Friday Fess-up: 9th May

Hello there!

Part of the challenge in doing this blog is to figure out that sweet spot where the stuff I want to write about overlaps with the stuff you want to read about.  Of course I could ask you, but with the magic of WordPress statistics I can see behind the scenes what you guys like to read and what you don’t.

For example, people don’t really click on the links in my weekly Friday Fess-up.  That’s fair enough!  Originally I had thought it would capture some of the careers stuff I’ve been reading about as I go through my transition but actually I’m trying to wean myself off too much self-help nonsense anyway!

Formatting the images for all those links ended up taking a fair chunk of time so I’ve decided to dispense with that section (you could say I’m iterating my product!).  If you want to see what I’ve been reading for any reason you can just take a look at my twitter feed, which is also handily in the sidebar — I only tweet things that I would actually recommend another person spend their time reading.

I can also see that people don’t really click on the weekly infographic, but I like making them so I’ll keep doing them for now.  Meanwhile, I’ve reformatted it so it should appear bigger on your screen and you should be able to read it without clicking.

As a result of this weekly fess-up, Friday’s have become a real point of reflection for me, which I think is both healthy and a bit uncomfortable.  It’s been over 6 months since I left my job and I’ll admit — I kind of thought I’d have it figured out by now.  But I haven’t.  It shouldn’t be that surprising; not only am I changing careers, which would be hard enough in and of itself, but I’m also trying to work out what career to change to.

To do this I’ve been doing a lot of talking to a lot of people.  I’ve been discovering whole new communities, like the fantastic Ada’s List — a group of exceptional women in tech, design, digital, STEM, and startups, who share emails alerting each other to opportunities, articles, events and generally bigging-up each other’s awesome achievements.

They also have in-person meetups, which is how I met a whole bunch of people who work in Service Design, UX Design, and various other jobs that I had never heard of before.  I even met a lovely lady whose offices I went to look at yesterday as possible temporary space for me to work.  I can’t get too excited because it might not happen but still!

I’ve also been working on various skills that I always liked using but maybe didn’t have the time to really stretch.  Writing, of course, but also techy stuff like programming and designy stuff like infographics and making my blog pretty.

I still have no idea where all this will take me, but I have a vague plan forming to help me find out.  Having this time to catch my breath has been great for getting some distance from the ways I used to work, but it’s also quite difficult to get things straight in your head and come up with ideas of where to go next in the abstract.

I’m not exactly lolling about all day, but it’s true you can think as hard as you like about these things and not get a jot further when you’re not out there getting new experiences for your ideas to feed off.  So that’s the plan I’m forming, how to move from observer to participant and get out there in the real world again.

It’s still baby-steps and I’m trying to take it one day at a time (which is killing me because I’m naturally so unbelievably impatient).  But I want to do this thing right and not rush it.  I’ll get there.  Eventually.

Michelle.

This week I have been mostly… having a fantastic time walking and exploring in South Devon, learning how to build a website, writing a bunch of blog posts which I promise to publish soon, and going to Grand Designs Live :)

WBF Friday Fess-up May 9th

I decided it was about time I had my own website, somewhere I can link to the various things I’m working on — almost like a digital CV, but one that’s much more relevant to what I want to do in the future than my actual CV!  I couldn’t find any templates that I liked the look of, so I decided to have a go at building my own.

I found a great online course aimed at complete beginners offered by Skillcrush.  I wrote to the ladies who run it and asked if I could take the course for free and write about my experience on Workerbee Free, and amazingly they said yes!  Read about how I got on with making my first website (and see the very rudimentary results!).

On Wednesday I also went to my first Codebar session.  Codebar is an initiative aiming to bridge the diversity gap in tech and encourage underrepresented groups (i.e. women, LGBT, minorities) to get into tech.  They run a coding club every week where you can learn how to program and talk to professionals about how to get a job in tech.

This is a photo from the Codebar session I attended but somehow I managed to make myself invisible!

This is a photo from the Codebar session I attended but somehow I managed to make myself invisible!

