Archive for category Sunday Column

Sunday Column (467)

Another week in the run up to Christmas. It was a week I spent predominately at home, researching, studying and mulling over my coaching and consulting proposition. It was also a time of writing and outputting more content. On a personal note, if you haven’t done yet, please read and like/comment on the following articles, maybe even share it. No apologies for the shameless punt, but any exposure would be greatly appreciated, despite the Drum feeding me exciting figures back already. What I write resonates within the industry, that is good to hear!

* DMP/CDP post in the Drum
* Consulting and Career post in the Drum
* Growth Mindset

Why I write about data, and hopefully I embark on a few data projects moving forward, is because it becomes key to programmatic execution and is now available at scale and quality. Two factors that haven’t been met over the past few years. That is where programmatic comes into full play.

The other article is more about a shift in our industry. Just this week I spoke to someone who took redundancy at a big tech company this summer, who joined a start up which might be sold again. It is a cycle of exits, M&A and redundancies on the back of it, unrelated to your quality of work. This is madness compared to what a career was supposed to look like according to the old view of the world, but has it changed. Let me know!

Change is everywhere and with everyone. Like a butterfly we are on a constant metamorphosis.

Yet hold on a minute. Another interesting conversation this week suggested that the career is dead and that it doesn’t matter what you do, how you do it but that you do it. To not miss the boat, to take a risk and overcome fear (despite having a family and a mortgage) to gamble essentially on the big exit. Can it be done? Did we all miss the boat on Bitcoin. Guess not all of us. I just heard about someone investing a cheeky £1,000 a couple years back, now not having a mortgage. But hold on a second, when do we know if something like Bitcoin takes off, something like Facebook etc. How much of a gamble are you willing to take and how do you cheat the system? Or, as a matter of fact, can you actually cheat the system or is it all down to luck? Can you influence luck through the LOA (law of attraction) and by playing the lottery and being a good person?

You can see that I am throwing around some buzzwords, connecting the world of believe with the world of realism. Not sure if that is the best way of putting it, but what would we have to change in our ‘personal’ system and view of the world to make the output of what we are doing just ever so slightly better. To take a punt on something like Bitcoin, or gamble on predictable things. Latter is an oxymoron isn’t it.

I am fascinated by that idea. For me, and I had enough time on my hands this week to think about it, the barriers of business and personal development, to overcome fear and building your own system into the greater macro system (see my book on #BeBetter), is an ever increasing key to success. On the back of that revelation, I started working on a framework around my book to apply to high performance achievers moving forward. Plus, I am having my first concept of a new idea at the ready to be launched in Q1. I have been busy and I will keep you posted. These are exciting times. The plan is to relaunch the ‘Ballueder’ brand with some exciting content, alongside some kind of job of course.

On other parts of my life, I manage to uphold my exercise routine and try very hard to not slack on bad food intake. It is all about what you buy and have in the cupboard, the accessibility of junk food. We are getting better at that. I increased my weekly runs to 30K in total plus two gym sessions. I find it hard but know that I will have a week off over Christmas where all I do is accompany the wife for some longer, yet slower runs. I’ll be fine and my body will have time to recover and soak up Christmas food and drinks. It is the festive season after all 🙂

Being able to take the kids to school most days, making their lunch and becoming part of their daily life, is great to get engaged. When working in London every day, I didn’t have that. Or less of it, thanks to the commute and long hours at work. I think I will get back to that at some point, however whilst it lasts, I am more than happy to enjoy the engagement and what I can do to help on a daily basis. It makes me think what life would be like to live in the country side, have a local job and be home for dinner every night – but as my wife said it would do my head in, as I am just wired completely different. So it is what it is. And she is right.

On that note I hope you are all well, getting your presents sorted and enjoy the quieter time.

Have a great week.
Love and kindness from my corner of the world.

Volker

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Sunday Column (466)

We are expecting the coldest night this year…or by time of reading, we would have had it. Nice, finally winter, and again from tomorrow it should get warmer. Is that global warming? Is that the beginning of the end? Anyway, the cold days are lovely, particularly if you have time to spend it with the family in front of a fire, after attending the annual ‘Light Up Hassocks’, the annual pre Christmas fair.

Some of you have noticed my more spiritual approach to things, my motivational quotes on Instagram. I have daily mantras, LOA (law of attraction) and believe the mindset is key to survival, future developments and success. Part of it is getting out of bed at 5 am – despite not working 9-5, I am still getting up at 5 am, go running or do my weights. It is getting harder, mainly because I challenge myself a bit more, but also because it is so cold. However, the effort is worth it, my circumference is back down to where it was a year ago, my weight is on track. I stopped counting calories and continue the journey. That’s what it is: a journey to weight loss, a healthier life. The bigger picture: a journey of life to survive, to live happily.

Having time is one thing. Starting a business is another. And combining the start of a business with having time is a good thing, I suppose, as you can focus on the business and have time for it too. Yet there is no income as you start and build your pipeline. There is time to do some training, hence I got a certificate for business and life coaching last week, but really I need to balance all those things “I would like to do” with “business essential things I want to do”. I am very positive about it. Before Christmas, there will be little work, and just enough to justify some business expenses. From January it looks more promising, and I am hoping to sign a contract before the end of next week.

