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
²

https://media.giphy.com/media/sbwjM9VRh0mLm/giphy.gif

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.

https://media.giphy.com/media/WW2yolJKWVvb2/giphy.gif

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

Weeknotes S03E13: Gluttony

The Christmas indulgence has started in earnest. Someone feed me a salad

What a week this has been. Here goes:

1I did my first bit of volunteering with the lovely folks over at codebar. It was an immensely enjoyable experience and reminded me that my first true love is teaching.⁰ I had a small group of three students who were breaking into Python for the first time, and so we went through the important things new programmers must learn. They are:

  1. Google is your friend
  2. The next person to read your code will have your home address and homicidal tendencies
  3. “Readable” is better than “quick”

It was really basic stuff and I enjoyed myself more than I have in some time. Dinner was provided and it was pizza. So carby. So delicious. It had a vegetable on it though so…healthy-ish?

2I did a big ugly bit of work and came up with a recommendation to do nothing to automate it. I think it’s important to have records of decisions, including when those decisions are “we’re not going to do anything about this annoying problem” because then people can disagree, and that’s good, and when you get very angry at the people who didn’t solve this annoying problem you can find out it was you all along. More importantly, you’ll be able to find out why you didn’t do it then and decide if things have changed sufficiently for you to come to a different decision.

I had a celebratory hot chocolate that was so thick I could stand a stirrer up in it and so full of calories that the health and safety executive demanded it be sold in tiny cups like espresso. It was amazing.

3I attended Hack the Police and won two prizes. Nobody was more surprised than me. There were people there who’d built machine learning tools and global mapping tools and a virtual reality tool for evidence examination.

I put together a five questions, skinned it in the GOV.UK design system, and then mucked about with a capture the flag (CTF) challenge for the rest of the time.¹


And yet I’m now the proud steward of a Met Police whistle, an Amazon Alexa, and offers of help to turn this into a real thing. I’m really excited, because apparently in many cases of robbery and violent crime viable CCTV isn’t always used because it’s so difficult to get it into the hands of the police.

Of course I’m absurdly busy, so this will probably be taken out of my hands or not start work until after March. All the same, it’s very cool. The code is open source, so check it out if it’s your kind of thing.

We had burgers for dinner and cake for breakfast. I tried a burger made entirely of plants that tasted both meaty and not like any meat I’d ever had before. It is definitely The Future.

4I did not get onto the Future Leaders Scheme. This has come as both a massive blow and no surprise, because cognitive dissonance is easy and so is self-deprecation. I made myself carbonara for dinner with extra cheese.

I am grateful that I’ve been doing this with a bunch of other public sector digital heroes, because — selfishly — some of them didn’t get it either, and they’re way more brilliant than me. So I know I’m in good company, and that the cutoff was incredibly high.

I’m really looking forward to the feedback and results of the psychometric tests, so that I can give my critical friends some things I’d like their help to work on. They’re due ‘later this month’, presumably for excellent reasons.

I’m also mildly irritated that after a job interview three weeks ago I’m still yet to hear back about it. It’s for a senior position and I am 100% certain I didn’t get it, but at the very least I’d like to know. Not knowing is the chitinous thing whose wings scratch your insides.

5There may be movement on my flat. The endless merry-go-round of frustrating, paper-based process (alleviated by paying other people to deal with it) continues. It continues in my favour, and so I feel quite churlish for complaining about it. It looks like — as long as the developer realises that all valuations will be much of a muchness — I shall have another £20,000 shaved off the price of my new flat. This is enormously exciting, but there is a nagging fear that prices everywhere are about to do their best impression of a whale called into existence by a space-age technology:

The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

That’s all for this week. Wish me luck.


⁰ This comes with the caveat that the student must want to learn, which is why I really love mentoring and really hated teaching.
¹ It’s taken over my bastarding life. Don’t ask.

S03E08: Crunch

This week began really well, with a houseparty. It looks like it’s going to be finishing well too. There was a good bit in the middle too. All in all, a bit chuffed. Theme of the week: French

Onwards!

