Category Archives: Work

Reflections on my 2015

2015 was a pretty huge year for me, some lessons I’ve learned and some highlights are below.

 

Work

In January 2015 I ran/led my first direct mail campaign (of course I have been involved with them before but this one was my baby as I was head of the team at the time) with my team and we smashed all previous records raising over £250k with an impressive ROI. I still can’t quite believe I did this and I think it will certainly be one of my proudest work-related achievements for many many years.

In 2015 I have had the pleasure of having two terrific bosses who I have learned a lot from and have taught me so much. Although I am no longer managed by either, I still talk to them both and trust that our relationships will continue for many years. What is particularly interesting to me is that one of these people taught me that sometimes things happen for a reason and I shouldn’t let “now” get in the way of what is really important to me. I dreaded his arrival as he was to be the permanent solution to my “acting up” role – it turned out it was pretty much the best thing that could have happened, I loved my time “acting up” but, deep down, I didn’t really want to be designing mailings and liaising with printers and designers, I just thought I did because that was the opportunity that was there and was being threatened. I’m now much happier in a new role with a direct report to line manage and much more scope to play with and do cool stuff with data.

 

Speaking

Wow.

Toastmasters

I joined my local Toastmasters branch in May and have never looked back.

I decided to enter my first proper contest, Humorous Speech, starting out at the Club level in September. I won that and moved to the Area where I won again and advanced to Division level, which necessitated a trip to Bristol. After unexpectedly winning here (and being the first person in my club to get to a District final in HS since 1999), I then won the District final becoming District 91 (UK South) Champion.

Selina Jones at District Contest - Nov 15

I hope to write more about the experience in the near future.

Conferences

Having attended a number of CASE conferences as part of my job, I set a long-term goal at the start of 2015 to speak at one. Little did I know that by the end of 2015, I would have spoken at two!

I formed part of a panel (on solutions to problems) at the Development Services conference held in Birmingham in October. I was disappointed with my performance at this panel – having expressed an interest in speaking on it in June, I wasn’t told until late September that I was wanted (I assume someone dropped out) which meant I didn’t have much time to prepare what I was going to say (let alone remember what my original idea which I thought had been rejected had been). A panel session also meant using a mic behind a lectern. Ugh.

My other slot came at the Regular Giving conference in December (which I had attended in 2014), this year held in Leeds. I had been paired with someone I hadn’t met from UCL to talk about our approaches to predictive modelling. We had a couple of phone conversations and I was able to travel up to London to meet him face to face and do a dry run through the week before (thanks to going to a West End show!).
I was happy with my performance at this conference, I came up with some good slides, had prepared what I was going to say and had some terrific feedback from someone in the industry who I greatly admire who attended my session @adriansalmon  and from the Conference Chair herself.

 

Running

My greatest achievements were at the start of the year – getting two 20 mile PBS in March, managing to duck under 3 hours in Oakley 20. After an incredibly disappointing 8th marathon (which led me to write this post) – I finished in 4:50:48 – so in effect it took me nearly two hours to run a further six miles! Stupid marathons… I didn’t do that much running for the rest of the year.

I had an enjoyable half marathon in June where I supported a stranger to complete their first ever half in 02:01:58 (and wrote about it here). I also completed Oxford half again in October completely untrained having not run longer than 4-5.5 miles at a stretch a maximum of twice a week, I managed to finish in 01:57:35 which, I was actually pretty pleased with. I ran most of it with my neighbour and I drove us there as well so it was nice to have some company.

I tried another Men’s Health SOTF which I had loved so much the previous year, but sadly it coincided with the only cold week we have had this winter (in November) and I could barely use my hands let alone climb. I don’t think I will be back, it’s not worth the risk of another freezing cold day (I’ve got nothing against running in the cold, it’s the obstacle side of it that means I can’t do it, if I can’t feel my hands I can’t climb or pull myself anywhere).

MOOLs

Wow – September already and I’ve not posted since June. Where has the time gone?!

