses in Teams. They are fun but I’m not sure they have much business value. I nearly joined a meeting with a chicken on my head as the settings persisted as the defaults for the next call.
  • Was so pleased when the hospital gave my wife the all-clear following her operation for a detached retina a few weeks ago. She can now drive and exercise again. I’ll also be able to reliably hop on my indoor bike trainer again as the dad taxi morphs back into the mum taxi.
  • Took receipt of an external hard disk drive enclosure that I wanted to use to wipe two very small disks ahead of recycling them, but I found I had ordered the wrong thing. Placed another order and have my fingers crossed that I’ve got the correct thing this time. I also managed to wipe an old Sony M2 memory stick from a device that was long since forgotten.
Disk, I am determined to wipe you.

Disk, I am determined to wipe you.

  • Cursed the Apple Music app on my Mac. iTunes has always been a pain in the butt. This time I found that some recent CD rips had landed on my Mac’s internal hard drive instead of the network drive where my music library lives. Trying to consolidate everything into one place was a challenge; I ended up with gigabytes of files in multiple locations. Gemini was very useful in finding the duplicates and giving me confidence to delete the additional copies. I’ve installed the app via Setapp which has also given me access to a wealth of other applications.
  • Decided to trial YouTube Premium with the family. Giving my children access is a bit more difficult than I anticipated as I need to authorise their sign-ins on new devices. The experience is worth it, with no ads, picture-in-picture and playback on a mobile device even when it gets locked.
  • Enjoyed an online Album Club night with colleagues and alumni from work. The host’s choice was Urban Hymns by The Verve. I was given the album as a Christmas present in 1997 and I don’t think I had heard it all the way through in one sitting for 15 years or so. It was great to revisit it. The hits are over familiar, but I loved hearing Space And Time, One Day and Come On.
  • Had an amazing night out at the local cinema with some of the local Album Club crew. The remastered/restored version of Dance Craze (1981) was showing, which I figured would be right up our street. I don’t know that much about Ska music besides the big hits, so I was keen to see it. I wasn’t disappointed. The film is incredible — it’s mainly a montage of live performances by the leading Ska bands of the day, but with most of the camerawork being done from the perspective of the stage. The music is brilliant and the energy of the concerts seeped through the screen. When it was all finished after 90 minutes, we all felt like we had been to a gig.

  • Enjoyed watching lots of videos of foxes — probably a vixen and her cub — mooching around our garden during the night. I think they have made a den under the garden building which is why we are seeing them so often. Hopefully they will stay for a bit.
  • Via Ton Zijlstra’s blog, found out that this website is the 2,591,736th site in Google’s C4 dataset, use to train large language models. That number seems very small to me, given the size of the web is and the insignificance of this website.

  • Enjoyed a wonderful Saturday morning bike club ride.

Next week: Fingers crossed for a return to normal.

Weeknotes #216 — Suzume

And just like that, my time off work comes to an end and I’m back in the office tomorrow. I’m not quite sure where the week went. I’m ready to get stuck into work again.

This was a week in which I:

  • Cleared out our ‘box room’ in an attempt to start to turn it into something useful. Took a gargantuan amount of stuff to the recycling centre and charity shops, as well as giving away a couple of useful things to neighbours. We’re not quite done, but we’ve recovered a lot of space.
  • Left my computer chugging away for days as it did a three-pass secure erase on some old, redundant or faulty hard disk drives. Erasing a 2TB drive takes a long time.
  • Took an epic amount of old cables for recycling. I’ve realised that SCART is never coming back and after 20 years I am unlikely to use the extra length of speaker cable that I was keeping ’just in case’.
  • Installed a Unifi Protect camera in the doorway of our garden building. I didn’t want to faff around with Ethernet cables or PoE injectors, so went for another G4 doorbell which works over Wi-Fi. This was my third time setting one up, and it was the easiest yet.
  • Replaced a faulty downlighter on the garden building.
  • Managed to jump on the indoor bike trainer every day this week, compensating for my near-constant snacking.
  • Took a trip to Burford with my wife to meet her parents for lunch at the lovely garden centre. The coffee and cake there is lovely, but buying something from the deli requires a level of wealth equivalent to a small nation.
  • Enjoyed a rare family movie and pizza night. My eldest boy had loads of suggestions as he’s cottoned on to the IMDB list of top-rated movies. We ended up watching One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), a film I must have seen a dozen times. The acting and script are incredible; it’s a perfect movie. After the family disappeared I indulged myself through watching the ‘making of’ and was pleased to learn that they had deliberately made Nurse Ratched’s character morally ambiguous, which is how I had always seen it. It’s not clear whether she was truly nasty or just someone who meant well and was working under pressure.
  • Drove to Loughborough University and straight back again, dropping my wife and eldest son at a running camp that my wife had organised for their club. They came back late the next day tired and happy.
  • Went to the cinema with my youngest son to see Suzume (2022). It may be the most beautiful film I’ve ever seen. It’s absolutely breathtaking The story was delightfully bizarre, and made more poignant to me when I read some of the Letterboxd reviews. A great night out.

