Category Archives: Life

In which I have a new job

In fact, I’m four weeks in. It’s a new role within the same company, but for the first time in my entire career, my job has nothing to do with either content or digital. This job is a further big step on the trajectory away from publishing and towards who knows what?

So now I’m working in the team responsible for coming up with new products and propositions. There’s a commercial aspect that I’ve never had before, and since delivery of any new product depends on lining up the customer care and field ops support as well, there’s another whole different area of the business to get my head around. All this was part of the appeal. I work for a big company and there are vast swathes of it that I never got a look at in my old role.

Just to complicate matters slightly, the hiring manager left before I started, her boss leaves at the end of June and as far as any of us are aware, there aren’t any replacements lined up. Mine is a new role in the team. I have no direct reports but 10 people junior to me who need varying degrees of management. A new product launch is looking like it will be 3 weeks late – I swear this is coincidental.

In all this, I’d say my comfort zone is a short drive away. Right through interview, I still thought that my publishing career was the bedrock evidence of what I can do. But that’s no longer the case. I was hired on the basis of the last three years, not the however many before that. I feel as though I swapped firm foundations for a high wire. As I don’t actually know what my job is and there’s no one to tell me, I’m doing whatever the hell seems to need doing. Every day, I’m flying blind. I’ve put out a lot of fires over the last few weeks, I’ve U-turned on a couple of decisions when I got more knowledge and thanked people for telling me. I don’t know how I’m doing, so I come home some days thinking ‘I got this’ and others thinking ‘What the fuck happened today?’

In other words, it’s standard new job stuff. The fear, the learning curve, the anxiety, the successes, the gradual build back up to confidence, to that state when ‘I got this’ is normal. Currently I’m at a low to moderate anxiety level, which is not only not a bad thing (temporarily), it’s what I went looking for. It’ll either all work out, or I’ll crash and burn. So, ok then.

10 things I have learned at work

  1. How to make tea without a teaspoon. There are never enough bloody teaspoons.
  2. Always make friends with security, the post room and the PAs. They are where the true power to make your life hard really resides.
  3. Lots of smart people together can make a whole lot of spectacularly dumb ass decisions; individually, they’ll all know it’s stupid but the Combined Stupidity Factor will out.
  4. In any shared space, standards will fall to the lowest common denominator. Thus, if you don’t have cleaners who clean bathrooms or kitchens on a regular basis, it will be like living back in halls of residence, only worse.
  5. The first 10 minutes of any conference or video call will be spent sorting out the technical issues and then waiting for the people who are late.
  6. Meetings that don’t have an agenda or minutes are a waste of everyone’s time.
  7. Buy your own stationery/as much kit as you can get away with. At least then you’ll have a good pen and a decent notebook, maybe even a workable phone and (holy grail) laptop.
  8. There is always more work. Put a hard stop in your calendar, go home and don’t check email.
  9. Play nice. Then grit your teeth and still play nice. If you really have to, remind people that you are, in fact, playing nice, and things could get a whole lot worse than this if they want? Then go home and pour a big glass of wine.
  10. This too shall pass.

Middle aged fantasies

Picture the scene. Early evening, mid way through a hectic week. A cute Sainsbury’s delivery driver arrives, all twinkly eyes and carefully tousled hair. Your eyes meet as he hands you the cucumber. ‘Is there… anything else?’ he asks. Your heart speeds up a bit. You bite your lip. You shouldn’t. You really shouldn’t. What will the neighbours think if the van stays parked outside? You know better than this, but the temptation is just too much…

Ten minutes later, you’re snuggled on the sofa, clutching a hot cup of tea and catching up on Monday’s Broadchurch while cute Sainsbury’s guy does the vacuuming.

For the sad reality is that by Wednesday evening, Tom Hiddleston could rock up at my front door in a dinner jacket, carrying a bottle of Taittinger and a gift bag from Tiffany; but unless he’s going to put a load of laundry on, empty the dishwasher and clean out the fridge, he can rock off again.

Back in the day, I longed to be told I was beautiful, desirable, irresistible. And I’m not saying it wouldn’t still be nice to hear. But it doesn’t stack up against ‘I’ll do the washing up’ or ‘You have a lie-in and let me know when you want tea and toast’. What would really make me melt these days is someone saying ‘I’ve mopped the floors’.

The reality, of course, is that the Sainsbury’s delivery turns up while I’m in my old sweatpants and carrying a duster in one hand and a bag of rubbish in the other. Eyes do not meet, and anyway I’m so fed up of clearing soggy cucumber out of the fridge that I’ve put a ban on buying it.

Oh, sod the vacuuming. Where’s the remote?

In which my hair is my business

Thank you everso for asking.

For the two people who read this blog and don’t know me in person, I’ve had short hair for most of the time since my 20s, aka, the best part of 20 years.

I’ve heard ‘Oi, mate, your bird’s a bloke!’ from some charmer on the night bus. I didn’t punch him. I’ve heard a polite ‘Sir…’ before a guy at a reception desk clocked that I was female. My ex-husband and I got dodgy looks checking into a hotel one time, which baffled us until we realised that I looked like a teenage boy when I wore a baseball cap.

None of it’s a big deal, and mostly I just eye roll and move on. But the consistent question that really winds me up is ‘What does your boyfriend/husband/partner think?’, sometimes coupled with ‘Doesn’t he mind that you’ve got short hair?’