1 Thème de la semaine : On Tuesday I attended my first ever French meetup, and some very nice people told me I had a good French accent. This made me Very Happy, and I strongly suspect influenced my next morning, where I collared Jenny and we talked about existentialism⁰ before I went home feeling grotty. French studies was my undergraduate degree, and I love to speak it. Mind you, I’ve been told before that I’m a different and less pleasant person in French, so I was watching that too. I met some interesting and some less interesting people, but it was a lovely evening and I think I’ll make it a regular fixture. I’ve also been invited to a recurring French lunch of civil servants, so before long I hope to be quite fluent again. I’m improving my Russian at the same time too:

A screenshot that says “I want to know everything” in Russian and English

2 Career things. I went for an interview the other day and I didn’t get the job. I’m okay with that, because the feedback was detailed and immensely valuable as I head into my Future Leaders Scheme interview (link only available to civil servants). I also spoke to a Director about where I’d like to end up and he gave me some really good advice as well as a really interesting comparison — at a large consultancy firm, there are 23 promotions between my equivalent level and boss of the organisation. In my organisation, I’d only need five to get to the same place , which means within those levels there’s going to be huge variation. It makes me feel weirdly better — friends from uni who seem to get promotions every couple of years are actually probably just progressing at the same rate as me. They just get more frequent milestones.¹

Work is otherwise very good. I implemented fika and work-in-progress limits to try to get the team to slow down and do one thing at a time. Both have been moderately successful: we are shipping things and doing it faster, and we are communicating more as a team and learning things about each other. Some of that introduces tension, because there’s always a risk when you get to know someone that they’re going to be quite different from you in a way you weren’t expecting.²

3 I’ve already started to think about my goals for the next year. This is because I like things to aim for. By September next year I am aiming to:

  • have a basic conversational level of Russian
  • have a rank greater than 1200 in both daily (24 hours per move) and rapid (30 minutes per game for each player) chess
  • have a first cut of The Book, which has admittedly slid³ a little recently
  • be (re)starting an MSc

None of these are work things, but I think they’ll make me better at work. I have a number of thoughts like this, so if you’ve got £2.3m and would like to know more about experiments I want to do on my colleagues then get in touch.

4 Time tracking is turning up some interesting results. Inspired by fellow public sector digital hero Dan Barrett I’ve been tracking my time. It’s broad strokes, but here is the approximate time I spent in meetings this week:

A chart showing that on Monday I spent 1hr 35 in meetings, on Tuesday 1hr 51, on Wednesday no time at all, on Thursday 3hr 27 and Friday 15m

Thursday is the outlier, and also the day I came home absolutely wiped and ate an entire blackcurrant crumble.⁴ More than half of my day spent in meetings is too much, and that’s valuable information for me. It’s also deeply concerning, because — well, here’s my friendly deputy-director’s diary:

A screenshot of a diary. There are only 11.5 hours out of 47.5 in that week that don’t have something booked

Now, this is only one week. I need more data to be able to make a more accurate view, but my hypothesis is that anything above about 40% completely exhausts me. It’s also true that I don’t know the ins and outs of this DD’s diary — maybe each slot there represents a unique piece of work, and not a meeting.

5 I listened to a brilliant podcast — BBC Radio 5 presenter Nihal Arthanayake spoke to six people from the three security and intelligence agencies⁵. They were five women and a gay man. There are three reasons this was brilliant:

  1. That sentence would have been completely ridiculous fifty years ago, and I’m so pleased that I can write it now
  2. MI6 is apparently the Slytherin of the SIAs⁶
  3. When GCHQ had a big win they played mini golf in the doughnut, and that is so hilariously human that imagining it is making me laugh and laugh

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p06pnd71

This weekend I bought chocolate, marshmallows, and squirty cream having been inspired by this excellent looking recipe.


⁰ I talk about existentialism a lot, because it resonates quite strongly with me. You can read a thing I wrote, or watch this good video from the US-ian PBS, or listen to this episode from the BBC if you’d like to know more about it. Someone who read my thing said they liked it on twitter dot com, and as a writer that made birds appear and trumpets sound and, look, I don’t want to tell you what to do but if you enjoyed reading something and you tell the author you’ll make a friend for life so…
¹ slash pay rises
² cf. dating
³ I have never been more convinced that slid is not a word than right now
⁴ hashtag no regrets
⁵ MI5, MI6, and GCHQ
⁶ GCHQ, by the way, definitely all Hufflepuffs

S0305: Through the fire(break)

Prototypes! Conferences! Maps! Oh my!

Loads of things happened this week, and they’re big, so let’s get cracking

The firebreak project

I’d like to write a One Team Gov blog about this experience. It was very interesting and I really enjoyed it, but I’m not sure that’s an entirely good reason to do it. All the same, there might be some lessons to share.

The short version is that a friend and colleague asked me to help out, I spent four days with their team, and in that time we built a prototype product with a workflow that crossed different user journeys.

