The days go by

Newhome is almost ready – plumbing is done, tiling is finished, garage doors are hung, the floor coverings go down this week and our Post Construction Inspection is booked for 12 July.   We will probably be in by early August.

A few weeks back the last of my pets from the old life was run over by a car and killed.  Connie, our Brittany spaniel was named after Constance daughter of the Duke of Brittany.   She was about 15 years old and had been ailing since Gambit, her brother, died a few months back.  But she was let out in the yard with the front gate open and wandered onto the road.  She was the most beautiful natured dog and whilst I haven’t lived with her for a few years now it still hurts to think she had to go in that way.   RIP Connie.

I’m halfway through my tenure at work but the boss has asked if I’m interested in sticking around.  I’ve said yes but will make up my mind when I find out what the offer is.  I have a bottomline that will need to be met so that the new mortgage is covered.

Speaking of the mortgage, the CBA is stuffing us around again.  It looks like they underpaid the first of the builders payments by about $2.5k which means we now have to find the extra.  The problem is because of the way the loans were set up I have no visibility of any payments we made or fees we were charged pre March this year.  I’ve asked for a full reconciliation and four days later still haven’t heard a result yet.   We’ll definitely look at moving banks once the settlements are done.

We lay byed  some limited edition prints for the home theatre today.  An indulgence, certainly, but maybe an investment too.   The prints are those below by an artist called Alex Ross.

Erin has left school and started work.  Not something I agree with but no point in forcing her to stay on and waste the rest of the year either.  She has the next couple of years planned out – save for a car, save for an overseas trip, work overseas for a couple of years and then come back and decide what she wants to do.  I’m in fact less upset with that decision than I am with the fact that her mother did not communicate any of it to me.  I found out a week after the fact.  Still, can’t be too critical can we, if I am my kids tend to get all angry with me.

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End of the Workline

The background is that when I left my former stable employment at the end of October last year I was going to a start up company which was building a data centre and a cloud based computer business.  It was going to use cutting edge technology and was well funded.  At least that was what I was told.

Funding was coming from two sources, one in Singapore who had put in the money to that stage and another from Sydney who was due to put money in during November, which was subsequently pulled after I commenced work.  The result was that December pays were delayed and for a while looked like they wouldn’t come through.   But they did and we went to the Christmas New Year break having been told that the January payroll was guaranteed.

We received a message from the CEO telling us when to be back at work and we were also told that the lease on the premises was being finalised and that the power supply agreement was also to be signed.  Good, I thought, that means that there is a commitment from the owners and Directors to make this thing happen.

First week in January we were told to work from home and to report back to the office on the 10th of January where we were to meet the Sydney Director and investor.   And he did come down, spent two days following the CEO around and eventually came to the conclusion that he was a liar of the highest order and that he was damaging the business.  He had been told that previously by the General Manager, but saw the bloke as a visionary and was insisting that he still had a role to play in Business Development.

After spending time with him though, he sent a scathing email to his fellow Director and investor in Singapore stating that the only reason the bloke hadn’t been strangled and shoved in a deep ditch was because he had other people around at the time.

He tried to have the entire company signed over to himself but Singapore refused to play ball because they wanted him to pay out the investment they had already made.   So the company is insolvent and Mr Sydney man decided that it would be best to put it into liquidation, but told us all in an email that he wanted to keep the expertise of the team together for a few weeks whilst we re wrote business plans, customer acquisition and marketing and sales plans.

