Posts Tagged fun

Sunday Column (471)

One week into the New Year. So what are your New Year resolutions? Oh, and before I forget, Happy New Year to all my readers. It was nice to hear some positive feedback from a ‘Northern’ reader this week (shout out to you mate) which I much appreciate. I really enjoy getting feedback, so please reach out and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Socialmedia allows us to reach out to a mass of contacts easily on New Years’s Eve to wish people a Happy New Year. Less of a personal touch and a lot easier than trying to phone people when lines are busy. You remember that, trying to send a text message on NYE a few years back. And the network was down or you didn’t have reception? How times have changed, and technology too. However, it is nice to see what everyone is up to and reflects upon and of course, is looking forward to this year. More about networking below.

Next is my podcast, like an audio blog really. The website went live this week: Stories Of Success. I hope to have the first couple of recordings by this time next week and push out a first episode the week after. I am excited and scared at the same time. You will hear it in the first few episodes I am sure, but it is so much fun creating something, that in my mind, will add value to the listeners. Here is to 2018, to new opportunities and new ideas.

What are your plans? What are your Stories Of Success you want to write?

Btw, if you think you are successful or if you know of someone who is, and you think that person should be on my podcast, please come forward and let me know. Any help or referral is appreciated and paid for by beers….see more about that later. Another cry for feedback today, so yes, I’d love to hear from you.

I have been thinking hard to define my top three goals for the year. Actually, they are quite simple for 2018.

Firstly, I would like a new job. This could be on a contract basis, however my main focus is to settle in a more secure job for the next 3-5 years, a job I like and a job that takes my career forward. I started to speak to a couple companies within and outside my current industry and hope that soon I’ll find my new challenge for 2018 and beyond. After all, my main responsibility at the moment is my family, bills to pay, mortgage to pay and to provide security.
My ask to you: if you know of anyone looking for an experienced commercial person, please get in touch.

On that note, I reached out to recruiters and my network this week, and I appreciate that a lot of people aren’t really back at work until next week. However, the response I got so far was overwhelming. Not only did I get a lot of positive replies but people also offered their help. It is so nice to see that people care. And, if you are in a similar position and need help, you know that you can always reach out to me and ask me for advice, introductions etc. I love helping, and I appreciate help. Thank you all for your kindness.

Secondly, and aligning with the first goal, is focus. If I didn’t learn anything else from 2017 from my manager or from my 6 weeks brainstorming and reflection at the end of last year, but to have focus. My focus is clearer than ever, focusing on values around family, stability, security and a happy, healthy life. On the back of that, there are values like career advancement, progression and success. Those values will gain more focus in 2018 as I make them more of a priority than I have done in 2017. But matching my life style and career to the values is key.

Thirdly, my passion for personal development needs to have a clearer form and shape. What I mean by that is that launching my podcast is the beginning of a new journey. Once the first episode is uploaded, I will make sure to let you know. I am excited to interview people who have been successful and uncover their secrets for you to apply their ‘secret sauce’ to your life.

As every year, we were looking to have a dry January. And, similar to most years, I probably stopped it by the time you are reading this. Yes, I was planning 2 weeks really, but as the days are so dark and cold, and the fire is on… so don’t worry, I will be up for pints if you are 🙂

A week off the booze is enough to detox. The idea is more about having less booze overall. Having had plenty of conversations with people over the past few weeks, I don’t drink more than average (defined by my benchmark of course) and well within the norm. Moderation, as always, is key. This of course goes in line with a new exercise routine (less is more = moderation) and focus around a healthier life style. The amount of crisps and junk food I ate over the past six weeks has been fun but awful at the same time. Oh and don’t forget all that cheese 😉

So this concludes my thoughts for 2018.

I wish you and your family a healthy, prosperous and happy 2018.

All the best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (470)

What a Christmas we had. Lots of driving to and from Germany, but the main challenge wasn’t the driving itself but the weather. No, not really snow or anything like that, but it was grey and dark. Things were just miserable, no light, the sat-nav had a dark background, literally thinking it was night time, the whole drive both ways. Some delays but overall we were lucky enough to make the journey without an complications. I guess that’s all what matters. And then, we relaxed.

