Random ramblings

A book I gotta read!
A book I gotta read!

Saw this book in a local bookstore – it’s about a woman who worked in fly in fly out (FIFO) mines in Australia – and was the only female, and only Muslim with her ‘tea cosy’ (scarf)

Skateboard decks make a chair
Skateboard decks make a chair

Creative!!  This is in the same street where I used to live.  It’s becoming hip and cool with every passing year

Something I think I want to live my life by
Something I think I want to live my life by

Wesley Misson

A good week!!
A good week!!

For those who read this post.  I had a cousin’s wedding on the 15th April, so it was a great motivator

Food prep the un-glam photo
Food prep the un-glam photo

To achieving that weight loss, I batch cooked.  I made (prepped, not all cooked yet a week later!)

  • carrot fritters
  • cauliflower ‘bread’ for ham & cheese toasties
  • stuffed mushrooms (neither of us ‘like’ mushrooms, but with yummy fillings we ate them as a snack)
  • turkey patties with spinach and feta
  • baked ricotta – with Indian spices and lots of spinach
  • marinated pork neck
  • green salsa (apple, celery, cucumber)
  • ants in trees (not made at all, but all the ingredients for it… for tonight’s dinner)
Christmas Gift experience
Christmas Gift experience

The BF got me a voucher to one of the highest rated ‘Escape the Room’ in Sydney.  This one is in The Rocks.  We did a room based on our ‘senses’ which had three rooms, including one that was pitch black.  Only 20% of couples get out in the 60 minutes.  We got out in 63 minutes, so we’re pretty chuffed.  We got hints, but they were involuntary (we didn’t ask, they were offered).  The ‘hosts’ were pleased, cause when you fail to get out in time, they have to talk you through all the clues to escape.

I have no idea why AnExactingLife came to mind when I took this photo?
I have no idea why AnExactingLife came to mind when I took this photo?

Hilarious images

Blog 011
Another thing that I thought of my brothers who love Lego, but also AnExactingLife
Quirky cards
Quirky cards

I just need to recall where I took these photos when I’m in need of a cheeky card!

Jewelry organisation options
Jewelry organisation options

I’m big into having my jewelry in a way that will ensure I regularly wear everything.  Lately, bracelets have got the short straw, as they are tidily sorted like everything else (see posts here & here).  Whilst I like the glass option, I think my skin would crawl with the feeling of trying to ‘scoop’ things out, so might want to felt light it.  The top right two pictures would be IDEAL but the op (thrift) store wouldn’t sell them to me, as they like to use them to display their items for sales.  The bottom right two are both in a second hand store, and are solid wood (which I love!), but not sure it’s fit for purpose.

Cute things on a Friday night out
Cute things on a Friday night out

Yep, that puppy was out for dinner, and the panda bin was in my friend’s place!

Thoughts? Comments?

One year as a field manager

It’s been one year since I took a sharp and unexpected career turn, from acting as a manager of a handful of office based workers, to becoming a middle manager, with other managers reporting to me with line staff.  I wrote my ‘first thoughts‘ after the first week on the blog.

Sunsets over the depot
Sunsets over problem poles and wire (site visit on the way home)

 

In a similar fashion, I want to review how the year has gone, what I’ve achieved and what I’d like to achieve in the coming years.

Firstly, I’ve gone from 75 staff that ‘roll up’ to me.  Now I have 52 staff appointed and three apprentices. I did not fire a person (I couldn’t even if I wanted to!).  There’s been a wide spread implementation of a voluntary redundancy program, and many volunteered.  The initial 75 didn’t include about 10 staff I came to inherit after it started to seem apparent I was effectively their manager due to geography! What this says is there’s been about 30 (!) staff leave.  A few have moved roles internally as well.  It’s been really good to clear out those who wanted to go – as they were demoralised and unhappy at times, and it didn’t help productivity. That being said, there’s still a huge amount of business pressure to further reduce headcount overall, but there’s no one who ‘wants’ to go in my groups, so everyone is very nervous that voluntary redundancy will evolve to forced redundancy.  Me?  I would prefer we had a mechanism to remove those staff who are a destructive influence to productivity – who ACTIVELY take the business for a ride.  The staff who take inordinately more time and energy to manage than the majority.

Photos of the Kurnell storm 'recovery' (not my photo!)
Photos of the Kurnell storm ‘recovery’ (not my photo! I stayed in the office for the whole time, as I couldn’t have all computer systems working remotely as effectively.  Plus – it was pretty cluttered with people!)