His exact words were –
I obviously do not know how Singapore are going to react to their news this week. I still believe that you have a core business that has ‘legs’ and we should make plans for an immediate future.
As a backup to next week, I would like you to buy a domain name that everyone agrees to (thereby creating a united front) and we will have a new company registered (next week) with ASIC. I will have to discuss which company type we would use, but we will (and should) give all our fellow workers continuity.
Everyone will have to work at home for 1-2 weeks until we can get a new premises sorted. I am not paying $74K a month for a premises that we do not need (at the moment).
Sales products are essential. Website is essential. Outreaching for rack space is essential. Registering with a Telco and selling space is essential. Outreaching to a sales network is essential. Printing, equipment and staff accommodation would take me a few days to organize.  
New employment contracts will be done on a handshake until we get sorted. Salary budgets can be managed in the short term, but we cannot go forward under an xxxx model. We have to be structured and one step, two step into this marketplace with quality and sustainable products. 
After discussions with xxx and xxx, and then discussions with everyone else in that you will need a united front to go forward after this week. I still think that we go after a çloud’ business, realizing xxx’s potential for a data storage site and other plans that you guys have had. I have additional thoughts, but, they are most likely rubbish until I get your feedback on sustainability.
Let me know what you think.” 

We have all been working hard over the past week or so on getting the required documents including the business plan together for presentation to him on the understanding that he was going to seed fund that work on a week by week basis for a finite time, whereupon he would make a decision on whether or not he would fund the business or not.

On Wednesday when the GM contacted him the situation had changed. He said in an email –

I understand that you are meeting with everyone on Tuesday, to put together a go forward plan for XXXXCo2. I need to know a budget, details of how you want to go forward and who wants to stay OR go. We will start a new venture under our to-be agreed conditions and there will be no backwards and forwards, as was the case with XXXCo1.
Even to the point that we will be paying wages weekly, not monthly.
 I then spoke to xxxx GM (today) regarding that meeting and he told me that a report will be ready on tuesday, and that was when he put it on me for wages for the team. it was the first that I heard of it and I thought that our agreement was to see/discuss that report before I put my hand up for anything. I do not know what you guys are thinking, but I am getting a bad feeling about the lines of communication.

Sorry Mr Investor – you did know about the week by week payments, you made the offer, we didn’t ask for it.  You kept spouting about honesty and integrity but it seems it is the old “do as I say not as I do.”

That was when it got ugly.   None of us have been paid since mid December.   This bloke allowed us to go to the Christmas break believing that the January payroll would be honoured.  He then gave us false hope that he was an honourable man and genuine in wanting to take the business forward.  He has no honour.  He is a liar not dissimilar to the previous CEO.

Here are some of the other comments he made via email to members of the team yesterday.

“AS I told xxxGM, go fuck yourself. You pompous, boring idiot.”

“All I have from you, xxx etc etc is angst that money is not being poured in. Where is the comfort that I am not backing another xxxCEO??????????????
I am going back to what i know, where annual returns are guaranteed, asset value grows and working with management teams that are happy to be accountable for their actions.
Quite candidly, you can go and fuck yourself.”

So there you have it.   I am still considering whether to name these blokes but I might wait and see how the legal issues unfold.  We will all lodge complaints with the Fair Work Ombudsman.   There is a prima facie case against the Directors for deceptive and misleading conduct but if it ends up only being the company we can sue, and it had no assets apart from the collective knowledge of the employees, then the chance of getting anything is slim.

We need the company to formally go into liquidation so the claims for unpaid entitlements can be pursued, but that will take months.

In the meantime if we can’t get our entitlements perhaps we start by taking something else.   A wise man once said to me that reputation is like virginity, once gone it is very hard to get back.  Let’s see what is on the horizon.

This Melancholy Christmas

I tend to get a little bit maudlin at Christmas, maybe it’s because the kids are beyond kids now and the new traditions with a new partner are still yet to be defined.  It’s always been a balancing act but is even more so now in a blended family when not everyone gets along.  So we try and make the best of things despite some tension at times.  If I had a Christmas wish it would be that all six of the kids got along and things didn’t feel so uncomfortable when they are together.   Not sure whether that will ever happen.

This year though I have come to Christmas Eve with  the knoweldge that my job may not continue in the New Year.  Directors and owners are arguing over the spoils and the company direction seemingly oblivious to the fact that they have fucked up a lot of peoples Christmases this year.  Worse yet is that they have not given us the courtesy of an explanation.  I think that even if it does go forward it is not likely that many of my colleagues will stick things out.   And nor should anyone when they get treated this poorly.

