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Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

31-Jul-12 My new role at work

In Blog, Management, Personal, Technology on July 31, 2012 at 6:26 am

When I started writing my blog this morning, I was deliberating over the subject I would cover today, but realised that it’s been a number of weeks since my last update on work, so today’s blog contains an insight in to the non-technical elements of what my job role entails (for those who are interested)!

As you know, a few weeks ago, I was promoted to Director of IT services (previously I was Manager of Information Technology).

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On those steps to success. Be careful of your footings!

I guess for some people this would be seen as recognition of my ongoing contribution and value to SThree, but I believe it to be directly attributed to how I have changed my approach over the last couple of years to managing the IT function.

As a Director (senior leader) within any organisation, there is an importance in being forward thinking and driving through changes to support the business ambition, hence a big focus for me has been on aligning my team on our IT ambition to support the business strategy and driving them to achieve individual goals.

This fundamental change in me was inspired by the series of management sessions that I attended at Henley Business School last year with a number of my colleagues (Henley is one of the worlds leading academic institutions training senior management staff all over the world).

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Better than my Secondary school!

These sessions, hosted by industry experts, made me realise how I needed to adapt to exploit what had a made me successful to a certain level and what was needed to take it to another level.

It made me focus on the traditional strengths and weaknesses, but also more importantly on my role as a leader. You forgot how important a role you have in inspiring people to get to their work and personal aspirations!

As a leader, I am very fortunate to have a loyal, dedicated and talented set of individuals working for me. Trust me, this makes my job much easier to do! They all tend to share my vision and passion and if not, we have some creative discussions to come to an agreed conclusion (hopefully)!

I have always said that what moulds individuals is their previous leaders and I’d hope that my style is the reflection of 3 very different managers I have had in my working life.

I won’t go in to the absolute explicit details of each individual (law suit would follow), but Neil Kenney (Operations Manager at Franklin Mint), Dave Timoney (previous IS Director at SThree) and Lance Fisher (existing CIO at SThree) have moulded my particular skills (for good or bad), so a big thank you to all three of them.

In the next week or two, I will update you on some of the exciting service and technical elements that are being delivered in line with the ambition of my role to give you an insight in to the more technical elements of my job.

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30-Jul-12 Florida stage 3

In Blog, Personal, Travel on July 30, 2012 at 6:44 am

I realise I’ve been back a week and not finished my holiday blog, so here’s stage 3!

If you recall from the last stage of my blog, we’d done the theme parks, but on our final day in Orlando, we made the decision to go to the Kennedy Space Centre (celebrating its 50th anniversary) on the east coast. This was quite a long detour for us, as our intention was simply to head west. This meant a detour of over 120 miles via Merritt Island on the East coast!

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First stop en route, as it was late morning was one of the local diners (The Golden Corral) and what an experience. We were too late for breakfast, but made the all you could eat lunch! You have to try this at least once on your travels in America, as there is nothing quite like it!

For the price of $8.95 (£6), you could eat everything you wanted from roast turkey to Chinese chicken to Mexican chilly beans. Trust me, there is no greater sight to get you thinking about a diet than looking at an American family on the table next to you ploughing through this selection and then the chocolate fountain, ice cream machine and various other deserts!

After a light lunch for me (appetite seemed to fade away quite quickly, we were en route to the east coast.

Before we went to Florida, we did wonder whether we would get time to do NASA, and I have to say that I am glad we did, as The Kennedy Space Centre was a fantastic experience.

To think men make their way to space from this historic location was humbling and awe inspiring, and even if you are cynical over the whole moon landing episode, you cannot avoid being blown away by the scale of the place and the little piece of history Merritt Island has had on all our lives.

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A fond reminder of the Shuttle programme!

Although the tour had many highlights including the Space Shuttle assembly building, launch pads and the Apollo lift off experience, the bus tour guides stole the show with their typically American enthusiasm and drama. It was at this point of the holiday that we realised just how patriotic Americans are and how they love a flag.