They have tutorials on their website in all the major programming languages which you can do at home or you can go into the club and work through them with a coach — one of the professional developers who volunteer their time to help newbies learn about coding.

It’s an amazing initiative and it’s completely free to attend.  It’s also a non-intimidating environment to ask those questions that can’t be answered easily no matter how much googling you do, like what’s the difference between the different programming languages and why would you use one rather than another.

I used the session to work through the first Javascript tutorial with a very patient developer from Chicago and a fellow student who was miles ahead of me — but then she does work on mobile apps for Net-a-Porter so I think I can be forgiven for being a bit behind!

Another webby thing I’ve been working on is finally pulling together a website for my novel!!

Life Lines website

People keep asking me about it and express interest in finding out when it’s finished but I haven’t had a way to gather that interest in one place.  Until now!  There’s a jazzy logo which I hashed together and a description of the book which is almost certainly bound to change as the book develops.  I cheated and used a template to make the site — shhh, don’t tell anybody!

Please take a look at the site — I’d love to know what you think. And definitely do sign-up if you’re interested!

 

 

Learning to code with Skillcrush

If you’re thinking about changing careers then the internet can be a wonderful and terrible thing.  Terrible because you can spend whole days reading other people’s stories about how they found the perfect job and are so much happier now and then you feel even worse that you’re not there yet.  But also wonderful because these days changing careers and getting new skills doesn’t mean you have to go back to school.  You can learn a lot about different jobs and industries online and pick up new skills without too much risk.

One of the skills I’ve been exploring is coding.  Before I quit my job last year I was getting up at 6am trying to squeeze in a couple of hours of coding before going to work in the morning.  It’s hardly surprising that I didn’t get very far that way!

Now that I have the luxury of time, I’ve been trying to pick this up again.  I started taking the fantastic introductory course offered by HarvardX for free on the edX platform but will admit I haven’t finished it yet.  One of the problems I had with following the course was that while it is a great and stimulating introduction to lots of complex concepts (the tutor – David Malan – is an incredible public speaker and teacher), I wasn’t applying those concepts to something practical.  I wasn’t using the skills to build something that mattered to me.

I wanted to build a personal website, from scratch, to act as an online CV or portfolio.  I needed a course that started from the absolute basics, was fun and engaging, and had enough support that I didn’t feel like I was doing it on my own.

That’s when I found the Web Developer course offered by Skillcrush.  I wrote to the girls who run it and asked if I could take the course and write about my experience here, and amazingly they said yes!  Thanks guys!!

Skillcrush

So far I’ve done the HTML module and in two hours I feel like I’ve learnt enough to actually go and build something, which is a pretty awesome feeling.  That’s so much further than I ever got by reading online tutorials or “HTML for dummies”!

Skillcrush guide

You can see screenshots of the website I made below – it’s not live on the web yet but that’s my goal for next week.  OK, so it doesn’t look like much right now, and it won’t be pretty until I learn how to add the CSS — the language tells the computer what colours and fonts to apply — but still!

MichelleMeagher.com HTML screenshot

MichelleMeagher.com HTML screenshot (2)

This is what it looks like when I’m coding it:

HTML code

The Skillcrush course is made up of fun videos, exercises, and interactive coding, all supported by daily emails and a student / coach forum via Mightybell.  It’s great to see women from all over the world training themselves up and helping each other along the way.  Men are welcome too!

Adda, the founder of Skillcrush, is on a mission to get people learning marketable, digital skills.  She taught herself how to code so the course is set up for non-tech people who have no background in programming at all — which is perfect for me!

I have no idea where I will go with these skills but I’ve always felt held back not having digital skills and being someone who loves tech.  Finally, I’ll be able to build all those things I’ve been dreaming up!

Friday Fess-up: 2nd May

Hey there!

I guess I spoke too soon last week when I said I had emerged out the other side of career crisis.  This week has been, well, pretty dreadful.  I’ve been wallowing in my own self-doubt in a most unbecoming manner, and despite all the lovely people I have met this week and things I have done, I can’t help but feel it was a bit of a disaster.

