S02E22: Climactic finale

It’s been a long, long week

It’s finale week. A lot of threads have tied up, so I’m going to take two weeks off and review how I’m feeling. I might still publish stuff though since the recent flurry of reads on my non-fictional-fiction have given me a warm feeling about my own writing.


Things have happened

1I applied to the Future Leaders Scheme, a development scheme my organisation runs for people at my level of seniority. I found out on Wednesday that, thanks to multiple revisions of my statement from Morgan, Jenny, and others, I got through to the second round. Now it’s time for soul-measuring⁰ and testing my judgement. Should I pass those, I’ll get a regular old interview. I’m not certain I’ll be successful, but I’m really excited nonetheless. That’s definitely the big arc for the next season, if I get in.

2My code is so close to production I can taste it. I’m learning a lot, and that means it feels like I’m moving slowly and not delivering value. I should be happier that I’m learning things, and to a certain extent I know this. For example, I’m now comfortable enough with the language that I’ve offered to do a practise code interview with a friend’s mentee. Remotely. We live in a cool if moderately dystopian future.

3Relationship chat: so two months have passed and we’re…friendly? There’s loads of history but, at the same time, we’re sort of becoming friends again like we did so many years ago. It’s a very odd experience. I’m so happy about it: she is completely brilliant and having her support — and being able to support her — feels great. There’s still a huge grey area where affection for a friend could trip and fall face-first into the shark-infested waters of deeper affection, but I think we’re successfully avoiding that. That’s going to be a complex and evolving storyline over the next season.

I’m in a shark cage of emotion, and it’s probably best to stay in there

4Flat purchase is going ahead. I’m going to have a flat! In Zone 4, so far from central that I think it’s in another county.¹ I’ll have borrowed huge amounts from both the Government and a bank, but it’ll be 5.2% mine and that’s the important thing. It has been a long, boring, drawn out process involving a butt-ton of paper. There must be easier ways of doing this.

5It’s a small thing, but I took an hour out to help a colleague in a different team do some data analysis. They opened with “Let’s work with their API”, which I negotiated down to “Let’s do the analysis with tools we’ve already got”. We worked collaboratively and ended up using Google Sheets to meet all the user needs. It felt amazing and reminded me that we can do small things, things that seem simple, to make our colleagues lives significantly easier.

I also restrained myself and, instead of using some kind of bleeding edge serverless do-dad, actually met the user need. Go me. This must be maturity.

6My corporate project is building momentum. Hopefully this means another meeting next week with the next layer up to convince them to release some funds. In the meantime, here’s a peek at the prototype I made. It may still come to nothing, and it really has hammered home that I’m completely incapable of letting go of things, but: I’m angling to build a service, and the service might look like this:

Doesn’t it look…completely boring and useable?

This season has been rough, with that massive, mid-season upheaval. Some aspects of that event might make it into my writing in the next few weeks: with hindsight, parts of it seem so corny, so obviously directed by a heavy-handed hack director, that it would be impossible not to laugh. Stay tuned.

I love you all, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

⁰ Psychometric tests measure your soul, because your psyche is your soul. A psychopomp is a guider of souls. There. That’s a thing you know now.

¹ I just checked. It is.

S02E21: Long lived feature branch

My working life is in the open. What if that were true for everyone?

Getting feedback on one’s work is wonderful. Getting it in public, where anyone can see it (and chime in, if they feel so inclined), is a weird experience where my first instinct has been to hide. I’m still working out how to deal with it. It’s probably not practical, but a mischievous part of me wonders what the impact would be if policy colleagues published their work with critiques still visible…

Three things that happened this week

1Project Corporate Objective rattles onwards, delayed slightly by the rotating door of summer leave. I’ve put some estimates and ideas together, but this week my struggle has been around nemawashi. It’s a japanese word that means the informal, gentle, awareness-raising process that I’m trying to go through so that when it comes to the moment of truth, the foundations have been put in place. It is a better word than ‘socialising’, which is what we tend to use. This is all background: I’d like your help⁰ working out how high I should go when I do my nemawashi. As high as possible, risking ruffling feathers of those lower down? Or lower down first, and risk losing momentum? Or should it be lower, and then higher, and is that really what nemawashi means?

I’m also struggling massively with the unspoken stuff that people do a lot of. Speak your minds folks. It helps. (You’re not the worst)

2I’ve almost finished my first big feature. Soon — hopefully very soon — some magic words that I’ve written will make things happen for people in my office. It has been a really significant learning experience, and not solely due to the fact that it’s a new language to me. Working out how other developers like to work, and the interface and hand off between me and my frontend colleagues, is something quite novel. I’ve gotten into bad habits developing by myself. Working with other people is the only way to reduce those. Who did you pair with this week? Nobody? Go and do it now. You’ll make everything/anything you’re writing better.

3I am noticing more and more that I don’t deal well with noisy places. A friend and I planned to try out a mini-golf¹ course close to the office, because they’re a good person and I’m still in a bit of a heartbroken funk. Walking into the basement space the noise hit me like a faceful of bricks. I couldn’t focus on anything at all. It was a sudden and genuinely visceral reaction. Then, yesterday, I saw a few old friends² after the annual DaTCon and noticed it again. It could be tiredness; it could be emotional fatigue. But I’m concerned about this, because the world that I live in is noisy without cessation.

