New Gig – How is it going…

I’ve been at my new gig for over 6 weeks. I’m still just putting my head down and getting on with it. Last night however, my brother messaged me and we had a brief “chat” on WhatsApp. He asked how the new job is going and so I guess it’s time to lift my head up and have a think. In fact, yesterday was one of the less than pleasant days at my new job.

I guess broadly, my new job can be divvied up into two baskets – customer contracts and other legal matters. The former has a profile that is vastly different from my previous job. In that job, the company (in Aus/NZ/UK/EMEA/Asia at least) had maybe 2-3 dozen customers with repeat contracts and each is worth a few million bucks. A contract that is (say) of $500k is often considered a small one. So, customer contracts is a chunky piece of work and I review maybe a dozen contracts a year. Now, there are thousands of customers, and a six-figure contract value is a big contract. So, the process of drafting/finalising contracts is a whole lot more mechanised. The focus is less on legal provisions in contracts that present risks to call out for mitigation, and more on knowing what the customers need in terms of software modules and how to charge for them. My manager is an old timer, who has been with the business for over 30 years. He is a part owner. He has a highly mechanised way in churning out customer contracts and there is a lot to be said regarding doing things his way. That means far less autonomy and far more time consuming (at this stage anyway) as I need to know what those steps in the mechanised process look like and how best to navigate them so as to churn out those contracts as efficiently and as correctly as possible.

One of the priorities I was told, when I interviewed for this role (in the later stages) was to transfer the IP’s in my manager’s deep well of knowledge, to someone else. That means a lot of time just talking to him and being a 30 year old veteran, he takes his time to step through every minutiae whenever we talk. That means long discussions. Last night was one of those occasions. It also involved my manager’s offsider, with whom I have also worked closely in this initiation and learning the ropes phase. She too is a veteran, albeit “only” 17 years. She too steps through minutiae – unpleasant but much needed at this time, I guess. It ended up with me going home later than usual. It also saw me rush out of the office, perhaps a little too quickly at the risk of my coming across as being short/rude with her. I dont know, maybe I was being overly sensitive or I was just plain tired. All I know is I felt that sort of wrecked my day (and Tress’ too) but I guess that is all part of the equation at this point in time.

The other half of my work though, has been more satisfying. Transactional stuff that has legal risks attached. Partner agreements, customers wanting special arrangements, legal advice on tenders, leases, legislation and policies and procedures arising from compliance, etc. It’s the space where I felt my contribution has been more appreciated and valued. I’m the first properly licensed in-house legal practitioner they have, so I guess they are getting a form of service in terms of legal advice, documents and recommendations that they hadn’t received before. My manager, the CFO and the MD have all acknowledged that. So that should have made me feel better than I did last night. Still, the maze that makes up customer contracts is one I need to come to terms with as soon as possible. I will then feel I have settled into my new gig.


Cleared Up (and not just the weather)

Just over 9 years. That’s how long it has been since I left my previous church. It was the church we first went to, when we moved from Klang to Melbourne. We were there from day 1, so I guess it was “our church” in Melbourne, up until when I left it, back in November 2012. Tham Fuan became a pastor of that church 1-2 years before we left.

Last Thursday, after the usual home group meeting that we had online, I sent Tham Fuan an email. I asked if he wanted to catch up. The next day, I received a text from him saying he’d like that. After a few text exchanges, we arranged to catch up over coffee on Sat arvo.

It felt strange the whole of Sat morning, which thankfully, was a busy one. The little Padawan had his penultimate puppy obedience class, which started the day, at 8am. We then came home and a guy then rocked up to fix our fence. The property on our eastern side had been demolished earlier in the week. It was to be subdivided. The demolition crew took down a part of the fence so they arranged to fix that, which happened on Saturday morning. As the repair man went about his work, I took the Lexus for a wash before swapping it with the Mazda. We’ve had to alternate between the 2 cars to ensure each ran smoothly – one of the outcomes of our new pandemic hit world is that we’ve only had to use one of our cars, with the other covered up and unused for weeks on end. To minimise risks of the battery flattening for lack of use, we’ve rotated the 2 cars every few weeks. With so many changes to our lives in recent weeks/month, I’ve neglected this exercise and the Mazda had been left idle for maybe 3-4 months. So, after giving the Lexus a wash, we swapped out the Mazda and got the Lexus covered up.

I then did the “feed the garden” task, as I mixed and applied nutrients to the front shrubs and lawn. Tress did some vacuuming and the house felt much better for it.

