The below piece was something I recently did for my organisation’s internal newsletter. At the time it got a lot of praise and a few chuckles so I thought I’d share it with my lovely readers as well (be it with a few tweaks to make it understandable to an external audience). Enjoy!
I’m Ruddy Awesome
Recently myself and a group of work colleagues undertook a two-day Mindset and Attitude course. Now, while all those in attendance will completely understand the term ‘lollipop moment’, say that to the rest of the world and you only get concern over my company’s funding policies (especially when you talk about the whole ‘tied up with rope, blindfolded and groping about “game”’ and dancing around to ABBA). With my Excel course I got given manuals to leave about my desk (‘look at me, I’m so smart. I have manuals!’) but Mindset, well, it’s harder to explain.
‘Annie, right now are you in the box or out the box?’
‘…I’m at my desk?’
At Mindset we discussed our values and career aspirations and learnt ways to communicate better amongst other valuable exercises. On paper it was a jolly outing interjected with TED talks and Psychology lessons, nothing that you’d think would make much difference. However, in the weeks and months since I’ve started to form a new perspective.
The thing is when it comes to the day-to-day I’m pretty modest. I know how to talk to people and how to construct a fabulous bit of writing, but when someone tells me I’m awesome I’ve never been good at taking it onboard. I throw my head to one side and my hand goes all limp, finished with an ‘oh you’ as I quite literally bat away the feedback. Mindset and Attitude helped me acknowledge this and, when I struggled to praise myself, Richard Thorpe (the man leading the sessions) got the group to fill in. Being unable to run away from the positive comments of my peers turned me beetroot red, but five minutes was all it took for me to realise my own strengths and qualities.
A couple of weeks later I was in an art gallery in Bath (as you do) when the room steward grabbed me mid-exit. Much to my surprise, the lady proceeded to shower me with praise. She’d been fascinated by how I’d taken in the art on display (because apparently there’s a right and wrong way to view art) and didn’t want me to leave without saying something. Aside from thinking ‘how do I get “art viewing” on my CV?’ I also found myself smiling, eyes locked and hand firmly at my side.
I left the gallery feeling great. An actual lollipop moment! I also realised that in my quest to be a classy, empowered lady maybe I had been one all along. Perhaps I’d been my own blocker, taking in only the bad comments and pushing away the good.
Take aways from Mindset and Attitude include making time for people (a cheeky Facebook like at 7am does not count) and an end to copious coffee drinking at 10pm. Going forward I’m going to hold my head that bit higher and tell myself I’m the best thing to happen to every meeting. Why? Because I’m ruddy awesome.
More information on the Mindset Coaching offered by Richard Thorpe can be found on his company website: https://www.wiseheart.co.uk/ or contact Richard direct at firstname.lastname@example.org
…You wouldn’t think the Holburne Museum and Art Gallery was located just off the centre of Bath Spa (Somerset, England). And yet, quite a literal stone’s throw from the beating heart of the city is this little gem of a place. All you need to do is cross the river and follow the dead straight road and you’ll reach this at the end (gotta love a Georgian straight road, it’s as if they predicted the advent of Sat Navs and thought ‘nah, why bother. Just make all the roads straight instead.’)
Originally a grand Georgian hotel, the building now houses the personal collection of Sir Thomas William Holburne and a great number of 17th and 18th Century artworks. Now, even though I studied History for three years, the only things it got me were £30,000 worth of debt and a couple of fun facts about executions, Victorian death rituals and lynch mobs. In short, I’m probably the last person on Earth to be providing a potted history for this place. For a timeline click here.
History aside, lets get onto the bit which 95% of my readership care about; how Alice’s brain has interpreted the contents of this museum (the other 5% Google searched ‘mermaids’ and are now bitterly disappointed by the contents of this site).
On the first floor is a room (and mezzanine above) which showcases the artefacts collected by Sir Thomas Holburne as well as family treasures.
Whenever I see a good deal of random antiquities in a room, all laid out and nicely presented I think about the condition such priceless items would have been kept in before the advent of museums. I mean, when you watch documentaries of hoarders in Cheshire you don’t think ‘oh, I wonder if there’s a cheeky Faberge Egg under that newspaper pile?’
See if I had a time machine that’s probably where I’d go, to the hoarding museums of the future. (I know right, why is this girl single?)
Funnily, when I went to the Holburne on a half day off I never expected to get home interior inspiration.
I mean a quick reckie around Swindon’s charity shops and some suspension cable and you’re away. In my house it would be life affirming – if you manage a flight of stairs without a vase landing on your head then you know you’re going to have a good day. If not…well you’re probably getting a day or two off work (=good day!)
Moving onto the art exhibitions in the other rooms, on the same level I was reminded that throughout history the same statement rings true; if it’s done in the name of ‘art’ then anything goes. For example, do you know that feeling when you get turned into a stag by the Goddess of animals and then killed by your own hounds whilst meanwhile everyone is too wrapped up in the Lapith/Centaur battle to care?