Achievements, of all sizes

  • Improved bins for light globe and head recycling: I was having all sorts of grief with what would and wouldn’t be collected, and with much back and forth, managed to get all the right bins to satisfy the environmental group and appease the waste contractors
  • Bigger truck parking bays: this was a concern to some of the staff, worried about the tiny gaps between truck and the twisting they needed to get in and out.  It was such a simple change (repainting lines) but with many things, just need endless vigilance to resolve the issue

Developing staff

  • Appointed five of my staff to the highest technical training course (and over time, they will get financially rewarded).  Sadly, one of those promoted will move locations to meet business needs, but it’s still a net benefit for him.
  • Appointed four staff to the afternoon shift I oversee, which effectively ‘saved’ most of them from their precarious contract conditions
  • Names an additional three staff for short course training to take on higher responsibilities (again, a pay bump!)
  • Trained two field workers in an office based role – me offering informal training and mentorship for no immediate financial gain for them
  • Two field workers ‘acting’ roles in the office with the financial rewards

Cost savings

  • Returning a number of fleet which were surplus to requirements, to reduce business costs (and the win was: I offered before I was forced!)
  • Rolled out iPads to 90% of my staff, and offered first port of call assistance on every issue <- an epic undertaking!  It’s wonderful to be able to email field staff, and get high resolution photographs in the middle of the work day (not when they get back to the depot)
My fleet includes a boat to inspect otherwise isolated assets!
My fleet includes a boat to inspect otherwise isolated assets!  This was my maiden journey

Overall, I LOVE my job.  To many outsiders, it was a big change.  From the role I was ‘acting’ in for six months to this one, it’s a pay cut, but as I said in my linked post, this role comes with a vehicle which offsets the dollars for me.  What I really enjoy about my job is the people contact, but further than that, the development of these people.  I often feel proud of being able to ‘grow’ the people in a business that is contracting and cost cutting.  I really appreciate a boss who by and large trusts me, and supports me in my crusades and missions.  Occasionally, I’m ‘too passionate’ or ‘too frustrated’!  I feel a sense of autonomy, without having to check in, clock in etc; I feel trusted.

What would I like to achieve in the year ahead?

  • Daily iPad usage  for the ‘getting’ and ‘closing’ or ‘reporting back’ on work.  I want to move away from print outs and the time in the depot morning and afternoon to collect and return items. It will be a watershed moment when time sheeting becomes electronic for field staff, though whether that will be within the next year, I have absolutely NO idea.
  • Personal responsibility to getting tasks done: currently if it doesn’t get done today, it gets passed back in to be ‘rescheduled’.  Things slip through the cracks.  I’d prefer crews/staff knew it needed to get done and ‘fitted it in’ at the very next opportunity.  With electronic jobs, the idea of “lingering” tasks will be more transparent.
  • Productivity increase: simply, not one staff member in the depot after the first half hour (after 7.30am) and before the last half hour of the day (3pm).  There’s a strong lingering attitude, and I want to work to fill 7 hours with meaningful work!
  • Field supervisor led team briefs – smaller groups, shorter, more meaningful (hopefully)
  • Personalised, serious performance reviews and development plans, rather than repeating the same handful of lines for everyone, every half year
  • Focused ‘targets’ to meet for different work programs: there are some standards that are well know (fix street lights in 8 working days), but overall, there’s not a strong focus on meeting this and all the other targets that ‘management’ have.  I’m not sure if it’s lack of visibility and timely feedback loops on target progress, or whether the ‘work tasks’ chop and change every day in the week, so there’s no ownership.

Here’s to a stronger year ahead – lean and efficient, but growing and learning more.

Thoughts on the US

More lanes than an Aussie could imagine!
More lanes than an Aussie could imagine!

When I wrote this, it was our second last day in the US, we hired a car to tide us to our 10pm departure tomorrow.  It’s a pretty smart way to handle our luggage as we’ll have ‘checked out’ of our Airbnb.  The travel took us to Sauscilito, then south to Palo Alto and Moutain View.  To tech nerds, those are the homes of Facebook and Google.

I think I geeked out more than the BF and took lots of photos of the Google bikes and the general sites of what is possibly one of the biggest game changers in my adulthood.  Ten or twenty years ago, there were googles you swam with and a Google was a large number.  Now, it’s a verb.

The campus is much like a lot of the US – low level sprawl. Many building but none more than a few stories. Our return to San Francisco was between 5 -6pm, so we got to see a fair bit of traffic.  It made me somewhat hopeless about how American ‘is’.  This highway nation – things so spread out.  It’s just incredible to think people make these lengthy, congested commutes every day.  I can’t believe the level of industry I drove past – not heavy industry, but this medium level for the developed world – strange centres, huge hotels in the middle of an urban nothingness.  I feel lucky to have travelled to and seen so much of Europe and know that they present a slightly more balanced approach to life and work, and consumerism.  I know it’s not all rosy in Europe, but I just feel like they work harder to balance the pros and cons of everything.

