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When the job gets physical

22 Sep

I have a rather sedentary job which involves computer work, a lot of typing, listening, thinking, talking, storing a lot of information to be able to throw it up at the right time, in the right form, or to connect the right people or the right dots, etc. I no longer travel very much and don’t get to meet people a lot to conduct my work. I do not have any RSI hurting my wrists to prevent me from typing, and I love my job and care enough that I happily spend hours at my keyboard. I have a lot of stamina.

But the other day, I had been at my desk for several hours reading feedback and input on Social Media on some very controversial work that the W3C recently completed, when it hit me: shaky hands, heart beating a little too fast steadily, and the dizziness. That slight tingle in the back of my throat and nose, the faint metallic taste and smell. It lasted a few seconds. I didn’t faint, but I know the signs. Oof!

I carried on with my day but later thought that my job had gotten physical :)

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Memory of my memoir

7 Sep Some perpetual movement with this Escher drawing I copied

My Dad reminded me tonight of that time, just before my twenties, when I had to write a memoir for the end of my studies –a two-year secretarial degree. I had worked as an intern twice a few months in the same Hilton hotel in Cannes, doing admin at the HR office the first year, and doing admin for the CEO the second year.

When it came to writing the memoir about what I had done there, I invented something, because otherwise there wasn’t a lot of glory or interest.

So I came up with a study to enhance efficiency throughout the various departments. The study was genuine; I had witnessed first-hand how the hotel worked and there was room for optimisation. The write-up was coherent and made sense. And I got away with it!

The following year, the hotel manager contacted me to get my approval for a group of local students at a business school to use my work and reorganise the hotel accordingly, which I happily gave. I was quite honoured they had kept it, were considering it seriously, and called to ask!

Anyway, I guess my Dad’s point was that even then I was doing some Comm work, and he went on recalling when years later I was offered to join the W3C Comm team and refused several times because I had no idea what comm work was, and he said “look at you now.” I figure my dad is proud of my ‘career’, as he puts it. And maybe people see in me more than I do.

Les lieux familiers (bis)

21 Feb


Je voyage assez souvent (et c’est chouette) et me trouve à l’aise dans les aéroports. Quelque chose de familier, d’interchangeable, qui me sied. 

On n’a pas besoin d’y parler trop. C’est reposant. On s’y perd rarement sauf happé dans des rêveries. J’ai un bon bouquin et quand je ne lis pas, j’observe les gens. 

Je regarde souvent ma pellicule photos de téléphone intelligent : il est claffi de photos prises d’avion ou d’aéroport. 


Je suis en transit pour Berlin. Je n’y ai jamais mis les pieds ! On le dit que c’est magnifique et dynamique. J’y vais pour le boulot et prendrai ce que je peux de ces quelques jours. 


Ah, ça va me manquer de moins voyager. 

The best work team

15 Oct

Eiko Nagase writesAny recurring meeting becomes stale over time if left unexamined.” I concur. For the meeting I run every week it’s become a drag after a year or so to even think of building the agenda. For some of the weekly meetings I attend, I sometimes don’t bother reading the agenda.

Eiko compiled a selection of tips to make your meetings less painful, such as changing the dynamics (location, space, time, participants, language, sound, tech) and concludes that “Constant iteration ensures that processes stay fresh and that, on the whole, they improve.

I think ‘constant iteration’ is either aspirational or a waste of time, unless you {are | have a member of your staff} dedicated to monitoring processes. Constantly iterating, if unexamined becomes stale as well. However, it’s healthy and useful to come back to processes, reassess them, and benchmark them against objectives.

hand-drawn illustration of a W3C face to face meeting, in a U-shaped room, showing people around the table in front of laptops, one person at the microphone, and slides projected on a screen

Above is my hand-drawn illustration of a W3C face to face meeting, in a U-shaped room, showing people around the table in front of laptops, one person at the microphone, and slides projected on a screen. This is one of the recurring types of meetings I run, but being part of a distributed team, the majority is weekly teleconferences and one face-to-face per year.

Here are elementary principles that work for me:

  1. Appreciate the people at your meeting and the time they give to your meeting. Your team, your people, your assets, your luck.
  2. Establish goals for the meeting. Building an agenda and sharing it ahead of time is useful. You may build it with your team. Remind your team of the agenda at the start of the meeting.
  3. Take notes, or find a scribe who does. Record salient points, questions, answers, actions and resolutions.
  4. Watch the time and keep to the time. Make sure you give appropriate focus to each item in the meeting docket. Don’t move to a new item without a clear path forward or next steps to the item at hand. If the matter can’t be resolved, state it. Options range from breaking out separately to further brainstorm, take the conversation to e-mail, or simply come back to in the future with fresher information.
  5. For face-to-face meetings, allow for mental breaks and bio breaks. When at a all-day meeting, typically I can focus intensely for 45 minutes or so, after which my brain will go on a break and wander freely for a few minutes.
  6. Don’t ramble. Don’t hog the microphone. Hear all the voices. You may need to tune how you seek feedback so that people feel confident to speak up.
  7. Share notes after the meeting. Executive summaries are valuable additions to meeting notes, especially if your thoughts are orderly and are at ease with words. Otherwise, my tip is to favour taking short notes and summaries, over verbatim records.

Eiko Nagase also advises to alternate technologies used as part of the collaborative work. I concur, with a note of caution: your choices have to take into account the ability of your team and the effort on-boarding them to a new technology requires.

In the case of my team, I chose to alternate between usual means of collaboration such as e-mail, IRC, wikis, and trying out a new thing, Asana, in order to keep my team’s wit sharp and have them step outside of their habits to tackle some projects from a new angle. We use Asana only when it makes a difference and rarely enough that it does. Otherwise it becomes a hassle and defeats the purpose. We’re not quite ready yet to move our work to Github ;)

I’d like to end with a few more tips regarding getting the best from the people you work with:

  • Know your people. Again, your team, your assets, your luck. 
  • Find out where their inclinations, talents and interests reside; use those. 
  • Follow their work, guide them, help them. This is the opposite of micro-management. 
  • Praise their achievements, appreciate and promote their work.