Countdown to 2018 4/7 – All work and a little play

This is the fourth post in my Countdown series to help me take stock of what goes on in my life, focus on the positive and deal with the negative. I’m not sure how interesting it is to anyone who isn’t me, but feel free to join in the challenge!

My week

The week started with a day-long business intelligence exam: the trainer had asked us to prepare seven exercises and we spent the day sharing some of our answers with the group. We then had a few days to edit our answers before sending them to the trainer. I liked this format, it wasn’t as stressful as a presentation – although I spoke a lot and quite fast, so I must have been a little stressed.

After that, I worked every day, even a little on Saturday. Two big tasks kept me busy, including one that had been on my list for months. I kept putting it off because I thought it would be too complex and risky, but I guess experience made it easier. Not only was it worth it in my main project, I can now reuse the new code in future projects with some light adaptations. As for the other one, I’m afraid the code won’t be as easy to reuse since it involved too many changes, but another ongoing project requires it, so I won’t have a choice.

On Wednesday, I was finally able to see my friends again. We had a great time, until I said I wasn’t sure what would happen in January once my contract ended. My fiancé started telling me about all the ways we could save money, how we really needed me to make money, what I should be doing right now – i.e. looking for new clients – to make sure I have a source of income if I can’t sign an employment contract in January, etc. This really stressed me out and we got into a fight. Worst evening of my life.

On Thursday I asked my boss if he thought he could hire me full-time or at least part-time in January and he said that was the plan but he wasn’t sure how to make it happen. Later that day, he and my “other boss” had a meeting with a prospect and potential investor that went really well. If they can move forward this month, I won’t have anything to worry about, but until they have signed a contract with this prospect or he has returned a signed quote, I don’t want to get my hopes too high.

On Friday, my other boss told me that he would be in charge of managing projects – and me – from now on. At first I couldn’t understand what he meant – we’re a small team, we all know what is going on, what difference will it make? So I thought my “first boss” might need to take a step back and focus on specific things for a while while his partner handles the rest. I don’t think it will make much of a difference – so far, the priorities are the same.

But this change led to a strange Skype conversation in which I ended up telling my new “manager” about all of the doubts that have held me back these past few weeks – what am I doing here, was I right to set translation aside for this job, how can I share my skills when I’ve learned them all on the job, will I be up to the task as the company grows, etc. I thought he’d say something like “it’ll pass” but he actually took the time to think about it and his answer was both kind and reassuring. He basically told me that he’d gone through something similar, that I was doing great and that I should believe in myself. Way to go, new manager!

Things that made me happy

  • Only going to the training center once this week!
  • Seeing my friends again.
  • Reassurance from my boss regarding my employment contract.
  • The pep talk from my manager. Definitely.
  • My fiancé teaching me how to play Stellaris – it was overwhelming at first but I enjoyed it.
  • A nice evening playing Overwatch with our online community.
  • Preparing my personal development presentation early instead of waiting until the day before!
  • Trying Destiny 2 with the voices of Nathan Fillion and Gina Torres ♥

Things I look forward to

  • More biking – I sort of forgot about it this week, telling myself that I would “train tomorrow” at least three times, and only trained twice.
  • Watching the end of Killjoys season 3 tonight – I have so many questions!
  • Playing the new Pets extension from The Sims 4 – all I’ve done so far is try to recreate my cats and I was terrible at it. I only bought it because there was 30% off on Origin, I don’t really play The Sims 4 anymore, but I like building houses!
  • Again, passing my exams – line management and personal development this week, then the last two in January.
  • Not going back to the training center for three weeks after these two exams, then for at least a month after the other two, and not ever going back after the final presentation. I’m so sick of the train-subway-bus combo!
  • A friend staying with us for a few days before the New Year – I haven’t seen her in months.

This week’s problem

For my line management exam, I need to think of a problem that I face at work that has to do with either management (of myself or others) or my “professional identity” – whatever that means. It has to be a problem to which I don’t have a solution, so I can’t talk about a problem that I’ve had and solved. Tomorrow, I have to share my problem with the group so that we can all try to solve it together in a collective intelligence process, and I will have to sum up what was said in writing afterwards. I like this format – not what I expected for an exam! – but I can’t find a problem to share.