Last week I set myself one simple task — come up with a 6 month plan, nothing fancy, nothing too ambitious, just a few small things I want to have done by November.  I did a bunch of other things this week, but that wasn’t one of them.  And therein lies my big mistake.

I can’t shake the feeling that I am wandering completely aimlessly through this “career break”, and while that’s kind of part of the whole self-exploration thing, it’s also pretty unnerving.  I can tell myself that there are no goals in life, that there is nowhere that I’m “meant” to be, nothing in particular I actually need to do.  But even if the point of life is to connect with the people around you, and have as good a time as possible while not making things worse, it turns out that that process is a whole lot easier if you have some kind of goal in mind.

And there I go again with the ultimate conflict I seemingly can’t avoid.  How to have goals while also being content?  How to move forward but also be happy with where you are?  How to go with the flow but also get where you want to be?

I haven’t figured this out yet; I feel like I’m still knee-deep in the swamp and I can’t tell whether my violent thrashing around is shaking myself free or sucking me deeper down into the murky pool.  All I know is, I can’t stay still, I’m too far into it now.

Here’s the summary of the good parts of my week, the rest will have to wait!

For those in the UK, have a fantastic long weekend.

Michelle.


This week I have been mostly… meeting lots of people (and dogs), catching up with friends visiting from Australia, being on the internet way too much…!  [Part of that though was coming up with an awesome recipe to auto-generate a list of links for my weekly reads using IFTTT.  Love it.]

WBF Friday Fess-up 2nd May

This week I have been mostly reading

“Why Being Fired Can Be the Best Thing Ever” by @dianavkeeler

“How mcommerce will explode in the next few years” by @maudpas

“Tech CEO Dodges Felony Charge Despite Horrifying Abuse Video”.  The worrying thing is I don’t think customers really care.

Thanks to my mother-in-law for this one! See what happens when two monkeys were paid unequally for equal work.

Learning about the human side of tech. “The Kindle wink” by @robinsloan.  I would love if someone in the future winked to the technology I write about in my novel!

The Origins of Office Speak - The Atlantic.  Lawyers have their own set of meaningless phrases.  All time least favourite: “fresh pair of eyes”.  By the time of night that this is being said to you, your eyes invariably feel anything but fresh.

I’m always a bit skeptical of companies’ attempts to define and create a “culture” or “values”, it works sometimes but mostly that tends to be organic not forced.  This post made a lot of sense to me: “A Critique of “Don’t Fuck Up The Culture”  via @berkun.

Not just rhetoric, some real things men can do to beat sexism and promote women. “What Can Men Do?” by @shanley.  [Although I note the article in the Times today that maybe men aren’t sexist, maybe they’re just shy about equality.  You keep telling yourselves that, boys.]

“What I Learned Building Medium (So Far)” by @ev (co-founder of Twitter).  I love what he says here about the importance of having a deadline — I definitely saw the value of that when I was writing the first draft of the novel in January, and am feeling the lack of a deadline now — and also about the struggles of boiling down years of ideas down into a single product or idea.

Implications for corporate structure of the rise of the freelance economy: “Wait, Is The Corporation Actually Over”.  I wonder if the rise of remote working will also be a catalyst to this?

Can you increase your chances of getting lucky?  “Designing for Serendipity” by @mattangriffel. I completely agree that “right place, right time” is rarely pure luck.

This is my own post on Kitchen+Craft about The From Scratch Revolution.

 

Good advice for life in general: allow yourself to be “Free to Be Great” via @cap.

An interesting post on Google Glass.  Is there any stopping it? “Through the Watching Glass” via @susie_c .

And this refreshingly honest story of startup failure: “Postmortem of a Venture-backed Startup” by @brett1211.

 

Friday Fess-up: 25th April

Wowsers trousers, another Friday!  There seems to be one every week, most bizarre…

Now in answer to your urgent and pleading emails, yes I do have some actual substantive posts in the pipeline and no WBF is not going to become just a series of Fess-ups (I haven’t actually received any such emails but only because you guys are too frantic to ask).

