Day Note

Quite a while ago I read this ‘day in the life’ post from somebody at 18F in the States, enjoyed the post a great deal and decided at some point I’d have a stab at the format myself. Today is finally that day.

Like most days I dragged myself out of bed just before 06.30 – I haven’t used an alarm of any sort since I was a teenager but somehow I just wake up. My breakfast consists of a pint of squash and a couple of paracetamol then I start my commute.

20 minute walk –> 25 minute train journey –> 10 minute walk –> 20 minute bus trip. It rains. Statistically there is always a high probability of it raining while I am commuting. I have commuting rules;

  • No moaning about public transport on Twitter
  • No reading the Metro free newspaper
  • No work email
  • No Slack (mornings)
  • Read fiction only (on book 27 so far – currently reading Gangsterland)

I get to the office around 08.20 today. According to the Financial Times that office is

“..a nondescript office block in a windy industrial park on the outskirts of the Welsh port.”

It isn’t all bad. They do a great cooked breakfast.

Like so many of us I am a slave to my email and after waiting the requisite 10 minutes for Windows & then logging in to Lotus Notes (yuck!) I quickly triage my inbox. It doesn’t seem to matter how late I work or how early I start there is always new email to process.

The most important is that, as usual, I am late with my project status report for our Programme Management team – considering it is our Delivery Board this week this was a bit of a slapped wrist for me (from me) but I was able to pull something together pretty quickly. The benefit of (a) being a bit control freaky and needing to at least be across every aspect of the project to some extent and (b) blogging constantly is that I was able to copy and paste something I’d written elsewhere and just polish it up a bit.

09.30 we have a daily standup with my Transformation team. Today there were about a dozen of us and we do the standard ‘what did you do yesterday / what are you doing today / blockers’ format and manage it in about 15 minutes usually. Today was no exception. I then spend the next 15 minutes or so quickly catching up with team members about anything that piqued my interest and if need be arrange time for longer conversations.

10.00 I had a call with a team lead in our other office. Since the loss of Alan Smith to the Financial Times I have taken responsibility for our Content team as well as the Transformation team but as of yet I haven’t really been able to give them the attention they deserve so this was an hour well spent updating each other on the state of play, upcoming priorities and in particularly recruitment issues. Our content team particularly concentrate on the brilliant Visual.ONS and while that was my idea in the first place it has long since outgrown my initial concept so it is good to get my head back in to this work.

Another day another recruitment. At noon I interviewed a candidate for our vacant Visual Journalism role. If you have ever read this blog before or follow me on Twitter you’ll know recruitment has been a challenge for us. This has led to us experimenting with using a recruitment agency to source candidates for permanent roles – something I’ve never really done to be honest. I am feeling my way through it a bit and remain a bit unsure of the process and procedures but have been pleasantly surprised by the candidates to date. I find even informal interviewing draining – so much hangs on making the right decision.

The main success over lunch (chips and beans at my desk – classy!) was scoring tickets to Dismaland, the new Banksy show, for Bank Holiday Monday.

The afternoon kicked off with a sprint planning session – we run them a little different from the norm I think in that we combine a little element of show & tell from the completing sprint with the devs demoing their work and we talk through the user stories in detail but don’t estimate individually at this stage – I find it more valuable to get insights from the team about whether they have a feel for the problems and understand the user needs rather than getting down to discussing potential solutions and how long they might take. The work needs doing whatever however and we quietly track velocity away from this conversation.

We wrapped the meeting a little early which gave me 15 minutes to discuss some UI changes with our UX lead. We have a bit of a balancing act to perform around short term usability gains and longer term improvements both to usability and sustainability of the code (also some nice aesthetic improvements). Basically we decided the front-end team would essentially perform a small, but practical, spike to see what kind of commitment it would be to get things sorted properly now. Fingers crossed. I really like some of the proposed improvements and would love to get them out in to the world.

I finished the day with a 1–2–1 with my boss, Laura. Having our meetings at the end of the day is probably a bad idea as they inevitably over-run. Despite speaking pretty much everyday we always have considerable amounts to cover in these catch-ups but I always come away from them reassured. Today we covered recruitment, budgets, the product roadmap, some post Beta horizon scanning and my dreadful diet.

My commute home primarily consisted of reading the notes our User Research lead was posting to Slack after a day of meetings with members of our ‘critical friends’ list and chatting to him on Slack about his findings. These are expert users who are heavy users of the ONS site and have very specific needs and they always provide food for thought. There is another full day of meetings tomorrow but already a major trend is emerging that we will need to think through – it is not without its challenges either.

Right that is it. Got home about 19.00, opened a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and started writing this. It is now 20.02 and time for something to eat. Can’t imagine why anyone would have read this far but if you did – well there is no prize but I do appreciate the perseverance 🙂

One response to “Day Note”

  1. I made it to the end! Slightly gutted about the lack of prizes. 😉

    Thanks for sharing. There’s something fascinating about the minutia of someone else’s working day. Even as a casual passer-by it’s great to hear what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

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