I woke up in Milton Keynes

Well, I guess it had to happen eventually. We’ve been in Berkhamsted for just over a year and last night was the first (and hopefully last) time that I fell asleep on the train and didn’t wake up until I got to the end of the line.

Well, I say it’s the first time but it has happened before without such bad consequences. I did it twice when we were living in North Finchley. However, waking up in Barnet isn’t such a big deal as there are buses and it’s not that ar if you take a cab. The Silverlink County train that serves Berkhamsted is a bit different.

I had a frustrating day at work yesterday and had to stay late in order to get my manager’s input on something. When he suggested that I joined him and a few of my colleagues for a cheeky beer I thought ‘what a great idea’ – a chance to unwind and a chance to get to know some of the guys I’m working with a bit better. Four or five pints of Abbot Ale later and I found myself in a cab trying to get to Euston as quickly as possible in order to make the 23:34. That cost me £19 and I missed it by about one minute. So, I resigned myself to catching the 00:04 with the thought of how stupid I had been to stay for ‘just one more’. I bought myself an Upper Crust baguette – the late commuter’s dinner of choice – and boarded the train.

Then I found myself being told that “THIS IS MILTON KEYNES!” by the train announcer. Not the best words I have ever heard. If I was cheesed off at myself for missing the first train, this took things to a whole new level. It was quite disconcerting at first – there were very few people around and the taxis had all scooted off into the distance. For a while I didn’t quite know what I was going to do – my train had been the last one and I wasn’t sure whether the taxis expected anyone else to be waiting. After what seemed like an age, a taxi did appear and I was on my way home.

I finally made it back just after 2am, about £80 lighter than when I started my evening. Four hours of sleep at the end of a long week didn’t feel too great when I was on a conference call at 7am today!

So, from today I gladly say goodbye to two things – drinking during the week and drinking when there’s even the remotest chance that I’ll fall asleep on the way home. I’m getting too old for all of this so it has got to be the way forward. I’m just thankful that we didn’t move to Reading or I could’ve been writing this from a hotel in Bristol!

The loudest tears on the way home

On my journey home on the train last night a young child in my carriage was having the loudest crying fit that I’ve heard for quite some time. You know something is loud and out-of-the-ordinary when people on the train actually start looking at each other – yes, acknowledging each other’s presence – and smiling in a “can you believe how loud that is?” sort of way. I can’t believe what a state children can get themselves worked up into! You just want to ask them what really could be so bad. Like these things do, it stopped almost as abruptly as it started and left an eerie silence on the carriage.

As I was busy sorting a few emails out on my PDA at the time and found that I couldn’t concentrate I quickly hit the record button with the intention of posting it here, but, listening to it now out of context, it just sounds harrowing and horrible. Consider yourself spared.

The Project Management Podcast

The Project Management PodcastSince I first heard about podcasting I had been looking for shows that interested me. I tried lots of different podcasts but none of them grabbed my attention for very long and I soon found myself unsubscribing. That is, until I came across The Project Management Podcast. Finally I've found something that is both relevant to my job and genuinely informative.

The host, Cornelius Fitchtner, does a good job of tackling a variety of project management topics, from setting up a PMO to reviewing different methodologies. His style can take a little getting used to and his jokes aren't always that funny (sorry Cornelius!) but in general this is something worth listening to. I've been working my way through the existing shows and have already heard a few “golden nuggets” that can help me – I'm looking forward to listening to the rest over the next couple of weeks or so.

If you're a project manager who would like to hear a bit more about the field and get some good advice about running your projects, give it a go.


New job

I started a new role in my firm last week, the first move I’ve made in the six-and-a-half years that I’ve been there. I’m still a project manager, still sitting within the IT function, but I’ve completely changed the area of the company that I’m working for. It’s all very new and exciting and already there are lots of things on my plate – I don’t think I’m going to be bored in my job as there seems as though there is so much to do. I spent the latter part of last week in Zürich, meeting lots of my new colleagues including the entire project team for a system that I will be managing, a trip I requested to take when I found myself on one phonecall too many where I didn’t understand what was being talked about.

I seem to move so quickly from feeling like there isn’t much going on and things are just ticking over to being incredibly busy and a little stressed, trying to prioritise a number of high-priority things to do. The strange thing is that when I am super-busy I’m always looking forward to the so many things that I’ll do when I’m not so busy but when that time rolls around I don’t seem to have the focus and energy to do them. There’s definitely a balance to be struck somewhere. Hopefully I’ll be able to settle and get it just right in the new job.