Next week: Back to work, with a sprinkling of Album Club.

Weeknotes #215 — Interlude

The first of two weeks off work. I spent my days pottering around the house, dropping my eldest son to school for revision sessions in the morning, wandering into town with my wife for a coffee or lunch and dialling into the odd work meeting that I didn’t want to miss. As much as I love going away on holiday, I am very happy at home, getting bits and pieces done. Not doing much always leads to the weird paradox of feeling even more tired than usual, but I’m taking that as a good sign. I have next week off work as well, and need to get on with a few things in order to avoid that feeling of having frittered away the whole two weeks.

This was a week in which I:

  • Hosted the final planned training session for our London office for our password management tool.
  • Ran a workshop to review the results of our team charter survey, using Teams breakout rooms and 1-2-4-All to surface thoughts from the whole virtual room.
  • Had an informal meeting with our divisional CIO.
  • Worked with the Chair of Governors on thank you messages to our interim headteachers for everything they have done during the Spring term.
  • Had a wonderful dinner with some close friends, and their family who are visiting from New Zealand.
  • Enjoyed a stroll through Tring Park with a bunch of friends, followed by coffee and cakes.
  • Had a lovely afternoon barbecue at my parents’ house, along with aunts, uncles and cousins that we hadn’t seen in years.
  • Managed to get outside on my bike for the first time in a couple of weeks. On Friday I rode a route that I had missed the Saturday before, and then made it out on the weekly club ride the next day. Despite leaving in a big group, an early — and ultimately terminal — mechanical by one of our fellow riders resulted in just three of us together, bringing up the rear.
  • Mowed both lawns, front and back. The amount of grass cuttings that I left in my wake resulted in me buying a replacement lawnmower blade.
  • Started reading Holy Shit by Melissa Mohr, a fascinating history of swearing. There is so much in this book from a cultural and anthropological perspective, such as the grand arc of whether at different times in history the ‘holy’ or the ‘sh*t’ has been more offensive, to tidbits such as the historical name for the kestrel.

Next week: Trying to make the most of another week off.

Weeknotes #214 — One conversation at a time

The second week in a row where I felt like I had grabbed it around the neck and held on as we galloped through the days. Work continued to be very busy and it was coupled with more medical appointments for my wife as well as my son. Our school Chair of Governors was also away on holiday, so for the first time in a few years it fell to me to prepare for and chair our full governing board meeting. A while ago I had decided to book two weeks off at Easter in order to use up some carried-forward holiday; I’m so glad I did as the break comes just at the right time.

This was a week in which I:

  • Reluctantly headed into the office on Monday in order to deliver my Don’t Get Hacked presentation. My wife woke up early so that I could apply her eye drops; she had a friend visiting who could apply the second lot later in the day. (It turns out that trying to land an eye drop into an eye that you can’t see out of is quite tricky.) I had mixed feelings about the presentation. I’d delivered and tweaked it about 20 times in the past couple of months, so I knew my stuff, but presenting to a room full of people isn’t something I’ve had a lot of experience with. In my head I had envisioned a packed audience hanging on my every word, but the reality didn’t quite match my expectations. At the time we were due to start there were far more empty chairs than full ones, so I wandered out onto the floor to remind people that we were about to get started. Once things got going there seemed to be a good level of engagement, including with people that had joined the session remotely. Watching the video back, I felt as though I had done better than I remembered, which I guess is unusual?
  • Sent out invites to password manager training sessions to all of our London staff. Our on-boarding manager at the vendor had told me that from her experience, if you send out invites to a large group of people, the number of attendees will naturally end up being roughly the same across all of the sessions. So far, she’s absolutely right.
  • Invited all of our remaining staff to join the password manager tool.
  • Saw a whole range of responses to the presentation and training ranging from those that are already enrolled with the password manager and have got their families on board as well, to massive confusion and overwhelm at what they are being asked to do. It brought back to me Euan Semple’s thoughts about change:

Many moons ago I wrote “Social media adoption happens one conversation at a time, and for their reasons not yours.” This is true for all change where you require other people to behave differently. They need to have understood what is proposed at a personal/conversational level and seen what is in it for them.

  • Our part of the organisation is small enough to make it feasible for us to give a ‘white glove’ service, working with with our colleagues one person at a time. Driving adoption of a password manager is going to be a long road.
  • Prepared material for the second part of a review of our department’s operating model, and took part in the session. We’ve not quite concluded but there is great progress being made, and the discussion was exciting.
  • Took part in a number of individual strategic planning sessions with the managers from our team. We are trying to think of the work we do in a ‘vision > brand > product > strategy’ format which is proving to be quite useful.
  • Deputised for our CIO at an IT security programme Steering Committee meeting.
  • Met with a representative from our digital signage vendor to give them some feedback on our experience with the product.
  • Attended our monthly Architecture Community of Practice meeting.
  • Took Wednesday afternoon off to go into London for a hospital appointment with my son. We had an early dinner together at Pizza Sophia and it was lovely to spend some time together and chat for the first time in a while. He turned 16 this week. Time flies.
  • Took my wife to her check-up following her operation last week. We could feel a weight lift when they told her that she’s doing well, and is now allowed to get out and about again. It’s going to be a while until she can exercise and drive, so I’m going to be doing a bit more of the shuttling children around for a while yet.
  • Had a number of school meetings, including chairing the Full Governing Board meeting. Due to a clash with a school disco we found ourselves in one of the classrooms, a good environment to try out the Jabra Speak 2 75 conference speaker for the attendee that couldn’t get there in person. I set up my MacBook in the corner of the room and paired the speaker via Bluetooth, using the battery for the duration of the meeting. It was absolutely superb:

Honestly the sound quality was amazing. I heard every word clearly and I know from experience that is rare when being the only one dialling into a group meeting.

  • Prepared and coordinated a number of letters to go out to governors, staff, and parents and carers.
  • Enjoyed a lovely family dinner on Sunday at Per Tutti in Berkhamsted, in celebration of our son’s birthday.
  • Ran the line at my son’s football match for possibly the final time. Their season has now finished already. Next year the boys would get mixed with the age group above them, if he chooses to continue with it.

  • Have missed going on the indoor bike trainer during the week due to the additional responsibilities at home. I made up for it at the weekend with a couple of long rides. After some major rain the weather seems to be taking a turn for the better, so I’m hoping to get outside for some more rides soon.

Next week: A week off, pottering around the house and attending the odd work meeting.

Weeknotes #213 — Retinal detachment

Also no deep-sea diving allowed.
Also no deep-sea diving allowed.

After our family dinner last Saturday night, my wife said that she thought she had something in her eye that she couldn’t shift. I had a look but couldn’t see anything. It was casting a bit of a shadow at the bottom of her vision. As a precaution, she made an appointment with the optician and went along on Monday afternoon.

Our worst fears were confirmed. The ophthalmologist told her that her retina had started to become detached and that she needed urgent attention. They handed her a referral letter and told her to head straight to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage without delay. We weren’t sure what would happen next, so I left my office in London to get the train there too, just in case she had any kind of procedure which meant that she couldn’t drive home again. A train and taxi ride later, we bumped into each other at the hospital reception; a grumpy receptionist told her to come back the next evening, without any kind of examination and despite protestations that she had an urgent problem. It was stressful — everything we read had told us that it was a race against time to get it fixed. So we made a plan to jump into the car early the next morning and head over to the Ophthalmology department at Stoke Mandeville hospital.

The experience at Stoke Mandeville was amazing. We didn’t need to wait long before she was examined and the diagnosis confirmed. They booked her in for surgery first thing the next day. She was now under instructions to go home and rest, minimising movement for the rest of the day to prevent it from getting worse. When we got home we called a couple of private consultants to see if she could be seen any faster, but everyone advised us that waiting until the next day was the best we could do.

We were back at the hospital even earlier on Wednesday, ready for the operation. It’s not a difficult decision to make between losing your sight in one eye and having a medical procedure, but my wife amazed me how she took it all in her stride. The work is all done under local anaesthetic, so you are completely aware of what’s happening as its done. They start with a vitrectomy, where they remove all of the jelly-like vitreous humour from the centre of the eyeball. They then repair the damaged retina with a laser and freezing treatment, before filling the eyeball with a gas to keep the repaired retina in place. The gas means that you can’t do anything that involves any kind of change of pressure. It sounds dreadful. It was all over in an hour or so.

She was told to keep her head facing downwards towards her lap for ten hours, and afterwards to make sure that she get as much rest as possible and sleeps on one particular side, so that the gas bubble continues to push against the repaired part of the retina. Tablets to relieve the swelling and pressure were accompanied by three types of eye drops which need to be administered four times a day. Currently she has no vision out of that eye and will only know how well the repair has gone in the next two to four weeks. Over time, the gas bubble dissipates and is replaced naturally by fluid again. We have our fingers crossed. Unfortunately, most people that have a vitrectomy are guaranteed to develop a cataract within a few years after surgery and nobody knows why.

Why it happened is a mystery. Apparently it is more common for people that are short-sighted, but it seems quite random. I am so grateful that my wife got the urgent attention she needed and for the fantastic care that she has been given at the hospital. My colleagues have been amazing, offering lots of support and empathy where I’ve had to duck out of scheduled meetings at short notice. I feel very privileged to be in a position where something like this can happen and I am empowered to prioritise caring for my family over everything else. Our friends have been so lovely, with a steady stream of flowers and hampers arriving at our door.

Most of all I am so glad that my wife is now on the mend. It’s been an emotional week.