I’ve been busy – a bit of running (not a lot though, I’ll admit) and some changes at work – a new boss, then a new job (doing more stats and analytic type stuff, yes!) and another new boss.

MOOLs/lynda.com

Anyway, around this time I was offered a free trial of lynda.com LinkedIn’s new acquisition. The site offers courses in leadership, management and lots of software programmes (including things for CAD and Photo editing). As it was a free trial I was signing up for; I signed up for a premium account which means access to additional files to download – you can still get your own free 10 day trial.

Courses on lynda.com take the form of video lectures with a transcript – because of this I kind of think of them as MOOLs – Massive Online Open Lectures – there is no interaction via community message boards with fellow students or tutors, you simply watch the lectures and make notes, downloading any reference material if provided. Courses tell you how long they are (I think the shortest I did was about 16 minutes the longest over 5 hours) and material will be broken down into chapters.
There is also no assessment or requirement for interaction – all you need to do is click on every segment/chapter of the video – you do not even need to let it play through, just click on it, and it will count as being completed.

Courses

The subjects I looked at were:

  • Leading and Working in Teams
  • Data Visualization for Data Analysts
  • Data Visualization Fundamentals
  • Developing Political Savvy
  • Leading with Stories
  • Business Storytelling
  • Leadership Fundamentals
  • Presentation Fundamentals
  • Developing Executive Presence
  • Building Self-Confidence
  • Stepping up to Leadership
  • Managing and Analysing Data in Excel 2010
  • Thinking Like a Leader
  • Macros in Depth
  • Body Language for Leaders
  • R Statistics Essential Training
  • SPSS Statistics Essential Training
  • Up and Running with R

Some were a lot better than others – the tutor for the Body Language for Leaders stood out for me; so much so I actually sent the tutor an email via her professional website. Leadership Fundamentals also had some great content. The guy on the excel videos (Dennis Taylor) was also extremely good at delivery and I would certainly recommend any course by him; I was also able to preview what was coming up and skip to the areas that I knew I had a couple of gaps in or were in need of refreshing.

So, I guess the more soft skills courses were a lot like going to a seminar – except you can pause and rewind bits that perhaps you missed or want repeated.
The software courses can be useful to work alongside – as it had been a few months since I’d used SPSS last, I borrowed a laptop with it on, found myself a room and worked through the exercises – everything came flooding back (though I admit I didn’t learn much new on that one).

Lynda.com is also fully integrated with LinkedIn so after completing a course you can link it directly into your profile with just a couple of clicks – I did this for a few courses but not all of them.

Conclusion

I can certainly see the value in a business signing up for an account and allowing staff to work on subjects and brush up some skills with Microsoft office or other products, but for an individual learner it isn’t cheap and I am not sure how much you would benefit; is anyone going to hire me on the strength of the fact that I sat through some MOOLs on R, SPSS and leadership? No. But, I did have great fun and did learn quite a few things (note – once your trial is over your access including to courses you have completed shuts off – so make sure you have taken all the notes and downloads that you want!) so I would certainly recommend people signing up to the free trial when they can time it right so they have the opportunity to get as much out of it as possible.

 

My rules for success

I have come up with my own rules for success/a happy life, which I share here:

1. Make your own rules

You must come up with your own rules that mean something to you, don’t just copy mine or anyone else’s, be true to yourself – there is no right recipe for success, just the one that means something to you.

2. Acknowledge the situation, but don’t let it define you

Yes you are the only woman in your office, yes you didn’t get your training done and now you’re on a marathon start line, yes the last time you tried this it didn’t work – but move on, move forward and get it done.

3. Move

Moving feels good. I’m not saying you have to run miles and miles, just stretching your body first thing in the morning, dancing to a song, waving your arms around, sitting down on the floor rather than a chair, going for a walk all feel good. Look at the joy that children get from running around and jumping about – do you remember that? So move. A lot.