I’ve thought about the problems I’d written about on this blog, and I wouldn’t say they’re 100% solved, but the solution I chose was always to talk about them. I can’t change how I think or feel unless I share my thoughts and feeling with someone who has information that I don’t and can help ease my mind. I’ve actually talked about some of these issues in class, and guess what they told me? To talk to my boss! So now I need to find a new problem, and I’m stuck.

I sort of have a back-up problem, in case I can’t find anything else: how should one behave in a meeting with a prospect or client? What should or shouldn’t one do or say? How should one behave with the rest of the team in front of the prospect or client? Is it OK to talk among ourselves to discuss a question they’ve asked us? How does one make a good impression? But I’m not sure it falls within my “professional identity”, and quite frankly, I’m not very interested in the answers.

Another problem I’ve thought of is the one I shared with my manager: I ask myself too many questions. And as I wrote last week, I’m very bad at controlling my emotions. When something bothers me, even when there is nothing I can do about it, I can’t help thinking about it and it brings me down. It can really kill the mood. It feels like I’m sabotaging myself by focusing on something that can only bring about anger and sadness. So how do I take a step back, put my bad thoughts aside and enjoy life?

Now, I’m much more interested in solving this problem, but I’m afraid it’s too personal and not professional enough. Yet, it is directly related to what happens at work, be it the feeling of being trapped in my job or the thought of a competitor getting a detailed proposal my boss sent. If only I had thought about it earlier this week, I could have emailed the trainer and asked her if this was a problem I could share, but I was too busy and forgot about it. Anyway, I’ll find out tomorrow!

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Countdown to 2018 3/7 – Back on track

This is the third post in my Countdown series to help me take stock of what goes on in my life, focus on the positive and deal with the negative. I’m not sure how interesting it is to anyone who isn’t me, but feel free to join in the challenge!

My week

The week opened with a course on marketing and communication. The new playlist I made last weekend made the commute more bearable than usual. As for the course itself, it was interesting – aren’t they all? – but had too much marketing and not enough communication for my taste. Tuesday was my recovery day and I’m pretty sure all I did was watch Atypical and place a few calls on behalf of a client. I dreaded the following day when I’d have to go back to the office.

Yet, going back was exactly what I needed. I worked on a project in the morning and spent the afternoon chatting with my boss. We went over the main topics and exercises from last week’s courses on personal development and line management. I was able to tell him about the issues I mentioned last week and the week before and he was very understanding. On Thursday, I worked in the office with newfound confidence.

On Friday, I attended the course on accounting with my boss, since these courses are also for company heads. He drove us there so no train-subway-bus combo this time! The morning went well, but in the afternoon, between digestion, the heating and increasingly hard-to-grasp notions, I found it difficult to keep up and I kept checking the time. This was the first time it happened since I started this training. Now I’m worried that I might not do well on the day of the exam – I wouldn’t want to have to take this course again!

Over the weekend, I prepared for my first exam (which is tomorrow), worked a little and checked a satisfaction survey made by a colleague. Fortunately, it wasn’t all about work – I also played Overwatch, went to a Thai restaurant with my fiancé, watched the first two episodes of Cosmos with him and passed out on the couch. It was actually exhausting – I really wish I could stay home tomorrow as well!

Things that made me happy

  • Giving my fiancé his first Christmas gift – an Advent calendar with an assortment of beers instead of chocolate. He finds them really good and even told his students about it – apparently they were jealous!
  • The 4-episode ArrowSupergirlFlashLegends of Tomorrow crossover, although I agree that Ollie and Felicity were the worst wedding guests!
  • Reaching 100 kilometers and 5 hours on my stationary bike – too bad my Fitbit doesn’t record my sessions properly since I stay in the same place and don’t move my arms.
  • Answering questions about translation sent by a student in foreign languages – it took forever but it was nice to focus on my job as a translator for a change.
  • Being “free” from the client who had me make phone calls on his behalf – he’s nice but this was very stressful and not the kind of thing I wanted to do on top of my day job. Fortunately he got in touch with a colleague and friend I referred to him and is going to work with her instead. I hope she won’t regret it!