This was a week in which I:

  • Reviewed the work that has been done so far on our revamped change portfolio and roadmap.
  • Ran a password manager training session for one of our offices, along with our onboarding manager from the vendor. Only one office to go now.
  • Was pleased to hear that our proposal for unstructured data management was well-received by the Governance Committee. Now to put the wheels on it and get going.
  • Continued planning for an operating model review meeting scheduled for next week.
  • Took part in our weekly Learning Hour session where we experimented with the Lean Coffee format. The team really embraced it and we are now planning to make it a regular thing.
  • Met with the technical team to discuss a change required for new Android mobile users in our environment.
  • Suggested getting our small one or two person ‘booth’-style meeting rooms removed from the booking system. I’ve been nipping into these rooms quite a bit when I’ve been in the office. I’m not sure that everyone knows that they can be booked, so kicking someone out because you have booked it may not be well-received.
  • Caught up with the planning meeting for our annual investor conference.
  • Joined an internal Diversity and Inclusion forum for the first time. Discussed ways in which we can keep LGBTIQA+ staff safe and supported when they travel, as well as what it means to be an active bystander.
  • Had some brilliant and brave conversations in our management team meeting which got me thinking about the psychological safety of the team.
  • Took delivery of a Jabra Speak 2 75, a significant upgrade from the Jabra Speak 510 that I’ve been using fro the past few years. The addition of a light on the device which gives you visual feedback on how clearly you can be heard is a genius idea.
  • Attended a very interesting webinar by Leesman on A Decade of Change, showing workplace trends over the past ten years. It may be obvious to some, but I didn’t realise that London is so much bigger from a commercial real estate perspective than anywhere else in the country. If companies find that they have too much space and there is a trend to downsize, that’s potentially a lot of floor space coming onto the market.
  • Along with our Interim Headteacher, met with a consultant at HFL Education on how we can further market the school’s Nursery.
  • Attended a very worthwhile in-person training session on Knowing Your School with the rest of our Governing Board.
  • Started preparation for the school Full Governing Board meeting next week. Our Chair is on holiday, so I’m in the hot seat.
  • Skipped the Saturday morning cycling club ride as I wanted to maximise my time at home, making sure my wife is ok. Spent time on the indoor trainer instead. For the first time I can remember, I started to get knee and hip pain; I’m hoping that some small adjustments to the saddle and handlebar positioning will be able to dial those out.
  • Ran the line at my eldest son’s last home match of the season. A complete mud-fest.
  • Mowed three quarters of the back lawn for the first time this year, before a big rain shower stopped me in my tracks. I was very glad that this frog (or toad?) didn’t end up in the lawnmower. You know your lawn is long when you have animals of this size hiding in it.

Next week: Presenting to the whole office, and running a full governing board meeting for the first time in a while.

Weeknotes #212 — Spattered

I walk past this office block on my way to work. There’s always such sad beauty in seemingly abandoned buildings. I wonder what it was like when it was shiny and new.

I walk past this office block on my way to work. There’s always such sad beauty in seemingly abandoned buildings. I wonder what it was like when it was shiny and new.

Even by recent standards, this was an extremely busy week. Not stressful per se, just so much crammed into it so that it felt like an endurance event. Experience told me that a planned train strike for Thursday may mean that the service might could also be a little suspect on Wednesday and Friday, so I front-loaded my time in the office to the first two days. The days were super long.

This was a week in which I:

  • Had to move my planned Don’t Get Hacked presentation to the London office back by a week due to a clash with a board meeting.
  • Ran the presentation for the penultimate office and followed up by inviting the staff to join the new password management tool. They didn’t hold back with their questions; it was immensely satisfying to see everyone so engaged with the topic.
  • Met with a front office colleague to workshop an approach to revamp how we manage certain types of document using standard Microsoft tools. We’ve collaborated on a set of slides to be taken to a senior governance forum next week.
  • Caught up with one of the teams that are impacted by the document management approach and was pleased to hear that they see no showstoppers for what we want to do.
  • Completed preparation for the first steering committee meeting for an initiative we are running with a sister organisation. Attended the first recurring working group meeting for the same programme.
  • Took part in our information risk review meeting, giving updates on where we are with our password manager rollout and other topics.
  • Attended the monthly departmental risk review meeting.
  • Joined a meeting with colleagues in the Legal department to talk about one of our client management systems and where they need to be involved in the changes that we are making.
  • Had a brief catch-up with the Marketing and Communications team ahead of the big Don’t Get Hacked presentation in just over a week’s time.
  • Caught up with a colleague who was spending the week in one of our other offices. Hearing about the technical issues that she found reinforced to me that there can sometimes be no substitute to going somewhere in person.
  • Joined a very early morning meeting to refine a number of statements on the culture of our wider technology department ahead of a workshop next week.
  • Had a number of meetings with our school leaders on various topics, and arranged an in-person training session for the board for next week.
  • Along with the rest of the Governing Board, attended a Meet The Ofsted Inspector training course for a mock grilling. Many years ago, we attended this course in person without understanding exactly what it was — it was a shock to come face-to-face with three stern-looking trainers who were all in character for the first half of the session, with us woefully unprepared for their questions. We were better prepared this time, but know that there is always more we can do ahead of it happening for real.
  • Chaired the school Finance, Premises and Personnel Committee meeting at school.
  • Interviewed a prospective new school governor. We’ve recently been having great success in using the Inspiring Governance service. It’s amazing that there are so many people out there who are willing to volunteer.
  • Had an electrician come to our house to finally resolve a few issues. We now have a working immersion heater, a new extractor fan in the bathroom and an outside light switch no longer trips the circuit breaker.
  • Enjoyed a weird but fun Friday night out at Chesham Grammar School for their annual comedy night. Compèred by Alex Horne, it was a strange mixture of great comedy with drinks and fish and chips in a school sports hall. The headline act was John Robins; I spent most of the first half of his set wondering where I knew his voice from, with the first thought that he had a very similar voice to one of my friends. Then it hit me — he’s one of the regulars on the superb Queenpod, which I’ve been spending a lot of time with over the past few months. It turns out that he’s quite famous, and I’m very out of touch with pop culture.
  • Had a lovely family dinner at Lussmanns in Berkhamsted. I think that it might be my favourite restaurant in our town. All of the food is delicious, with a lot of thought put into sourcing the ingredients.
  • Ran the line at my eldest son’s football match. Unfortunately he only got to play for 15 minutes before coming off with a nasty gash from a stud on his knee. I like Strava’s heatmap view for events like this:

  • Experienced my muddiest ever bike ride on Saturday morning with the cycling club. Despite everyone having mudguards fitted, there was nothing I could do to avoid getting spattered as I rode behind others in the group. At one point I ran out of clean parts of my gloves that I could use to wipe away the dirt from my mouth, and every time I closed my jaw I could feel a crunch between my teeth. It was fun though —once you’re wet and dirty, it doesn’t matter about getting even more wet and dirty.

  • Took delivery of some Ubiquiti Unifi Protect door chimes after my custom-built Home Assistant version suddenly stopped working. I figured that buying dedicated devices would prove to be more reliable than my cobbled-together YAML scripts. Out of the box the devices are a bit disappointing; we have two Unifi doorbells and each chime can only pair with one of them, and you can’t change the sound of the chime. Having said that, everything I have previously bought in the Unifi Protect range has got significantly better after I purchased it via firmware updates. I’m hopeful that the chimes will follow the same path.
  • Indulged myself through watching the latest video from Elliot Roberts, ranking all of George Harrison’s albums from worst to best. Although I had some minor quibbles with some of the rankings, I think he’s broadly spot on. I found myself grinning at some of the wonderful detail that he found in the songs. My favourite album of all time — let alone favourite George Harrison album — remains Living In The Material World from 1973, and it was great to see it chart so highly.

  • Enjoyed the second Formula One race of the season, despite it lacking any significant action points. If the comments immediately after the race are anything to go by, it looks as though the rivalry to watch will be the one between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

Next week: Hoping for a quieter, head-down kind of week.

Weeknotes #211 — Wrist

Dot matrix information signs have recently been replaced with full colour ones at the station. Just because something is high resolution doesn’t mean you should just cram more things on there. The sign is barely readable unless you’re directly under it.

Dot matrix information signs have recently been replaced with full colour ones at the station. Just because something is high resolution doesn’t mean you should just cram more things on there. The sign is barely readable unless you’re directly under it.

Here in the UK, temperatures plummeted again and we found ourselves living through frozen mornings and snow showers. The week was very busy; I ended up having to spend some of Saturday catching up with some of the tasks that I hadn’t had time to complete by Friday. Next week looks just as hectic.

This was a week in which I:

  • Had a bizarre pain in my right wrist, seemingly caused by nothing in particular. I’ve never had repetitive strain injury or anything similar, so it was a bit weird. On Monday and Tuesday it hurt so much that I reached for the paracetamol, but by the end of the week it had completely gone. Things got weird when a colleague told me he had exactly the same thing, along exactly the same timeline.
  • Gave my Don’t Get Hacked presentation to two of our offices. Both sessions went really well, with lots of engagement and questions from the attendees. We rolled out our password manager to the teams immediately afterwards. I am hoping that by giving people context as to why we are doing it we will get many more people enrolling and using the tool.
  • Spent a lot of time putting together a couple of slide decks to be used for an impromptu project that has been set up to address some specific issues. Met with the representatives of the working group that has been assembled to coordinate responses to the problems and made further changes based on the feedback they gave me.
  • Had to join an all-day workshop with senior technology leaders across our organisational division. We are still two hours behind Johannesburg until the end of the month, so the session started at 6:30am. It was also scheduled for a day where I had to go into the office for other reasons, and was snowing heavily. I started off by being on video on my phone at home as I wrestled my coat on, wandered to the station with my hands freezing as I held my phone in front of me, then switched to an iPad on the train, back to the phone when I got to London and then on my laptop in the office. It was a very janky experience with patchy network connections and device handoffs in Teams, but if the me of 20 years ago was told that I would be able to be on a videoconference on my commute to the office, my mind would have been blown.
  • Took part in an operating model review for our department, along with my colleagues in the management team. We aren’t done yet, but we made a good start.
  • Met with an internal software architect based in Johannesburg to go through the idea that we have for how we can manage our unstructured data. I’m still looking for someone to tell me why the approach won’t work as it seems such a simple solution, but I haven’t found a showstopper yet.
  • Ran through some revised internal dashboards for interrogating the Microsoft Teams and private channels that staff are members of. One of my colleagues was new to the conversation, and brought some excellent thinking about what good could look like.
  • Started a discussion on a development/product roadmap for our Cybersecurity team.
  • Baselined our department’s financial forecast for the year, effectively giving us a budget to work against.
  • Contributed to the monthly Governance Committee pack for one of our legal entities.
  • Had my weekly catch-up with our Marketing and Communications team and agreed the final details for the big Don’t Get Hacked presentation in a couple of weeks’ time.
  • Started to prepare for a review of our Team Charter which is planned for next Wednesday.
  • Joined an early morning feedback session for architecture decisions that have been made in the senior governance forums in the past month.
  • Attended a town hall-style meeting in our London office to hear about our annual results, which were fantastic. We heard from one of the senior business leaders of our organisation who happened to be in town; I was blown away by his presentation, particularly as he spoke about APIs and microservices with some authority and could articulate the need to adapt our systems architecture for the future. It was the first meeting in our large collaboration space since we revamped the technology to make it a fully-fledged Teams meeting room for hybrid sessions, and it worked brilliantly.
  • Enjoyed our weekly Learning Hour session with an external guest who spoke to us about renewable energy schemes in developing economies.
  • Attended Digital Showcase Friday to learn about our Investor Insights platform.
  • Had a short Random Coffee with one of my colleagues in the Engineering team.
  • Joined everyone from our London office for drinks and food at a local bar, the first time we have all got together since Christmas.
  • Watched with admiration as once again Sharon O’Dea took companies to task on LinkedIn as they posted their commitment to gender equality on International Women’s Day, whereas in reality they have substantial gender pay gaps.
  • Started paying more for train tickets, with a return to London increasing from £25.50 to £27. Tube fares in Zone 1 also went up from £2.50 to £2.70. I’m just grateful that I no longer have an annual season ticket, which now costs an incredible £5,864.
  • Had a meeting with a representative from Hertfordshire County Council to discuss strategies how we can improve on the number of children applying for nursery places. We have a few things that we can try.
  • Attended the HFL Education Chairs Strategic Information Briefing. There is always so much good content.
  • Met with our personal financial advisor for the first time in a while. It’s reassuring to know that we have someone who is keeping an eye on things for us as we plan for our future.
  • Enjoyed two album club nights, hosting one online with a few friends from work and going to another in person on Friday night. I chose The Who’s Quadrophenia, which is the first album of theirs that I ever got into. It was wonderful to sit down and listen to it closely the whole way through.
  • Continued to make my way through Chris Packham’s Fingers In The Sparkle Jar. I don’t think I’ve read an autobiography quite like it.
  • After a week of gentle ‘recovery’ indoor riding, took part in the Berkhamsted Cycle Club Spring Classic reliability ride. The weather had warmed up a little, and stayed almost completely dry throughout. It’s a much tougher ride than it looks on paper, with big headwinds to deal with, but I felt better than when I did the same ride last year.

  • Enjoyed a lovely dinner out with some close friends at Per Tutti in Berkhamsted. They serve lovely, simple, delicious Italian food. We had a table booked before 7pm and I think it’s the way forward — it’s was great to be back at home with a little bit of evening to spare.

Next week: A train strike, a school governor meeting, some school governor training, a presentation and a comedy night.

Weeknotes #210 — Sit bones

A four-day week as I took Friday off for my wife’s birthday. Work is ramping up. For the first time in a while I found myself picking my laptop up again in the evenings, trying to wrestle a few things forward.

On the one day I worked from home my two boys both had the day off school due to a teacher strike. There are more to come later in the month.

March has started with a cold snap, with snow forecast for next week. I’m back to wearing multiple jumpers around the house as we try to keep the thermostat down.

This was a week in which I:

  • Ran through my Don’t Get Hacked presentation another couple of times, with our CEO and our Head of Global Markets. The material is very well-received and I feel as though I’m ready to deliver the presentations to the wider audiences over the next three weeks.
  • Discussed the short data management proposal that I put together, with a growing set of colleagues from across the organisation. I am waiting for someone to flag a showstopper issue with what I have proposed, but so far nothing has come up. The work could be transformational. It requires very little technology but lots of persuading people to work in a slightly different way, which may actually be more difficult.
  • Joined an impromptu technology strategy meeting.
  • Set up a meeting for next week for a new project that I am participating in with colleagues from other divisions of the organisation.
  • Met with our audio/visual vendor to discuss the upgrade and simplification of two of our key internal meeting rooms.
  • Felt privileged to be invited as a guest speaker to our People and Culture department’s strategic workshop. My first job out of university was working in an investment bank’s Human Resources IT department for nearly seven years; I’m still in contact with my wonderful colleagues from that time, and lent on them as I gathered my thoughts ahead of this week’s session. It felt like a very productive conversation.
  • Met with colleagues to review the operating model of one of our sub-teams and to talk about succession planning.
  • Caught up with the recording from the monthly Architecture Community of Practice meeting. Playing meetings back at 1.5x speed is a game-changer.
  • Attended our quarterly architecture governance authority meeting and reported back on why we did not proceed with the ‘location broadcasting tool’ that we trialled over the past few months.
  • Enjoyed this week’s internal Learning Hour session on the Banking Tech Awards that a colleague attended on our organisation’s behalf.
  • Attended a short training session on cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of a defibrillator. It was my first encounter with the inflatable ‘mini Annie’ trainers, which were really effective and can be easily stored away in large numbers.
  • Watched the third and final instalment of Ivar Jacobson’s Organising Around Value webinar series. I liked the sentiment on the ‘minimum viable bureacracy’:

  • Reviewed options for my school’s supplier of Occupational Health services and an Employee Assistance Programme.
  • Had a lovely day off for my wife’s birthday. A slightly lazy morning was followed by lunch at Crockers in Tring. The food was delicious, but the restaurant felt quite empty.
  • Started to get used to the new indoor bike trainer. My first proper training session started out feeling much too easy, so I ended up completing it at 115% of my measured FTP. I’ve since bumped it up so that future workouts should be more in-line with what I’m used to. My FTP is now about 60 watts higher than it was on the old ‘wheel on’ trainer, which makes me think that the old figure was meaningless as an absolute measure. On Sunday I did a two-hour ride, with my sit-bones wincing at me after 90 minutes. The reviews of the trainer are very complimentary about the saddle, so I’m now wondering whether I need to refresh my bib shorts.
  • Enjoyed Saturday morning’s bike club ride. It felt very cold, and added to the list of reasons I was giving myself not to get up on Sunday for the Verulam Cycling Club Reliability Ride. By Saturday night I was completely exhausted; I dragged myself up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire just after 9pm. I’m signed up for our own club’s reliability ride next Sunday but the weather doesn’t look great from here.
  • Wandered down to the cricket club to watch the Berkhamsted five mile fun run and half marathon. My eldest boy took part in the fun run and was hoping for a win, but felt dizzy and had to stop when he was halfway round.

  • Welcomed the Formula One season back for 2023. It was so great to see Alonso do so well with his third place finish. It’s interesting how he’s turned from pantomime villain to hero in the past few seasons.

Next week: Back to five days again. Delivering the Don’t Get Hackedpresentation to two of our offices, and joining two album clubs.

Weeknotes #209 — Stages

Delicious pavlova, cooked by my youngest son as part of his Duke of Edinburgh course.
Delicious pavlova, cooked by my youngest son as part of his Duke of Edinburgh course.

I’m enjoying myself. Work is really busy, but it’s fun. There is never enough time to do everything, but every day has seen progress with the initiatives that I am running with. It feels good.

Quote of the week comes from a colleague who sagely commented that “There is no ‘business and technology’, only the technology of business.” Every time I see ‘the business’ and IT separated in a written artefact, or the phrase is dropped into conversation, I think about what I read in Mark Schwartz’s A Seat at the Table. Working to get rid of the old way of thinking is going to take many years.

This was a week in which I:

  • Continued with my individual meetings to give my Digital Literacy: Don’t Get Hacked presentation to senior leaders. I’ve now covered almost everyone, and have their full support. I made even more tweaks to the deck based on the feedback and am now very well-rehearsed for delivering it to a larger audience. I’ve locked in dates to present to each of our four offices in turn, culminating with an in-person presentation in London towards the end of March. I feel more excited than nervous.
  • Picked up a new project to coordinate some risk mitigation work. Had a couple of meetings to explore the issues and what can be done to solve them.
  • Reviewed the outcome of an RFP that we have been running over the past few months.
  • Met with a colleague to talk about how we can improve the on-boarding experience for new joiners in the organisation. Learnt a lot about what is being done behind the scenes to make the existing experience as good as it is.
  • Coordinated the second end-user training session for our password management tool, for our Engineering team. I need to think about how we will offer these sessions to the rest of the organisation when we go live.
  • Attended the first in a series of roadmap planning sessions for our department. We may need to do the work in two passes.
  • Ran our bi-weekly management team meeting. We’ve decided to rotate the chair as well as the preparation of materials; it was my turn to go first.
  • Enjoyed our weekly Learning Hour meeting, hosted by our CTO, on the topic of our architecture.
  • Had an impromptu check-in with some colleagues in the office at the end of the day on Monday. We covered a lot of bases. It was the sort of gathering that would never happen accidentally if we were all working from home.
  • Completed all of the pre-reading for, and attended, our school Full Governing Board meeting. At the meeting I let the board know that I will be stepping down as a school governor at the end of the summer term, having been a board member for a decade. With a new headteacher joining the school from September, it feels like the right time for me to move on.
  • Had a lovely random drink with another member of the governing board. I can’t remember the last time that I spontaneously ended up in a pub.
  • Took delivery of a smart bike trainer to replace my indoor training bike that recently died. The company were at pains to say that the delivery wouldn’t go any further than the hallway, and when it turned up I could see why. The box weighed around 75kg, so we had to unpack it where it landed and take it to its final resting place piece by piece. After spending Saturday evening assembling it, I’ve tried it out for a couple of rides. So far, so good.
Ridiculously heavy.
Ridiculously heavy.
  • Went out for a couple of morning runs due to having no indoor exercise equipment. It was good to get out multiple times in a row and to start to feel ‘running fit’, without walking around like John Wayne for a couple of days afterwards. I find it quite a difficult habit to keep up, particularly in winter as the indoor trainer is always more tempting than getting out in the cold.
  • Decided to delay Saturday morning’s club ride by an hour due to the risk of ice. We’re into that spring period where it can be very cold overnight but very lovely when the sun shines. Five of us went out in a group for a great ride. About 10km from home I was struggling to keep up and found that I had a slow flat. Fortunately for me, one of the group knew of a nearby cycle shop where I could borrow a track pump to fill it with enough air to see me home. It turned out that the owner is the person who sold me my last road bike back in 2013.