So the melancholy simmers and the presents, such as they are, go unwrapped, because some of the family have missed out this year.    With no guarantee that I will be getting paid in January we have had to curtail spending so that we have enough aside to cover the mortgage.

And I have to admit this first year without Mum has things looking different as well.

I know there are people in way worse places than we are and I can only imagine their despair if these lousy feelings are anything to go by.  But this too shall pass.   The New Year will bring new opportunities and I have already started applying for other roles.   Something will come up.

One of those Days

I should have stayed home yesterday.  I’d been on and off the throne for around 12 hours and given things had slowed down a bit overnight I decided that I’d attempt to get to work because I’d set up a few meetings that I didn’t want to postpone.   Let me just say that sharting isn’t fun and I thought that it would be safer to drive in than catch the train so that in the event that the urge to purge hit me mid way I’d have the chance to make a quick stop and dash for the dunny [yes that word again].

Not only had I been on the crapper more than I care to, but my lady was also crook and expelling stuff from the opposite end to me.

After an hour and a half of battling traffic, proving that I generally make the right decision catching a train and tram and reading a book, I arrived at work.  Now we are currently still negotiating our lease of these premises so we are at the mercy of the people who share the building with us because they are the ones with the keys.  Normally someone is there at around 8:15 am but yesterday they didn’t arrive until 9.   I walked…taking my mind off the churning of the gut and wishing to hell that they would hurry up before it became very embarrasing.

We got inside and on hooking up our laptops found our network down and we were without access to the internet and emails, which these days is a big deal.    Then as we sat down to work one of my colleagues received a phone call telling him that a mate had dropped dead.  But the day got better after that, as did my gut, thankfully.

So some days are better than others and I’ve learnt that it is all about context, an upset tummy isn’t as bad as carking, and a delay in connecting on line isn’t the end of the world.  And here’s a clip from Louis C K that does talk about context.

With great age comes…

I am about to start the third week of my new job.  This is a new start up company and we are building a new data centre in an inner city suburb, so at this stage we have a total of 17 people on board, mainly project managers and network architects.  My role, at least initially, is to commence the process towards achieving certification in a number of ISO standards – ISO 9001 Quality Management, ISO27001 Information Security Management, ISO 14001 Enviroment Mangement, ISO 20001 ICT Service Mangement, and ISO 30001 Risk Mangement, to name a few.  There are a few of those I have a fair bit of experience with and others I’ll be learning but that’s part of the fun and not really the purpose of this post.

I have just realised that for the first time in my life I am actually the oldest person in my work place and that scares me a bit. Not sure I’m ready to don the mantle of the wise old sage no matter how white my beard is.  To paraphrase Spiderman I am aware that with great age comes great responsibility and being a bit of a tosser I feel the weight of responsibility.  At least the Dad jokes are still getting laughs.

Leaving Work

I had my final day at work today and looking forward to a week off before I start my new job.  We celebrated with lunch and it was great to see around 40 people turn up to wish me well.   This is a very different way to leave a work place compared to my last role from which I was sacked.

And I shed a few tears when later in the afternoon I was presented with my card and gift.  I’ll miss you folks.  It’s been a fun and challenging place to work.  Sure I haven’t liked every day and didn’t like every aspect, but I cannot complain about most of my colleagues.  We had a few laughs and a bit of fun along the way.

The organisation took a big punt on me two and a half years ago when they appointed me to a role I had little experience in and coming off a sacking I have to admit my self esteem wasn’t all that great at the time.  So I had a steep learning curve and came to the conclusion that you don’t necessarily have to have specific job related experience to be successful in a role.  You need to be able to communicate and to build relationships and I hope that is one of my strengths, learnt over many years and in many very different job spaces.

I got a bit emotional and I know that grown men don’t cry…but I do sometimes.

Leadership

I’ve always thought I have been an OK boss.  If you asked most of the people who have worked with me they would tell you that I was fair, that I involved them in decision making and most importantly that I was honest.  If there were things going on in the business that I couldn’t talk about I would tell them I couldn’t talk about it.