When the fencing guy finished, I had a chat with him. A Lebanon migrant, he was telling me about his recent woes with the legal system. His smattering English meant I could only guess the extent of his woes but the constant “very hard” left me in no doubt that he has had a tough time. His (legal) problems were to do with his immigration status and his less than harmonious relations with his estranged wife. I picked up that he must have had an AVO breached and that resulted in his visa being reviewed and potentially revoked. He faces a forced return to Lebanon, without his 2 young kids. I said I didn’t know how I could help him except to maybe pray for him. He appeared to be thankful for that.

We got cleaned up after our chores, went for lunch, and then came home for Tress’s AGM (online) for a charity she has been volunteering (as a Treasurer) for. While she had her AGM, I kept my appointment with Tham Fuan. We caught up for coffee and had a chat for almost an hour. I guess one could say we patched up. I said to him that after a few months of wandering following my departure from his church, I landed at St Alf’s and we’ve been there since maybe April/May 2013. So we’ve been at St Alf’s longer than we were at Tham Fuan’s church. It was good to be reconciled with a brother. We both said, a few times, that we shared more common beliefs and values than we had differences so it’s good to let the former prevail, not the latter. Most importantly, I think our Lord would be more pleased than if we left things as they were. He prayed and after shaking hands for a second time, he offered a hug and I reciprocated.

The weather too, was near perfect over the weekend. The weekend has been very good. Awkward, and strange, but good.

Community and normality

My new gig has its own cultures, do’s and don’t’s and normal and weird. As most places do. Last week, the husband of a colleague was crook, so she didn’t come in to the office for most of the week. Because she couldn’t come in, I too, worked from home. I was told there’s a rule – maybe a practice – that one does not work alone in the office. That applies across each team. She was an offsider to my boss, who is a part owner of the business. She has been showing me the ropes. So she was that person who had to be in the office when I came in. That was something I kind of have to get used to.

Certainly, all this work-from-home and return-to-office stuff, are part of the covid normal. All the “pivotting” and looking at what needs to be adapted for the new normal. All that added to the complexities and weird feeling of settling into a new environment.

And so I worked from home for the most part last week. After a whole month of working in the office (mostly), that provided a bit of change. It also meant I worked harder (it felt that way) and so at the end of the week I felt tired and just very flat. Many have said that working from home has seen them working harder or more, and often, I too felt that way. It’s just too easy to keep going at your desk, when there appears to be nothing that is urgently calling out for your attention.

With a big week behind us, Tress and I resumed our Friday dinner date. This time however, we asked Jason and Mel along. We have been doing that for a number of years for for a combination of reasons, we stopped doing that for a while. So when we resumed that on Friday, it was very enjoyable. We didn’t however, linger around and chat away too long (like we used to) as the little fur babies were at home and the anxiety on both pooch and humans was too much to ignore. So after about a couple of hours, we headed home.

The next day, the Padawan (younger of the two pooches) had his puppy school so off I went. The Jedi (older one) had his grooming appointment so Tress and he stayed home. When both of them were done, we worked on the garden. I trimmed shrubs and hedges and replanted some veg seedlings I had started and Tress weeded and tidied up the usual mess that end spring/start of summer brings. That all took a while and by the time we were done, it was well past 1pm. We cleaned up, headed out for lunch at what has become our go-to joint in recent months. “Laksa Village” started out as “Penang Village”. The latter is a chain and part of a larger F&B group owned by Malaysians. The pandemic must have created some licensing/franchising disruption and when they re-opened after minor reno, they re-branded. The food and service remained nie and friendly so we remain happy patrons. After lunch we did our usual grocery shopping. I then prepped some stuff for the cook the next day and then took the little fellas for a really nice walk. The cricket at the oval has also resumed and late in the evening, I walked up to the fence and watched the final few overs, with a cold one in hand.

On Sunday, we returned to St Alf’s. We had been to St Lukes in recent weeks as St Alf’s had been booked out. With the lifting of restrictions, it was an uplifting service back at St Alf’s. To meet and speak again with long missed people was wonderful and fulfilling.

We went to another joint for lunch after that and this time, we headed to this place in Doncaster, that we hadn’t been to for over 18 months. They closed for reno but then covid hit. It used to be our go-to after St Alf’s for most Sundays and to do what we were doing pre-covid, felt like life is returning to normal. Later that arvo, while Tress went out for a quick hunt for her ethereal pursuits, a piece of heavy machinery was delivered at my neighbour’s property. Our long term neighbour had moved out a few months ago and the property had been vacant, awaiting demolition and redevelopment. It looks like work will finally begin.

This morning, after discussing with Tress about whether I should work from home – she came down with a slight migraine and we were thinking about the havoc the demolition work would wreak with the pooches – we decided I would come in. The office was buzzing within the hour of my coming in. Dozens of people are in the office now, in contrast with my first few weeks here, when only a handful would be here. There were days when only 2-3 were here. This too, contributed to the sense of hope that life is returning to “normal”. On my part, whatever social commentators may say about there being a new normal, the sense of community – including the work community – requires people to come together and that, is normality to me. Working from home may be convenient and efficient in many ways but as a working community, there is much to be said about being together in situ. If that means coming into the office, that is not too high a price and not too much to ask.