Things I look forward to

  • More biking! (and this will be the first item on this list until it stops being true)
  • Passing my exams – one per course. I have one tomorrow, two the following week and the last two in January. Some will definitely be easier than others.
  • Signing an actual employment contract, hopefully in January. I think I’ve waited long enough.
  • Again, seeing my friends, since I wasn’t able to see them this week.

This week’s problem

A few months ago, a company that was interested in investing in our startup asked us to create software for them from a vague idea they had. My boss worked on it for several weeks and sent them a very detailed business proposal, but was told the price was too high. He didn’t worry about it since he knew his contact needed to discuss the budget with his boss and would get back to him.

This week, my boss got a call from someone who knows us and this company well, and was told that they had decided to invest in one of our competitors instead of us. Their decision meant that they would, in all likelihood, ask the competitor to work on the project they had wanted us to work on. We clearly hadn’t seen it coming, but these things happen.

Yet, among other issues, there is a chance that the company might give our competitor the detailed proposal we sent them, and this is not OK. My boss didn’t spend all that time on it so that a competitor could use his ideas. It’s so unfair! I couldn’t stop thinking about it yesterday, even though it doesn’t concern me directly. I calmed down today, but tomorrow’s exam on competitive intelligence certainly won’t make things easier.

I don’t think I can find a solution right now because I don’t know the full extent of this issue. I need more information before I can freak out or relax – preferably the latter. And when I do, I think all I’ll need is a way to distance myself from this situation and focus on the bright future ahead instead of worrying about things beyond my control. This must be step 1 in controlling my emotions, right? Or maybe step 74. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.

Countdown to 2018 2/7 – Enlightenment and procrastination

This is the second post in my Countdown series to help me take stock of what goes on in my life, focus on the positive and deal with the negative. I’m not sure how interesting it is to anyone who isn’t me, but feel free to join in the challenge!

My week

My motivation was seriously low this week, in part because I had two day-long courses in a different city and the commute was exhausting. I had to take a train, a subway and a bus, which add up to 1.5 hour on a regular day or 2 hours when I’m unlucky – and I was. I know some people do this kind of commute every day and I feel sorry for them. I was too tired to do anything on the train and don’t think I could waste 3 to 4 hours this way every day.

Since these two days exhausted me, I procrastinated and watched season 2 of How to Get Away with Murder plus two thirds of Modern Family season 8 as well as a few movies. I also started season 2 of The Shannara Chronicles with my fiancé – at a much more reasonable pace – since we finished the second season of Killjoys. We didn’t go see Justice League like we were supposed to, but we still have time.

As a result, I only worked on Monday and had to catch up on work today. I had hired another linguist to provide feedback on a project and had to sort through her many comments, something I was supposed to do last week. Her feedback was useful but sometimes lacked precision or contradicted itself, and I had to email her a dozen questions to make sense of the confusing parts. Let’s hope she can answer them next week.

I’m afraid this account is much more negative than last week’s, but it wasn’t all bad!

Things that made me happy

  • The courses on personal development and line management were really interesting.
    • The former made me understand how different my boss and I are and how to adapt my communication style to make things easier for both of us. It also made me realize where the problem I wrote about last week comes from – my current tasks are 100% in my comfort zone and I need to get out of it.
    • The latter was not at all what I expected and dealt with management styles with a strong “human” focus. It made me realize that my boss’s style doesn’t match my current responsibilities, which could be what frustrates me. I think I need him to either give me more precise instructions, even if it entails less freedom for me, or to recognize that, if he expects me to make decisions about his product on my own, he might as well involve me in all decisions. Now I need to figure out how to talk to him about it.
  • My brother-in-law was supposed to stay with us for a few days but instead stayed with his friend. I wouldn’t say it made me happy, but the thought of it was stressful for me and I was relieved to hear that he wouldn’t come after all.
  • I finally told one of my clients – who’s asked me a few times to make phone calls in the US and Italy on his behalf – that I’m not available for this kind of work and he should get an assistant. He still asked me to make two calls next week since I didn’t have time to make them this week, but I think he got it and won’t ask again.
  • Modern Family is still as funny as I remembered, although I think previous seasons were more interesting in terms of character development.
  • I spent 2 hours on my new bike this week – not too bad given my mental and physical state!
  • I found another present for my fiancé – his birthday is right after Christmas and I usually get him several presents so he has something to open on both days. I thought it was “too late” for this one because it is connected to a movie that came out last year, but it was on sale so I thought “why not?”