I’m still shaking from presenting it to senior people over Youtube, because we’ve got competing networks and silos. It worked, thank goodness, and feedback has been really good. I’m pleased to turn it over and get started on my new project on Monday.

MAPCAMP

I like mapping. I think it’s a genuinely transformative tool. I mapped out the Secret Project on the way home from Map Camp and showed it to someone who’s never seen one before. They got it at once, but they are very clever. I’m excited to share it more widely and see if other people get it too.

However: Map Camp itself was very heavy on the chalk and talk⁰. There was almost no opportunity to ask questions or discuss, and very little practical opportunity to try out what we were learning. Maybe that’s a function of it being highly context specific, but all the same by the fourth speaker my butt was asleep.

Static: a visual representation of how my butt felt

James Findlay and Janet Hughes represented for government, and Janet’s talk in particular was really incredible. I also got to chat to former colleague Chris, who’s been doing phenomenally cool things.

Secret project (that will hopefully become less secret really soon, but let’s be honest I’ve got expectations to manage and I really don’t want to fart this up)

Not SECRET in the Civil Service sense, but secret in the ‘let’s not talk too much about this until we’re sure it’s going to happen,’ but: I’m writing strategy documents! I’m making maps! I’ve written too much oh god it’s just reams and reams of paper, a tsunami of word vomit flooding out of my laptop and splashing onto the floor…

I don’t know how to do this, so I’m going to get my policy colleague to repay my firebreak favour and help me write in a way that’s not, y’know. Like this.

More updates as I think it’s appropriate to include them.

It was October 3rd:

Mean girls remains the most important satire of the tendency of revolutionaries to become dictators since Animal Farm, do not @-me thank you

I’m through to the interview stage of the Future Leaders Scheme!

endless screaming as I try to prepare for an interview and convince them I’m not a potato

I’m really excited about this. It’s a bit of a vote of confidence in me and my potential. It’s also the first time I’ve ever actually felt that I agree with this assessment.

Yeah, self-doubt. I have a lot of it.

I have breezed through almost everything I’ve ever done with absolutely zero interest in being particularly good at it, and therefore no idea whether I have potential. This, though, is something else. I think my firebreak work has had a massive impact on this: I’ve had a whole week of positive reinforcement and I feel positively reinforced. I am quite good at this thing that I do. I am also really, really aware of how much better I could be and I care about getting better.

It’s exhilarating.


⁰ Not everyone knows this phrase, so: a chalk and talk is a lecture given by a professorial type in which one sits and tries to listen as they monologue. You watch a bee and by some auditory alchemy the voice transmutes into the sound of the bee, until it’s just a single droning hum that’s slowly filling your head, filling it until it’s heavy, until it’s so heavy it starts to sink onto the desk that feels cool and firm and somehow right, and then you blink, and everyone’s packing up and somehow an hour has passed.¹

¹ Look, it’s a very specific phrase, alright?

S03E01

I should be writing something else

Hello again. I’m currently on leave; leave I took with the express purpose of writing The Book. I am, in fact, not writing the book. I’m writing about me. I need a break from characters and plotting.

Onwards!

Things have happened

1Two friends got married, and what’s super-exciting is that they got married to each other. The memories I have are either very clear or super-fuzzy, but here they are: the bride squeezing the groom’s hand and mouthing “Don’t you dare cry,”; an outbreak of snuffling tears from 120 people as an opera singer raised her voice to the rafters; a moment of shared joy at cracking a cryptic crossword clue despite being more than a little hungover. Ice cream. Belly laughs. A flurry of green confetti that flew up with a laugh as the bride grabbed a handful of her dress and whirled. Conversations that paused 3 months ago and picked up again without a phrase missed. Love. Everywhere love; for friends, for family, for lovers.

Oh. And there was a wedding dress with pockets.

2I’ve been referred to our local autism services. I’m still processing this. I’m processing it out loud, and now I’m second-guessing if this is symptomatic or a thing I do; and if there’s overlap. It’s become a weight on my mind and my actions. I don’t like it.⁰

Recent events have certainly made it clear to me that I’m not 100% neurotypical. I don’t know how to deal with it, especially because at the moment I don’t even have a diagnosis. It may not be that. It may be something else. But anyway: I’m now full of anxiety about things that might not happen. This is affecting me in all kinds of ways, ways I suspect I’m not as aware of as other people are.