Next week: In the office for most of the week, with a day off on Friday.

Weeknotes #208 — Dead bike

A week stuffed to the brim with meetings. I’ve not been sleeping well, waking up in the middle of the night each night to check the time, mildly panicking that I’ve overslept. I’m not sure why.

The bike that I bought back in 2013, which had recently been relegated to indoor training only, finally died. It left me with no means of riding indoors. So on Friday morning I dragged myself out of bed to go for a run. I’ve ordered an indoor bike trainer but have no idea when it will be delivered; I may be running for a while yet.

This was a week in which I:

  • Had a number of meetings with senior leaders in the business to take them through my ‘Digital Literacy: Don’t Get Hacked’ presentation. Presenting the material over and over again is making it better, as I am incorporating feedback and refining the delivery as I go. Everyone so far has been completely supportive. I have a few more lined up for next week and then need to lock in a date for presenting the material to the rest of the organisation at a kick-off event.
  • Completed writing the first draft of a proposal for how we can standardise our management of unstructured data, potentially enhancing the experience of our key clients as we go, for very little technology investment. I realise that I do a lot of my thinking out loud in written form, but this isn’t how many people want to consume it, so we’ll probably need a meeting to walk through the key points.
  • Reviewed a PowerBI report that we have developed for some rudimentary insights into the Teams and private channels that staff have set up. We have plans to enhance and expand it.
  • Used our weekly Learning Hour for a colleague to present the concept of our new portfolio roadmap with our department. The team are never reluctant to share their thoughts and opinions and we had an excellent discussion which gave us lots to think about. We will probably end up having the roadmap in two places — in our Kanban tool so that work can be directly linked and traced to the roadmap, as well as in a more presentable format elsewhere.
  • Closed out on the ‘location broadcasting tool’ project after speaking to the vendor. It’s a beautiful, functional tool, but we weren’t ready for it. After a vote in our team meeting, we’ve reverted to using a Teams chat channel for ambient knowledge on where everyone is every week.
  • Took part in our internal annual review of services from our SD-WAN network provider as we approach our renewal date.
  • Organised the first session of end-user training for our password management tool. The session was excellent; even those people who have used this specific tool for many years said that they learnt some new things.
  • Attended a meeting to review and reflect on the internal product journey that the team have gone on so far, and what they had delivered.
  • Joined the final weekly project meeting for the closure of one of our regional offices. There are still things to do, but no need for us all to get together on a regular basis anymore.
  • Attended the second of three webinars from Ivar Jacobson on  Organizing Around Value, this time on Development Value Stream Patterns. Brian Tucker has an excellent and engaging delivery style, but when I watch this kind of presentation I always feel that I want to dig into specifics of my environment instead of keeping things at a generic high-level.

  • Joined a Better Value Sooner Safer Happier meetup for a presentation on Architecting for Outcomes with Simon Rohrer. He had some excellent thoughts on the role, patterns and outcomes relating to Enterprise Architecture in a modern delivery organisation. I put in an appearance to ask a question at around the 33m30s mark, which Simon very kindly answered.

  • Briefly attended the first part of an internal webinar with Randy Conley on the topic of Unleash The Leader Within.
  • Caught up with a colleague and friend who now runs our API Marketplace.
  • Enjoyed listening to an Arcade Fire album for the first time at an online Album Club night. I didn’t fall in love with the music, but it was lovely to have an evening to listen to something I wouldn’t ordinarily pick up on my own.
  • Enjoyed a lovely long cycling club ride on Saturday morning, with only one puncture in our group.
  • Ran the line at my eldest son’s football match.

  • Was given a couple of lovely random gifts from a friend: Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s Live: Manchester and Dublin album as well as Randall Munroe’s What If? 2.
  • Started reading Project to Product by Mik Kersten. So far so good, but I have my fingers crossed that the book doesn’t concentrate wholly on software development. There seems to be so little literature out there that speaks to how you can apply modern product, agile and lean thinking to the non-software development aspects of running a Technology team.

Next week: Another packed calendar with a surprisingly free Thursday (that I probably need to block out before more meetings end up there).