March for Macragge 2021

This year I took part in the yearly #MarchForMacragge event – basically, paint something Ultramarines related during March. I knew I was going to have a fairly busy month, so I carefully kept my project quite small and focussed, with a simple but effective paint scheme. To make things stand out a bit I used a lot of “old” markings and adornments like back banners – not something you see much of in Warhammer, these days.


World Book Day 2021

Men At Arms, by Terry Pratchett, remains one of my all time favourite books, so I’m re-reading it for World Book Day 2021.


El Gato

This is the inside of my office. This is not my cat.


Side Effects

I got my first COVID vaccination jab a couple of days ago, so for the benefit of others I thought I’d share my experience.

First off, for the first 24 hours (almost exactly) after the jab, I had zero side effects. From that 24 hour mark I gradually started to feel a bit worse –

  • slight sore/scratchy throat
  • chills
  • body aches

In all, it was like I had a bad cold, just without a runny nose. I went to bed slightly early last night, feeling a little rough and expecting to feel rubbish this morning.

As it turned out, I woke up feeling absolutely fine. It’s as if yesterday afternoon/evening didn’t happen at all.

Having spoken to my project manager, who received his vaccination a few hours earlier than I did, his experience was almost exactly the same – right down to the 24 hour gap between first dose and experiencing any side effects.

All-in-all, it was much more pleasant than I’d expected; certainly, I’ve had much worse experiences with the yearly flu vaccination!


Vaccination Jab 1

Outside the vaccination centre

I’ve had my first COVID vaccination jab! I was given the AstraZeneca version. It felt a little odd to be out on public transport for the first time in a while. The centre is in a new development I’ve never been to before, so I missed the stop I should have got off at, but thankfully the bus driver let me off before he got too much further along his route.


First snow

Our first major drop of snow this winter, and the heaviest I’ve seen in a while.


Promotion Panel Post-Mortem

So it’s done. I had my promotion panel interview yesterday. It went great, apart from one little tiny detail – I went over time. Pretty much the one hard-and-fast rule you’re given, and I broke it. Granted, it was really close – I was partway through my final slide – but it leaves a bitter taste to have come so close to getting through the part I was most worried about.

I know why I ran over. In one of my more content-heavy slides I stumbled a bit with some last minute suggested additions, adding a little too much detail off-the-cuff as I hadn’t practiced these points as much as the rest. Those few seconds made all of the difference, and while I tried to mask the dissappointment of being stopped as quickly as I could before going into the Q&A, I’m sure there would have been a split-second where my body language or facial expression gave it away, if any of the panel were looking at my camera feed and not the slide deck.

The Q&A part was fine. It was a little bit of a blur due to trying to recover, but I had the overall impression it was easier than I expected, and shorter. I received one question relating to my last slide which basically let me finish off what I would have said, and a couple of questions around Agile working practices and specifically on leading Agile teams, which required more longform answers… but overall I came out of the Q&A feeling much more confident again.

So that was it. If I had met the 15 minute criteria I’d be feeling very sure that I’d been successful. As it is, I just have to wait until I get the feedback and ultimate decision to find out how much that worked against me. That will be some time in late March/early April. I’m hopeful that everything else was above and beyond what they expected me to deliver, but that’s not going to make the wait any easier!


Talking to Myself

I have a love-hate relationship with presenting. I feel I’m fair-to-decent at delivering an ad-libbed presentation backed up by a loosely structured slide deck. I can project a decent amount of confidence even though I’m nervous and hate being the centre of attention, and can talk at length if I can control the timing of the presentation.

Unfortunately, this is one of those times where the timing is out of my hands and the format is fairly set. As I mentioned, I have a strict 15 minute limit, and there’s also a template I need to start from – although there is creative freedom allowed within the parameters of the template. Keeping to the time limit remains my biggest hurdle. I have a lot I need to cover, and nerves tend to make me throw in little extra bits of information as I’m talking. Because I know this I have spent a lot of time practicing my delivery since my first disasterous attempt.

As well as having multiple review + feedback sessions with colleagues, I’ve basically spent every spare minute repeating the script over and over – both in my head and out loud. I’m still struggling to hit the 15 minute mark, but I’m really, really, close. I’ve come in under time in a few practice runs so it seems to depend on how much detail I give to just one or two areas of the slide deck. My thinking is that if I can basically memorise a version which comes in under time, and stick to only that in the real thing, then I should be OK.

As far as the slides go, these are now set. I’ve had some great feedback on the visuals, which is a nice boost. The deck needs to be sent off to the panel by the end of today, so there’s no more time to make any substantive changes – probably for the best! I won’t be able to post the full deck, but I will leave you with a small extract from the “about me” slide:

a screenshot from my presentation, showing white, bullet-pointed text, on a red gradient background. Point one reads 'Brain haemorrhage + stroke survivor', point two readds 'Interested in the intersections of privacy, ethics, and technology', point three reads 'Unrepentant Warhammer nerd'.
A snippet from my draft presentation

8 Minutes

I had my first practice run of my promotion presentation with a work colleague today, and it was nothing short of a disaster.

I arrived to the meeting already flustered. The current sprint is hard going, things have been going wrong, and I had been fire-fighting all morning. I also hadn’t had any opportunity to practice my slides on my own. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to say, but no idea of the timings or anything.

Several times I just lost my train of thought, had to stop, then restart the presentation. When I did finally manage to get off of the first slide, I’d talked for over half of my allotted 15 minutes. In the end I felt like I was wasting my colleague’s time, so I apologised for being so ill prepared and ended the session early so as to not waste any more. I was embarrassed, annoyed at myself, and even more flustered than when I started. Thankfully my colleague offered to “reschedule” our session to a later date, when hopefully I’ll be in a better mindset.

Must do better.


15 Minutes

It looks like the first of my objectives to be completed will be my promotion. That’s not to assume successful completion, mind you. Our promotion process ends with a presentation to a three-person panel, and 8th February is the date scheduled for my panel presentation.

The format is fairly ridgid, which isn’t ideal for how I normally approach presentations, but it’s out of my hands so I’ll need to make the best of it. The biggest complication will be the strict 15 minute maximum time limit. If/when I get nervous, I can talk at length. The pendulum swung too far from my childhood deer-in-headlights freezing and stuttering. I have a lot to cover, so sticking to that time limit could be a big challenge. I have access to workshops and colleagues willing to help me practice, so I’m confident I can get it nailed down.