From home, now until when?


Yesterday afternoon we were given the option to work from home if it was feasible. I have laptop and VPN, and so I elected to take that up. This morning the message came through that alternative rostering options were now off the table, and if able to work from home you should do it. I’m home now, don’t know when I’ll get back to the office next – months, I suspect.

It was a strange feeling yesterday. Much of the business is trialling work from home. On my floor, which is on the corporate level, probably 60% of people were away. When the news came that we could work from home, there was a strange vibe. Like Christmas, someone said, though not like Christmas. You know, there’s a scheduled break coming up for everyone, and there’s a sense of farewell, see you next year. Except in this case, there’s nothing joyous or expectant about it, and no-one knows when we’ll see each other next.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible for everyone yet. This is the busiest time of year for the business, and for many, there aren’t the arrangements in place to work anywhere but in the office. That’s making a lot of people nervous, and some pissed off. I understand that. I also understand that if the business fails, then people lose their jobs. It sounds a bit callous, but it’s a balancing act.

That’s pretty much been full time on – enabling a way for the bulk of the sales and operational staff to continue in their jobs working from home.

We cutover on Monday night, as I described nervously that afternoon. I worked 15 hours that day, finishing a little after 11pm. Somewhat to my surprise, it was almost a complete success. Given the rush and the sheer scale of change, I fully expected for parts of it to go awry. I factored that in when planning the deployment, figuring it was better to have something in and working than to delay in these uncertain times. As it turns out, the bugs were minor. It was a mighty achievement.

We delivered about 80% of the solution on Monday night. The remaining 20% was implemented last night. Once more, almost perfect, and very well received.

I know a lot of people were heaving sighs of relief, but probably none more so than me.

In terms of the business, this isn’t the final call. I’ve facilitated the underlying technology, but there’s also VPN licensing and applications to be deployed and, in some instances, actual devices to be handed out. Thankfully that’s not in my purview, and I’ve done my bit.

In times like these, it doesn’t feel right to be too personal. It feels indulgent as if perspective is askew. I’m conscious of the troubling times, and the tremendous personal challenges many will face. Many people will fall ill. Many others will lose their job. Society itself is disrupted like never before.

All that is humbling, but I want to share for the record something is personal, and quite possibly self-indulgent. I feel some satisfaction at what we’ve achieved, and my part in, though perhaps not as much as what you might think. It’s my job, and I enjoyed it. It’s significant at a deeper level, however.

Coming out of my homeless phase, I wondered if I had lost anything in the process. Was I still the same man? Was I still as capable? Was all that a myth?

Within a few years, I realised that I was just as sharp and as capable as ever. The problem was that I was hardly allowed to show it. For various reasons, the opportunities were infrequent and limited in scope. It’s taken a while to find myself in a position of influence, and a crisis like this to show what I was capable of. It took a budding catastrophe for me to take the stage again.

I don’t know if I proved anything to myself through this. It’s probably proved something to others, but find I don’t care as much about that as I would have expected. It feels almost a mic drop moment for me. There, I’ve done it. I don’t have to do it again. I’ve proven a point. I wonder now if one of the motivating forces in me these last few years will now quieten?

Practically speaking, this is the start of it for me. I’m home, but I’ve identified other opportunities that have been green lit to do. I’ll do them from home, in conjunction with other people working from home. That’s the world today.

Being practical, I’ve probably assured my role for the immediate future. I expect a lot of others will lose theirs.

Pardon my self-indulgence. I know much greater things are afoot.

Lead the way


I watched Scott Morrison in his press conference announcing updates to COVID-19 restrictions. For the first time in my life, I almost felt sorry for him.

Customarily Morrison comes across as a smug prick, with an unwelcome smirk on his face. Most of what he says and does it couched in political terms. He’s always trying to gain an advantage, as if the prime purpose isn’t the national good, but political gain. For me – unlike many others, obviously – he’s never come across as a convincing national leader. First and foremost he’s a political operator.

That remained true until about a week ago. Then he woke up, I think. He realised he was in the middle of a catastrophe and it was his job to do something about it. He was very late to that understanding, which explains why the response to date has been slow and hesitant.

