📚 Finished reading Africa Is Not A Country by Dipo Faloyin. A fascinating book which takes many different approaches to explaining Africa. Colonial history, stories of individual countries and their people, and dissection of the impact of Band Aid on perception of the continent.

📚 Finished reading The Lyrics by Paul McCartney. The idea of this book is an interesting one, given the traditional thinking that McCartney was known for his melodies and Lennon for his words. But it’s an enjoyable read, albeit one not filled with many surprises.

BadSAM

Last night my phone scared the bejesus out of me.

At the end of July I requalified as a First Aider. As soon as I received my certificate I uploaded it to the GoodSAM app to reactivate my account. GoodSAM is a service where anyone who is suitably qualified can be alerted as a first responder if an ambulance or paramedic can’t get to a location quickly enough.

The concept is brilliant. The app is terrible.

Last night’s alert did its job. It was loud and made me jump out of my skin. Once I’d worked out what was going on, the app showed me where the incident was and asked whether I wanted to accept or reject it. I accepted, and was then shown a chat window with an address, age and sex of the person who was in trouble. As I put my shoes on and grabbed my CPR face mask I saw another person message on the chat to say that they were on their way. I guessed that they could see my messages so I said I was also heading there, but every time I wrote on the chat I got an automatic response to say that the chat wasn’t monitored.

I quickly found the house. Fortunately, the casualty was stood in their doorway, talking on the phone and already feeling better. About five minutes later another GoodSAM first responder turned up — the same person from the chat who had said that he was on his way. The casualty felt very upset about having called out a few volunteers to her house; the main job was therefore to reassure her that it was absolutely fine and that we were glad to help. What we couldn’t tell her was whether anyone else would be coming to see her. We don’t work for the ambulance service, and nothing on the app gave us any clue as to how to find out if a medical professional would be on their way. She called her sister to reassure her that she was feeling better, and then passed the phone to me; I felt like a wally as I was unable to tell her sister whether anyone would or wouldn’t be coming.

What the app did show me was this:

GoodSAM buttons

GoodSAM buttons

This user interface is terrible. I pressed the button marked ‘On scene’. The text then changed to ‘No longer on scene’, but the button didn’t change appearance. I couldn’t make it out — did the words indicate a status, with the app showing that I was now no longer on the scene, or did I need to press the button to tell people that I am no longer on the scene? There was no other indicator anywhere in the app to say that a message had been sent to anyone. (And what on earth does ‘Show Metronom’ mean? I didn’t press it to find out.)

After fifteen minutes or so, two paramedics arrived. The two of us explained that we were GoodSAM first responders, which was the last interaction that we had with anybody. Baffled, we walked away from the scene complaining about how rubbish the GoodSAM app was. The other responder said that he thought up to two people get alerted for any given incident, but this seemed to be guesswork based on experience rather than knowing this for sure.

I checked the app again a while later and found something under the ‘Reports’ tab. It also showed a whole bunch of unread notifications from my previous stint as a first responder about five years ago:

Reports? Alerts? Feedback?

Reports? Alerts? Feedback?

Swiping left on the latest alert gave me a form to complete which included a plethora of fields whose labels didn’t make any sense to me. I had to answer questions such as whether the casualty lived, died, or is still being treated. How would I know, if I had left the scene an hour ago?

Outcome. I’ve no idea which of the bottom three options was the correct one to pick.

Outcome. I’ve no idea which of the bottom three options was the correct one to pick.

What happens with this report? Who gets it and reviews it? I have no idea, and the app offers no clues.

I now have a chat thread called ‘Organisational messages’ which is another example of how confusing the application is. The the messages that I and the other responder sent are no longer visible, but some messages from 2018 are. It’s so random.

What will now disappear from my device?

What will now disappear from my device?

I love that this app exists and that it allows me to put my first aid skills to good use. I am sure that it has saved lives by getting skilled first aiders to casualties quickly. I just don’t understand how the interface can be so dreadful, and how it hasn’t improved in all the years that it has been available. NHS Trusts are paying to use this service, but I am not sure they are aware about how awful the experience is.