via
via

I suppose my melancholy isn’t aided by my current reading, a book I found in the Airbnb and am racing to get finished before we check out called Fast Food Nation.  I’ve been sickened by the accounts of how mega companies have lobbied government and got away with murder. quite literally.  There are meat packing plants that operate such that people have limbs amputated by machines, or have respiratory problems from cleaning everything with hoses at scalding temperature and bleach.  These cleaners are lower than the low that are those people who work in slaughterhouses, often illiterate, if not illegal migrants too.  And then there’s the inevitable infections and problems of spoiled meat – in a hurried production line, it’s bound to happen that fecal matter when removing a digestive tracts can spill and mix with meat.  Meat we eat.  However, despite E. coli being found as the cause for illness or death in people there’s not legal obligation for companies to publicise the recall (it could hurt their business too badly).  Furthermore, there is often such delays and hand wringing, that by the time the announced tainted meat is known, much of it is consumed.  Oh, and of course the meat distributors are the least likely to spoil their contracts by disclosing where meat has been on sold to – such as public school lunches in a time when the government seeks the lowest bidder.  It makes me sick to think how business and profits manipulate regulations, that effectively skirt so many responsibilities as HUMANS.  The ‘best’ meat, by and large, goes to the buyers who are big and demand it – sadly, the McDonalds is likely to have better tested meat from a better processing plant than a school lunch.  It just beggars belief.  I’m not really looking at the hamburgers as intently as I have previously!  That being said, I’m under no illusion that chicken farming, or fish farming is widely better!  However, it’s so hard to know how to thwart the greater hands at play here – I’m mindful green washing of products is just as prevalent, and adds a surcharge that may often be pure profits.

What are your thoughts on the ‘greatest nation in the world’?

Clothes shopping spending habits

Last year, I don’t think I was very public on my blog about a challenge I set with my mother: We’d buy no NEW clothing from my birthday on 30th January, for a year.  My mother and I did spend two weeks in January 2015 in the USA, so my annual total does include ‘new’ items in this time.  We were allowed to buy clothing second hand and that helped us get together and go to events like ‘Around She Goes’ where we both succeeded in finding items to add to our closets.  We weren’t saints – I bought three items from Lulu Lemon – a zip up jacket that I could run in, a pair of cropped leggings and a workout top.  I bought some replacement knickers too (but I think we exempted those).  I also got a dress whilst on holidays in Thailand, which I said the BF bought me (partially true) – it’s also not really a public dress, so it’s like underwear perhaps? I’m clutching at straws here!  I don’t believe my mother held true the whole time, but it certainly curbed her spending, and opened her mind to how often she shopped, and whether it was necessary.  I also think my father loved it (he’s a saver if there ever was one!).

Silk top $120+
Silk top $120+

Over the year, I spent $823 which is considerably less than past years, on 45 items, 26 of which we second hand.

2014: $1875 for 79 items, of which 29 second hand.

2013: $1613 for 40 items.

I’ve been tracking spending on clothing since 2010, and had one ‘no clothes at all’ year!  On average I have spent about $1500 AUD per annum.

Every pair of knickers = 1 item, if you’re wondering.

I don’t actually set a budget for my clothing, it just gets bought out of the ‘walking around’ money – which is to say, I budget backwards.  I ‘pay myself first’, which is allocating money to all my savings: rent/food; bills; charitable giving; goals (travel).  Then I spend from what remains directly out of my bank account. Before pay day, I transfer what money I have left into whichever savings account I’m prioritising at the time.

I also do a lot of shopping whilst I’m travelling overseas.  When I add an item to my spreadsheet, I do account for it’s price in AUD, even if it was bought in USD or EUR.  Yep, bankers daughter here!

What I noticed from my year of shopping second hand:

  • I settled for ‘good enough’ and as such, many items we re-thrifted within the year due to poor fit
  • I felt less investment in second hand items, so less guilt to offload them, and buy more (second hand)
  • I couldn’t shop to specifics with second hand, I could more shop to ‘themes’ like ‘work clothing’ or ‘party dress’.  It meant there were a few items I was keen to buy new on Feb 1!  Actually, my mother gave me new skinny white jeans for my birthday as she knew I’d been hankering to have some!
  • I prefer thrift stores which sort by colour (as per this post, I rule out the ‘warm colours’ such as yellow, red and orange)
  • I shop on brand – I won’t be buying a second hand item that was ‘cheap’ to start with usually.  I don’t think it’s that I’m snobby, but I have to have a quick filter to get through racks and this is one of them.  As such, I have found some international brands in Australian stores, which is a bonus.
  • For pants, I like to shop on touch – I will feel for a non synthetic fabric.  More often than not, this is where I’ve struck the above point – Banana Republic or The Gap pants, which by and large are of a far better fabric blend than most pants sold in Australia.
  • I still browsed items in first hand, normal stores.  I found my photography of items i liked was usually more than enough to sate my desire (I do this with homewares a lot too)

I don’t plan to set a budget this year, though I do know a lot of bloggers do.  I do wonder whether it’d be worth setting a budget – what are your thoughts?