Last night there was no smirk and no sign of being smug. Instead, he appeared almost vulnerable – the most human I’ve ever seen him. He was caught up in the biggest challenge this country has faced since the wars, and he knew it. He was verbose, as he tends to be, but gone was the political cant. Still, the message was vague.

I think one of the issues we have is about the strategy we should have adopted. All the talk is about flattening the curve – a phrase that will live on in the language long after this. The right strategy to achieve this is hard to know because, essentially, there’s a conflict between economic and physical health. Right now they’re almost at odds. The best way to curtail infection and save lives is basically to shut the economy down – a lockdown. That’s a harsh cure, and one the government has been pussyfooting around. Throughout, they’ve sought to compromise between the two poles.

Personally, I think that’s misguided and probably pointless. My view again is that you have to take the firmest measures and try and stop this thing in its tracks. That’ll save lives and if it means going into lockdown then so be it. Better a sharp shock than prolonged agony, which is what we face without decisive action.

We’re now where we should have been at three weeks ago. That’s three weeks lost, as well as extra lives ultimately, and it means the pain will likely extend longer. I’m sure tougher restrictions will be required, why not jump to them now? It’s this creeping, indecisive process that dilutes the confidence of people.

One thing I know from leading projects that you must be decisive – or at least, appear to be so. I know there’s a lot of conflicting advice in this, the most extreme of pressure environments, but this is not the time to equivocate. You’re not going to get it 100% right in such extreme situations, so don’t even think that, but if you are to err, err on the side of caution. It’s only human to have doubts, but in times like this, you can’t show it. What people want are leadership and certainty. They want firm resolutions and a set strategy. They want to trust you have this is in hand, and that’s not going to happen unless you’re out in front leading the way.

I think people are ready to do the right thing. There are many crying out for it. There’s a lot at stake. Now’s the time to be strong.

Now I worry


There are certain things that make me nervous or anxious, and there are things that don’t. I’ve been working on a critical, high-profile, very complex project the last 8-10 days and it hadn’t occurred to me to worry. It’s high stakes but I guess I just assume that I’ll get it done – and in fact, I take great delight in the challenge. There’s pressure, but I’m just not wired to feel it in situations like this.

Until now. I sent an email over the weekend to the executive group sharing my opinion that we should work to deploy the solution today, given the rapidly deteriorating circumstances. After much to-ing and fro-ing, they agreed to that about forty minutes ago.

We’re good to go, I think. We’ve tested the best we can, we’ve jammed in the enhanced functionality to handle 300+ users, we’ve reviewed and cross-checked and updated. In the real world, I wouldn’t be doing it yet. There’s still functionality to be added, and fine-tuning to be done, but we don’t have the luxury of a real-world at the moment – the world has turned unreal.

I think I’ve made the right call, and I think we’re ready for it. But this is when I worry. I’m almost at the point I’ve done all I can do. I’m waiting, in limbo, the minutes going slowly by while I’m wondering if I’ve forgotten anything. It would be easier if it was happening in the next hour, and not in three.

If it works I’ll get a lot of kudos, and I’ll feel pretty chuffed myself. It feels like a mighty effort, but the effort isn’t all mine. I work with a vendor who has to do all the hard work turning requests into code. They’ve worked every night and through the weekend. I’m very grateful to them and almost proud of what they’ve achieved.

If this works this is something they can put on their CV and brag about to their friends. I joked the other day we’d have some t-shirts made up after this: I survived the COVID-19 live-chat crisis, 2020. Not the sort of joke you want to make right now for, no matter what happens tonight, it’s a lot bigger than this.

What next?


It’s probably a week since I last wrote and here as everywhere it’s been an eventful week.

I think it’s inevitable that we’ll be lockdown soon, but I think that was pretty clear a week ago, also. The difference is that the virus has spread so much more since then and finally our political leadership, and much of our community (not all), have woken up to it.

Unfortunately, the government here didn’t take the threat as seriously as it should, and so it didn’t prepare as good governance would suggest. As a result, we’re short on testing kits and protective wear. Doctors are screaming out for supplies that are very slow to arrive. It’s saying fuck all that we’re more progressed than the states (which fucked up big time), but we’re still far behind where we should be – in terms of testing, medical preparedness, isolation protocols, even common-sense practices such as screening at entry points. And well behind on policy.

