Posts Tagged work

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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Sunday Column (406)

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It got frosty outside. The mornings are colder and you can see a nice layer of frost and fog covering the country side. Idyllic I’d say. As I start my morning commute, start writing this post, you can look at the fields and trees covered in white, cold fog. The sun starts burning holes into it as the day goes on, yet the picture is amazing. As so often I don’t get a chance to take one as we are flying past the pastures. Same as the week passes by. This week has been busy but good busy. I seem to be able to manage my work load and slowly get to grips with how things work. A few weeks in, and I enjoy my job more than ever. I feel like I have arrived, and I can move on from saying I have been weeks in the job to months in the job. It feels good.

It’s funny how your life plans out in front of you. Years of doing one thing, a change in industry, offers from the other side, then moving to the other side, further away from what you ever thought you would do….to end up closer to where you ever wanted to be. What else does life have in stock for us? What is planned? Where next? I mean, for now, I would be foolish to change anything and don’t have any ambitions to do so. But where will I be in 5 years? I have to think…but this is a long time to go. Seeing a little baby boy on Friday in the office made me think. 5 years is not a long time since my youngest (!) was filling his nappies.

Life moves very quickly. Just finishing renovating the house we remodelling our bedroom; I think we are done, yet the kids rooms are re-arranged, and before we know it the teenage posters are up and the doors shut. Let’s make use of every minute of our time with them. They are such a gift!

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How goes it? The voice of my friendly Southern Train Services station staff. Yes, those people are affected the same way we are by their company ….poor management and strikes causing grief across the organisation and commuters. On Monday someone was taken ill on a train and we shared a taxi from Haywards Heath. We as in the commuters. That was a bit of bonding, but you couldn’t blame Southern for it. You can however blame them for the poor service and three days of strike coming up next week. Will it go ahead? When do I start re-organising my trips, my exercise routine and evening appointments to make sure that those days aren’t turning into a night mare? WTF is going on – why can’t Southern sort it out. This week I found out a train was cancelled last minute to rush to the station to make my 9 am meeting. It is appalling and utterly disgusting to see a company not being able to sort out their staff and company issues. VERY poor management. Get rid of your top brass I’d say. It is not only the money and inconvenience, it is an attitude problem I have huge challenge with.

Just imagine I walked in on Monday and said to my boss ( 🙂 ) that I am going on strike…not only am I new in the job, he would hand me my P45 straight away. And rightly so. Fair enough, he treats me nicer than Southern seems to treat their staff, but that’s exactly the point. Never mind, my rant won’t help. The only thing that helps is to breathe in and out, and wonder WTF is going on. Never mind.

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Brace yourself for economic disruption. Yes, the strike is one thing, but the other one is Brexit. The pound is on an all time low. After our PM suggested the date of Brexit or article 50 being triggered to be in March 2017, the stock market lost enough money to push us down to 6th place of wealthy nations. Really? WTF. I started swearing a lot more recently. Can you tell? Do you understand why?

Article 50 will be triggered by end of Q1 next year, and then faith decides if I can stay. Why wouldn’t I? It is an insecurity, another burden. I would have until 2019. So that’s ok. By that time we might all be eligible to get American passports, who knows. No point of worrying. Despite, I am looking into Naturalisation. That means, if things go well, I should not have a problem to become a British citizen by maybe mid next year. However, the process is long, bureaucratic and time consuming as well as expensive. Patience Ballueder, patience.

In that sense I breathe in, and slowly breathe out. Time to move on and not worry about the things I cannot change anyway. Life is going to be ok. It is pretty good at the moment, not taking above into consideration 😉 I started reading Bruce Springsteen’s biography which made me revisit some old Pink Floyd and Bruce’s albums. Old times. When I had a bike and was a bit wilder than I am now. Those days I put on my biker jacket, the leather gear and just hit the road, see how far I could lean into curves and push boundaries. Crazy, yet it was nice. I sometimes wonder what it would be like today but the wifey isn’t allowing me to have bike no more. And she is probably right. No, she definitely is. So it might just have to be a smallish sports car, we shall see. I am not 40 yet.

Yet life is now. I am embracing it. Minute by minute. And I am enjoying it.

Best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (405)

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I feel tired. Maybe the weather change, maybe the wine, maybe just being on the edge of winter? The fire is on, I am finalising my blog on Sunday morning. Not that it is that cold, but why not. However, I also feel full of energy. I am bursting to put more hours and effort in to get things done. Make this my world, my day, my minute. Make time work. Make this my life. Somewhat, over the last few months, I feel more in charge of what is happening than I have ever done before. This is a new but amazing feeling. As my American friends would say, I am pumped!