On the other hand, it would give me an excuse to join the Diogenes Club, a pursuit blocked only by its non-existence.

The sun has come out here, and I’m in shorts, so I’m going to leg it away home before it starts up again. This weekend I’m seeing my ex as we take our cat to the vet, and I’m nervous: we’re still tiptoeing around each other in a way that is objectively normal and subjectively ties your intestines in knots. Wish me luck.

And if you didn’t like this tweet the first time here’s your second opportunity³

⁰ Yes, you. Don’t look so surprised

¹ Dear vendors, crazy is a word that gets thrown at people with mental health issues and I find your use of it to describe putting greens with windmills on them slightly shitty

² And so, so many fresh and unknown faces

³ You Philistine

S02E20: Baby steps

Starting to feel more comfortable in myself, whoever that is

Overarching feeling of the week: pushing at the boundary of how much I can take on and feeing grateful that I’m at the point in my life where I can identify it

Themes of the week

1My job is weird. It consists of trying to think of every way something could go wrong, writing those down, and then finding a solution that will not go wrong in any of those ways.⁰ I explained that badly. Look, I really enjoy what I do, and every week that goes by reinforces my feeling that I made the right choice. I got some really good feedback about a feature I’m building, and the process itself is really great. I put headphones and get completely into the groove by turning everything else off. I feel like I’m making an axle: almost everyone who uses the whole product won’t notice, but if one day someone who knows about this stuff takes a look they’ll let out a low whistle and say, “Dang, that’s a nice axle”¹

The fact that I can re-apply that learning in new ways, like sharing knowledge with a friend’s mentee or helping my sister automate some of the less valuable bits of her job, is just the icing on the cake. I’m doing cool work for my team’s objective and my corporate objective, and although I can’t talk much yet about the latter I may be hitting some of you up on the down low to ask questions about money. I’m lucky, and I worked hard, and I’m grateful. I think these things can all be true at the same time.

2Feedback. I’ve been guilty of asking for feedback badly and giving feedback badly. I’m trying to be better at that. A few conversations I’ve had recently as well as things I’ve read are pushing my to understand how to do this better. Breakfast with a colleague brought up one point: how do you give feedback to someone who sees “mean” where you see “honest (if blunt)”? And then these posters flew past (and identified for me by Zuz, so thank you Zuz):

So I’m going to redo my feedback questionnaire when I get in on Monday to better reflect these suggestions, and make sure my future feedback is like this.

3Feeling the edge of my possibilities. Some of this is from my current low mental health, but I suspect some of it is also that my job now commands a lot of my energy. In either case, I’ve found myself turning down requests from other people, and that’s felt good for the first time ever. Every time I’ve turned people down before I’ve felt guilty for 24 hours and rung them up in a blind panic asking them to take me back.² I don’t know what happened, but I really hope this confidence stays.

Just say no (to more projects)

I am still taking on way too many self-directed projects, because I’m desperately trying to fill my evenings in less expensive ways as I save up for a flat. I’ve got too many on the go at the moment. I’ve noticed this solely because I’ve started recording things I’m doing and the time I’m spending on them, inspired by Dan’s meetings data. It’s valuable, and I’ve settled on the same heuristic as him — more than 40% of my day in meetings completely wipes me out. This is generally correlated with getting takeout. Fewer meetings → slimmer me, so let’s make this happen.

4All the good people helping with my corporate objective. Dan poking me to be a bit more OneTeamGov in my corporate objective. Morgan challenging loads of my assumptions. My line manager reminding me to look at the bigger (bigger) picture and consider whether I was over-invested. The little team of people coalescing around it and offering support. Someone raising an issue on the code repository because the prototype wasn’t working for them and then making a pull request to fix it.³ This objective is so exciting because it’s only 50% about code. The other half is the human-centric stakeholder management like getting people to buy into your story. I’ve got to find evidence and then build a compelling narrative out of it. It’s (probably) not going to make me a better technical developer, but it’s going to make me a better leader, and I’m excited and forking grateful to everyone engaged in it.

5This tweet kicked off some amazing answers…

…and I was reminded again that I love twitter. Here’s a few threads that I really, really enjoyed.

There’s a job that boils down to “try to break into a building”, and here’s a really bloody cool story from someone who does it:


The Millenium Dome — I visited it it when I was 10. Let’s not think about how long ago that was and instead enjoy this fascinating thread all about it:

⁰ It’s a really interesting job, and we’re looking for more people to come and do the job too. If you’d like to be a developer, now is a very good time. We’re running a pilot scheme for people at lower grades to make the jump and we’re hiring developers, senior developers, and a bunch of other roles. Plus my organisation is full of cool people like the team with a Goblet of Wisdom that tweets every morning:

¹ I literally googled ‘important car parts’ for this metaphor, I have zero clue what an axle is or does.

² Yes, this is absolutely tied to last week’s revelation that I desperately need people to like me.

³ A pull request is when someone copies your codebase, makes a change, and then asks if you’d like to incorporate their changes into the core codebase. It’s immensely helpful because it spreads the work around and, in this case, meant I didn’t have to trudge around trying to find a Windows machine with the right permissions to replicate the error.