What does that mean? It means I am now committed to work for myself in Q1. A big step. I am still keeping my ears to the ground, keeping that safety net with me. And, if there will be a big job, a great challenge, I could be tempted to go back into the security of a regular income. There are reasons for it, a master plan. I cross that bridge when I come to it, and running my own business also means I will be pickier in what I do. It comes as a gradual process going from doing a 6 months project at an agency to a 10 months project at an adtech provider to new projects next year. I just didn’t call them all consulting but essentially that is what it was. An article on that is still to come. I enjoy writing articles and hope you all read the one on DMP and CDP predictions for 2018?

There are some huge things I am learning at the moment and I am confident you can gain from that too.

– I see my kids almost every day and spend a lot more time with them. Hence I can have a lot more influence on their behaviour and teach them things about the growth mindset, personal development and watch them growing up. I am feeling blessed being able to do that. Also, I understand that will change again whether I do consulting work or a full time job. Either way I will be working more in London or abroad.

– I went through the exercise of a thorough understanding of my finances. Starting at ‘how much do we need’ and ‘how much are we willing to spend’ to ‘what’s the bare minimum’, questioning some of the things we have spend money on. I should add ‘I have spent money on’. Hence I deleted my Amazon app, as it makes it too easy to just spend a few quid here and there.

– Despite being in charge of my own time, I am not having more time. I fill the days with learning, chasing, working on databases, pitching new business and exploring everything I need to know about coaching. It is a fascinating stage and I have met some great people since starting this only 2 weeks ago.

– It puts your whole life in perspective. Thinking about the fear you have, the confidence you need, the admin you have to go through and what you are missing out on vs. what is important in your life. How do you define happiness, and how are you managing balancing fear and happiness?

Whatever comes out of the next 3+ months will be a huge amount of experience. No one prepares you for that, yet it is a mental exercise like no other. That’s it. If I end up with an employer in Q2/2018 then I have learned to much, that I add even more value than I would at the moment. If I continue as I am, then I hope I end up in two year’s time where I want to be. And from there, the sky is the limit.

You know, trusting yourself is a huge step. I always have done, and I am so grateful for the support from my family. It bolsters my confidence!

That’s my week really. How was yours?

Volker

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Sunday Column (465)

This week had a busy start, and a busy finish to be honest. I am starting to write on Monday night, which is late for me. No trains, no commute at the moment, still trying to figure out what I am going to do next. Strategizing life, guess that is one of my fortes, as I love strategizing. Taking a proposition to market. Turning around a market and making sure everyone is on board. People management. Process management. Allround talent for management. Team and individual coaching.

Hmm, what should I do?

I know my skills are there, and I also know – and speaking to a lot of industry friends lately – that my programmatic skills are there and they seem to be rare. Those paired with commercial acumen. Operations plus commercial. Running companies, managing big teams. I have never taken redundancy by being fired for being shit. It sometimes feels like that but I am not taking it personal, I had to let people go this year too. There is no guarantee and no stability anymore from what it looks like in the industry, which suggests to me that self-employment is the way forward. Essentially it is the same risk but with a higher reward. Plus I will be able to manage my own time. And I will be good in what I am doing, I am not worried about it. But there is fear to overcome, it is a big step being used to a senior exec salary, pension payment, and a life style. Having to pay a mortgage, putting kids through school and education and so on. Whilst I rummage about what I am going to do next, I think the there are a few full time positions still to consider. Why not being more focused, more directive and selective, and in the meantime embark on the self employed journey. Yes, this sounds like a plan!

I am open. Why wouldn’t I be? If you read that, you either are an industry friend, we met sometime ago or met randomly, or you are interested in reading my columns.
Then you might feel like you know me. So if you are reading that, from my perspective you are a friend, and with friends I am happy to share my feelings, my thoughts, my ideas. Because everyone has similar thoughts and feelings. I know I am not alone and no one is. Maybe you are in a similar situation – feel free to reach out and we grab a coffee. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am giving thanks to my friends who so far helped me on the way. Giving thanks for the opportunity I have had and that will be there to come. All beginnings are hard, but there is so much help out there, I am ever so grateful for. Thank you. Thank you.

I could tell you what I did this week and particularly on Monday, I did two school runs and had dinner with my boys. I don’t remember being home for tea time for a long time and it was good to spend that much time with the boys. I am really enjoying that. I feel like I am actually part of their lives rather than rushing to another plane or meeting. Those moments are very important for me, and I enjoy that time. I didn’t have much of that this year. Now it is all about balancing my time with the kids with a future employment. I want to be more with the kids, whilst also knowing it won’t always be feasible. Balancing this is scary and challenging but if I don’t try, I won’t succeed by default. So I must try and I have the time and finances to try it for a while. Things will work out in the end. They always will, one way or another.

So let’s look forward. Let’s conquer the fear and get over it. Christmas, quiet time, is around the corner. Time to reflect. Then there will be a new year, 2018. We still don’t have flying cars, and we yet have to invent teleporting, but recent videos of robots doing back flips and mini drones killing people based on facial recognition scares me. Having worked with AI (artificial intelligence), it shows what’s possible, what humans can do. It is about opportunity without fear, trusting that technology will be used in a good way, for good causes. I guess the future will tell.

Here is to the future. And to better blog posts, but that depends on the input.
Let next week be the week that takes me a step forward.

Have a successful, peaceful and great week ahead.

