‘Career’ Category Archives

5
Nov

Creating Space to Be Awesome at ScotlandPHP2017

by Meri in Career, Conferences, Development, Diversity, Leadership, Management, Presentations

I was pleased to deliver the closing keynote at ScotlandPHP 2017, thanks for having me to speak.

Slides and books and links below, also a few folks asked about my Be A Brilliant People Developer workshop and The Lead Developer conference — hope to see you there!

Books & Tools Mentioned in This Talk

If you’re new to coaching, you might also enjoy the talk I did on stealing coaching lessons from sports at Dare Conf Mini a couple of years back: video and slides.

26
Apr

Modern Leadership & Team Science: Creating Space to Be Awesome at QCon São Paulo

by Meri in Career, Conferences, Development, Diversity, Leadership, Management, Presentations

Friends, thank you for putting up with my poor microphone handling skills and laughing at my daft jokes. You were a lovely welcoming audience today at QCon São Paulo. Slides and links to books and tools mentioned are here.

Books & Tools Mentioned in This Talk

If you’re new to coaching, you might also enjoy the talk I did on stealing coaching lessons from sports at Dare Conf Mini a couple of years back: video and slides.

21
May

Stealing Management Lessons from Artificial Intelligence

by Meri in Career, Conferences, Diversity, Leadership, Management, Presentations, Project Management, Publications

Was delighted to speak at Thinking Digital 2014 in my adoptive UK hometown of Newcastle.

As promised here are my slides:

I also mentioned my Coaching & Mentoring talk which you can find here (including video kindly published by the Dare Mini folks).

Books Mentioned in This Talk

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Interested in geek management? Sign up here for occasional updates and bundles of interesting links: Geek Management tinyletter.

7
Jan

A Sabbatical and a New Chapter

by Meri in Career, Personal Development

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.

18
Nov

Career Sponsorship – Notes from WomeninTech Event

by Meri in Career, Leadership, WomeninTech

A couple of weeks back I attended the final Women in Technology event (founder & MD Maggie Berry has decided to move on to an exciting new challenge; it continues as a LinkedIn group so keep an eye on that for future events).

The event was interesting, but I found a lot of the quite corporate and masculine language off-putting. That reaction was evident in some of the other attendees too; it doesn’t (generally) sit well with women to be given advice that they hear as “use others to get ahead”. Now, I don’t REALLY think that’s what the speakers were trying to get across, but sometimes style can injure substance in unintended ways.

The Q&A at the end was excellent, the panel including Aimie Chapple (MD Accenture UKI) and Jacky Wright (VP at Microsoft) who along with the speakers had amusingly diverse answers to the questions posed by the audience.

Most Interesting Insights

  • Having a career sponsor corresponds with career & trajectory satisfaction
  • Currently, men in senior leadership are 50% more likely to have a sponsor than women at the same level
  • Sponsors pick you: work hard, don’t limit who you talk to and don’t reject it when someone helps or advocates for you (See also Performance, Image & Exposure*)
  • A sponsor isn’t the same as a mentor, role model, boss — they’re someone who can be of help to your career in a specific way (opportunities, advocacy, championing, defending)
  • Ideally you want a portfolio of sponsors — not everybody does which is why you sometimes see a senior leader leave a place and a bunch of folks follow like trailing ducklings…
  • All the women on the panel had at some point not even realised that someone was sponsoring them!
  • Sometimes if you don’t tell your own story, others will jump in — but they may tell it in a way you’re not comfortable with

The single most useful thing I heard? A sponsor probably won’t be a role model. This is where most women struggle, IMHO. We assume our sponsors will be women and more specifically women we will look up to. Once you accept that you can be sponsored by anyone who thinks you’re talented, then the probability of it happening increases significantly. And realistically, while there are still so few women in senior leadership positions, finding a female role model who can also sponsor you is fairly unlikely!

I have also posted my full notes of the career sponsorship event if you’re interested in the blow-by-blow.

* Which can basically be summarised as: people are going to have opinions about you and expecting everyone else to come look at the detail of your actual work before forming an opinion ignores the reality of human nature … and is a kinda arrogant, no? 😉

16
Apr

Joining the Revolution

by Meri in Career, Personal Development

I’m delighted to share that I’ll imminently be joining the Government Digital Service as the manager for their most excellent Delivery Team. I’m hugely excited about working with this astonishingly talented group of people, some of whom I already know and others I am keen to meet, as they work on transforming the UK government’s digital presence & offerings. After Martha Lane Fox called for “revolution not evolution” in government’s digital services, this new department has been growing quickly and delivering in spades, with an approach more akin to a start-up than the traditional image of government IT.