Things I look forward to

  • More biking! (again)
  • Tomorrow’s course on marketing and communication. I’m not so sure about accounting on Friday though.
  • Getting used to the commute and not being so tired!
  • Finding something to do on the train even when it’s too early to do anything.
  • Talking to my boss about all those things I’ve written about. It’s better than keeping it inside – or on this blog – and I’m sure he’ll understand.
  • Seeing my friends again, hopefully next weekend.

I don’t feel like writing about a problem this week – as I already wrote, I’m too tired for this and the courses I attended already gave me a lot to think about.

Countdown to 2018 1/7 – Career anxiety

When I came back to this blog last Sunday, I committed – or at least challenged myself – to post every weekend about what happened during the week. I thought focusing on what makes me happy and hopeful as well as dealing with my fears and worries would help. So let’s give it a try!

My week

I worked in the office (as linguist and programmer) 3 days this week, and we met a college student applying for an internship. It wasn’t really an interview – we haven’t defined a mission yet and were just trying to figure out what we could have him do instead of deciding whether he was a good fit. It’s a strange process, I know, but we’re a 3-person startup and it’s OK to innovate even when it comes to hiring!

I had a Skype call with a trainer in competitive intelligence – one of 7 units as part a 21-day-over-6-months course in project management. I signed a contract with the startup and the region that ensures I get paid for the work I do – since the startup doesn’t have enough clients to hire me yet – and following that course is part of my obligations. Anyway, the trainer gave me 7 assignments, on which I worked alone and with my boss.

It was a pretty “social” week, actually – my brother-in-law and the friend he is currently staying with came over for drinks, I met with a client who works at city hall and showed me his workplace, and we had a raclette at our place with some of our best friends last night. Most weeks aren’t like that though!

Things that made me happy

  • Last night was great – besides eating raclette, we played Guitar Hero for the first time in months and I got to catch up with my friends. I don’t even feel bad about eating all that cheese!
  • I bought a stationary bike this week, in part because of theDihedral. It arrived on Friday and I have already used it three times, for 80 minutes in total. I had thought about getting one before, but I guess I needed a nudge in the right direction!
  • I finally got to apply some of the things I learned last month during a 3-day crash course on object-oriented programming. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t supposed to be – I actually thought I would struggle too much and give up, but now my code is working and I can prove that the course was worth it!
  • Binge-watching seasons 7 of Suits and 5 of The Fosters made me happy, even though I could have used my time more productively.

Things I look forward to

  • More biking!
  • Next Tuesday’s course on personal development – although mandatory, I have heard good things about this course. At least it sounds more interesting than line management – another course I have to attend next week.
  • Watching Justice League – I’m a little worried but I have to see it on the big screen!
  • Diving into Spanish again – I’m not saying I’ll start tomorrow, but I miss learning languages. I haven’t practiced German and Spanish in months and Sweet Bliss‘s blog reminded me of that. I miss my German friends, but I might go to Spain next March for work so I will have to dive back in by then!

This week’s problem

Since I mentioned the potential intern, I guess my first “problem” should have to do with work. Work is never ideal: maybe we don’t like the work itself, or the people we work with; maybe we spend too much time at work or our commute takes too long and we don’t get to spend enough time at home; or maybe our job is too stressful or not fulfilling. In my case, it’s a bit more complicated.

As I explained last week, I have two jobs – I’m a full-time linguist and programmer in a startup, and a freelance translator in my free time, at least when my clients need me. I love the startup and can’t complain about the people I work with, but the work isn’t always fulfilling and I often miss translation. I don’t even look for more clients since I’m afraid I won’t be available when they need me, so translation projects are sporadic to say the least.

In addition, it’s difficult to behave as an employee when you’re used to being your own boss, or to supervise an intern when you work just fine on your own – something I haven’t had to do yet, but will. Even going to the office can be annoying when I know I could do the same work from the comfort of my home, in my PJ’s – even though I get to see other human beings instead of being alone with my cats all day.

