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My new job: first impressions

15 Mar

I started this post mid-March and it was overtaken by… work. And when I wasn’t at work, I was tending to home chores and my family (in that order, sadly.)

Your mission, should you decide to accept it

Our CEO phoned me late January with a job offer I could not refuse. My first reaction was to run away, of course. What, acting Head of Marketing and Communications at W3C? Why me? Who else if not me; I was going to be the only full-time person remaining in this team.

That isn’t the fullest representation. I have been in this team for 10 years and 16 in the Consortium; I have both historical corporate knowledge and a better insight of the job than would a new recruit. Also, I was readily available.

I had twenty hours to think about it, sleep time included, and come up with a yes or no. My mind was already made; I could still run away if it didn’t work. Or not, and simply go back to what I was doing before. So, I was going to do that! (Image below via Andrei Sambra, for April Fools day)

cat meme: deal smells fishy, where do I sign?

Bittersweet February

I thought how big the shoes to fill were; an impossible accomplishment. I focused on what I would bring, and how to leverage past practices that I had witnessed without ever paying great attention. I felt dwarfed by the gigantic responsibilities and tasks ahead. After all, this was a position I never thought about for myself.

I thought with much guilt about immediate commitments such as a family vacation which was going to start almost right after a week of travel and meetings in Tokyo. Basically, that gig was going to start without me. How very atypical to begin a new job by a week to wrap-up as much as possible and prepare for travel and meetings, by a week in near-isolation as meetings and meeting-related work takes place, and by two weeks incommunicado touring Japan. So early February, my predecessor stepped down, and covered for me impeccably till I came back. Fast forward to March 2015.

March was brutal

March was brutal. I returned fully rested from an excellent fortnight of quality time with my loved ones, having appropriately kept my mind off work, while bracing myself for the next big thing.

  1. Loads more e-mail. I unsubscribed from some lists but subscribed to a bigger bunch.
  2. Meetings as a heartbeat. 10 to 15 hours of teleconferences and one-to-one meetings each week.
  3. Time sink. If all goes as planned, this is time well invested. Early start of work days, as usual, but days then dragged into the nights. I chose to give myself a hard stop: midnight every day, through May at most.

What I learned

I realised in the first week that I couldn’t do all I wanted. I had massively underestimated the amount of time I would have (cf. list above), and overestimated my ability to organise myself and the amount I could deliver.

When I told my CEO, this was the quote he laconically reminded me of:

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” ― Bill Gates

What I realised next, was that the more I wanted to achieve the fastest I was. I have always prided myself for being a keen optimiser of processes, but in this case it was different. It was partly due to setting unreasonably high goals in order to get as many done as possible, but primarily thanks to a sharper understanding of things that had suddenly become mine. The closest analogy is a flip being switched and light shining in a formerly dark room. I take informed decisions quicker, the big picture I see is bigger, this is all quite encouraging.

The amount of required reading is staggering as I move from operations into strategy. I expect this will subside as this is partly necessary as I’m wrapping my head around new things, new expectations, new concepts, etc.

In two months I hired three people part-time, shifted into different and new gears, identified our next priorities and planned for as many as possible, handed over most of my former job duties, and, I have not freaked out too much.

The future is what we build

8 Oct

Before I started my day, I read Trouble at the Koolaid Point, by Seriouspony [who writes “I’m not linking it to the blog, and it won’t likely stay up long”]. I had not heard about her until very recently, and reading her account felt like a punch in the face. It stayed with me since then. I think it’s going to stay with me a while.

Midway through her account, Seriouspony wrote:

“This is the world we have created.”

Later in the day at work, I followed tweets and news of the Keynote on the future of the Web that Tim Berners-Lee gave at the opening of IPExpo in London. He said many inspiring things in his habitual humble manner, but one in particular resonated with me. It was in response to a question from the floor related to the Dark Web. I soon found it in Brian’s timeline:

(The Register also quoted Tim at the end of a piece they published after his keynote.)

Kevin read Seriouspony too; here is his advice to which I live by:

And finally, Amy retweeted this:

All is not white and all is not black, but there are some pretty dark grey stuff out there. Let’s be considerate of our fellow humans, please. Let’s stand up for ourselves. If the future is what we build, let’s build and nurture a world we can be proud of.

Ma rencontre imprévue, imprévisible, et belle

16 Dec

Ce soir j’ai rencontré quelqu’un. Karima. Une dame d’âge mûr, habillée avec élégance et dont le visage évoquait celui de Sophia Loren, et qui aidait au service dans le restaurant italien où j’ai choisi de diner, un peu tard.

Elle avait envie de parler. Elle semblait contente de pouvoir me renseigner en français sur le menu. Les convives qui étaient là, à la tablée de quatre, étaient tous italiens et elle ne parlait pas la langue. Les clients qui sont arrivés après moi étaient aussi des italiens. Décidément. Il ne restait que la télé où BFMTV nous donnait les nouvelles, le chef en cuisine, et moi. Alors elle regardait la télé, elle arrangeait des choses ça et là, elle servait et desservait, elle disparaissait brièvement en cuisine.

C’est au moment du dessert qu’elle engageât la conversation, depuis une table devant moi, alors qu’inspirée par le reportage de BFMTV sur l’inhumation de Nelson Mandela, elle me fit part de son admiration pour le grand homme qui avait tant oeuvré pour son pays et l’humanité. J’acquiesçais et hochais la tête.

La vérité, c’est qu’entre les bruits de repas du couple d’italiens à ma gauche et le son même faible de la télé, je ne l’entendais pas assez pour la comprendre et je ne parvenais pas à tout lire sur ses lèvres.

Je reconstituais tant bien que mal les phrases, et priais que mes réponses et mouvements de tête s’accordaient bien avec ses propos. “Mandela a quand même passé vingt-sept ans en prison !” “Il a failli être exécuté.” [Karima traça un trait horizontal sur sa gorge avec son doigt] “En France … gouvernement de Giscard … puis Mandela libéré” Je n’ai pas saisi. “Afrique du Sud … Ma belle-fille vient de Cape Town.” “C’est bientôt l’anniversaire de mes jumeaux.” “Oh, lui ai-je répondu, vous avez des jumeaux? Mon frère et moi sommes jumeaux !” “Oui, ils auront 38 ans bientôt, ils sont Capricorne.” Le même âge que mon frère et moi. Karima partageait désormais des bribes de sa vie.

J’ai alors invité Karima à prendre place à ma table si elle voulait, en lui expliquant que je l’entendais mal. Une fois à proximité, malheureusement, elle baissa naturellement le volume de sa voix et certains de ses mots restaient couverts par ceux des voisins et de la télévision.

C’est ainsi. C’est ainsi que j’ai appris son prénom, celui de ses enfants ainsi que leur âge, leurs métiers, le pays où ils habitent. C’est ainsi que j’ai appris que Karima, mariée à l’âge de 15 ans, divorça à 28 ans et éleva seule ses deux enfants, les faisant voyager entre le Maroc, la France et Dubai, leur apprenant le protocole, la vie avec les riches, les pauvres, à donner au pauvres, etc.

J’ai appris en une heure une quantité de choses sur Karima et ses enfants, leur caractère, leurs récentes activités et leurs projets. Mais c’était surtout une rencontre imprévue, imprévisible, et belle.

We are all potentially exceptional

13 Sep

In The Times’ publication of an Op-Ed article (A Plea for Caution From Russia) in the paper of Thursday 12 September, by Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, I found this thought-provoking quote at the very end of the piece:

It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy.

To give further context, here is the rest of his words. I like to think that our being all different but equal is a universal truth, not an intention from a god.

Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.