Santas at work

Me as SantaIn order to liven up our annual ‘secret Santa’ at work last month I decided to turn up with my Santa suit. I hadn’t worn it for a couple of years but it had lost none of it’s charm, as I’m sure you’ll agree. My colleagues were very impressed by the hat and beard as you can see from the amount of modelling that went on.

Work party

Last Wednesday I left work at the unheard of hour of three in the afternoon to take part in the celebrations following all the hard work on our projects this year. I don’t know who organised it but they did a great job – we were divided into teams of four or five and each given a London taxi for a few hours along with a video camera, map, pack of clues, riddles and dares, a rucksack full of drinks and orders to have a great time. It was lots of fun, but very cold – we found ourselves dashing around the Royal Exchange at Bank, Finsbury Square, Finsbury Circus, the London Eye and Trafalgar Square before heading over to the Connaught hotel where we watched everyone’s videos, added up the scores and had an award ceremony before dinner.

The meal was great and the drinks were flowing – everyone seemed to really enjoy letting their hair down after such a busy year. Somebody managed to capture the meal on camera. Quite a few of us were up for more at the end of dinner and we found ourselves randomly in a ropey Soho bar, but it didn’t matter – a great time was had by all. I eventually ended up getting in at four in the morning – I think a record for me on a school night – which when coupled with a late night out the night before and a stag weekend looming I wasn’t feeling too perfect on Thursday and Friday!

Christmas party fancy dress

I was very pleased to see this week that our Christmas party at work will have a 1930s theme, complete with dancing a Fred and Ginger! So, what to wear? The dress code is either formal black-tie or ‘smart-casual’, but I’m sure there’s room for a little extra along the theme of the evening. Does anyone have any suggestions? Clothing-related only please! :o)

Not the best day revisited…

I’ve not been able to blog much since we got back from New York as work has been ever so busy, even over the weekend, as we tried again to put our software release live. In order to give the best service as possible to our users we agreed to do our release at the weekend – much better for them as there’s no downtime or impact during the week. Unfortunately, a number of other IT teams had the same idea and used the weekend to do various maintenance tasks on servers etc which hampered our progress; it took us two days to get the release done instead of just one. But, we finally did it – at the end of Sunday we declared ourselves as live.
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Not the best day

I’m currently on my way home from work and it’s already past midnight. Things have been going relatively well recently, with our new system in place and the pressures of a major deliverable disappearing into the past. Today, however, it all went a bit wrong.

We were in the middle of a bug fix release that we’ve been working on for the past month or so when one of thr developers noticed some screwy data. Not major screwy, but enough for us to stop what we were doing and work out what was wrong. It seems that an old version of a piece of code had crept into both our production and our UAT systems, meaning that it has to be backed-out and that our testing was invalid. Not good! We’ve now got to work out how it happened, why we didn’t see any problems in testing and how to persuade our users to do more testing. It’s going to be a long couple of weeks!

Still, it could be worse and we must keep a sense of perspective. Everyone makes mistakes – that’s why they put rubbers on the end of pencils. The important thing is to learn from them and work out what we can do to stop it from happening again.

Update: due to a problem in trying to get my iPaq to talk to my new W800i phone I didn’t get the chance to post this until now. I’ve had four and a half hours of sleep and I’m on my way in again!

Busy, busy, busy…

It’s been a very long time since I’ve blogged, which has mainly been due to the fact that work has been unbelievably busy. We’re almost at the end of a year-and-a-half project to implement a new data warehouse for HR and it’s been one of those projects where if something can go wrong, it will. At one point, we even found that clicking the same URL in a chat window took my colleague and I to different applications!

We’ve still got more than our fair share of problems (currently our database has slowed down beyond all reason and we don’t know why) but hopefully things will calm down quite soon; we’re nearing our go-live date and only have a couple of weeks of testing left. I’m looking forward to a holiday or two from the end of September; hopefully I’ll get the chance to blog a little more.

Problem at work with Business Objects

I’ve got a problem at work and as Google hasn’t been able to turn up the goods for me I’m posting it here in the vain hope that somebody may have a solution!

We’ve been running a data warehouse with Business Objects v5.1.4 very happily on Windows XP for a number of years. We are in the process of testing a new data warehouse with a Business Objects v6.5.1 full-client front-end. Our users are complaining that they are having problems when inserting Business Objects .rep files into their Word and PowerPoint documents – when they do so, they don’t get a graphical image of the report but instead they get an icon and the file name even though they had the ‘Display as icon’ checkbox unchecked.

I’m not a Windows guru by any means but my thoughts have been turning towards whether Business Objects has correctly registered itself as an application with OLE capabilities (or should that be COM , DCOM or Microsoft .NET – I really don’t know!)

Any help would be appreciated!