📚 Finished reading The Pearl by John Steinbeck. A simple, beautiful and tragic tale whose characters are immediately knowable. Steinbeck had written a couple of paragraphs in Sea Of Cortez some years earlier which gave a general outline of the story.

My wife and one of my kids have gone out, separately, to see friends tonight. It almost feels like the before times.

Weeknotes #109 — Foam party

My F1 qualifying companion

My F1 qualifying companion

A week of two halves, or more accurately one fifth and four-fifths. Monday was Human Rights Day in South Africa (reflecting the date of the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960), so half of my colleagues were out of the office and I had a clear diary. On Tuesday the meetings started early, and for the rest of the week I had barely any time where I wasn’t in some video call or other, and I felt the pressure to use the small gaps productively.

The boys and my wife are now off school for two weeks for their Easter holidays. I’m taking Thursday and Tuesday off to get a longer break as well, and I’m looking forward to being away from the keyboard for a bit.

My wife got her first COVID-19 vaccination on Sunday, which I am ever so grateful for. She went on her own and said that the process was super-efficient, with tons of volunteers helping to guide people through the vaccination centre. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I join her.

This was a week in which I:

  • Attended a meeting with a vendor in Beijing to try to close out on the new local Helpdesk staffing contract.
  • Spent some time preparing material for our first local IT architecture governance authority meeting. I’m looking forward to sharing where we are, how we got here and where we plan to head next.
  • Attended a number of meetings related to the big group programme that I am getting involved with. Every meeting reveals something new, and we are slowly piecing together a picture of how the work may unfold. One of the brilliant things about working where I do is the access we get to senior leaders, who invariably will take the time to go through materials and answer questions. I’m taking advantage of it.
  • Spent time with one of our teams to take them through the more nuanced and detailed aspects of Kanban, including why work in process limits are useful and how the unit of delivery is the team.
  • Heard about two members of staff who will be leaving the company in the next few weeks. They’ll be missed, but it’s great for them that they are moving onto the next chapters in their adventures.
  • Attended a couple of what used to be known as ‘town hall’ meetings, one for our global IT and Operations function, and another focused on our business outside of Africa.
  • Caught up with a couple of our key vendors in London.
  • Attended an excellent presentation on Internet Protocol Address Management (IPAM) and saw a demo of a tool we are now using to manage our address spaces.
  • Had a ‘random coffee’ with a colleague from China who grew up in South Africa and lived in Dubai before coming to work in our Beijing office.
  • Took part in our monthly São Paulo IT and Real Estate Services governance meeting.
  • Used LinkedIn to ask for help for the first time. With a little help from a repost by my brother, it yielded some results which I am now following up with.
  • Had the honour of being given a ‘Mark of Excellence’ award at work. Somebody must have nominated me, and it was a total surprise to receive it during the global IT webinar presentation. I feel a bit uncomfortable with individual recognition as now more than ever the work we do is as a team, but I am flattered to be on the roll with others who have done amazing work this past year. The next day, a lovely small hamper arrived which I already made significant progress in consuming.

Food hampers are always welcome here

Food hampers are always welcome here

  • Attended our school Full Governing Board meeting. We were done in under two hours; remote meetings have definitely made us more efficient and I am hoping we can continue with them in some capacity once the coronavirus threat has abated. We started the meeting with a short safeguarding quiz which was both fun and useful.
  • Met with our personal financial advisor to check in on how we are doing with our savings towards our retirement. I’ve realised that I’m possibly halfway between the start of my career and the end of it.
  • Had smart electricity and gas meters fitted at home. It’s quite something to see how much energy we have used before we even come down for breakfast.
  • Booked in a washing machine repair after it decided to host its own version of a nightclub foam party.
  • Had a slow start to my fitness activities for the week. I wanted to rest on Monday and then on Tuesday my meetings started too early to fit anything in beforehand. I made up for it from Wednesday onwards, culminating in my first outdoor bike ride in nine months on Saturday. It was great to get out and my speed was good, but I felt just a teeny bit broken for the rest of the weekend.

  • Loved watching the Bahrain GP kick off the new Formula One season. It’s a busy calendar this year with 23 races planned, so I can’t quite believe we have to wait three weeks for the next one!

Next week: A three-day working week and our teenager’s second birthday in lockdown.