3I have working code in production. People are using a thing that I built. It’s working. I mean I assume it’s working, I’m on leave and haven’t looked at my emails. This has been an incredibly interesting product to work on, and if I move teams I’ll still have learned loads and I’ll always be able to point at something and say I did this.

4I attended a jobs fair for the Cabinet Office’s Private Office Group. I don’t think I’m cut out for Private Office proper, but there were a couple of really interesting roles in background jobs that I’m strongly considering making my next move. I’ve got an end goal in mind and an idea of the next steps I need to take. We shall see.

I saw my ex there as well. It was…odd. It was odd when someone asked us how we knew each other and we both laughed because we hadn’t thought about how to answer that question. It was odd because we kept an eye on each other and I let them know when I was leaving, except that’s what you’d do if you saw a friend at an event. Except of course we’re not friends. We’re something more, and also something less.

5I’ve written six thousands, two hundred, and seventy-six words of The Book. It is to date the second largest piece of continuous writing I’ve ever done, and will eclipse the first — my undergraduate dissertation, a piece about which I have extremely mixed feelings — by tomorrow. I’m feeling really good about it. I’m writing about 1500 words per day, and it’s absolutely pouring out. That’s not to guarantee quality. In fact it’s almost certainly pish.³ However, at least it’ll be written. Then comes the editing, but at least there’ll be something to edit.

That’s all. It’s been a weird week, and this period of leave is going to be weirder as I find myself on a roll and type til 2am. I couldn’t do that if I had work or a partner, and there’s a weird, fierce, sad sort of joy I’m getting through doing it. I’m not sure it’s healthy. But it feels good.

Here’s a thing I didn’t say at the wedding but had to tell someone, because the couple had sonnet 116 and I love it; I do, but I’m a joyless, cold-hearted suckfest and you have to realise it was read wrongly, the rhymes that should have rhymed did not, and look just listen to Ben Crystal do it with today’s pronunciation and the original and try to tell me it’s not better the way it was, the way it should be.


⁰ Ah but what if that’s symptomatic! A strong preference for order is definitely on the list.¹

¹ On the other hand, plenty of people feel anxiety about impending decisions over which they have no control!²

² Yes, this is indeed the single, looping track my brain has been playing since I got the letter.

³ to urinate under the influence of drink

S02E18: Mission is go

New mission. New team. New challenges.

My new team at GDS has a smaller focus. I’m excited by this as it means I can focus on learning just one thing, rather than a multitude. I’m sad to be leaving my old team — but Steve Messer, the associate product manager, has just started weeknoting. So I’ll hopefully still get a sense of what’s happening.⁰

This week I’ve been reflecting on:

All models are bad, but some of them are useful. The trigger for this was talking Dan Barrett, who continues to role model for me values of openness, honesty, and kindness. We met up this week and talked about strategy and models. For some people, the direction of an organisation is like this:

Planets orbiting the sun in two dimensions

We’re moving around a fixed centre, and in some number of years we’ll get back to where we started. The point is to maintain the right speed and trajectory so that we’re all aligned at the end.

This is a terrible model, because the reality is more like this:

Planets orbiting the sun in three dimensions

We’re literally never going to get back to where we started. Even the gif above isn’t the whole model; the path of our Sun is not a straight line but a curve as well. Everything, everything, is in motion. We have to aim for where we’re going to be, and we’ve got to accept the world as it is before we can do that.

Security is hard: if you’re interested in cybersecurity you could do much worse than signing up to Michael Brunton-Spall’s newsletter. But in the week that we gained much more detail about the Democratic Party hack, and Apple rolled out 1Password to employees — including enough licenses to secure their personal devices — I’m reminding you to set up 2FA everywhere you can. If you don’t know how but would like to, get in touch with me and I’ll be very happy to help you. And if you’re excited about radical, decentralised internet security then consider donating to the Open Privacy Group. There are stickers in it for you.

What being a good ally looks like: In the week that a group of gross, trans-exclusionary, self-described feminists¹ ambushed Pride, you should watch Nanette. Nanette is Hannah Gadsby’s special on Netflix. It’s visceral and brilliant and has a lot to say about the state of the world. I’ve also been fighting with how to explain it to people without sounding “woke white guy”. It is funny and really important, and drives home a lot of truth about tension and comedy. Here’s a quote, but just — just go and watch it.

Do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes from someone who exists, and always has done, in the margins? It isn’t humility. It’s humiliation. . . . I make fun of myself in order to make other people feel more comfortable with my difference. And I decided I don’t want to do that anymore. Not to myself or anybody who may identify with me.