Volker

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Sunday Column (464)

Another week, another flight. Yes, you read correctly. As time of writing I sit on a cramped Easyjet flight back from Amsterdam. People smelling of stale cannabis and I wish I had booked a mid week flight rather than the ‘Monday after a long weekend from Amsterdam’ flight back. But I was only over for one day, one interview which turned into meeting people from the whole company. Worth the trip and experience. And when I say that, this isn’t necessarily that I got the job, as a matter of fact the positive noise in the meeting turned into a silence. It turned into something I knew would happened because I trust my gut. I trust myself and I know what I am doing. But when did you last turn down the chance for a final stage interview with a company for a big international role, a big salary because your gut told you not to? Anyway, consider it done.

However, nevertheless, the trip was very successful as it helped me in my decision making. As my former boss would say: Focus, Fight and Change the Conversation. That’s exactly what I am doing. More to come as things emerge over the next 6-8 weeks.

It finally got colder and the condensation is back in the house. We had to turn the pressure (speed) on our air distributor thingy up again. It also meant cosy nights with the fire on and it meant cold mornings in the gym. I am down in the garage 5 days a week now. 5×45 minutes of exercise. Slowly but surely I have the feeling that my body transforms, stabilises, I am getting somewhere, not gaining weight and not loosing more. That’s a good sign for me, at my age anyway 😉

Whenever you meet people in the industry, you always discover something new, or something you knew and look at it from a different perspective. I enjoy that challenge. I enjoy going out of my comfort zone and learn. Further I learned a lot about how people perceive me on LinkedIn. How one topic is seen as industry changing by some, yet hardly noticed by others. What I have been missing in some conversations this week is simple: the growth mindset. I am reading that book by Carl Dweck. The fixed mindset is about people believing their basic qualities, like intelligence or talent are simply fixed traits. The growth mindset is about people who believe their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. A love of learning. Like me, reading self development books and listening to podcasts all day long. You never stop learning.

Again, there will be more on that topic over the next few weeks. I am working on a concept to take this to the wider market, coaching and developing people. And people who want to be coached, want to learn. They want to develop. This week I spoke to mentors and coaches. I am getting the input I am looking for, the advice I was hoping for, but I only have 24 hours in the day. So I need to slow down, reflect, focus.

Life is about focus and about doing what you want to do and not what other people expect you to do. Life isn’t the way our parents perceived it and told us to perceive it. No fault of theirs, but that’s how it was. And what do I want to portrait to my kids. I vividly remember sitting with my mother in the living room and I said to her that when I come back from the exchange year in the US (I was 15 at the time), I might just become a car mechanic. She said that I should do at least A levels, and university or a good apprenticeship. A good foundation. She wasn’t wrong, and from what she knew then, this was the right thing to say. Now I wonder what would have happened if I did do a car mechanic apprenticeship. Maybe I would own a few garages now, making more money than I ever made.

However, there is something else: opportunity costs. Money is only one part of the greater life equation. How much money does one have to earn to compromise happiness? Which figure can you put on it? Can you really? Tell me. Direct message me and tell me how much your happiness is worth to you. And then put that money on the table and let me help you find it. Deal?

So how does a life look like for me 2 years from now? Ideally I work with a variety of companies in one capacity or another. Board memberships, non executive roles, advisory boards, hands on consulting and strategy, positioning, connecting and selling….a variety of things to make sure that companies are represented the way they should be. Additionally I would work with companies on corporate and cultural development. Coaching their employees to perform better. 1-2-1 sessions, analysing profiles etc. I would very much enjoy that plus management coaching. I have been coaching friends for a long time and mentored many, however there is so much more I can bring to someone’s life by helping them discover and connect with their inner purpose, connecting to their systems, and discovering happiness.

The right things come to your life for a reason, and at the right time. Be patient. Trust your gut and trust yourself.

To exciting times. More as my positioning is strengthening.

Love and happiness from my corner of the world,
Volker

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Sunday Column (463)

Good evening. Sunday night and as usual a busy week for me. To start out with a summary, my Monday was super busy. Working from home to get an air ventilation system installed that pumps dry air into our house in order to reduce condensation and therefore the build up of mould around the windows. We don’t have a huge problem with that so the unit we got should solve it and I am excited to slowly but surely finalise the house and get it into the ‘perfect’ state. So far it is working fantastically. I know it sounds like a daunting task but over the years you want to know what’s going on in your house and make sure the systems are running smoothly and the heating is working, the lights, etc. – guess it is my German efficiency and I just want to keep it in good repair I suppose. Sad life but as I enter middle age, the house is becoming a priority 🙂

I also added some new features to our spare bedroom in order to display my Lego model I build and also to declutter my desk, anticipating I might work from home more often again. Then I don’t want to anticipate too much, as I am still not sure what I will or want to be doing next. My last official day was on Friday, so 10 months, two jobs (running operations and Germany), and some great people and experience. I worked my butt off, flew to Germany every week and I feel like I accomplished something for the company. Some people said to me that this isn’t fair, however it is a job, and life in business isn’t always fair, is it? I never thought about it, as my thoughts are about the future, about what I will focus on moving forward. No point of looking back, I cannot change the past.

Having a few drinks with the crew, reading the leaving cards and looking at a fantastic leaving present (a nice bottle of whiskey), I cannot resist to say thank you. The team has been fantastic, a great time at Rocket Fuel, a great culture and fantastic people. Thank you. You have been fantastic. It is a small industry and paths will cross again. If I am not misinterpreting the notes, I had a positive impact on most of my staff. For that I am truly greatful. Not often can you look back and think you made an impact on someone’s life or people’s life for the better. Gave them some thoughts, some advice or just helped them to get perspective. And as always, I am happy to continue this and be there as an advisor or mentor moving forward. Don’t hesitate to reach out. My mobile is the same and most of us are now connected on various channels. Thank you once again.

