Wednesday, 14 November 2012
Hello $strCompany, if you are reading this, you will no doubt be aware that you have asked me through your preferred recruitment consultant to write a covering letter, highlighting my blog and twitter feed and other such related information. I am fully aware that the public may read this, and if you happen to be working for my existing employer I will for your benefit note that I am speaking to the recruitment consultant on the understanding that I am only available for work once my current contract comes to an end.
So, $strCompany welcome to my blog. Feel free to read any of my posts. You can find links to my twitter and facebook pages up in the corner somewhere. ^
Your request got me thinking; the last time I wrote a covering letter I was a student applying for various graduate placement schemes at mostly automotive manufacturers. Those followed a mostly humble format where I tried to sell myself on the basis of having no experience but being madly into cars and motorbikes. This is of course, completely useless to me 15 years later. You see now, I am quite well grounded in my career, I'm good at what I do and I'm not afraid to tell people what I think; why, I even have a blog where I rant about anything and everything! How do I convey that with without seeming arrogant? I still have no idea, and I'm not sure I ever will! It's like that question in interviews where they ask you to name your weaknesses and you're supposed to have prepared some weaknesses to talk about. Except that none of us like talking about weaknesses so we are never really prepared. I have a weakness for Nando's caramel cheesecake but that's probably not appropriate here, except I just made it appropriate by writing it, knowing you'll read it and probably think to yourselves "Nando's do cheesecake?"
So I thought I'd try something different, and make my covering letter a blog post. What better way to declare that I think it would be really cool to work with you than to do it in pubic, on my blog?
So what else should this covering letter include? I'm wary that it's getting quite long already and I haven't really done much to convince you that you should hire me. Why would you want to hire me? I'm clearly a contractor. Why would I even want to stop contracting?
Well, although contracting is great, I'm constantly worried about not having work in 3 months time. For me (and perhaps also for Bobby McFerrin and Bob Marley), worry and happiness are mutually exclusive. So my path to happiness lies with a more stable permanent job. I also want to develop my career. It's all well and good being paid a lot of money for one bit part after the next, but I want to do more. I want to be directing things, driving things forward, and really making a difference with cool new stuff. This means I won't just take any job, and as a permanent employee I won't work for any-old employer. It has to be for a company worth working for. One that's going places, that has a decent product, that I can proudly talk about to my friends. A company that has great people who I will get on with and want to socialise with. So you'd want to hire me because based on my limited experience of your organisation, I want to work for you. Hire me because I've been in the business for 15 years, have lots of experience and knowledge and I'm not afraid to share it.
Don't delay, hire me today (no, not today actually, but when my contract comes to an end in a few months time).
Friday, 9 November 2012
I've been a long time fan of Microsoft, not least because their products have kept me in employment most of the time for the last 17 years. So when I found out they were releasing a new tablet device to compete with the likes of iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, I naturally pre-ordered one. After all, Windows 7 was a great product and the preview of Windows 8 that I'd been working with was also a pretty nice experience. Furthermore, here was a shiny new product that I could actually see myself using.
First things first, the device hardware is mostly fantastic. A magnetic keyboard attaches to it and doubles as a case. The build quality is great and the screen is clear and vibrant. It has a USB port and a HDMI port so it's got connectivity, and really the only faults I could find are that it's a little on the heavy side, and the magnetic power connector is quite fiddly to use, especially in the dark. Oh and there's no USB charging so you have to carry a plug-in charger around with you if you think the battery might run out. If you've taken your Surface to work and gone out for drinks, don't try to plug it back into your charger when you get home.
Moving onto the software, once I got used to Windows 8 I found it a joy to use. I love the way it's been designed and after an initial frustration caused by my complete ignorance of the welcome video it tried to show me, I found it very natural and even found myself trying to swipe the screen of my regular laptop (now upgraded to Windows 8) on several occasions.
Unfortunately I've decided to return it, which in itself was a bit of a mission. I'll come to the reasons for returning it shortly, but let's just say my customer service experience with the Microsoft call centre wasn't great. They were unable to process the return for a week because apparently they hadn't taken payment from my card, and they didn't know when payment would be taken. Thankfully this has now been sorted and my return has been authorised.
