Month: August 2012

Working globally

The big picture is coming together. Development teams in seven different locations round the world, contracted technical writers in some locations, none in others and a product line that is merging… why that all sounds like a challenge!

I’m still in discussion about how we will gather information from disparate teams using different processes (some use SCRUM, we use a blend of waterfall and ‘Agile’), still trying to figure out what our deliverables will be and how they will be delivered so whilst it’s been a few weeks now, it doesn’t feel like things have changed all that much, apart from now knowing that bar one technical writer in Ireland, my team are THE team.

By my reckoning that makes us Global something or other so we are getting new business cards printed…

The realities of how we will manage the information gathering process are my main focus at the moment, I’m reaching out to team leads and managers in as many places as I can to get a better view of where we fit and where we can offer the best value. Over the past few years we’ve built the team to be more ‘service’ focussed, and whilst the bulk of that offering is centred around our product releases, we do also help out our PreSales teams and project delivery information where we can. We also work closely with our Support Team, and monitor incoming calls to understand the product usage that develops and where people trip up.

The end goal is to replicate what we do across the different sites round the globe.

The challenge will be making it happen.

A letter to my blog

Dear neglected blog,

I’m sorry I struggle to find the time to talk to you these days, I really am. I don’t do much writing elsewhere either so please don’t feel I’m cheating on you, although.. well that saucy minx Twitter is always good for a cheap thrill but I know that is just a bit of fun and won’t last…

OK, the truth is I have been writing somewhere else, somewhere more private, and I guess that’s distracted from what I’d usually talk about here.

Don’t worry, whilst life continues to have ups and downs I’m taking care of myself and fundamentally I know I’m a very very lucky guy. I’m happy and glad to be here on this thing we call Earth. After all, as you already know, there are many many things in my life to be happy about and only a few things that aren’t quite so happymaking. I’ve got good friends, the circle of which has recently increase, a well-paid job that I don’t (always) loathe, and a wonderful woman in my life. I’m also using the word OSSUM a lot, that can only be a good thing (apart from the fact it’s not actually a word but I’m not going into that now).

I could tell you how I’m enjoying using my MacBook Air (it’s still all new and shiny), or how badly my efforts at teaching myself guitar are going, I could waffle on about my recent weightloss/fitness regime changes, or about how the acquisition of the company I work for might be a good thing for me in the long run. But I won’t cos they are just things that are happening. Just life.

Ohhh and I’m off to Singapore soon, that’s good but again, just another thing that is happening. OK, I’m excited about that one but it’s still just a thing, just another transient event in my life.

The thing is, I’m increasingly I’m finding my view of the world becoming that of a journey. I know that’s cliche but it is what it is. I’m still doing my best to be positive, or to at least bow out of negative situations with a little humility and my (admittedly shaky at best) integrity intact. I’m letting go of as many worries as I can, even though some flutter back to annoy me from time to time. Life continues regardless, so what’s the point in placing value on things that skip past in the blink of an eye.

The bottom line is that life is good and whist I know I’ve neglected you in all of this, I know that deep down you understand why.

Your erstwhile owner,

G

Olympic PMA

The Olympics are over, and whilst we wait for the Paralympics to start, I think it’s fair to say that the Olympics were a much bigger event than I realised. I’m sure the successes of Team GB contributed but even without that, the coverage by the BBC, and the overall feeling of euphoria and pride that built from that amazing opening ceremony was genuinely moving.

It was a funny thing, watching that opening ceremony and finding myself hugely moved by it and then to find those emotions carried through whilst watching the events. Whether cheering on cyclists, swimmers, runners, jumpers or people shooting things, I found myself bought in to the whole concept of Team GB. Most odd.

But good!

The one thing I’m taking away from the Olympics, is that it showed that we can do great things, that the great British approach of “ach we are alright I guess” CAN be “We are AWESOME!”.

I’ve spoken before about focussing on positives, and keeping clear of negativity wherever I can, and this is all proof positive of what it can achieve. Of course all the competitors train hard, are dedicated and will push themselves, but hearing the members of Team GB thank the crowds for spurring them on suggests there was more to it than just training.

Someone I work with, when asked how he is doing, will always say “I’m great!” or “I’m fantastic!” and whilst he may be feigning those emotions, I’ve started trying it myself (although with words like “good”, I’m not quite ready to say I’m fantastic yet) and it works. A little bit of PMA (positive mental attitude) goes a long way it seems.