Weeknotes #183 — Obrigado

Off the coast near Burgau

Off the coast near Burgau

We’ve just come back from a lovely week in Burgau, Portugal, which we spent with some of our closest friends. Our last holiday together was in 2018, so it was great to get the band back together again.

We stayed at the Ocean Blue villa, hosted by the lovely Lucy, Sean and Sophia. The villa is a perfect setup with three two-bedroomed apartments all in a row, and another with a double bed that we didn’t use. As well as the beautiful villa, they offer boat trips with paddle boarding, exercise sessions and mountain biking. The villa is located on an excellent spot near the Algarve coast which gives easy access by car to lots of beautiful beaches.

Early morning by the pool

Early morning by the pool

Barbecue night by the pool. At this point we were still about 2–3 hours away from eating.

Barbecue night by the pool. At this point we were still about 2–3 hours away from eating.

The journey there was a painful one. One small member of our party had broken her little toe a few days before, so took a wheelchair to the gate and hobbled onto the flight wearing a big protective foot brace. After having a couple of days of normality, the pressurisation of the aeroplane cabin also caused my bad tooth to go bananas. I could only focus on clutching my jaw in pain. I was worried that I would have trouble for the whole week, but the pain disappated a couple of hours after we landed and didn’t cause me any issues again until the journey back.

On the flight over, we spotted something burning somewhere in Spain, presumably a wildfire.

Wildfire in Spain

Wildfire in Spain

After spending a very hot week in southern Turkey followed by a very hot week in the UK, I figured that I was all set with one jumper (“for the plane!”) and a few pairs of shorts. I was wrong. Portugal was hot, but as soon as the sun went down it got very chilly. So chilly that we resorted to using blankets handed out by restaurants for people eating outside during the evening. One night it felt too cold to sit outside after we got back home, so we ended up in one of the apartments.

It was the first trip in a long time where I couldn’t rely solely on credit cards. Lots of businesses were cash only, which more than once resorted in us running to a cash machine after finishing dessert and coffee.

Finding restaurants was easy, but finding places which could take 12 of us turning up at once was slightly more difficult. We’d booked a couple of places in advance and another couple when we got there as we found that wandering around looking for somewhere was a bad strategy, particularly when one of us had a broken toe. We enjoyed eating lunch in Love Burgau, the beautifully presented dishes in Miam and the pizzas in Corso Pizzeria, but by far our favourite was Pizzeria D’Aldeia — great pizzas and salads, as well as almond cake to die for.

Salad menu at Love Burgau

Salad menu at Love Burgau

Miam restaurant, Burgau

Miam restaurant, Burgau

Almond tart to die for

Almond tart to die for

We loved the pool in the villa, which was filled with salt water instead of being treated with chlorine. The beaches we visited were beautiful — Salema, Zavial (great for bodyboarding!) and Luz — but I have a love/hate relationship with them, worrying about looking after all of our stuff, having enough shade and sand getting into absolutely everything. I had no idea about the recent history of Praia da Luz until my wife told me as we drove there that it was the location where Madeleine McCann went missing. It was strange to think about it as we sat on the beach amongst all of the other holidaymakers.

Salema Beach

Salema Beach

We took a half-day excursion by boat from Lagos Marina out to the ‘grottos’ to have a go at paddleboarding. It was a chilly, grey start to the day and the sea was uninviting. We soon forgot about the weather once we had anchored up, donned our wetsuits and got in the water. Paddleboarding is hard! I managed to get up on my feet without too much trouble and could paddle around quite easily, but found that I would suddenly lose my balance for no reason whatsoever. It was fun to cruise around the little caves and rock formations and to jump into the water from the roof of the boat.

Marina De Lagos

Marina De Lagos

Paddleboarding through the grottos

Paddleboarding through the grottos

The weather in Lagos was a lot lovelier when we returned

The weather in Lagos was a lot lovelier when we returned

That afternoon we wandered around the streets of Lagos. We’d been signposted towards the MarLe coffee van, where they serve drinks with zero waste. Once you’re done with your coffee, you can eat the oat-based waffle cup that it came in. A fun concept which I hope takes off.

