Light: a many faceted prompt

One of the prompts from the weekly photo challenge I am following this year was “Light”. It’s the first one where I couldn’t simply be happy to take one shot; my mind raced with a multitude of possibilities. Even putting aside “carefree” and “lightweight” (falling blossoms are beyond my photographic skills right now), there are so many favourites to choose from as light can mean so much…

Light can bring out a shine

Lesser celandine in early spring light

Light can be bright and bring sparkle

River water over weir stones catching the light amongst dark trees

Light can define sharpness

Urban punk
A proud teasel “punk” in an urban setting

Light can reveal the hidden

Self portrait by light revealed
By sunlight revealed – a self portrait

Light rays can penetrate more silently than anything else

Light rays can slice through the river without a single ripple

though refraction shows we cannot trust everything we see, especially when caustic

Caustics in shallow water

Light can bring translucence to hint at delicacy

Young elder leaves
Sunlight revealing the translucence of new elder leaves, a few days after bud burst

and also make the translucent appear opaque

Opacity of water
Movement plus sunlight brings an opacity to water

or to become a mirror to bring tranquility to the wildest of hearts

Riverbank reflected
Riverbank reflected – home to otters, wrens and bumblebees

Stepping toward the light

This has been a week of juggling and deliberate switching. I’ve found that being whole hearted in one activity and taking a breath (and some notes) before the next brings best results. Getting distracted with updates on the other things just weakens those boundaries and my energy just leaks out all over the place. Bring clear and honest about my boundaries and where my focus will be helps others be kind to me and get more clear focus in their day too. Most of the time a response does not have to be immediate and asking if tomorrow or next week is ok is a great way to take control.

It’s also been a week of strong opinions and creative ideas. This leaves me feeling buoyant but is most useful when those opinions and ideas are loosely held. A key lesson learned this week was the initial summary of a situation and the written confirmation were quite different. If I was deeply wedded to my initial assumptions it would have been quite an emotional effort to change my thinking in the face of new evidence. I’m so glad I’m comfortable, indeed strangely excited to say “my assumptions need to go out the window“ as I know the following ideas will always be a much better fit for the challenge at hand. I think I’d find it much harder to be a consultant without this skill.

Monday brought a chance at a rarer experience, the chance to sit back and observe another colleague facilitate a training session we’d put together. I got to see how they tackle discussion, questions and time keeping. We also ran a mini retro afterwards to talk about things we’d do differently to make it even better, and also how to write up the session for other facilitators to follow us on the path we are carving.

In the next few weeks I’m expecting to consider that aspect of engineering quite a bit where we pick up prototype work: how to make it easier for people follow after. Key stakeholders for proof of concept are usually counted as product owners and end users. However, having been on the receiving end of assumptions about production releases of prototypes, I believe the engineers who build from (rather than on) the work you’ve done are valuable stakeholders too. 

I’ll also be making more of the lighter evenings when travelling – if only to enjoy sights like these…

Lighter evenings
Colourful reflections of lights of the social hub that is the bottom of Wind St in Swansea


Over halfway through February and I’m not quite sure how we got here! Much more time on a client site and the associated travel and time away from home has probably been a factor. Time for a double edition of week notes then…

I’ve spent some time with colleagues devising and kicking off a series of refresher training sessions. The aim is to help all levels of engineers talk the same language and follow a few common fundamental principles once they join a client delivery together. Not everyone has had the privilege in past jobs to work well in pairs or follow a test driven development approach whether they are entry level or senior. Learning together creates bonds that help people thrive within and across deliveries. After only one out the five sessions delivered, I’m humbled to find that many more engineers agree with me and want to take part than expected. There’s a waiting list and expectations of a re-run and additional new sessions in the future. Not bad for a toe-in-the-water experiment! I would not have been able to spin this up so easily alongside delivery commitments without access to the amazing collection of learning hours made available by Emily Bache and the other coaches involved in Samman Technical Coaching. Finding my own confidence to step up and address these issues has also been a big benefit of working with Emily and Clare Sudbery late last year.

This is just one of the parallel streams going on in my life and career just now and keeping them straight, with the right time invested, is another trick I’m learning to get better at. Alongside the training experiment, engineering on a delivery team, leading and coordinating an out of hours support team, hiring, and supporting direct reports, as well as photography, writing and home related projects: this week being more actively on site is putting me in touch with more people and work streams, ongoing and future. It’s tough but invigorating.

The downside is I’m talking to so many individuals about so many more things, I’m having to remember more actively what I have told and to whom. There’s the obvious things I shouldn’t say to some folks until the timing is right or news is ready, and there’s the usual confidential conversations, those are easy; it’s more discussing long weekend plans with my friend and then forgetting I haven’t told my husband!

Better notes are really helping with this, avoiding back to back meetings so I can take the space to brain dump before context switching. Adding known dates into a shared diary also saves my bacon!

One of the key privileges of my situation as an experienced senior is getting to know, and working with some of our academy graduates and associate developers. They are so interesting in their variety: backgrounds, starting points, previous careers and experiences, expectations and aspirations. Some have a very clear idea about the tech they want to be involved in, others are curious to dive in anywhere and see where it takes them. It reminds me that I am part of a wider diverse world, that I am not best placed to help everyone but there are some I can help; I am reassured that I work with some awesome colleagues I trust to support those they can help too.

After almost three years in my current role, it’s a great time to look towards the future with renewed positivity. 

Quote of the week (Double edition)

In relation to a humble colleague of mine, walking into a new client context:

“You don’t walk in as if you own the place, you just walk in comfortable: as if you’ve been here before and know where everything is”

In relation to the journey of a curious mind into a fascinating research area:

“So what you’re saying is, you went down a rabbit hole and then found it had broken through into a badger set? Awesome!”

A look on the bright side

This week I reconnected face to face with a long time friend after a gap and marvelled at the skills and experience they have accumulated in the intervening years. They’ve achieved so much I couldn’t have imagined achieving myself – massive respect. 

I discovered what demand avoidance is and was able to reflect on my own approaches to procrastination and to consider some fixes. Whether you’ve been diagnosed (or consider yourself) as neurodivergent or not, there’s a wealth of tips and tricks out there that might suit your context. “Don’t think about it, just do it” might not work for every situation but it’s a great technique for breaking a cycle of overthinking paralysis.

It’s easy to get lost in over planning for what might go wrong but this week I was blindsided by not preparing for success! I’ve been working with a few colleagues to devise and run some refresher sessions for engineers around test driven development and good pair coding techniques. We had talked a little about running small session sizes (8 to 10) for max interaction with participants but this is considered an early experiment that might not be popular so I thought no more about it. Within an hour of asking for expressions of interest we had 22 people per session. We are having to pivot on our schedule rapidly to still deliver what we hoped within the intended timeframe.

On the plus side, this is immediate feedback that the support we intend to offer is targeting a perceived need and has a good chance of being appreciated. It’s also reminded me to ask myself “so, what if this goes better than expected?”