Weeknotes s01e04

Not great

My weeknotes so far have been accidentally long. I wrote a 5 minute ‘feature length’ pilot, thinking that’d be twice as long as usual. But then I wrote a 6 minute second episode. And then I wrote an 8 minute epic that was mostly about Twitter [1].

It was never my intention to write a long, reflective blog post every week, and I wouldn’t be able to sustain that either. So this time I’ll try to be brief [2]:

It was a bad week.

Full disclosure: I let people down in work this week due to circumstances outside of work beyond my control. Genuinely sorry Jonathan in particular.

I also unexpectedly had the most utterly crushing couple of days at work I’ve had in several years.


I’ve started to reflect and learn from the experience, so there’s some value there. But I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out, and at the very least I think it’s going to take me a while to drag myself back up.

Let me extrapolate ‘make things open: it makes things better’ into being a public sector digital one man emo band:

One of my motivators at work is fear. Fear of being the discarded person that nobody believes in anymore who dutifully goes into the office every day until they retire and does nothing of any consequence but is continually tolerated by the organisation [3]. And even worse, doesn’t realise that’s the position they’re in.

Another way to describe how I’m feeling this week is the opening passage in this song by The National

All night I lay on my pillow and pray
For my boss to stop me in the hallway
Lay my head on his shoulder and say
Son, I’ve been hearing good things

Bosses take note, including me.

Still, there were some high points this week!

And my meetings data suggests that my meetings weren’t bad at all, including a clean sweep of ‘greens’ on Thursday, which strangely was one of my worst days at work in 20 years [4].

Week in brief

Monday was all meetings on a variety of topics. Best one was a second interview for a data integration engineer candidate at Mat’s request. I look forward to them joining the team.

I’m not going to make a habit of blogging about my incredible social life because it will blow minds what with the endless rivers of Courvoisier, silk pyjamas and throwing Spanish doubloons in the air, but…


I met with Giuseppe on Monday evening which was a real tonic. He is very positive, knows lots of great people, and lots of things. We had a wide-ranging conversation including much Haringey. The main job-related thing Giuseppe made me think about was academic partnerships, and from there I re-remembered how important it is to me to do speculative work as a team and to make ideas happen.

On Tuesday we had the weekly team rally. I remember speaking about office moves, information asset registers, forthcoming events, podcast plans, and success on recruitment (including the long-awaited start next week of new developer Jianhan).

Carrie, Jamie, Jeanette, Matt and I met several really senior people from the House of Lords administration. Jamie led on explaining what was happening with the new website for Parliament. This was good. It felt like the A-Team presenting / representing, except with a better gender balance and one extra person [5].

Totally not going to do L-R because I will get in so much trouble

I had some more meetings, including a great (and short) one about recruitment with new colleague Nathalie from HR.

I worked on corporate management information dashboards.

I had a long talk with Robert, which is always a good thing.

Wednesday was data day, my team planning day. It was my first of 2017 because I had to miss the first one.

This format is a good thing that I made. We leave the office once a fortnight and unfailingly carve through an ambitious agenda that we collectively agree at the beginning the day.

A highlight was having Steve Goodrich from Transparency International along (thanks to Michael) as part of our ongoing effort to understand users’ needs for our data. We focused on the Members Register of Financial Interests. It was very constructive and we will continue our collaboration.

We also had Jamie along to thrash through how to improve search on the current parliament.uk website, in terms of technical- and delivery approach. This is going to happen, and it will be better.

Michael has arranged an event (our team’s second) at Newspeak House on 21 February. A ‘Parliament, Data and Democracy meetup’. We worked through the publicity copy.

Caroline the Delivery Manager for the website team came along in the afternoon, volunteered to unblock something long outstanding and important, and then promptly did it. All on the same day. Hugs happened.

On Thursday I met with Anya our main internal ‘product owner’. It was open and mutually supportive (as ever). One of the things we worked out was a joint presentation at a House of Commons Library Open Day this month, where I’ll co-present with Liz and Phil from Anya’s team.

I met with my ‘other’ team working on corporate management information dashboards in the room with no chairs and the table tennis table to keep things gritty and startup or whatever.

Seriously, everybody in the group is so positive about this work and regardless of who is whose line manager everybody is just getting on with it.

I met with Tracey, my Department’s Deputy Director. We discussed corporate management information dashboards, I explained what I had done so far. As I said, Tracey is one of the best people in my whole place of work [6]. This was the kind of conversation you could only have if you’d been in an organisation for a long time and grown up in it together.

We had Emma’s team meeting featuring Carrie, Jamie, Jo, Julie, Jeanette, and Matt. It was the best yet. We’ve only been together as a full team for a couple of months. Just having a round-table of what everybody had going on was good. Very open and supportive.

Also I also decided to put out a request for a mentor on Twitter, with some success.

I took Friday off.


It’s the fourth week of collecting data on my meetings activity. It feels good to be building up a spreadsheet at least (uh, because I am the OG Head of Data and Search, ok?), but I am not sure if I am collecting the right data, let alone asking the right questions of it.

My meetings themselves aren’t that bad in terms of how they make me feel by the looks of things — all the data is here.

I spend about 40% of my contracted hours in meetings. That’s a lot, but it seems like much more. I look at my calendar for a slot to (say) do a podcast next week and can’t see anything free, although there should be 60% of my contracted time available. Hmm.

A discussion on this topic with Emma during the week was very constructive. There are dimensions I hadn’t thought about and there’s definitely more to learn here.

[1] These are all ‘Medium minutes’, which I find to be about 30 seconds long but YMMV

[2] I failed to be brief as this post is 6 ‘Medium minutes’ long

[3] Or loses their job but pretends to their family that they are going to work

[4] Even worse than the time in the summer of 1997 when, as a kitchen porter in a fancy hotel / pub, I thought that the mirror they were going to present the whole salmon on needed its clasps tightened because they were loose so I found a screwdriver and did that because I have always been dilligent but I forgot about physics so the hot salmon cracked the mirror and the centrepiece was ruined. Oh. My. Days. They didn’t have the heart to sack me then and there because I was such a loveable doofus with long, shoulder-length, wavy blonde hair or something, but they definitely wouldn’t have me back at Christmas. Still, at least I was praised by a future Member of Parliament’s researcher for how well I cleaned the cutlery that one time

[5] I guess I am the extra person. I am the lady in the denim hotpants who was occasionally in the A-Team

[6] I first realised this 9 years ago