I figure the government has been about 10 days behind the curve when it needed to be in front of it. We’ve been playing catch-up throughout, and it’ll cost lives. I’m almost certain they’ll declare a lockdown this week but had they done that even a week ago then much of the worst impacts might have been mitigated. The infection would have been much better contained, and the spread much less. Unfortunately, there’s an exponential factor in this which means the best we can hope for now is slowing it down – but we lost a significant advantage by not acting sooner.

To compound that has been the messaging, which has been pretty poor. Apparently, there’s now an information campaign going, but I’ve yet to see an add. There’s been little clear and definite advice, and the PM was still politicking about it last weekend. He’s one of the worst offenders. At a time when the critical nature of this virus had to be highlighted, he said he was off to the footy.

I used to think Australia did these things well, but not anymore. The combination of poor leadership/government and a public service decimated by political partisanship means there’s hardly anyone running the shop. The one exception is the premier of Victoria, Dan Andrews, who is firm and decisive and a very good communicator. Thankfully he’s my premier, so maybe we have a chance.

After working from home last Monday, I was back in the office for the rest of the week. The pattern is supposed to repeat this week, but I don’t expect to get back to the office again in the short term.

I’ve been crazy busy, almost to an unhealthy state. As of yesterday, I’d worked 13 days in a row, and many of those days for 10-12 hours. Typically I’d wake up at 7am and be on the phone, be on the go all day, and might have my final call at 11-12pm with India. I’ve almost given up on a decent sleep because my mind has been so busy with the challenges I had to overcome. I’m on the phone all day, or sending emails or messages, and racing up and down the stairs. I forget to eat and drink and have actually lost a few kilos in the last seven days. I’m thinking all the time, coming up with solutions, then workarounds when the technical gets in the way, coordinating people and seeking answers.

Realistically, I can’t go on much longer than this, but I don’t expect I have to. I hoped to be in a position to press the go button on Friday, but not quite there. I’m working this weekend, but not as much as last. We’re targeting a cutover tomorrow afternoon and should hit it.

In normal circumstances, we’d delay, but all this has been a rush, and I’d rather deploy in a managed scenario than be forced to do it in a hurry. Effectively, we’ll be making adjustments in the production version, but at least 350 people will have access to it, which means effectively that the business can continue in a work from home situation. I’m confident that 80% of what we plan will be in, and 100% of it by the time we need it. I can monitor and tweak before it hits the big time.

I’ll be relieved when it happens, but it has to work. I’ll be busy watching over and maintaining it for a while, but there’ll come a time when I can take a step back.

It’s a funny thing to say given the current situation, but I’ve earnt a fair bit of time off in lieu (ironic as I already have 7 weeks of accrued leave, will be working from home anyway, and can’t go anywhere). I need the time, though. As I mentioned, I’m starting to fray at the edges. Last night I felt like I hit the wall. I was in bed with the light-off by 9.30 and sleep until 7am – the best sleep I’ve had in months. I think once the job’s done there might be a bit of a collapse as I’ve been running on adrenalin. I’ll need to detox then because my head is full of this stuff and it needs to be cleaned out.

Apparently, I’m earning a lot of kudos with the bigwigs. They’re hanging on my progress, and I read echoes of my updates in their daily reports. This is ironic also. Not that I’d got around to documenting it here, but a couple of weeks ago we came to an agreement that I would get a promotion and pay rise by May. I’ve earned it even more now, but the reality is I might be lucky to keep my job if it all truly goes to shit.

For what it’s worth, I intend to self isolate when this job is done. I finally got some loo paper, and all I’m missing now is some tonic water to go with my gin. I ordered another monitor this morning so that I can work effectively with my work laptop at home. I’m just about ready to do it. For how long do you reckon? I think months, and what the world looks like after that I don’t know.

Full-on


I feel like I’m living in a bubble. I’m working from home today, upon instruction, and every chance will be tomorrow as well, and perhaps forever after that. I also worked all weekend – about 6 hours on Saturday and 9 hours yesterday (starting at 9am and clocking off from a call at 11pm). I’m wearied by work, but there’s also all this current hullabaloo to deal with.

The reason I’m so busy is that they twigged at work that maybe we should be doing something to prepare for working from home, about ten days after I said it’d be a good idea. Most of the work to enable that falls on my shoulders. It’s a funny thing, for the last few days it feels like all roads lead to H.

