Posts Tagged work

Sunday Column (456)

Is it Sunday again? This week flew past. Literally. I enjoy flying somewhat, but as you know, long distance flights and change of sleeping and training patterns, I am not a fan of. I flew out to New York last Sunday. A packed plane. Not a week long trip like last spring, but this time it was a breakfast meeting with my new boss, team meetings, team social, team meetings and flight home. It could have been any city I stayed in. Home, taxi, plane, taxi, hotel, walk/taxi, office, taxi, plane, home. But it was New York, and it has its charm. I love NY. Seriously, this could be a city to live in. I was back early Wednesday, and the flight back was a bit bumpy. It was a good trip, and it feels like I am now where I wanted to be when I was a freshener at university: high jetting lifestyle.

That was then, in terms of objectives. What is now, is different. It took me all summer to finally go on a bike ride with my eldest last weekend. Bad excuses and not wanting to disappoint my youngest who still hasn’t managed to learn cycling. That is due to a muscle underdevelopment challenge he has. Nothing to worry about, but strength and muscle build up are difficult for him. Anyway, just going out and doing that bike ride felt good. No more excuses. On Sunday we did his homework together and my youngest won with a huge advantage in Monopoly. With my constant travel, and it isn’t as glamorous as I thought as a freshener, I want to make the most out of my time with the boys. Yet, at the same time, I need to carve out enough recovery time for myself too. It is that balance where I am still struggling and trying to find the right way of dealing with it. But I am getting better I believe.

No, in all honesty, I do not enjoy the weekly travel. It should get less now but I keep saying that for a few weeks now. Normally it is just one night a week, sometimes two. And that is ok, and particularly if it isn’t every week. Even New York was only two nights. For me, who works on a running and my new weight training routine and trying to improve my fitness, the constant travel makes it more challenging; this is particularly true as I overworked the scar on my back from the minor surgery I had a couple of weeks ago; I am now listening to the nurse and will stop exercising until it is healed up. Anyway, I am getting better to work around those challenges and the travel to achieve my goals, and whilst I am not shedding lots of weight, I am not gaining any at the moment either. This is a result, as muscles are heavier than fat anyway 😉

So much about travel and routines, and about having the feeling to neglect the boys every now and then. The fine balance between allowing yourself your own time, and doing things with the boys that they enjoy more than me. I am not beating myself up here, and wouldn’t in public, but I do want to share my feelings. The dads I discussed this with and who are in a similar situation, agree. It is a fine balance, and sometimes the weekend ‘hamster wheel’ just ends up wearing you out. Birthday parties, swimming, activities and taxi services. And then the pressure to be the bread winner and be the best you can be. I love my job and enjoy the work I am doing. And without a family I most likely would end up being a work-aholic. That wouldn’t work either.

Life-Life Balance is what I called it in my productivity book #BeBetter. Being able to balance your life at home with the one at work, and being a coach, mentor and trusted advisor to your spouse and children, whilst still pursuing and succeeding in a career. Living healthy on top of that and being a good husband. That is success. Either one of those could be classified as a success but you need to master all! That is key to not loosing it or loosing in life. And that’s really the content of my book, to balance the pillars of life, and making sure you are the one in the driver seat. You need to be in control of what you do and how you do it. Identifying when things like a bike ride is important or when you start a new project which is only between the boys and me. We want to make birds nesting boxes over the winter months. The shared experience and trust you build now will last a life time.

Coming back to New York, if only two days, was an experience. Once again, I fall in love with that city. It has space, you have a chance to buy cloths and food at a fraction of the price in the UK. I spilled gravy all over my jeans on the flight out and picked up (as a necessity) two Levis cheaper than buying one in the UK 🙂 Amazing. Food is just great. Particularly, but not exclusively, I love the burger and wine at the gate, just before you board the 10 pm flight. Then you sleep the whole way back home. And no one makes burgers like the Americans do. As a matter of fact I did sleep almost 5 hours on the flight back. The city just speaks to you, it attracts you, it is full of differences and great architecture. I love New York, you are just very special.

The trip was great. Getting the right heads together to discuss what is happening with our company moving forward. It feels good to be part of creating something bigger and amazing. Our ecosystem is ready for what there is to come. Or is it? I am not sure if I felt the jet lag or not, or if I just went with the flow, or I am just super excited, but the trip was great. Maybe it was to short to really get jet lagged. I will look back at this time in years to come to kick off something big, something industry changing. Isn’t that exciting?

America. Its service culture, its multi-culture, its burgers, its finger food, pool and bowling. I am going to miss you. Always will. Ever since I lived with you over 25 years ago, I have the urge to spend more time with you. That’s just the way it will always be. And I will be back.

Have a great week ahead, I am off to Germany tomorrow, not quite so exciting at all, and the flight is a lot shorter too 😉 No burgers at the gate for me, it is time to shed more weight.

Cheers,
Volker

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Sunday Column (451)

The second and last part of the holidays took us to the Isle of Wight. We wanted to go for a long time. Unfortunately we didn’t have a whole week, so left on Sunday and spend the most day on the beach. I even went into the sea. The next day we spent at the Needles, an old navy outlook and defence system dating back to the 19th century. We didn’t expect an old ‘fort’ but had an amazing walk along the seaside. Attached to it was an amusement park/tourist trap where the kids saw how glass and sweets were made, and we ended up on a beach with different sand colours via a cable car – I decided to walk back as those heights still freak me out a bit. Before heading home from the short trip we experienced an amazing Indian meal. Yes, the food on holidays has been treating us well! We also spend some time at the sandy beach in Ryde which we very much enjoyed. Not to mention my slight red face too 😉

Again, whilst not going very far, we had a fantastic time away. Just being able to spend time with the boys in a relaxed atmospheres, learning about things like how glass is made (this is so comforting to watch) – all those things are precious and it means we are growing closer as a family. I genuinely enjoyed our holidays this year. Let’s see what we are planning for next year. The kids however were glad to be back home. 10 days away is still very long for them. The remainder of the week we spend at home, chilling and getting ready to go back to work really, whilst the wife was away for a family matter.