Starter or Finisher?

I remember asking a senior staff member of the National Blood Authority, if she was more excited about starting something, or finishing it. She was a bubbly and vocal person and carried a “force of nature” (sort of) presence. She said starting something excited her more.

I find starting something a bit less inviting than finishing it. Starting something brings with it risks, uncertainty and more laborious inputs (because it is new and so takes more effort). They add up to create more stress. I often find that hard to deal with.

So it was that sort of weekend for me. I had finished work Friday last week by sending out some emails and draft docs, and had responses back in that meant I had to drill further and ask more questions this week. It also meant of course, that those issues dwelled on my mind right through the weekend, busy as it was.

Early on Saturday, after a quick brekky, we took the little(r) fellow to his puppy training school. He’s nearly 8 months now but the lockdown meant those classes couldn’t proceed and it was only class 4 of the 8 that we signed up for. When the class finished at 9am, we came back and I started preparing to do some garden maintenance. The weather forecast had threatened heavy rains later on so I wanted to get ahead and do the work before the predicted deluge began. At the same time however, that little fellow (whom I nickmaned the Padawan, a homage to LBJ who is of course the “Little Black Jedi”) also had a grooming scheduled for 10am. It was to be his first clip after 7 1/2 months and he’s started to mat up badly so the clip was overdue anyway. So it was puppy training class and grooming for him and garden maintance for me. The latter task included an overdue trimming of the James Sterling which meant the hedge sweeper and extended arm trimmer both had to come out of the shed, as well as the customary mower of course.

It was all done well after 1pm, after which we headed out to lunch. We had to get the groceries too so we settled on the foodcourt of the shopping centre. We got home close to 3pm, and as the threatened deluge has yet to make its appearance, we walked the jedi and his apparentice.

It finally poured just before 7pm, by which time I was knackered and gratefully sipping my glass of chardy.

Still, the work sits in my mind. Not just my regular work but also a piece of work that an ex colleague had asked to assist with. Often, the thought of unfinished work creates as much stress as the work itself. Tress and I had been watching James May and his Japan adventures and we had also started on his series on cooking. We’re fans now and Saturday night saw us watching a few episodes before we nodded off to lala land…

Yesterday, we went to St Lukes, a partner of St Alfred’s. I’ve always felt strange in that place. We couldn’t register for St Alf’s in time and St Luke’s always had better chance of vacancy but it meant service in a dark, brooding hall that felt old and tired. It was nevertheless, wonderful to do an in-person service again after so long. After the service, we went home and I did the week’s cook, before heading off for a yumcha lunch with the Hippos and Chews. As always, it was good to catch up with them. We then walked the jedi and his apparentice again, before coming home to put our feet up. Only, I started on that piece of work for the ex-colleague and then thought about how to approach my regular work this week.

Early this morning, my boss rang (he is probably still working out of his beach house in the peninsular). We discussed a couple of pieces of work, and my apprehension – premonition even, as I walked in this morning, such was the stress in my mind – started to ebb. He appeared to agree with my thoughts and approved of my plans. Later in the morning, he sent the MD and I an email where he picked up a piece I had done for him over a week ago. His acknowledgement and approval of my input meant heaps to me, and released the stress valve considerably.

Starting something is way less exciting than finishing. I am forever grateful for small mercies that cushion the journey. Like time with Tress, the pooches, friends, God and His people, and small signs of approval.

Leaving the masks behind

The Cup Weekend just past, was very pleasant. The weather was wonderful – sunny, with clear blue skies with only the smallest breeze. To top it all off, we were finally allowed to wander around (outdoors) without having to wear our masks. It was so liberating and added a layer of happiness when we were out and about, bringing the dogs out on longer walks to soak in the sunshine.

We also caught up with friends again. On Friday night we were at the Hipos, with Gerry whipping up a really delicious braised duck dish and Mel and Jason bringing an equally delicious chicken rendang dish. We brought along a sour (assam/tamarind) fish curry that we got off Flavours of Mekong in Nunawading, a favourite haunt for Tress and I. Being a Friday night event, we didn’t have time to cook but the dish was very well received.

On Monday night, we went to Li Har and Alex’s. It was Kuang’s (their eldest) birthday and again, the Hipos and Mel and Jason were there too. After so many weeks, it was wonderful to catch up with friends again. For now, winter and the dreaded lockdowns are behind us and it has been a wonderful few days.