Campaign Monitor – 8 Weeks In

I can’t quite decide whether to say “I cannot believe it’s only been 8 weeks” or “I cannot believe it’s been 8 weeks already”. Both interpretations have merit.

The change was unbelievably effortless. One week in I felt at home, two weeks in I felt like I could do something to add value, and three weeks in I was throwing all my crazy first ideas into the ring without regard for what people might think. It is liberating in the most wonderful way.

Despite diving in the deep end of the Web Technology pool, learning all the required AngularJS, ASP.NET, and how-to-order-my-coffee-online has felt somewhat effortless as well. I should have gone head-first into Web 2.0 long ago; the first four weeks at CM got me further along than two years of miscellaneous dabbling in my own time.

And the first four weeks flew by; I was holding off for the longest time fearful of the draining commute to Sutherland, but I think I probably should have made the call sooner. Alas, that is the nature of Unknown Quantities; even things that look great on paper are a little scary when they require getting out of one’s comfort zone. Had I known how much I was going to enjoy the work itself (to the point of dabbling and studying quite significantly in my own time as well), I would have given it a second thought.

And then, we moved to the CBD and things got better still.

2015-04-09 - In The Clouds

Cozy offices turned into a spectacular office. It is easy to get a bit blase about the view 38 floors above Sydney. The first week I’d take a few minutes to admire the view before starting work, but now that tends to come later in the day. At some point my mind will briefly not be stuck with a problem and I’ll catch the view, and then it catches me.

The view over Hyde Park and the Harbour are strangely disorienting. The perspective does strange things to my sense of distance. I could swear Darlinghurst is but a brief stroll away from Hyde Park by the look of it from up here. And everything looks like a game of The Sims. It feels like I somehow should be able to control the weather. Maybe there’s a switch I haven’t found yet. I should ask the OPS team.

The days go by in a pleasant productive rush. After some experimenting, I’m finding an early commute in and out most comfortable. I get up at 6:50am, have a quick shower, get dressed, 7:05am when I feed the cats, 7:15am I am stepping onto a train to work at the station.

That may sound like a rush, but I genuinely have little to do before heading out. Breakfast and lunch are both catered, so I have really nothing to prepare for.

I walk into the office at about 8:15am, boot up the laptop and have a quick look around the HipChat rooms for anything interesting, and go through any overnight emails. By about 8:20am the internal coffee ordering system comes on, and I punch in my large cappuccino.

Breakfast is 8:30am, featuring bacon and eggs, and whatever else our amazing chefs throw into the mix. This week I have been unable to resist the pancakes with poached plums. Between 8:40am – 9:10am I get back to whatever problem I left behind the previous evening.

Why 9:10? … well… that’s when we have our daily 10 minute stand-up with the team. A quick run around of what we did the previous day and what we will work on today. A chance to keep the team in the loop and to ask for help or clarifications where needed with broad input.

Then 9:20 through 12:30 rushes by faster than I can believe. A mix of learning and programming, leaning more and more towards the latter.

It is easy to tell when 12:30 comes around because by 12:35 the floor is almost empty. Many rush to try and beat the lunch queue.

Catered lunch is amazing. More amazing than I could have realised. It obviously saves some money (more or less depending on a propensity to buy lunches otherwise). But more than that, my lunch has never before been this varied. I’m probably eating healthier even if it is a tad more than I perhaps should… more gym for me.

And that is not uncommon either; there are various groups of employees that go running together or see a trainer before lunch, etc. On the flip-side, there is a page on the Wiki that chronicles the weight-gain that people experienced upon first starting at Campaign Monitor. The chefs are hard to resist.

Then, after lunch, more programming till about 16:45 which is my cut-off to make it on the last not-completely-packed train back home. Soon I will start experimenting with taking a gym class in the city before going home so that hopefully I can catch a train after the peak eases off again on those days. Luckily there is a lot of flexibility in the hours, as long as I make the 8-a-day excluding lunch, and I am available for all the important meetings.

Somewhere around 14:00 there is another round of coffee orders, and most days there is some kind of pastry or dessert on offer as well. Today was an apple crumble that did full honour to its name; I forgot my cutlery and it resisted my attempts to eat it most valiantly.