Emotional damage is like waking up to find your world has been seeded with mines: except you have no idea where they are. They just explode in your stomach when you unknowingly step on them. And nobody else can see them. It’s a lot like grieving again, and the only thing you can do with this grief-thing, with its claws in your brain and your heart and a weight that drags you, is just to lumber around with it. It just has to be until one day it falls off. You can numb yourself with alcohol or sex or alcohol-fuelled sex², or you can pour it out and get some brief catharsis from sharing that pain, but you can’t kill it off. More and more I’m finding you can’t kill it off. It’s like a mixed metaphor that started well but really got away from its author.

How do we know when to make a piece of code a commodity? There’s extra work in making a function a separate library. It can be used by other people, but at the same time it’s more complex to upkeep. Overengineering the solution to a problem is definitely a fault of mine — my early code is Rube Goldberg-esque³ in its unnecessary complexity — but saving a few minutes here for the sake of future me’s annoyance seems a good deal.

I’m consuming:

This is a masterclass in telling stories, and why the initial story — the first story — is the one we should avoid telling. Centring systems instead of people as the reason for failures enables us to run blameless retrospectives and frees everyone to be open and honest about what went wrong. This is valuable for everyone, not just devs.

Learning about Simon Wardley’s process of mapping was an epiphany. Conversation with Dan Barrett and Morgan Frodsham have reignited my interest, and I’m busy mapping anything I can lay my hands to. This talk is a great start if you’re interested in writing a strategy that might actually survive the real world.


⁰ They’re also only about 10 metres away, so if I get really desperate I’ll just walk over and ask.

¹ Excluding trans people is not, has never been, radical

² Hello mum, I definitely do not do these things

³ Yes, this is really just an excuse to post this video:

S02E15 : The hardest thing I have ever done

Hrrrrngh. Alright, let’s do this.

My partner and I broke up. There. It’s a thing that happened, and now it’s written down. And now I can talk about it.

It’s impossible to write about being broken-hearted without hamming it up, chewing the scenery like a Romeo who’s in it for the snogging. There’s such a weird depth of pain and loss and sadness that describing it properly needs music or arm movements or massive, unnecessary wars that will eventually spawn a movie starring Brad Pitt.


Describing it improperly is easy. I’ve been doing it all week. I’ve been “sad”, as if with three letters, with one syllable, you could express the feeling of walking through life with a hole where a person used to be.

It was, in the parlance, “amicable”. There’s a difference in where we see our lives. We did the right thing; the grown-up thing. The hard and horrible thing. I don’t recommend it. If you’re going to break up with someone, do the right thing. Commit some heinous sin. They will hate you, but they won’t feel like this. And that’s probably better. In the grand scheme of things, the amount of sadness will have reduced a little.¹

Other things happened this week, but I need you to understand that this was the screaming backdrop against which the following things happened.

2nd Troy GIF

I tried to learn Ruby as I’m in a team that works entirely in that language. Cue scenes of panic as I attempt to speed read Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby.

It is not a book you can speed read. It is barely a book that you can read. I am perplexed that anyone who’s ever read it can still speak English, let alone program in Ruby. Here’s a quote picked at random:

One day I was walking down one of those busy roads covered with car dealerships (this was shortly after my wedding was called off) and I found an orphaned dog on the road. A woolly, black dog with greenish red eyes. I was kind of feeling like an orphan myself, so I took a couple balloons that were tied to a pole at the dealership and I relocated them to the dog’s collar. Then, I decided he would be my dog. I named him Bigelow.

Perplexing.

I got a sticker at just the right time. I needed this reminder that being generous with myself is an a-okay thing to do, and I am writing this sentence weirdly because even expressing that sentiment makes me feel like less of a man so let’s get to the end of this sentence quickly thank you.² Credit and love to Sam Villis for the lovely sticker.


I finally got to meet Jess Neely, whom I’ve been coaching in the mysterious art of confidence. I come into this as a middle-class white man, so I’ve got an absolute lifetime of experience of people assuming I’m more competent than I am. I’ve done my best to spread this amazingly mundane superpower around. It’s too much power for one man to possess.

I organised many things, including exciting meetings with people I deeply admire. I had lunch with another former Fast Streamer, bumped into someone I went to uni with, and generally tried to fill my time with useful things. I’ve literally just lined up a meeting I’ve been trying to get for three years, and I’m absolutely over the moon. I’ve already got a corporate objective in mind. Watch this space. Watch it. Waaatchhhh iiiiiitt.

