Sunday 28 October 2018!

OK, well I got a bit behind in my posting again didn't I?  Last one was in July!!

So many things happening again.  So... let's start where we left off then.

When last I blogged, I was in the middle of negotiations for salary, and I was left as the sole developer in charge of my project.

Well, the negotiations concluded, and salary finally started to be paid at the end of August...and by Christmas they might have got round to paying the correct amount...grr.  (Maybe a big growl for another ranty post..)

I've also started working a 4-day week, as my new wages are making it worthwhile to do so.  Not sure how well that's currently sitting with my body, though.  But I'll get there, hopefully before they sort out all the salary workings...

I've also now got 'people' to work with, and have had a couple of new projects come my way.  More about such stuff in the next couple of posts though, otherwise this one will be ridiculously long.

Going to try and get back to more regular blogging, and make an effort to update things here, might help keep it straight in my own head at least!

Missing the OU stuff lately, I think the structured study is my best focus.  Even found myself trawling the website yesterday looking at courses.....nah too expensive, without the transitional protection.  But I think I need to make a structured plan, and it might help me what I want to learn and in what order...

Thursday 19 July 2018

The down and dirty

The past few weeks and months have been dominated by one major thought... the job applications/regrading or whatever they want to call our recruitment campaign.  Not just for me but for a large percentage of my colleagues and fellow trainees too.

So (a couple of weeks ago now) we were faced with the next hurdle on the way to it all being 'real' - salary negotiations!  Eek!

Now I'm not going to go into details of the how much we all got, cos that's not for public consumption.  Suffice to say that a colleague was offered more than me and I negotiated to get the same figure, as did another colleague.

But the whole process feels just 'weird' - sordid somehow.  I know it shouldn't, it's normal practice in outside industry, but in a civil service setting then it feels wrong to be negotiating at all. (dyed in the wool civil servant here, it'll be 29 years this year!)

But I can't complain, as the resultant figure is close to the maximum payable for staff of that grade out in the 'real world'.

Still don't know when it will take effect from, though.  The reality of this process is taking soooo long though, I guess it will only really feel real once I see the numbers on my payslip!

One step at a time....even baby steps are still steps.

Thursday 5 July 2018

Leaving me a Basket Case

Argh - sometimes you get those days/weeks/months where the whole rollercoaster is just too much.

Last week was one of those.  (this post even sat in a draft half-done state during the whole rollercoaster ride as I was too rattled even to finish off my post)

For a couple of weeks now, I've been left as the sole developer in charge of my project.  Ongoing for a period of 4 months while the senior is off on shared parental leave.

Now - some or maybe even many of the expectations I've got on me are my own, I have a list of things that I should be able to put work into fixing.  But, faced with the responsibility for it all on my own, all of a sudden the knowledge began to leak from my brains.  And, the more I worried about it, the more panic set in and the less I could think straight.  When asking colleagues to help, I didn't even understand the questions they were asking to help me, let alone their potential solutions. Argh!!

So - eventually - I opened up - not directly to the people I should have approached in the first place, but to helpful colleagues, one of which has been with me throughout the whole of this journey, from my early OU days, he was my 'Man that Can' for coding queries.  They agreed to provide some assistance, albeit from a distance, and encouraged me to meet properly with my own team managers and iron out what's actually expected of me rather than worrying over a self-imposed list of stuff to do that would 'prove myself' somehow.

Met with the managers at the start of this week, and I have the beginnings of a plan, some of which does still include working through my 'list', alongside a little additional work to help out another team.  In addition I've been working on some issues that happened in the 'live' system and doing a bit of preventative work to stop them happening again.  Ironically the stuff I'm working on is in an area of code which I previously saw as my weakest area, and my confidence there has grown massively.

I'm still double and triple-checking cos, you know, I'm still me at the end of the day... but I'm sure that confidence in my own code will come with time.

Friday 1 June 2018

A reserved update

Well - the job application has finally updated to 'Application Reserved' - i.e. you have met the required standard and will be on a reserve list for 6 months.