Every time I go on holidays in the UK, I keep thinking of having a holiday home we could go to everytime we have time off. The challenge is simple: costs first and foremost, but then location. And how often would you go, based on location. Can you drive/fly there and be there within 2 hours? Can you rent it out 20-30 weeks a year through AirBnB? Most people I spoke to that have holiday homes, don’t like the idea of going to the same place every year. So you are bound to a certain holiday destination or you consider renting it out the whole year, probably yielding more than you do on a second home. It sounds quite appealing to me, whether in Devon, Isle of Wight or the Scottish Highlands. Yet the financials aren’t there yet, still saving the pennies for my beloved Jaguar.

Holidays, and I wrote about that last week, make me feel detached. It makes me realise a few things. I do love work. Yep, I am happy to admit it, I actually like to fill my days with commercial and management challenges. It’s my idea of fun and I always enjoyed doing that, developing staff, solving problems, making things happen, GSD. It also makes me realise that my biggest hobbies are fitness and family, as well as my fish tank. Hence the need for a hobby like a car or holiday home to keep me busy with things 😉 Guess not for a while. But by spending more time with the family I realised that I should do that more often. Get away with them, or have 1-on-1 time with the boys and spend quality time together. Things come up which normally we only scratch the surface on in our day to day life. And that is important to form the relationship with our kids.

On the other hand there is fitness. Yes, I decided to invest into a multi gym for home. Delivery should happen within the next couple weeks, luckily they also assemble it for me. This and my new regime for eating (I am using my fitness pal again to track what I eat), should counteract my weight gain. After loosing a lot of weight in 2014/15 (my guide here is pretty much two years old) it slowly started creeping up on me again. It settles differently to before, so instead of just being blown up and fat, I have an ever growing gut. Saying that, the holidays and lots of food didn’t help, but a few runs counter acted it to a certain extend. Speaking to a friend it is simple why that weight came back: change of routine, new job, more snacks. Then a lot of travel with no routine and in my case lots of bread in Germany. Whilst you would say it is up to me to decide what I want to eat, you are somewhat bound to the availability. So the fight is on, from Monday I will count calories again and follow my own guidance on loosing weight again. It will significantly improve my running performance too and the weight training should do its part. Fingers crossed.

Now, going back to work on Monday will be great. I do miss my team and getting involved. Likewise, I will miss my long sleeps and live into the day. I will miss the time with the boys.

And the days are not getting longer. I am not sure if it is only me, but it seems to be dark towards 9 pm already, some trees have brown leaves, and I wore my jumper more often than I used to. It is only mid August, the time I consider to be the height of summer. But autumn, the golden autumn usually in the UK, is around the corner. Two more weeks and we enter September. Two months of my favourite time of the year, before we enter into winter. Before we know it is is going to be Christmas.

Ok, I stop with those depressing sounds. Let’s focus on the good things, the good times and the quality time we spend with friends and family. Let’s cherish the moments of love. And, let’s share the love amongst our friends.

Love and Kindness from my corner of the world. Have an amazing week!
Volker

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Sunday Column (437)

Another crazy week. I am getting used to it and honestly, actually I am enjoying them a bit too, those weeks. I flew out to Hamburg on Monday, this time with Easyjet again, and it went ok. The seats, non emergency exit, are awful, but other than that it did the job and got me there on time. Just too small for my long legs, so no proper sleep. Back in an empty Eurowings with a glass of wine, needed after a back to back day. I try to maximise the time I have in Germany. And every time I believe things are all dealt with, something new comes up. Amazing.

Some of you might read this and go ‘Why is he doing it, why is he loving it?’. Let me tell you the story of my life, which you might have heard on here before. I enjoy being busy, sorting things, helping people, supporting and developing people and work. Yes, some people call it work, I call it fun. I don’t mind burning the candle on both ends and push things forward. 10 years ago I would have worked 24/7, and sometimes it felt like that. Why? I don’t know. Just what I enjoy doing. What do I really want to do, someone might ask. I enjoy running, and taking companies/company units forward, working with smart people, being successful. That’s it, simple. Learning.

There is a flip side to that too. Since I had kids, priority shifted. So I am not burning candles on both ends anymore and look for a more balanced life. Running, enjoying a glass of wine, good food, a BBQ at the weekend, quality time with the boys, the wife and friends. I enjoy my fun life too and I do enjoy things outside work. Listening to the OneThing podcast, there was a chap on there the other day, re-iterating that the first thing he does every year is to plan his holidays, then the kids’ school events and he never works beyond 6 pm. And he is mega successful. Similar to the Energy Project, it is about renewal, boundaries, regular breaks and refuelling and regenerating. I learned that over the years, moving from start up to start up, and apply it now. Not every day but most days. This is mega important and should have been more of a focus when I was younger. So when I can, I still work a lot, and if I have a higher priority, then so be it. As a matter of fact I was reading my emails this morning when my youngest woke up. He looked at me and I said, that I should really put the phone away, and he nodded. I did. No question. We must set examples, and make sure they balance life from the outset.