So I’ve been thinking of a solution: I could work for the startup part-time, going full-time only when necessary, and dedicate the other half of the week to my freelancing business. I would need to take some time to reconnect with old clients, update my website, and find new prospects, but I really think I could be more successful now that I have more experience.

The problem with this solution is that I’m essential to the startup, even though I only joined it two years or so after it was founded. I helped turn a very basic prototype into the final program, and now the company relies on me to maintain it and create more. So I would need to train someone to replace me, and if I did, I would either not be needed anymore or lose my “strategic” position – meaning I probably wouldn’t have a say in what the startup does and just have to obey my successor’s commands.

From my phrasing, you probably guessed that this wouldn’t work for me. But what is the alternative? Hiring someone to do the parts I’m less interested in – i.e. necessary but repetitive tasks – while keeping the “strategic” aspects of the job I just mentioned? It’s funny – a few months ago, these repetitive tasks were all I wanted to do, and I was scared of attending meetings with clients, even when I thought I wouldn’t be saying much.

Now that I think of it, a less hands-on, more strategic position is probably where I am headed anyway. As the startup grows, more people like me will be needed, and I will be asked to find and hire them, tell them what to do and teach them to do it. And this is what scares me. What if I’m not up to the task? What if I’m a terrible manager? What if I can’t share what I know? What if I can’t get off people’s back?

So which is it: am I so afraid of letting my boss down and losing my main source of income that I’d rather remain a full-time employee when I clearly miss translation? Or am I so afraid of getting “stuck” in this job and being bad at some future position that I’d rather leave this startup when I love this team and know it can succeed?

This question isn’t new – ever since my client-turned-boss started talking about hiring me, I always knew there would be a time when I would have to choose between this job and freelancing. But now that I’m 4 months into my temporary contract with only 2 months left to decide what to do, with a potential intern and new responsibilities looming overhead, this is stressing me and scaring me more than ever.

From what I just wrote, though, it seems that the solution is simply to wait. I thought I would be terrible at client meetings, and yet I ended up leading the first one I attended. I was scared of attending professional events, but when we all exhibited at one last month, I found it enjoyable and my boss was pleased with me. So I guess I’m learning, little by little, as I am faced with new situations, new challenges.

So maybe wherever my career takes me won’t be that bad?

Countdown to 2018

It’s funny how 52 weeks equal both 364 days – which sound like a very long time – and nearly a year – which doesn’t sound like much, really. Today marks the end of the 45th week of the year and only 50 days are left until 2018. Two numbers so close to each other, with different orders of magnitude.

I don’t know where all this time went. Well, if this isn’t your first time visiting this blog, you might wonder where I have been all year. I have been busy, as I’m sure you have too. I was so caught up in my ups and downs that I didn’t take the time to write about what was going on in my life, about the changes I wanted to monitor and reflect on.

In fact, I gave up on self-tracking entirely – I even let my Fitbit go flat in June and never thought of charging it. I still keep track of how much I work, how many words I translate, and how much I earn since I need to pay taxes, but that’s it – I don’t think there is any trace of anything not work-related.

Remembering

Of course I put a few noticeable things on my Google Calendar. I took four trips to Paris between April and October, spending 37 days at my best friend’s – which must be the most we have seen each other since high school. I can also tell that my future brother-in-law spent a grand total of 255 days at our place, for reasons I won’t get into.

One date I won’t forget is September 22nd, the day we started moving into our new apartment. This is one change I had been waiting for patiently – and sometimes less patiently – for years, which became necessary when I started feeling like our guest was overstaying his welcome. The new apartment is twice as large as the old one and I now have my own office – and a very comfortable new couch, too!

On the professional front, I went from struggling to find work as a freelance translator to working full-time for my main client as a linguist and programmer with translation as a side job. This was a big change for me and I’m still getting used to the idea – in fact, I’m not sure things will stay this way, and I’ll probably explain why in a later post.

Just looking at the stats and comparing them with those of previous years, I feel overwhelmed. But I won’t get into that now – I’ll save them for an end-of-year report, if I have the discipline to make one before the end of these 7 weeks. After all, I still have 50 busy days ahead of me and a challenge to take on!

Challenge

So what is this title about, “Countdown to 2018”, and what is this challenge? I attempted challenges before and was quite bad at them, so why would I set myself up for failure again?