Coincidental with me having my last week at work, my wife had 4 shifts to work. That meant school / child minder runs every day with the boys. Great times and thinking about it, I really enjoy waking them up in the morning and having that one on one time with them. We adding more of that individual time too, so moving forward I plan to take the youngest to Karate on a Saturday morning. Not long I will find something with the oldest too. I think that’s super important to build the bond and trust with the main priority in my life (see article on LinkedIn too).

Then I attended an industry event this week. Wow. I am impressed. Or not. I know I have been in programmatic coming up 10 years, but really, the amount of “non existing knowledge” is crazy (and no this is not lack of knowledge from the host or speakers!). Lotame invited for an amazing industry event which really show cased what needs to be done on the data side of things. However, the comments coming from the audience and some of the panel members set me back years. I had an interview earlier that day asking me about how many industry relationships I have and how many people I know, and how much I know about certain tech providers. Maybe it is stating the obvious, but if I need to speak to any industry tech or need my way into any agency, I find a way. Yet even the best relationships won’t get you a deal. I am sales by trade and I know people. People know me, this is surely not a criteria to employ or not to employ me. I have so much more to offer: leadership, management skills, processes, fun, industry knowledge, connections above and beyond and knowledge how to sell technology. Oh yes, I do listen to customer needs and if I don’t know I only sell once the integration or product team actually gave their go ahead. Sales pitch over 😉

Anyway, in the process of networking and knowing people, now that I don’t really manage people at Rocket Fuel anymore, I add them on Facebook. It seems to be a nicer way to connect and be part of people’s life, rather than the ‘professional’ LinkedIn. Latter is becoming cluttered with similar posts to Facebook and is moving into that direction. I wonder where we end up in years to come, if Snapchat can close the age gap and become an important platform, or if a newcomer will enter the market. Who knows. As with most things in the industry, you cannot predict the future or the outcome.

As the week comes to a close I reflect. It has been a good week. A good 10 months. Life is good, and I am healthy and happy. The house is better and I can put my last 10 months aside to focus on my next … 10 years maybe. The future is key and it is going to happen. I might not know how yet but it will and we will be alright. We always will be. Believe.

Things happen for a reason.

Have a great week,
Volker

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Sunday Column (462)

How are we all? My webanalytics and the feedback I receive from friends and family suggest that the amount of people reading my blog is increasing. Thanks for listening to my rants, my moans, my diaries and my joys and attempts to be a modern philosopher. I love sharing. My life, my joys and my experience. I enjoy giving and seeing others strive. And I am a firm believer that as everyone around you grows, you grow with them. We are all in it together. One team, one dream. One world. My mentor Darren Hardy said it just this week, give and you will be given. As I state in my book, I believe life is a closed system. Anything that goes out, comes back to you. LOA = Law of Attraction. The first time I learned that was in my mechanical engineering studies, it is the first chapter in technical mechanics. Simple really, the equilibrium of forces.

But my engineering and university times are long gone. This week I had another cold. Didn’t we just have a gorgeous weather spell? Warm weather in November, and bang, another cold. After I recovered from my stomach bug, which I now found out others caught in Belgrade too, I managed to catch a cold. Just as it is in full swing it gets really cold outside, killing the last germs there are. The weather is worrying. I don’t remember having this warm weather as a child, and this is only 20-30 years. Global warming is real, and as a teenager I used to protest against the use of FCKW or CFC in English (chlorofluorcarbons), the gas causing the greenhouse effect. And as always, my thoughts on the Monday morning train are drifting to ‘where is it best for us to live if it gets worse’, thinking about Brexit too. Just as the latest rumour hit me last weekend, that allegedly we are moving to New York. Yeah, I’d love to but not with the kids I don’t think. Particularly with the latest terror attack. No, we are not having any plans to leave this country anytime soon, but the Economist just had an article stating that the ones that can leave are more likely to do so. And the ones that can, are the ones that have a good education, well paid jobs and whose skills are in demand. This is the same when mergers happen between companies: the good people don’t have to worry, they move on or do something else. Retaining talent is the difficult part.

But not all is doom and gloom. As the week moved on I managed to sort my thoughts out a bit. This isn’t always the easiest in the current situation. However, on the other side I have time for a lot of reflection and thinking. Actually, I managed to figure out a few tricks on how to be even more productive on LinkedIn, Gmail, Inbox etc. Whilst doing that I also enlisted some support from friends to sort my thoughts. Isn’t it just amazing what some talking and coaching can do to you. And it isn’t that I just speak to them when I need help. As my mentor Darren Hardy would say, help others first, then help yourself. I believe I wrote about that last week or if not, I have an article on LinkedIn which goes live soon. Actually life is pretty good, and I am not complaining. Just a bit uncertain at the moment, but I got lots of encouragement from friends and colleagues this week. It was also nice to hear some positive feedback. Thanks guys and please share the blog if you like it, it would be nice to increase the readership steadily.

