Posts Tagged Experience

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 (458)

I love starting my blog on a Monday. Whilst it won’t make much of a difference to you, the final post being shared on Sunday, I love sitting on the plane or train on a Monday to reflect on the weekend, on life in general. Latter was the whole purpose when I started the Sunday Column now 458 weeks ago. Almost 10 years. It was about not only copying things and sharing things, but making my blog personal. I believe I have achieved that. It also gives me an outlet for my thoughts. My readership is in the thousands and people from all over the world are visiting my site. This is a nice thing to know that every week, people are waiting to read my weekly column. Thank you for bearing with me.

So reflecting on the weekend, I didn’t do much to be honest. We all have a cold and seem to be tired. My best friend from Germany was supposed to visit but was ill himself too. So we ended up with a very relaxing weekend. Some good food and excellent wine, cheese and the fire being on. We also got some game controllers for the AppleTV and the boys thinks we got an Xbox now. Not being an avid gamer myself, the boys and us enjoy the odd game we can play. Life is good and I sorted a few things out over the weekend that needed attention, as well as our holidays to Singapore next year. My cousin lives there and we are keen to visit. Even Economy few months ahead is expensive, but I guess that’s summer holidays and 4 people flying. When booking flights, besides an awful experience on the Singapore Airlines website, we opted for them over Norwegian Airlines. Latter are cheaper and flying from Gatwick, yet with Monarch just going out of business, I think relying on a big airline might just be the way forward. I would have loved to book British Airways, yet the price premium couldn’t be justified at all.

Adventures, experience. That is what life is all about. Gaining a competitive advantage through experience in work and life. Teaching your offspring for them to have a head start in life. This isn’t always easy. I love my manager for that at work, who despite me being prepared for meetings and being on top of things, always finds something else. I soak up his input and wonder if I will be such a good manager when I have another 10 years experience. I hope I will. I am confident I will, but this is for others to decide. My next trip for work takes me to Belgrade, Serbia. Somewhere I have never been, so I am looking forward to it. A new experience, an adventure. This is going to be fun. Not like the weekly commute I have done to Germany throughout the year. No adventure there, just experience 😉

But experience is key. In a workplace which is changing. There are no, or fewer, 30 year long careers. In new industries like online and digital marketing where I am part of, the average tenure is probably around 2 years. Probably even less. And as a friend of mine told me a couple of years ago, if you have done your job you are done, no matter if it is 1 year, 2 years or 5 years – or 6 months. This goes in line with a lot of industry posts I am reading about more and more people becoming consultants. Don’t get me wrong, just recently I have met people that have been with their employer for 11 years and this will exists, but the ones that drive change will be in and out of companies on a short tenure, or found companies themselves. Those progressive and success driven entrepreneurs are the new power managers of tomorrow’s world. I am working on an article around that as we speak.

That brings me to more change. As the leaves turn and I spend some time at home – ill children and then school events – I am looking out of the window and contemplate. Is that it? Is the life we have now, the village set up, is that me for the next 30 years. A yearly harvest festival, Light up Hassocks for Christmas, the local tennis club. Will we not want to change anymore? Is that what they call contentment or happiness?

Spending a day in the local community, showing face at school events and at tennis, I loved being around the boys, being part of their experience. They are my first priority and I do not spend enough time with them during the week. And I absolutely love the way we are living. I love our house, neighbours, driveway, and I am content in the place I am. But coming back to experience, adventure and life changing, when do you know when and how to change? Is it the external Brexit challenge? Is it the shooting in Las Vegas that once again makes a move to the US unappealing? What is it? How do you know? When do you know you found the place you should be staying forever?

Maybe I am impatient and expecting too much. Things come to your at the right time. Things happen for a reason. Change is good. I could quote another 100 sayings like that. But it is true. You MUST trust in the universe that things work out. You think any other ‘animal’ but humans ever think about the future and their mortgage? Ever wondered if the cat on the fence thinks about climate change? We are complicating our lives by thinking and ultimately worrying too much. No, the cat doesn’t. Kids don’t. And dare we teach kids to worry, they should enjoy life and do what they want. Follow their heart. Because the heart knows what is right or wrong.

More autumn thoughts next week, as we are getting further into my most favourite season.

Have an amazing week. Stay well,
Volker

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My #spitfirescramble 2017 review

Wow – it has been a day since the Spitfire Scramble. My first ever running event. I was told by my experienced runners and team mates, that there is no such thing as a race. It is an event. You do it for yourself, the team, but not to race but to enjoy. And, a bit surprisingly, I did. As you might remember from my last post, one of my biggest challenges was the camping, believe it or not. The camping itself I really enjoyed. I loved the camaraderie. Maybe it was because I had little to organise, no tents to put up myself or take down myself – I tried to help more or less successfully, and the whole cooking and meals were organised by a fantastic and very experienced team. I was welcomed into the arms of a functioning group of people who have done those events before. Thanks once again!

