Weeknotes S01 EP09

The penultinote

I’m at Weeknote number 9! Who’da thunk it? As I approach the big one-o I’m wondering if I’ll actually be able to stop at 10.

This has become such a part of my working that I’m worrying that it might actually be detrimental to stop. So, I’ve got 2 more weeks until I go on holiday, and I’m thinking I might slip in a cheeky extra episode in this series to make it 11.

It won’t be like one of those terrible round-up shows like they do with Mock the Week where its all bits you’ve already seen and then Dara O’Briain just giggling [1]. It’ll be a proper one. Promise.

Pull yer sel’ together Dara

So anyway, about my week. It has been really hard. I’ve felt swamped. I’ve felt uncomfortably busy. I’ve picked up new work now that Olivia has gone, have had continuous context switching to deal with, and a lot of my mental energy has been taken up with thinking about changes in my team.

Also, it’s been an extended working week, for reasons which will become clear.


On Monday I got into Holborn early and worked from Grind coffee shop. I had a lovely croissant which immediately bollocksed up my plan to eat healthily this week. I picked up emails, and I drank tea, and it was noisy but I was out in the world, and it felt like a good start.

From there I went to Aviation House to meet Richard who had responded to my blog about looking for a mentor, tipped off by Dan (thanks Dan). We had a good (if rambling) chat [2].

I guess this set the tone for the rest of my week because I did a lot of working out loud, getting things clear in my head by talking about them. That works for me. But I know sometimes other people find it a bit intense. I’ve been trying to rein it in, and I didn’t do a good job of that this week.

But I’m allergic to cats, Matt.

Anyway, I walked into work, grabbed some sushi to try and counteract the croissant, and then I pretty much spent the rest of the day at my desk.

I had a call about a new service, it will be the first I’ve worked on which has a domain exemption based on marketing. It will also mean working with the comms, so it will be interesting to see how the Service Standard and comms requirements work together. I’m not sure what assurance will look like because it’s likely to cause several grey areas.

On Tuesday I was in the office. I had a few chasing emails to send and had to try and get a User Researcher to join the panel for an upcoming Beta Assessment. This has been a bit of a treasure hunt, but I think we finally have someone to join us, which is good.

We aren’t a big department, so we don’t have access to rafts of assessors. It means whenever we run them we have to beg borrow and steal. It’s good that we get to meet people from other departments and get their perspective, but it’s also a bit stressful.

Tuesday morning we had a meeting to discuss changes happening to our team structure. This has been eating up a lot of my mental energy over the past few weeks and has been a big distraction. There has been lots of chinese whispers and it’s been difficult to work with the uncertainty. At least everything is out in the open now.

Then, I had a meeting with Anna in our security team, attended our leadership team readout and had lunch at my desk.

After lunch spoke with someone about a new opportunity. Another potentially difficult one; the team want to buy the same thing as another team, which is problematic because I know that there are problems with the thing.

Another example of where people feel like they’re doing the right thing and saving money by joining something which already exists?

I sometimes wonder if people actually believe that or if it’s just a convenient line. Is that cynical? I don’t want to be cynical.

Thanks Owen, I’m actually nearly 35, so.

Most of the time it isn’t cheaper to jump on the thing which is already there, and often the team haven’t done the homework to outline their requirements anyway, so they wouldn’t know if there were better options.

I guess that’s my job.

In the afternoon I spoke to Richard (Rico) at the Digital Academy which was really good and an interesting chat — I hope we will speak again soon. In the evening I caught up with Olivia after her first 2 days at DEFRA. It was really nice to catch up, but even though I left the pub at 6.45 I didn’t get home till 9pm and that really really got to me because I missed the toddler’s bedtime and I was hungry.

Wednesday was full-on. I didn’t stop all day and when I got home in the evening I was completely drained.

It started in the morning with One Team Gov breakfast club. It was good, but it’s not entirely clear to me how I can be involved. I’ll carry on with my microactions, I believe in them, but I haven’t managed to find anything “meaty” that I think I can add value to. Yet.