2015-04-09 - Hyde Park Below

Four more weeks and I’ll hit my 3-month review point.
But I am sure the 6-month mark will arrive in just another blink or two as well.

Everything about what the job demands and gives back just fits together perfectly to keep me energized and motivated, and feeling on top of the world in all the senses possible.

The Dutch and Chocolate

Today a parcel arrived from the Netherlands. Which means it must be Christmas, in a way. My parents send out a shipment of Dutch goodies once a year, and sometimes it gets here in December, but usually it is easier to aim for another less-postally-congested month.

2015-03-30 - Step 1

Chocolate features heavily in the parcel.
There are some reasons for this.
Not good reasons, but… good enough for me.

2015-03-30 - Step 2

I have no idea where historically/culturally our predilection for starting the day with “beschuit met hagel” (crispbakes with chocolate sprinkles) comes from. But I dare you to find a household in the Netherlands that doesn’t have at least one pack of hagelslag somewhere in a cupboard.

2015-03-30 - Step 3

It used to be very difficult to get hagel in Australia. It is getting a little easier, even if the cost if extravagant compared to back “home”. And it always takes people aback when I explain it is a breakfast topping. My parents have been sending annual care packages with hagel for forever, but since it has started becoming available here too, I tend to get sent the more luxury flavours, like Mocha and Extra Dark.

2015-03-30 - Step 4

But the chocolate most directly tied to Sinterklaas (the Dutch equivalent of Christmas) is the chocolate letter. The Chocolate-Initial-Complex is a force unto itself in the Netherlands.

2015-03-30 - Step 5

And those that know me well, know exactly what happens when chocolate letters arrive. I really have no trouble leaving chocolate be, as my former experiments with The Chocolate Drawer have shown at my previous job.

2015-03-30 - Step 6

But when it comes to initials, the only way to consume them is all in one go.
That’s my story.
And I’m sticking with it.

…Back Again

I was looking forward to my Body Attack class for Tuesday evening, right up until Marayong on the train. I pick up my laptop backpack and have a telltale twinge in my back that I’ve come to respect as a sign to straighten up and pray it’s not too late to avert certain doom.

Although the evening takes a different course from the one I had planned, I don’t think anything more of it. Two episodes of House, M.D. – “It’s not Lupus”, and a failed attempt at doing some work (dev environment in some inconsistent state I couldn’t figure out right then), and feeling very weary by 9:30pm. I go to bed early.

I spend an hour doing that thing where you have audio playing that you think you’re actually listening intently to, staving off sleep… but then you startle awake and realise you’ve missed the first two questions-and-answers of the Writing Excuses podcast, and you just cannot bring yourself to fiddle with the controls to reset it to the start. I take it as a sign I should actually sleep and turn the audio off altogether.

At 3am, I know I am going to be in trouble. I wake up flat on my back, and my back has seized up completely. I have a 15 minute internal dialogue with myself about what to do next. I consider staying flat, but my back is feeling very uncomfortable. I consider rolling over but am dreading the feeling of using my shoulders to push myself around. I consider getting up to go to the toilet; damn, bladder full as well, just what I need.

No matter the circumstances, I almost never forget to think ahead.

I swing my legs over the side of the bed, and somehow manage to swivel myself into a sitting position with minimal use of my back or shoulders. First, I switch off the alarm on my phone, because I doubt I’ll wake up at 6:30am this morning, and even if I do, I know I’m not going to be nimble enough to dive for the alarm in a timely fashion when it eventually rings. Then, I go to the toilet and seriously consider whether I can sleep upright to limit the tension in my back. Clearly 3am is not a time for reasoned arguments.

For the remainder of the night, I alternate rolling onto my left and right sides with long stretches on my back. Each time waiting until the discomfort grows to a level where it overcomes my fear of the twinges that’ll run through my back when I go for a roll. Adding to that, putting my top arm in front or behind my body is immediately punished with stabs along my arm and shoulder blade, and it makes for an interesting night of careful balance in a half-sleep-state.