And I’ve had some very good bosses over my time.  The police force is a different animal and there were good and bad sub-officers but one thing that was drummed into all of us who did the subbies course was that your first obligation was to look after your troops.  That didn’t mean that you overlooked unethical behaviour but it did mean that you did your best to sort things out at your own level before escalating it.

I am a firm believer that the best leaders are those who lead by example.  I never asked any of my people to do things I wasn’t prepared to do myself.  For example, running the largest basketball association in the country I was always there helping people set up for events, I’ve mopped up spew and unblocked urinals, I’ve written press releases and dealt with cranky customers.  Everything required by my staff was also done by me at some stage.

I also think it’s important to invest heavily in your people, be flexible about work where you can be and in doing so I’ve never found a problem in asking people to stay back on their own time and do things because they wanted to help and be involved.  That’s an expectation I have of my people and I can’t think of a time when I’ve been let down, whether it was as a sergeant of police, a business owner, a consultant, a CEO or a senior manager.

So I get a little disappointed when decisions are made about areas I am responsible for and there is little or no consultation with me about those decisions.   It seems like you are less valued than others.  And that may well be the case and I would have to say that I’m OK with that too if for whatever reason people have a problem with my personality, work ethic or performance.  I am not saying that I am always right or that I am a great leader.  I am saying that I have enough experience to know what type of leadership suits me.

And therein lies the lesson.  Any leader worth his salt needs to understand what makes his people tick.  He needs to know how to motivate and needs to understand that everyone is different and that you sometimes need to change your leadership style to take into account the differences in your own people.  Trust and empowerment and involvement in decision making are the best way to do that in my opinion.   Maybe that’s the experience of the police force and the sporting background that has coloured how I do things.   But I’m also man enough to know that at times I’ve been wrong as well.

I reckon good leaders, lead by example, trust their people to do their job, empower decision making and have an element of the coach about them.  They must by turns be parents, coaches, friends sometimes, be problem solvers, know their people well so they can pick up when things are a little bit out of whack.

And if I was to apply one lesson it would be that of one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements – Always do your best, but understand that somedays your best is better than others.  And that should apply equally to yourself as well as your colleagues.

Fallen in a Heap

Karen, Deb and I spent yesterday going through Mum’s stuff.  Taking years of photographs off walls distributing her treasures according to the list she’d given the girls in the days before she died as well as another we found in a prominent spot.   There were boxes of photos , some of which I’d never seen before, every broken watch that Dad had ever owned, bank statements and receipts for car repairs going back years.  Importantly for me as the family historian were the references for both Dad and Mum from places of work dating back to the 1940’s, a newspaper clipping showing Mum at Nagambie as a Regatta Girl.  Not sure if that was the year she won Miss Nagambie or one of the other years.   And yes, I found the receipt for her wedding reception at the Federal Hotel in Collins Street in 1953.

The dust got to me – not that Mum wasn’t clean just that stuff that hadn’t been moved in years was covered with layers of it and before long I was suffering badly from hay fever.  It’s worse today, nose running, cough and fever.  More about the stress of the past few weeks coming out in illness rather than something I picked up elsewhere.

We’re going to a Tim McGraw concert tonight and I truly don’t feel like it but the distraction will be a good thing I think.   Besides I have to go back to work tomorrow anyway and without a backup now, given my offsider was made redundant a few months ago, I know that there won’t have been anything done im my area for the past few weeks.  

Chindians errerring

I have a young Chindian bloke who works with me and I like him a lot. He’s efficient, thorough and has a great sense of humour as evidenced by his self description of Chindian being an Indian from the province of Assam with some Chinese blood in the dim dark past.

That’s enough praise Leon because I don’t want you getting a swollen head and I know you do visit the blog occasionally.