Ben came and it was good to have a very brief thumbs up across the room — I’m looking forward to chatting more this week when all of the weeknoters meet up!

How do you do, fellow kids?

Amit also came along and we had coffee and a chat afterward. Amit taught my UX Bootcamp at General Assembly back in January and we said we would stay in touch. Since January he has set up Experience Haus to train product and UX people, and is now working at Crossrail. He is impressive and a good person to know.

I got back to my desk and had 10 minutes before I had to head off for a catch up about the service we will be assessing soon.

Immediately afterwards I had a meeting with Michele about some training events we were planning. With all the changes to the team I don’t think we have enough time to organise it now. Also, when we do put them on we will be changing the name because I’m not comfortable with what was originally chosen.

It will probably change from “Think Digital” to “Working in the open (with DATT)” which takes the focus away from “digital as the answer” and makes it much more open to everyone #microaction #OneTeamGov

Everyone!!!

Then I answered a couple of emails before heading out to meet Adele for lunch. *Cue more rambling and incoherence* thank heavens Adele is so patient. It was really helpful to talk everything through.

I had two more conversations in the afternoon about different opportunities, and then, when I got back to my desk at 4.30pm our new Service Desk manager came by for a catch up. So I pretty much had half an hour at my desk all day. My emails built up, everything in my inbox seemed to need my attention.

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier that I was working from home on Thursday.

So, on Thursday morning I dropped the toddler at nursery, then did some emails and wrote a couple of small bits of documentation which could be used in some programme comms.

I headed into town [3] for 8.30am to meet David from Letchworth Heritage Foundation. If you’re interested, the foundation say:

“We are a self-funding charitable organisation re-investing for the long term benefit of communities in Letchworth Garden City.”

I’m doing some freelance work to plan user testing for their new website. It is a small piece of work, but it was a good meeting. I’m writing test scripts and coaching David to deliver the testing sessions — that’s a rewarding place to be. Building capability outside of the civil service.

I stayed and had coffee and worked on next steps for a piece of work, it is complex and there are a lot of moving parts including replatforming, procurement and development. Plus, a technology decision has been made and it seems clear to me that the implications of that haven’t been thought through.

I had an hour long call with the stakeholders about it and it suddenly dawned on me that I’m effectively project managing it, which is outside of my remit but not outside of my ability, so until there is a better way, I will carry on.

“That sounds really boring” — I’m not saying anything Mr. Wool-monster.

In the afternoon I did lots more emails to catch up on as much as possible. In the evening I started to put together a briefing or my new manager about the work I currently have on. I am currently at 100% capacity, certain aspects of what I’m doing could easily be full-time just on their own,and I’m 4 days per week. I don’t want anything to slip.

The work I’m currently managing — sanitised a bit for weeknotes.

It felt good to actually map this out in some form and even though it’s not scientific in terms of sizing, it goes some way to showing where my time is spent. I sent this on Friday because I also usually pick up small pieces of work on my day off even though I don’t get paid for it, because, as I said previously:

I am an idiot.

On Friday evening and part of Saturday I did the freelance work for the Heritage Foundation; and on Saturday evening, gin in hand, I tried to write these weeknotes. Three gins down I realised that wouldn’t work, so here I am on Sunday finishing them off.

So I haven’t really stopped working or thinking about work this week, and I should probably go and spend some time with my family now. Have a good one and see you next week!


Some interesting things I read/listened to/watched this week:

“Retaining a sense of alienness is a much underrated skill”
  • Ellie’s blog about infrastructure (which kindly mentions me even though that phrase can in no way be attributed to me really).
  • An article by Tokyo Fashion about the Death of Harjuku (a 39 minute Medium read! Ok, yes, I skimmed a significant amount of it)
  • I watched a few episodes of Dear White People, and the new Marvel series on Netflix.
  • I listened to the new Broken Social Scene album about a million times. And the great new Four Tet track a few less.

[1] Full disclosure, I don’t actually like Mock the Week.

[2] Rambling by me.

[3]Letchworth Garden City, it’s barely a town, but I still love it.

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