So eventually (with hopefully more speed than the process so far...) I will be a (substantive - yippeeeeeeee!!) HEO, having successfully jumped over EO in the middle.

My favourite part was the interviewer's comments though which were very positive:

"She gained all the development experience she has got now by sheer determination and finding opportunities herself. She did lot of self-learning and very keen learner. She will definitely make a good junior software engineer."

I'm not usually much of a one for blowing my own trumpet, but having fought so many fights to get this far, and having to continually keep up that learning and add to it to stay afloat, I will admit to a teeny touch of pride there.

I'll keep you all posted about postings as soon as I know more - although we're all hoping to just be posted into our current jobs so there may really be no posting to post about teeheee...

What makes a Team?

Now this is one of those posts where I feel the need to acknowledge my own failings alongside my perceptions of other people at the same time - I'm naturally quite introverted and find certain cultures harder to break into than others.

I'm not going to break into historical nonsense here about teams in my distant past, as with some notable exceptions (my BFF and another couple of friends), I have consigned most of that to the land known as Before, they are the things and people and situations that made me who I am today, but they are not the experiences that I want to define my career going forwards.

So what I will natter about are the 2 project teams I've worked with since leaving training (the land of After).

My first team, from the outside, seemed like a bit of a dysfunctional family, we sometimes got on each other's nerves (thank goodness for the boss man's Headphone Rule to give us some personal space occasionally).  But when it came to working together, there was great communication, we sat close together and sought each other's opinion (I felt like even I was entitled to an opinion and that it would be listened to, in fact sometimes the benefit processing perspective was even useful in decision making).  We socialised occasionally or brought in food for the team 'sharing table'.  There appeared to be a common understanding of our shared goals, and on the rare occasions of misunderstanding we were able to address them quickly.

Moving forward to my new team.  Well - in the article here at Lifehacker, one of the 6 characteristics of a good team is 'a good blend of introverts and extroverts'.  Hmm.... well.... at the time of joining the team we had one extrovert (a contractor), and the remaining team of fairly introverted folks - conversation tended to be around football and not much else, which is hard for a new member of the team who neither knows nor enjoys football to comment on and find a wedge to join in team conversations.  The senior dev I was working with went off on the starting part of his shared parental leave, which left myself and the contractor to do the work.  What I felt like I needed, and asked for several times, was someone to walk me through how the system hung together.  This wasn't forthcoming, so a painful month or so was endured, trying to cobble together bits of code and not being too sure whether they were working or breaking something else along the way.  And I got to the point where I wondered whether there was actually any point in asking at all.

You know there are too many introverts on your team when.....
A trip to Blackpool for a wider team conference travelling with some of the team involved ME being the noisiest person in the car.  A three hour journey with zero conversation.....argh!!

Fast forward a little and we have settled into things somewhat, we talk about our children as a shared point of reference outside of work stuff, and the contractor has moved on to other things, which I think has helped the other senior to take more of a leadership position.

We still have issues with communication with the wider project team, as there's not the same connection that I experienced on my first project.  I'm not sure there's a good answer there, maybe more time will help with that too - our project has been in a state of limbo for quite some time which has been frustrating for us all - hopefully now that we are finally into a trial period at least, there may be changes that we can share communication on.

From terror to confidence - aka 'feel the fear and do it anyway'

It's weird how our brains work isn't it?

Just a week ago I was sitting in a state of panic (to the point of tearing up) at the thought of the impending parental leave of my senior developer (which will leave me in sole charge of development work on our team for 4 months).

As a Bank Holiday week, I've had only 2 days in the office, but for the first time in a long time, we sat down with the system in front of us and worked on some simple changes TOGETHER.  I'll come back more to that capitalisation in a later post, but I think that exercise, and addressing some of the main kinds of change that I would be expected to deal with in the next few months, made a massive difference in the confidence I have that I won't simply drown the second the senior goes on leave.  I have another 3 days left with him this week, so I am hoping for more of the same.

I also think that doing a mental 'brain dump' here on the blog is kind of cathartic, if it's out here on screen then it's not whirling in my brain so much.

