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Friday, 25 April 2014

Well bless my cotton socks, it's Friday

Only a four day week, so however it was experienced, it really was one day shorter than a normal week.  And for that, I salute it. 

To be honest, it was a fairly steady week for me.  We have been requested to complete an insanely large amount of training by the end of this month, so I did take the opportunity to catch up on some of it.  I have been chipping away at the courses, and am four courses from the end, so not too far to go.

No news on my potential new job.  A colleague/friend, who is in a similar role to me but a contractor (a very rare breed in Starfleet at the moment, with a pretty comprehensive cull under way), contacted me the other day to say that his CV, which was sent to the prospective new boss on my potential new job (lot of variability in that statement), had been forwarded to another bit of the business requiring his skills, a combination of solutioning, Oracle and Cloud, and the colleague/friend has had an initial phone interview which seemed to go well.  He would be more than happy to go permanent if the deal were right, so here's hoping that something comes of that.  But not before something comes of my job lead.

This weekend, if the weather permits (and it currently says that 10-4 on Saturday may be dry, but otherwise the whole weekend is wet), I will be starting to prepare the garden for the upcoming work, and generally pottering around, taking the Maggots to their clubs, until late afternoon when we will be preparing for the visit of David and Samantha, minus the eldest Maggot who is on a Duke of Edinburgh's weekend*.  It is always a pleasure, and many promises to "not drink too much" will be made at 8pm, to be utterly ignored at 10pm.  Such fun.

I hope you have a great weekend, and speak next week.

* Don't fancy being in her shoes this weekend.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Been a While

Nothing like time off for getting in to bad habits, or more precisely, stopping good habits.  Thus is my excuse for not blogging.

Not a lot to discuss.  It is fair to say that the Scobi clan really prefer to be on holiday doing what they want, and often not a lot of it, than at work or school, doing plenty.  The real world does, sadly, remain real for most of us, and so it is back to work today.

Things are fairly quiet, so catching up is not hard.  What I will do when things really kick off, goodness knows, but I have to trust that I have stepped up before, I can do it again.

And on that note, I bid you farewell for now.  Have a good week, speak later.

Monday, 14 April 2014

What a weekend

We had a great weekend, one not without its issues, but a fantastic weekend nevertheless.

We arrived at Newbury early evening, having been via Ikea for a quick bit of shopping.  A lovely evening of food, chat, beer and, towards the end of the evening, vodka with gold pieces.

The following morning, we were up earlyish, but on checking the Dr Who Experience ticket details, Angelina realised she had the wrong tickets, even though she had clearly requested a family ticket.  A fraught twenty minutes on the phone resolved the issue, with new, correct, tickets allocated and printed, and a promise to sort out a refund for the wrong ticket on Monday.

We then headed out for Cardiff.  The drive was uneventful, though A&B did ask whether I was trying to lose them on the M4.  As if.

We arrived at the hotel, and B and LO jumped out (we were double-parked outside) to get directions to the parking.  A and I then drove the cars to park, but missed the turning, and whilst doing a lap round the block, got a call from Maggot 1 to say we were at the WRONG HOTEL.  Doh!  We were given details of the right hotel, and drive there in under 10 mins.  On arrival, we explained to the nice man our silly mistake, and he said "yes, we know, ?? rang just now to advise us you were on your way".  Now that was above and beyond.

Our rooms were fine, and once we had dumped our stuff, we head out on foot to walk to the harbour area, in which were the restaurants for later, and the DWE studios.  The route on the way was initially of urban decay, but from the town centre to the harbour, it was a fairly passable boulevard, with wide pavements and tidy apartments.  As it happens, we came back on the other side of the railway tracks, and it was the "other side of the tracks" in many ways; run down, lots of litter and lots of dodgy people.  Not that we are horribly middle class, but Maggot 2, always one for neat and tidy, did point out every bit of litter, and some of the bushes were like landfill sites.

We grabbed a quick sandwich in the cafe before joining a tour.  It was definitely Dr Who, and quite an experience, so while not quite on the scale and magnificence of the Harry Potter tour, it was well done and fun, with plenty of detail for the OCD, and bit sets and loud noises for the impatient.

My favourite bit was probably a little corner where a documentary video was on loop, with Stuart Maconie, on Delia Derbyshire, the person who was definitely ahead of her time, creating electronic music way before her time, but sadly descending in to drink, breast cancer and death by liver failure.  It turns our our Stuart is a bit of a music nerd, and has played the theme on his radio show, and he was also pretty knowledgeable on the background and details.  Fascinating how they created stuff not dissimilar to what I create on a computer, but armed only with keys, piano strings (how the Tardis sound was made apparently) and lots of simple analogue synthesisers, tape loops and other barmy inventions.

We then had tea at Strada, where we have more great service from Marcus, our waiter for the night, who, it turns out, is a trainee manager who is going "back to the floor" to see the business from a different angle, and who is, it turns out, about the become the manager of Strada in Newbury.  What are the chances?  He provided excellent service and was happy to join in with our every increasing exuberence.  He had a hair cut that I should get apparently too, so LO even asked if she could take a photo for me to take in to my hairdressers.  Hmmm.