I’ve been hearing that for years. About 20 of them. From the 20th into the 21st century, apparently a defining characteristic of women is that they’ve got long hair; and secondly, their hairstyle is not just their choice. It should be validated by a male whose opinion is considered relevant on the matter. If Vidal Sassoon were still around and I knew him, I’d hope he appreciated that my haircuts are straight out of the Sassoon school. Everyone else can fuck off.

 

 

 

Five ways cats are like millennial employees*

*Some millennial employees. Not to tar an entire generation with the same brush. I personally know some great ones. On the other hand, did I mention my new job comes with NO DIRECT REPORTS? FTW.

  1. It’s all about them.
  2. They look blankly at you when you ask them to do something they don’t want to do; then they don’t do it. It’s as if they have no idea who’s in charge.
  3. They are capable of disappearing for long stretches of time with nothing to show for it. [? are millennials asleep on top of a dustbin]
  4. They think just showing up is enough to be deserving of attention and reward.
  5. They make you say to yourself several times a day ‘What is wrong with you?’

In which I ditch my work phone and leave at 4pm

Because, I am unashamedly more focused on my work-life balance than my career. Admittedly, that might be easy for me as I don’t actually have a career, but it’s the principle of the thing!

I did this a while ago, and I’ve been monitoring the situation to see what difference it’s made. And the difference is, life got noticeably better.

Ok, I’m a phone snob and what we were given was *snort* a Microsoft Lumia phone. I know. It was a really, really terrible piece of kit. As a fundamental flaw, it rarely rang, diverted straight to voicemail and then didn’t tell you for days, or sometimes weeks, that you’d got any messages. This is not helpful in a supposed business device. First, I took to doing all my calls on my iPhone anyway and just using the Lumia for email. Then I realised it was a horrible keypad as well, and I gave up on it completely.

But this is an important point, I think. If there is stuff in your life that does not work properly but that you have to interact with regularly, it is an unnecessary irritant. So why put up with it?

And really, do I need email on the fly? Well, no, I don’t. When I looked at how I spend my working time I’m either: (a) at a desk, with my laptop in front of me; (b) in a meeting, at which I should either be paying attention and therefore not using a phone, or not in the meeting at all; or (c) travelling to or from an out of office meeting. About once a month, I travel on the train, and that time is better spent catching up on back copies of The Economist. Or thinking about the work things I never get time to think about because I’m too busy on email.

Which leads to another reason to ditch the phone. Email simply generates more email, and it’s an efficiency trap. Or inefficiency trap. You will regularly hear, from all levels at the company I work for, that everyone thinks they get too much email. It’s the default communication system and worse, it’s become the default storage system. What I rarely hear is that people think they’ve got too much work. So even subconsciously, people don’t think ’email’ and ‘work’ are the same thing.

Extra ability to send or receive email isn’t a benefit. It contributes to the problem. As no company I have ever worked for has collapsed when I’ve been on holiday or off sick, I figure I’m not that important.  I put my out of office on when I’m in a lot of meetings or travelling, and that seems to work just fine.

The single downside I have noted is that I don’t have my calendar with me, and even this only comes into play when I need to dial into a conference call and realise I don’t have the details. That’s an administrative issue, not a tech issue. As I’ve recently switched to bullet journaling for work as well as home, it’s pretty easy to fix.

What’s this whole leaving at 4pm thing, I hear you cry? Well. I started doing that because when I started my part time OU degree, I thought it would require me to find more hours in the week. (It didn’t, but now I have extra time anyway so win-win.) But anyway, I typically get into the office for 7.30am so 4pm seems a reasonable end time. I mark a hard stop in my work calendar every day at 4pm, and with a few exceptions, that is respected. I will turn down meetings that are happening after 4pm and I don’t answer my phone to work calls.

And, this is the best bit: because I don’t have a work phone, my email can’t follow me. I can’t ‘just check’ or ‘quickly follow up on’ anything.  I may not do anything amazing with that hour, but frankly, I’d rather get a load of laundry done than yet more email.

 

In which there are swings and roundabouts

And it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry, blah di blah di blah blah. Rhubarb rhubarb.

I’ve got a new job. It’s an internal move, so I’m not sure when it will start, but on Friday I drafted the job spec for my current role because I’m sticking around to help recruit my replacement. It’s an odd thing, writing a description of the job you do. The weeks mostly go by in a blur of meetings and emails, but you know what? I do a lot. At the same time, a cool reappraisal shows there are skills I don’t have that this role needs now. So it’s a good thing that I’ll be moving out of the way.

The new job is big and scary, beyond my experience and out of my comfort zone. That’s why it appealed to me and why I’m taking it. Hurrah for age and experience, because I may fall flat on my face and when I was younger, I wouldn’t have risked that.

This morning I got my car serviced, and as I’ve almost hit the mileage with about 18 months to go on the lease, I asked about changing it. Well. The story was not the one I wanted to hear. Turns out that there’s not a whole lot of an interest in a high performance car with 50k miles on the clock in under three years. I’m downgrading and I still have to put in a reasonable deposit to contribute towards depreciation and the gap between what I owe and what the current car is worth.

But. I can cover the deposit, and there were plenty of times in my life when that wouldn’t have been the case. Yes, it’ll be a hit on my savings but no one marched me into a Mercedes dealership three years ago and put a gun at my head to make me lease an extravagant car. I didn’t know then I’d be clocking roughly 20,000 miles a year.

So I write this on Saturday evening, sitting in the kitchen sink… Oops, I mean at the kitchen table, with a glass of wine. There’s a vase of flowers in front of me, bought for me because of a perception that I had a tough morning. I’ve got Thursday’s country music show playing while I cook dinner and I spent the afternoon reading a novel.

I’m a fortunate woman.