I don’t even consider going to work when I finally get up at about 7:15. I leave a message to my team-lead and start working out what I can do to speed my recovery up.

Luckily, it turns out the place I get my massages has a free slot at 10am still, so I book that in first, and then head to the doctors’ office down the road after a shower that takes me to their opening hours.

I bring my Kindle to try and read, but holding it up hurts my shoulder, and balancing it on my knee hurts my neck. I uncomfortably read half a chapter by holding it resting on the top of my knee with my neck slightly tilted and my eyes rolled down. I’m sure I look like a bad version of the Mona Lisa. It feels odd. It still feels uncomfortable.

Luckily the waiting room is practically empty. I try to look at the people in the waiting room with me, but my head doesn’t want to turn further than 45 degrees either side. I stare at the morning shows on the television. I stare through the inane dialogue.

I get a prescription for rest and some Panadeine Forte.

I head out to my massage and arrive 30 minutes early, so I read uncomfortably some more, after taking 2 tablets. Three-quarters through the chapter my head feels swimmy and it feels like reality is my imagination. Deep breath. I fail to read further and listen to a podcast instead.

Getting a massage with Codeine in my system proves an interesting experience. I can feel all the knots, but none of the pain. It is surreal, but far from unpleasant.

I feel relaxed and less sore right now, still a little detached, and absolutely determined to take carrying my backpack properly more seriously. It occurs to me that all those times I traveled to Melbourne and had back aches afterwards probably had little to do with the hotel beds, but everything with the fact I carry my luggage on my right shoulder only. It doesn’t feel heavy to my brain, but clearly my muscles privately have a different opinion. I’ll listen to them more from now on.

Agility

I joined Blackbeard only recently.

I was looking for a new challenge, and I found it in the Inn where he was resting his party with Friday beers and cheese platters. He was looking to take on an Epic quest, and could use all the skilled hands he could get.

His party was an unfamiliar mix of classes to me, which has something to do with agility and sprinting. I cannot argue with the results of a mixed party I have seen so far.

It is still early days, and I joined well into the current campaign. But the Stories of our Epic goal are enough to inspire a renewed sense of purpose in me.

I’m part of Team Blackbeard, our quest is bringing flawless E-Mayl to the masses.
(I think it’s a precious stone or something. I’m not entirely clear yet.)

Starting at Campaign Monitor

Commute

I made the right call when I was first offered the job late 2013; that is not to say that there is anything wrong with the job per-se, because Campaign Monitor has already proven an awesome place to work. The commute would have killed me 6 months in.

Tuesday - fresh muffins with breakfast
Tuesday – fresh muffins with breakfast

On Monday morning, I made it from home to work in 70 minutes, door to door. Not bad, but not quite the 60 minutes I thought achievable. My manager suggested I try a different route home, which due to evening traffic also came to 70 minutes, and sadly a missed Pilates class.

Then this morning, Google told me to expect 1h42m, to which I scoffed “No Way”.
Alas, “Yes Way”… multiple incidents and accidents, hints and allegations later, 90 minutes door-to-door.

I am somewhat hopeful after a 60-minute commute this afternoon that I can fine-tune this a little further for the next 4 weeks after which the office will move to a gorgeous new CBD location. I am considering waking up at the not-a-real-time of 6:30am so that I can start early, finish early, and hopefully mostly avoid the traffic both ways.

A small limited-duration sacrifice to the sleep gods may be warranted. And limiting my gym classes to Tuesday evening and the weekend for now.

Food

This job comes with breakfast and lunch included.

And not just something quickly thrown-together either. The Three Chefs start their day at 7am, first to make breakfast and coffee orders for 8:30am, then to make lunch for 12:30pm, and finally an afternoon snack and coffee at 2:30pm.

Tuesdays' menu - I can still smell the lamb ribs on my t-shirt
Tuesdays’ menu – I can still smell the lamb ribs on my t-shirt

It’s definitely better fare than I’d be able to buy myself for an average $10, and it’s not costing me anything. It’s also a great time to sit down and chat with co-workers. Sadly I am horrendous with names, and I’m sure I’ll have to be reminded for a while longer… but it’s a great way to get to know my coworkers.

