Can you do this by the end of the day, please?

Can you do this by the end of the day, please?

One thing I’m struggling with now is doing things myself 😀 . It’s funny now that I say it, but one thing the corporate environment teaches a manager is to delegate. But how does that really work when you start your own business?

Delegation is such a big subject and there are so many views on how it should be done and what you should delegate.

When any of us started out in our first jobs, we usually were “executors”. We had one (or a few) valuable skills and we are hired to just “do” the job. We are very good at working on our own, applying our skills and executing whatever deliverable.

Then we learn to work as part of a team. We learn to communicate when we do something, we learn to ask questions early on, we learn to share our knowledge. If there is anything I ever taught my teams, it was to communicate and help each other. No one person was “done-done” with anything until the last person in the team was “done-done”. Or in other words, a team is as fast as its slowest member. I’m a real team-player as you can see. As a side note, I think I learned this when I was playing voleyball. Team sports are an amazing environment to learn the value of community and the concept of “if we are all happy, then you are happy”.

Gradually, each of us starts emerging from the team through special skills. Every person can stand out through something. And that is when we start leading (by example) with something. Now, when you lead, in order to scale your skills, you need to coach others to get at your level. And that is where delegation comes into play. I won’t go into how some managers are promoted and why some managers are not necessarily good leaders. My point is that, whatever the means got you to a leader’s position, you start learning how to delegate (hopefully). You don’t delegate, you don’t scale. Simple.

As a manager, I learned how to delegate. I also learned how to always oversee the big picture and make sure all the wheels are in place and moving in the right direction so that the car moves towards its destination. Basically, I learned how to coordinate, be proactive and think ahead, so as to avoid accidents. I went even further and I learned how to know my people, what they like, what they don’t enjoy doing, who works better with whom, what problems they have at home and how happy they are with their jobs, etc. I learned everything around the actual execution. Except for executing :D. Well, I do have a technical background and I know a thing or two ( 😛 ), but I also hired smarter people, who execute better. That has been my job for years: building great teams to deliver great products. That is what I do best.

So now, I am starting fresh. Now, I am the executor of my own ideas. Sometimes, I am like “oh, we need to do this and then we will need to do that.. Age, do you think we can document this? Hardeep, do you think you can finish this?” (sorry, guys, for referencing you here 😀 ). Then I look around and I’m like “oh! there’s no one around.. I need to do this!”. Gosh, I miss my Gumtree team hahaha!

Anyway, I guess the point of this post was just to reflect on how being a manager can affect your mindset when it comes down to doing things yourself. And sometimes you only realize it when … well, you have to do things by yourself. And that might include even skills you’ve never used, like UX design or SEO or .. sales. So, do keep that in mind before you decide to quit your job and start something!

 

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How’s life after … employment?

I keep on being asked this question over and over again. It’s like I crossed on the other side and people want to know if the grass is as green as they are imagining it. 🙂

To give a bit of context, I have been working in the software development industry for almost 11 years. I’ve had a job with a startup (I co-founded, actually), then jumped into the corporate environment. Initially, I worked in an outsourcing/offshoring environment (“on the shore” side, so to speak 😀 ), in Romania. Still, working for big companies. Then I moved to London and worked for Gumtree, which is an eBay subsidiary. But no point in boring anyone with an experience they can read about. The bottom line is, I have been working continuously in medium-big companies for the last 9 years or so. 2 weeks in a row had been the longest vacation I had ever taken. Once. 😀

Then I quit my job to follow my passions and dreams.

So, to come back to your question…

Well, first of all, in theory, I’ve only had a couple of weeks of real, stay-at-home unemployment. Another couple of weeks I was away in Peru. Those don’t count because I was enjoying a vacation, instead of contemplating upon my situation :).

But if you want a “status update” (as the corporate environment puts it) …

I’m struggling in between two answers 😀 : one that will make you jealous as hell or the other that will get you thinking. Maybe I will give you both..

Make-you-jealous answer

Life after employment is a bliss.

  • I get to chill a lot
  • I get to wake up at any time I want and obviously go to bed at any time I want (especially after you are jet lagged from a vacation in Peru).
  • I get to see the sun during the day! Now I sound like a jailbreaker, but it’s true. Being in concrete offices all day is like being a groundhog.
  • I get to choose what I want to do whenever I want to do it.

It’s complete freedom!

Or maybe not..

Make-you-think answer

The first thing I realized is that initially (but while I was still part-timing), I wanted to chill, waste time, do nothing, watch movies, do nothing. Honeymoon period. That was definitely a rebellion against all the stress from before. I  got bored and over that phase in about 2-3 days.

Then after a few days of over-sleeping and late-sleeping, and especially with the jet leg, I started getting annoyed with my chaotic schedule. I am a person who is all about efficiency. Always highly organized, very active, I very quickly became annoyed with my tiredness during the day. So some structure needed to be put back in place. So now I am back to waking up early, going to bed (reasonably) late, eating at the right times, etc.