So why am I returning it?
Well the short answer is, frankly it's useless if there's no wifi connection and it's launched without several key apps. The device is marketed as a mobile tool and it's all set up to use Microsoft Skydrive for storage by default. On a regular Windows 7 or Windows 8 Pro computer this wouldn't be a problem as there's a Skydrive sync application, which allows you to work with files locally and synchronises them to Skydrive when a connection is available. Sadly though there's no such application on Windows RT, the ARM processor version of the operating system that's installed on the Surface. Following several inquiries on the Microsoft support site, I decided to try and write a script that would approximate the way Skydrive sync works, but sadly the tools I'd hoped to use for that don't seem to work properly on a drive mounted from the web, leaving me with what is essentially a very expensive coaster.
It has other problems too. No facebook app, no native twitter app, and when you ask Microsoft staff why not, they direct you to the People Hub, which is about as useless as a chocolate teapot. Except that at least you can eat a chocolate teapot. The newsreader app I downloaded because Flipboard isn't available isn't bad, except that it doesn't pre-fetch any news, so if you want to read news while you're on the train, you can't because there's no wifi connection. And the device doesn't even have the option of a data connection so you're stuck. Add to that the stories doing the rounds about how Microsoft are making about $250 on each unit sold and I know I'm getting a raw deal. As far as I'm concerned Windows RT means Windows Return
It's a really unfortunate experiment, and for the price there are plenty of alternatives that will be more practical and more useful. I didn't expect to pay £650 to be a Microsoft beta tester for a product that isn't really ready for an already-competitive market.
Can't wait for it to arrive!
Tuesday, 2 October 2012
Aside from the skate itself which you now know is really cool having watched the video, there were a couple of good reasons for this decision; namely 2 friends who I texted to wish them luck.
One of them is Emily. Emily is a bit of an action girl and was not just skating the marathon but also running the same race the following day. Please sponsor her; her donation page is here: http://virginmoneygiving.com/emilyorme
The other is a very close friend of mine who won’t be named. Actually she will, might as well plug her business too, which is sports rehabilitation and fitness conditioning. Her name is Kinga and she works independently at a company called Ambition Fitness – www.ambitionfitness.com
So I texted them both to wish them luck, and the responses that came back were something like this:
Kinga: I’ve never been to Berlin without you! Shame you couldn’t join!
Me: I looked into it but the flight and hotel was super expensive…
Kinga: Too bad, I had a spare space in the hotel as well!
Emily: You have no idea how much that means to me!
Me: Well I wish I could have been there to support you better…
But actually I could have been there. So I looked for a flight and booked it. Then booked airport parking. Then asked around to see if anyone who had a registration wasn’t going, so I could pretend to be them for a couple of hours during the race. Then I told Kinga I’d see her tomorrow. At first she thought I was joking but I assured her I wasn’t.
My flight was via Frankfurt so what followed was an epic journey of flight delays, the obligatory anal (not literally) German security at Frankfurt airport (only Frankfurt, other German airports seem more relaxed), and an epic fail of a skate that saw me have to stop 5 times to rest, because my back gave out about 2km in.
I did eventually finish though, and having met with friends and caught up with everyone, I was heading back to the airport within 24 hours of arriving.
I’m really pleased I went, as it’s given me a reminder of how unfit I’ve become. Starting today I went for a run in the morning; something I hadn’t done since 2006, and I felt great afterwards. My body is still aching but it was a great feeling watching the sunrise over Tower Bridge. I’ve also been eating healthily today, but it remains to be seen how long that will last. I’m fairly determined to get fitter again though, and lose the 10kg or so I’ve piled on since being in my prime 6 years ago!
Wish me luck
Thursday, 27 September 2012
I’m happy justifying more than the cost of a new iPhone just on annual insurance for my motorbike, so why shouldn’t I get a better phone handset that works a little faster and has some better features?