I will never forget how Tom had explained that the flag on the VAB (Vehicle assembly building) was ‘The biggest hand painted flag of the United States of America on the planet’ and how it had taken 600 gallons of paint to complete it and how it was the size of an NBA Basketball court. Tom was indeed a legend in his own right in the land of legends!

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That rather large American flag. God bless Tom!

It’s sad to think the whole space shuttle programme is now redundant, but I guess new visions like commercial flights in space and Mars are the main items on the agenda for NASA!

After a long trek back across the middle of Florida, we arrived at Siesta Key in amongst a real tropical downpour, which pretty much followed us all the way from Orlando.

It was hardly the most ideal way to arrive, as everything was closed down early on our tiny strip of Island, which left only one option, a Mcdonald’s take away on the mainland. Pure class eh!

Of course, being Florida, the next day was a beautiful hot summer’s day. What else would you expect and I will save some details of our final week in Siesta Key for the final stage (4) of my Florida blogs later this week. Did I mention I did some fishing?

27-Jul-12 Roll on the games

In Blog, Olympics, Personal on July 27, 2012 at 6:27 am

Today’s blog is dedicated to my affection for London and the fact that we are hosting the biggest sporting event on the planet.

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For those who do not know, I was born in Deptford, London, so feel very proud that the spotlight of the world at this time is on on our capital, which I personally believe is the best city in the world.

Yes, I am biased, but how many other cities have such a diverse culture living in such a small footprint all getting along with each other, whilst being surrounded by the most amazing architecture and history.

I cannot disagree that London has it problems; especially in this time of economic challenges, but we certainly know how to host events (how good was that Queen’s Jubilee weekend) and make people welcome.

When we won the rights to stage the games 8 years ago, there were the cynics who said it would cost too much, stretch our transport system and would leave us with a legacy that we might want to forget! To be fair, those cynics are probably still bleating now and will continue to moan!

Just like all of our politicians and respected individuals are doing right now, I would encourage everyone to embrace this event and do all we can personally to make it a success, as I’ve no doubt this event will leave us with some wonderful sporting memories just like we have experienced in the past.

My earliest memories in the 70’s and 80’s were of Wilkie, Coe, Ovett and Thompson taking sport to a level in this country, which inspired me (like any other teenager) to aspire to sporting success.

Sport is a wonderful opportunity for everyone of all ages and we should never take this for granted. Hopefully a new breed of Olympians will be enjoying their first experience of this event this summer and will have golden memories of our most talented individuals today.

I’ve no doubt the next couple of weeks will bring some frustrations with disruptions to trains, overcrowding and poor weather, but let’s remember the spirit of those Londoners over the years who have picked themselves up and smiled through their moments of misfortune.

As I complete my blog, I am waiting for HMS Belfast to fire its cannons and signal the start of bells ringing everywhere across London. The sense of excitement is amazing!

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London and in fact Britain is a great place to live and therefore ‘Let the games begin’ and let’s be truly great team GB’!

26-Jul-12 Florida stage 2

In Blog, Personal, Travel on July 25, 2012 at 6:59 pm

And here is stage 2 of our Florida trip as promised yesterday.

So to pick up the thread from my stage 1 blog, we have now negotiated the car navigation system, automatic car and highways to reach our villa and day 2 was all about sorting out our tickets for Disney and Universal. How difficult could this be?

Our plan (prepped in advance) was DIsney Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom over the first two days, a break day at Disney Blizzard Beach (is there such a thing) followed by Universal Islands Of Adventure and Studios on day four and five.

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In advance I had spent hours (literally) looking at and discussing our options on various web sites and through various folk at work (apologies to them now), only to conclude that it might be worth waiting until we arrived, as my understanding was that there were deals to be had! Considering I was looking at a cost of approximately £1,400, I thought it was worth a punt!

Well there are deals to be had, but it is a bit underhand. Basically you negotiate tickets with companies who are selling used tickets. Typically tickets that have unused days left on them! I’m actually surprised Disney and Universal cannot do anything about this, as there are countless permanent shops advertising and selling these!