We had a few leaving drinks this week for people who have been at my company for 6+ years. I of course haven’t been with the company that long, and it is great to see what culture there used to be and what friendships have been established over the years. And culture was the focal point for me this week when speaking to a friend of mine who I haven’t spoken for a long time. She is dedicating a lot of her time to cultural coaching, and how to change and establish great, successful cultures in companies. Not an easy task and something I write soon about on LinkedIn, speaking about the podcast ‘Eat Sleep Work Repeat’. The dots are starting to connect, I am able to bridge two worlds it seems. Life is moving in a good direction, good vibes. A nice night out with loads of the old crew showing up, many familiar faces. This is the beginning, not the end. Something excitingly new, as we leave the old.

On another note, one night this week I treated myself to some German music. I have been discussing listening to German folk, Reinhard Mey, a few time, and sitting on the late train, reflecting on his stories about his families…makes me think how much the boys enjoyed Halloween this week. Something we never celebrated back in Germany when I was younger, plus something I am not too fussed about. Yet I was able to help them with the carving of the pumpkins, eating the sweets and giving them confidence that their scary designs are great. Whilst I reflect on that and listen to Reinhard how he picks up his son from the train home from university, I manage to reflect deeper on my upbringing and how things have changed since I was a boy in Germany. All that growing up is to come with my two, but I don’t want to wish my life away – as he says “you sometimes only ever realise your luck and happiness when you see it from the outside”.

This is true. When you enjoying life and you are in the midst of it, you forget how great things are and how much you are enjoying them. And I have been focusing on how lucky I am, having my two amazing boys and my lovely wife and the life I am living. My first priority in life. Hence it was good to be able to work from home this week to do a school run and help with some smaller bits in the house. Life is good, and one should never forget how many people don’t have such a good life. So I am entirely grateful for the life I am allowed to be living. The warmth we have, the food we eat, the wine we drink, the clothes we wear. Never take anything for granted.

Before I close there was another sentimental thought this week. The poppy season is upon us and as the November morning are getting gloomy, there was a huge collection effort at Victoria station. Many soldiers in uniform, clean uniforms and polished shoes, silent, standing there collecting for the Poppy Appeal. It takes me back doing the same in Germany. When I was in the Navy. A lot of people might not know but I am one of the last generation of Germans who had to serve for at least 10 months or do social services. I used to be a radio operator in the German navy. Clean, tidy uniforms and polished shoes. Collecting money for a good cause similar to the Poppy Appeal here. Those were different times, and it is over 20 years ago. But the discipline, the routine and the mindset hasn’t faded much.

There is a commitment, an inner urge to serve and be grateful for what you have. To help others and stand up for what you believe in. I do. To this day. And fight for freedom. Having lived in the US, there is more acknowledgment for the armed forces, where if a soldier eats in a restaurant and wears his/her uniform, someone from the public would naturally pick up the bill. To say thanks for the freedom they provide. For protecting it in the future. To potentially give their life for others.

Long this may continue and lets remember all soldiers next week on Remembrance Sunday that fought for our freedom and for us being able to live in peace for as long as we have. Let’s be grateful for what we have. Always.

Have a great week ahead.
Volker

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Sunday Column (461)

No train on Monday. This week was half term, and I damn well enjoyed myself. Sorry, but I really did. Let’s start with last weekend, when on Sunday we went off to Bracknell to the UK’s longest water slide. A bit of shopping first, and then we headed to the pool, which turned out to be a bit disappointing and the slides a bit dangerous with both boys falling off the rafts inside the slides. Nevertheless, the swimming was fun, lots of water plays and two tired boys at night. That night I managed to sleep close to 10 hours myself and prior to that we had a great steak and chips evening in the Beef Eater adjacent to our Premier Inn. What a way to start a short vacation, and despite previous experience, the Premier Inn was really nice. And unlimited chips too (so much about my diet 🙂 ).

On Monday and Tuesday we were in Legoland. I so desperately wanted to stay in the hotel, that we decided to do that over half term and we chose an adventure room. It was fun, a great themed hotel room, a riddle to open the safe for a toy, and two days of rides and food. What not to enjoy? The possibility to spend time with my two boys and the wife was great. I haven’t had that for a long time and feel like I have been away too much travelling recently. But that is going to stop for a few weeks I suppose, that’s what I think anyway. So time to make up for it and even go down a roller coaster ride. Really? Yup, I did, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. And if I am not mistaken, it was the first time I ever went on a roller coaster. I know…I am a bit of a chicken when it comes to fairground rides. The Ninjago ride/game was great, despite the 90 minute queuing time and the laser ride in the pyramids was fun as well. Probably my two most favourite rides. Yes, Legoland is a great place to be, but after two days, I was done with it. I had enough to be honest. I was “lego-d” out. The most fascinating bit was probably the Star Wars exhibition.

The last day of my half term we went to London to get the boys new German passports. With Brexit lurking and the world being a not so safe place, you never know which passport will be best in the future. So off we went and also spend a sunny day on the Southbank. A boat ride, a relaxed swing on the exhibition in the Tate Modern and lots of tube and train journeys. Just what the boys enjoyed. We skipped the Emperial War Museum and saved it for a rainy day. Yes, another successful day, and three tired out boys in the family 🙂 Time to go back to work, so I did exactly that on Thursday. Not without having a huge pizza and some wine on Wednesday. Back to the diet as of tomorrow, right?!

At time of writing I am still looking back at the experience. What a fun packed week, and when leaving the house on Friday morning after my run, the boys and the wife were still asleep, catching up on the much needed sleep and dealing with the experience of the week. What fun we had! Even a few days away can make such a difference and on the back of it we ignited the Lego fun again. My wife organised a new shelf to organise the Lego and I got myself the BMW R1200 Lego Technic motorbike to build for the weekend. The boys and I put it together on Saturday and on the way I explained them how engines work, mechanics works and what traction for wheels is like. Time to get my hobby car, the Jaguar. Maybe next spring depending on the situation moving forward. We shall see.