There is an internal web page where the menu for the week is published, and from what I understand the chefs do not like repeating themselves, so I am looking forward to never having the same lunch again. Also, probably healthier than I’d otherwise eat (mostly).

Learning Curve

Getting started is always a bit intimidating, when you come in feeling like you know nothing. The Engineering department has a buddy system in place though, so I have someone to ask when I need to figure something out.

There have been a few false starts where I needed a hand, but otherwise, the internal Wiki is amazingly comprehensive. I have learned an awful lot already in only two days from just poking around.

DiSC - 6515 - Creative (apparently!)
DiSC – 6515 – Creative (apparently!)

Today I had my first one-on-one with my team lead. Having used Manager Tools myself, I already knew what to expect. And I had seen many staff with DiSC profiles displayed in their windows, so I asked if I should get one of those done as well.

“Oh sure, there is a Wiki page, and here are the credit card details… just make sure you send an invoice to myself and the accountant when you’ve bought something.”

*blink* … no red tape indeed!

Culture

Which brings me to CM culture.

Friendly and relaxed does not even begin to describe it. “We’re all smart adults here” might as well be the company motto. The change feels a little disorienting to me, but I’m sure I will adapt quickly enough.

Dress code is: “whatever you are comfortable in” (within reason, of course, see “smart adult” above), but there are plenty of staff in t-shirts, shorts and no-shoes.

Tomorrow's Lunch - Sous Vide chicken.
Tomorrow’s Lunch – Sous Vide chicken.

I have been invited to try ping-pong, XBox, after-work trainer sessions… So far, I have politely declined while I get my bearings a bit more and work out my commute and sleep patterns.

But I already know, I’m right at home.

Last Day

I cannot exactly say that 8 weeks felt like the blink of an eye. They definitely felt like A-Long-Time-tm.

And I feel a little guilty about how little of consequence I have done with it, but not too much.

I have managed to re-establish a workable gym routine that had been suffering from too many interruptions last year from around August till November. I can actually do Body Attack again without dying, and my legs feel mostly okay after an hour.

I have read a half dozen fairly lengthy books from the large pile I was indirectly gifted by my former co-workers (a gift certificate well spent!)

I have watched way too many movies, way too much TV, and had a few nice do-nothing days along the way too.

And most importantly, I feel completely relaxed.
Which bodes well for tomorrow, the coming month, and the years beyond.

Campaign Monitor, here I come!
I must remember to take pictures along the way.

My Campaign Monitor Adventure – Soon

The original plan would have been to start at my new job in the CBD last Monday (2nd Feb), but speaking to the recruiter uncovered that the interior decorating in the CBD was running later than anticipated, to the tune of early March. He suggested splitting the difference and starting Feb 16th, which sounded fine to me.

I’m starting to get back into a working frame-of-mind.

Yesterday I had a social engagement in the CBD and Abbey and I decided to take the Parramatta ferry in for a nice slow ride, and I took the opportunity to snap some shots of what I believe are our offices-to-be… there aren’t that many buildings around Hyde Park high enough.

Corner of Elizabeth and Park
Corner of Elizabeth and Park

I’m looking forward to these offices. The CBD is too far from where I live to spend much time there, but there is a lot of charm to the idea of being able to spend some time over lunch in Hyde Park… it’s right outside the door after all.

Well-used park
Well-used park

And I like the fact that city-dwellers actually use the park as well. Late in the afternoon the lawns were littered with people by themselves and in small groups reading or talking. And a larger group gathering near the reflecting pond seemed to be getting ready for exercise. I didn’t wait around to find out for sure though.

Plenty of shade among the massive trees.
Plenty of shade among the massive trees.

And the park has some wonderful shade as well. It was overcast yesterday, but I’m sure even on a sunny day a skin-safe spot can be found on one of the many benches strewn about the walkways.

But first… three weeks of commuting to Sutherland by car.

I’m sure I’ll be too engrossed in getting up to speed to notice much of it, and it’ll be a nice opportunity to spend some time in their original offices before they become “former”.

“Sadly”, the new offices will apparently not have personal offices, but be organised around teams from what I understand. I look forward to finding out what that looks like.