I took the plunge, as the tickets for Disney were 100% guaranteed and it all seemed legit! It’s actually a bit bizarre, as the ticket machines scan your index finger when entering, so you kind of wonder why they do this, but we experienced no issues in using them.

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Universal was not so simple. There was probably a early clue. With the Disney tickets, cash was accepted up front. With Universal, the touts (is there any other name for them) took a copy of your credit card, as you only paid at the end of the two days!

There was one other issue (and this is where it sounds real dodgy) in that your tickets had names on them. By now, this was making us very nervous! Especially as the tickets contained 4 completely different surnames.

Well, as you have now probably guessed, it did not all go to plan. The tickets that my wife and son had worked fine, but not so simple for us and we were subsequently stopped from entering!

In fairness, the touts (I guess they were an agency) were pretty good and did not charge us for the failed tickets! It did not spoil our day, as we just paid the full cost at the gate.

Was it worth it? Well the 5 days were brilliant. Even the last two when Georgina was a bit under the weather. And I saved £300!

I have to say Disney and Universal was brilliant. No one does a theme park like Florida and the weather helps, as I would much rather queue in the sun than wait hours in the rain!

Highlights for me, as I dislike rides with a vengeance were the Slush Gusher in Blizzard Beach (did I really agree to do this?), ET (at Universal. How I love this film) and the firework display at the end of the day in the Magic Kingdom (how smart was Walt to create this legacy?).

I even got a chance to get a cuddle from my favour character from the Jungle Book.

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My advice. Don’t take the kids till they get older. My two (16 and 18) were like young children again and enjoyed everything about the magic and dreams of these parks. At the age they are, they will cherish these memories forever, as will me and my wife!

On our transfer day (day 7), we went to the Kennedy Space Centre, but I will save that for my stage 3 blog if you are not bored yet

25-Jul-12 Personal goals 2012

In Blog, Personal, Sports, Travel on July 25, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Now I bet you were all looking forward to Florida stage 2, but I’m going to keep you all in suspense for another day or day, as I realised it has been almost a month since announcing my personal goals for 2012 and no update has been forthcoming!

If you recall, my personal goals were the following:

– Run a half marathon
– Finish our loft (flooring, insulation and train set)
– Visit a new island in the UK
– Cook and Eat a fish I catch
– Get my blog on the freshly pressed homepage on WordPress
– Discover and meet a new relative

Hmm. Now where do I begin. In simple terms, nothing has been achieved, so let’s focus on what’s been considered!

Run a half marathon:
The options are an event in Dorking (hilly) or the Run to the beat event in Greenwich, which I missed last year due to illness.

The favourite is the later event, as much flatter (unlike my tummy) and the only challenge is convincing my wife to run it again!

Finish our loft:
Now I have a definite excuse for this one, as we have been away and now we are experiencing a heat wave!

The plan is to defer this as long as possible (September), so August is all about planning.

Visit a new island in the UK:
This is a good one, as the smart money is on making this an excuse for a weekend away!

As most of you can tell by now, one of my obsessions is holidays (hmm. Vacations) and I don’t need much encouragement! Options at the moment to be considered are the Channel Islands or Burgh Island (Devon). Now where is the best place to fish?

Cook and Eat a fish I catch:
Now this must fall in the category of killing two birds with one stone (and all that)! Apparently Burgh Island is a good option for Mackerel. Thank god my wife does not read my blog. What an opportunity though eh?

Get my blog on the freshly pressed homepage on WordPress:
Now you be the judge of this. Do I really stand a chance? The smart money says no, so clearly I need to brush up my skills over the coming weeks and just cross my fingers!

Seriously, any advice from my fellow bloggers?

Discover and meet a new relative:
Hmm. Did I really decide to do all of these? This could take some creative thinking from me (Something I’ve prided myself on in the past).

This sounds like a subscription to Ancestry.co.uk and some proper digging.