So strangely, in the course of a week, I've managed to go from 'argh!' to 'bring it on!' - yeah I am still scared, it's a big unknown, but the actual worry is above my pay grade... more on that one soon too.

Thursday 31 May 2018

Time to reflect

Having resurrected the blog after some time away, I figured that the first order of business ought to be a touch of catch-up, it's seemed like a long year, despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of structure of new formal study modules to start, assignments to prepare etc..

Hmm - where to begin? 

I'll start at home:

The Washing Basket remains firmly abdicated, although we have negotiated terms over the ironing which gets exchanged for a full day's dish-washing.  After about 8 months I pulled myself off the couch and am starting to make inroads in domestic issues, the shed had a long-overdue overhaul and many loads of rubbish were taken to the skip, as well as new homes found for Phillip's old bikes which he'd long since outgrown.

Moving onto work:

The project I'd been working on since joining the team reached 'maintenance' stage, where there was no real new development work, and the support of the live product was to be taken on by a team in another location.  So, having successfully navigated my way to a point of confidence in my understanding of the project and its code, and having developed a great working relationship with my senior developer who'd joined in the latter stages of the project, of course we were moved on.

Moving on together was what I had expected, unfortunately that isn't what happened, we moved to separate teams on opposite sides of the room.  I think I'll save some of the gory details for a more long-winded post of their own, as those first few months in particular had a massive impact on my confidence levels and I think you may fall asleep before the end of this post if I try to cram all my thoughts about everything in here!!

I've learned a lot about the supporting technologies we use outside the project code itself, such as Gitlab and Docker, maybe sometimes at the expense of understanding how our project itself hangs together.  But in a couple of weeks time I will be the sole developer on our team for 4 months while the senior dev is on parental leave.  Can't say the prospect fills me with joy and confidence, but I am learning to face it with 'feel the fear and do it anyway' mentality instead of 'run!!!', so I will take that as a win for now.

And the grading/job issue:

Thereby hangs yet another long tale, to be shortened here to the salient points - jobs were eventually advertised (at 2 grades above my own substantive grade), online test was taken and passed (nay, aced), interview was survived and  done. 

And now we are in the interminable WAIT period for results - which were expected within a week (6 weeks ago tomorrow).  Confident of getting through as the management have said that bad  news travels faster so we would have heard quickly if we had failed.  But nothing will compare to being told officially, and eventually getting paid that higher salary.  For me it's always been much more about the substantive grade of any kind, the protection from being pulled away to process benefits again when someone decides there are too many support staff in the world.  But I'll admit to a certain level of excitement about the idea of jumping a grade entirely (coupled with trepidation of course too...)

More stuff to come once I can make some sort of structure out of my tangled thought-stream.

Wednesday 30 May 2018

Where do we go from here?

Wow - it's been a LONG time between posts this time round!!

(and I will admit even a long time getting round to posting this and not sitting in a half-completed draft state!!)

I have to admit, I'd kind of lost my way a bit with the will to blog even over on the Beyond the Basket page -  I changed teams at work and with that came a massive slump in confidence.

I doubted how to continue now that I didn't have an 'OU journey' to blog about.

And at the time I felt like there were only so many ways I could keep saying 'this job is a roller-coaster of emotions'.  I've learned loads when I look back on it all, most of it unrelated to the project I'm working on, which is a new place to be.

But lately I feel a need to blog a little bit about the rollercoaster itself, it lends itself to my initial reasons for starting the blog in the first place - to share the ups and downs of the journey. 

And while this journey is now outside of the OU 'basket', I'm starting to realise that it's all still part of my 'OU journey' - I'm here, doing a job I love, partly because of my OU studies and the path they led me down.

So - that may have been the longest-winded 'hello again' you'll ever read, but welcome back, and I will try and keep you updated more often as to the twists and bends that life (and life as a Software Developer/Engineer/Insert next job title here) throws at me on this journey.

The 'Beyond the Basket' page will remain, as an archive to those heady early days of the job, but the journey and my story will continue over here on the main blog.