in Prose

Weeknotes S03E16

Settling in

Welcome back

This week has felt alternately slow and quick. I’ve been thinking about a few things and I’m going to do my best to articulate them here.

1 Mental energy is the same energy as physical energy, or at least it is for me. I realised this week that I’ve been burning mental energy thinking about things I didn’t even realise I was thinking about. It was only when I made a commitment to dropping them and suddenly felt lighter, brighter that I realised they’d been taking up a lot of space in my head. I have to write them up before I can actually let them go, but I’m excited to do so because it frees up my mind to focus on something I can actually progress right now.⁰ It also means I’m on the hunt for a fresh new corporate contribution. I’m thinking about going back to mapping and starting a meetup or even an internal book club/community of practice. Let me know if you’d be interested in these things.

2 I really love coding, but I really like strategy and I also really like delivery. I keep switching what I’m doing because I can’t seem to pin myself down. This week I’ve been busy deleting old code¹ and writing new integrations to reduce our reliance on old, deprecated libraries. It’s absolute joy. It’s really hard to explain the dopamine hit to people who don’t code, but in general the time between me deciding on how to solve a problem and finding out if my way works is generally less than a week. It’s pure bliss.

At the same time, I’ve been the scourge of delivery. I’ve enforced work-in-progress limits, linked up bits of business, and set up meetings for people in order to better segment work and improve flow. I like doing this stuff, because even though the feedback cycle is longer it’s so completely worth it when you start to see it moving again. The first tipping moment is the best. It’s like — have you ever seen, in a strongman competition, some great human specimen endeavouring to move a plane or a train or some other mode of transport that requires huge engines to move it? They press their whole bodies to the task and for the longest time nothing seems to happen and then the wheel starts to turn and suddenly, bizarrely, this huge weight of steel rolls forward. And it continues.

That’s what being a delivery manager is like.

3 There are a lot of new people adjacent to us and they are boisterous. I am reminded that it is very difficult to do knowledge work² in open-plan offices, and that I would almost certainly work for anyone who promised me my own office. I’m serious. Morals be damned, if I can close the door on the rest of the staff I’ll sign tomorrow. I am also horribly aware of the many, many times I’ve had long calls at my desk. Calls in which I may have laughed a lot. My former colleagues (and certainly former friends): I am so sorry.

I have been blessed³ with a laugh that has been called “Jimmy Carr-esque”.

“It can’t be that bad,” I hear you say. Sure. Tell you what. You get through this video that’s a mere 54 seconds without pausing, without plugging your own ears with wax, and I will accept that my laugh is not that bad.

Because I forking can’t, and I have that laugh.

Please, please, please let’s go back to offices with doors. I’d even accept a cubicle at this point. Anything to stop the noise.

4 I got to One Team Gov breakfast this week, and filled in the form for OneTeamGov Event in Canada. If you’ve not filled it out yet, here’s a link:

The point is that it was very enjoyable and had a mix of new faces. Jenny did a cracking write-up so you ought to go read that, but my main takeaways were:

  • there felt like a marked difference in the number of people speaking over each other. I’m not sure if that’s linked to the new organiser being a woman. I really hope not. Maybe we were all just excited that morning.
  • challenging when you’re the first person to do it is really hard. At GDS we tend to heckle people speaking in jargon, but getting your organisation to that place requires huge bravery or your senior team heckling each other. That’s cool, but I don’t know how likely it is. If you’re a senior person, being that first challenger empowers everyone else. Remember: with great power comes great responsibility⁷
  • you can’t replace one ‘resource’ with another because (a) I can’t stress this enough, people are not resources and (b) teams are immutable sets; the removal of one individual and the addition of another creates a new set. Not a changed set: a new one. Even if it’s the same person just six months later. They’ve grown apart from the team. They’re a different person. It’s a new team, and it’ll take time for it to form. Give it space.

That’s me for this week. Tomorrow I’m taking my parents to see my new flat even though the developers are yet to accept my revised offer. Nerve-wracking, but an opportunity to cook for my family shouldn’t be sniffed at.⁸

Listen: Into the Spiderverse is stunning and even if you don’t read my inane footnotes you should listen to this soundtrack.

⁰ There will be a lot of blogs this week
¹ code gets old like fish gets old: it starts to smell bad

³ [citation needed]
⁴ It’s intriguing that in French an un-conference is an anti-conférence. I feel like it gives it a slightly more…contradictory air? An unconference just isn’t a conference, while un anti-conférence feels like it’s everything a conference is not.⁵ I would have gone with un non-conférence if only because the running together of sounds in my mouth is pleasant. It quickly becomes unnonconférence, and that’s just pleasant.
⁵ Like…there’s dressed, and there’s un-dressed, but anti-dressed feels different.⁶ 
⁶ I’m reading too much into this. Let’s move on.
⁷ Related: Spiderman into the Spiderverse is the best comic book movie I’ve ever seen. Go and see it. Listen to the soundtrack. I just. I love every single thing about this movie.

⁸ I mean, Dad’s allergic to cats so there’ll be a bit of sniffing.

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