So with all the travelling, cudos goes to my team in the UK for being so patient with me and going through video conference sessions to catch up and the team in DE for the support and commmittment. We are a great team, great company and everyone is working so hard to make things work. Our earnings report this week shows we are so on track to win. I am loving it. Well done all (if you read that anyway 😉 ).

I am buzzing. The biggest cudos of course goes to someone else. My wife and children for putting up with my absence and supporting me throughout. Whether through endless WhatsApp emojis in the morning or funny videos. I love them all and really appreciate their patience. Particularly if I am not feeling too great at the weekend due to some virus. But that seems over now too. So this weekend was family time. Full on.

As I am flying back and try to catch up on some admin, I am wondering about a few things that have happened this week. The days melt into one, from early morning runs, early mornings in the office, discussions with old friends over beers, or endless meeting marathons. It is a lot to take in and as my brain digests this over a glass of vino, I am remembering the often quoted phrase of connecting the dots moving forward. Steve Jobs.

Yes, it all works out in the end. And everyone understands and works in the same direction. Life is for living and moving and looking forward. However YOU want to define that. I am reading an amazing book about evolutionary coaching. I listen to my podcast and I am learning constantly. I am buzzing with new ideas. Life is there to grab it and be successful. Again, you decide and you define what it means to you. Not to look back, regret. But what I also notice is that it is a lot about living and representing values. About agreeing or disagreeing on the path. And that’s the secret. In a relationship with a partner or in a relationship at work. Trust comes to mind. Openness. That’s what life is build on. Maybe not a secret. It all comes together as you get older.

I am happy. That’s the main thing. But more important is that my loved ones are and the ones in my care. That’s what I do. That is who I am. That is how I strive and determine success.

With that said, I am off to Hamburg again on Monday. Different meetings, different discussions, and I am looking forward to it. I make things work. That’s what I do.

Thank you all for bearing with me,
Volker

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Sunday Column (431)

An immensely intense week I may say. A highly enjoyable week though. It went very quickly too. A normal busy Monday lead to a 3 day off-site in London. That meant I stayed over in London, didn’t sleep well and was sitting in marathon meetings, working early until late. But it was inspiring, useful and drove the business forward. Given one doesn’t have a commute, is used to getting up early, a 7 am start in the office is amazing. One gets so much done. Yet it is intense, but also enjoyable. GSD = Getting Sh*t Done! To finish off the week I met with a friend from NY and ex colleagues on Thursday. That was nice. Friday I made it home for bath time and the boys were delighted to see me. So was I.

Having tried to get over some virus earlier in the week and hence didn’t exercise, I just had to do a 7.5K run plus I had to take an early train to get to the Home Office. The, hopefully, final step to get my British passport, the interview where they ask you all those questions to verify you are, who you claim you are. The guy interviewing me tried to make it funny and entertaining. At least that’s how it came across and I felt very awkward. Anyway, my passport should be with me in the next few days. Some questions were who my parents are, where they were born, which way I drive to take the boys to school etc.

It definitely concludes a successful week. A week when you don’t sleep well, feel under the weather, yet have so much energy and drive to work throughout. I was buzzing on Friday. I so enjoy that. What I didn’t enjoy? Not seeing the boys. So coming home on Thursday to see one still awake at 9, it broke my heart to tell him off to go to bed. I would have preferred to cuddle and listen to him about his week but he had to go to sleep. And the other? He woke just before 10 being thirsty, came downstairs and gave me the biggest smile and cuddle. That made my week!

Besides work and life, there are so many things going on in this world. Article 50 was triggered this week. That means Brexit gets real. There is no way back now and just as well I now have both nationalities. I am safe to chose but hope I never have to. As I mentioned before, the future doesn’t equal the past. With the world changing, we need to realise that years from now we might decide to move elsewhere. Maybe years from now I find myself applying for another nationality in a country far (or close) to home. One just doesn’t know. I will watch the next 2 or more years to see what is coming our way. We must stay flexible and vigilant, always trying to better the situation for us and the generations to follow. That’s our duty.

This weekend we did what the boys wanted to do for ages. They were so taken by the lambs last year, we had to go back this year. So we went to a farm to see the newly born lambs. What a lovely site. Also we saw a sheep giving birth, another one trying and a newly born calf. It was amazing to show the kids and even for us. I am not as taken with the little lambs as my family is, but it makes you think about the time your kids were born. How much effort it was and how much we were fearing for them and the mother. How much pain mother had to endure. It is good to be reminded, yet the main purpose was for the kids to cuddle with the little lambs. They absolutely loved it.

Tomorrow I am off to Germany again. I have taken a temporary assignment to help out leading the office in Hamburg. That not only makes me more busy, which is the part I mind less, but it takes time away from the family. Weekends have to make up for it and hence my wife and I, having known each other for 13 years this week, really plan the weekends and quality family time. So far so good. Easter break is around the corner.

