A few updates, and transitioning to vacation mode

Photo by @_imkiran / Unsplash.com

I’m typing this on my new workstation, which I managed to build last week. So far, the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X processor (12 cores, shows as 24 logical processors in Task Manager) is a beast. My previous Intel Core i7-5820K (with 6 cores, 12 logical processors) was never sluggish or slow. Yet, with faster RAM, much faster storage, and plenty of more bandwidth overall, the new workstation just zips away with anything I choose to do with it.

While I’m writing this, Visual Studio 2019 is patching to version 16.6.4, Hyper-V is running two VMs, and I’m running a script to clean up my Twitter profile – while CPU utilization is at 2%. I wish I had more demanding workloads, as the machine is aching to get more utilization. Someone casually said on LinkedIn that I need a proper GPU – but I’m unsure, why. The current GPU drives my three displays great, all at 60 Hz.

School is 70% complete

It sounds so much better when I say my studies are 70% complete, rather than “I still have more than 6 months to go.” I started my studies on Executive MBA at Hanken & Stockholm School of Economics in March 2019 so it’s been 18 months already.

The coronavirus crisis introduced an interesting aspect of the studies. As all lectures are in-person and in a classroom, those had to go and we transitioned (like everyone else) to Zoom-based lectures. Sadly, the lectures are a carbon-copy of a classroom lecture – so 8 hours, three days in a row, with Zoom. I wouldn’t say it’s tough, but it certainly takes its toll. A side effect of the COVID-19 was also that our field trip to Beijing, China, was postponed – a couple of times. For now, it might happen around April 2021. I’ve yet to book flights, as the future seems highly likely that no travel happens in the spring of 2021, either. This also means our graduation is postponed all the way to May 2021. Meaningless in the big picture, but still requiring a slight mental push from everyone in our class.

I’ve also started work on my thesis, or development project as it’s internally called, which is part of my studies. Work is well underway, and I aim to get it completed around early October. My plan is to release the completed thesis publicly, as I feel the contents might be useful to many.

Work continues at Microsoft

I joined Microsoft in December 2019 as a full-time employee. I work as an Azure Developer (Audience) Product Marketing Manager, and during my short tenancy so far, I’ve already witnessed plenty of changes within the company. Microsoft’s fiscal year concludes at the end of June, so now in July, we are internally referring this fiscal year as FY21. The new fiscal year often means plenty of new announcements and some changes.

For myself, I managed to achieve a few badges – one for Content Publishing and another for Event Speaking.

Content Publisher Gold
Event Speaker Platinum

These are internal to Microsoft, and you’ll need to apply and prepare your case to be considered. I like the slight gamification aspect here, yet these are perhaps more akin to achieving a Microsoft certification – they don’t inherently change what you do or know, but act as small stepping stones toward the significant goals.

More changes are inbound, but perhaps it’s better to write about those after I resume work in mid-August, and see how the new fiscal year kicks off in practice.

Well-being

I’ve spent considerable time since October 2019 on my well-being. This isn’t because I was utterly unhappy, but I felt I was simply too pre-occupied and busy with work, running a business, raising kids, and trying to achieve my then-goals.

I signed up for a gym membership in late 2019 and hired a personal trainer. Most people I know – including myself – usually drift away from the gym after a month, or so. I’m insanely proud and happy that I’ve kept going – 3 times a week.

We set a plan that I’d get used to heavier weights over time. So less cardio and aerobic exercise, and more anaerobic and putting those muscles into work. The goal was to someday be able to do a personal record with 100 kg on the deadlift, back squat, and bench press. It took a while to get there, but surprisingly less than what I anticipated.

I haven’t really had a “let’s do personal records!” day yet, so I’m both anxious to try these out in the future, but also it’s more about volume than a specific maximum 1-rep result. Currently, I feel I’m the best shape I’ve ever been – and the results keep getting better each week. Keeping track has proven to inject much more motivation into gym training for me.

We’ve also settled in a rhythm of having regular sports massage and stretching sessions, and also getting enough sleep with my wife.

I recently did a poll on Twitter on how much COVID-19 affected sleep:

Most people who responded in the poll get by with 6-7.5 hours of sleep. I’m both amazed, and a little bit terrified at the same time. Lots of good comments and insight in the thread here.

Those 30-minute meetings

I’m used to both working remotely, and at the office. Most of my time I’ve worked remotely, especially in recent years. Thus, it’s been interesting to reflect on how I’ve adjusted to corporate life. Mostly well.

I set my work calendar to block out all times between midnight and 7.59 am, and 4.30 pm to midnight on weekdays. It’s my gentle approach to tell my colleagues that I’m not intending to work after 4.30 pm, but I am putting 8 hours each day with a fierce focus.

Hence, I keep declining a lot of meetings that land for 7 or 8 in the evening. Often these are meetings without a set agenda, defined goals, or a clear description of why exactly is the meeting taking place. If they seem important I make them tentative and see if I can attend. I usually can’t – family obligations, hobbies, and life are prioritized first.

I kept thinking about how come people keep sending meeting invitations for late evenings. Is it because of COVID-19? Is it because I’ve totally misunderstood the rhythm of work?

Turns out, it’s because of these two reasons:

  1. Everyone’s calendars are just full already. Finding a time where most people have free slots left in the calendar is challenging. Often the evenings are the only possibility.
  2. Time zone differences. Someone in Portugal might be perfectly content having a meeting at 3 pm when I’m trying to fix dinner at home for 2 hangry adults and 3 screaming kids at 5 pm. As many calls also include people outside the EU region, it also means that balancing time zones between US West and the Nordics is mostly not possible. Time in Seattle is at the time of writing this 11 am, and for me, it’s 9 pm. I playfully asked someone if we could do a meeting at 8 am my time – it would have meant a 10 pm call for them and “simply not possible.” I get it, and thus I try to use asynchronous tools more, and free time for myself, and others when possible.

HBR published an interesting take on this, where Microsoft analyzed data on their remote workforce. Plenty of great insights there, and also it the data seems to correlate with the rise of the 30-minute meetings.

And now, transitioning to vacation mode

While typing this, the evening sun is hitting me in the eyes and reminding me to go outside while it’s still warm. Enjoy the summer!