I started to think it’s too good to be true or that it won’t last for long. Because it won’t! (haha). For example, I know I have limited resources to live off of. Money starts becoming more and more relevant. With a reasonable consistent salary, I didn’t use to worry that much. And even though I did my maths before making this step, I did start being more calculated in my costs. Not to mention, the first few days (after the honeymoon 😛 ) I canceled all kinds of known and unknown subscriptions I had. Bye, bye Spotify Premium! I started calculating every purchase in “days of extra contribution” to my unemployment.

I started thinking about extra income on minimum effort or existing activities. And this is where creativity comes into play. For the right amount of pocket money (wink wink), I will share with you all the ideas that crossed my mind 😀 .

I have a few projects going on. One of which is a nutritional recommendation engine that you can read about here. Needless to say, I need to get those going asap. So, big to-do lists, meetings and a lot of work ahead. Yep, there you have it, another job!

So this ends my rant. What do you think?

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A trekker’s checklist in Peru

I’ve been unpacking for the last day or so and while doing it, I thought it’d be nice to document what I had with me, what was super useful and what was completely useless.

Extremely useful stuff – besides the obvious, like a backpack, hiking boots and windproof jacket:

  • baseball cap and sunglasses: heights actually make the sun shinier and stronger
  • Smartwool socks: they helped with chafing on my Achillean tendon and the cold on some occasions. Gracias a lot of people for the tip!
  • vaseline: helped with chafing on one of my Achillean tendons, I used it once and got over the chafing surprisingly quick for the rest of the trek. Best tip ever! Thanks, Hardeep!
  • self-inflatable mattress: it inflated on its own, which is very useful at +3500 m (you don’t want to pass out inflating your mattress) and it kept things warm and soft on hard ground, while others complained about the foam mattress provided by the trekking company. Gracias, Marton! And when I think about the fact I almost left it at home..
  • 2L water bladder: best size for the weight you carry and it ensured I never forgot to hydrate. Will defo use it in the future!
  • ear plugs: 3M ear plugs are the best. I am a light sleeper, so sleeping in some situations is difficult (nature sounds, airplane engine sounds, honking cars in Peru, everything was covered)
  • trekking poles: I would have not finished Machu Picchu if I didn’t have them. Two is great!
  • money belt: helps keep things close to you and easy to find. Your own marsupial.
  • raffia bag 😀 (Romanians and apparently lots of Peruvians know). A very cheap checkered huge raffia bag – btw, apparently Luis Vuitton has launched a line of items made using raffia haha – that everyone was initially laughing about, but which I used to check in airports a lot of different pieces of luggage. I could group everything in one bag and when the time came, I could take everything out, fold the raffia small and carry everything on my back. Best use ever!

Completely useless for me – although recommended everywhere and maybe in some conditions, they would have been useful:

  • microfiber towels: in hotels you get towels and on treks I used wet and dry wipes
  • sock liners: they made things worse for me with chafing, actually. Plus, it was getting too hot inside my boot
  • windstopper gloves: as expected too expensive and could have lived with normal gloves
  • waterproof overtrousers: didn’t rain at all, but if it did, they would have been useful
  • sleeping bag liner: was recommended for hygiene purposes when the sleeping bag is rented. F**k hygiene when you are freezing cold and tired. You just jump in the sack and hope to survive the night (and trek)! 😀
  • 1L water bottle: if you have a bladder and buy bottled water, you don’t need anything else. Complete waste of weight and space. Left it at the hotel before going on the trek. Used it once at night!
  • Freshette: for whoever doesn’t know, it’s an …uhm “instrument” to help girls pee like boys, standing. Nope, never managed to use it properly. I was born and am defo a lady, no doubts left! 😀

Stuff I utterly missed:

  • knee support: I overestimated my knees while going down “stairs”, especially on the last couple of days of Machu Picchu

Below, my full initial list of items:

Clothes Meds Gear Food Others
Cap Sun block (aftersun) Head lamp Snacks Cash (tips)
Baseball cap/cowboy hat Insect repellant Backpack Chocolate Travel insurance
Hiking boots Immodium Sun shades Energy bars Credit card (Monzo/HSBC)
Towels (micro fiber towel) Antibiotics (???) no Backpack waterproof sack no Seeds Flappy
Fleece tops Plasters (100) Duck tape Primal Joy bars Travel insurance
Trainers Antihistamines Matress (self inflatable) Rehydration powder
 Waterproof jacket  First-aid kit Sleeping bag liner Shower gel
Polyester t-shirts Nausea pills no Sleeping bag rent Tooth paste
Base layers/thermals Ibuprofen Smaller packs of wipes Hand gel (sanitysing)
Smartwool socks Ibuprofen gel Water bottle (1L)  Nail brush (clean with gel)  no
Sock liners Throat lozinges (dry air) !! Water bladder (3 L) Travel shampoo
Windstopper gloves Knee support  no Ear plugs Toilet paper
Flip-flops Vaseline (small on folds and friction points) Wet wipes (pack of 20)
Regular socks Lip balm Garbage plastic bags
Rain coat (with backpack extension) Probiotics for travel Waterproof bags (sealable)
2 pairs of lightwear hiking trousers (zip-off) Water sterilising tablets Trekking poles rent
Down vest Battery pack
 Fleece buff Tooth brush
Waterproof overtrousers Outlet convertors
Shoe laces Shaker no
Freshette (?)
Money belt
gopro battery
 GoPro
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Before another adventure

Yellow! I am starting the Inca Trail trek tomorrow.