In fact, I thought several times about getting back into blogging, but never got around to actually doing it. I know now that I missed out on opportunities to record things that made me happy, things I was grateful for, things I looked forward to. As a result, I mostly remember what scared me, what annoyed me, what got me angry. And this isn’t OK.

This is why, for the last 7 weeks before 2018 – since every goal requires a realistic time frame – I would like to challenge myself to post every Sunday about what happened that week. If I can get into this habit and stick with it through the new year, great! But as I wrote in the past, I don’t want to pressure myself – this is a process I would like to enjoy.

In addition, I will write about some of the topics that worry me, as I’m convinced that putting a problem in words can help – maybe not solve it, but at least relax about it. It has happened before and I hope it will happen again. What’s more, writing about these issues on a blog means that you, my readers, can share your opinion – and, hopefully, advice – and maybe help me solve them!

Rules

Of course I’m only challenging myself, but you are welcome to join in if you feel like it. If you need rules, here they are:

  • Dedicate one post to this challenge, every Saturday or Sunday, until the end of 2017.
  • Sum up what happened during the week – at least, what seems worth mentioning.
  • List 3 or more things that made you happy or grateful.
  • List 3 or more things that are worth looking forward to.

The next rules are optional:

  • Pick one thing that is affecting you negatively and dive in – explain why it’s a problem, how you tried to solve it (if you did), what else you could do about it.
  • End your post with a positive note – how this issue isn’t that bad, what good can come out of it, why it isn’t worth worrying about it, why your solution will work.

If you do join in, please let me know in the comments or with a ping so that I can read your post. And if you notice that I haven’t posted as I was supposed to, do remind me – knowing that you care could be the extra motivation I need to stick with this challenge!

Have a wonderful week.

Week in Review #01 – Loneliness, your silent whisper…

Loneliness, your silent whisper

Fills a river of tears through the night

– X Japan, Dry Your Tears with Love

Once upon a time, I met a really sweet guy with a very demanding job.

Before we knew it, we were falling in love and living together; but one day he had to go away. We spent three months apart from each other, unsure whether our new feelings would survive this trial. While his job kept him busy, I had nothing to do at the time and spent each day binge-watching series or playing video games. Continue reading

It’s that time of the year again

Remember me? That would be surprising.

I started this blog just over a year ago as I set off on a journey of self-tracking, goal-setting and self-discovery. The latter is a bit of a stretch since my journey only lasted five months, but I did learn a few things along the way.

From August to December, I kept track of how many steps I took and how much time I slept, exercised, worked, etc. At the end of every week and month, I would gather the data I had collected and try to make sense of it, setting new goals that I would consistently fail to meet.

Continue reading

Monthly Report #05 – December in review…

…how well did I do?

Before we start, allow me to wish you an amazing new year! I will take some time to review my year 2015 and set goals for 2016 in a later post, but for now, let’s see how well – or not – I did last month. As I already explained, I knew it would be difficult for me to work on my goals during the holidays, and since I was to leave for Paris on December 21st, I set goals for the first three weeks of December. Let’s see which one(s) I met… Continue reading

Weekly Report #020 – Away on holiday I go

But first, one last report

As I announced in my previous post, this is likely to be the last weekly report, or at least the last report to take this shape. Over the holidays, I intend to rethink not only my goals and the best ways for me to reach them, but also my tracking spreadsheets and reporting method. I would like to come up with a ‘reporting spreadsheet’ that gives me an overview of a day, week or month by inputting just two parameters – start and end dates. In the meantime… Continue reading

Weekly Report #019 – Antepenultimate report

“third-to-last” doesn’t have that mysterious vibe

This week: a new tracker, more steps, less languages, more work. I am considering putting an end to weekly reports – with only monthly reports – to get back to a more “normal” posting format. The last 11 articles on this blog were reports; I haven’t posted anything else in two months. I would like to go back to prompts and challenges, to sharing meaningless and meaningful things that happen to me. I want to finally launch that “Travel Tuesdays” series. And I need to find a way to do it that won’t take too much time and won’t get in the way of my goals. Also, I need to start thinking about my goals for next year. But for now… Continue reading