As they say, life happens when you are busy making other plans.

And as I read the papers, the noise around a no Brexit deal is getting louder. There is a chance for Brexit, maybe even later than 2019, and there is a chance for a no Brexit deal or even a no Brexit. Two options to not go ahead, or really one to go ahead without a deal and one without a Brexit if that makes sense. I believe that slowly this country comes around and realises the implications a Brexit might have, and that already a lot of banks moved to Europe in order to avoid the uncertainty.

Uncertainty, whether one is out of a job, looking for the next step, waiting to hear about some results, or living in a country to exit a union, is never a good situation. It is, as it says, uncertainty. A situation where one doesn’t know what happens and naturally humans seek security and certainty. Yes, we also need uncertainty, and the 6 human needs clearly show it, but mostly in a controlled fashion in forms of adventure or entrepreneurship. We don’t want to live with constant uncertainty, at least most people don’t. In other words, living in a country with an uncertain future and having an uncertain future, is a combination that doesn’t make life easier. Should one stay or should one go, carry on or do something new? With every uncertainty comes opportunity and as my boss used to say, change is good. Life is good too, did you notice that? Where focus goes, energy flows.

I watched a video recently where, in an experiment, people were put on a line and everyone who had to never worry about money, always had food, always could go to school, never had to worry about a roof over their head etc. took a step forward for each of those priviliges. Priviliges they cannot even pat themselves on the back for. Having a warm home, enough food and the ability to learn gives my children a head start. I am glad I can provide that and hope that in the future I can do even more. Because they are my first priority in life, and nothing should ever change that.

So before I go on about uncertainty and priviliges, I look at the upcoming sun, with a mind like water, and trust that the universe will help me to get where I am supposed to be in the future.

Love and Kindness from my corner of the world,
Volker

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Sunday Column (460)

I don’t even want to start with….Monday again 😉 I love sitting on the Monday morning train. I did my 7.5K run this morning and had a mixed weekend. A stomach bug and feeling quite run down. Not as relaxing as I hoped. However, there is a silver lining: my MIL was visiting this week and helped us with the kids. The other silver lining is that there is no travel planned for a while – at least not for work and not on a plane. Isn’t that nice? Even though coming to the end of the year with no more flights, I would on average (!) have done a trip every other week over the year. What I get in return is experience. And the nice thing about experience: it will help you connect the dots moving forward. As Steve Jobs says, in times of uncertainty and unrest, when you don’t know what happens in the future and how the dots will be connected, you need to trust your gut. You need to trust your heart, your inner self and that things will work out and the dots connect moving forward. And they always will. Believe!

I took a sick day this week as well. If I say sick day, I stayed home for two days, really WFH (working from home), so not getting as much rest as I should have. I had a bug lurking around since my trip to Belgrade and it was going on all week. I couldn’t shake it off. I dragged myself in on Monday and Thursday, feeling that I should but I don’t think my body appreciated it too much. I also tried drinking Coca Cola which I hadn’t done in many years, and it was awful. And it didn’t help. I thought I’d try, after all it was invented as medicine. At that stage I would have tried almost anything. One of my former managers used to say: you are worth nothing to the company being ill or not feeling 100%. Take care of yourself first before taking care of others and the business. And he is right. When in an airplane, do you ever watch the safety instructions where they tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before helping others? That’s the way to do it: you cannot help others if you aren’t up for it. Did I mention this was the first “proper” sick day in this job? And this besides the extensive travel? I guess I am doing ok then, and my immune system is up to scratch 🙂 The reason I am saying this is because a few years back I didn’t take care of myself and ended up being ill for weeks on end. That has changed. Mens sana in corpore sano. The exercise, better eating, more active life style, less booze. It pays off to look after yourself!

But let’s talk about some positive things. 10 years ago this week I wed my wife. A few years before we met when I was a bouncer at the first O’Neil’s in the UK, in Aberdeen. I remember meeting her in the summer of 2003, just as I had finished my first degree, and I thought, I’d like to see her again. For whatever reasons she didn’t come back to the club until February the following year. The rest is history. No, the culture clash wasn’t easy, but there was such a strong attraction that we even made it despite living apart in the first year we met: London and Wellington, New Zealand. When she came back, we got engaged, bought a house, had kids and lived (and continue to do so hopefully) …. happily ever after I suppose. She is an amazing woman. Very patient as you can imagine and very good with the kids. A supporting pillar without which I couldn’t have coped in life so far and I never want to miss her moving forward. I haven’t met a kinder, more caring person and 10 years on I love her more than ever before. Here is to the next 10! Thank you love!

Oh, and what I think the secret to a good marriage is? Fight regularly, make up regularly, and marry someone with a different mindset but same values. The latter is maybe the 80% that counts, as if your values don’t align, how do you bring up your kids or decide on anything?

On Friday, and thanks to Imodium 🙁 , we went out for a nice meal at Le Gavroche and also stayed the night in London, coming back home after a lovely breakfast. The experience at Le Gavroche was amazing. Besides a superior service and food to die for, the experience was worth the visit itself. The restaurant is run like clockwork. The staff are super trained and don’t miss the tiniest thing. Friendly, chatty and non pretentious. It makes it the best (posh) restaurant I have ever been to, and I would come back to this relaxed atmosphere anytime again. The flavours and composition of food were amazing and in a way you only get in a French cuisine. Thank you to my wife for wanting to go there. What a splendid night.

