A Sabbatical and a New Chapter

One of the best bits of career advice I ever received was from one of my first Directors, who said she actively decided each year whether to recommit to the role and the company. I’ve done the same ever since — evaluating whether it’s the right job and organisation each year and either actively signing up for another year, or choosing to make a change. As a way of ensuring your own engagement in what you’re doing, it’s an effective tactic. Working at GDS has been a very exciting journey and a team that I adore, but I came to the conclusion back in November that staying was not the right career move for me and so gave early notice that I’d be leaving.

Though looking after the Delivery team (70 civil servants and an additional 70 contractors at times) was very rewarding (they are a group of vibrant & brilliant people), I missed being directly involved in products & programmes & strategy work a bit too much. I love managing people and improving processes to make workplaces a better place to be (and I think doing those things right is an incredibly important thing for any organisation), but found that doing PURELY that felt like the wrong balance – I’m a leader of technology organisations, not an HR specialist after all. I’m eagerly anticipating getting my teeth back into projects & programmes, operations & strategy again, in addition to growing a world class team.

Those who know me won’t be surprised to hear that I also found the opacity & pace of the Civil Service something of a culture shock, coming from a very efficiency- and delivery-focused corporate background. Frankly, I know many of my old colleagues at P&G are amazed I lasted this long 😉 I will say that I think things are changing and getting better, but the starting point is so fundamentally different that I admire the progress that has been made all the more.

Tynemouth Beach - headland with ruins of castle overlooking sandy beach and blue sea

So what next?

I’m in the lucky position of having rather a lot of holiday saved up, so I’m taking a six month sabbatical – both to travel and to write another book (didn’t know about the first one? Here it is: The Principles of Project Management, also on Kindle and available from Amazon). I’ll be visiting Austin, San Francisco, Amsterdam, various cities in the UK (home in Newcastle for a bit, London and likely Brighton) and then spending a month in Portugal, after which I’ll be going home to South Africa for a while too as my cousin is getting married.

If you’re in one of those cities, we should hang out! Drop me an email / DM and I’ll let you know when I’ll be in town (or the details are on Dopplr if we’re connected there). During this sabbatical time I also have some limited availability for short engagement work – so if you’d like to work with me, let me know.

I’ll announce what comes after that in due time. I have to say I’ve been impressed at how flexible the organisations I’m talking with have been willing to be – it’s been a very pleasant surprise to see companies ranging in size willing to accommodate time off to travel before starting a new role.

A Tidy Start to the New Year

With the new year upon us, take some opportunity to do some tidying. Clearing up some mental garbage, if you will. Those little niggling things that aren’t quite big enough to keep you up at night, but chitter at the edge of your consciousness.

Here are five things you can do to quiet that chittering and to have an altogether tidier start to the new year.

1. Sort out your passwords

We all know the best practice that we should have good strong passwords, unique to each site that we use. But how many of us can really claim it?

Solutions like Lastpass (cloud solution, premium account gives you mobile apps) or 1Password (cloud and device-only options) or KeePass (open source, device-only) are all worth looking at. It depends on your own tinfoil hat comfort level which will suit you best, but certainly anything that helps you have more unique passwords can only help!

2. Pull together all your insurance documents

Home insurance. Car insurance. Bike insurance. Travel insurance. Pet insurance.

Do you know where all those documents are right now?

Go find them, put them all in one well-marked folder. It’s a simple thing, but you’ll be surprised how satisfying it is to know exactly where your important documents are when you need them. And when you don’t.

3. Put your passport somewhere safe AND memorable

You know what an awesome place to stash your passport is? In a click-lock box like one of these.


It’s harder to lose than anything flat, can’t accidentally get trapped between paperwork or folders, and can be stashed somewhere REALLY memorable. Like in the cupboard behind the tea bags, or in your underwear drawer, or behind a much-watched DVD boxset. You’ve probably got either all of West Wing or Buffy or Battlestar Galactica up there, right? 😉

4. Sort your backups out

If you don’t already have an automated, incremental backup solution sorted, then spend a little time to pick one and sort it out. I favour Crashplan personally, but there are a plethora of options — some to the cloud, some to another computer in your network or to an attached external hard drive (CrashPlan can do all of these).

Also don’t forget to occasionally back up everything in your Dropbox or similar!

5. Be nice to your future self

Remember the half hour lost untangling Xmas lights? Or ferreting out decorations? Finding your menorah? Be nice to yourself, 11.5 months from now. Pack your winter festival stuff away sensibly, in a big box that a present arrived in, or something. Stash it so all you have to do next year is find ONE BOX. Next year you will be Proper Grateful.

Simple things, seemingly not that important, but try it. I think you’ll find the small sense of relief is palpable.