This last two weeks has been…well..tough.  Perhaps it’s because it marked 6 months since I left my job (gulp!) and I started to wonder what exactly I had to show for it.  This somehow catalysed the latent introspection that has been simmering just beneath the surface for the last few months and sent it into overdrive.  Suddenly I was deep into some really pretty confronting reflection about my life and myself and all this stuff I was too busy to think about for, well, the last 8 years.  Yes — it is as self-absorbed and indulgent (and unpleasant) as it sounds.

It’s been really difficult to put into words what has come out of this deep thinking — as Dan has discovered, having to patiently sit through a meaningless stream of nonsense and non-sequiturs — but I’m going to try to document it over the next few weeks.  The short story is: I think I’ve finally come out the other side, and think I’m ready to put my life back together again.  Phew.

In the meantime, here is the weekly set of diversions to amuse you this Friday.

Catch you next week.

Michelle.


This week I have been mostly… vying for the affection of the cutest puppy in the world; lounging around in Scotland; canoeing; blogging about beautiful, frivolous things at Kitchen+Craft; and, of course, eating lots of chocolate.

Workerbee Free Friday Fess-up: 25th April

This week I have been mostly reading…

The newspaper blackout poetry of Austin Kleon and this post: Newspaper + Marker = Poetry.  Thanks to Izzie for sharing Austin’s work with me!

Austin Kleon, "What is Marriage?"

Austin Kleon, “What is Marriage?”

Why our brains don’t need to-do lists.

Living with your parents, single and with no clear career. Is this a failure to grow up or a whole new stage of life?

Discovering ShouldWea new online guide to the causes and consequences of the policies which affect our lives.

ShouldWe

Learning about the truth behind freelancing: 8 years of solitude.

8 years of solitude

Discovering the three word location identifier for all the places I have ever lived at what3words.

what3words

And I have finally found someone who is talking my language.  Latest Publishing Trend: Books That Teach Women To Be Overconfident Blowhards, Just Like Men.  Thanks to Ash Casselman for sharing this on Ada’s List.

Thursday Fess-up…

Thursday Fess-up — it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?  I’m off to Scotland this afternoon for the Easter holiday to play with the new puppy and traipse around the Highlands, so I better make it a quick one this week – don’t want to miss my train!

Hope you have a fantastic Easter and gorge yourself on chocolate bunnies.

M.


This week I have been mostly… talking to other law escapees and entrepreneurs, having cocktails in the sun at lunchtime and thinking about my life so much it’s making my brain hurt.

This week I have been mostly reading…

Why Career Happiness Matters and Money Doesn’t from Good.co

Why Career Happiness Matters and Money Doesn't / Good.co

 

This fantastic piece on the Attention Economy from the always worthwile Aeon magazine.  What does it really cost you to click?

Aeon Attention

Burger Porn.  For more see my post at Kitchen+Craft.

Burger Porn

 

Along with everyone else on the internet, I’ve been mulling over this fantastic post from Elle Luna on The Crossroads of Should and Must.

Should and Must

I wasted quite a bit of time (but managed to convinced myself it was productive) going through the Muse’s 99 Sites That Every Professional Should Know About and Use.

Muse 99 sites

 

I have also been watching these fantastic talks on good old TED, two from Brene Brown on shame and vulnerability and two from Stefan Sagmeister on design and creativity.

 

 

 

 


And finally, this amusing recasting of the Game of Thrones opening credits with social networks standing in for the powerful families of Westeros and beyond.

What would you do with 15 minutes?

If someone gave you 15 minutes of uninterrupted “you-time”, what would you do with it?  How long do you spend each day reflecting on the previous day, week or month?  How often do you take the time to think about whether what you’re up to these days is actually what you want to be doing?

Whether you are a workerbee or working for yourself, very few of us take the time to check in with ourselves in the day.  We think we’re too busy, we couldn’t possibly find the time.  But 15 minutes – that’s not very long.  Surely we could find 15 minutes out of 24 hours?  And though it’s not long enough to get in the way of the rest of your day, it might well be long enough to do some proper thinking.  Or to just be still.  Or in fact to get up out of your chair and walk around, or go outside.  Just 15 minutes every day would add up to over 90 hours of deep thinking a year.  Bet you could dream up some cool stuff in 90 hours.