Beer. Football. Fun on a Saturday afternoon. Fish and chips, take away pizza and a curry. Am I turning into a Brit? No doubt I still have my German accent, yet I feel, after 15 years, things are coming together, and I am more settled than ever in this society. I love this country. Passport or not, am I turning my back on Germany? Slowly but surely I am I think. Whilst I still have my roots there, no travel is required to the fatherland at the moment, so I get little exposure to it. So maybe I am just properly settling down… nothing wrong with it, life is good, I am happy.

Brexit or not we keep investing. Hopefully into something money cannot buy, but health for my back and sanity: a new bed and memory foam mattress. A bit beyond what I wanted to spend, but I feel this is an investment worthwhile. Our first bed after uni was IKEA. The mattress lasted a few years, then it was gone. Then we had a futon mattress. 4 years, it is gone. Now a memory foam one with 8 years guarantee and 40 days return…we cannot go wrong with that one I don’t think.

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On the note of health and my wife completing her first marathon, I am getting obsessed with my Apple Watch as a fitness device. Whether to track my runs, or to see how often I stand during the day, how much I move or how well I sleep. The health app and my watch keep me right. A gentle reminder on my arm suggests to breathe, take a minute out and refocus. Nice. I need those reminders and find them useful. I remember too well that my colleagues at uni in halls of residence laughed at me, when I had my first palm pilot, and it reminded me of things. And they said, is that to remind you to breathe, Volker? I didn’t then. My device now does. I think it’s funny now. They probably don’t -) Particularly this week whilst I suffered from the evil man flu. Trying to not fall asleep in meetings and getting any sympathy of course doesn’t work, so a bit of focus on the inner self was useful.

And I am now competing with my friend Adam on performance on a daily basis. How many steps did he take? How long did he stand up? A nice competitiveness. I think my wife needs an Apple watch too. Christmas coming soon.

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Another thought this week. Whenever I start a new job I am getting consciously aware of new people reading my blog. Often I get asked, based on my bio, whether I am a Buddhist, and I guess I am. Why, I wonder, am I classifying myself as a Buddhist. And I guess the answer is relatively simple. As simple as most things in Buddhism. For me it is about the philosophy. The bit about being in control of your thoughts, to be able to help and to be a good citizen. But foremost it is the philosophy of calming your mind, being mindful and present in the moment. Focusing on the one thing that is important. It isn’t a religion for me, it is a certain commitment to be a good human being and focusing on improving my mindfulness. It is that simple really.

Being a good dad. A good father. A good husband. A good manager. I was told this week by an ex colleague of mine, that I am very good with people. A huge compliment. I love people. I love working with people, developing them. One of my biggest things. Hence I love my new job. I can so see how I can help and impact the workflow and people. I enjoy that. Yes, there are things I don’t like, but there always are some in any job. I only started and got a chance to meet the big boss this week. You know, and I would say that, meeting the founder is impressive enough, but meeting the guy who has the vision beyond your little world is impressive … Jim Rohn said to surround yourself with 5 people that help you develop. I am improving my 5. And hopefully I am to others what they are to me.

Jim Rohn. Anthony Robbins. Freedom Fast Lane. The Mentee. There are virtual mentors and instructors, coaches and helpers, yet having people in the real world that talk sense makes you feel good. Who are your 5? Who are the five people that influence you? I enjoy sitting in the middle of receiving but also giving. Helping and being helped. One grows, all together we improve and grow for a bigger purpose. I enjoy that, an environment I strive in.

Hopefully, so will my boys. I haven’t seen much of them this week but when I did, I feel like the bond is improving day by day. I want to be a good dad. A good friend and sparring partner. A coach. All their life. That is my purpose. And the only way I can achieve that is by gaining trust.

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You know, trust is key in any relationship. It takes ages to build, and once destroyed it is difficult to regain. I remember in one of my start ups they gave me the trust to be the sole account holder, I mean kind of. So, when I left, in theory they had to cut my card. They trusted me for so long, would you trust them? Yes you would. And still today you would. This is the key to any relationship. My wife, and we had a great night out on Saturday. Let’s work on that in our lives to improve the relationships we own. Let’s make time for each other, rech out and share trust and love.

I wish you well.
Have an amazing week,
Volker

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Sunday Column (391)

This week’s highlight was Cannes I suppose. As every year, at least for the past 3 years, I went to the Cannes Lions where the adtech and martech industry is celebrating itself (actually it is the creative industry and we hijacked it, but that’s for another time). Lots of meeting, lots of yachts, Rose, fun, booze, dancing (not me), an Irish pub and football, good meetings and new developments. A great event. A bit too hot for my liking, national strikes on the way home, but eventually I made it back. I missed my family most of all, and whilst a lot of people think that Cannes is all fun, it is also hard work – just in a very nice (!) environment.