So because I was about 5 minutes late ordering at 9am on launch day, my delivery time was estimated around the beginning of October. My brother ordered one the day after me and got a delivery time the day after too… so it surprised me when I went to visit at the weekend that he was sitting there with an iPhone. He told me his nano sim arrived so he went to the apple store in Brent Cross to check out the phone, and they had some in stock so he bought it and cancelled his apple store order. That of course prompted me to visit every apple store in London, but alas it was nowhere to be found (in stock) so I ended up just waiting for mine to arrive!
So far I’m very happy with it. I’m concerned that I’m slowly turning into an apple fanboy, and part of me wants to buy an Android phone for no other reason than to redress the balance, but that would be silly.
My biggest bugbear, aside from numerous applications crashing unexpectedly, is apple maps. It’s not completely useless but it is a huge downgrade compared to Google maps. Yesterday it told my friend to turn into a restricted bus-only traffic lane, which he did, only to realise it was restricted. I hope he doesn’t get a ticket! It’s not very good at finding things and the interface is very clunky.
But I know my way round most of London so hardly ever need to use it. I hardly ever needed Google maps either, so I guess it’s a moot point, and I am confident apple will fix it, especially after they issued their apology.
My other problem with it is the lightning connector. I prefer the connector itself, but it’s just rendered all my dock connectors and charging cables useless, and at £15 a pop the replacements didn’t come cheap.
Finally I have a problem with my mobile phone insurance company, who won’t accept apple’s PDF proof of purchase with a serial number on it as proof that I bought the phone. No, they want one that has the IMEI number on it. What a farce! I’ve complained, and they’ve tried to call back twice while I’ve been unavailable and they want me to dial a premium rate number to get back in touch with them. Fat chance of that happening. I do need to sort my phone insurance though!
Oh well, I guess that’s the price you pay for being one of the cool kids
Tuesday, 11 September 2012
I suppose I should start with my phone requirements. Perhaps I’m special, or perhaps I’m just not afraid to say what I think about this craze for big screens on phones.
So here are my requirements:
1. My phone should be a smart phone. This means it should have a decent data connection and access to apps that I find useful.
2. I should be able to use my phone with one hand. This is very important. If I have to use my phone with 2 hands, I can’t even walk down the street while using it. That's not because I walk on my hands, but because a 2-handed phone naturally requires more concentration.
3. It should fit in my pocket comfortably.
4. It should have a decent battery life.
5. It should have a good screen resolution.
6. Using it should be more pleasurable than painful.
How does the Samsung fare?
1. It’s smart, but perhaps too smart. The data connection is fast, but it struggles to switch between wifi and data, and the result is that no matter how many cores the processor has, the phone has to keep up with me as I walk through the city, rather than being fast enough for what I want to do.
2. The screen is way too big. I can only imagine that Koreans all have huge hands, or the phone has been designed for gorillas. If I try to type with one hand, my thumb can’t reach across the screen and if I try, the inside of my hand touches the screen and messes up what I’m trying to type. I ranted about this on facebook and the response was that there are increasing media requirements from most people that need bigger screens. Seriously? Guys, if you want to watch movies on your phone, perhaps you should consider investing in a television. Or a tablet.
3. It doesn’t fit comfortably in my pocket. It’s too big, and sticks out of the top of my jeans. I couldn’t ride a bicycle with this phone in my pocket, so whilst I appreciate how thin and light it is, unless it folds like a piece of paper it’s no good for my pocket.
4. It passed this test. Battery life seemed good. Certainly better than my iPhone.
5. The screen resolution is good, and the colours are vibrant. But you can’t see it in direct sunlight. What’s the story with that?
5. Using it was more painful than pleasurable. The reason for this is that I would have had to spend a long time setting up the way I wanted it to be. I would have been fine doing that if I’d bought one, but it seemed like a lot of hassle for a phone that was already troubling me due to its physical size.
In case you’re wondering, no I would definitely not buy one. And now I’m worried that the iPhone 5 is going to be too big for my thumb as well
The weather sucked. It was cold and wet, just as I'd been warned by everyone else who's been, but the people are friendly and it's true what they say about Guinness. It really does taste better in Dublin!
