in Prose

S03E03: Manic pixie dream boy

It’s me. I am the manic pixie dream boy

I am doing a lot of things at the moment, and this is a reminder for me and a request for you to prevent me from doing more things. The list as it stands:

  • My job (more on which momentarily)
  • Helping with some technical support for a mentoring program
  • Writing The Book
  • Planning four days with another government department on a high-intensity project that will limit my ability to do other things
  • Creating a workshop around the themes in The Book
  • Supporting a colleague to learn how to code
  • Applying for an MSc, the duration of which I will remain single so as to avoid having an emotional crisis in the middle of exam time⁰
  • Worrying
  • Possibly more corporate objective things

Hum. Alright. Don’t let me sign up for, volunteer for, or apply for anything else. Please tell me off if I do.

Things that have happened this week

1I had a really good, really exciting first meeting with the policy person on the product I might be working on during firebreak. I’m hoping to get a blog out of this; it’s a bit of an odd use for firebreak but I’m deliberately targeting it towards some machine learning stuff so that I can get some more experience with that particular branch of statistics. It overran and I was late to a data strategy meetup. It was well run; Kit in her element (on a chair, overseeing) and a lot of people discussing and talking.

What came out of it was — well, if I were being uncharitable I would say it was the same vague nebulous wordcloud of good intentions. The contents page of every data strategy ever. But on the flipside, it did cement that those are the things we’re all thinking about when we write this stuff. That’s worth thinking about, and what was on the periphery might have been more interesting than the core. I’m not sure. I don’t think I got much out of it. I think I was hoping for more focussed ideas. And maps, obviously, because they’re my day and night, moon and stars, waking and sleeping at the moment.

At least it’s got me thinking about how to communicate what I think I know to more people.


2Speaking of, what is it that I know? I swing wildly between confidence and scepticism in my own belief that I can do maps, and maps are useful. The session reinforced the fact that a map can’t tell you what a strategy is, it can only tell you what your strategy possibly ought to be. I might sketch out a rough strategy map for data, if I can find out what the aim of the strategy actually is. Is it to use data better¹? Is it to get companies to use our data to build shit? Is data the point, or is it a supporting element?

Your strategy has to have a point. Even if you’re exploring a new space. Especially if you’re exploring a new space!

All of this is coming out of The Book. I have a half-fleshed out scene where the team has been absolutely taken out in a paintball arena because the other team had a map and they didn’t, because I am nothing if not a hack with a heavy-handedness comparable to André the Giant.

André holding that 12cm tall can looks photoshopped. It’s not. He was amazing.

So it’s progressing. It’s hard, harder than I thought it would be, but it’s such an enjoyable way of spending three evenings a week that it makes it good. Thank you to everyone who’s endured my ranting on this as I try to refine, in real-time and on the fly, what the heck it is I’m talking about.

I’m also writing a workshop on it and I’d love to present. If you’re looking for a semi-interesting away day speaker then I’d love to talk to you or your colleagues. At the moment there are three swears and two Star Wars prequels references. These can be increased/decreased depending on the audience’s view on what’s appropriate for the workplace.

3I may be moving programs to another product GDS delivers. It’s a really exciting shift, from a massive program to a smaller one. It’s going to be a good opportunity to clarify the amount I’m doing and reduce some of the extra-curricular stuff if necessary.² I’m keeping my line manager, which is good because he’s absolutely brilliant. I don’t know if he reads these, but I hope he does. Thanks.

The way it’s been managed has been really good, and a friend who’s been observing some of the ways we do things here seems to be impressed as well. I’m hopeful they’ll take some of the best practice to their next department and get to implement it. Having recently attended a recruitment event for another department, I think there’s a lot of stuff that we should be encouraging colleagues to do around community-building and how powerful it can be.

A succinct summation of my #weeknotes this week

4My corporate objective has very suddenly picked up again. I’m absolutely overjoyed that it’s moving forward again, but I’m frustrated that it wasn’t through anything I’ve been doing. It just seems to have happened out of the blue. Still, I’m excited to see what impact I can make with this.

(Look, I know what I said about picking up other things. Let’s see how it goes and how much of my time it’ll take up. If necessary, I’ll drop something else because this is my baby³)

I thought it had stalled forever, so this is obviously very exciting to me. I’ll need to brush off my talk on automating the hard stuff and review all the amazing work colleagues have done in this space. What comes next? I have a meeting booked that will hopefully result in a plan. Then I expect there’ll be some hard decisions for me about what I need to let go.

5Feedback time. I need to find out how I’m doing, so I’m trying to seek feedback. I’m putting more effort in than I ever have before, and asking for feedback on really specific things. In that vein, I’d really like feedback from you readers: specifically, has this blog changed the way you’ve thought about something? How did it do it? Alternatively, if it didn’t, why didn’t it?

That’s all. I’m meeting a friend for a coffee and he’s walked past my desk twice, so I’m going to give chase.



⁰ Reading this back it seems passive-aggressive. It’s not. It’s just a sad.

¹ For some value of “better”, and indeed “data”

² “If”

³ Not my actual baby, as my attitude there is closer to this person’s:

https://twitter.com/CordeliaWyche/status/1042672083984109568

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