It is nice to just take a day to connect again, to only worry about ourselves, not the kids and knowing the kids are in good hands (MIL). It was really nice! After the week I had, it was good to just chill, and we even got some shopping in.

What’s next for me? As most people know there are changes coming up. And, there are still so many projects I’d like to do: like writing another book, doing the plastic model I haven’t started yet, spending more time with the kids making up for the travel, and doing the school runs to help the wife. And there are other projects lurking, so we shall see. The dots always connect looking backwards.

In other news, we saw some great skies in Europe this week, a red sun caused by hurricane Ophelia carrying Sahara sand. It was a bit gloomy on Monday and my youngest got really scared. Just as he got excited about Halloween. Poor him 🙁 It is so interesting to watch how we (us humans) react to the change of light and associate it with danger and the end of the world. Deep down we are very much connected with our blue planet and everything happening on it. We don’t call it Mother Earth for no reason. I would have loved to be on a plane this week – I know this contradicts what I said above – as someone was describing how beautiful it was to watch the phenomenon from up there. Maybe ironic that I didn’t travel this week.

So a proper mixed week. Feeling ill most of the week, sorting some stressful things out, worrying a lot about things, and trying to balance that with normal life. But what is normal these days. It isn’t easy sometimes. Life isn’t just straight forward, that would be too nice, wouldn’t it? Or boring, really. But guess that’s what it is. I had to cancel a lunch with a friend and I hate doing that, because a) I still didn’t feel right and b) I had a clash with work.

Life isn’t always fair, but we must make the most out of it. We need to sit back, relax, take a deep breath and be grateful for what we have, and what we have achieved. We have to look out for the ones that need our help and the ones we can help on the way. I am a firm believer that if you help others, then others will help you. And everything in life happens for a reason. You attract goodness in your life by giving goodness to others, you are attracting good things. Closing the loop.

In that sense, have a good week ahead,
Volker

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Sunday Column (459)

Monday again – ok Sunday when you start reading this. A mixed week is behind me which started with a Monday flight to Belgrade, Serbia. I have never been, heard a lot and went to see the operations office of the company, Sizmek, that acquired the company I work for, Rocket Fuel.

As a VP Client Success I joined Rocket Fuel back in January, anticipating that they either sell or be taken private. I have seen their history from being a competitor to being a partner to being a supplier and knew most of the people there. And I have been around in programmatic for 7 years, so a good fit I thought, but also a bit risky. Then the sale happened this summer and we are now part of Sizmek, backed by a P.E. Company (Private Equity) which originally took Sizmek private last year. So we have two ex public companies joining forces to build the biggest independent demand side stack in the programmatic space. This is a very promising proposition and I was very excited to be part of this. A great proposition.

With my commercial background and in depth operational knowledge, I was hired to align the back office, operations and analytics, with key accounts to drive further growth. Using my commercial acumen with the understanding of the space and experience of how to run campaigns, aligning back office with client growth. We never quite completed that as I was pulled in to run the German office where I successfully managed a turn around. So two senior jobs since the beginning of the year, lots of travel, lots of time away from the family. Now, the structure moving forward will look different. Less client success, more of an operations and sales divide. So things will change with the company and ultimately for me.

Belgrade. Air Serbia, and again a bit of nerve wrecking when my ticket had a spelling mistake, but everything was fine, and a very hard landing with squeaking brakes. I trust old planes 😉 Air Serbia got me there and back again. Belgrade is a city which on first sight resembled the Eastern part of Berlin 20 years ago, yet it turned out to be beautiful and full of the nicest people ever. Lots of meaty food, lovely people and very rich on culture with influences from Russia, Turkey, Hungary and Greece. It took me back to a trip I made to Istanbul a few years back. The merger of East and West, the tradition, cultural influences from all over the region and the amazing, well flavoured food. I believe I got a good feel for the people and the country. Essentiallly, due to travel times, we only spend two days in the office, however those two days were action packed and we learned a lot.

You remember when I spoke about experience in last week’s blog? That’s what it is all about. Understanding. Listening. Sharing the glass of wine and good food. Making friends and bringing people together. An amazing trip, not only for work and the extension of what we are doing in main markets, but to understand the challenges and opportunities in the Serbian market.

What did I noticed most in terms of the cultural differences – besides a noisy hotel that felt like a youth hostel on the first night (and the manager emailed me to apologise) – people still smoke a lot and you can still smoke in restaurants and bars. Yes, this is more of a Southern culture I suppose. Funny how after only 10 years (the smoking ban was introduced in the UK in 2007), we got so used to having smoke free clothes. I quit chain smoking in 1998, then smoked on and off until about 2004 before I finally gave up. Even that is crazy to think now. And given the lack of sleep, I introduced a second espresso again, and I really needed it 🙂 Not only because of the noise but we wanted to make the most with our hosts to get to know them in and out of the office.

So you would agree I suppose that this week was action packed. Enjoyable, tiring, yet encouraging and full of learning. A roller coaster ride on emotions and reflection on strengths and experience. What else to ask for?

Over the forthcoming weeks I can be more detailed about some personal developments, plans and some ideas; I prepared a few posts on life, work and priorities. Christmas is coming up and Tesco has already filled a whole aisle with things that are Christmassy. Oh yes, the joyful season. We had friends over for dinner, went bowling and enjoyed this autumn weekend.