Lovely coffee, and the cup was delicious too

Lovely coffee, and the cup was delicious too

Beautiful tiled building in Lagos

Beautiful tiled building in Lagos

Lagos street art

Lagos street art

For lunch, we stumbled across the excellent Poké Lagos which served wonderful bowls of goodness which we ate in the street outside.

As we walked around Lagos, one of the children had picked up a leaflet for Slide & Splash, a water park close to Portimão. It looked like a great day out, so we booked it. And then we read the reviews:

We got there early. It was very busy, but nowhere near as bad as this review made out. I remember going to Wet ‘n Wild in Las Vegas as a kid which I think had similar levels of queues. The kids managed to get on three or four different slides in the first hour and this then slowed as the day went on. It was just like being at a theme park, but wet, and without the chance of buying a ‘fast pass’ to jump the queues. The slides were excellent and we had a great time.

The Big Wave, Slide & Splash

The Big Wave, Slide & Splash

Sharing a ride on The Big Wave with my youngest son

Sharing a ride on The Big Wave with my youngest son

Mountain biking on the trails surrounding the villa was fun, although we didn’t pedal that far. It must be difficult to offer paid guided rides that are suitable for a wide variety of riders. We took the bikes along the rocky paths and ended up at an old fort where our guides handed out beers to drink in the sunshine.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking

Beer in the sunshine

Beer in the sunshine

Unfortunately the trip had a bad ending when one of our riders faceplanted into the floor after hitting a rock. He was very badly bruised on his hand, legs and face, and we were grateful that he had been wearing a helmet.

One of my friends on the trip is training to run the London Marathon later this year. I took advantage of this by heading out on a few early morning runs with him during the week. After running a 10k at the start of the week I was so pleased to complete my first half marathon distance. It involved climbing up a very big hill in Praia da Luz before making a gentle descent down the other side.

Coming across this hill on the Strava route was a comedy moment

Coming across this hill on the Strava route was a comedy moment

Reaching the monument

Reaching the monument

We finished the week with a walk around the clifftop paths close to Burgau, looking down on beautiful beaches and coves that are only accessible by boat.

One of many beautiful remote beaches

One of many beautiful remote beaches

We had a wonderful time and felt as though we had only just scratched the surface of the places to see. You could easily spend two or three weeks there, exploring the coast, the villages and towns.

England looks quite shocking from the air, more parched than I have ever seen it. It was lovely to see the clouds, with their promise of a little rain.

England from the air. Everything still looks parched.

England from the air. Everything still looks parched.

Back at home, under familiar skies

Back at home, under familiar skies

Next week: Back to work with no holidays in sight, and a root canal ahead of the weekend.

Weeknotes #182 — A desire to punch myself in the face

A strange, liminal week, back at work for five days between two holidays. After having such a wonderful time away with my extended family — and having looked forward to it for years — it felt sad that it was now in the past. Monday was a bit of a struggle; I travelled into the office and had a lot of meetings, which meant that I didn’t feel caught up by the end of the day.

Most of the week was dominated by my bad tooth. The pain was a dull ache at first, enough to make me start searching for dentists near the office. Most of them seemed to cost about £175 for an initial consultation with a filling at around £400–£600. The pain was coming and going in waves, so I figured I would wait and try and get an appointment with my regular dentist at home. If they couldn’t fit me in, I would then try to get seen somewhere else. But on the train home on Monday the pain became unbearable. I was almost in tears and wanted to punch myself in the face to make it stop — or at least take my mind off it. My wonderful wife met me at the train station with a pack of ibuprofen and a bottle of water. The pain relief soon kicked in.

I managed to get an emergency appointment with my dentist the next day. She removed an old filling and replaced it with a new one. Unfortunately, as soon as the local anaesthetic wore off the pain came raging back. The next day I was so grateful that she found time to get me into her dentist chair again. My tooth was reopened so that the nerves could be removed, followed by yet another filling. This time the pain faded away. The extra work means that I now need to have root canal treatment, an expensive specialist procedure that my dentist can’t do. I’m so grateful that we are lucky enough to afford it. I’ve already been to the consultant and had a 3D scan of my jaw so they know what they are tackling. Hopefully the pain will stay away for the next couple of weeks ahead of me having the procedure. Once that’s done I have to go back to my dentist to look at having a crown fitted.

