F430 F1 – Ferrari: ✔

When I left my previous job at AEMO after 11 years, a group of my closest friends and coworkers gathered around and presented me with a very unexpected and awesome gift. Although I have been enjoying my other gift from the wider company (lots of Kindle credit!) on a daily basis on the train, this was definitely something else entirely.

2015-07-29 - Ferrari-2

I hadn’t intended to take quite this long to get around to it, but it turns out this is a pretty popular Red Balloon gift, so June was as early as was available at the start of the year, and I decided to make it land near my birthday on the 26th.

I must admit. When I put a Ferrari on my list-of-100-things, I was just expecting that maybe someday I’d have a chance to drive one on the road.

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Driving one on a race track is better.

Much better.

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I have no practice at driving really fast, and I shamefully admit I didn’t quite nudge it past 200 on the straight, but I had an awful lot of fun trying to get there. I didn’t notice the adrenaline as I was going, but when I got out of the car I had an immediate urge to look for a drink because my mouth had dried out completely.

I have to clarify; 200 sounds like a lot, but in more qualified hands the car I was driving tops out over 300. Still. It’s faster than I’ve ever gone in a car myself.

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First of all, you sit incredibly close to the road. It’s less than 1/2 Rav4 high. Secondly, the brakes are incredibly effective; anything more than the lightest touch and you stand still instantly. That’s a hard thing to get used to. I think the twitchy controls are what most held me back from pushing it faster. That, and the knowledge I was driving the cost of a modest flat around.

2015-07-29 - Ferrari-8

Through it all the instructor was amazing. Encouraging, calm and composed. Like a personal sat-nav pointing out the spots I should try to hit in the corner, and when to push it faster and when to ease it off. I got better on later laps.

2015-07-29 - Ferrari-7

The track I was driving wasn’t quite as expected either. See Eastern Creek geographical map style; that is what I was led to expect. Then, see Eastern Creek satellite view with the extra twisty bits on the right; that’s what I actually got to drive. Those tight corners are… intimidating.

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I’m not quite done yet with my catch-up birthday, but the experience of the morning almost led me to buying a console with racing games straight out of the gate.

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This afternoon I have a massage booked, and then dinner with some friends and family at Criniti’s for an Italian close to the day as well. What could possibly go wrong?

CM Goes Fiji

Despite being an accomplished airplane passenger, I must admit, after such a long time of not crossing any oceans I felt a little unsettled to be on a plane that was going to be crossing four hours of Pacific. But between my podcasts and my Kindle it whooshed by in the blink of a moment.

It is impossible to complain when your employer flies you to Fiji for 4 days to meet all your international co-workers face-to-face. Thanks Ben, Dave and Alex, and Campaign Monitor in general!

As first impressions go, Fiji leaves an interesting mix.

Landing against a backdrop of sharp volcanic teeth biting into fluffy clouds rouses an expectation of something raw and elemental. But that has proven more a set-piece to a pleasantly relaxed and hospitable stay.

The first step off the plane greets me with a blast of warm humid air. I quickly dispose of my jacket and sweater and drape them over my arm as I wind my way through the customs queue. The walkways into the airport feel improvised and the customs desks themselves seem accidentally placed in the middle of an otherwise bare carpeted room, more so than a well-planned line of border security. I guess there’s just not a lot worth worrying about.

Even the x-ray of my bag seems more cargo-cult formality than security per-se, when nobody questions the contents of the bundle of jackets, wallets and miscellaneous electronics I carry right past the machine through a striking absence of detectors.

And that’s just the first taste of an interesting contrast between a laid-back culture and signs of tourism-induced modernity along the way to the resort.

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The entire landscape leaves an impression of barely-tamed nature on the verge of consuming what civilization has been built among it. The place looks incredibly green everywhere, except where it is a natural yellow from the reedy grass. Strangely absent are flowers other than an occasional spray of hibiscus. Green is the colour of nature. It is the only colour omni-present.

Even the road looks like a merely temporary encroachment on nature, ready to be swallowed up by the grass if I look away for a moment… Don’t Blink!

Unnaturally narrow railway tracks follow the contours of the roads through the cane fields. My curiosity over the stability of any passenger train on these tracks is resolved when I spot the carriage packed with what I first mistook for bundles of twigs. The rail seems only intended for the sugar cane that grows everywhere.

And then every once in a while a cow.

Grassy field… Cow. Cane field, cane field,… cow. Bend in the road… group of cows blocking our way. I am completely desensitised to random cows now. It’s all good. Relax. Fiji time!

And then the resort.

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It looks like a little village in the jungle at the side of the bluest lagoon you’ve ever seen. It’s almost a shame to be “working”. But this is an incredible opportunity to make connections when working in a company with co-workers all over the US and Europe.

I have been chatting my ass off trying to put faces to HipChat aliases while drinks just keep materialising from smiling faces. I may recall about half, but that’s half more than I knew before. I think I’ve spoken to at least half of our international support team. And I had a few great conversations with members of the GetFeedback team (like SurveyMonkey, only much cooler, now with 99% less monkey). And a good number of the sales and marketing teams besides.

2015-07-16 - Fiji Shirts

And in between social events we have had an awesome All-Hands meeting with most of the company here. Our core values are now expressed everywhere through the medium of interpretative t-shirts. The thing indelibly impressed upon my mind from that session is that the head of sales has the energy of a pack of toddlers on red cordial.

Yesterday we went out into the community to build desks and tables for a school in a nearby village to kick of CMs new Community program which sponsors up to 4 days a year of community work for each staff member. I thought I had reached peak-pride in my employer, but there always seems to be more “up” there. We each brought a book for their library as well, which is now stocked with 150-odd new English books.

That’s another fact about Fiji that surprised me. English is the official language. It’s so strange to arrive on a tropical island and see all the street signs, and roadside shops advertise in English.

Sadly, I missed out on the great Team Building experience this morning. I woke up at about 7:30am with a migraine from what the bed had done to my freshly massaged back. I had to take some Panadol and another 4 hours sleep, rolling straight into lunch-time at the beach. I wish I could have joined in the fun.

2015-07-16 - Fiji Path

And the last day is left for free time to mingle.

Part of which I squandered wisely learning how to play “Up-and-down-the-river” with some of my Engineering friends (thanks Trips, T4, Rich, Ken and TJ). Apparently it has many other names, but I personally call it “screw over whomever you can; the game where someone always loses – the beginnening (part 1)”. I may have had a few drinks though, so it might be called something else tomorrow. I did poorly, but I screwed a whole bunch of people over so that’s winning in a way, innit?

To an introvert a holiday like this is a little like work. But an incredibly worthwhile time, and hopefully reason enough to repeat the exercise next year when we’ve grown even further!

Bula!

Oh, and the best time to join Campaign Monitor is obviously last week (everyone gets to come along; plenty of bemused three-week-hires floating around)… but the second best time to join is right now, so go and have a look at our Careers Page and apply!

2015-07-16 - Fiji Buggy