I hope you did too. It is great to hear from more and more people that they enjoy reading this column. For the forthcoming weeks, keep reading, I will go deeper on a few things. And feel free to let me know what you want me to write about.

Have an amazing week ahead,
Volker

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Sunday Column (457)

Monday Monday. Oh yes, nothing like a 2 hour drive in the taxi on a Monday morning to Heathrow. Longest ever; normally it takes 1.5 hours max. So a bit of adrenaline this week to get to my flight, which ended up boarding late, and everything was fine. Being rushed I ended up grabbing the wrong breakfast and feel just so much better about the week ahead 😉 BBQ Pork for breakfast. Yeah 🙁 Calm, breathe. Life is good, and fingers crossed, I have yet to miss a flight. 25 trips this year so far. That’s on average every other week, and more to come. Wow, the most I have travelled in years. And I keep saying it is getting less, but I haven’t got any more news on that at the moment. I believe it isn’t actually the travel as such but doing an additional job that takes focus away from what I wanted to do in the first place. However, I know there are changes on the horizon, and hopefully they will be good for me. One must believe that moving forward things will turn out the way they should. Believe in the future and that the dots will connect looking backwards. And they always will.

Weekends. Trying to spend more bonding time with the boys we went on a long walk down Littlehampton beach last weekend. It was nice and we all just love being close to and at the sea. The noise of waves coming on shore and then the water disappearing into the pebbles. It is great and calming, it makes you feel far away from home, on holidays. Balancing life.
We also upgraded to the latest iPhone 8 this weekend. A bit of a hiccup, we had to go twice as only passports or UK driving licenses are accepted for having a credit agreement – no German driving licenses or ID cards. But we got there in the end, and it was probably the first time I used my UK passport for something official. The new phone is great, but not much of an advancement in comparison to the 7, and just a slight improvement from the 6s I had before. The main differentiation is water resistance, wireless charging and an improved home button. Having a hardware contract with Apple now, means we are eligible for an upgrade from 12 months and have a 12 months pay monthly deal with Vodafone. This gives us the opportunity to get a new iPhone every year, something I always aimed for. But nowadays the innovation year on year is getting smaller, hence the need to upgrade yearly is less. Anyway, let’s speak about that in a year’s time, as technology and face recognition will move on.

In terms of data, it was easy to restore the iPhone. Everything gets backed up in the cloud but my gratitude journal didn’t. Since February I have been writing a daily gratitude journal which seems to have vanished. This is a bit of a shame. It is a great practise to reflect once a day on all the positive things in life. I wondered if I ever look back at it…guess for now I won’t 😔 I will no longer trust an app, but instead will write the journal on Evernote. Maybe it is my fault for not backing it up properly and then restore it, but then again if it isn’t an obvious process in the app. Never mind. The NHS app I used for 5 years with my BMI/weight data has also vanished, but luckily I had a back up in Evernote. I just love Evernote! So for anyone who hasn’t seen my posts about it, please do use Evernote to track everything. I write my blog on it as it syncs cross device and I can edit it on the go, then copy and paste it later. I collect my Thursday Flash links in it and take all my meeting notes on it. Evernote for everything!

Germany. If short, I stayed two nights in Germany, Hamburg, this week. I went for a walk after work as I still can’t exercise, go to the sauna or gym. I overworked my back after the initial minor surgery, so I now need to wait until it heals properly. It takes longer of course. I reflected on my relationship with Germany, thought about whether I could live there again. I like Hamburg, enjoy the organised life and the city is just georgous. However, I also feel like that about Munich. In Germany, the cities are nice and green, not too big, and one can find a good life life balance within the city or close proximity. It is just right. But it doesn’t feel right. Just because things are ticking all the boxes doesn’t mean they are right for you. Logic doesn’t always prevail. Does that make sense? If your mind isn’t in it, it doesn’t make sense.

I suppose you can achieve the same in the UK but maybe not in London, maybe in smaller cities, or only at a price that is reserved for the few. Yet, I am very happy with my life in London, being able to have the best of both worlds, balancing both village life and city career. Germany yet somehow doesn’t appeal to me anymore. The latest elections aside, and the negative movement towards right wing politics, Germany is just another country – and where I grew up in. After moving to the US 25 years ago, I learned what life could be like in a wide open space and I enjoyed something bigger than what I had at the time. Germany, and to a certain extend Europe, is a place that can get too small. And if not physically, I feel like I couldn’t permanently live in Germany, as it would be too small for me. Not sure if that makes sense. Sometimes village life gets like that too, and without the escapes to London, it might not be for me either. Freedom – that’s what I associate with the open space I experienced. Like the pubs in New York that just have space. Or you find a 20 lane bowling alley in the middle of town with 15 pool tables. The space you have, the freedom you feel. And, as Europe moves towards Brexit, maybe Europe is just not the place to be in a few years time. We shall see.

Those are my thoughts this week. Of course there are more but I don’t want to bore you. Interesting chats about politics with a taxi driver in Germany. Booking of my next trip to Belgrade, Serbia, which will be new experience.
There were days I took the kids to school and felt very privileged to spend more time with them. They are my purpose and priority.

Another busy week and a week of no travel ahead. That will be nice and I have lots to do with the team this week in London.

Love and Kindness from my corner of the world,
Volker

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