A week in which I:

  • Read a debrief on the physical and logical network changes that we made in one of our server rooms a couple of weeks ago. The team did an incredible job and the setup now looks fantastic. There are still some good lessons we can take to our next site.
  • Met with the team creating data dashboards for use by our client-facing staff. Reflected on how important it is for us to get information about how they are used in practice as opposed to how we think they might be used. Some of the team members will be users of the dashboards themselves, so it should be easy for us to get some good insights.
  • Gave a call to the prospective new member of staff that I have been trying to hire. The process has been snarled up on our side for a variety of reasons and I am conscious of it all adding up to a terrible first impression of our organisation. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re ready for him to start with us. It’s going to be brilliant to get a new set of skills, ideas and fresh thinking into the team.
  • Joined the weekly project meeting for the shut down of one of our regional offices. Being out of the office for the past couple of weeks means that I haven’t been playing a major part in the work. So much has been done already and I’m very grateful that one of my peers has stepped in to pick up the IT actions for now.
  • Tried to spend time progressing my thinking on how to tackle our Digital Literacy programme. I’m starting to relate lots of conversations with colleagues back to this embryonic piece of work. It seems that every week somebody is getting in touch for some basic pointers on an app or service that they use. Assumptions that I’ve made about what people all already know are false. We have 60–90 minute training videos that nobody ever watches. So we’re going to need to build in a series of easily-digestible basic tutorials that we send out in bite size chunks again and again. After all, every day somebody’s born who has never seen The Flintstones.
  • Took part in our monthly department risk review meeting. We covered the upcoming potential ’grey listing’ of South Africa, what it might mean for our business, and what we need to be thinking about as an Engineering team.
  • Watched a recording of an internal meeting all about the potential impact of the grey listing, run by a number of our senior analysts. My conclusion is that it is very difficult to predict what the impact would be and how long it would last, if and when it happens.
  • Viewed the recording of a meeting I missed with one of our department heads on the challenges of his business. This was the last in a series of interviews with the leadership team where we discussed their goals, as well as what keeps them up at night. He took us through his sophisticated OneNote-based knowledge management system and explained how it gave him a massive advantage when speaking with clients. It has got me thinking about how we can socialise the techniques and thinking as I am sure there are others that would benefit from it. Two decades of Getting Things Done systems have taught me that everyone will have their own preferences, but it does help to be exposed to the ways in which other people get their work done.
  • Challenged the thinking that the executive sponsor of an IT initiative cannot sit within IT. This idea is so deeply ingrained in business culture, part of the history of IT being viewed as order-takers instead of true partners. I had similar discussions about where product managers sit. The team should be the thing that matters; we should concern ourselves whether they have the skills to do what they aim to do rather than where in the organisation chart they sit.
  • Reviewed a quote for external help with the major network infrastructure optimisation at our busiest office.
  • Reviewed the latest technical proposal and quote for improvements to our collaboration space.
  • Gave a team demo on our new digital signage solution as part of our Learning Hour series.
  • Reviewed the communications that will be sent to announce the new digital signage solution at the next office where we plan to go live.
  • Met with the co-founder of the Team Today application. It seems to be a good fit for solving the problem of knowing where your colleagues are planning to be, particularly now that hybrid working seems here to stay. We have a demo lined up for when people are back from their summer break.
  • Formally completed the last task for our June conference when our solution vendor confirmed that they had deleted all of our data.
  • Checked in with a colleague following our workshops in Johannesburg a couple of weeks ago, on the topics of how we collaborate between two different of two parts of our organisation and setting up an informal group chat.
  • Caught up with all of the teams’ Kanban board changes from the past week.
  • Tuner into a LeanKit demo on their new card scoring functionality. I think this can replace a makeshift ‘cost of delay divided by duration’ method that I put in place a couple of years ago.
  • Agreed next steps towards providing our team with ‘clear writing’ training. A half-day course I took many years ago has stayed with me ever since and I’d love more of our team to be exposed to it.
  • Enjoyed our weekly in-office ‘munch and mingle’ lunch, chatting with a colleague in our People and Culture team.
  • Got sent some lovely date biscuits from a very thoughtful colleague in Dubai.
  • Formally signed off on my mid-year review.
  • Reviewed a letter from our Headteacher to parents that is due to be sent out before term starts.
  • Agreed to do a PechaKucha presentation at a cycle club social evening. I’d not heard of the format before. You get 20 slides which advance at a rate of one every 20 seconds, so it needs to be both visual and to the point. They’ve asked people to present on topics other than cycling so that we get to learn a bit more about fellow members. My topic is going to be about the best night of the month.
  • Had fun buying a bunch of new t-shirts from Printerval, Etsy and Threadheads.
  • Bought new flea collars for the cats.
  • Had a lovely evening out for dinner with some friends we hadn’t seen in a while.
  • Got prepped for our next holiday, ironing all of the things.
  • Travelled to Faro for a week away with friends. For some reason the flight nearly destroyed me with the impact it had on my bad tooth. I’m guessing the pressurisation of the aircraft didn’t agree with it. I will be taking painkillers before we take off for our journey home.

