This year, I am seconded into another company. Being seconded means that my own company has ‘loaned’ me out. My original company still pays me directly and my new company pays my home company for my time.
Since I started working, I have been on three secondments. The first time I was asked to go on secondment, I was unsure. The job sounded boring. My managers were keen that I accepted the role; there was no one available to do it.
I went to my mentor for advice. She said, ‘Always accept secondments. You end up learning a lot from them.’
It’s true. Every time I leave my home company, I meet new people, get new skills, and end up being able to tell people about my unique experiences.
My first stint was for a government agency in the UK. I researched and implemented approaches to dealing with the social aspects of sustainability in road projects.
My second secondment was for a rail project in outer suburban Melbourne. I managed environmental issues on a big and fast moving construction site. This was a terrifying and effective way to learn local legislation quickly and practice how to persuade construction workers to do things that slowed them down.
My current job is to find ways to fund low carbon and efficient energy, water and waste systems in a large inner Melbourne development. This is the first time I have worked as the ‘client’, commissioning engineers to do studies for a project.
Anyway, so this has been a long introduction to what I really want to talk about. At my new company, we use laptops instead of desktop computers. Rather than clicking into a docking station, the laptop hovers above the desk like this.
The laptop screen is 15.4 inches, which is probably the smallest I would want for an everyday computer monitor. Isn’t it a strange set up? I suppose it saves the money needed for a monitor and a docking station.
I’ve been teaching final year civil and environmental engineering students at Monash University. To celebrate the end of the year, I was invited to the department dinner where I sat next to Dr Dave and talked about sustainability.
‘It’s hard,’ Dave said. ‘We all want to make money.’ Dave noticed my expresion change. ‘You do want to make money, right?’ he prompted.
‘Umm, well… I have a mortgage… as long as I can pay that, then no, I don’t need to make a heap of money,’ I ventured.
Dave looked at me intently and suddenly lit up. ‘Well! If you don’t mind about money, you could go into academia! It’s such a great job, you know. You can make a real difference though teaching. Nothing is as effective as influencing people through teaching. Especially if money isn’t that important to you.’
I’ve been working on a construction site. As we were driving yesterday, we were stopped in our tracks by an eastern brown snake. It was big — about five foot, or as long as I am tall. It fat, as thick as my wrist.
It was also deadly. The eastern brown snake is the ‘second most toxic land snake in the world’, according to Wikipedia.
We got out of the 4WD to take photos. The snake looked at us for a while, then darted very fast into the grass next to the road. It was beautiful and wriggly.
There are (at least) two types of report readers in the world.
People who want to follow you as you work through to the answer
People who want to know the answer straight away
This causes much frustration in report writing because each type of reader thinks, â€˜Obviously, you need to give me the â€œso whatâ€ firstâ€™, or â€˜Obviously, your report doesnâ€™t make sense unless you build it up from strong foundationsâ€™.
Type 1 people
Scientists and anyone with Dr in their name
Type 2 people
I used to write Type 1 reports. Then one project involving lots of lawyers turned me into a Type 2 report writer. This has worked well for me recently, as I’ve been working with architects and urban designers.
Right now, though, I am now turning a Type 2 report into a Type 1 report because the client is a scientist plus a public servant. Sadly, we actually want Type 2 people to read this report but canâ€™t say no to the Type 1 client body.
(There is a halfway house on this — long executive summaries. But it’s not a perfect solution.)
I was lucky timing my transfer from London to Melbourne. I arrived in time for the annual staff cocktail party. The theme was Jungle Fever.
Colleagues in Melbourne seem much quicker to get on the dance floor than my London workmates. And it was a pretty spectacular dance floor, filled with lions, giraffes, gorillas, indigenous warriors, big game hunters and colonialists.
I was in the middle of a particularly fun jig when my left foot was stabbed with a stiletto. Ouch! I stared in horror at the perpetrator and she looked vaguely at me before floating off. I don’t think she realised what she did.
I did bleed a bit and my foot is still sore three days later.