In that sense you can’t really be too heavily critical about art because if you look at things through a sceptical eye it seems that everyone was/is on some form of hallucinogenic.
In the same room I felt equally reassured that I’m not the only one to have struggled with the perils of a dignified wet wipe wash.
There were also a number of nice portraits in the room which didn’t inspire any wit from me at the time so didn’t get photographed. In my defence I was too busy chuckling at people reacting to the massive piece of contemporary art in the room. Needless to say most people weren’t getting it.
Upstairs then and on the second level was, you’ve guessed it, more pieces of priceless art. In a side room at the top of the stairs was a temporary exhibition on art of stage actors which gave me many a chuckle. This guy for instance could be relatable to any workplace environment…
And I doubt anyone has spotted it but me, but there was a weird love triangle taking place on the wall opposite.
Unfortunately one of the galleries was temporarily closed whilst a new exhibition was being fitted, which took me therefore into the last available gallery on my visit. It was an exhibit of stuffed exotic birds, hah, just kidding, it was another art gallery.
Now it could be just me, but do you ever find it trippy when there’s a painting in a painting? And you’re being invited to look at that said painting in a painting by the painted figures as if there’s deeper meaning in the painting’s painting? That if you stare at it long enough you’re expected to understand? And then you don’t get it so you read the description by the side of the painting and think ‘ah, ok’ then look back at the painting and still don’t get it? And then you question your intelligence, take a moment to remind yourself you have a degree in the Arts, before looking back at the painting and wondering why you wasted your time trying to understand something which, at best, is a fairly average painting and doesn’t make that much sense?
It’s historic inception if you ask me.
In this gallery there were a number of very nice pieces of art work. The room steward and I had a lovely conversation about over a particular portrait. ‘He was well known for his ability to paint women. They used to say he was good with the wives of gentry.’ (The thirteen year old in me was making so many smirky comments it’s a wonder none of them got blurted out .)
Also, the lady in that particular exhibition dashed out after me and complimented me on the way I viewed the collection. Middle class win. Set me up right rosy for the afternoon that did.
After I viewed all the art I could handle, I stopped off in the café on the ground floor which for the record was really pleasurable. Art and coffee are the perfect mix anyway, but the coffee shop has been very stylishly done, with a glass backed wall facing the parks located at the back of the museum.
Also, nice toilets.
After I’d completed my wander round the Holburne I strolled the grounds to the back of the old grand hotel. This area had originally been billed as the luxury pleasure gardens for the hotel’s guests and as I walked over regal bridges that crossed the railway line and ambled up to various pieces of Georgian architecture, I could see why. It was the perfect way to finish my visit.
I came away from the Holburne thinking myself as a sophisticated individual (I didn’t spill any coffee on me that day = proof) and given the Holburne is a free to enter, privately run, establishment I’d certainly say it was worth an hour of anyone’s time, even if it’s just for the cake and 18th Century banter.
More information on the Holburne Museum and Art Gallery can be found here (external website).
When you complete each stage of a project in isolation. You can’t move onto the next stage until the previous one has been completed.
Teams may have frequent meetings in the form of monthly boards, where decisions are made by stakeholders, or dial in meetings with team members who may not work in the same office location (e.g. a Tester who works offshore).
A project example would be upgrades to multiple interlinked computer servers. Server one must first be upgraded first before server two can be looked at.
Methodical and the traditional method of running projects.
Works well for projects where there’s one end goal and nothing in between.
Enables clear investment decision points and reviews at stage ends and also ensures everything is completed before progressing to the next stage.
(Pro or con!) results in stricter levels of governance as projects need to fulfil specific criteria before being allowed to develop and implement.
Slow. A hold up at one stage affects the rest of the chain for the project.
This also includes potential impacts on dependant projects who rely on other projects for meeting their deadlines.
This in turn can lead to resource inefficiencies, project overspend and failure to meet to time scales.
Instead of aiming to complete whole stages in isolation, Agile projects take a more cyclonic approach, tackling a project delivery in multiple smaller stages (or sprints). Sprints tend to last between two and four weeks.
Teams keep each other informed via stand up Kanban/scrum meetings. An appointed scrum master leads discussions to enable the different teams working on the project provide updates. A) with what they are going to tackle during each sprint (at the start), B) progress updates (during) and C) what they have achieved (at the end). Meetings tend to be more informal and visual compared to Waterfall and the use of whiteboards with post its and/or dedicated software are adopted more frequently to enable updates in a quicker paced project.
An example of an Agile project would be the development of a App. Over the course of multiple sprints teams are able to gradually build and test the App, first with the basic code, then the functionality, then finally adding in user appeal – pictures, sounds etc.
