Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thing a week 03 - I’ve been developed

For those of you that don’t work in a caring sharing modern company environment it may be necessary, before I start, to explain a few things about the modern company family I’m a part of. They aren’t a bad company to work for, truth be told. They’re worse than some, better than most, the pay sucks. As far as modern touchy feely company policy goes they are really good. Not up there with the likes of Google and been bags in the office but a long way ahead of a cola bottling plant intimidating its workers with violence. For a middle sized engineering company in the UK they are ahead of the pack as far as employee friendly policies go. Pay still sucks though but I suppose every thing’s a trade off. Better conditions = Worse pay.

In a modern workplace such as this there are certain hoops you have to jump through every now and then. One of these is the PDI or personal development interview. If you don’t speak “human resources” this is where you go in to a quiet office with your line manager who you talk to everyday anyway and bullshit each other about what you’ve done the last year and what you will do next year. I go in saying I want this or that training and here’s how it would be good for the company and I want more responsibility blah, blah and they’d reply blah etc. At least that’s how I thought it went. Yesterday I had a PDI of an entirely different flavour. This time things happened.

While I’ve been with the company I’ve been unlucky with managers. They’ve moved on or what not and with one shining exception they haven’t given a damn about me or my career. I don’t think I’ve had two PDIs with the same person and generally resulted in nothing much happening apart from me wasting a morning. My latest manager is one of the good guys I think. He’s smart, knows the job inside out and I think I’ll learn a lot from him, that said he’s still fairly new to the company and doesn’t know the staff management procedures so one of the big bosses came down from our head office to do my PDI yesterday with my new manager sitting in to learn the ropes and it was a whole different animal. I went in there with my now habitual cynical attitude to the whole process, said where I wanted to go in my career and he did something completely unexpected. He listened, worse, he paid attention. He even gave reasoned and reasonable responses. He even put things into action there and then. I’d say I needed this training and he said, “I agree that’s a great idea. That would help us on these jobs, I’ll book you on it. That confused me a bit, then I asked for more responsibility and he said, “Yes That would help the team if you could take some of the management tasks off the seniors, how about you take over this, this and this on these jobs”. I was on the ropes by now. Then he hit me with the knock out punch. Honesty. All this was good and would help the company and would I also consider doing some more extra training and going for professional charter-ship because it meant the company could charge more for me and get more money, It would mean more work but as a result I’d likely get a bigger pay rise. I was floored.

So today as well as my usual tasks I dipped my first little toe into staff management with some of my new responsibilities and it felt great. I’m not completely sold on the PDI idea, but at least now I know that they can work. And yes, I do feel on my way to being a bit more developed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thing a week 02 - Once more unto the bard dear friends once more...

Or how education is controlled by idiots and wasted on the young.

The main thrust of this blog is something we Brits tend to be very proud of and most of us completely ignore, namely the works of William Shakespeare but there's also an undertone commentary on the regular complaint of the politician and tabloid on a slow news day about children not reading anymore.

I'm a big fan of the works of Shakespeare (though not the man himself, do some research and you quickly realise he was a bit of a git), it doesn't matter how, reading the books or watching the plays performed I'm hooked, but I wasn't always.

Like most high school pupils in the UK I had Shakespeare rammed down my throat at about the age of 13 or 14 and I hated it. The national curriculum force fed us two of his plays, in my case Romeo and Juliet and Henry V, and I hated them. Now they're two of my favourites. I was simply too young to get them. They didn't appeal and I couldn't relate. It put me off the bard for far too long.

In fact the whole reading list was fairly dire and for the most part obviously not aimed at the young teen audience. Which brings me to the second point. Books forced on children at school are so often the choice of middle aged committees based on "classics" they think children should be reading rather than good books that they will enjoy reading and will encourage them to read more so that they will carry on reading throughout their lives and find the classics on there own. Thankfully because of the wonders of comics and a great library I was an avid reader despite my education so I still read lots now. Most of my old school friends don't.

So how did I fall in love with Shakespeare. No surprise there. It started with a girl. A little over ten years ago on my first stay with a University. I was studying chemistry at York and got together with a young thesp. In an effort to impress, I borrowed her books and read with all diligence. The relationship was short lived and when it ended I was heartbroken. Now I would have to buy my own copy of the complete works of Shakespeare. No mean feat for a poor student. Then, six years after being put off Shakespeare for life by a misguided education system I had rediscovered and become smitten with Shakespeare while studying chemistry. Education is truly wasted on the young and it would be great if we could just let people learn things instead of teaching them until a person knows what they want to be. Sadly impractical though.

And how better to end this blog than with a couple of the great turns of phrase from the master wordsmith, firstly the first Shakespeare I learned by heart to impress the young lady (and it worked and hasn't failed to raise a coquettish smile whenever I've tried it since)

Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all.
What hast thou then more than thou hadst before?
No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call,
All mine was thine, before thou hadst this more.

and lastly how the git with a great turn of phrase wanted to be remembered,

If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust will cover,
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bett'ring of the time,
And though they be outstripp'd by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
"Had my friends Muse grown with his growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought
to march in ranks of better equipage;
But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I'll read, his for his love."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thing a week - A Tribute 01

Has anyone heard of Jonathan Coulton. He's a musician, very talented, writes a lot of great comedy songs. You should check him out.

Anyway the point is he can attribute his fame almost entirely to the internet and no small part of that was a podcast he did some time ago called thing a week. It's still on itunes for free download. Plug plug. Thing a week was a simple concept whereby Jonathan would give away free a song every week for a year. People like me heard it, liked him, went to his website and bought his stuff. Not a recording giant in sight, not even the toes poking out from under the bed.

Anyway again, the point, I'm often trying to blog more regularly. But, and then, yet...

So this is the project, inspired by Jonathan Coultons' thing a week, I aim to post a blog at about the same time every Wednesday for a year. This means we can be a team. It gives me a week to find something at least mildly entertaining to put on screen (and compose some waffle to pad round it and make it less interesting) and it means that if anyone out there who does start reading this mess has carte blanche to get in touch and chastise me if I'm late.

So I'm not promising length or quality, in that I may be the first honest man, but I do promise to feel guilty and post something if I forget and you pick on me. I've set a reminder on the ical and everything. I have high hopes.