Workweek 03×05: A Pocket watch of Calm

[Note: I’ve noticed I play a lot with my writing style. I tend to use weeknotes as my own personal playground, maybe because I don’t have to think so much about content? I don’t know if a slightly obscure approach puts readers off. Or if I should even care? Let me know what you reckon.]

[Note: Contactable via blog comments, or via Twitter at @6loss.]

Week plan. Assemble sigils: a stopped pocket watch to plot my stress level (of which more here). Lego men representing craft. A pen that creates beauty for me. Tools of the trade, indistinguishable from symbols.

Week aims: Relax / Tech team Roadmap / Australian route ahead.

Lots on and a three-day week to do it. Monday morning is a street market of ideas and avenues to tidy up. Hungover ghosts left from last week. The pocket watch has gone from 6 to 9 this morning. A spot of rain and a cancelled train, mixture of forced relaxation and a hasty arrival.

Check in on Australia, all good. Run the aggregating later. Feels good to be on the home run, job done.

Tidy up on the work for Hive Pixie I was looking at on Friday, and get to introduce Luke to GROUP_CONCAT. Experience gives you a wealth of tools to draw on. Every function call has a function, just like the sigils in my pocket. I do some git branches, commits, Jira buttons. Move on.

Talk to Lawrence, who is back from holiday and leaving in 2 weeks. My pen flows around the page, mapping my thoughts as we go. My pen hates me for writing its loving curls into the strait-jacket of a digital screen.

Talk to Stefan on meetings and strategies. I have my thoughts, but notice he has his, and try to step back a bit. Everyone has their own journey, their own weeknotes that they’re inscribing into their head as they go, even if they’re not writing them down on the net. Got to respect that.

Make sure I take lunch today, I’m owed some from last week. Plus I’m too knackered not to take it. Pressure will kill you. I adjust my pocket watch, set it back an hour.

Get back in to sit down and talk about market strategies and the crossover between a couple of products. This is an old path, trodden but neglected by a common need. I’m in Transmission mode for this – what needs doing is sometimes less important than who knows what and who should be doing what. We have a tentacled conversation between ten people, in my estimation, and most of the conversation is about who’s being conversing. I’m not convinced I’m in the best place to take the conversation forwards. Sometimes it’s helpful to jump in, help out, and all that. Sometimes it’s not. If you’re talking long term strategy, then go with long term roles. Use inaction to (re-)establish patterns. Feels like meta-bullshit on one level, but seriously – it’s not good to get in the way of patterns. Patterns will kill you.

Writing this down helps me realise we have conflicting patterns, layers of responsibility cascading against each other for attention. Responsibility buried in legacy – power inferred by titles, experience, history, personality. It’s amazing anything happens if this is how the world works.

I embark on a new quest. We’ll be looking for a new web developer soon, and I pull together old job adverts to construct a new Frankenstein’s monster. It’s funny how the skills I value have changed over time. [Spoiler: Here’s the job ad, please do pass it on to anyone who might be interested!]

Does anyone else find that general skills take more precedence over specific expertise as you get older? What would your advice to fresh graduates be? Learn how to communicate. Be humble and willing. Be ready to experiment. Is it right to advertise for such skills “ahead” of specific skills?

Talking of new hires, I finally get the chance to chat with Joel, our new User Support person (what is that, “user supporter”?) about the history of OCSI, its future, and how we work. It’s a fun chat – I love seeing what we do through totally fresh eyes, even if it’s scary and daunting and you feel vulnerable and proud all at the same time. It’s – surprisingly – a chance to check in on The Big Journey, a half-hour chat which touches 15 years of my life. I’m careful not to judge ourselves too harshly.

Time to go. Two days off, but plenty of cogs turning.

I return on Thursday, filled with calm. It feels like a strange Britishness that seems to un-equate calm with productivity. “Stress = doing stuff” we tell ourselves. At this level, in a knowledge-worker environment, the opposite is true. Lucidity and insight are everything.

How can we establish calmness as a factor of productivity? Should we establish a “checklist” of “how to think well” or something? Let me know if you fancy discussing this one further…

The morning is mostly a management meetup with Stefan and Luke where we take a whistle-stop tour of many, many things. The setup isn’t great – we’re surrounded by deadlines and other meetings and haven’t caught up in far too long – and I (as chair) let it run over, but it’s good to do and we survive, etc.

This leaves less time to chat about next stages of our Australian project, but we have a catch up and come to some quick decisions. Starting to lining up a bunch of stuff to look into next week…

Finish up the advert for the new web developer in the afternoon, and investigate which job titles may or may not come across as more gender-biased than others. After some quick messages and a lot of Googling, I settle on “Web Developer” as fine. (Did you know searching for “female coder” on a desktop shows a list of historical figures? Are these… People that other people relate to?)

Also sneak in a meeting to think through some area-conversion work.

Friday feels like end of the week. I spend a few hours reviewing a chunk of code, which is fun (thinking back, this is probably the kind of stuff I should be doing more of as head of tech/tech architect – maybe something to bring up with the dev team as we move forward into new worlds).

We launched the new Web Developer job advert! Here it is again.

Closed our Australian delivery epic! This is symbolic because we’re trying to use Epics better in Jira, and by “better” I mean a) clearer and b) more focused. Realistic strands of with. Real, practical indications of progress, and where we’re letting things drop.

Basically otherwise tidied up the hundred emails in my inbox and restarted VMs and something about cardboard dinosaurs.