Get a Kindle and read trash

A few years ago, I took this photo of an ad for a Kindle.

My thoughts at the time, were:

“Here’s an odd advert. First, the typography of the list of amazing kindle benefits is horrible. But then I noticed the text on the Kindle, from A Perfect Proposal. The first page if this book is not great literature. This looks like chic lit. So, I guess this ad is targeted at female commuters. Fine. But it just made me think of all the rubbish books I could fill my kindle with and how depressing that would be.”

Since then, I can confirm I have filled my Kindle with total trash. It’s perfect for it!


The importance of ‘owernship’ in technical partnerships

In my career to date, I’ve managed technical suppliers, and been a supplier myself.

Good professional partnerships can be defined by the principle of win / win. If both parties feel they’re getting something positive from the relationship, beyond just the money, then it’s a relationships that can grow. In a client / supplier relationship, those positives can include learning, opportunities to reach new areas, streamlined, easy processes or perhaps just a pleasant working relationship. However, if the criteria of ‘win’ for either party is purely about the money then things can get rocky fast. On the supplier end this can happen when they are paid for services they’re not interested in supplying or can’t supply effectively. At the client end, it can be about refusing to invest in services they value. In both cases, frustration looms.

Good suppliers understand what clients are trying to achieve, and provide solutions that meet the client’s goals while ensuring the process and approach also works for them. In the parlance of flight safety videos, suppliers need to put on their own oxygen mask before helping others. A supplier that provides services it doesn’t gain from does no one any favours.

An example of a win / win relationship in tech would be an IT company understanding the need for backups. If they research solutions and implement those solutions in ways that are highly efficient for the IT company, they can also charge a premium on top of supply costs for the research and setup. The better it works, the happier everyone is. Happy customer. Happy supplier.

A bad example addressing this same problem would be the IT company telling the client they need a backup solution, offering a range of confusing options, some of which are difficult for the IT company to manage, and blaming the customer when the cheap but ineffective backups don’t work.

In short, good suppliers own the problem and the solution, and empower clients to achieve their goals. This isn’t about removing choice, but it is about acting as a trusted adviser understanding what the client is trying to achieve. They understand the client’s goals and engender trust, so customers are happy to go with recommended solutions, and are happy to pay for a good service.

Warning signs of a bad relationship, which I’ve experienced recently, are conversations with your supplier that include:

“We made some changes because [Person A at client org] and [Person B at client org] weren’t happy with the performance. Perhaps that broke it. I’ll ask [Person C at supplier org].”

In this case the supplier isn’t owning the problem and they aren’t owning the solution. The subtext is “you think it’s a problem, but we don’t really agree, or perhaps we don’t care enough to have a view. We also don’t really care what we might have done to break it. I’m now passing the buck internally.”

“We don’t know how it works because your previous developer built it.”

Another scenario of not owning the problem or the solution. They aren’t proposing a way to solve this long term, and are just providing an excuse for why they don’t know what’s going on. This could be transformed into a relationship you’d value with the next sentence: “And so we’re going to work it out and document it so we can handle this in future”.

At heart, suppliers don’t own issues when the client’s problems don’t fit their solutions and their services aren’t aligned with the client’s business needs.

Almost the worse case for a client is a situation where the problem and solution remain ‘owned’ by the client, but a supplier is doing some work around the edges. This gives a completely false sense of security and progress, but in reality is likely to be making a complex situation even more complex.

If this happens to you as a client, at the very least you should address this with the partner. However, in my experience it’s almost always time to cut your losses and find a partner who’s business needs and solutions more closely align with your needs and problems.


Finishing up a sketchbook

One of my goals is to pick up a pen and draw something once a day. This hasn’t been happening much recently, which is silly since it’s not exactly a taxing goal!

That said, I’ve just finished a sketchbook that’s been on the go for a few months. These are some of my favourite bits.

Talking to ourselves

On my way back from training last night, I found myself on a tube train with a woman who was having a very animated conversation with a figment of her imagination. We were overground when I got on the train, and I initially thought she was on her mobile phone. As the tube pulled into a tunnel, and she started saying things like “I know you’re imaginary. I created you! I’m like a god” I realised there was no hidden technology at work.

I, along with everyone else on the tube, assessed her as basically functioning, apart from the imaginary person, and ignored her. I was only going one stop anyway.

After I left her, though, I got to wondering how OK she was. Should I have asked her if she was OK, and should I have checked she knew where she was and where she was going? And as I thought about it, walking alone down the street, I played out in my head how that conversations might have gone, slightly moving my mouth at times as I voiced, in my imagination, that conversation.

And I became acutely aware of the very small gap between an imagination that works as you need it to, and one that doesn’t.

Learning to run

I have recently started to enjoy running. And this is how I’ve got here.

1975 to 2006: Not running. At all. Fitness through squash and a little bit of horrible gym stuff.

2006 – 2010: Started to learn taekwondo. Tried to run for fitness. Tried C25k. Tried barefoot running (helped hugely with shin splints). Tried various shoes. Not fun. Running around the Thames is beautiful, but lots of tourists. Ultimately, not running regularly or well.

2010: Taekwondo first dan grading. Required me to run a bit over a mile. Trained for it. Managed it. Didn’t enjoy it or sustain running after it.

2012: Taekwondo second dan grading. Required me to run faster than my first dan grading. Better training this time, but still bad and still no regularity.

Screenshot 2016-01-21 09.36.352014: Taekwondo third dan grading. Required me to run faster again. Better training again, but still bad. Started trying to run home from work (3 miles). Managed the whole thing without stopping maybe twice. Managed the whole thing in less than 30 minutes precisely once. Running goal clarified: I really wanted to be able to run 5k in under 30 minutes. Left job. Went travelling. Didn’t run for the rest of the year.

Strava calendar 21052015: Set a goal: run 5k in under 30 minutes 3 times by the end of the year. 6 weeks with a treadmill in New York in the spring and got up to 20 minutes  with, for the first time, pleasure. Listening to podcasts. Enjoying the exercise. Returned to London. Half hearted running around some yoga classes, but keeping near the 20 minute mark for a couple of months. October: remembered the goal! Panicked! Joined a gym. Ran 3 times
a week. Focussed on not pushing too hard and not injuring myself. Fitness I gained helped in my taekwondo training (surprise!). Run 1: 12th December (29.51, but I’ll take it). Run 2: 16th December (under 29 minutes. Yes!). Pulled my calf muscle in taekwondo. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. Repeat. Run 3: 29th December (approx 29 minutes, with a painful calf). Mission accomplished!

2016: New goal: run 5k in under 30 mins at least once in every month of the year. Consistency is now key. So far, I’ve run 5k in every week of the year.

My main learnings:

  • Set goals with the right intentions and they really can lead to the result you want. I’d put ‘run 5k’ my goals for years, but the three times thing in 2015 was the thing that made it solid, and the under 30 minutes element made is specific.
  • Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation really works.
  • Running can be pleasurable!
  • Without taekwondo I wouldn’t have bothered. I love taekwondo.
  • Barefoot running is worth trying if you suffer with shin splints. But take it easy.
  • I am motivated by tracking my running. A running watch has really been motivating and worth the money to me.
  • Treadmills and podcasts can be a really cool combination, especially if you don’t get a commute.