Our final bit of excellent service was in Bill's for breakfast.  Great service, great food, and as we were paying, the manager came over and presented each of the children with a small bag of sweets, something they sold in the shop.  We were overcome with goodwill.

So now LO has to find out "who owns Cardiff" so she can write a very complimentary note to them about the service they give in their fine city.

So, overall scores are in the 7-9 range.  Fantastic time had, but not top marks because of small areas of improvement here and there.  Service, though, was ten out of ten all round.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Something for the weekend

We are off the Newbury tonight, to stay at Brad and Angelina's, so that we can arise early tomorrow to head out for Cardiff, where we are staying the night, and attending the Doctor Who Experience.  No idea what to expect with DWE, but we are very much looking forward to seeing B&A and having a weekend away.

This week I have not had any more information from my potential new manager.  He advised that they are restructuring, so don't know how or where to use me yet, but that I should be patient, as I said on Tuesday, which means that I have been spending the rest of the week "being patient".  I had not realised how tedious "being patient" can be.

In my current role, we have managed a small (to our client) but massive (for those who understand how hard it can be to do new stuff in Starfleet) triumph, having enabled Cloud for our client.  This means they can go and build servers and do a whole bunch of stuff without even having to speak to us directly, getting the bill for any consumption at the end of each month.  This is on message with Starfleet, and we are near enough the first to have done it, so we have been trail-blazing on an element of technology that is a hot ticket right now, which is nice.

Other than that, I am running a bit of "give back*" work to develop a training course for our offshore new starters.  This, to any normal person, does not sound very clever; when a new hire starts, give them some induction training on their new role, so they know how to do it.  Indeed, myself and my project partner are definitely not the first to consider this, even in our competency, but such is the nature of our business, the throughput of people and the intellectual capital they build, the constant budget restraints on doing anything that does not bring in the dollars, that this is needed once more.  In fact, it is needed even more than in the past, because the newbies are all offshore resources, for whom the challenges and the learning curve are all the more steep. 

We pitched to our first line management team (our direct manager being one of them) a couple of weeks ago, and did our second pitch to their manager, the leader of our competency, last week, and again this week to review the final cut.  The phrase "pushing at an open door" may well have been uttered, more than once, and that was the essence of the reviews; a bit of polish here, an extra bit of glitter there, but in essence a no-brainer, that is (again) on-message with some higher level improvement programs that are in flight, so we expect to be given budget approval. 

And then the real work starts, as we "colour in" the sketch training schedule we have thus far developed.  For this, we plan to recruit key experienced colleagues, to harvest whatever we can that already exists, and craft them in to dynamic, interactive and informative training modules.

I just hope I am still here to be part of the training team, since I have always fancied a bit of training.

Have a great weekend, speak next week.

P.S. And . . . relax

* a strange notion, not unique to Starfleet, where a motivated individual can go the "extra mile" in differentiating themselves from their peers, so they are ranked higher in the appraisal system, so get a better score, Starfleet using the "bell curve distribution" method to ensure the bottom 15% get the bad mark.  This seems to be at odds with our overall executive message that "our business is our people" and that we are a "high performing organisation".  Put these all together, and each year we have to ditch people who are perfectly capable and motivated, simply because they scored less than their peers.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014


I can definitely now call this the Year of the Career, and my potential new boss just responded to an email I sent (did not want to hassle him too much, but did not want him to think I am the kind of person who never hassles people - tricky balance) saying:
In light of the new organization announcement I need to talk to Stanley* to see how best and where best we can bring you on board. So some patience please as there is much going on in term of organization changes.

* Name changed to protect the innocent.

Friday, 4 April 2014

And . . . relax

Today is the last day of term for the Maggots and LO, and it is fair to say that we are all looking forward to having a couple of weeks out from the daily routine.

Tomorrow, we are hosting the 65th birthday party for LO's mum, and that means curry for twenty odd people and a fair amount of organisation, most of which falls to LO to sort.  I will obviously provide the brawn, but there is no doubt that LO is the brains of the outfit.

Sunday is likely to be the laziest day we have had for a while.  We may not get up until lunchtime, and we may stay in our PJs for the WHOLE DAY, and we may well watch a number of highly dubious* films.

I still have not had the follow up meeting with my potential new manager, mainly because he is so very busy.  I have hassled him a couple of times, and will do so again on Monday, since if I am to move, I want to do it quickly so that I have a good part of the year to establish myself in the new role before my performance is appraised.  As mentioned by The Gorse Fox, this process is almost universally disliked, and tends to worry about things that are not important, in favour of things that are, both by measuring things that are definitely measurable, even if they are not relevant, and also by using a ranking process that means perfectly good people get marked down because they are "outside the top XX percent".  It does seem to take the "person" out of personnel.  Not sure that totally works, but what I really mean is that it is fairly inhuman and forgets that we are, largely, sentient beings with feelings and a wealth of untapped potential, if only they asked nicely.  Oh well, I guess you just have to like it or lump it.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

* I would not want you getting the wrong idea here.  By "dubious", I mean that they are films, the watching of which is unlikely to be shared with anyone we know.  Mamma Mia might be an example.