The new professional me

In which I become the person at work I want to be.

It is the end of the year, or at least it is at work, and as a result we have our end of year reviews to do. Throughout my whole career I have struggled with these as I don’t have the tendency to look back over what I have done as I prefer hurtling full steam ahead.

There is also the small problem of having to write about myself. Hang on, you might say, you have been more than happy to witter on here about La Vie en Geek so what is stopping you doing the same on a formal document.

If I choose to write about Frodo or getting a haircut then it is not important, I try to avoid important, but the end of year review is going to determine any pay rise or bonus I get. I just wish I could be that person who takes my career by the scruff, maybe some kind of Werewolf with ambition.

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Presenting like a ringmaster

In which I assure the public
my production will be second to none.

Perhaps the greatest exponent of the “Wow” moment was Steve Jobs, it could be announcing the iPhone or pulling a MacBook Air from an envelope or maybe even the classic “One more thing…” showstopper. Even now, years after his passing, the WWDC conference (which is happening today) is seen as a classic example of delivering jaw dropping moments. It will be the focus of huge amounts of press coverage, with weeks of analysis and clips everywhere.

The success of the Apple presentations are all about ’emotion’, their products are not for the masses but for the ‘creators’. Like the famous 1984 ad it is about thinking differently and letting the product speak for itself. Apple don’t like to talk about specs, they like to talk about what using the product feels like.

I wish I could do presentations like this, but the sad reality is that most of the presentations we will do are more jaw-drooping than jaw dropping.

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More than a spreadsheet

In which there are countless ways I’m not just a ‘numbers’ guy.

One of the most frustrating descriptions of my job is that I’m “The Numbers Guy”. We’ve just done a personality profile exercise when I wasn’t in the “You like spreadsheets” group there was a few incredulous looks. He uses Excel so he must love writing formulas and doing tables?

What if I told you the answer to that was “kinda”, of course I take some pleasure from a well presented set of stats but I do it because I’m good at it (and helps pay the bills) but very few people ever dream of being an analyst when they are little. Even now at the age of 34 (just) I don’t wake up excited about the prospect of firing up a new .xls file.

Instead of being a numbers person what keeps me sane is the fact that I can use this skill to be a more creative person.

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How cold can an office be?

In which I don’t mess with the settings because they have the snowflake on.

The office thermostat has been set for the summer, and it has been agreed that the temperature should be “South Pole”. A quick check of the weather on Google shows me that the only places on Earth that are colder can be found:

PIC-Cold Places (1)


No strike that. Thanks to either global warming, sun spots or liberals there is no place on Earth as cold as our office. Fox news plans to use us as evidence to throw in Al Gores face.

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Surviving the work day

In which I work to live and not live to work.

I hate having to work for a living, not the current job I am in per se, just the actual institution of having to get up in the morning and go and sit somewhere else that isn’t home. I understand that I need to to pay for things like bacon and electricity to cook the bacon that I’ve bought, it just seems so unnatural that you need to pay for things that have no real tangible value other than that bestowed upon it by others.

It’s sad that I have to spend 35 hours behind a computer screen to earn pieces of paper and metal that can be exchanged in return for goods and services. The issue isn’t that I’m VDU bound, but more to do with the fact that I have to labour to provide others with more wealth and benefits than I put in myself.
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How to be a data analyst

In which I try to lift he fog of war on numbers and reveal it all to be a feint.

As a data analyst I have often believed that it is more important to look right rather than be right. Accuracy will always lose to style; it seems to be the way of the world. I have been told by previous managers that “these numbers don’t feel right” and “could I go and check them”. Later after changing nothing but the colour scheme and some borders the figures all of a sudden feel better.

Double Decker buses are also a standard unit
Double Decker buses are also a standard unit

It’s like evidence depends purely on the appearance of the information, this is why we live in a world where infographics seem to be the fad du jour. Losing a percentage of the rainforest each day can only be measured in Wales (a standard unit of measurement, much like Double Decker buses for length or Eiffel towers for height) rather than hectares.

I once ‘wowed’ a manager by placing a button on a spreadsheet that allowed him to print it off. The fact I had placed it directly below the print button in the toolbar (and it simply was a macro that replayed a press of that button) was beside the point. It was a button that printed.

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Good desk or bad desk

In which a tidy desk is a tidy mind.

The big office move has gone off without a hitch and despite losing a window, natural light and air-con there is one thing good to come from it. I now have a straight edged desk.

You see curved desks are stupid, and if you disagree you are wrong. As wrong as a desk that does not fit under quadrilateral in a shape test, as wrong as the waste of desk area generated by the pointless cut out shape of a pleasantly bending surface with which to work on. For centuries we have worked at desks that have consisted of nothing but for straight sides and do you know what was built?

The Pyramids
The Great Wall of China
The modern world

Even though we now have the modern technology is vastly superior to that of the 1960’s we have yet to go back to the Moon, and why? Curved desks.

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The great data swindle

In which plenty of mistakes are made with bad data.

I made a comment today that with the computing power in my scientific calculator we were able to send men to the moon and back, yet the computers at work often fall over because too many people are using them. In response someone mentioned that for a misplaced full stop a space shuttle crashed and that it is just human error. Perhaps this is the problem; the world has got too complicated. There is just too much data.

The BBC ran a good article yesterday about data overload and I think that it’s pretty insightful, we have more and more information at our fingertips than ever before in human history but is it just too much noise?

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Taking a leap of faith

In which taking a leap is the best way to live life (unless you are a funambulist).

I’m on my way to work, the thirteenth different job I’ve had in fifteen years. I got to the station from my third different house in my fifth different car. For some this would show how flighty I am and constantly changing, but more me it shows the importance of sensing opportunities and taking a leap of faith.

All of these changes were made very quickly, a possibility for an improvement to my life arose and I went out and grabbed it. There have been some stumbles along the way (as two three-month jobs would suggest) but the important factor has always been when I had a chance to ‘go for it’ I did.

I’ve been accused of being able to fall in a pile of excrement and coming out smelling of roses. It implies that I am lucky in whatever I do and i take offense at that. Getting a new job is not lucky, I have had to prove myself numerous times and, because I lack a degree qualification, convince someone to hire me.

All the key points in my work career were because I saw a gap and went for it. I could have been happy to not record my performance on a spreadsheet and never started on the analytics path. I could have worried I would never make a manager and not applied to be a team leader. Before I did marketing I had never marketed so why would I think I could go in that direction?
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Parenting is not a career option

In which I complain about the working hours but the boss don’t care.

One of my greatest frustrations with parenthood is how I’m told what a great job it is. You know what is a great job? International Cricketer or President of the Bacon Tasting Society. Parenting as a job kind of sucks.

Firstly, and most importantly, the pay is terrible. It is below minimum wage, in fact an internship is a better deal, and the holiday and sick leave is non-existant. Even rewarding vocations like teaching and nursing pay more and have less stress.

Being a parent means that you are on call all the time and the customers are real hard asses. It is nigh on impossible to make them happy. Any service you provide is too late and wrong, but you will not be told what is wrong you just have to decipher the blow up in front of your face.

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