I wrote this. And it was really, really painful. A bit good. But painful. And you read it. Thank you for doing that.


¹ I really can’t stress enough that if you take advice from me, a guy with a shattered heart, you are in for a really bad time. Please do not do this.

² The patriarchy fucks up e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e

S02E13

Technically underemployed

Warning: fire-hose of consciousness coming at you below. Buckle up.

Monday/Tuesday

I didn’t have to get up for work today.

Instead, I read my sister’s dissertation. I made a spinach and filo pastry pie and, in trying to do both, emptied a quarter of a pot of cayenne pepper into it.


In the afternoon I went into town for a final interview with a government department. I don’t know how it went. I am naturally pessimistic, but at the same time there were points when I had to say with honesty that I didn’t know the answer to a question.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but I made sure to ask the panel for the answer. I’m hoping “ignorant but curious” is better than “ignorant”, and almost as good as “knowledgeable”.

I also did a code challenge which I’m still puzzling over and playing with between lectures. I only had 45 minutes, but I can still remember it well enough that it’s been on my brain all day¹. Like a brainworm.

It was modelling a checkout. NEVER HAS A CHECKOUT BEEN SO COMPLEX

Immediately after that I had a call from a recruiter, who said I had good feedback from an interview last week. I think I’ll have another interview this week, but I find the velocity with which recruiters want to move off-putting. I appreciate that what they’re selling is almost certainly a perishable good, and I think it’s fair to say I’d struggle selling an opportunity that other people were trying to sell as well.

All the same. Let me have a couple of hours to think about things?

The sticking point I’m finding with many of these calls is that everyone, as far as I can tell, wants a full-time worker. There is not as much provision for part-time work as certain sources would give credence.

I had a surprisingly enjoyable technical interview with a multinational professional services company, so we’ll see how that shakes out.

Wednesday

Hitting that refresh button on my inbox. Day three of purposeful unemployment and I’m climbing the walls, when I ought to be revising. I’ve secured a second interview tomorrow — Thursday — with an interesting organisation that is probably the most diverse I’ve ever had the good pleasure of applying to, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that.

A good friend of mine thought of me and passed on details for a young company looking to do data analytics: an exciting prospect so coffee has been organised, again for tomorrow. If I’m going into town I may as well go into town after all.

I’ve also received confirmation that I’m through to the second round for the multinational company, which means 4–8 hours of unpaid labour. It’s a bit frustrating, and deeply problematic. I’m entirely able to do this work because I’ve got no job, but for someone working a full-time job with dependents I imagine it would present a massive barrier.

It is an interesting puzzle that has been presented to me, though, so I will do it — even though it feels like a betrayal. Capitalism puts you in this sort of spot: principles are all well and good, but won’t pay the bills.

Thursday

Was offered, and accepted, a new position. Had a Nepalese to celebrate.

I’m trying to be cool because I don’t “have” the job until various things have been done. I also hope that my new manager is cool with these notes. If not — well, we’ll see.

I’m starting in June.

By the way, the offer was only the second proudest moment of the day. This most dad of all dad jokes was the number one:

I got him. I got him good.

Anyway. It was a day full of stress and minor anxiety as I fretted about turning down interviews. I am a hoarder, and that includes opportunities: I’m not as bad as Chidi Anagonye, but making big decisions is something you don’t really get daily practice in, unless you’re somewhere senior — which of course is the last place you want people who are practising making decisions.

To choose is to destroy an entire universe where I make a different choice. I can’t deal with that on my conscience.

Friday

Made quiche. Struggled with Java. Didn’t do the code challenge for the multinational. Did watch Thor Ragnarok. Feeling like this:


Java

I am learning it. I am aiming to finish the course this week and be awarded a shiny certificate, saying that I completed a beginner-level course in Java in French. I’m really genuinely excited about adding it to my resumé, but I’m currently stuck on modelling an employee.

Update: programming is the absolute most frustrating-slash-enjoyable thing in the universe, so I’m glad I’ve accepted a job to do that.


¹ If you give me a task and 45 minutes, it will haunt me forever that I didn’t complete it in that time. You can — and the interviewers did — stress that it’s about the decisions I make, about the way I communicated, and in absolutely no universe, discovered or undiscovered, can this task be completed in 45 minutes, by anyone. I’m still going to come away frustrated I couldn’t complete it.²

² Can anyone spell “massive overachiever with imposter syndrome”?