I enjoyed the Olympics immensely, I always do being a bit of a sport nut. I like seeing sports you don’t see much coverage of getting the spotlight, I like those special moments that bring a sporting victory into sharp relief (c’mon, who didn’t shed a tear at the story of Gemma Gibbons looking heaven-ward and saying “love you Mum”), I like the underdogs take part knowing they won’t win but can say they competed at the Olympics.

I’ve also been a little saddened that the disparity between men and women still exists, that amidst all the fervour there were moments of tragedy, and that even as the closing ceremony reached its end, the view seemed to be that we would return to previous values of ‘good enough’.

The stories make such a big part of the events, it’s not just about a piece of metal for so many of the competitors, it is about a life event, the completion of a long hard journey. Just being an Olympics competitor is an achievement few people will experience and that to me is a great message to take from watching some of these people.

You don’t have to be the best of the best to achieve, as long as you are pushing yourself and doing the best you can, you are already ahead of the game.

The Olympics continue to conflict and amaze but I bloody love them!

Challenging the norm

I remember, many many years ago, having a chat with a guy I was at school with whilst he walked down the road, swigging from a bottle of red wine. At the time I was solely a beer drinker (with the odd Southern Comfort which is entirely down to Stephen King, yes I was very impressionable at a young age) so I asked him why the hell was he, a 17 18 year old, drinking what I thought was something reserved for the older members of society? Did he actually enjoy the taste?

He, drunkenly, admitted it was more because he liked to challenge the ‘norms’ of society, that he wouldn’t be swayed by peer pressure nor be told what to do. Looking back it was obviously mostly teenage rebellion, but hey it looked really cool! Did I mention that I was impressionable at a young age?

Recently, I’ve found myself thinking once more on the pressures that society can push on us, the unwritten rules we all seem to learn and the presumptions that so many of us make day after day. I’m as guilty of those as the next person, of allowing my conditioned responses to take over but that’s slowly changing and some recent events have brought this to the fore.

As most of you know, Kirsty and I are in an open relationship. In short (for there are many differing terms and definitions for our form of relationship*), we are open to the idea that there may be other people who could be part of our lives (and that could be in a variety of forms) and we are being honest and up front with our thoughts and emotions as we figure out how to be in this new and somewhat alien circumstance. It’s still all very new, and not that easy at times, but if it doesn’t work out we will know why and there won’t be any resentment, just two people happy to be monogamous.

What we’ve realised recently is that what we’d thought in the past were certain irrational thoughts, spiralling up from our own insecurities and fears (the very things which caused both of us to have some dark times in the past) are actually more likely to be, in essence, false guilt. Society teaches us that monogamy is the ‘right’ thing, so even being out on a date with someone else is ‘bad’ even if your partner is aware of it.

I guess it’s only natural that, after spending all of our lives with one set of rules that we’d be struggling at times to learn the new ones. However, we are learning that there are fewer rules than we’d thought and the main two are applicable to monogamy as much as polyamory; honesty and communication. It’s not easy being completely honest, both in saying “this will be really hard for me, but I’m ok with that” and in hearing it and trusting the other person in their honesty.

So, society be damned. Do your own thing, be respectful, honest and thoughtful as you go and never mind the naysayers and their negativity. Be happy.

 

___

* One thing that irks me, and it happens in many different places, across many different social situations, is the need for some people to apply labels. Human beings are complex creatures, no one is the same and we all have a huge range of things that carve and sculpt the way we think.

Two into one

What happens when one company acquires another? How do you merge departments, working practices, content? That’s the challenge that lies ahead for me as my company was recently acquired by Kana Software.

We are still in the midst of integration planning, figuring out how to take the best parts of both product sets forward, and I’ve started to look over the documentation created by our counterparts across the water. It’s immediately obvious that we will need to make some compromises. Firstly in tooling, we use Author-it they use FrameMaker, and then in style (both writing and content delivery).

We’ve been moving to a more article type deliverable, focussing on explaining the reasoning and thinking behind a product feature and only providing How To style information when needed. From what I’ve seen our counterparts, whilst they have a good mixture of information, they have a lot more in the way of How To style information.

We had already kicked off, shortly before the acquisition was announced, started an entire overhaul of the structure of our product documentation. The early results are looking good and should make the entire product information set much easier to use, and it’s been timely as it will allow us to be confident that the information we are taking forward is the best we have, is logically structured, well researched and written.

First things first though, and I’m setting up some calls to talk to them, to understand how they work day to day, why they made the decisions they’ve made and to explain the same from our side of things. Somewhere in the middle lies the future, the path forward to a combined set of product information.

It won’t be easy, we both come to these discussions with a large amount of information, but I know we are all up for the challenge!