As a matter of fact the week was very productive. Good outcomes that should bear fruits in the near future. The only bitter taste is that last year the Uber strike made it difficult to get home. This year a national strike affecting the airport as well. Air France called off a strike. Some people got stuck. Some missed international connections. What is happening? France just doesn’t come across as a good country does it. But then….

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Then our vote on Thursday. Brexit. I was surprise hearing from someone that he voted to exit the EU. Anyone with a decent education and common sense should have voted to remain. At least this is my opinion. I awoke in shock. 52% of the country voted for a Brexit. The UK is leaving the European Union. You might have seen my comments on Facebook. I am sad. I didn’t expect that. Friends posted from Cannes that investors started withdrawing money from the UK right from 1 am, when the results pointed towards Brexit.

Where does that leave us as a family? Will we stay in this country I chose to live in and have a family? Will we move to Germany, Australia, New Zealand? What does it really mean? I have always said that history repeats itself, the European Union will come to an end at some point. I anticipated this happening via a few bankruptcies of countries and then the union deciding to unravel. Now Britain decided to leave. Scotland will now most probably leave the Great British Union, then Northern Ireland. Will we then see England being on its own?

And as is stands, a few people that wanted to ‘vote against the system’, never believed their ‘exit vote’ would count. Never mind. We just got through a recession, we are in growth mode and what we do not need is about five years of uncertainty, trouble and bad relationships with our neighbouring countries. Would, post 5 years, things get better? Maybe, but not guaranteed. Let’s face it we are better in than out. And also we don’t really symbolise as a country that we welcome foreigners and immigrants. People we need, the country needs, to fuel growth. As someone said, the people that voted to remain are the ones able to leave; whilst the ones that voted to leave won’t be able to leave and will get the brutal force of the exit. It also seems that more older people voted to exit, whilst the younger generation would have preferred to stay. Democracy I suppose: every vote counts the same.

FT comment on Brexit

FT comment on Brexit

Some predict that five years from now we will see a better and stronger Britain. Will we? Maybe. I always say to trust in the future and that things will work out, and that the universe will sort things out. Yes, I say that. Yes, I believe it. But who is influencing it. In our own little world, it would be us. In the greater world, it might be people we cannot trust anymore. Or can we? I am shell shocked. I am feeling sick and lost at the same time. Sick of thinking that you can build something that lasts. A house, a home for the family. Build to last for 20+ years for the kids to grow up in a stable environment, for us to go to work, go on the occasional holidays and have a good life. All that was put at jeopardy now? For what gain? Or will it all come good? Will we be looking back in 5 years time and say that it was the right decision for the future of our country? Will I have a British passport by then? Might I work in Germany, living in England? I guess only the future will tell.

To early to make any rush decisions I suppose. Politicians would have to come up with answers. Quickly. We need leadership and guidance, a plan to become a great nation and to offer employment, security and stability for the people in this country, no matter what their background is. London already said they would put all wheels in motion to help people to stay; a petition to have another referendum was already signed by over 1 million people. I just hope I can stay … will be made welcomed (again) but according to the legislation, after the next two years, I might not be eligible to stay. I was crying. I was in tears watching the news. I didn’t expect this. And I have the responsibility (with my wife) to bring my children up in a country with opportunity and in a stable and secure environment. The next year or so will show whether or not Britain can continue to deliver that. Or England as it looks atm, given Scotland’s looming referendum.

The dust will settle and hopefully settles quickly.
All will be good in the end I suppose. I shall and will not panic.
I don’t believe I ever have to leave the country, probably easily get a passport, but do I want to stay in the long term?

Let’s change the topic:

As you know I am writing a lot on productivity and life life balance. There was an article I read this week about why do we work so hard. A rather long article but well worth a read. Mark Zuckerberg originally shared it on Facebook. It gave some insights on our love for hard work. Quote: “It wasn’t the stress of being on the fast track that caused my chest to tighten and my heart rate to rise, but the thought of being left behind by those still on it.”

Is it perception that drives us? Is it what others think?

Having been, more than ones, in difficult emotional situations, I realise that most of what makes us worry, makes us think, flight or fight, is based on our thoughts. Our brain wiring. Coffee or alcohol can accelerate your thinking and emotional stress. Constant input from emails, tasks to finish, things to do, to remember etc etc. brings strain upon us. We don’t want to fail and want to be winning! Being available all the time and not being able to wind down will become, naturally, challenging for ‘human kind’. If I say human kind, I say that with a distinct thought that we must start to relax more often, take breaks, evaluate what is happening. We should not be constantly available and rely on people getting back to us via emails.

Whilst I am working on my next productivity book, I see the need for disconnection. For down time. There is no way that it is sustainable, let alone productive, to be constantly connected and constantly in touch with everyone. I manage to not check emails and work related things at the weekend. Quite frankly this is down to having no time and all priority on the family. This again happened this weekend.