So have a fantastic week, stay safe.
From my little corner of this world,
Volker

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Sunday Column (429)

Last week was a turning point. I believe, and I mentioned that to my wife, that the next few weeks will be a turning point in our life. There are changes coming up, chapters being closed. I start writing this as I am sitting to wait for a delayed flight to Hamburg on Sunday night. So a week ago, prior to Sunday Column 428 being published. Crazy, but that is my creative output. I love writing, keeping myself busy with thinking and strategising. About anything and everything really. I was asked this week what my next book is about, and I said, probably it is about my life, or life or something. No plans yet…

At the weekend we started to speak more German at home. My wife started taking private tuition and the boys tried understanding what I am talking about. I translate the sentences simultaneously. This is only the beginning but we try to become more bi-lingual at home. The weekend was productive with us having done some spring gardening and we finally built the hedgehog house. It was a good weekend, the wife and I went out, maybe a few too many drinks, but hey, that happens now and then. Not many occasions when we can go out to celebrate. Then we had our yearly debate if St. Patrick’s day is actually the first time we met and kissed. Anyway, don’t let me get into that.

Further, I closed the chapter of writing a productivity book. I sent the final drafts off to publishers at Christmas but didn’t get a positive response. So I put it on Amazon Kindle on Sunday, a link is to the right of the post. It is free to download in the first week, but I decided to make little noise about it. A good read I find, and if people are interested, they will find it. I have other focus at the moment than productivity books and worked on them for a few years now. Time to put that to bed. So closing this chapter and focusing on other things is good. Maybe the new book about life 😉

On the other hand I opened a chapter at work. Not only the first 30 minute presentation at a conference for this employer, but also in German! So a double challenge but it went well. So did the panel the next day. I am trying to help out where I can to present the company and hence I flew out to Germany on Sunday. I will continue to be in Germany more often, as I temporary help in the German market. It will be a drag flying, but it is going to be a lot of fun too and a great challenge. Having said that, I had to wait 4 hours for my Easyjet flight coming back, so no more Easyjet for me. The delays were getting to much and I am only back to travelling, so Heathrow it is unfortunately as it is a pain to get there for an early morning flight, and BA or Eurowings instead of Easyjet. The joys. Travelling is never glamorous, and I was hoping to do less, now probably going to do more. But I love a challenge, a chapter and the opportunity to help and support. That’s who I am, that’s what I do, that’s what I enjoy. And work is very good about it too!

As one chapter opens, another closes they say. I travelled with my German passport. I have done since I moved to the UK in 2001. Yet, since Wednesday, I can be hopeful to soon get the British passport too. I pledged my allegiance to the Queen and became a British national. Now I am British and German, soon with two passports. Wow, who would have guessed. It all happened quicker than anticipated in the end. And the application for the passport has been sent. Exciting times ahead. It feels like yesterday that a friend of mine and I discussed this, sitting over lunch in Farringdon. He said, now you know the process, it is easy to do and you don’t know what the future holds. It gives you security he said. He was right. Security and peace of mind. I beat him to it too 😉

I feel at ease. I feel like spring cleaning my life a bit. I put a lot of energy into the new job and really enjoy the challenge. Is it much different to what I am used to? Yes and no. As a friend of mine said the other day: good tech, great people, and you realise how much you know and how much experience you have. Sometimes you don’t realise how much you know, but in this line of work I very much rely on my experience often and enjoy it. Yet, there are new challenges, different experiences, which help me grow and go outside of what I know. Keeping me on my toes. It is great to see the positive difference you can make. And a great team I have!

Then amongst the travel, I listened to a podcast by Tim Feriss, where one of his guests, John Crowley, who has children with a disease, talks about the IPO with his business. His business is in the biotech space to save humans like his children from this particular disease. When he came home after two weeks on the road after the IPO, his daughter woke up when he kissed her goodnight. He said she would be proud of what he has done. And she said, she was proud and that she saw him on TV. He said, what do you think of me on TV? She said he looked short.
In her next breath she asked whether he was around tomorrow to take her to school. That was the most important part for her.
I understand that feeling. The boys aren’t interested if I speak at a conference or close a mayor sales to bring home money to buy the Lego Deathstar (which I refuse to do btw). They care if I bring sweets or if I take them to school the next day. And that’s how it should be. It is important for me to be up at 6 am on a Sunday to do colouring in or build a model of Bumblebee. That should always be our focus, to spend time with our loved ones, to teach them, to help them, to be with them, to share moments with them. And with all the travel, and my wife planning to go back to work, this is still the main priority and focus. And we make it work, as we make anything work we want to make work. Just like turning a page in a book, we move on with life.

Of course we cannot be there 24/7. But when we are there, we need to be in the moment. We must be with them and make sure they see that. We must help them to understand the world and share the experience. I have done that a lot lately with my boys. Individually. Together. I feel better for it and so does my relationship with them.

Have a great week and give your loved ones a big hug.

Love and Kindness from my corner of the world,
Volker

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Sunday Column (428)

Another week. More travel. It seems as if the weeks just blur into one and I spend two days a week in a different place. I don’t mind, being away for a night, taking the Easyjet ‘bus’ from Gatwick to Europe. A 430 wake up call followed by a quick exercise routine, a meditation session, a shower and a ride to the airport. Then an almost two hour delay due to air traffic control strikes in France – I was on my way to Madrid. Those delays are annoying. Having just endured almost 12 months of conductor strikes on Southern Rail, I have no sympathy with anyone striking whatsoever. I keep saying it over and over again, I am thankful for the opportunities given to me in my life and wouldn’t want to jeopardise them due to strike actions or anything stupid like that. So I have little understanding for someone who would go to their employer and say ‘if you don’t do this, then we strike’. There are enough people out there that would take jobs and make it happen. Something I am missing?

