Weeknotes #9

This week I started contracting with the Department of Education, where my first day brought to mind the last time I joined a large organisation.

That was back in November 2013. Having spent 90 minutes on a rickety old four-carriage First Capital Connect train crammed full of passengers considering their life choices, I arrived at The Guardian’s head office in King’s Cross with the same mix of nervousness and excitement as I did on Monday. Presenting myself at reception, I discovered that with my manager away in New York, nobody knew I was starting. After waiting half an hour or so, somebody (possibly Patrick) finally came down to collect me. Next came a few brief introductions, but before having a chance to get settled, a confident and eager product manager came over and dragged me into a series of meetings about commercial and advertising initiatives – all of which was different to my understanding of what I’d be working on, and which I attended without sufficient context. This set the tone for the rest of my time at The Guardian, an organisation that for all its positive contributions as a newspaper, often left me feeling bemused or confused as an employer.

Anyway, that experience was in stark contrast to that of my first day in government. Here, I was introduced to a friendly and proactive team working in a flexible environment set-up for design, and where I can use a set of prototyping tools I’m already familiar with. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so immediately at home in an organisation than this one in Whitehall. Rarely one to be so enthused, my inner cynic wonders if it’s all too good to be true. While rough patches and difficult days undoubtedly lie ahead, as my first day at The Guardian so ably demonstrated, first impressions count, and as things stand, I’m glad to have made the choice I did.

The only other thing worthy of note is… blimey, I’d forgotten just how tiring commuting can be! Thankfully, I need only be in London 4 days a week, and with a commute that’s about as short as one between an office in London and home in Brighton can be, these factors should make all the difference.

Digest

Noteworthy articles I’ve read over the last seven days:

  • Ricky Gervais And Steve Coogan Both Changed British Comedy - Then Took Very Different Paths

    Tom Nicholson identifies, correctly I think, why the career paths of Coogan and Gervais diverged so much after their initial shows found success:

    Coogan’s had his biggest successes with new collaborators: the Gibbons brothers and Tim Key for Partridge, Winterbottom on The Trip and Philomena and Stan & Ollie co-writer Jeff Pope. Meanwhile, nearly all Gervais’ big projects since Life’s Too Short have been auteur-style works, starring, directed and written by him. On the set of This Time, Coogan often defers to “hired comedy killers” the Gibbons brothers. It doesn’t feel like Gervais has deferred to anyone in some time. That’s great for clarity of vision, sure, but it also explains why After Life sometimes feels like an extension of his Twitter feed.

    Talking of This Time, can’t say I enjoyed the second episode as much as the first. While it had its moments, it relied too heavily upon producing cringeworthy moments rather than doubling down on the awkward relationship between Alan and Jennie. Might this series be a mixed bag?

  • I commissioned an oil painting of Barbra Streisand’s cloned dogs

    There’s something deliciously appropriate about using a painting cloning service to clone a photograph of some cloned dogs.

    This is a totally Simon thing to do. I love it!

  • Operation Umbrella: Rebuilding Oxford Circus

    Nicole Badstuber for London Reconnections:

    How to keep one of London’s busiest traffic junctions running smoothly while constructing a spacious new Underground ticket hall inches beneath it? The answer was Operation Umbrella, a steel umbrella bridge that would carry road traffic and allow construction of the new Underground ticket hall below it.

    This ingenious feat of engineering was news to me until I watched this 1969 documentary about the Victoria line’s construction over Christmas. Featuring lots of historical footage, it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re into that sort of thing.

Finally, a plug for my friend Jon, who is looking for his next project. Do seek him out if you need help improving your digital product.