Hmm. Maybe I can find a long lost relative in Australia and visit this large island. Run half a marathon to the beach and fish for a Tuna before eating it, blog about it and then return to England to finish off the loft.

Sounds like September sorted. Florida stage 2 tomorrow? Here’s a video to wet the appetite! One of the few rides I was brave enough to do!

Slush Gusher

24-Jul-12 Florida stage 1

In Blog, Personal on July 24, 2012 at 4:33 pm

After my technology rant yesterday, I thought today I would bore you all with stage 1 of our recent trip to Florida. Mainly because I have had no time to come up with any other original and compelling dialogue for my blog!

As already stated in previous blogs, the first 6 nights of our vacation (already slipping in to American) was spent in Orlando after flying Virgin Atlantic direct from Gatwick.

It’s the first time we had flown Virgin and we were very impressed. Unfortunately it was a tad misleading, as we had the pleasure of flying Barbarella, one of the first of Branson’s 747 fleet to be refurbished with new technology, livery and layout.

Whoever designed these crafts has done a brilliant job and it’s probably the best long haul flight we have all had (To be fair, the only comparison for me up till now has been BA, First Choice and Thomson, so maybe I’ve had limited visibility)!

I guess it was long overdue, as 747’s have now been in service since 1969! Could Boeing have ever thought this craft would be so successful when building it?

Everything about visiting America is an experience, as everything is just so much bigger and better! After convincing our car hire rep that we did not need a bigger car (because the existing 4 wheel Mazda CXR 9 with space for 7 and associated baggage was more than enough), we left the airport for our town house in Kissemmee negotiating first the car navigation system, driving an automatic for the first time and then the highways!

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Of course, the easiest of the 3 was the navigation system with me being in Information Technology? Be serious! I probably found it easier to negotiate the highways. What a difference to driving here with so many lanes to switch between (even on their town roads).

Our town house was fab. What deals there are to be had on the Internet. This Particular one I would recommend again. Although I kind of let ourselves down here, as no picture of the pool and the lake we backed on too. Ah well, will have to download that off the Internet later!

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Our plan for the proceeding days was to negotiate the Disney theme parks for 3 days and then Universal for 2 days. So now the challenge of buying tickets! I will save this stage of the journey for another day, as we nearly got ourselves banned from Universal. Those who have negotiated with the ticket booths in Orlando probably know what’s coming next in stage 2 of our vacation (oops. American again)!

23-Jul-12 More Florida and Major Players

In Blog, Consumerisation, Personal, Technology on July 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm

As I write my blog, it’s the start of my first full week at work after what was a fantastic 2 week break.

It was good to return on a Friday and it was made easier that my backlog of emails was cleared on holiday and during the flight back using my Good application!

I hate returning to a day of emails; especially when everyone wants to catch up on how your holiday went and you want to get up to speed with what’s gone on.

It seems everyone thought I was on a fishing trip to Florida; not sure why, but let me clear up here and now that we did a lot more than just fish. Well, at least in the first week! 😀

Unfortunately, although I caught a number of different species (Catfish, Pinfish, Sheepshead and even a Southern Sting Ray), I was not brave enough to cook any of the edible ones, so one of my personal moments to eat a fish that I have caught remained incomplete, which means that I am now on the look out for a trout or salmon fishing experience later this year.

Our two weeks in Florida started with 5 nights in Orlando, which was followed up with 9 nights in Siesta Keys, which is situated on the west coast of Florida just below Tampa. As with any trip to Orlando, we did the theme parks (more on that in future blogs) and we did the space Centre at Merritt Island before having a very relaxing time in the keys.

This picture shows the long walk I had to the canal each morning.

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This is my prize Sting Ray catch (picture does not do it justice).

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I have to say that we have been very fortunate to have some great holidays of late, but for me, this one takes some beating, as Florida is just awesome and is an experience I will never forget.