Christmas in Germany seems different. Maybe because that’s where I ‘learned’ Christmas, and it always feels home and secure, and comfortable. Maybe it is the Christmas decorations or the family bond you have at Christmas, and anyway, we had a fantastic time with mum serving my favourite food. Needless to say we had a lot of it, plenty of wine and lots of laughter. A Christmas market, some shopping, and seeing friends and family. But it was dark and grey. Just saying, I guess I have to move to the other end of the world in order to have a sunny Christmas.

As I seem to settle a bit on Christmas Day, just after watching the Queen’s speech, I am reminiscing about the old and the new. You might have read my blog posts over the last couple of weeks, looking back at the year. I am pleased with the differences I have made to some people’s career, how I have been able to change people’s life for the better. I also had to make some tough decisions, which resulted in people not having a good time. But we are forced to make those decisions, and we are mature enough to make them and move on. And take those of others 🙁

So I closed 2017 in my mind. Particularly, I have been brainstorming my own future for the past 6 weeks, trying to figure out what the next moves are. And I found a lot more focus moving forward. The new. I am keen on exploring new opportunities, but I want to move away from just having a job. What I mean by that is that I don’t want to fall back into a position where I just execute for the sake of execution but rather being part of a bigger solution and a long term plan. There are a few of those nuggets around and I am keen on finding them. As and if I make progress I shall let you know.

2018 – for me this is about a few things. Today, being the eve of the new year, I think the main focus will be to maintain an exercise routine but cutting it down to 4 days a week with one 5 am start focusing on writing. I have pushed my body too far before Christmas, and the break was good – sometimes less is more. I am fit though, feel healthy and good.

Also, I am planning to launch a podcast to interview people on their stories of succcess. A focus of this is European success stories or success stories of European leaders. Why? Because I believe too many success stories are not focused enough on the challenges in Europe. So as I launch the website and have sorted the details, I will announce further info on here. Personally, I see it as an extension of my blog in audio format.

I also want to make sure I make my time with the kids count more. So more uninterrupted dad time will be a key focus for me, and have regular date nights with the wife. Less travel, more time at home, more support for my first priorities. They are well worth it. And, last but not least, find a job I enjoy and I can settle in, as of above, and maybe do a 5-10 year stint, wouldn’t that be nice. Having a normal life? However you define normal LOL

I know that some people think that’s not possible in our industry to have a more regulated life, and maybe it isn’t. But I also believe it is time to find that nugget and move forward. Give it all and expect all too.

That concludes my 2018 wishes. Hopefully I didn’t forget anything and if you think I did, please reach out via the usual channels.

Have an amazing, happy 2018 !!!

All the best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (469)

Merry Christmas.

Given today is the Holy Night, and Christmas morning tomorrow, I don’t anticipate many people reading my column. That is fair enough. It should be a time of year when you don’t check your social media and relax a bit. You should have down time, and you should not have to worry about what is happening in the world. Christmas for me is all about having a week off, knowing everyone else is off, and you are not missing out on anything.

Merry Christmas to you, peace and happiness.

I want to use this week to look back – personally – on the year. It has been a turbulent one to say the least.

First things first: family. My first priority. We keep on learning how to bring up our children, we make things up as we go along, and I am absolutely enjoying it. From holidays in Centre Parks, travel to Legoland and day trips down the coast, Brighton football games, grandparents visits and trips to Germany, and time for the wife and me in Edinburgh or London. It has been an eventful but good year, and – being hopeful to say that every year from now on – we are getting better at being a family. Not that we weren’t before, but I am a strong believer in a growth mindset, and a collective unconscious. I feel like things are falling into place and we are growing together, and that is so nice to feel and experience. To speak of two things that made my year, I’d say the youngest starting and enjoying Karate classes, and the oldest working hard for 6 months to win a trophy in football. I couldn’t be happier or prouder of my two boys, and without my wife, Jenny, I couldn’t be doing all this. She has been on my side for 10+ years and I love you more every day! I am very grateful, thankful and full of appreciation of what we have.

