Yes it’s time for my end of year reflection. The post-Christmas, pre-New Year period is made for contemplation, especially when the weather is hot, the cricket is slow and the Christmas Ham seeps into every meal.
It’s the time of year 18 years ago my Dad passed away too. We had great Christmas and then went head long into a period of grief and hurt as a family. It’s a period where I was numb, my memory is hazy and while I know stuff happened, those 2 or 3 years after have merged into a tangled mess of memories and emotions. It’s after we visited Dad’s grave that I sit down to write this up, feeling a bit choked up and malaised.
This year has been bit of a roller coaster. It started well, building on some of the momentum and success from 2017. I changed my work arrangements and dropped to 4 days a week of work at the uni. That day off was great, I wished we’d been able to afford it a long time ago. It was a release valve, I could get stuff done that needed to be done, or wallow around a bit when life got a bit hectic and chaotic. It was a chance to recover and rejuvenate.
I got to spend more time in startup world – winning the AgriHack challenge with Rob and Ben with out [Chickon] idea. We went through the process of setting up a company, applying for a research grant, and going into a few more competitions – Hybrid World Adelaide and the AgInstitute conference.
We didn’t manage to repeat the success of the year before at these events but it was a great learning experience. I learnt a ton at the Hybrid World Lab and conference, I got to speak to speak to the biggest audience so far and in front of the biggest damn screen I’ve seen. There was growth and learning happening which was great. It wasn’t anything to do with technology, which was refreshing, and it didn’t involve trying to help create and generate change. It was personal and it left me asking a lot of questions of myself, what I’m doing and where I’m going. I was frustrated a few things, especially the research grant, didn’t get up but what’s done it done.
Career-wise I don’t seem to be really going in the direction I anticipated or projected, there’s a sense of coming full cycle, which includes that unnerving sense of coming back to where you started. The year ended with the offer that I go back to the roll I started in at the university 11 years ago. The adage of “the more things change, the more they stay the same” has been ringing in my ears for a lot of this year. There’s a realisation that the rhetoric about innovation in my institution hasn’t been met with any tangible action to change nor willingness by those in leadership to embrace it. There’s a cultural inertia that I’ve felt the full force of over the last few years, an unwillingness to bend or move forward, so it’s no wonder that my two year secondment to uImagine is set to end a year early. I have mixed emotions, but I exhausted by the politics and decision making. I don’t seem to able to make my voice heard or do the work I feel will make an impact and be fulfilling. Instead I spent far too long single handedly reskinning Blackboard, developing up a style guide, building all the sites, writing all the HTML and CSS, running training and communication sessions. I also had to bear the full brunt of complaints that something had finally changed at the university and that they weren’t happy with it. A lot of decisions got made that I didn’t agree with yet I had to deal with the fallout. It’s hard dealing with that feedback when you essentially agree with the points being raised.
After a very long hard start to the year I took some time out from work and spent a couple of months on long service leave. It’s not something I would have expected to accrue, especially not before I turned 40, but here I am. I wasn’t overly happy with work and when they announced that there would be a restructure I decided that it was something I didn’t need or want to be a part of. I’d hoped that on my return it would be sorted, but typically it’s now been delayed until June. It seems like I’m expected to just sit in limbo for another 6 months till that happens. I’m over it. Despite my service it still seems that there’s an inability within the organisation to treat it’s Human Resources like actual people.
I need a change.
I’ve spend the last few months moving our company from a piece of paper to setting up some structure around it. We now have a name (26fifty), logo, email and a [website]. We’ve grouped our startup projects under one banner and we’re looking at a few new options for other work.
The time off has really given me an opportunity to think about what it is I want to do, what drives me and what my skills really are (decoupled from history and roles and disciplines). For me it’s creativity that’s the driver. I relish nothing more that the solving a problem, coming up with novel solutions, working through them, testing and building them. I’m able to bring my broad set of skills together in those situations and it’s something that I truly enjoy doing. There was a podcast that I listened to early on during my leave that discussed creativity, and something that stuck out at me is that creative people hate repetition. It’s something that I’ve come to learn about myself – that repetition is my enemy – it’s something that I really struggle with. I’m quite happy with a certain level of it – to get a process developed, tested and refined, but at a certain point I get bored with it, frustrated even, and my mind yearns to go elsewhere. I need to find work that supports that, not just a job that pays the way.
So 2018. Politically, socially and emotionally it’s been a dumpster fire. Career wise it’s felt like that too. I’m not going to touch on any of it – you all experienced the nightmare too.
On the family front though it’s been great. Alise has become so much more independent and in so many different ways. I don’t feel I ever come close to the “Best Dad Ever” that she likes to exclaim (especially when dishing out sweet things) but her love keeps me ticking over. I know I’ve been a moody bastard at certain points this year and Clare remains focused and supportive no matter what. She’s provided moments of clarity that have been invaluable, where I’ve only been able to see the tree in front let alone the whole forest. I love our little family and love that two new nieces joined the clan just last week.
2019 – well I’m booked to travel to India for 10 days at the end of January, taking Chickon international before it’s even off the ground. It’s a great opportunity and there’s something to be said about my attitude with the startup to just say yes to everything that comes along. Beyond that… well there’s quite a lot of [Fog of War] ahead. I’m hoping that new opportunities will arise and I’ll hopefully get some more exciting projects to work on.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for journeying down the road with me. Feel free to get in touch – let’s meet up online and have a coffee and a chat!
Peace out, 2018!