Week 32 of 2020 brings another Summer holiday, tech leadership woes, creating YouTube content and Slack icebreakers.

I’m sat on a hill in St Ives, sipping cider in the sun next to my caravan after an afternoon on the beach. And I’ve decided to write some week notes. Go figure. 

I’ll be taking a two week break from these (not like last time) but will return after the hols. In the mean time, I intend to make the most of Cornwall’s dire mobile signal, switch off to enjoy more reading and podcasts, plus quality time with the family.  

The Joys of Leadership 

It’s been an interesting week with work. Whilst I’ve got a couple projects and teams to lead, there’s also a number of “foundational” initiatives going on to form some structure for the whole of our tech, product and commercial teams. Finding the right balance between the two main focuses ebbs and flows over time but this week has been mostly focused on projects and teams, particularly firefighting some challenging situations to ensure everyone is communicating and collaborating on key priorities. Doing this over Zoom and Dingtalk (Alibaba’s Slack equivalent) is not ideal and definitely contradicts my typical recommendation of talking to each other face-to-face.

Part of the job is also about documenting and reporting progress which, in an Agile environment, can prove difficult. Relying on Product Managers and Tech Leads to provide updates generally yields dreadful results and I end up chasing in the 11th hour for important detail. Ideally, I’d automate much of this but our internal tools don’t offer the flexibility yet. If there was a silver bullet to this, I’m sure it could be a moneymaker. Do share if you know of anything. 

More YouTube Content

On the sides (shameless plug alert), it’s been all about promoting Make Life Work season 4 this week. More YouTube content from the archives took up most the week, now with a refined process (to be blogged at some point). With the 2 week break approaching, I wanted to get all the content ready for publishing over two Friday’s. This week was Season 2 with Naomi, Kevin, Ashley, Marc and Dan (with some lovey engagement via Twitter) – next week will be Luke, Steve, Dom, Alex and Mike. 

Early metrics suggest it’s definitely got potential but I do want to look into YouTube’s features to enrich the content. It is Google’s baby so sure to lend towards better SEO as well. I also received an invite from Amazon to provide content on their upcoming podcast platform. When that launches, I’m looking forward to see if it gains much traction. 

Elsewhere, we’ve introduced a new app to On The Side to try drive engagement. It’s called Icebreaker which, as the name suggests, attempts to break the ice with groups of people using random questions. It’s gamified with gems and trivial questions plus they’ve provided a free community plan for our non-profit (thank you Ella) so I’m keen to test it out and tweak the frequency. Early interactions are mostly with the regulars so I’m going to look at how we can extend to the quieter members, maybe even reach out personally for direct feedback and suggestions. 

IRL, I’ve been trying to turn off properly but not very well. I spent a couple evenings “slapping the bass” after getting a new Fender cable (the one included didn’t last long) and reading my Kindle but the upcoming holiday will be a good time to turn off. I’ve brought my laptop away with me purely to focus on offline activities – start designs for Mrs J’s website, some mixing and music production, maybe even writing.

Let’s see how that goes and I’ll return in 2 weeks with further WeekNotes.