In typical British fashion.The Queen’s Jubilee weekend was a complete washout. It rained, rained again and rained some more. But people came out in their thousands to wish the Queen a happy birthday, myself included. I’d scoped out a great spot from which to watch the flotilla the day before, but when the time came my plan was thwarted by crowds so big it was impossible to get to my spot! So I didn’t get to see Her Majesty, but I did take several photos of wet people standing in the rain watching a big screen. I’ll post photos of this later, when I have a chance to go through the thousands of photos I’ve taken.
And then we had the Olympics.I was full of scepticism about the Olympic Route Network. I predicted gridlock, traffic chaos and road rage. I was cynical about the corporate sponsorship. And I thought the whole thing would be a waste of public money. But I was wrong. For 2 weeks, driving through London was an absolute pleasure. And that was only the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t seen London with such a great atmosphere in my life, and I’ve lived here all my life. Everyone was friendly. Strangers were talking to eachother on the street. London 2012 Games Makers were posted on what seemed like every street corner, providing cheery directions and help to anyone who needed it. Signs were colourful, and the city felt alive.
A gorgeous friend of mine got me a ticket to the technical rehearsal for the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, so I was one of the first 80000 spectators to visit the venue. The ceremony was epic and all I could do was tell everyone they should cancel whatever plans they have and stay home to watch the ceremony. It was excellent! Sadly, I wasn’t able to watch it in the comfort of my own home. I had to settle for the TV screen in the Costa in Toddington Services, as I was driving up to the Lake District for a wedding that weekend. But what a show it was! And what a show the Olympics were! Team GB outdid themselves, and although I wasn’t able to visit any more Olympic events, I more than made up for it at the Paralympics.
I’ve got 9 t-shirts, a jumper, 3 Wenlocks, a Mandeville, 4 umbrellas, a towel, a bag, a cap and several tickets to events. And I almost (foolishly) bought a genuine Olympic torch on ebay! The torch was probably going a bit too far, but I am proud of having been part of the games. For the Paralympics I managed to go to the Opening Ceremony, Table Tennis, Goalball, Wheelchair Basketball preliminary match, Sitting Volleyball, Wheelchair Basketball gold medal match, a brief visit to Stoke Mandeville Hospital where the Paralympics began, Wheelchair marathon and finally the Closing Ceremony. And I haven’t had enough! I’m already looking at hotels in Rio for 2016!
The London 2012 Olympics truly have inspired a generation. Thank You.I guess all that remains is for me to thank all those who made it possible. The Games Makers (especially friends of mine who were either performing at the ceremonies or in uniform at the events), Team GB, LOCOG, Boris Johnson, ALL of the corporate sponsors and of course the mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville!
Wednesday, 4 July 2012
I've done it 4 times now, 3 running our own team, and it was mostly excellent!
Every year I go to the event and think of something that could be done better next year. Last year, after a long train journey and a horrible walk to get to the campsite with several heavy bags, I saw some friends roll up on motorbikes and in cars and thought "I could have done that" so this year I did!
I wanted to really look after the team this year, as some were travelling from across the Atlantic ocean and others hadn't been before, so I bought enough tent space for everyone. This consisted of a gigantic tent that was sold as a 6-person tent but could probably fit an entire battalion of troops in it. The best tent on the whole campsite though, was my VW Camper Van shaped tent. It was very popular with hundreds of people stopping to take photos of it. At night while trying to sleep I kept thinking a thunderstorm was about to start from all the flash photography, and people were using it as a landmark for describing how to get to places!
To transport all this stuff there, I spent some money getting my old BMW 528i back on the road. It has a huge boot and, apart from the problems with fuel consumption and steering that both still need looking at after the MOT, it was a great motorway cruiser.
Back at the track, the team got on really well and it was lovely to have everyone there with smiles on their faces. The only downside was that although we were sharing our pit lane with several other London teams consisting of a lot of our friends, we arrived at the pit lane a little later than everyone else and they had left no space for us at all, filling it with double mattresses and a baby change area. It made the pit lane useless to us and we mostly found ourselves sitting by the trackside instead of with friends. This is reflected in the photos which either all show the other teams or our team but never together.