Next week: Holiday part two.

🚲 Enjoyed local cyclist Richard Bragg’s write-up of his attempt at this year’s London-Edinburgh-London Audax ride. He made it there but not back. There’s no way I could contemplate a 1,500km ride with 15,000m of climbing across five days, with the minimal sleep it would entail.

Weeknotes #181 — Teşekkür ederim

We spent the entire week in Türkiye at the Voyage Sorgun hotel with my parents, my brothers and all of our families for a long-planned and much-delayed group holiday. We hadn’t spent this much time together since we all lived under the same roof in the 1990s. It was wonderful.

The holiday had been cancelled twice before, so we were a bit concerned that the current issues plaguing travellers in the UK would see it get cancelled a third time. We’d booked with EasyJet but ended up on aircraft operated by SmartLynx, who apparently are used to increase capacity in the busier months. The plane and service was sparse, but they did the job.

All aboard the SmartLynx

All aboard the SmartLynx

I’ve only stayed at two all-inclusive hotels in the past. The first time I ended up in hospital with pneumonia so couldn’t take advantage of all of the amenities. The second time was lovely, but quite basic. This hotel was incredible, and exceeded all of my expectations.

One of the many pools

One of the many pools

Upon arrival, we were put into a WhatsApp group with a personal concierge whom we could message and ask for help, for example to make restaurant reservations, book taxis or check whether anyone had handed in something that had been lost. It worked very well. Usually the group is per room, but we managed to get all 14 of us into a single group so that we could all see all of the chat.

Another pool, at sunset

Another pool, at sunset

The hotel’s accommodation was at capacity, but it never felt like it. There were multiple swimming pools to choose from as well as a water park with slides that kept everyone entertained all week.

The Aqua Park — so much fun

The Aqua Park — so much fun

Bars were everywhere, and you could either go up and order a drink or wait for a couple of minutes for someone to come to wherever you’d pitched your towel. Everything was premium, with no ‘own brand’ or ‘soda gun’ drinks. The bars used heavy glasses and no plastic cups, and I didn’t see one get broken near a swimming pool during the whole week that we were there.

For breakfast, lunch and dinner they had the largest buffet I had ever seen, or you could choose to book and dine every night at a different themed restaurant scattered around the hotel. Ice creams and lollies of all kinds were on tap — you could have some scoops in a cone, or help yourself to a freezer full of well-known branded delights such as Magnums, Cornettos and Calippos. There was even an on-site patisserie and chocolatier where you could eat as many of the confections as you desired. It felt terribly indulgent, taking whatever food I wanted as I wandered around listening to political podcasts that are focused on the cost of living crisis, knowing that inflation in Türkiye had nearly hit 80%. It was awful to see some people pile their plates high at the buffet, nibble a little of it at their table and then wander off, leaving most of it untouched. Sadly, at the end of each session, everything that wouldn’t keep was thrown in the bin. I have no idea about the logistics of distributing the food to staff or people in the local area, but it did seem like such a ridiculous waste.