Fast moving. Enables teams to quickly identify any faults and either fix or ‘drop’ them before too much money and time is invested.
Deliveries grow over time, a project leader can start to see formation much earlier into a project, where in Waterfall the change is sudden.
Considered to be a more resource efficient model and allows for greater collaboration.
Agile is not a suitable method for all projects. A single delivery can’t be built over time (for example, the delivery outcome ‘running a marathon’ cannot be done in separate sprints. You sign up, train, then run it. An Agile approach would be useless in this instance – you cannot gradually run bits of the marathon over twelve weeks!)
The working environment must contain all persons on the project (project lead, governance, software architects, testers, accountants, etc.) to enable collaboration. These resources can only be dedicated to one project or sprint. If resources are split between multiple projects (as they can be on Waterfall) then the sprint may fail to meet its delivery.
As sprints are quite short and projects adopting Agile are quicker paced, the project lead must ensure that suitable investment and project governance/review points are put in place as the cycle system doesn’t naturally allow for any sudden or prolonged stops.
As it’s a new methodology of project working, team members may require additional support and/or training.
And there you have it. A (very) quick overview of the two main methods of running projects. I want to add here that I am by no means an expert on either approach, having only started a career in business project management and governance three months ago(!) but hopefully for that reason it will help any new starters in the world get to grips with the basics.
(Also, I hope that doing this will stop Mumma Bennett getting into hysterics when I talk about my job- ‘Waterfall? Ha, ha, haah! What’s Waterfall?! I don’t understand, what’s water got to do with technology upgrades? You’re so corporate!’ and so on and so forth…)
And who says you don’t learn awesome things from this blog?
Evoking emotion in me is like filling a massive man-made dam. You keep pushing and pushing to go further, to fill it higher, until suddenly the walls break and water goes everywhere. Many lives and friendships lost, terrible mess, nightmare insurance claim.
Problem is I often don’t know when to stop. It’s like the world is challenging me to tip toe over the thick red boundary, to see the signs and ignore the warnings. To step over “the line”.
Within our family we’re pretty good at keeping each other in check. A slip of the tongue and down the phone you’ll hear me dryly saying “line! Line!” As if I’m voicing a submarine siren or hitting a desk buzzer. I used to mimic the action, that was until people in public places started expressing concern that I was having a some kind of seizure.
“Line! Line! Line!”
Outside of family there’s no such restriction on what I say. Now obviously I never say anything offensive or plain stupid, I’m not Donald Trump, but that doesn’t stop me saying things that are a bit kooky and classically Alice. A throwaway comment that develops into a very strange trail of thought, carrying on and on until I look up and realise that, at best, no one is listening or, at worst, I get “a look” which says it all; “must remove from LinkedIn.”
Only recently have I discovered that I’m not alone in evoking stupid thoughts. Someone at work is equally resilient to being unable to locate the line. At first I thought “oh my God, another one exists! Yay!” now I’m thinking “oh my God, how does this end? Will the world implode if we share one pun too many?”
I’ll spare you the full detailed story that has developed between us because honestly it’s pretty weird (I know, even by my standards). This fictional life started with an innocent accidental wave on Facebook – 30 minutes later and it had become all kinds of Mighty Boosh.
To make matters worse, the colourful (and ongoing) contents were inadvertently brought from the safe confines of social media and into the office today. You can only imagine the looks (or non-looks) the pair of us were getting. I may have discovered the older, more ‘out there’ version of me, but I’m also discovering why “you can never have too much of a bad thing” isn’t a common saying amongst sensible people. The banter is wonderful, but the confused looks and hole-digging explanations? Hmm, that’s harder to put up with on a day-to-day.
Where is my conversation controller, my stupid stopper, my tame talker? Where is my internal, one word, monologue when I need it the most?
Because the world would be a better place if we let out the hate and let in the tea.
Speech to the Troops at Tilbury Fort – Queen Elizabeth I
I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a strong tea drinker, and of a tea drinker of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade my beverage stocks on a Monday morning…
Address to the Army at the Beginning of the Italian Campaign – Napoleon Bonaparte
Soldiers, you are naked and ill tea-ed! Government owes you much and can give you nothing. The patience and courage you have shown in the midst of these rocks are admirable; but they gain you no renown; no glory results to you from your endurance. It is my design to lead you into the most fertile tea plains of the world. Rich provinces and great cities will be in your power; there you will find honour, glory, and rich beverages. Soldiers of Italy! Will you be wanting in Breakfast or Earl Grey?”
We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches – Winston Churchill
We shall drink tea on the beaches, we shall drink tea on the landing grounds, we shall drink tea in the fields and in the streets, we shall drink tea in the hills; we shall never surrender…tea
I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be replanted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made green, and the crooked places will be made straight rowed, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation’s into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, coffee drinkers and tea lovers, knowing that we will all have tea one day.