But how were my laps? What happened?
So I finally got to go out around 4.30 in the afternoon. Adrenaline kicked in big time. I was off to a far too fast start, raced around the track and it took me until mile 4 out of 6 to find my pace. Once I did, I finished in a reasonable time of around 46 minutes for the just under 6 mile course. Far too quickly to sustain it I thought. And I walked a bit in between due to getting side stitches, being off too quickly.

My next round, just about 3 and a bit hours later, still light, was better paced, no walking, and I came in at a similar time. Interesting enough this round I found hardest of all the ones I did. Mentally and physically. I noticed my head playing tricks on me, my legs being really tired, and you work yourself into a pace and just run. I then managed to sleep about an hour before setting off at midnight again.

This time it was dark. With a head torch and a flash light, some glow sticks put down by the organisers, I made my way around the course. Mentally not as hard, as you concentrate on not falling over. Some drunk teenagers on one part of the route made it interesting and with the runners field spread wide apart, it was lonely at times. But it was fun, enjoyable. Then my left hip and ITB started to seize up a bit and my knee started to hurt. Not pleasant at all, I came in just around 53 minutes. Still happy enough.

Now, so far I enjoyed it. Really loved it. The third lap seemed easier than the second and mentally I was in a good shape. My left hand site would relax again, wouldn’t it? I saw one of the on site massage therapists and he taped my knee, stretched my glutes and said that my left upper leg muscles were just far too tight. He tried loosing them, suggested others had exactly the same problem. I figured with his help and the following 2.5 hours of sleep I should be fine. I didn’t get a great rest, and woke up in pain a couple of times. When it was time to get up I meditated first. My head was in a very good place, and despite the exhaustion I think my brain was more relaxed than I have seen it in a long time. I was ready. I didn’t even feel tired.

With doubts I made it out into the early morning, around 5. Luckily it was warm, and the little rain we encountered throughout the day was neglectable. But as soon as I set off I knew this time, the leg won’t last. I managed to run around 3 miles without stopping too often, ran with the pain and continued. It felt to me that if I get to the half way point, I make it through to the end. It reminded me of my long night walks and trainings when I was at the navy over 20 years ago. I felt strong, and I felt mentally in a very strong place. I loved the fresh air, the views across London, the lights of the early morning. It was my 5 am time, my usually running time.

But then the pain set in more and I had to start walking a bit more. From there on it was running a bit, longer stretches of walking, running. I spoke to some solo runners who only functioned on ibuprofen. Was I willing to do that? Does that make sense? For what? But I was determined to finish in a good-ish time to not let the team down. I am not going to fail in this lap, even though I knew this lap might well be my last one. Whilst in a combination of walking and running I got up the last hill, I had to be careful to go downhill. My knee pain alternated between the pain I knew and other ligaments wanting to join the party. It wasn’t nice. I finished in just over an hour and that was me done.

My first event. My first wall. I was looking forward to doing that for a long time. Whilst some team members went on to do a 5th and 6th lap, I couldn’t. I am very proud of their achievements. I was afraid of damaging my knee.

So what is the post mortem? Was I not prepared enough? I felt very well, my fitness felt great, mentally I was ready. Maybe I should have stretched more? Maybe more massages in preparation? Or is my body which isn’t used to running longer distances? Should I train a few half marathons or do a marathon before attempting an event like that again?

You can hear from my voice, that I am already thinking about the next event. The next wall in my life. Will it be this event in a year’s time, or something similar. I love the endurance challenges, but maybe I need a different preparation? No, not maybe, I have to work on strength and distance. More focus. I wondered what the point of solo running for this event was and why people end up walking. Some people explained it to me, that this is all about the mental and physical challenge and not about winning, but about having a platform to compete against your natural limits. Solo running. Solo walking. This sounds appealing… or does it?

Whatever my wall will be for next year, I think preparation needs to be better planned. Last year, before I pulled out, I was fitter. I weighted 3 kg less which can make a difference, and I was better prepared. But you don’t know until the day of the race. The day of the event I mean. It made me understand my wife better and her drive to do another marathon. And it made me acknowledge the effort and preparation that goes into a marathon. And maybe I just need to do that. A better preparation, a more planned approach. A marathon? As I keep preaching about, a habit, routine or system, based on the event you are doing. And maybe this comes with experience, yet the main part is to prepare your body for it. Systematically.

My thanks goes to my team mates. The ones that kept up my spirit. The ones that guided me to and from the event track. The ones that cheered for me, and put up with my mood and my dead brain the next day. The one that was awake driving home whilst my body just shut down. Thank you, and maybe, just maybe I see you again next year.

And my knee? I think it will be ok. With some more taping, some TLC, some cooling, lots of Ibuprofen, a sports massage and some rest. I am certain there was no long term damage done. So yes, I am sure I will be ok. My calfs, my abdominal muscles, my brain and all other parts of my body will comply. They always do 🙂

Thank you team!

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