Yes, there is an argument that if we didn’t have the unions, companies would do whatever they wish. They wouldn’t I don’t think. Companies have a keen interest in making their employees happy. To work with them, to empower them, to make work a nice thing to do. Maybe I am wearing some pink glasses here or something, but companies who are ‘abusive’ to their employees will not succeed. I cannot see that happen. Maybe I am listening to too many American podcasts suggesting that we are all in it together. That we can determine our destiny and people around us want to help us. We must be under that anticipation that an employer doesn’t want you to fail and want to do the utmost to make you happy and successful. After all they are spending money on you and your career. Mine does, and I am grateful for it.

Working in different places is critical. I love seeing the local teams, connecting and understanding the local challenges. Each market is unique, each view is different. Listen to their needs. It widens my horizon and gives me a chance to review what we are doing in HQ and whether we can change things, adopt some local practises, to improve things overall and to help moving the company forward. I enjoy that and believe it adds a lot of value to the company. I have another two weeks of travel ahead of me. Speaking at a conference in Germany which is tricky and challenging as it is a new corporate deck with a translation into German. I will master it and actually I am excited about it. Just in case I fly out the night before 😉 Then Sweden. Then I shall have a couple of weeks in the office before a family break over Easter. No flying then. As much as it is nice to travel, it is not glamorous and it does tire you out. At least I keep up my exercise routine and healthy eating (most of the time). Yet this week I felt a bit drained. The weather is to blame I guess?!

Further to travel this week I read an article in the FT about citizenships and Brexit. You can read it in detail yet the main take away for me was that if you lived here for long enough – and that is uninterrupted – you can continue to live here post Brexit. Or it should be fairly easy to get a passport/citizenship. Or you leave. I am not judging whether that is fair or not, but what I am saying is that if you have lived here long enough there is nothing you should fear. So why did I get the citizenship? Because I wanted to ensure I can stay and be with my family, plus I feel more British these days than German anyway. I don’t have plans to leave this country other than with my family and then we all would be foreigners elsewhere, on the same passport. That’s really it. I wanted to do it years ago but didn’t want to spend the money on it. Now I could and did it. The necessity felt slightly bigger of course. Anyway, this should all be done by next week.

If you feel I write too much about work, then please let me know. I just realised I wrote all about Brexit, travel and work without writing about work or family. If that makes sense? I love management studies, and I love work. That’s what I do and I enjoy it. Even my taxi driver said that, if he won the lottery, he would continue working. So would I, there is no way I could sit on my bum long enough doing nothing. I’d go up the walls. So I used the flight delay to catch up on some work, prepare a presentation, write part of this blog and think about life. I also caught up on some sleep mid air and arrived refreshed. Kind of anyway 😃

The remainder of the week was nice. It is nice to see trains running on time most of the time. It makes a huge difference to both my mood and my state of happiness. Plus the Friday ‘pale ale express’ session with the neighbours. Then I took the wife out for a meal on Saturday. Nothing fancy, just a very nice Thai place, a good chat and some ‘us time’. There is never enough of that once you got children. We are getting better in carving date nights out of our schedule, more than we used to. Then again the kids are getting older. Life becomes easier from a logistical point of view. Attitude, tantrums and questions and demands are the same pain as before, just different. Growing up I suppose 😃 Yes, I wouldn’t want it any other way!

I hope all is well with you and yours.
From our little corner of the world, I wish you lots of love and happiness.
Have an amazing week ahead, and please share this blog if you like it.
Volker

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Sunday Column (425)

A funny, mixed week that was. Lots of things going on at work and at home. Discussions, ideas, strategies. My head was spinning most days, days turning into a big blur. After two full packed days in the office where we made a lot of progress, I went off to lovely Milan. In the meantime the team even made more progress. I have the feeling we are winning. I know it is early days, just about a month in, but it seems like we are ‘getting shit done‘. It feels good.

Ever since I helped getting Milan and Madrid off the ground for a company I worked for a few years ago, I love going to Milan (and Madrid). It’s the people, the city, the smell, the taste, the food, the wine, the atmosphere, the alps – and being able to visit my new company’s regional office there and spend some time with the guys, was wonderful. I truly enjoyed the trip, and I found it very useful and fruitful to bring things together, learning a lot too. The team is super advanced and I learned a lot.

The flight was fun. After a rough night with kids waking me up at 3 am and a 5 am pick up by my taxi, I slept through the whole flight. Yet when approaching the airport we pulled up again last minute. Another plane was given priority due to a person falling sick on that plane. Fair enough. So we turned up and around and landed on the second attempt. That was a first for me. Next week I am going to Germany, which in regards to culture will be at the other end of the spectrum to Italy I suppose. I really enjoy those travels again and being part of a bigger international team. Working in international companies is fun, and we have some very smart people in the company.

Anyway, let’s not talk about work every week 😃 I spend most of my time with work, so it is good to get some downtime now and then. Last weekend I got little. Last weekend I was very jet lagged. This weekend I had to go to the Apple Store because my MacBook Air gave up on me, I cannot start it any longer. Maybe I just give it back and trade it against an Apple TV? However it turns out that the repair is probably more costly than it is worth in value, as I don’t really need it anymore. So before I find out next week, I got the new Apple TV and the kids (and I) are happy. New games, new fun. There are not many Apple products left I adore and would like to have. Maybe the new MacBook, the slimmer and nicer one, yet having an Air from work suits me fine. If I have to upgrade my iPad mini, I would potentially get a iPad Pro. Never mind, not for a long time I hope.