The kids became macaroon-obsessed

The kids became macaroon-obsessed

Whatever you wanted, you could have it

Whatever you wanted, you could have it

Unbelievably good chocolates

Unbelievably good chocolates

Fruit, piled high

Fruit, piled high

Cooking a pasta dish in the buffet

Cooking a pasta dish in the buffet

Every evening there was a different show at an open-air auditorium. The quality of the entertainment was very high, with all kinds of acrobatics and dancing. We even had a motorcycle show inside a subtly-named ’globe of death’:

The globe of death

The globe of death

After the entertainment the outdoor area turned into a thumping loud Eurodisco, with three quarters of the guests calling it a night within five minutes of it starting.

On Thursday afternoon the hotel put on a ‘pool party’ with inflatables, disco music and dancing penguins in one of their shallower pools. The highlight of this was the ‘hoverboard’, powered by the engine of a jet ski. I’d never seen this before and it was a lot of fun to watch, despite the outdated ending where Hoverboard Guy was joined by two bikini-clad women shaking their butts as he zoomed them around the pool.

I tried speaking a little Turkish while I was there and got around with a few basic phrases:

Teşekkür ederim: Thanks (te-she-ku-ederem)

Merhaba: Hello. (mer-ha-ba)

Nasılsın?: How are you? (na-sil-sin)

Iyiyim sen nasılsın?: I am well, how are you? (ee-ee-yim, sen na-sil-sin)

Hoşça kal: Stay well (hosh-cha-call)

Badem sütü: Almond milk (badem soo-too)

I never got over the look of surprise from staff when I used a phrase or two. I’m sure my pronunciation was absolutely awful and they were being very kind to me.

Moon loungers

Moon loungers

QR codes dominated every sun umbrella and restaurant table, allowing you to order whatever you want and have it delivered to you. This was mostly great, but in the restaurants it felt like a shame to whip out a phone in order to see the menu.

We only had one disappointing meal during the whole week, at the Italian-themed restaurant. Everywhere else was delicious. The best food was at the Turkish restaurant, but everyone had the most fun at the Greek place, with diners shaking tambourines and dancing to a live band.

Getting the party started

Getting the party started

The hotel was home to a number of feral cats and kittens that enjoyed being petted and being fed scraps of food by the guests. I wasn’t so keen, particularly when one of them jumped up onto a sun lounger with me. One evening, a cat decided to vomit all over the floor underneath my son’s seat as he ate his dinner. Diners at the Greek restaurant had to chase this hungry cat away who was looking longingly at their food:

Hungry cat

Hungry cat

Although it was hot, on a few mornings I made it out of the complex to go for a run. There was a wooded area that we could circumnavigate in an 8km loop, which was perfect.

It was a little terrifying to pass by some big dogs, not knowing whether they would suddenly start chasing after us. We slowed a couple of times to try and discourage them; they never got close as they seemed more interested in the passing vehicles than our legs:

One morning we took taxis to the nearby ancient town of Side. The archeological remains are stunning. Unfortunately it was brutally hot and everyone was feeling it after just a few minutes of walking, so they sought respite in the multitude of fake clothing stores nearby.

Ruins at Side

Ruins at Side

The ancient theatre at Side

The ancient theatre at Side

More ruins at Side

More ruins at Side

The hotel extended out into the sea via a couple of piers that were covered in sun beds. Next to these was a company selling various water sport experiences. The children (and some of the adults) enjoyed a couple of banana boat rides and a parasailing trip.

Banana boat

Banana boat

We had such a wonderful time on our holiday. It’s a cliche, but the time goes so fast and the whole trip felt like it was over as soon as it began. I loved spending time with my nephews and niece, and felt as though I got to know them properly for the first time as we had lots of opportunities to sit together and chat. I didn’t realise quite how fabulous they are.

Moonlit sea

Moonlit sea

The journey home was long. Our flight was delayed by an hour, most of which we spent standing at an inadequately-sized departure gate. We then had to wait at the baggage carousel for 90 minutes before our suitcases started to appear. All part of the fun of travelling this year. COVID-19 seems to be a distant memory for most people; there were a few masks here and there around the hotel, but probably 98% of people didn’t wear them.

Sunday was spent putting things away and getting ready for a week of work. I seem to have developed a toothache which is stopping me from sleeping, so that’s top of my list of things to get sorted out on Monday.