On the other hand there is my career, which still takes up most of my week. That’s true for work for most of us. In January I joined a plc which I knew might be sold or change its proposition in one form or another. It was somewhat a gamble to join them, yet you never know who might buy a company. Looking back it was the right decision as I got to work with some very talented people, joined a fantastic culture and got a lot of learning from it. Unfortunately, I spent 2-3 days a week in Germany from April to October. That took time away from the family, and juggling two jobs, this put a lot of strain on me, family and the job I was originally employed to do in the UK. But I made it work, working from taxis, airports and making up with the family at the weekends. I loved the experience and sincerely think that I made a difference for the company. I lost out on a lot of things at home and burned a lot of energy.

Then over the summer things got quiet and the company sold. It became apparent, that moving forward, my role might be made redundant. I did what I could to avoid redundancy but likewise appreciate the help and support I got in the process prior to leaving last month. Whilst redundancies are never nice, I have so far enjoyed the time off to re-position myself, to re-evaluate my life and career. I might even go as far as saying that I have grown and gotten more confident. I know what I am doing and got confirmation of that a few times in the past few weeks. New projects will be announced early 2018. Based on the first few months of the year, I shall decide what the long term plans are. Most importantly, I am looking forward to align work closer to my values and my life expectations. Similar to the family, I am growing up too, still, always growing. And the break of a few weeks was needed, I felt burned out a bit. But I got my energy back, and that is the most important part, and of course I made up for some lost time with the family.

In the meantime I want to spend as much time as possible with the most important people in my life. As I do over Christmas. My family. Having had the privilege to spend more time with them over the past few weeks was amazing. From school drop offs and pick ups, them helping me testing some new equipment, watching Star Wars and making a routine and habit work at home. I am training them well I think 😉 They make me realise every day why I am doing what I am doing. They are my inspiration and motivation. Somewhat I enjoyed working and juggling two jobs and a family and going out of my comfort zone whilst upholding a 5 am routine and exercise, and meditation and personal development practise. As I said, I grew over the year, and that is the most important thing for me. It makes me who I am. I am happy. Yet, closer to Christmas I did notice my body getting tired, so time to have a few days off and relax.

A turbulent year. Just as well I am now relaxing and unwinding for a few days. And so should you, to my point earlier, there is nothing to miss out on. Don’t feel guilty and have another glass of wine, the extra piece of cheese or turkey/goose/duck. And if you are a grinch like me and don’t like Christmas, or you might not celebrate it due to religious reasons, enjoy the quiet time. Enjoy not having to read emails, not having to watch the news and spend some time looking deep inside yourself. Embrace yourself. And hug the person next to you, show them appreciation for them being them and being here.

And thoughts for 2018….you are the one that already knows where you want to be, what you should be doing and what is right in life. And you must always trust that the dots connect looking backwards. Hence, move forwards, always, and the right path will open up. You know it will. Trust in the future.

Speak to you in the New Year. All the best for 2018.

Love and Kindness, Peace and Happiness, and of course a Merry Christmas.
Volker

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Sunday Column (468)

This week’s post is written on a keyboard I still need to come to terms with: My new MacBook Pro. Since Southern Rail reimbursed me my travel card, I could justify the hefty price tag to get a new laptop. It sounds crazy but the MacBook or the MacBook Air just don’t have enough power to really justify any investment past 1K. So the MacBook Pro, without the fancy touch bar, seems like the only reasonable machine out there if you want to buy an Apple. And I am overall quite happy with it. The keyboard, as said, needs getting used to, the touchpad too but you already know it is better than the old one on the Air, and definitely is similar to the external one; and last but not least, the display is amazing. Particularly compared to the Air. However, as friends warned me, connecting it to my 10 year old Dell screen, just doesn’t cut it. It feels like the Dell is fading, and I prefer to do the main work on the Retina display. Maybe there is another investment coming soon.

First world problems I suppose. On that note, Arnold Schwarzenegger was very outspoken this week about climate change and someone in a podcast said that we are the first generation that actually has enough data to make an informed decision. And, we cannot ignore the fact the world is changing. Minus degrees, snow, it being cold and the fire is on, cosy nights with wine. The next day T-shirt weather and rain, it being around 10 degrees. No, this isn’t normal, and I don’t need to be a meteorologist to figure that one out. What to do? I am still thinking of how I can contribute to the greater good moving forward.

