I got the opportunity to attend a business lunch at George Watsons College this morning, something that the teachers put on in order to allow pupils to meet “actual working people”. Not in a “Beer-and-Bingo” way, but more in a “here’s a perspective on life that isn’t your parents one and ooh look what you could also do rather than be a doctor or a lawyer” way.

I think it’s a great idea and even if I can help one poor soul who’s got no idea what they want to do at a time when everyone is laying on pressure for them to make critical, life-changing decisions whilst doing exams and wrestling with puberty, then it’ll be worth getting up at 06:30 to do it.

However, this morning I got more than I bargained for. I’d not really paid enough attention to the e-mail explaining what the format would be so when I arrived I was surprised to hear there’d be a speaker - an ex-pupil of GWC who wanted to say a few words. I was slightly sceptical as I’ve sat through my fair share of awkward public speaking but in the short 15 minutes Mr Donald Brydon took to say his piece I was made to be absolutely, thoroughly inspired.

He picked out and focused on three simple ideas to put forward to these 17-18 year olds…

  • Work hard.

This resounded with me so utterly. I’ve found that people lose that aggression as they get older. It becomes easier and easier to sit back. To not engage. To not care. The money is coming in, it’s enough for a car and a holiday - so why bother? If you show yourself to be a hard worker then you will be spotted as such - and you know if you are working hard or not. You can lie and cheat and flatter and beg but achievement doesn’t come about without graft. You end up luckier the harder you work.

  • Be curious.

Just because you are a mathematician, don’t feel you have to stick to maths all the time. If you do law, why do it all day? Cross-pollination of ideas gives you leverage to take your work ethic and work smarter with it. Having a more general knowledge allows you to take on different perspectives on things.

  • Be frustrated.

This was a thought that had never occurred to me but explains quite sometimes why I am who I am. Never be happy at work. Never be content. Drive on - you made that work? Awesome, you go girl. Now how do you make it better? Smarter? Cheaper? Be upset that these things aren’t working well enough, be vocal. Demand better! (ooh-err, almost too close to Sky speak there).

These were the up-front points, the crux of his speech. If you took these away, then excellent. Once he’d spoke though, he offered to take questions and here’s where I learned another few tips.

  • Be honest.

There was a question about his views on independence which he answered truly and honestly. For such an emotional, polarising topic how many bosses would have done the same? It turns out he’d already talked about this to the press but I still thought it was excellent the way he put his own opinion forward instead of dodging it.

  • Be humble.

Another person asked if he’d made any mistakes. “Hundreds” he replied and then took the time to detail when he’d been conned by an investor. No wrapping it in a positive light, he’d made a bloody big mistake. Oops. But he learned from it as we all do.

  • Be proud of where you come from.

He spoke about how fond he was of GWC and the friends he’d made from there, friends that stayed through the years. He spoke of how his education had made him who he was and that with hindsight he wouldn’t change his decisions in life as it’s made him who he is today. Move forward, don’t dwell on the past too much.

Not bad for before 9am now, was it? :)

As you can see, I’ve moved my “blog” again. There’s not much to it - there never really is - and I’m not sure why as I tend to have quite a great deal to say about things :).

It’s powered by the HPSTR theme at the moment - I plan to bastardise it when I get a chance but it’s really an excellent place to start. All thanks to Michael Rose from MadeMistakes.com!

So what’s on my mind these days? Let me tell you…

Scottish Independence

The independence debate rages on and I am not moved by either argument. I think generally that independence would be an excellent thing for Scotland, but I don’t agree with the arguments being made in the media by the leaders of the two sides. The reasons are all important - are we really so frustrated with the economic policy of the United Kingdom that is the main discussion point? I have no trouble believing that Scotland as a nation can survive economically, so let’s move on.

Topics I’d like to discuss are…

  • What our new constitution and parliament might look like with the removal of religion from our governance.
  • The right to privacy, both online and offline - something I don’t think we’ll ever have being part of the UK and under the GCHQ.
  • Energy policy - how do we leverage the massive natural resources we have in a way that we can both benefit from cheaper energy and perhaps even export it.
  • A more simple, more transparent and fairer tax system. Let’s take the opportunity to come up with a system that can be the envy of the world, to balance the excessive tax-avoidance that is rife without strangling a company from growing and reaching out. Corporate social responsibility should be more than the odd charity fun-run, it should be intrinsic in the fabric of what we do and who we are as Scots. Get it right from the start, make the rules clear and I don’t believe for a second we’d miss any company who feels compelled by greed to jump ship.
  • Our responsibilities in Europe and in NATO. With Russia and China being increasingly aggressive, we can’t simply ignore the fact that there are global politics that we are going to be part of whether we like it or not. Where do we stand, who are our allies? What is our foreign policy as Scotland?
  • How do we deal with the rampant alcoholism, child poverty and sectarianism that blights Scotland. How will independence improve these areas? Can they? If not, why aren’t we looking into this instead of wasting time on anything else?
  • Education policy. What happened to the relationship between schools and families? “In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something else.” said Lee Iacocca and was tweeted by @qikipedia recently. Doesn’t that make a great deal of sense? Is that happening in Scotland?

As you can see, I’ve given this quite a bit of thought. Hopefully I can go into some more detail on these areas, my findings and my opinions.

Code

I’m not sure why I don’t code at home very much any more. I’m crazy busy at work - and I love it - but I still love so many other parts of computers and science and I sometimes forget. So, a pledge now, to start putting things on GitHub and not give a damn what other people think about it. To take (constructive) criticism if anyone actually bothers to look at my code. To not get caught up in “big projects” and code and tinker and hack and try things out of an evening.

There’s also a wealth of excellent articles I’ve enjoyed reading and I hope to share some of the better ones here with my thoughts.

Finally, I’ve moved this blog to GitHub pages as my experience of the free Google App Engine hosting was disappointing - and I certainly didn’t get enough traffic to warrant paying for it. I’m looking forward to learning a bit more about Python and Ruby with Jekyll.

Exercise

Got a Garmin Forerunner 910XT for Christmas and haven’t looked back since - what a fantastic piece of kit. The running and cycling measurement are great, but the swimming measurement is the killer feature for me. Being able to track all my swimming sessions - and the improvement I’ve made - is just awesome. So I’m going to take a look at how to put this blog to good use on that side of things too.