The reason for that is that the alternative to phone-based customer service in circumstances like this is live chat from home. I’m the man who implemented live chat and chatbot way back when and has more knowledge of it more than all the rest of them put together. Suddenly this is the solution the business is gunning for. Up till now, there might have been about fifteen live chat agents across the organisation – we’re now looking to increase that by over 2000%.

Adding complexity to that is that we’re two entities containing very distinct and separate business units, requiring different things. For point of comparison, we recently added a live chat segment to a pre-existing team. That project was over three weeks. We’re now attempting to re-architect the whole chatbot, add 350 users, add in another two live chat sites, add some routing complexity, and hopefully complete some testing, all in the space of about five days.

I love it. I’m in my element. I was struggling a little last week, and then this came along, and I’m off and racing. My brain is teeming with ideas, I’m figuring out what must be done on the fly, making calls, sending emails, building prototypes, dealing with problems and people, chivvying them along, guiding them, assisting them, and asking for assistance.

There’s no-one else who can do this. If I wasn’t there, they’d be fucked. They’d probably get something done eventually, but it’d take a lot longer because they’d need to figure it out first, and it wouldn’t be nearly so elegant. So okay, I’m blowing my own trumpet, fair call, but this is the essence of it. I love being the man. I always have. I don’t feel the pressure. It’s all a buzz for me. All opportunity. All excitement. This is mine, let me show you what I can do. It’s very alpha.

I missed this. I was flat, and even though I had to work all weekend, it turned me around. I’ve spent all this time designing solutions and mapping out requirements and jobs to be done. I’ve sent a million emails. On Saturday, we hit an unexpected hurdle, and that gave it another dimension again – both good and bad.

It happened, and once you know what’s not possible, then you’re left with what is, so pretty quickly I framed a workaround in my head. I couldn’t just do it though, I had to go through channels. So I escalate it to my manager. When he hasn’t responded hours later, my instinct is to be decisive, just do it. But then he says fine, and rather than making a decision then he organises a telecon yesterday morning with all the executive staff. I understand why, but the outcome was the same. I explained the situation, gave them my opinion, and ultimately that’s the solution we’re deploying.

It’s true, I’m a bit maverick. Times like these, I get reminded of it. I’ve always been a popular team member, but not always what they deem a great team player because my style is less consensus and more about pitching ahead and getting things happening before dragging everyone after me. I think some of that’s old school because I figure things out quickly, though not hastily, and conclude a plan of action. Once that’s done all that’s left is to do it. Except, in this day and age, you have to follow a process and that’s perfectly understandable – except it gets in the way of me doing things. And all that was in my leadership profile the other week.

So in this there’s the good, I’m challenged and my mind whirrs and I come up with a solution and how clever am I, I think. But then I’m reminded that while I have all the knowledge I’m still not the one who makes the decisions. And I’m reminded of the invisible constraints around me. And reminded, too, of a time when it was different.

All of this has to work, of course. I might bollocks it up altogether. We’ll know within a few days, and until then it’s frantic.

After that? Well, I think the world will be truly surreal after that, and it’ll be a good and necessary thing to be in a bubble.

By then the solution I’m putting together should be working. I’ll do some maintenance, but expect a letdown.

All of this is likely to be academic because with each passing day the situation gets direr. Today I was at the supermarket by 7.15 to pick up some loo paper, but the shelves were bare already. No surprise, and at least I’ve managed to get myself on a waiting list since (who’d a fuckin thought…?). It may be months until I get back in the office, or it may be tomorrow.

Thrusting


We had a department offsite yesterday. A lot of it was about team bonding and working better together, which was informed by some testing each of us was required to do leading into it.

I’ve done a million tests like this in the past. I must have done the Myers-Briggs half a dozen times alone, but there’s a wide variety of alternatives to it. This test was designed to figure out your team management profile – basically, what your work style and personality is, and how it interacts with other roles.

For the record, I was classified as a thruster, which I joked also happened to be my Tinder tag. You have secondary and related roles. Generally, all roles are related – represented on a wheel, the segments would be neighbours. That wasn’t the case for me, and I had a what they call a ‘split wheel’ profile.