Of course you could schedule in your 15 minutes and set a timer on your phone.  But would you?  I have a reminder that goes off every day at 7am reminding me to take the time to meditate, and yet I’ve done it only once in 3 months.  Partly this is to do with mindset – I don’t think I have let myself truly value the act of meditation yet, so I don’t prioritise it.  But also, once I’ve dismissed the notification on my phone, I just forget about it.

If you’re like me and need a more visual reminder, how about this sitting on your office shelf?  Thought-provoking and pretty, what a great combination.

15 minute timer / The School of Life

15 minute timer / The School of Life

The 15 minute timer is available from The School of Life for £20, as part of their Tools for Thinking range.

What you would do with that 15 minutes every day?

 

Blogger life

Writing this blog has opened me up to a whole world I never even knew existed.  Through Workerbee Free I have met, spoken to and interacted with people I really never would have come into contact with otherwise.  Many are former lawyers who, seeing a kindred spirit, reach out to exchange stories of escapes-routes, new ventures and what comes next.  One is training to be an opera singer, another is starting an online platform, another a photography gallery.  I may not have my path figured out but it’s pretty awesome knowing there are people out there with similar backgrounds to me doing such amazing things.

I’m finding that one of the unexpected treats of writing a blog is when the online ends up spreading offline.  A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called  “I am not a company“, in which I mentioned the amazing startup Crowdwish – a website making people’s wishes come true, every single day.

Crowdwish

I ended up meeting up with the founder, Bill Griffin, at their office and we talked about careers, life in general and the inevitable decline of London as a livable City.  Bill gave me a copy of The Checklist by Atul Gawande, to fulfill one member’s wish to become more organised and get more done in the day.   Bill also gave me a pack of pens, to fulfill my wish to have more pens.  I now know another cool person in London, thanks to this blog.

Going in the other direction, an offline coffee with Gosbert Chagula at Backr, who I actually met when he was manning a stall in the canteen at my old law firm where he was trying to recruit mentors, led to my post on Seeing Your Career as a Startup being featured in the Backr newsletter last week.  I could never have planned for that to happen; it’s just one of those serendipitous things.

Backr Newsletter

WBF in the Backr Newsletter

Writing Workerbee Free also leads to other moments of sweet surprise.  Like this astonishing map showing the location of all the readers who have clicked on my blog since it began.

WBF Reader map

WBF reader map: Good Morning, Vietnam

If you are one of several readers hailing from Angola, Cuba, Nepal, Fiji, Moldova, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, or Vietnam, or indeed any of the other far flung countries highlighted on this map — welcome!  And thank you for reading!  [And if you’re from closer to home, hi to you too!]  The Alpha in me can’t help but strategise how to get the rest of the map filled in.  I won’t hold out hope for China but I feel like Greenland would be a big win.

The same stats summary that tells me where my readers are from also tells me how people get to Workerbee Free, i.e. whether it’s from Twitter or Facebook or by search engine.  From this I have learned that some people are getting to my blog by searching “how to change life to perfect”.  If you are one of those people, you have my sympathies.  I too am hot on the trail of this holy grail.  I hope you weren’t too disappointed when you got here and found my site woefully lacking in answers.

Google Search Results

Workerbee Free: the path to a perfect life (apparently)

I wasn’t sure when I started out whether I’d be able to keep this blogging thing up, but I have and I only wish I had come to it sooner.  I can’t wait to see what further surprises Workerbee Free has in store for me.

Workerbee Free: Daydreams to Keep You Going

Sometimes when I’m daydreaming I like to bring my vision to life with luscious images gathered from the ever-bountiful internet.  Now, for your dreaming pleasure, you can take a walk through a fully imagined escape from your office desk to … the beach.

