Work stuff

It was a week of downs and ups at work. I’ve just realised I totally forgot to start setting /dnd on Slack and use a Pomodoro timer too, like I said I’d do last week. New goal: follow through on these weekly reflections.

The week started with a big down. On Monday evening, I wasn’t even sure I was good at running a team. That prompted me to have conversations with people though, and those conversations were beneficial. I’d been struggling to define and prioritise work because, wow, there’s really just so much going on. But my colleagues were helpful in working through it together, and we’re heading in the right direction now, I feel.

There’s still more work to be done, of course, and I didn’t do enough of that this week. Next week I’ll deliberately shape meetings and facilitate them, to get the good thoughts out of our team.

We’re pulling a thread of work, trying to improve observability, and at the moment it’s not entirely clear what needs improving first. That’s partly because observability is patchy, so we’re starting off with some spikes and reviews. Chicken and egg stuff. It’s a golden thread of work though, as these spikes will give us things to work on, which will give us goals to set and a sense of how much we’re improving things.

Chatting to our new site reliability engineer was really helpful in getting some perspective. I fear I’m a bit rusty on platform product management, it’s been a while since I did any of it! I’ve been using Google’s SRE book to help with my thinking.

We estimated that we should be able to process around 9 million transactions by the end of the financial year, which is scary when you think about it. The previous target was 5 million and we managed 2.5 million transactions. Having said that, I’m confident in our calculations (we did so many!) and we’ve got some high-transaction services joining soon, so our estimates are realistic.

We had a team-wide retro on asynchronous week. Not everyone enjoyed it and there were definitely some teething problems, but we did learn that it’s good for everyone to have protected time to get their heads down. We’re going to try and find some slots in the week when meetings will be discouraged (but not disallowed).

We had another game day to test our approach to incidents. I think it went really well! We communicated clearly, we were calm and cool, and we kept users updated through the status page, Zendesk tickets and cross-gov Slack. The only criticism is that we could have investigated for security breaches sooner.

After our interaction designer knocked up some quick mock-ups of a new feature, I felt ready to start refining it with users and we’re getting close to bringing it into sprint. It’ll be good to get my first feature released on GOV.UK Pay! More to come…

I had some good feedback in our retro that it wasn’t clear how our near-term priorities were picked. Bad play on my part, definitely need to engage the team more in that. Truth is, I just didn’t feel confident in it last week, but I’m definitely feeling better now. Suggests there’s likely work to be done on psychological safety in our team?

It was great to meet Adam at DEFRA who’s leading their sustainability efforts. Joe and I joined up with him and started planning things we could do to make digital services and their technology estate more eco-friendly. Distinctly feel that the strategy is delivery with this one.

Finally, I wrote up the themes for the Product People unconference I’m organising with the help of some public sector heroes. We’re looking for people to pitch sessions on

  • shifting landscapes
  • keeping product culture living and breathing, and
  • shaping the future

More on that soon!

Not-work stuff

Completed sections 4 and 5 of the London Loop last weekend, which was hectic at one point! As we walked into Birch Wood in West Wickham, I stepped on a wasps’ nest and the little bastards came flying out, stinging my girlfriend and friend. After a sit-down and some snacks, we carried on and had a recovery beer at the Suprise pub in Upper Shirley.

Again, majorly impressed by the amount of woodland surrounding London. Head out there if you haven’t already.

It’s been a quiet week without much reading. Mostly I’ve been watching The Deuce, written by David Simon. It’s a feast of exploitation telly, really, but the characters are great. Excellently interweaved narratives too.

You’ll notice that blog posts now have links to related posts, a feature I brought back that was popular on my old theme. Thanks to Sangsoo Nam for merging my pull request on the jekyll-tfidf-related-posts gem. I’m hoping someone will update the jekyll-webmention_io gem in a similar fashion.

Thinking about adding search to this site too, mainly for something to play with. I miss working on search.

This is being built on my new Mac mini too! Nice to have a new machine and a fresh dev environment!