Next week: Back to work for a week, and trying to fix my toothache.

Weeknotes #180 — Reconnecting

Different location, same story

Different location, same story

I spent most of this week in Johannesburg. The main purpose of my trip was to attend a three-day workshop with the aim of rebooting the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) within our company. A few years ago it was the shiny new thing, but for a number of reasons it has faded away. It feels as though we are trying to climb out of the ‘trough of disillusionment’ up the ‘slope of enlightenment’ of the Gartner hype cycle:

I hadn’t been to Johannesburg since 2018 and it was so good to be back. Our company headquarters are there and it is great to be immersed in a place where the organisation has such a significant role to play in peoples’ lives. Of the 30 or so colleagues at the workshop I only knew a couple of them, and nobody very well. Our facilitators were amazing, with two of them leading the sessions and another acting as a scribe, resulting in a collaborative piece of work being emailed to us just a couple of hours after we finished. We have a bunch of actions to follow up with as a group and none of them feel unrealistic or overreaching.

Everything a flight geek needs

Everything a flight geek needs

On Thursday I spent the day in our head office with our immediate team, meeting a whole bunch of people in person for the first time. They all travelled in to say hello and enjoy a fabulous team lunch together. It was so lovely to reconnect with my colleagues, our company and Africa again.

Two minutes before I took this, we had a flat-bed truck filled with people going to work ahead of us

Two minutes before I took this, we had a flat-bed truck filled with people going to work ahead of us

A week in which I:

  • Agreed to take an action to look at how we can effectively collaborate across Microsoft 365 tenants with a company that we recently acquired.
  • Took the decision not to roll out our digital signage solution to one of our smaller offices. They use their screen to watch the news on occasion; they agreed that putting signs in their face would be overkill.
  • Continued to try and navigate the process to on-board a new contractor to the team.
  • Pondered how the sunk cost fallacy applies to hotel breakfasts. They are always a set rate of around £10–15, most of the time I just want my usual bowl of muesli, but I end up eating fruit, toast, mini muffins, bowls of fruit, eggs and everything else even when I don’t really want them, because £10 for a bowl of muesli seems excessive.
  • Felt good to be reconnecting with the worlds of software development and ‘ways of work’ through the workshop. I felt as though I could contribute to the topic despite SAFe not being a big part of my current day-to-day reality. I took the opportunity to explain about our little-known and sometimes misunderstood part of the company that sits outside Africa.
  • Ate a lot of junk food for dinner. Being away from home and an aspiring vegan meant that choices were limited.
  • Tried samp for the first time. Absolutely delicious.
  • Was the first person to go through Heathrow Terminal 3 immigration on Friday. I woke up at 3:30am as we started to descend towards the airport. The flight back from Johannesburg never used to get in so early; as a result of the pandemic there are a reduced number of flights and I think the airline needs to use their early slot to avoid losing it.
  • Spent Friday working from home in a bit of a daze before driving down to a hotel near Gatwick airport, ready for an early flight on Saturday. We have a holiday away with my parents, my brothers and all of our families which we are finally embarking on after a couple of cancellations — the first time because the travel company went bust and the second time due to the pandemic. It’s going to be amazing to spend so much time with everyone for the first time since we were teenagers. I’ll be able to avoid that feeling of always leaving shortly after arriving when we meet up. Being able to spend time together is such a luxury. From Wait But Why:

I’ve been thinking about my parents, who are in their mid-60s. During my first 18 years, I spent some time with my parents during at least 90% of my days. But since heading off to college and then later moving out of Boston, I’ve probably seen them an average of only five times a year each, for an average of maybe two days each time. 10 days a year. About 3% of the days I spent with them each year of my childhood.

Being in their mid-60s, let’s continue to be super optimistic and say I’m one of the incredibly lucky people to have both parents alive into my 60s. That would give us about 30 more years of coexistence. If the ten days a year thing holds, that’s 300 days left to hang with mom and dad. Less time than I spent with them in any one of my 18 childhood years.

Next week: Holiday!

Weeknotes #179 — CPR towel

I wish it would rain. It’s been so hot and dry in the UK, with some parts of the country already taking measures against the drought. I took the photo above as I walked through the village of Potten End on Thursday. Usually this village pond is full of water; it was a shock to see it so dried up.

