weeknotes #2 : 7th — 13th Jan

Image: Winona Ryder as Jo March, writing

This is the year I start writing regularly again. I used to write and blog all the time and then my brain went south, so weeknotes are my foray into making good sense once more.

Christmas already seems far away, my Uber driver wished me a Happy New Year today and my first thought was “we’re still saying that?”

Monday

It is Mondae again chiz chiz (with thanks to Nigel Molesworth). Working from home, definite plans on how to be t̵o̵p̵p̵, productive, and yet and yet. All the brain fog, none of the impetus. Still, I now have a backlog of tasks for bad brain days, and am trying to utilise that time well.

So first on my list of stuff to do was curate our Reading Suggestions Trello board. When I started working in digital, I had no idea of how much the work around it, would fascinate me. I started off reading books like Reality is Broken and Sprint, which I’d buy for other team members because I enjoyed them so much and learned a huge amount. Currently I’m reading all the books on culture and engagement but also books on data, service design, anything that fascinates me or has the potential to make me a better recruiter, mentor and colleague. It made sense to me to open my reading up to the wider team, and to be generous lending my books out. Also it meant I could order stickers…

Image: Ridiculously on-brand stickers, some Ex Libris, some headed Talent Witch and one with my face. Stickers from Moo, natch.

While I was working on my brain fog and motivation I read this really interesting post from Mary McKenna about committing to meeting as many people as possible over the year, mostly in a professional capacity. I really like the idea, even if the thought of meeting 100 separate people throws me into a social anxiety spin. I now have a list of 12 people, one per month that I want to commit to meeting up with. Of course, we’re over half way through January and I have not yet sorted anything, but the intention is there. My list is also people I already know and have mostly already met, which I think is a little bit of a cheat. Must try harder.

So, putting my stall out there, I would love to talk to people about culture and engagement, hiring, training and staff support. Please feel free to bung something in the comments if you’re interested and next week I’ll list who I am planning to meet, so you lot can keep me honest.

Tuesday

Brains, blocks and beehives. Another day a bit like pulling teeth. My note for Tuesday, has that 3 B’s comment and nothing else. Which shows pretty clearly how I was struggling with words and exhaustion. The reference to beehives? I’d like to think it was about community identity and working together in a supportive and productive manner. I suspect it was actually me whinging about the fact that I am so exhausted I don’t have the energy to do lovely things with my hair.

Bees, though, they’re great and have a communal sense of purpose and identity. We should probably be more like bees.

Photo: Close up view of working bees on honey cells, image from StudioSmart

Wednesday

Back in the office, on a hump day and with 5 hours of meetings.

First part of the day talking about hiring processes and who we’re going to work with to help us on this journey. You’d think a 3 hour conversation on this would be dull, but no, we were seeing brilliant, engaged and committed people. All of whom had similar approaches to the best way to hire, especially if you want a diverse team. I’ll be coming back to this in a later post for work, but in the meantime, I’ll just pimp Thayer Prime as an immensely good person to have on your side. (But you already know that, right?)

Afternoon meeting with senior leadership team was super useful after the break, followed by a great meeting on an initiative we’re calling Be the Change, which is going to help us prioritise work. It’s exciting stuff, because we’re encouraging our team and our stakeholders to put work forwards, that we will then triage and see whether it’s something we can/should do. The meeting was a trial run on how we deal with initial requests and it’s clear that already we need to refine and simplify. We want this to be an open and transparent process that is accessible to any staff members, not just those in digital and technology or our immediate stakeholders. Being able to have those conversations with our leadership team, where all points of view are considered and ego is left behind is a really lovely way to work and I’m so glad that we have people who just get it.

Thursday

It’s easy to forget, while you’re off for Christmas, how heinous commuting is. The fact I forgot my headphones two days in a row is enough to make me quietly and exhaustedly rage-y. I got into work already wiped out which is something I am very earnestly trying not to do, because it helps no-one. If this had been a New Year’s resolution, I’d have broken it. Luckily I have colleagues who are as honest with me as Lady Sarah Malborough was with Queen Anne.

Also luckily, one of those same colleagues was helping me edit a blog post for work (link to come, it’s still in editing), so while I was wrangling words, she was also suggesting I GO HOME.

When I did go home I came across this aces post on Conferencing While Chronically Ill, which rang very true for me. I am not great at conferences, because of energy levels and social anxiety. My trip to Barcelona last year for the Atlassian Trello day, was wonderful, but exhausting, which meant I didn’t, for instance, go up to certain speakers and say “hello, you’re aces, please tell me more about this thing”. So that’s a work in progress.

Friday

TGIFriday rather. A morning of work stuff from home, then into town to go to Makers Academy to see one of their careers fairs. I’ve chatted to Will from Makers over the years, when I was Comic, then DIT, then while I was looking for a new role. Their business model is excellent and we have a Maker’s graduate in our team who is absolutely tops. I was really interested to see how businesses would do a 5 minute pitch to the latest cohort of coders, to encourage them to apply for jobs.

Now, cards on the table, one thing I am not is a twenty-something coder who has just done a 12 week bootcamp, absolutely not the target market. I found the presentations didn’t focus on what I’d expect them to. Lots of people talking about their work history (don’t care, don’t care), only 2 women, and some weird priorities about what needs to be told.

One of the presenters said that their culture was 1. Have Fun 2. Build Cool Stuff. Well, yeah, no-one wants to work in a salt mine, but that seems a bit, lightweight? Talking to our Maker’s graduate, she said this is all pretty typical. What she’d wanted to see was things like

  • hey we built this really cool thing
  • let’s show you this really cool thing
  • our pensions scheme is aces
  • we’re super flexible on working hours
  • we share the same values

I’m particularly interested in values, which I feel can be something very different from culture. You can have a startup culture that focuses on booze and fun and making cool stuff. At the same time you can also have values of honesty, transparency, ethical design and business, and so forth. Arguably the values are also your culture, but if you don’t put that front and centre and focus on something like Champagne Thursdays, welp

Image: a very young Sly Stallone shaking his head

As someone who’s collaborating on a culture workshop for later this month, I’m really interested in culture vs values. In my head they’ve always been the same thing, the common goal that drives a team to work together really well. But they have to be inclusive and they can and should be challenged on a regular basis. I stopped using the phrase “cultural fit’ in interviews some years ago, because it can be used to “other” certain applicants who don’t fit a specific mould. Value fit though, that seems to pinpoint things in a better way to my mind. I’d be interested to hear what other people think on this one.

And that’s it from me, a late post, because I’d been too much in my own head last week. But delivering late is better than not delivering at all???

Blinks this week:

Getting Things Done

The Culture Code

Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office

Move

Podcasts:

Under the Skin

Mirrors

Apocrypals

Talent witch, people person, loves digital, charity and frictionless products. Currently working at Barnardo’s.