It was not an easy decision to leave Procter & Gamble, where I have been an Information Decision Solutions manager for the last 10 years. It’s a brilliant company (recently named #1 for leadership development by Chief Executive magazine) that afforded me wonderful opportunities to develop as a professional and an individual, as well as granting many lasting friendships with colleagues I both like and respect.

I started at P&G whilst I was still at university and worked up through a variety of roles, from Systems Analyst to Product Manager, then Project & Programme Manager and more recently Engineering Manager type roles in various business domains. I also had the privilege to get involved in a number of organisational development activities, founding the company’s LGBT employee network in the UK which was recognised as a Star Performer Network Group by Stonewall in recent years, leading recruitment in the South West and redesigning our internal management “colleges” to be exciting experiences rather than “death by PowerPoint”.

For a long time I managed to maintain both my corporate and geek/web interests and activities in parallel, participating in BarCamps, Refreshes & SxSWi when I could and even writing a book on geek project management for SitePoint. In recent years my travel schedule at P&G has meant this became harder & harder and frankly I missed the digital side of things.

The prospect of being able to marry both worlds together in the same job really is geek manager heaven. I can’t wait to start!

12
Nov

Young IT Professional of the Year 2010

by Meri in Career

I was delighted to be named Young IT Professional of the Year yesterday in the UK IT Industry Awards. Hosted by BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) and Computing, the awards “provide a platform for the entire profession to celebrate best practice, innovation and excellence”.

To be honest I am much prouder that my team at P&G, the Application Management group, were finalists for IT Department of the Year only a year into our existence as a team!

I didn’t get to attend the awards dinner as I was gallivanting around New Zealand on sabbatical, but my awesome team were there and accepted the award on my behalf. The judge’s comments were reported over a crackling mobile phone connection to the North Island of NZ as “An outstanding individual who has made major contributions within her company and to the wider IT community. The judges were blown away by her submission!”

Other coverage: UK IT Industry Awards 2010: and the winners are…, BCS announces winners of UK IT Industry Awards 2010. UPDATE: nice story from University of Bath Computer Science department.

4
Apr

Performance, Image, Exposure

by Meri in Career, Personal Development

One of the most interesting concepts I came across when I was just starting out in my corporate career was the PIE model – Performance, Image, Exposure. Typically this is represented by a pyramid diagram or a pie chart, depending on how pun-driven the explainer’s sense of humour is.

In terms of an individual’s career, the 3 segments represent the following:

  • Performance: The actual work you do, the results you deliver.
  • Image: The impression that others have of you (obviously this can differ from person to person).
  • Exposure: The people who get to know about a) your results and b) your image.

At first, it was a concept that really didn’t sit well with me. It didn’t seem FAIR. Surely one’s career should really just depend on the results that you deliver? If you’re good at your job, you should do well, right?

If I’m honest, that feeling stayed for quite a long while. I resisted the concept that you needed to care about your image, about your exposure. I believed that I could just do my job and that the results I delivered would be what mattered. I wouldn’t need to care about image or about getting known by the decision-makers.

All that changed because I was asked to write some feedback for someone. The person in question was someone I actually hadn’t worked with as directly as others for whom I had written performance evaluations in the past. I realised that since I hadn’t been working directly with them, I didn’t really KNOW about their real work and their real results. Strangely, though, I still had definite opinions, both of what they were doing well and what they could improve on.

This is what made me realise that image and exposure are both important — and factors that you should ignore at your peril.

Whether you like it or not, only a limited number of people will get to work with you directly. Even those that do will get a fairly narrow view of the real results that you deliver. On the other hand, many many more people will form an image in their minds of what you’re like — perhaps that you’re a safe pair of hands, maybe that you’re very smart or very ambitious. Some may form a very negative image — that you’re a bullshitter or unreliable or untrustworthy. The combination of that image that people have of you (Image) and the groups of people that share that view of you (Exposure) can make or break your career.

The big light bulb moment for me was when I accepted that Image and Exposure were going to matter whether I cared about them or not. Of course Performance is also important and always will be — I firmly believe that folks who try to make it all about the image and the exposure are playing a dangerous game of smoke and mirrors and will eventually be caught out. But the difference between two colleagues with comparative performance, one of whom cultivates the type of image they want and makes an effort to get the right exposure and the other who ignores these facets completely … well, it can be very significant.