Over the weekend, I got the opportunity to catch up on the technology in the news and the main interest was the contrasting fortunes of some major providers. Clearly some very bad news for Vodafone, as revenues have plummeted across Europe due to a weak economy and increased competition, as well as Microsoft, who reported their first quarterly loss in their 26 year history; mainly due to the acquisition of online ad service aQuantive.

In amongst all this doom and gloom, Google appear to still be on a roll with a huge increase in sales and profitability. Net income for the quarter was $2.79bn and revenue rose 35% to $12.21bn.

There are indeed high stakes to be made in this consumerisation market if in the right place with the right products! It does make me wonder which of the big software and mobile giants will be around in the next 18-24 months, as decisions on road maps and product development will make or break certain businesses.

Microsoft is pinning a lot of its hope on Windows 8 to enter the consumerisation market, but the jury is out for me on whether the consumer market will adopt Windows based devices whilst Apple and Android have such a grip!

No doubt applications will play a key part in the short term, as there is a much wider range of apps for Apple and Android devices, but will this balance of power change if HTML 5 and web applications take over?

Interesting how flexible devices and their apps have become. At the weekend, I considered buying a digital alarm clock radio to replace my ageing Sony device and then realised that I had everything and more within my existing iPod Touch for a fraction of the cost! Funny eh?

19-Jul-12 Back from Florida!

In Blog, Consumerisation, Personal, Sports, Technology on July 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Well, it’s been a while since my last blog and a lot has happened for me and my family, as we’ve just come back from two glorious weeks in Florida.

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Over the next week or so, I will fill in some of the holiday moments that have occurred and share some holiday pictures, but I start to write my blog, as the plane touches the outskirts of Ireland, the emerald isle.

Did I complete any of my personal moments during this two week spell? Well you might have to read more over the next few days and find out!

While I’ve been away, our British hopeful at Wimbledon, Andy Murray, just fell at the last hurdle again! Although to be fair, I was extremely disappointed for him, there was a secret part of me that was glad.

Not because he is Scottish or anything else to do with the fact that some people seem to loathe him because of his personality (I cannot stoop to that level), it was the fact we could not watch the final due to the 5 hour time difference and also because we were spending our first day in Orlando’s Universal Studio’s and I would have hated to miss the moment that the long wait was finally over! Hate to be selfish!

I also believe that our long summer drought has continued! 🙂

Florida has the most perfect summer weather for me. Hot and steamy during the day with fantastic thunderstorms later in the day.

As we return, there are now merely days to the Olympics opening ceremony. Although I know there are a number of people sceptical about the greatest event on the planet being held in London, I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing the greatest athletes on the planet strive to go faster,higher and better than anyone before them.

Let’s just hope that we can get a decent spell of dry weather, the transport system survives a major breakdown and that we can avoid any major disruptions due to extremists (London bus drivers)! At least the Jet Stream is now moving, so at least the weather has half a chance to improve!

If there is one app that has kept me, as well as the kids occupied over the last week or so, it is Angry Birds and the free seasons game that is out. It certainly kept me busy on the flight home until the iPod ran out of power, but it is so addictive, so download at your peril!

No technology updates today, as need to get myself back up to speed with Twitter and the world at large. All I will say is that I got the chance to visit the Kennedy Space Centre over the last fortnight in it’s 50th anniversary and what an experience that was being so close to technology that has taken us to the moon and beyond!

As I finish my blog, we are back home and the sun is shining. Yippee! Back to work tomorrow….

04-Jul-12 Options, Options and more Options

In Blog, Consumerisation, Personal, Sports, Technology on July 3, 2012 at 10:52 pm

After my prediction last night that Andy Murray would make hard work of beating Cilic, he went ahead and made extremely light work of it. This follows my prediction of Italy beating Spain in the final of Euro 2012. Nothing for the TV analysts to fear then!

Today I put some preparation in to the personal moments I need to complete before the end of the year.