The main challenge is to see my boys so little at the moment. Because of travel, late trains home from work, them getting up later etc. And yet, when I do see them they seem to change so quickly. It is difficult to keep up with their development, their latest ideas on toys, their wish list for Christmas (already!), the things they enjoy doing. Although they spend most of their pocket money on toys this weekend, leading into half term. However, every night when I do see them, it is a new miracle of thoughts that are coming out of their head which I enjoy exploring and questioning. One responds nicely, the other one doesn’t like it. They are like chalk and cheese, so different, so differently motivated, it is a joy to see, however painful it can be too.

Balancing their needs and mine. Wondering if I am a good dad, do I do a good job? It is a job or is it fun? What is the desired outcome for the boys? You cannot treat it like a work project. I listened to a lot of podcasts travelling, and one of them was about a chess player. He got involved in chess heavily at the age of 6. Should I push my boys more into that? Anyway, just when you think things are going well, I ended up listening to a podcast of a woman who lost two husbands and had two kids, one from each. At least I think that’s what it was, as I lost track a bit dozing off. But it is a sad podcast about a family with lots of challenges.

Those are the moments I thank the greater universe for the health we have. I remind myself to eat healthier and drink less. To look after myself and the family more. To be a better dad. A better husband. To have more time for things. I am sitting next to someone on the plane who seems to write an academic article. Should I have written a phd after all? Should I have gone into academia? I sometimes wonder but I am very happy with what I do and the progress I am making in my career. So life is good and most people I know are healthy. I am blessed, truly thankful for what I have and hopeful that it stays that way.

It has been a good week. I am content and life feels right. I sorted my citizenship ceremony and look forward to become a full blown Brit. Did I mention there is another 88 GBP fee to attend the ceremony? It really seems as if getting the citizenship is also a money making machine. Never mind, I am almost there.

Have a great week, make sure to give your loved ones a big hug.
Volker

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Sunday Column (424)

What an amazing week I had. I spend my week with some amazing people seeing some amazing things. As I started writing this on my flight to San Diego on Monday, I am not sure why I use a cable for my wireless, bluetooth headphones. I had to connect my keyboard to my iPad via wireless bluetooth connection. Is that dangerous? I guess by time of reading this, you will know. I am, in all honesty, not the biggest fan of flying. I have done it a lot in the past, but not the long haul flights with 8 hours time difference. Yet it seems so easy and with enough planning you keep yourself busy. Having proper thinking time, going through endless podcasts and audiobooks and preparing presentations is not a bad thing. Not being connected and constantly interrupted. And the odd glass of champagne – I got an upgrade 😉 That also means I got some sleep both ways and the flights overall were very bearable.

All those “posh” things don’t matter too much to me tbh. I enjoy them, don’t get me wrong, but I am far too much down to earth. Hence I happily admit a tear jerker of a movie called Brooklyn which I watched last weekend. It was about an Irish lady that leaves home for America to fall in love. A simple story, yet ever so timely with Trump trying to ban immigrants. The quote at the end reads: And one day the sun will come out – you might not even notice straight away, it’ll be that faint. And then you’ll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past. Someone who’s only yours. And you’ll realize… that this is where your life is.

It made me think. I arrived in the UK in 2001. As my teacher always said, when I came back from an exchange year in the USA in 1994, he didn’t think I would stay in Germany. Something had changed. I always wanted to go back stateside to live. Yet life hasn’t worked out like that, and I am far from complaining about the life I have. I am very happy. The wife is happy. The kids are and don’t want to live anywhere else either. That is nice. Yet, I sometimes wonder what if things had gone differently. But then we always will. And we make people in the country we move to ours, and whilst it feels like my wife has been part of my entire life, she has no connection to my past prior to me meeting her. That is odd but yet a lifetime since we met. The film definitely hit a spot.

In relations to that I got a letter whilst I was away: I become a British citizen! All application approved and I can pledge my allegiance to the Queen in the next couple of months to then get a British passport. So technically I am already a Brit I suppose. And a German. However, I keep both my German passport and my accent. It is good to know that I am not different to my family any more and I am part of what I have been living for the past 16 years. A new chapter I suppose, but I know where my life is. It is kind of an odd feeling. On the one hand it is a tick box in regards to Brexit and my life here, rather unimportant. On the other hand, you are giving up some of your identity (without loosing your German passport or nationality) and adopt more closeness to a country you chose to spend your life in. A bit of a step to become closer to things in this country. I cannot use my excuse of being a foreigner any longer either.

In other thoughts…when I was at the airport, going out, my youngest had a small accident. He hit his head, broken his glasses and my wife took him home. Nothing to worry about. You cannot be there all the time. But it is a shame that you cannot be there yet of course it is good that someone can. One thinks of what could happen on a long journey. Maybe I shouldn’t but I did. What if… The wife and I discussed it, and yet, we aren’t worried. We are both people that get on with life, we succeed in life. And if anything might happen, this would just be the end of the world for one. The other one moves on, gets on with life. But let’s not even think about it.

I enjoyed the companies of my colleagues on the trip. I am not only saying that but I do feel home. Friends in the industry, good guys, friendly, helpful and they are looking after me. I am still the new guy, ain’t I? It feels longer than 3 weeks. It’s good. It’s fun and I genuinely enjoy the new company. It is nice to feel welcomed and at home, thinking I can add value. The camaraderie, them making me sing my first karaoke in my life and us enjoying ourselves sitting in the sun in San Diego after a few exhausting conference days. I even got a sunburn. We went to the gym most mornings being jet lagged, had some good wine but never really stepped over the line. We met the CEO who is great and down to earth. I met with lots of colleagues from the US. It was amazing and I cannot wait to go back and learn more. Some of the stuff I saw in terms of technology is mind boggling. I am very excited to be part of the company’s journey!