My primary was Thruster-Organiser, which basically is analytical and driven and likes variety in their role. It’s probably the most upfront of all the roles. My secondary was on the opposite side of the wheel – Creator-Innovator. It is, as it suggests, a role that likes to find innovative solutions. My final related role was Assessor-Developer, which is a role that maps out and executes.

The test took me about ten minutes to complete, and I wondered how accurate it would be considering its comparative brevity. Reading the profile, however, I was surprised at how much I recognised in myself – and which others did, also. (For the record, I’m an INTJ for Myers-Briggs, though borderline I/E).

There were 39 people in attendance yesterday across the Digital Marketing team. We had to complete a variety of tests as teams to explore and understand the different working styles. It was interesting but surprisingly exhausting – though nice to out of the office for a change.

At the end of the day off we went to a nearby bar for drinks and casual discussion. I was finishing off my second beer when a woman approached me. She was one of the management team and experienced exactly the same thing late last year. Yesterday she was one of the observers, tasked to look in and watch the teams in operation.

I suspect she’d had a couple of chardy’s by the time she got to me. “You,” she said provocatively, “were my big surprise today.”

I possibly arched an eyebrow at that. I don’t really know the woman and our work doesn’t overlap. I knew as little about her as she did about me – except she’d had the opportunity to observe me in action earlier in the day.

She reminded me how she had been an observer for one of the team tasks I’d been involved with. “You were great,” she said, and while it was nice, I had an internal shrug of the shoulders. I recalled the activity she spoke of, which echoed most of the other activities I took part in. I was analytical and logical and, true to my proscribed role, tried to break the task down and organise it into rational parcels of work.

Because that’s how I see things, it means I’m often much more pro-active and decisive than many others, who have other attributes. My attributes are ideally suited to leading something like that, but others have attributes better suited to components of it. In the past, I’ve often found myself taking the lead to the point now that I restrain myself because I don’t think that’s the object of the exercise. I say my piece and try to guide and suggest, but I don’t take over – and every time think after how much more efficient it might have been had I done it all myself (another signpost in my profile – like to do things my way; I’ll figure things out alone and tell people after).

So she told me I was great as if it was news to her and I thought, great but, y’know, it’s not news to me – I’ve been great for twenty years.

I didn’t linger to carry on the conversation because I saw no point to it, but on the way home I thought about outside my boss no-one knows my background or what I’ve done in the past. Activities, like they set us today, were a piece of cake because they’re well within a set of capabilities that have been tested at the highest level over a long period of time. That’s who I really am, and if anyone knew then, no-one would be surprised.

There was a corollary to this. I was surprised to find in the course of the testing that I rated highest for creativity. I know I’m creative, but on the scale, it sits on I now I’m quite proficient on the other side of it (Practical).

But then I have all these ideas, and I want to make them happen. I used to be very democratic with my ideas because I had so many of them, and all I cared about was that they are given life. My perspective has changed in recent times because others have re-branded my ideas as their own. And because I don’t have the luxury anymore of being democratic with them. I need them to leverage other opportunities, and I don’t want to give them away.

My boss, I think, sees me and my ideas as a bit of a meal ticket. He’s great – a very decent human being and extremely efficient at his job. He just grinds through the work and we make a good team. He’s not creative like me, though. He’s looking for things to execute, and I have the ideas and the systematic thinking to back them. He tells me to parley my ideas, and I’ll be rewarded for them. I respond by telling I’ve had two years’ worth of ideas (and an operational chatbot to my design) and that I should be rewarded now so that I can deploy these ideas from a position of greater authority.

I think there’ll be opportunities. I think the people I work with recognise what I’m capable of (and much more too, fellas), but I have to be strategic with my ideas now. I need the recognition for my creativity, and that needs to be parleyed into dollars and position sooner rather than later.

I’m not giving things away anymore. Time to thrust.

Nasty Monday’s


Right now this feels the Mondayest Monday I’ve ever experienced.

It wasn’t so bad last week. I dragged myself to work, but I was at least reasonably well-rested, and I was curious to get back and see what had been happening, and what we had to do. It was a busy week last week – busier than normal for a first week back – but it was productive, too. Come Friday night, I dragged myself out of the office and through the rain to have a beer (or six) feeling well satisfied with my work.

The second week back, though is a different story. Not uncommon this, I think. Second-week blues is a thing, and I have it.