A friend of mine had a website a few years ago about connecting dots. And Steve Jobs is most famous for saying you connect those dots looking back, even if looking forward we can’t see it yet. And it is Anthony Robbins who said that the brain is wired to avoid fear, because that’s how it was millions of years ago. There is history and if we look back, we cannot predict the future – still. But with climate change we can say: it is real!

I figured, sometimes in life we just need to sit still and listen. We need to connect with friends and family, new people and get input. And based on the input we get, we redefine our lives. We all do that, all the time. However, doing it consciously, and deliberately reviewing your life’s purpose, is something else. That’s what I have been doing over the last few weeks, since I took redundancy. I am open about it, because I am wired to talk, to write, to share thoughts. I am not wired to be a great motivational speaker on a stage, as my background is very scientifically grounded. Of course, one doesn’t exclude the other. What I am trying to say is that what I like to produce is profound, which is why I was successful in my sales career: no BS. Ever. Win/Win. Always. And the input this week was as good as last week, maybe a complete different directions. That’s what I call a growth mindset, and I am keen on not doing anything for a few days over Christmas.

This feels like a year end post already. Despite being a bit put off by ‘my’ digital industry, I cannot stay away. Having been at a few Christmas drinks this week, it is so great to see people from the industry I have known for years. That is fun and continues next week, with even more and closer friends. The industry is part of me, and I am part of it. I love technology, and particularly technology pushing boundaries and being in a position to improve the ecosystem and deficicies. My tasks got bigger from selling ads to influencing the way we see the ecosystem and how we approach it. Things are changing. I am changing. And some of the tech I have been speaking about over the past few weeks has been amazing.

I am also deep into personal development and change. Not only in theory with my book about productivity and articles on growth mindsets that I write and that resonate well, but also the application of this on a daily basis. Being one of the few that never struggle with their workloads and emails for instance. It’s about getting things done and putting out more than others at higher quality. But at the same time looking at your balance and work culture for your team. This is difficult when we look at value creation versus hours worked. Quantity vs. Quality. Another discussion this week.

So I have been thinking on how to best combine the two things. In the New Year I will make a few personal announcements. I plan to launch a few things that are more personal development related, that fuel my passion and hopefully your interest in the personal development space. And the main thought for me: focusing on Europe, rather than the US. There is a lot of good influence coming from the US, but I believe we need more focus on what’s happening in our world. Things we can apply to what’s in front of us. There is a lot of great stuff coming from the US and I love those motivational gurus and ideas, but the market is so different to Europe, to the UK. Size and scale are only a small part of it, culture is another.

On the other hand I will continue to focus on changing the world, changing the ecosystem we are living in from a digital and technology perspective. Helping others to understand what’s happening and how to be back in control. Being able to change the world, maybe, and even if it is a little bit at a time.

As Christmas is around the corner things are slowing down. Decision making is almost coming to a stand still. I have taken more online courses and made first decisions. I will disclose at the appropriate times but two projects are secured. Both are, so far, unfunded, e.g. freelance without pay. That is ok though, as there are thoughts behind it. I keep you posted. You, my friends, will be the first to know about my new endeavours and ideas. No, they aren’t related to climate change but there is no reason they won’t be moving forward. One just doesn’t know, do you?

Just finishing the week, we went to the Brighton game on Saturday. I wanted to go back for over a year, when I first took the boys to a football match. And my first one too. So this time my wife joined and we had a great family time. My youngest missed out on his best friend’s birthday party in favour of the game. Creating those experiences are fun, and then it doesn’t matter whether you win or loose. To be there, engage fully, and being part of something, that is key and much more valuable than winning or losing.

Have a great Christmas. Wind down, give your loved ones a hug and make sure you stay warm and safe.

All the best,
Volker

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Thursday Flash (47)

Flash…

An article worth reading about the nostalgia on the internet. You might get some flash backs afterwards 😉

Then I read: Top five career lessons learned. It is all about experience and what you learn from jobs. So that’s fun!

And last but not least, and I recently read a whole book about it, there was a good find on bad body language and which behaviour you find difficult to quit. Take note!

See you next Thursday.
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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