Then it was my son’s 6th birthday party, and my dad’s birthday too. I arrived just in time for the cake. Jet lagged, tired, exhausted, sun burned and knackered. But nothing of that mattered the moment I got the longest hug in the world. The biggest kiss, him telling me all about what he has been up to since I left. And the other one too! We cheated a bit and didn’t get him any toys from the US as it would have been too much hassle to organise last minute with the delivery and all. So instead we ordered some PJs pretending they were from the US. Never mind, when you read this when you are older you will probably kick a fuss yet understand it. And I didn’t really say they came from the US anyway. So you will understand or might not even remember. You didn’t mind and were the happiest boys in the world. Boy did I miss my family this week!

It was a tiresome week. A kick off to a few weeks travelling. A kick off to my new job. A kick off to enjoying world traveller status. A well spent week. Thank you, yet it is good to be home.

Have a fantastic week everyone, love to you all,
Volker

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Sunday Column (413)

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Friday. Around 2 pm and I am sitting on a train home. I have a half day and enjoying myself. Kind of. Light Up Hassocks awaits me. The yearly highlight of switching on the Christmas lights. I am doing the school pick up, my parents are coming. By time of posting this will all be past. It is nice to take a half day, get some initial work done, then chilling in the afternoon. Particularly at such a gorgeous day like today. It is almost too bright to work. And it is almost December too. And it got bitterly cold later on. Light up Hassocks was nice, the weekend with my parents was nice, so all good. The routine starts again tomorrow.

I summed up my life on Facebook on Friday, I thought I share it here. It sometimes feels that simple:

Ok. Left work early to attend light up Hassocks. Parade and lights and fair ground rides. Kids and parents and wife had a fab time. Feeling ripped off paying two months of pocket money on light sabres but hey, it’s for the greater good and the kids. When parents went to bed I finished off work and now reflecting on the day. Remembering the youngest saying ‘Daddy,I haven’t seen you all week and I don’t remember what you looked like’ (which isn’t true). But sometimes feels like it. And what if (not unlikely) Southern rails had had another 20 min delay on top of what they did. I would have had to have a contingency plan for pick up. I did. I didn’t need it. But I cannot trust Southern.
Doesn’t that sum up my life? Dominated by Southern (yet hey are not accountable or responsible), great friends and a full on life.
Enough for tonight. Weekend. Looking after the loved ones. Time to chill. Moaning over.

Maybe to add, a friend didn’t get home in time because his train was 40 minutes delayed. Life could be so much better without Southern, or with any reliable train service. I know I am going on about train travel but it is just so unreliable.

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Yet the week was kicking off with a media owner event. It was great, yet one thing I noticed (and no, it isn’t criticism): breakfast was from Pret. And so is most day’s breakfast if it is from a media owner or when I go into the office early, or when I have a quick snack for lunch or in between. Where is that obsession of us Brits (and want to be Brits) with Pret coming from? A quid for a decent brew of filter coffee, Apple pay accepted from day one, a sandwich for everybody’s taste, cookies that taste nice, breakfast that seems to cater for everyone and it is convenient too. Not one street corner without a Pret it seems. There is even a vegetarian one. The first one opened in 1986 and they look like a great corporate, with a CEO blog and apprenticeship schemes, organic food without additives, and used to be owned partly by MacDonalds. It’s sister company is Itsu, the up market sushi shop, which can be found most often in close proximity to a Pret. Maybe they need an agency, what a fantastic brand to work on and take to the next level. The love for standard good food seems to align us – the nation – in Pret 🙂 And I love the salmon and egg baguette for breakfast, unless I have a hungover and prefer their sausage muffins….yes, I am obsessed too 🙂

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Another phenomenon that kicked off this week seemed to be around programmatic. A few people keenly voiced their opinion on programmatic being overrated. I have said that before. Where are we with programmatic advertising? I did present that to a client too. Back in the days we were keen on having real time bidding (RTB) to make impression by impression decision making in real time via a bidder. Nowadays, we execute that and a lot more all from one single line item, highly targeted and across multiple channels. Whether that is real time or not, it is programmatic, it is traded in a programmable fashion. So what does that mean? The whole industry gets automated, and we call it programmatic – for some companies a great chance to be ‘specialists’ and to hide margins, for others it is just another acronym that confuses their clients. As a friend on Linkedin wrote this week: the bottom line is whether we answer the question what value we add to the client. And of course, this is a ‘yes we do’ or ‘no we don’t’. Yet the main differentiator is not whether we execute programmatic, but whether we know how to navigate the ecosystem, understand limitations of ‘make or buy’ and use data in a clever way to our clients’ advantage. That paired with excellent planning makes a good agency (and a few other ingredients). But this wasn’t supposed to be a sales pitch, yet my astonishment of how advertisers just cannot understand my part of the industry. So feel free to look up my Linkedin article on AI – take it with a pinch of salt – but aren’t we falling into a big trap of complicating things? And that is why some programmatic consultants still get paid a high day rate without being questioned. As you can clearly see, I am settling in well in agency land. It is time to get closer to clients and make them understand what adtech is all about!

