The one where I go back to work
This has been…a week. I’m in a Starbucks by Embankment with a juice, watching the world go by, and trying my best to decompress.
Monday was almost entirely taken up with briefings from my very little team about what had happened in my absence. As I mentioned last time, not as much of the process I’d put in place survived my leaving. This makes me worry that it’s just me keeping things moving, and that’s absolutely terrible for us because it means we can only scale as far as I can work. I came away with a lot to think about, but the overriding element is automation: it seems to be the least complex answer to at least two problems. One subsequent problem of automation, however, would leap out and surprise me later in the week.
On Tuesday I met up with my peer-mentor. Morgan is a former Fast Streamer and has been mentioned here before. She had some great insights for me, and I’m hopeful I returned the favour. She also mentioned a role in her team she’s hoping to get a DaT Fast Streamer to fill and for a moment I was tempted to head back — the opportunities to do amazing technical work are absolutely there, so don’t let anyone tell you they aren’t. Richard, who heads up the firm we employ for development, was in the office too — so it was an incredibly good opportunity to hash out some problems we’d been having and look at the longer term. We have Big Plans, and some details to work out. They’ll be published soon, because making things open makes them better.
On Wednesday I did my manual testing thing, going through completed tickets. Halfway through I was pulled out to do something else, and consequently a fairly large feature went on to our production servers without our clients getting warning. It’s a great feature, and it’s going to help — and for the most part it was welcomed — but I don’t want that to happen again. So if I can work out how to automate some of our processes, I’ll need to work out how to stop automating others.
I also presented a discussion paper to my boss. I like getting the bare bones of a discussion together, and letting a discussion flow from there. Some people recommend “strong opinions, weakly held” but to me that sounds like a recipe for a strong-minded senior person to bulldoze everyone else with rubbish ideas. What else does it require to make it work? If it’s an office full of extroverts then it might not be for me, a closet introvert.
Thursday I’d put aside half a day for Sprint Planning. It’s one of my favourite agile ceremonies, because there’s literally no better way to communicate to devs — particularly those in a remote team — precisely what you’re trying to achieve. I got some really valuable feedback about my user stories: they’re too vague with no clearly defined outcome. We had an explicit conversation about capacity, about what we expect from each other, and about clarity. We cleared up a lot. I’ve never been so confident about a future sprint.
We also finished in 2 hours. BOOM.
Then, right at the end of the day, I called a new client in the United States. Nothing prepares me for the accents in the Southern United States. They’re glorious, but I’ve only ever heard them in films. At some point I ought to head out there. Probably not soon though.
That day finished with bubbles and old colleagues and a couple of daiquiris that, it turns out, I insisted on shaking because I Am A Hipster Twat.
Friday was absolutely non-stop. New clients, like buses, have all clumped together and jumped on at the same time. I spent half a day collecting everything required to get them onboarded smoothly before leaping sideways into a meeting to talk about, among other things, IT provision and folder hierarchies.
At the very last minute my US-based colleague and I managed to configure a client’s payment gateway to pay us at point of sale, as opposed to invoicing at the end of a period. It means our cashflow is better, and the client doesn’t need to spend any of their finance department’s time on invoices and the like.
I wrote up technical documentation on how to do it in future and called it a day. I felt absolutely drained, so went on a giant walk that took me from Southwark station to Charing Cross via North Lambeth and Westminster. Long walks — any exercise, really — absolutely relax me. There’s a glorious quote by Pratchett about a policeman’s walk, a sort of easy stroll where the swinging pendulum of the leg propels the body forward. It’s really stupid, but these kinds of mindless things: one foot, then the other, then the other — totally frees your brain from everything else.
So that’s why I wrote these notes now. Because I feel a little bit energised by juice and people walking by and strolling across the city.
What I’m reading: reactions to Google DudeBro’s manifesto, particularly those that have insights into how to avoid hiring them. This is my favourite. Also trying to self-correct my management, and this piece that I literally just read is resonating a lot. Check it out from my favourite CEO Jason Fried.
What I’m listening to: Ear Hustle. An absolutely breathtaking insight into the US prison system. The episode before last talked about solitary confinement. It’s intense. It’s messed up. It’s reminded me a lot of the sterling work MoJ digital do with prisoners: they’re people and pretending they’re not and locking them in circumstances that are deleterious to their mental health is, well, criminal.
What I’m learning: Docker. It might have some valuable applications in my context, and if not it’s very cool right now.