For 4 days I will be hiking the Inca’s path through the mountains from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. Again, I went through the challenge of packing my backback with the minimum amount of weight – even though I actually exercised this process a few times in London, just before leaving to Peru. I think I am at the point where I will just have to find out how to do it.. on the trek.

A few details of what’s ahead – based on what I remember from our briefing with the agency:

Day 1 (Easy) – 13 kms

  • pick up from hotel at 5 and drive to Ollantaytambo – and Piscacucho (2600 m)
  • start trek by crossing over the Urubamba river
  • go up to Wayllabamba and camp there (3100 m)

Day 2 (Challenge) – 13 kms

  • Go up towards the first pass, and the highest, Dead Womans’ Pass (4215 m)
  • Then go down towards Pacaymayu where we camp (3500 m)

Day 3 (Unforgetable) – 16 kms

  • Go up towards the second pass Qochapata (3950 m)
  • Then go down to Winay Wayna where we camp (2700 m)

Day 4 (Unique) – 5 kms

  • Wake up at 3 am and hike during the night so that we can reach Machu Picchu gate by early morning
  • Enjoy Machu Picchu for a few hours then head towards Wayna Picchu and/or the hot springs
  • Head back to Ollantaytambo by train and Cusco by bus

This is basically the plan – on paper.

Plan on paper, literally “on paper” 😀

Let’s see how it will pan out.

My concerns right now? Hahaha

  • Have I packed my porter baggage too heavy?
  • Do I have enough warm clothes, especially for the nights? I hate to be cold.. And don’t like being cold when I need to sleep.
  • Do I have too many or too few snacks? Digression alert: My veganism has gone to hell in Peru 😀. I  always gave an example to people that if I were on top of a mountain and was offered eggs or butter as my only options, then I would have that. Well, it happened too many times here. Omlette and pancakes made with eggs have become a breakfast I have every other day. I don’t even want to think where they added butter in stuff. Anyway, another post on my “betrayal” of my lifestyle.
  • Will I be cold at night? (intentional repeat haha)
  • Oh, and need to be careful with how much I eat. Smaller, regular portions work better for me when I exercise – lesson learnt the hard way, especially on the trek to the Rainbow Mountain
  • Oh, and I shouldn’t forget to drink plenty of water – says she as she took another sip from the bottle next to her
  • Anything else I should be concerned about? – yes, even that can be a concern in itself 😀
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What is Jaspal’s Voice?

It’s a project, a support platform for the sufferers of MND (Motor Neurone Disease). To be more precise, it is intended to give more information and support to people impacted by this horrible, debilitating disease. For more information, the NHS explanation is here.

So who are they really?

The person behind this initiative is a lovely lady I met about 1.5 years ago, Susan. Her sister died with this condition and having had this first-hand encounter with this condition, she decided to go ahead and help other patients and in general, the MND Association.

How did I start working with them?

Funnily enough, about 1.5 years ago I was looking through different options of donating my skills. So someone recommended that I join the Women Hack for Non-Profits. I did. My intention was to help on a project, while also learning some more Android app development. Funnily enough, a few weeks later, I found myself reading an email from them, where I was already assigned to a web development project. Initially, I thought that I should just change, but decided to give a go and meet up with the project owner and see if there is a hidden potential to switch to a mobile app.

I met Susan in a coffee place at Liverpool station – I can vividly still remember – and after she presented her cause and her situation with her sister, I was convinced to help. We also easily found the case for an Android app to help with the communication for the sufferers.

So how did it actually evolve?

Eventually, Susan found other contributors. We found Anna, newly converted web/UI developer and Rayelle, who was trying to improve her design skills. With myself on the team to take care of any backend necessities, hosting and deployment, we decided we had everything we needed to release a proper website. By feb 2016, we released http://www.jaspalsvoice.co.uk/.

Later on, we had Ana join, who came in with Android development skills. She managed to implement the app quite swiftly. So by may 2016, we launched MediVoice, the Android app. Since then, some of the girls slowly dropped out, but I decided to continue the maintenance on both projects as time permits.

So what can I do with this information?

I would advise a couple of things as a result of this post:

  • Read more about the condition and raise your awareness in terms of this highly debilitating disease. Personally, I think it’s one of the worst conditions one has to live with. The NHS website and our website offers some information.
  • Donate money to Jaspal’s cause. You can do so either through the website, by downloading the app or simply by contacting Susan – contact details on the website
  • Donate time and skills. We are always looking for people who can help with skills on this project.
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