I usually wait until just after nine to get my first coffee, but I couldn’t wait that long today. I was feeling lost at my desk not wanting to be there and so, about 8.35, I went down to get a flat white – and today a double-shot because I needed it.

I’m thankful that it looks like it may be a quiet day (touch wood!).

I’m actually casting my eyes about for other opportunities, just to keep my eye in. I’m enjoying the work I’m doing here now and have some juicy projects all my own coming up. And, in pure business terms, they currently think I’m the bee’s knees.

The issue is that I’m still underpaid for what I’m doing and, now that I’ve re-established myself, reckon I can get out there with a reasonable chance of getting a better job. My goal by mid-year is to be earning around the six figures, but I think there’s a chance I can leap well beyond that.

Right now I’m sussing things out, here, in the office, and outside it. We have an offsite next week, and apparently, career progression will be part of the agenda. I’m a part of the best performing team in the department, and I’m seen as a safe pair of hands at least, and with some upside. Hopefully, that means I’ll get my opportunity here.

I’m happy to leave. I sort of like the idea of a fresh environment and opportunity. At the same time, I’ve now invested a bit here. I can see the fruits of my labour blossoming – click on the website and my work is visible. On top of that – not that I ever dreamt this would be a consideration – I’m coming up towards long service lead. Fancy that!

I’m having coffee with my direct lead today, and I’ll be reasonably upfront with him. I’m too old to play any games.

I’m happy to continue for the moment, nasty Monday’s aside. I’m keen to get these projects over the line. And in the nearer term, I’m finally looking at a holiday around March, maybe. That’ll be part of the conversation today as well. Nothing too ambitious – Tassie maybe, or maybe Margaret River, or maybe even up the coast the bushfire affected areas.

On the couch


Working from home today, mostly just because I needed a break from the office.

It’s a bit of a mixed bag working from home. I went out and had a cooked breakfast earlier, and in the background, I’ve got the President’s Cup telecast on (the course is about ten minutes from where I live). Generally, I’m productive from home also. There aren’t the distractions of the office, nor the noise and bustle. You can focus on the things that need to get done rather than dissipating your energy in multiple directions.

In general terms, it suits my role also. I coordinate an offshore team, so it doesn’t matter where I am as long as I’m online. And the main dev in the office I would normally work with is working from home today also, so, ditto.

I sit in the corner with the laptop on the coffee table, and I’m coordinating and directing different people in different locations, pulling strings and setting priorities and, when needed, clearing the way. I’m checking out dev-ops boards and communicating via Teams mostly, and sometimes email, and not long from now I might actually make a call also.

You get in a groove. By now I’ve been working at this job long enough that it comes pretty naturally anyway, but there are times when you hit that zone, and everything feels at your fingertips.

Like I said, I needed to be out of the office. After today, there are six working days to go until I’m on holiday, and I reckon I’ll stumble over the line. It’s been full-on for a while, and while generally, I enjoy that, there have been some less savoury aspects lately, and generally I need a freshen up, anyway.

I’m catching up with someone over Christmas who’s offered to give me some free coaching (because she fancies me, I think). Things are on an upward trend, but they still have to be managed. I have to find what’s right for me, and a part of that means acknowledging there’s an underground river of sorrow flowing through me. It doesn’t affect my work, but it affects my relationship to it. I want to be happy and free.

Stand up


I feel like I’ve done enough this week. It’s a bit after 2pm on Friday and I’m grinding to a halt.

It’s been a busy few weeks in general, and this week fractious on top of that. I’ve been holding the fort against the heathens in Sales. They’ve been battering at the ramparts demanding to get their way, but I resisted them because their way was chaos and, in this at least, I believe in and represent order. Ultimately I prevailed, but it was a bruising experience and it’s a good bet I’m not on their Christmas card list.

Doing my job properly meant for me to stand-up against them, though I don’t really have the authority or back-up. It was the right thing because it was the only way to ensure the integrity of our systems, and because there were others who felt the same as me but didn’t have the voice. It was right on principle also, because if processes are there to be subverted by bullies then you have anarchy.

All of that is true in itself and sufficient to have held firm, but there is another reason beyond that which is individual. I do a job, I represent a role and a set of duties, but I’m also a man with my own principles and standards. Never mind anything else, I won’t allow myself to be bullied and are contemptuous of those who would try. I represent myself ultimately, separately to my job title.