Another theme, a red line throughout my conversations with some mentors and friends this week, suggests that there is more out there to which people and companies aspire to or should at least. As I reviewed my productivity book this week, where I am addressing those situations, I am wondering how to best help. How to best move things along vs. moving things up, vs. making the first move to take massive actions. Where I am leading with that isn’t quite obvious. I guess it is about doing your daily job and thinking beyond and taking over responsibility and accountability (spot a theme, Southern?). To perform beyond your duty and to use what’s in between your ears: no not your hair, your brain! To do what we preach and suggest to our kids. I see that across people and then across organisations. One changes the other, pushing the next. By being able to be consciously aware of what is actually happening around you, what happens in life, and how it is portrayed to you, how you portray things on the outside too. Exciting mind games, great discussions are fuelled on the back of these discussions I had this week. And it is exciting and it makes me grow and want more. I hope my book will reflect that too. And the more people I can get on board, the more exciting it gets for the journey along. It is about my 5 people I spend the most time with, they challenge me, they move me along.

And then there was the guy on the train, after a few beers, who explained to me how he works for a German bank, has an MBA, hates Brexit, worked in Switzerland and wrote a book. Lots of synergies there. We had a good yupp and catch up and I truly enjoyed speaking to him. These are those above random conversations that push you over, take over your thoughts and influence you. I might never meet the chap again, or maybe I will. But he would agree with all of the above and how you need to look in and take it beyond, and it all will fall into place eventually.

Enough of a brain-drain this week. Hope it was useful and sparked some thoughts.

Best wishes,
Volker

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Sunday Column (410)

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What a week. A great week actually. Being in pitch season we worked a lot. Nothing extreme yet it was close to 60 hours. I am loving it though. Because it is fun, a great team, and a great goal. And for those who know me, if I say we worked a lot, we really did. Long hours. Early hours. Collaborative. Successful. Amazing team. One team, one dream – that’s what they say! I do enjoy my job and I mean it. Whilst I am self conscious that people in my company read my blurb, I am also conscious that this means there is an interest in my person. That is nice to know. I am no celebrity, but in my little world of online and digital marketing, people seem to know of me at least 😉 That’s not a bad thing.

Anyhow, I am due to present 5 facts about myself later on this month for the company. I am excited about it. Not that anything isn’t known about me, there will be (hopefully), some new things coming up that people didn’t know about me. I might just put them on here then too. We shall see. Every time you join a new group/job people need to get to know you. It is a chance for you to redefine yourself, and reposition yourself, but also things that other people that know you take for granted, will have to be re-established, e.g. working hard, being reliable, not being good at visuals.

Actually this week was the first week back from holidays too. An amazing week off that finished with the annual fireworks. We took the kids and they loved it. And the bonfire afterwards too. And I enjoyed it too. We as a family had a great time, and given the age of the kids now, we can do those things, go to bed a bit later and do things we could never do before. That is so nice. But of course life is changing. The wife goes back to work, so on Sunday I couldn’t take the youngest to his best friend’s party because she needed the car. Luckily we got a lift in the end. Yet another excuse to get myself the midlife crisis Jaguar. I am saving up for it!

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Not seeing the kids during the week isn’t nice, but when you see them it is more intense, which is nice again. Not sure that makes sense. Yet when I was working on a document at 6 am on Thursday and the oldest woke up and sat next to me, wanting to download his week, I couldn’t. He isn’t self conscious enough yet to mind, and enjoyed watching some TV (whilst I had my noise cancellation head phones on), but it isn’t nice. Yet, when you think you get a little bit of a rest and the youngest wakes you at 3.30 am on Friday, and you cannot go back to sleep, that’s not great either. So Friday was a bit of a struggle to stay awake and focused. You just cannot win, and I am not complaining. Having seen one of my supplier earlier in the week, he looked shattered. New borns, yes I remember them, however it is getting better. So a 4 hour night is fine once in a while. Just always happens on the wrong day 🙁

Brexit is another topic this week. Look at what is happening. The government now needs approval from parliament to trigger article 50. Wow. That’s going to be interesting. Does that mean we might not have a Brexit. It looks like the whole country now understands which consequences a Brexit might have. Are we back paddling? Hopefully we are. I have an appointment with the German embassy this coming week to get an ID card. This way I can start the process of sending off for a naturalisation to become British hopefully early next year. A lengthy process but I should be alright. I am married to a Scot. But, and I think I mentioned it before, if Scotland joins the EU and splits from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, what is going to happen? Maybe my wife has to rely on me to become an English citizen? What a mess! For the time being I am glad Brexit isn’t Brexit yet. Maybe it never comes to it, yet I am sure Britain will negotiate different terms with Europe regardless. Whatever happens, I hope I can stay and don’t have to worry.

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There wasn’t much else going on this week to be honest. Work, a bit of play, some sleep and my exercise routine. I really try to not miss my runs. Another train strike on Friday, some early days in the office. Getting shit done. I am buzzing of the thought of work. I know it’s sad, but that’s how I roll. Yet the weekend was all about the boys. To unwind, to spend time with them and make sure to make up time. Birthday parties, playing in the forest. Then again you can never make up time. But you can be more in the moment and be more with them. And they are giving back. They are enjoying to have me around for different input to their mum. We can do boys stuff 🙂 So to my earlier point, once I get a (car) toy, maybe they help me maintain a semi classic car? We shall see.

Next week is another busy one. There are a few people I would like to catch up with. I had to postpone a few meetings and lunches and catch ups due to train strikes, work and other matters. Back to a more regulated, more normal life. Nope, won’t happen, illusion. Yet that’s the game I am in now and I love being centre field. That’s where I excel.

Onwards.
Upwards.

Have a good one,
Volker

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