Feeling of the week: non-stop
To counter this feeling, or just to get to grips with where I’m spending my time, I’ve started using Toggl to track my time. I’m trying to keep it high level for the moment: just whether it’s product work, strategic work, or customer operations. All of these have value, but I think with my new role I should be skewing towards the strategic.⁰
Song of the week: non-stop
Monday I spent the morning training a new team on our flagship product, filmapp. There were a couple of minor things that I should have set up beforehand that I’m absolutely kicking myself about, but they were fixable in the moment and the rest of the presentation went smoothly. One bit of feedback was that the system was “intuitive” — which is absolutely my favourite kind of feedback.
Back in the office I caught up on emails. Since logging my time I’ve noticed I spend at least an hour a day on emails, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to do that in blocks rather than in blobs. One of those emails was confirmation that we’ve secured two more Fast Streamers starting in March, and I’m absolutely over the moon. We’ve got a number of juicy opportunities for them and I absolutely cannot wait to meet them.¹
Tuesday I got to do some coding!
I was digging out some numbers about users and applications to support a decision about scaling. That meant writing database queries, and man alive there’s no better feeling than just getting stuck into a couple of hours of data munging.²
We had our monthly SMT meeting and everything appears to be going well. I’m aiming to increase our staff by two in the next three months: one junior developer and one customer operations team member. “Customer operations team member” is a horrible mouthful, so they’re going to be COps. Specifically a COps practitioner, who’ll eventually lead a team of COps. Hard-bitten, user-focussed, problem-solving COps. They’ll drink tea like it’s water. They’ll get to the root of a problem like armillaria ostoyae that feed exclusively on problem trees.
We closed out the day with backlog grooming. More hard challenges from my colleagues that ended in really fruitful discussions and a rejigging of future priorities.
Wednesday a big meeting was canceled, which on the one hand was a massive bummer — we’ve been gearing up for it for a couple of weeks — but on the other gave me an opportunity to talk to the dev team about upcoming work. They’ve started to limit their WIP at my gentle prompting⁴ and have had real success. Among other things there’s been an increase in team communication, since if WIP is full you have no choice but to go unblock it before starting anything new.
Yay for WIP limits!
I had a great check-in with another new client, who’s expecting to go live very soon. There are a few tweaks to be made — local by-laws that applicants need to be aware of, for example — but they’re otherwise ready to go.
We also tried out our totally new, totally awesome automated instance generator. It works in a totally boring, plain English, exactly how-it’s-supposed-to-work way.
Boring is brilliant when you launch a new product for the first time. It’s exactly what you want. I am very nervous of people who like being in chaotic situations.
Thursday back to uni, and an in-class test. But time for a coffee with one of my oldest mentors⁵ first and a discussion about an MBA. She’s set me some challenges for our next meeting. If anyone has recommendations of finance books for manager types, please put them in the comments!
Friday I worked from home on the technology strategy. Coincidentally, the Government’s Shared Services strategy was launched at the same time. It’s a joke of a document that literally puts user needs last…
…tries to plan the next ten years, and is rammed with nonsense jargon that sounds like it came directly from a consultancy.
Still, it was helpful in showing me what not to do, so there’s a silver lining there. It also hints at what systems government might be buying in the future, so that’s a good market signal to build in to analysis.
As the afternoon rolled around I got a chance to preview some technical debt. It’s some really great work that improves the speed of our service, and I’m very excited to get it rolled out next week.
I ended the week on a massive high: I headed to see my sister’s new flat, and took along an enormous tiramisu made by Antonio, who owns an Italian store in Lewisham. It was decadent. Go there. Buy some. Tell him I sent you.
⁰ I’m absolutely willing to be proven wrong on this
¹ Full disclosure: I was a Fast Streamer and I had my issues with the programme. But I can say with honesty that it consistently turns out thoughtful, curious, eager people who learn quickly and get stuff done. If you’re interested in offering a secondment leave me a comment and I’ll dig out the email address for you.
² I looked up “munging” out of idle curiosity. I do not recommend you do the same. The definition starts “Go to a graveyard” and let’s face it, there’s no way it’s going to get better after that.³
³ How on earth munging can be associated with data and the definition above, of which we will not speak, is totally beyond me.
⁴ Read: me furiously limiting my own WIP and suggesting it as an experiment in retros.