Categories
Work

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!

Categories
Work

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
Categories
Work

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.

Categories
Work

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.

Categories
General/Life Work

Objectives for 2021

A Short Introduction and TL;DR

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions; the changing of the year is more-or-less just another day to me, and I tend not to assign it significance enough to make goals in advance. That said, I do like to set myself some objectives once I’ve got an idea for where the year might be headed. 2020 was a bit of a disaster on this front, but more on that in a retrospective blog post. Anyway, as I know roughly where I expect the first six months of the year to go, now seems as good a time as any to write down some of those objectives (in no particular order):

  1. Get Promoted.
  2. Get Certified.
  3. Lose the Lockdown Weight
  4. Continue My DevOps Journey

The Objectives:

1. Get Promoted

Shortly before Christmas, my project manager called me up to ask if I’d 1) thought about going forward for promotion, and 2) would I like to be put forward for promotion. About half an hour after that, my Director phoned me up along the same lines. Off of the back of the recently completed performance review exercise, they felt I was working at the level above where I was currently graded, and felt I was a strong candidate to pass the promotion panel.

I was humbled and grateful for the confidence they’ve shown in me, and I hope to reward that faith by successfully navigating the promotion process. I do have to give a presentation, which is not something I enjoy, and prepare quite vigorously (in addition to all my regular work!) but I’m reasonably confident in my ability to get through it all.

As the panel will be held in a few weeks, this is likely to be the first objective I succeed or fail at this year.

2. Get Certified

The Chartered Institute of IT Professionals (aka, British Computing Society/BCS) is something looked at from afar for several years. For reasons best known to the hidden, inner workings of my brain, I never felt like it was something I was “good enough” to join. The BCS was for serious IT Consultants, with decades of experience.

It wasn’t until after the conversations I mentioned in objective one, and in the follow-up promotion preparation that I realised: “hang on, I am a serious IT Consultant with decades of experience (two of them!)”. With that brain obstacle finally overcome, I applied for Professional Membership. It comes across as a serious business: you have to submit your CV for review, and someone has to be willing to vouch for your experience and ability. I was accepted in less than twenty four hours, and as such, I can list MBCS after my name.

But my objective doesn’t end there. Much in the same way other professional trade bodies certify members who meet strict criteria, the BCS does too – this was one of the reasons I had wanted to be a Member of the BCS in the first place. My objective is to earn my status as a Chartered IT Professional.

Looking through the criteria and process, it’s much the same as the internal promotion process I am going through right now. Early 2021 strikes me as an opportune time to get this done.

3. Lose the Lockdown Weight

I’m not sure how much explanation this one needs: with all of the lockdowns, “stay at home” messaging, and well, stress, of COVID in 2020, my weight has gone up a lot more than I’d like. More importantly than that, I’ve felt my fitness and comfort dropping.

In late 2019 and pre-COVID 2020 I was successfully working hard to lose weight. I can’t reinstate the exact same routines in 2021, but I have an exercise bike, Apple Fitness +, and a desire to get back on track.

I’m not asking for any sort of miracle weight loss. Just to feel more comfortable in some of my clothes again, and some signs of improvement.

4. Continue My DevOps Journey

In 2020 I passed my first Microsoft exam for an accreditation. This came as part of a push to learn enough about DevOps and pick up enough skills that I could – at a pinch – take on a DevOps role or otherwise deploy the skills in a useful manner at work. As it was, I landed in my current project instead, and I didn’t get to continue down the path much further.

But I’m conscious that projects tend to come to an end eventually, and DevOps skills demand has only increased over the intervening months. So I want to pick up where I was and take things forward again.

Internally, we offer a DevOps “boot camp”, which is a short, intensive, pathway into the DevOps world. I took part in the first version of the course, but it’s been refreshed and now offers a direct path to two further Microsoft accreditations – both of which I had planned to study for in my free time. I figure that if the company are willing to pay for these, then I might as well take them up on the offer!

The main challenge I’m going to have with this objective is time. It’s a self-study course, nominally over a 3 week period, and then there’s the exams to prepare for after that. With everything else going on at the moment, I simply don’t have the time to spare… and I worry about losing momentum. But this is part of the reason to write it down here – to hold myself accountable!

Wrap-up

So, those are my initial objectives for 2021. Or at least, the formal ones that I’m trying to commit to. I have others that are more nebulous at the moment to write down, and others that probably fall more in the “projects” category than an objective. I might detail those in another post.