After being away and really missing the boys, not being able to find the key rings they asked for, I took them to the Zoo on Saturday. That was my highlight. My wife was away at the weekend, so the boys and I went on the adventure to the London Zoo. We left early in the morning, spend 4.5 hours in the zoo, walked 12,000 steps (10K) and had lots of sweets, ice cream and FUN! They were knackered. They loved it. They had a fab day and I didn’t have to shout once. Being able to fulfil their needs and care about them, is fantastic. The possibility to engage with them, bonding and creating shared experience. We missed mummy of course 😉

I hope you had a great weekend too.

Enjoy the time you have with your loved ones and with the ones that are dear to you. Uncertain times ahead, yet let us hope that things will always work out in the end. Because they will.

Have a good one,

Volker

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Sunday Column (382)

Last week started on Sunday when I flew to Germany. I piggy-backed a long overdue trip onto a trip to some clients in Frankfurt. Frankfurt is not only a pain to fly to (Heathrow only), there aren’t that many companies in our industry. It has been 18 months since I have been and stayed one day this time to then train it to Düsseldorf. Germany is very scattered when it comes to big cities and there are important people in each one of them. I guess it keeps it interesting.

A bit of travel is essential to cover ground in Germany. One of the few countries without a centralised city for media, not like Paris/France, Milan/Italy, Madrid/Spain and of course London/UK. My next trip to Germany is Berlin in a few weeks time. That again will be from Gatwick, which is a lot easier. It seems that Easyjet changed their flight plan and doesn’t fly to some cities I need to go to. That means a long taxi drive to Heathrow.

On the note of train travel in Germany: my annual travel card from Hassocks to London, which I renewed this week, costs more than a travel card to use the train all over Germany for a year. On first sight my ticket seems like a rip off. Discussing it with people, it seems that Germany subsidises train travel and given you pay almost double on tax, this explains how it works. Guess every country has its pros and cons.

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I seem to hate flying out on a Sunday. It seems like I am cheating on family time but luckily this happens only a couple of times a year. Particularly as I got a good engagement going with the boys, playing chess and doing homework. We had a fantastic weekend.

However the meetings we had were awesome. The industry is very responsive to our solutions and we are pivoting. It is nice to see we offer innovation in a crowded market space and drive business forward. What is not to like?

My Hilton in Dusseldorf was a bit unliked by me. We got to a personal chat with the Operational head and a make good. Actually curious to meet him in person now 😉 He seems very much switched on. Next time. First unhappy Hilton stay so far. That’s a better track record in comparison to IHG. Let’s see how the next three Hilton stays stack up. Being away from home you want to have a good bed and a good service, a good place to stay and most of all, value for money. When staying in a very low frill hotel the other day, it ticked all the boxes. Yet, it didn’t come at the price tag of a Hilton. Same is true when we travel, as a family we go into a Premier Inn for the night. Anyway….I keep you posted, no doubt.

Overall it was a very successful trip. Definitely worth while with some very challenging and good discussions with industry leaders. Just the way I like it.

Work is very interesting at the moment. We are, as a company, innovating a lot around cross device data points. That and us playing in the biggest offline silo, TV, and the most engaging online silo, Social, leads to some interesting developments. It’s going to be exciting over the next few months.

My wife ran another race. I am very proud of her. She managed to hit her anticipated time. She also signed up to more runs. I am a bit afraid I would get addicted if I start signing up to races. Hence I am still refusing to join races but the one in July running a 24 hour relay race over the distance of 10K. Despite my exercises I seem to be putting on weight. Not a lot to be honest but it seems to be creeping up. So this week I have done a few more runs than normal. 30K and 45 minutes Cross Trainer. That resulted in the weight being down again but I was exhausted on Friday.

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For the matter of weight I need to look into my diet again. A few client lunches and boozing sessions with lots of finger food and crisps seem to take its toll. That of course is fair enough so I shall try to cut down on those wasted calories of nuts and crisps. Also I am wondering if this high fat diet, having a ham and cheese omelette every morning, is the best idea. I guess I need to do more research. If you look up athletes’s diets they eat ‘normal’ with focus on veggies, carbs prior to events and fruit as well as protein. Yet they never mention chocolate, cashew nuts or crisps as part of their diet 🙂

You only live once I guess 🙂

I am buzzing this week. Overall. The challenge is our bathroom. The tiles just don’t seem to be on there right. Uneven in any of the three directions. The builder keeps trying. I am hopeful we get there in the end. Quite a stressful experience. But for now, it was weekend. Time to chill.

Last but not least I decided to grow a beard this week, then took it off again. I just don’t seem to be able to decide on the right look. And the right itch. The right format of beard. Off again for now….we shall see.

The joys of life. Hope yours is going well.

Best wishes,
Volker

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