In my mind this is the right of every person. It doesn’t matter what job you do or where you are on the socio-economic ladder, we’re all entitled to respect and to stand up for our dignity. It seems to me that many lose sight of this. Your job is just a job. The amount of dollars in your wallet are a convenience or an inconvenience, but says nothing about your character. Where you fit in the hierarchy has bearing on what you do, but has nothing to do with your value as person. Your integrity, your beliefs, your standards, are personal to you and independent of everything else. Unfashionable as it is today, these are things that can’t really be bought and sold – though that’s up to the individual.

In my case I hold true to those values because they’re mine – the one thing that really is. Everyone has the same entitlement, and I wish more were more aware of that. You are yourself: be that person.

Staggering to the line


For the last two weeks plus I’ve been holding the fort while my manager went on holiday to Japan. There was a handover before he left when he instructed me in this and that and alerted me to things that might come up and people I might have to deal with. There were several things, he assured me that I wouldn’t need to worry about.

He flew out on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, I went into work, and within half an hour, one of the things he told me I wouldn’t have to worry about was all I was worried about. A critical system component crashed, leaving swathes of the business without the tools they needed. I was there alone – the team generally come in from 9.30 onwards. I didn’t know what to do, and all I could say was to admit there was an issue, and we would be looking to resolve it urgently.

Fortunately, we were able to get it fixed within a couple of hours, but over the next two weeks, there was a succession of similar events causing disruption of one type or another. Not all of them were in our control – there was a Microsoft 365 problem for a few days, for example, when some the APIs behaved erratically. I learnt a lot over the fortnight, coordinating between teams and people and searching for answers on things I knew little about, and managing expectations across the board.

What it meant is that for the fortnight I was generally racing from one thing to another, while trying to manage teams onshore and offshore. There was little opportunity to go into depth or to develop anything. My time was spent touching lightly and quickly across many different areas and aspects, and in the end, it was fine.

To add to this, last week I butted heads again with Sales as they tried to railroad everyone else into letting them do what they wanted. I had to shut them down, and there were tense exchanges. From my perspective it’s pretty simple: if they want to come play in our environment then they have to be mindful of those already there, and that we can’t agree to anything until it’s been adequately tested and signed off. They don’t work that way, though. Everything’s a haphazard rush, without regard for either good business practice or the needs of others. They’re basically loud and obnoxious bullies who care for nothing than their own profit.

I find these confrontations exhausting. I suspect I’m positioned to take the brunt of them because management figure I’m a safe pair of hands and won’t be intimidated. The problem – as always – is that while they’ve entrusted me with that responsibility, they haven’t given that level of authority. I’m butting heads with the head of sales, who must be earning more than double what I am. I won’t shift, but it’s hard work and takes it out of you. It’d be so much easier if I didn’t have to work so hard to be civil – that’s what drains you.

When I walked out of the door on Friday, I knew that come Monday I could relax a little because my manager would return. We had our Christmas party that night, but I felt so weary and generally exhausted I wouldn’t have gone except that people were expecting me. I think something deflated in me when I knew I’d endured the worse. The adrenalin that’d been pumping through me ebbed, leaving me aching and old.

I went to the party on Friday and it was an okay night, but I was home by midnight. I was terribly weary again yesterday and happy to keep a low profile – but then I’d arranged to catch up with a couple of mates leading into Christmas. We had dinner in Richmond and drinks afterwards at the Corner Hotel and it was a lot of fun. I was okay, except I felt I had no reserves left in me. I got home at around 12.30.

Today should be a lazy day because I haven’t the energy for anything more than that. It surprises me how tired I am. I could barely keep my eyes open yesterday, and it’s the same again today. I feel really run down again, but I think likely it’s more psychological than physical. It’s coming towards the end of a long year, and I’m on leave in three weeks time. I can almost taste it, and maybe there’s a subtle relaxation of mind that’s compounded by the knowledge that I can hand over the tough stuff to the manager tomorrow. In comparison to the last few weeks, I can put my feet up a little.

And though I’ve been going strong, it’s been such a long time since I had a real holiday. I must be tired in body as well as in mind, but you power through it. Maybe I’m not powering through it as well as before this close to the line.