Next year we'll turn up early and set up a Hard Rock Cafe in the pit lane. And maybe fit a toll booth for anyone who wants to pass.
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Why am I writing this post? Because she asked me to :)
Monday, 18 June 2012
Pret A Manger, who I must spend about £1000 a year with for my breakfast in the morning, are facing a trade embargo from... Me!
Why? You may ask?
The answer is simple. Until Friday, every morning I would walk in with a smile, ask the lovely staff for my usual Mozzarella & Tomato croissant and coffee and they would happily serve me. We'd enjoy a little banter and every once in a while I'd even get a coffee on the house!
Sadly all this changed last Friday when they decided to implement operation Pasty Tax.
What they did was to move the croissants from the safe, warm cabinet by the tills to the badlands that are the hot food area in the shop.
Ordinarily this wouldn't be that big a deal, but it now means I lose the friendly banter, have to take the croissant to the till myself and also pay 6p more for an extra bit of card that makes it difficult to eat on the move.
So far all the staff I've spoke to have said they think it's a stupid idea and I should complain. So I did. Called head office and asked for an explanation. They were quite helpful and I'm hoping to see some positive action, but I also complained on twitter. Sadly the response from whoever controls the twitter account was something along the lines of "all our branches have a different layout but we've taken your feedback on board" which was rather disappointing.
Anyway, I refuse to eat there until they resolve the problem :)
Update! Day 2 and I received a letter from Pret Customer Services. A rather patronising letter. Contrary to my own investigations and what the twitter account said, the letter told me they ran customer trials and received positive feedback, the placing of the croissants with the other warm food is in line with other bakeries and is in accordance with health and safety regulations. They also blamed the 6p increase in price on the cost of rent. So it tells me that the level of customer service at this company has dropped a lot since I last contacted them.
But I have NEVER seen croissants out in the open on the bottom shelf of an open full height cabinet before. They have no wrapping on them and it's quite nasty thinking about what might land on them, including the dust from people walking in and out of the shop. And so far all the other branches of Pret I've looked inside have the croissants in the correct place by the tills with the original price.
Update. I did finally get the call from the CEO. He completely appreciated my complaint, but the problem is their sales have gone up by 20% since they made the change, and he has a business to run. So I’ve given up. I don’t eat there as often anymore, but when I do I still have mozzarella and tomato croissants. I just pick the one from right at the back. And ask them to remove the box. I hate losing, but nobody wins everything, every time!
Friday, 15 June 2012
I guess it means things have been going wrong a lot lately. Mostly at work.
Communication problems for the most part. Email wars, and obscure processes also have a large part to play in things. Letting tension show in written communication is never a good thing. Evidenced by picking up the phone and practically resolving the problem I've been having in an email war for the last week. As BT says, it's good to talk. If the person I am referring to reads this, I thank you for giving me the slap I needed, and for your honesty. I'd let my own standards slip and it was good to be reminded of that by someone.
A lot of the tension comes from obscure, complicated processes in the first place. Many of these can be avoided and I have several ideas on how things could be improved. It seems many people where I work agree with me, so it's only a matter of time before we start making changes in the right direction!
So what else is going on?
I think last time I wrote a post I was talking about how amazing the weather had been. Sadly since then it's mostly been raining. My motorbike probably has a flat battery, I haven't been skating as much as I'd like and I caught a cold from being out in the rain too much the last few weeks. This irritates me immensely, not just because I caught the cold in the first place but because I am attributing it to being outside in the cold. I usually tell people you don't catch a cold from being out in the cold; all that does is weaken your immune system and you catch the cold from people around you. Maybe my immune system got weakened.
I'm going to Dublin next weekend. That should be good. I've never been there before and I'm looking forward to it, but hoping the weather improves.
Following that I have the Le Mans 24 hour inline skating event at the end of the month. That takes lots of planning and I've been busy organising my team and ordering t-shirts and such. I'm slightly worried I've ordered all of them too small, but hopefully they'll be ok.
Not much else going on really, at least nothing to report. I've been thinking of getting another Android phone, because as I expected it's becoming quite the mobile phone platform.