Leon has been in Australia for a few years now and is an avid student of the vernacular. We’ve had a lot of fun teaching him such Australianisms as –

  • Pointing Percy at the porcelain
  • Shaking hands with the wife’s best friend,
  • Black as a dogs gut
  • Dry as a dead dingoes donger
  • Flat out as a lizard drinking and
  • [although not necessarily Australian] milking the python

And a word of warning don’t use the last one to someone who doesn’t know the meaning as a young lady happens to walk past because they may well ask them if they know what it means.

And there have been sayings like –

  • I hope your chooks all turn into emus and kick your dunny down
  • All over the place like a mad woman’s spit and
  • Mad as a cut snake

Anyway, the other day I got back to the office and he said to me, “What does errerr mean?”

“What?,” I asked, not really having a clue as to what he was talking about.

“Errerr, I’ve heard people saying errerr lately.”

“Can you give me the context?”

“Sure, Alex was on the phone the other day and when she hung up she said ‘Errerr’”.

And then it hit me. It was “hooroo” which means Goodbye.

I threw him a few others today including dry as a dead dingos donger and we decided to check his Fair Dinkum Aussie dictionary and side by side with that one was the old favourite “Dry as a Nun’s fanny”

“That’s not true,” he said.

“How many Nun’s have you met,” I asked.

“None, but some years ago I read a Sidney Sheldon novel about the life of a Nun and if that’s true then the saying isn’t!”

So give me a few examples of your favourite Ozzie slang – or make it up if you like.

Embrace the Fool

One day I hope I can be a bit more open about the project I am currently employed on. For the moment though I can’t mention it because if I do this blog will pop up on the google alerts notices of a lot of people and I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I have no idea if anyone reads it anymore, certainly with the posts few and far between there is no reason for anyone to turn up and see what’s been happening. But maybe I do owe some of you who have been loyal readers over the past few years just a little insight into why I haven’t been writing.

When I got this new position in June last year I had absolutely no idea what I was walking into. And I wallowed. I wasn’t sure I liked it but had no alternatives that gave me an income sufficient to pay the mortgage, I certainly lacked job knowledge and whilst I knew that I can be a bit of a sponge, the 50+ year old brain isn’t quite as absorbent as it once was and I found that a lot of what I was trying to learn seemed to go in one ear and out the other. That combined with the obvious competency and intellectual capacity of my new colleagues left me doubting my own ability.

That too was nothing new. I’d spent the previous few years with major self image and self respect issues, hidden to most people I think. The first was my own fault, the second foisted upon me because many people had judged my marriage breakup and the subsequent upheavals and come to the decision that I was the sole person responsible for everything that had gone wrong. And I didn’t discourage that. It seemed easier to take the blame because that tended to vindicate the self loathing and ultimately meant that other peoples judgement of me vindicated the way I felt about myself.

Then of course I was sacked from a job that I loved and that I was good at, so again it’s very easy to start thinking the worst about yourself. Combine that with the fact that I got my new job as a result of who I knew, not what I knew, and that first few months in the new role left me wondering what the hell I was doing. I didn’t want to let down the person who recommended me for the job, and yet I felt absolutely useless.

But slowly I got a handle on things. I coordinated and lead security and privacy audits, I was the key contact for the recertification of our Quality Management System to ISO9001, I began to make myself an expert in Privacy law, I developed and maintained relationships with our major client and other stakeholders and I think began to earn the respect of my peers. I have done things in the past year that I never expected to do. I make no pretense about the fact that I still have a lot to learn, but the greatest lesson I brought with me into this role from my previous working lives is that it is not shameful to admit gaps in knowledge and experience. In fact it is far better to be honest and tell people that you don’t know something than it is to give bad advice simply because you don’t wish to appear foolish.

Maybe as you get older that ability to embrace the fool with honesty rather than put on the mask and deny it’s existence is a gift that comes more easily to us.

Upshot of all that is that I have now finished my first 12 month contract and been made a permanent member of staff. I received a pay rise which was more than twice what I got in the entire six years at my last job, and more importantly it has come with more responsibility and with the opportunity to become involved in other aspects of the business as well.

But you know what, the most important thing is that I am now a contributor and that I am enjoying what I do again.

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