S02E09: Why do you write like you’re running out of time?

Introspection and honesty

Also chocolate. Like a lot of chocolate

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What went well this week?

My partner stayed longer in Latvia than me and arrived back on Monday evening. We were both starving and in no mood for cooking, so we selected and ordered food that arrived at our house shortly after us.

We live in the future and it is unbelievably cool.

I finished one piece of coursework — it solves sudoku⁰. It takes less time to solve than it does to write them in. I think that’s a good metaphor for computing generally.

The reactions to my last weeknotes were really very positive, and Sam wrote something really flattering and also insightful, so you should read that. I got to speak to an extremely interesting CTO called David Carboni and fangirl² about organisational culture and programming languages while throwing serious shade at Java.

I was approached to write some software for a group of people I respect to help them achieve some awesome user needs and felt bad about charging for it. I would like for this to change, either by me becoming more comfortable with the value of my own time or the immediate implementation of Universal Basic Income so I can just do it for the love of doing it.³

A vast oversimplification but still a valuable tool, and better than the actively awful Myers-Briggs test

I spoke to my peer mentor Morgan, who is wise and brilliant. She put some pressure on me to reflect more deeply on why I’m leaving, and it’s been immensely helpful. She’s also suggested some avenues I hadn’t considered for new jobs. All this from a chalet in the Alps!

Finally: I made more progress with my side project. I’m making a pitch deck, because I figure if nothing else it’s good practice. Plus — and I have to whisper this –

I actually quite like slidedecks for transmitting information

For example:

Oooooh, mobile

Aaaah, numbers

What didn’t go so well?

Today — Friday — was a bit of a crush of different things. I didn’t get everything I wanted done because there was a lot of context switching. We’re getting back into our clients’ peak seasons, which means our customer support time suddenly picks up again. Normally we’d be okay, but we’re thin on the ground when it comes to staff right now and it meant I had to keep picking up the phone. No easy solution here — I’m just going to need to sweat it out until I get my new person trained up.

The approach to write the software I mentioned above came at the start of my lecture on Thursday, and I couldn’t focus properly on what was being said as I was thinking about database structures.⁴ That makes for a funny aside but it’s not easy work, and I need to be better at putting my stuff away and not being distracted. I’m going to try an old-school notepad approach for the next lecture to see if that helps.

Lastly, I got feedback that I am sometimes so blunt as to be unpleasant. One of the reasons I blog is because with the space and time to think I (think) I can say what I want in a way that’s efficient and eloquent. When I’m pushed for an answer on the spot I tend to be abrupt, because I feel like my inquisitor wants an answer now. That’s an explanation of why I’m like that, but it doesn’t take away from the hurt I cause when I am like that. And I strongly believe in the principle that the more senior you are, the greater your responsibility to adjust your style to suit the people who report to you.

I’m going to work harder on this, so if you see me in the next four weeks and find me being unpleasantly blunt, I’d like you to call me out if you’re up for it.

I’m down in the bottom right. Where do you think you are?⁵

⁰ Japanese doesn’t really do plural nouns, and it’s the kind of tiny grammatical hill I’d die on¹

¹ sorry, on which I’d die

² fangirl is the gender neutral term, don’t @ me

³ fingers crossed for the second one

⁴ Database architecture is the most perfect in-between for people who like constructing theoretical shapes to solve problems and people who like making things. You’ve not lived until you’ve seen tables you’ve designed filling with neat, efficient rows of data.

⁵ This diagram is from Radical Candor. It’s a book with a whole host of questionable suggestions, and there’s plenty to argue about the extent to which vulnerability and honesty in the workplace is a good thing. All the same, it’s worth reading.

S02E08: What’s next?

This week was massively abbreviated due to being on holiday for a week. My only day in the office was Friday, and that was mostly about emails.

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I also had to come clean to my colleagues and, here, to you. I handed in my notice. I will, quite soon, be leaving my job.

Preparing for your own succession is very strange, because it feels a bit like what I imagine planning your own funeral feels like. You know that everything else will go on without you, and the first reaction is a very selfish “Why?”. It’s only fleeting, but for a moment you feel irrationally annoyed that people will keep coming to work once you leave. Clients will keep calling. New business will roll in. Things will, for the most part, stay the same.

My first instinct is annoyance, because I am obviously the centre of the universe and if there isn’t forty days of mourning and mandated black clothing then really have I made any impact at all? If there’s no fuss, have I somehow failed?

Then you get the wonderful second thought that says: if everything falls apart the minute you leave, then you’ve done a terrible job. If people can’t cope; if the team can’t grow; if clients will abandon the company without you then you have made yourself invaluable. And that’s bad for you, because you’ll never be able to leave; and it’s bad for your team, because they’ll never grow without you.

I’m proud that when I leave in May, I’ll leave behind teams and people who are in a better, more positive, more powerful place.

In the meantime, there’ll be a job advert and interviews, all of which I’m really excited to take part in. The best part of leaving a job is that you can drop back in afterwards and see how it’s going. That’s a privilege that’s unfortunately not necessarily afforded to folks planning their funerals.⁰

I may need to omit these things from my weeknotes, because they’re naturally confidential and sensitive. Instead, I’ll be throwing in more from my MSc and from my side project.

Describing this service as niche probably gives it more credit than it deserves

My side project is something that’s been bubbling away under my brain for a while, and I’ve finally pulled my finger out and started to design it properly. I’ve written about it before, but it’s always really been an exercise to see if I could code the problem. Proofs of concept¹ do not a service make, so I’ve started developing a front end to interact with it.

It’s really hard, despite the fact that I’m mostly cheating on all design issues by using bootstrap. Working out what users need to be able to do is just as hard as working out how to write the code, and writing the code properly — rather than as an incomprehensible mess — is really darn hard.

So what about real work? Well, I’ve got three months before I leave for good, and enough squirrelled away that I can be careful about what I do next. I’m getting a better sense of what I like doing² and how I like working³. If you’re interested in hiring someone a bit like me, you might well be in luck. Drop me a line and let’s talk.

Like the person planning their funeral, I can’t say for certain what’s next. But — and I hope I’m still saying this when I do come to that long-awaited day — I’m really excited to find out.


⁰ This is of course a personal view. Depending on your spiritual outlook, you may be able to come back and affect things, come back and just watch over things, or come back as a totally different thing and affect other things entirely.

¹ I think that’s right. Proofs of concept? Proof of concepts? Proofs of concepts? English is a mess.

² Systems design, writing code, solving problems, coaching, mentoring

³ With autonomy, with responsibility for developing others, with freedom