Work felt a bit of a struggle this week as I couldn’t seem to shake an overwhelming tiredness. I found myself needing to eat something in meetings where I was taking more of a back seat role just to keep my eyes open. I have a few weeks coming up where I’m in workshops and taking a few days off, so I tried to focus to get things into a good state before the turbulence kicks in.

A week in which I:

  • Attended an Architecture Deep Dive into our cloud computing setup. Moving the IT assets of a large organisation from an on-premises setup to the cloud is a fascinatingly difficult problem, with multiple approaches and tradeoffs to be navigated throughout the work.
  • Along with our CTO, completed and delivered a virtual presentation to the Architecture Community of Practice on the work that we have done over the past five years. It felt as though the presentation went down well, but it was difficult to gauge as not many people had their cameras on. Hopefully it is the start of more collaboration with the teams across the Group.
  • Created the Kanban cards for our work to shut down one of our regional offices, and reviewed the consolidated milestones for the work across all of the other departments. Discussed the approach to planning with the project manager. Recruited a peer to get involved with representing us at the project management forums as I won’t be able to make the meetings for the next few weeks.
  • Reviewed the plan for the second phase of a physical infrastructure change in one of our offices. Getting this work completed will be a massive win, vastly simplifying our physical architecture in line with our new design.
  • Had a very insightful conversation with one of our executives as part of our work to understand more about the challenges faced by our business. We are using the information as input into how we can extend our digital capabilities to best effect. The discussion went for double the time it was booked for and gave us lots to think about.
  • Attended a de-brief of our annual Investors’ Conference that took place at the end of June.
  • Met with our divisional CIO who was visiting our London office. Demonstrated a Meeting Owl Pro camera as part of a hybrid meeting with him. We’ve sent one of our cameras to Johannesburg for the purpose of lending it to our colleagues there, enhancing our experience when colleagues get together in a room over there.
  • Met with a vendor that we use for our mobile phone contract to discuss their broader offerings.
  • Had our monthly catch-up with our head of Operational Risk.
  • Met with a colleague in our Wealth Management team for a random coffee. It’s great meeting people for a second time as you get straight into a meaty conversation.
  • Re-qualified in First Aid at Work again. I’ve been a first aider on and off for the past twenty years or so and only let my training lapse when I was working for my own company as a contractor. Embedding the knowledge over a long time frame is very useful, despite that knowledge changing over time to follow current best practice. The changes due to COVID-19 might have been appropriate in March 2020 but are a little silly and outdated now, advising you to put a towel or piece of cloth over someone’s face so that they don’t breathe on you when you administer CPR chest compressions.
  • Decided to take a two hour walk home from the training session instead of getting a taxi. Regretted wearing jeans after ten minutes of the journey.

  • Took my son to the Watford Open track meet. He managed to get a new personal best in the 1,500m which he was very pleased with.
  • Enjoyed the much delayed instalment of our International Album Club with some friends and colleagues from work. I’d never heard of Joe before, let alone listened to one of his albums. The modern version of R&B is not the sort of thing I’ve explored much. It took me back to similar music of the past and it was great to hear something different. Very enjoyable.
  • Spent Saturday prepping for a business trip, my first since I came back from New York in February 2020. Shirts ironed, bags packed, travel checklist checked. I flew to Johannesburg overnight on Saturday, not sleeping very much. I wondered how much thought goes into the acoustics of an aircraft cabin layout — I seemed to be able to hear every conversation that was taking place from the front to the rear galleys. I may need to give the ear plugs a go on my way home.
  • Enjoyed a lovely Sunday afternoon with the family of a friend from work. We had lunch out and then tea and cakes back at their house, playing air hockey and table football with their young boys and making friends with the lovely family dog. They were very gracious when I thought we might put the final of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 on. I’m so glad they were! A fabulous day.

Next week: An in-person workshop on agile software development practices, meeting some of our team for the first time, rounding out the week back at home and packing once again.

📷 Walked through Potten End on my way home yesterday. I’ve cycled this road so many times but I’d never before spotted the little house at number 80.