Chairman Mao Zedong
An army without tea is a dull-witted army, and a dull-witted army cannot defeat the enemy.
Neil Armstrong (on the invention of fruit tea)
That’s one small step for tea, one giant leap for mankind.
Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own action to make a good cup of tea.
Presidential Inauguration Speech – Donald Trump
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be only Tea First. Tea First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American Teabags and American Tea drinkers. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our caffeine, and destroying our mid-afternoon breaks. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never, ever let you down Mr PG Tips Monkey.
You get the idea.
Written in response to the WordPress prompt of the day: Tea
Come sit with me. Come sit here in the caffeine filled haze we call paradise. The legal high that our fathers and their fathers before have relished, for here we are one. The mothers, the students, the disapproving men with broadsheets in hand, everyone has a home here.
Let me pass you this extra I have acquired. Do you take milk? The sugar is over there. The chair next to me is a little worn and mismatched, but that is the norm. Brush off the crumbs of the previous tenant and join me in weekend conversation.
The background music will lull you into a false pretence of your own class and status. The type of music you recognise but do not know. They are the backing beats that serve as melodic distraction from the mess surrounding us. I have heard in booksheleved corners that it improves the taste, what do you think?
See that man behind my left shoulder? I know him to be a regular. The frustrated writer who huffs and sighs over work that will never make it to print. Chomping on cheap nuts and downing brown goo in paper cups, for he cannot afford the china. He is a freeloader of the establishment, clinging desperately to an image that cannot be sustained. I remember when he used to sip on only the finest quality beans and nibble on pastries with young women, but those days are gone. We have all changed since those days.
My friend, you look a little troubled. Don’t be. In this world we are all addicts of our own making. I only seek to show you the truth that lurks in the steam. Save your pity for Africa, it is a wasted emotion in this Latino supplied space. I see you have finished your drink. Would you like another? It would be my honour. They serve only the finest cheap substances here, it is why we never leave.
I am so happy you came to sit with me my partner. Now stress no more and relax, the fresh coffee will be here soon.
A simple translation guide for the generic terminology and sayings normally heard around an office environment.
“Hi, how are you?” – I’m making small talk with you because it’s polite.
“Good thanks, you?” – I’m responding to your small talk with a simple answer so we can get to business.
“Hey, are you busy?” – The answer to this question is irrelevant, you’re about to be given something to do.
“I don’t suppose you can have a look at this with me?” – I value your opinions on this and need to cover my arse if it all goes belly up.
“We need to go back to the supplier and tell them…” – Either myself or you need to get in touch with the supplier and explain this (ideally you).
“The deadline is flexible” – There’s a bit of leeway for when this work needs to be finished.
“This is a firm deadline” – You’re in big trouble if you don’t get this work completed on time.
“Only if it’s not too much trouble” – Even if it is too much trouble you’re still doing this for me.
“Roy from accounts is a #*&@+~>#!!” – “Roy from accounts is not my favourite person.”
“*various expletives shouted at screen*” – perhaps now is a good time to keep your head down.
“Going forward” – Based on the past, this is what can/will be improved in the future, hopefully. Conversational example, “the office block caught on fire last week. What can we learn from this?” “Well, going forward we now know that fires are started by hot things.”
“Hello, The John Smith Glitter Company, we make your dreams sparkle and shine, Alice speaking, how may I help?” – I’m dying a little inside every time I answer the phone. I dare you to ask me to repeat that again.
“I’m sorry, they’re in a meeting right now” – there are various places they could be, but it’s not here.
“Let me give you her email” – my colleague doesn’t want you to be constantly calling, but if they’re interested they will be in touch. More likely not, but let’s keep you hoping.
“Can I get that in writing?” – there’s either too much information to process or I’m covering my backside in case I need to refer to this later on.
“We really value your custom” – (Customer Services) We don’t really care either way. (Everyone else) I’m either sucking up to you or apologising on someone’s else’s behalf.
Singular vs Plural
“The printer is useless” – the thing in the corner is broken, again.
“The printers are useless” – our suppliers are not quite putting 100% effort in.
Synergy – A fancy word used in presentations. Meaning: unknown.
Working from home – they’re at home watching daytime TV.
Meetings – where everyone gathers to discuss things. Degrees of importance/length vary, as does quality of snack and refreshment items.
Training Course – a session used to expand your knowledge or understanding of a particular element. The ‘fun’ ones are usually compulsory.
Expenses – Depending on where you work and what you do, you can sometimes claim money back on things purchased (e.g. train tickets, food, coffee, three course lunches, first class plane tickets, a BMW…).
Expense Claims – Pulling every trick/excuse in the book to get your money back from finance.
Annual Leave – the best piece of legislation ever enforced (just so long as you don’t log into the work email).