There are also potentially some other career developments happening. I will post if there's anything to report on that front.
Finally I realised when reading back through my blog that I mention how rarely I write posts quite a lot. I am aware of the irony of mentioning it again when talking about it, but I will endeavour not to do it again.
Fiddlesticks! I forgot to rant about Paris or burritos. Oh well!
Monday, 26 March 2012
This has been deliberate. A girlfriend moving out of my flat all of a sudden, 2 ski trips, my work contract ending and joining match.com all conspired to make me either too talkative or not too talkative for various reasons.
So what should I rant about first? Well it would be rather low of me to rant about the first item, and she's not worth ranting about.
Ski trips are far more interesting anyway, so let's talk about those.
The first one was in January, and was an epic skater group trip to La Tania. It was awesome, except for the accommodation which was very badly organised by a friend who seemed to want to profit from doing so. That was the impression we all got even if it wasn't his intention. It's a real shame because I'd considered him a good friend until that point. So 2 good connections broken... but new connections made in the form of new friends so not all lost. 5 days of skiing and 3 days of snowboarding, all brilliant!
The second trip was last week, and was excellent. It was my third trip to Italy without injury, and my second to Sauze d'Oulx in Italy. Not much to say really... snow getting thin, sun shining all week, lovely weather, lovely company and I hope to see my friends soon for a reunion drinks night or meal.
My work contract ended too, and I did have a permanent job lined up which I started, and quit after a week. Why would I quit? Well, I was hired to a fairly senior position by an online gaming company, but when I started the job the following issues made me not want to work there:
1. The manager who hired me quit suddenly the Friday before I started.
2. The working hours were 9am to 6pm, already long enough but made worse by:
3. "You should arrive early, probably 8.45. You may take a break of up to 15 minutes at 11am and 4pm but if you do, you must deduct that time from your 1 hour lunch break which you may take between midday and 3pm" Let's just say I haven't been treated like this since I was about 13.
4. I went to the toilet and went around the corner for a coffee, and when I got back I was asked where I'd been.
I can't work in those conditions, so I quit.
What this meant is that for a month of lovely sunshine I had lots of free time to walk around London getting addicted to Instagram, before being hired by a previous employer just as this horrible weather started!
And what do I have to say about match.com?
Well not much really. I think it's rubbish. It would probably be good if I was a 6 foot tall caucasian male but I'm not, which immediately excludes me from requirements of the losers on the website. Most of the descriptions go something like this:
"I am happy going out and love travelling but equally happy staying at home and cosying up on the sofa. I'm easy going but I want a confident man. He must be tall. And white. Don't contact me if you only have a picture of your naked torso. If I don't contact you back, sorry but I'm not interested."
Anyway you get the idea. All the women on match.com seem to be after James Bond, not realising that James Bond isn't on match.com. And it's the same with all the other dating websites. Everyone who winks at me is either fat, ugly, old or a combination of the three, or they have put up some old photos that look cute, but they don't look like that anymore. Do I think it's good value for money? No, absolutely not. In fact it's a complete waste and I wouldn't encourage anyone to use it. Same goes for matchaffinity, the sister website that's supposed to match your personalities. It seems my personality matches well with fat old people, despite the fact that my interests are all extreme sports and fun things that fat old people have never imagined doing.
So I've met one interesting lady from the site but I suspect she's not so interested in me. Maybe I rant too much :)
I'll rant about my trip to Paris in my next post, and more about Burritos!
Monday, 12 March 2012
If you happen to be reading this shortly after receiving my CV, please appreciate that I don't just fire my CV off to anyone and that if you've got this far you really ought to call me.
Wednesday, 18 January 2012
I'm already bringing people together for a curry at Raavi's on Drummond street, and I may have mentioned I'm off to the Alps next week, which will be awesome!
Working with some organisations who have little to no experience of social, it can be a struggle convincing them they need to deal with the platform differently to the way they deal with a regular website. They often don't understand that it needs to be easy to use and all about the community members; you don't get to the centre of a social circle by forcing people to do what you want! Flexibility and understanding is key, and there are several subject matter experts who deal with how to introduce these new concepts to an organisation.