Monday, 21 December 2015

'Tis the Season

It's less than a week until Christmas - can you believe it? At the beginning of last week, my manager mentioned to me that support was all under control and I didn't need to come in to work on Monday and Tuesday next week if I didn't want to and would I like to take those two days off as well. After thinking about it for a while, checking what is coming up and what I need to prepare for next year, I decided that since I had some extra days of leave saved up, I thought I might as well take them and I'll just work extra hard to get as much as possible done before I head off on Friday (best Christmas present ever - 2 days of extra holiday!).

I always love this time of the year, it's probably my favourite holiday and so, I thought I'd share some of my favourite things about Christmas:

  • Decorating the Christmas tree (with Christmas Carols as background music).
  • Finishing off Christmas shopping and then spending an afternoon or two wrapping presents (while listening to Chrismas Carols).
  • Time spent catching up with family and friends - since we live so far away from home, any family time is extra-precious.
  • Swimming costumes and long summers days spent at the pool or beach.
  • Ice creams, watermelon, G&Ts.
  • Christmas carols - the old stuff, the new stuff and Carols by Candlelight.
  • Delicious food (my folks make the best Christmas ham you'll ever eat!)
  • Having a bit of time to just chill and think and reflect.
What are some of your favourite things about Christmas?

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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Quote #13: It Is Better To Believe

Some of you may know that I've recently spent 2 weeks in Rio working on a project. Now, in my field, you don't often find yourself among other women and it's almost unheard of to work in a group that contains only women, but during my first week, this was my reality. Myself, our client technical lead and two of the engineers in Rio spent our first week finalising items for our project and tying up loose ends in preparation for the plant go-live. It was such a privilege to work almost exclusively with a group of ladies for the first week and it coincided with me reading a very interesting book on women's confidence (The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman). 

I really enjoyed this book for a number of reasons, but the main reason is that it has made me aware of differences between the way that men and women approach their jobs. I think the most important thing that it's made me aware of is that, women on the whole are much more risk averse and much less willing to jump into something that they have minimal skill/exposure/experience in. In other words, us ladies will only jump into the deep end when we've learnt how float and then how to swim, when we've learnt all the different swimming strokes and when we're sure that we need to be swimming free-style and not butterfly. On the opposite end of the scale, men on the whole are much more likely to jump into the deep end without any idea of how to swim, they'll somehow learn doggy paddle in order to keep their heads above water and then they'll improvise their style until they're swimming free-style with everyone else. 

At this stage of my career and for so many other young, professional women out there, I think it's really important to know that often, in order to move to the next position, we don't need to know exactly how to do the job. Instead we need to be willing to jump into the deep end without knowing how to swim. We need to remember that we're not the only ones in the pool/dam/sea and that there are people and things out there that will help us to swim as we go along. 

If you're interested in reading the Confidence Code, click here (it's worth the read, I promise!)

Finally, I hope that for the ladies out there who are wondering whether they're ready for that next role, this has inspired you to just go for it and dive into the deep end. And for the gents out there who are reading this - please keep in mind that you may need to give some extra encouragement to your girlfriends, wives, female friends or female colleagues to jump into that next role even though they don't feel quite ready for it.

Albert Einstein Quote

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Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Reality of Work Travel

Reflections of cars on the street in the building opposite me.
Reflection of cars in the building across from my hotel.
I thought this pertinent since we had a +- 1 hour commute from out hotel to the pant every day.
And the same on our way back.
So, you've been working for a while and you find out that you're going to need to do some travelling for work. You find out you're going to an awesome location and start getting exited, imagining sunning yourself on the beach after work or walking along snow-brushed cobblestone streets admiring the architecture and having time to sightsee. Your friends are all jealous and wish that they could come along in your suitcase to have fun with you.

This, my friends is a myth, reserved for holiday travel and is very definitely not what work travel is all about. I've been incredibly lucky to travel to some amazing places in the last little while for work and so I thought I'd share my experiences of what work travel is really all about - it's fun as long as your expectations are not the same as that of holiday travel!

  • The probability of early mornings and late nights is high, especially if you're not the only one staying at the hotel.
  • You're going to spend 70-90% of your time inside. Most likely the same office.
  • You're going to spend 60-80% of your time in that same office, with the same people.
  • You're going to eat a lot of restaurant food, which is delicious, but you will grow to miss a simple home-cooked meal.
  • If you have people hosting you, they'll be able to advise you on some typical meals and drinks of the area - so you'll get to taste the "real" food of the place that you're visiting and not some tourist equivalent.
  • If you're lucky, you will be able to squeeze in some sight-seeing between travelling to and from the office - an hour here and there to catch the main tourist attractions of the area, squished in between leaving the office and going out to dinner. 
  • Most of your touristy photos will be from those squeezed-in-sightseeing-tours.
  • If you're an introvert like me, you're going to get home and go into hibernation-mode and not want to socialise with anyone other than the people you live with for a few days.
  • If you're working in a place that doesn't speak your language, you'll be excited to get back home to hear people speaking in your home language(s).
  • You're going to, most probably, get to interact and chat with colleagues/clients that you've talked to over the phone a lot - so you will finally be able to put a face to a voice and name!
  • Most of your pictures with colleagues will show you either in the office working, or at a restaurant eating.
  • You'll get a chance to build relationships, make new friends and get to know people outside the office. It will be fun, just a different type of fun to holiday fun!
Lunch at a restaurant outside the Rio Botanical Gardens (Jardim Botânico)
This is me, on the only completely sunny day we had in Rio.
Luckily, it also happened to be a Saturday - so this is me,
doing some fun touristy things in Rio.

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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Quote #12: Opportunities are Usually...

Practical Cookie Quote Week 12

Years ago I was recommended a great book to read. It's called Outliers and is written by a chap called Malcolm Gladwell. I had high expectations for this book* and I wasn't disappointed when I finally got around to reading it. I think that one of the most important messages Outliers delivers is that success doesn't just come to people - success is a combination of circumstance, experience and hard work. People who grab those opportunities (and who have a bit of luck on their side by being born at the right time, in the right year, or having the right cultural background) and work hard at making the most of these opportunities (it's said that around 10,000 hours of practice makes you an expert at something) are the ones who become successful. If you get a chance to read this book, definitely give it a try!

* I have also read a book called The Tipping Point by the same author, which is also another interesting read!

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