Maybe it will help you get through your Monday, maybe it will help you get through your commute, or through the rest of the week.  Maybe it will inspire you to quit your job, book some tickets to Bali, and never come back.  I leave the rest up to you.

Check out the full daydream, image by gorgeous image, here.

Workerbee Free Daydreams: the Beach

Friday Fess-up: 11th April

Hello!

Whenever I write the Friday Fess-up I’m struck by how different each week as a free workerbee can be, but also how the same themes keep coming up.  This week has been challenging and I’ve been struggling to maintain my focus.  Without the structure of a normal job you can end up spending a lot of time contemplating – your life, the world, your career.  This comes with moments of euphoria — when you realise that you have it All Figured Out.  And then comes the crash, the deep waters of doubt, when you flounder and become unstuck.  I had the full cycle this week and now I feel like I’m treading water, tentatively inching towards next week, scrunching up my eyes and bracing myself for what’s coming next.

A big cause of my down-swing was an internal debate I’ve been having about whether I will ever be content with what I have achieved or whether I will always have the internal driver, pushing me forward to supposedly bigger and better things.  I read an article by James Clear on just this topic this week, in which he says: Yes, You Can Be Happy While Pushing Yourself to Success.  I can’t put my finger on it but somehow this doesn’t seem to be the full answer for me.  I’m not sure that doing a job you are passionate about really removes that internal push if you are the kind of person who is always looking to something else.

As I get ready for another ride on the roller-coaster, here’s my reflection on the week gone by.

Hope you’ve had a good one!

Michelle.

This week I have been mostly… making a brand new blog called Kitchen+Craft, cooking, chilling, trying (and failing) to figure out social media and how to promote Workerbee Free, pondering my life and treating myself to a few too many dinners…

Friday Fess-up 11th April

This week’s table reveals lots of making at the beginning of the week and lots of learning towards the end of the week, and lots of “hanging out” in between…

Friday Fess-up 11th April

Kitchen+Craft

I am most excited about the project I pulled together on Sunday and Monday.  I am loving writing on Workerbee Free but I’ve also felt like I am only really expressing one side of my personality, while another side is waiting in the sidelines, jumping up and down, waiting to be let onto the stage!  That’s why I made Kitchen+Craft, a lifestyle blog celebrating the intersection of food and design.  Check out a screenshot below:

Kitchen+Craft

I indulged my inner designer in choosing the blog template and colours, designing the logo and layout, and creating a template for Graphic Recipes for Design-Conscious Cooks.  You can see my first Graphic Recipe — Double Chocolate Banana Bread — here:

Kitchen+Craft Double Chocolate Banana Bread

 

I’m really proud of how the site looks and am excited to finally have an outlet for all my kitcheny and crafty urges.  I finally have something to do with my over two thousand pins on Pinterest….  Sign up to follow Kitchen+Craft if you want to keep up with what I’m posting there.

Mazi Mas

In fact it’s been a food-themed week for me because on Tuesday I went down to The Yard Theatre for dinner served up by the incredible ladies at Mazi Mas – a social enterprise I’ve been advising.  They help talented chefs without much formal experience transition to self-employment through a series of pop-up dinners and residencies.

Mazi Mas

This month they have been at The Yard and the food we had on Tuesday was incredible.  Unfortunately this is the last weekend for this residency but watch this space for more exciting home-cooked food to come!

This week I have mostly been reading…

 

Friday Fess-up: 4th April

Hello hello!  Another Friday, another fess-up!  And this week really has the feel of a naughty confession because I hardly did anything at all.  I caught a ride with my in-laws up to Scotland and, while I may have missed the sunny weather down South, I finally managed to switch off for a few days.

So not much to report on my end.  Hope you’ve had a good week!

M.

This week I have been mostly… playing with rough collie puppies in Liverpool, searching the country for standard poodle puppies, sleeping in, listening to the lambs baa-ing across the river, messing around on the blog, and doing a bit more soul searching.

That all doesn’t sound like much, so here’s my trusty table which always makes my look busier than I am…

Slide1

This week I have mostly been reading…

Have a great weekend!