📚 Finished reading Feminist City by Leslie Kern. Didn’t get what I wanted from this book — to see through a different lens and learn ideas about how cities could be rethought from a feminist viewpoint — but it does serve as a good document of one person’s lived experience.

Getting electricity and gas smart meters installed today. No more having to remember to read the meters! 🙌

🇨🇳 Help! I’m looking to find CompTIA A+ training (or an equivalent broad IT introductory course) delivered in China, in Mandarin. Does anyone know of any companies that do this?

🎙 Interesting podcast episode which goes into some detail about the challenges posed by cryptocurrency transactions on things such as anti-money laundering processes. Fascinating insight into how people use ‘tumblers’ or ‘mixers’ to layer money to evade detection.

My eldest son’s Xbox was playing up last night so he came downstairs and spent the evening with us watching some TV and chatting. It was so lovely. I wish it would have technical issues more often.

Weeknotes #108 — Hello blossom!

Inputs exceeded outputs this week. I felt as though there was far more information coming at me than I could process in the time available. I finished the week with a whole load of unread emails and chat messages that I will need to go through on Monday.

Spring is breaking through, with the trees behind our house now covered in blossom. Although we’re still in a form of lockdown here in the UK, there’s an optimism in the air. Sunny days make everything better.

This was a week in which I:

  • Spent time with a colleague to unpack tasks on a number of long outstanding projects relating to our infrastructure rollouts of the past 18 months.
  • Attended another team’s standup and gave some coaching advice on how to improve it. It’s very early days; people still have their training wheels on for now but it’s already better than what we did before.
  • Went to a number of meetings related to the big group-wide programme that we are involved with, stepping in for our CIO on a couple of them.
  • Agreed to work on a brief update about the programme to our part of the organisation.
  • Spent time looking at potential strategic themes for the coming 12–18 months for our team. We’ve been in receipt of so many different strategies, perspectives and metrics over the past few months, but we need something that is simple to understand and easy to communicate. I’ve gently pushed the idea of OKRs but this may be one change too much right now.
  • Agreed on our short and medium term strategy for printing infrastructure.
  • Played a very small part in the team getting the in-office information display screens up and running again in Beijing. It is so difficult to do this kind of work from a distance, with a local contract team on the ground.
  • Attended a meeting on the new production change management processes using our internal tool.
  • Agreed preparation tasks for our first local Architecture Design Authority meeting.
  • Went to a number of school governor webinars:
  • (As an aside, HfL are using Livestorm for their online webinars and the platform seems to work very well. I’m not sure people will ever completely learn the difference between the ‘chat’ and ‘Q&A’ panels on any platform — it’s an interesting case study on how difficult user interface design can be.)
  • Spent Friday in an all-day training course on Liberating Structures. I’m looking forward to introducing the concepts at work and putting them to good use.
  • Spent a few hours reading material ahead of our school Full Governing Board meeting on Monday.
  • Attended some online talks as part of an event to mark International Women’s Day at work. It was very impactful to hear Josina Machel talk about her experience of being assaulted by her then partner and losing an eye, and her subsequent experience of seeking help and justice for what happened. It is shocking how normalised gender-based violence is. In the UK a woman is killed every three days by someone she knows; in South Africa it is every eight hours.
  • Spent an evening developing and editing a talk on Ride 999 which I plan to give to our IT team in the next few weeks.
  • Attended parents evening for my eleven year-old. Being in lockdown and online means that I managed to make the event, and it was great to hear how he had been getting on at school.
  • Started our 11th year of Album Club with a visit to Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins. My friend had played this to me when we were teenagers and it had been on my ‘to listen’ list for the past 25 years or so. It was great to take the time to hear it.
  • Cleaned the downstairs windows at home. We cancelled our window cleaning contract a few months ago as we weren’t happy with them. I’m going to add this to my ‘genuinely enjoyable and satisfying jobs to do around the house’ list.

Next week: Colleagues in SA off for Human Rights Day, a Full Governing Board meeting, bringing our house into the 21st century with a smart meter installation and the return of Formula 1.

📚 Started reading Feminist City by Leslie Kern. The publisher are offering the ebook for free for the next few days. Hoping the book will give me some new perspectives and realisations of things I have never been aware of.