4. Read

People who proudly claim that they haven’t read a book since they finished school scare the hell out of me. Yes, you can learn a lot from watching documentaries on TV or listening to radio 4, but you can get also so much from reading (and it doesn’t have to be books – there are plenty of good blogs and magazines on the internet). Even reading trashy novels (I’m a big fan of John Locke – Goodreads, but I count his novels here!) is just so pleasurable, all those worlds you can just escape to at the drop of a hat, and because you have to work to read rather than passively watching TV, I find you can get more engaged and switch off more easily.

5. Drink water

I do not understand people who don’t drink water.

6. Don’t let the stuff that’s meant to be fun become a chore

I like running, but some days I don’t want to run, so I don’t. I have enough chores and stuff I have to do in life without making something I am supposed to enjoy and do for fun into a chore. Don’t beat yourself up about it, it’s supposed to be your hobby, not a stick to hit yourself with.

7. Say thank you

If someone does something for you, thank them. Thank colleagues, thank strangers, bus-drivers, waiters, just say thank you. And, if you can then also send a thank you note (or, if you have to, an email). Didn’t your mum teach you this when you were little?

8. Work HARD. PUSH further. Dig DEEP.

From an earlier blog post – sometimes you do have to work hard to get the results that you want – to study and work full-time, to have a career and run a family.

9. Recuperate – take time to sharpen your axe

Also from an earlier blog post – you can’t go at it 100% 100% of the time and you shouldn’t feel bad for not doing so! Athletes know they can’t be at their peak year round and they plan around it, we should too.

10. Believe in yourself

Also from an earlier blog post – as Henry Ford said:

Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right

You need to have an amount of self-belief before you can achieve anything.

11. Be open to opportunities/ASK

You are very unlikely to have the world handed to you on a plate. You can be content and happy in what you do (or your pace!) and still keep an eye out for opportunities to make progress, develop or broaden your horizons – the two are not mutually exclusive. If there is something you want or are interested in, never be afraid to ask – you may not get it, but it will change how the person you asked perceives you, often in a good way.

12. Be honest or be quiet

Don’t say you agree with something or think something is good if you don’t, just don’t say anything. Remember you can be honest and constructive – praise what was good and give examples were things could be improved or were an improvement on before.

 13. All that matters is you keep at it

I tweeted this quote by Runners World columnist because it rang so true to me, and like the best philosophies, it applies as strongly to running as it does to the rest of life:

Inspired by Karen’s talk at TEDx Aylesbury last month, I decided to make up some rules of my own. I admit I stole the first two from Karen (how’s that for irony?), but they say something about mimicry being the most sincere form of flattery don’t they?

Business cards

For I don’t even know how long, I have wanted my own business cards, so with my bonus from work I got some printed (and designed) by the printhouse I work with at work. I also treated myself to a lovely holder from Pylones

image

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Live Tweeting

I have been having some fun on Twitter this last week (you can tell as I have also gained 20 followers this week) and have even got involved with a couple of Live chats.

The first was a Thursday night (well, 10pm GMT) #DataTalk discussion which I found out about via Klout – which is another thing I have been playing about with too (more on that later).  The topic was “What is a data scientist?”

Here is my tweet which retweets a Storify of the chat.

It was good fun, though as I was participating on my phone tucked up in bed (it was late ok), the refresh rate wasn’t very speedy and I seemed to be always a few tweets behind.  I found some new people to follow and have boosted my followers too, great stuff.  #DataTalk live tweets happen every other Thursday (I have set up a recurring appointment in my calendar, sad I know) – the next one is on Trends in Big Data and Challenges on Thursday May 7th; no questions up yet, but they do tend to list them in advance which is extremely helpful. I will definitely be participating in the future (bedtime permitting); hopefully more people will get involved in the future but wow, the hour just flew by!

Then on Friday 12pm-1pm I participated in #FRTweets – tweeting about fundraising; this time the topic was careers advice. A colleague of mine often participates in FRTweets so, after my Thursday night success thought I would give it a go.  One person had very similar views to me and I ended up following her and we got into a bit of banter after the London Marathon about cycling V running gear, which was pretty funny.