Despite the many articles recently floating around the internet slamming open-plan offices, I’m not too worried either way. I just came from open-plan and I’m sure I will be able to find the occasional quiet corner for deep thoughts to be thought; it’s just a matter of picking up the laptop and going for a walk.

Worst-case scenario I guess I could wander into the park, although I’m not sure the WiFi will reach all the way down.

Sand, Morocco, Distressed Cat and 2 Cellos

A soothing week for sure. With a thumping rock ending.

I managed to catch two nice sunny days down the coast past Nowra. I walked about 25km along the waves listening to my podcasts; I got some weird looks, and I felt a little guilty that I wasn’t just focusing on the rushing waves. But I had a 5 hour episode about the first world war to listen to, so clearly… something.

It amazes me how relaxing I can find being away from my internets (within reason).

I have also noticed a very interesting difference in how this holiday feels. There a fundamental difference between a holiday after which I have to return to the to-do list of work items that are still on my plate, and this holiday that is more like a full reset in that regard. Even a week in I already felt completely unburdened of thinking about work, where earlier holidays I’d still have that partition in the back of my head keeping track of the things I had to get back to and how much longer I could afford not to think about them. It’s a bit like trying not to think about a pink elephant.

On Friday Abbey and I did something very different on our holiday down the coast. We went to a Moroccan cooking class. Due to some stroke of fate I got “stuck” with making the ice cream for our 3 course meal. I almost said something, but I decided to just roll with it and politely nod to all the ice-cream-making instructions. I also learned to make a few other interesting bits and pieces as well, so it wasn’t just ice cream all the time.

And tonight we came back to one very distressed cat.

Amber had managed to get locked in the top-side of the house where there was no food or water; I cannot even recall us closing the in-between door, so maybe she got in a fight with Obie and he closed the door on her? Luckily it was only for a few days, but she was still very sad/upset/glad-to-see-us … some extra water and nutrition and she’s back to herself already. Now there is just the little matter of her improvised litter-tray to deal with :/

And tonight the week got topped off with 2 Cellos … it is both exactly what it says on the tin, and completely different from what you might expect. Try YouTube. Imagine Cellos getting abused in different ways and then add-on thumping drum beats. It felt like they were trying to pre-emptively re-start my heart. Great fun.

Definitely a full week, so now for a little quiet back home.

Return to Old Form

I am returning to old favourites.

I have let my gym routine slide far too much over the last two-three months under the pressures of work; it’s important to do a good job, but I may have taken it a little too far. So, over my break, I am working on putting back together my exercise routine.

I have decided that Pump (weights) is not that important now. I have let some excess weight build up, and cardio is going to be my best new friend. And because my back has been suffering from a lack of flexibility as well, Yoga and Pilates are the other main pillar of my renewed routine.

I’ll have to work out how to integrate my routine with my commute to the city from Feb onwards, but I’m sure I’ll work something out.

And today was at long last the start of my own personal Wet’n’Wild season with Steven and Holly. I had been one time earlier in the season on a cold freezy day, which proved a bad plan. But so far December hadn’t been very lucky either… the weather has been too unpredictable and/or torrential. I think we vowed to work on the weekends over the coming months and get more sessions in.

I haven’t worked out any other resolutions just yet.

Time for a Job Change

So far, I have failed to talk about a very important change in my life.

After 11.32 years working in the Energy sector; at NEMMCO which later turned into AEMO (which you may occasionally spot in news articles if you are looking for it), it is time for me to go for a change.

It’s always harder to leave colleagues than companies.
Even when the benefits are generous, and a 5-minute commute is hard to beat.

I’m hoping to make my ex-colleagues envious next year with updates about my start at Campaign Monitor in the Sydney CBD (if I know you and you are out of an IT job… enquire within!)

Not that they aren’t already envious of the 6 weeks I will have off between finishing next Friday, and my start date somewhere around the start of February next year (I deserve a break after 11+ years). And their own explorations of the Campaign Monitor website have turned my co-workers to a series of mock exasperated exclamations regarding the benefits of my future employer.

I can’t wait to stretch my skills back into a commercial environment and see how far I can reach.