– Run a half marathon
– Finish our loft (flooring, insulation and train set)
– Visit a new island in the UK
– Cook and Eat a fish I catch
– Get my blog on the freshly pressed homepage on WordPress
– Discover and meet a new relative

The most likely half marathons are either going to be the “Run to the Beat” event at the O2 or the “Surrey Badger Half” at Dorking (both in October). Any other ideas?

In terms of finishing the loft, this is probably going to be my Achilles heal of them all, as my planning will be deferred until later in the summer (cannot waste these light evenings – Fishing)!

After some of my island suggestions over the last couple of days (excluding Eel island), I need to now find them on the map and plan out my trip! Now where is my A-Z?

Cook and eat a fish. Got a plan for this over he next few days. Watch this space!

Get my blog published. Clearly got to improve my level of content! Any suggestions please (be kind)?

Discover a new relative. I’ve now downloaded the Ancestry application and hastily looking for a new connection on my family tree! Let’s just say work in progress unless anyone out there is about to come out of the woodwork?

Just one technology feature today, as I am meant to be on holiday. According to this article from CBR, Mozilla plans to launch it’s fully open sourced smartphone in 2013 and will run on Chinese mobile technology. Will that mean its not really that open source?

Before going to bed tonight, don’t forget to reply to your work email, as according to that recent Good survey, more than a third of UK employees will do this!

03-Jul-12 Islands in the stream. Hmm. River!

In Blog, Consumerisation, Personal, Sports, Technology on July 3, 2012 at 6:37 am

After my request for ideas for my personal moments, I was inundated yesterday with Island ideas, which are all being considered for their merits! One of the options presented by one of my regular readers, Dave Timoney, was Eel Pie Island in Twickenham (on the River Thames), which I am not sure was at the forefront of my mind when I set myself this particular goal!

What I did not realise is that the island was known as a major jazz and blues venue in the 1960s. Obviously I am too young to know this!

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With the current water drought we are experiencing in the South East of England and the wonderful summer we are enjoying (note the sarcastic tone of that message), it was only inevitable that play at Wimbledon was postponed last night and therefore I found myself watching the “One day in London” documentary.

I have to say that it was very emotional to watch; especially as one of my former colleagues, Martine Wright, was one of the individual’s caught up in the whole 7/7 catastrophe. I hope the programme provided each individual what they needed to continue to cope with their lives, as it was a very moving documentary of a day that I hope none of us will ever witness again.

On a positive note, Martine has been selected to compete in the Paralympic games at the end of August and Im hoping that she can use her strength to come away with a medal, as no one would deny she deserves it. Saying that, everyone who completes in these games are legends.

In terms of Wimbledon, Djokovic yesterday produced a fabulous display that clearly stamped his mark on the tournament. At this point, I cannot see how Murray or even Federer would be able to touch him! Murray continues his match against Cilic today and no doubt it will be another see saw battle that keeps us all on the edge of our seats!

Some brilliant work life balance statistics on Twitter yesterday from Good Technology, which made me realise how much of an impact technology has had on all our daily lives:

– 57% of people check work email on family outings
– 38% check email at the dinner table
– 68% of people check work email before 8am
– 31% of survey respondents admit to continuing to work at home as they find it hard to ‘switch off.’
– 80% of people work after leaving the office, for an avg of 7 extra hrs/week. That’s a staggering extra 365 hours per year (40+ working days)!

Of concern to me is that I probably tick off most of these!

One other bit of news that came as a bit of a surprise yesterday is that it is rumoured according to this article from Computing that RIM, the troubled provider of Blackberry mobile devices could be the next mobile giant to adopt the Windows phone!

It’s an interesting option considering RIM are on their knees and need to respond to the market gain achieved by Apple and Google’s Android operating systems. It comes in light of the fact that Blackberry (version) 10 has already been delayed by more than a year to early 2013!

Roll on; BBM on a Windows device?

As I am now on holiday for a few days, there might be a bit of a gap for my blog, so there should be plenty of things to catch up on when I get back. You never know, I might even tackle one or two of my personal moments!

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