Monday, May 28, 2018

Friends

Lovely gift from one of my besties from the Firm

Last week I met our team's former intern. She left in March to take on her first permanent job that was advertised with a fancy title and really interesting sounding description. Truth be told, I almost envied her, it sounded so cool. I was really happy for her to have landed such a great position. Two months on, she is quite desillusioned and told me that she was little more than a glorified admin and afraid she would gradually forget everything she had learnt at our company. She was not even sure if there was a silver lining on the horizon and she should stick it out much longer. My first question was "But the people there are nice, aren't they?" (For the record: they are). This really shows my personal priorities: I could pretty much work in a coalmine or a chain gang and would be willing to bear it, just as long as I had nice colleagues. This was the case at Household Name from the very beginning - the fact that this lovely intern messaged me to say she missed me is evidence enough and I get on well with every one of my team mates, continuing to bake for them just like I had done for my previous colleagues and all that. 
Even so, it has mainly been a strictly-work relationship and I sometimes miss the after work socialising I had enjoyed with colleagues from the Firm. Funnily enough, when I first started there, I was not quite prepared to erase the boundary between colleagues and friends quite so vehemently and sometimes felt like I was a member of a cult of some sort. Fast forward 10 years and it really struck me that the division between work and life was once more very clear now that I was the new kid on the block. Just as I had almost resigned myself to the fact that it might stay like this forever, I began hanging out with a colleague (not in my immediate team) who in fact started the same week I did and whom I had hit it off with immediately, outside work. It really makes me happy to have a friend and confidant at work...and somebody to tell my friends and family about. A few months ago my mother quite probingly asked what my colleagues were like, adding "Dad also said to me that he found it strange that you don't talk about your colleagues any more. We felt we knew all those people from the Firm just from your stories".  
I know quite a few people who actually prefer to keep their business and private personas separate and like to keep a distance to work mates. I am SO not one of them and once more got proof that my appreciation of my workplace exponentially increases when I find a true friend there.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Thrill of Chill

When this post goes live I will still be in London (if everything goes according to plan, of course). I am writing this a few hours before heading to the airport, to yet another weekend away. Actually, it was the first mini trip abroad I booked this year, when my calendar was still completely empty. Since then, it has become more than full with one weekend after another in a different city. Truth be told, I am now actually looking forward to not going anywhere and spending a few weekends in a row in Vienna, not doing anything in particular, but enjoying being at home. I still have a few week(end)s to go before this happens. While I do still enjoy travelling and experiencing new things just as much as I used to, I have come to realise two things in the past months: there's a difference between business trips during the week (which I still miss) and having weekends to recharge at home, and being away pretty much every weekend without down-time at home. The other thing is that the world probably won't end if I lose my frequent traveller privileges in the near future and won't get bonus miles and lounge access. You might have to remind this crazy chick of her own words, but I am determined to not overbook myself again next year and appreciate some "me-time" in Vienna.  Just chilling at home seems such a sweet promise all of a sudden...

Monday, May 14, 2018

#homeiswherethelakeis

This Hashtag is one I frequently use on Instagram, just like a previous colleague who is from a ski resort town in Styria likes to post photos tagged with #homeiswherethemountains are. Well, the latter is also something I identify with, but this lake really has a special place in my heart and despite the fact that I left Kagenfurt, the town where I was born, aged 18, whenever I see the turquoise blue water of the Wörthersee, I get flooded by a special kind of happiness and so many warm and fuzzy memories of childhood summers spent sprawled on a towel reading books and begging for ice-cream. 
I don't think it makes a difference how much time you spent at a certain place in order for you to fall in love with or get to hate it. It's all a matter of context and what you associate with it. The "endless summer holidays" of my youth were in fact two months long (not bad either), but in retrospect feel like half a year, every year. The lake always played a central role in them and no matter that my family went on summer holidays abroad, too, and also spent a significant amount at our weekend house near Lake Ossiach, my nostalgically fogged brain has recorded the equation: summer = Lake Wörth indelibly on its hard disk, never to be erased or questioned. As soon as the gates of Strandbad Klagenfurt open in May, summer has officially begun for me.

Monday, May 07, 2018

The Perfect Travel Companion

As you know, I went a little crazy on the weekend trip front recently and still have some more lined up. Some of these trips, I have made on my own, but for the most part, I travel with friends, or my Mum. While I have a pretty large circle of friends, the circle of travel companions is quite a small one and there are quite a few friends whom I love to bits, but would never choose to go on a vacation together. Here are my top criteria for the perfect travel companion in my book, which, in a nutshell boil down to should not be complicated.
  1. Should be open-minded and curious.
  2. Should be interested in art and culture, but - like me - dislike any kind of guided tour and audioguides.
  3. Should be open to travelling on public transport even if we can afford a taxi.
  4. Should not be stingy, nor deny themselves that scoop of ice-cream only because it costs 1 € more than at home. Likewise, should not argue or get stressed if I want to treat them to something, which does not oblige them to return the favour, either.
  5. Should be willing to spend some time apart occasionally, even if we are on this trip together (e.g. let's meet in an hour while you visit your favourite shops and I visit mine).
  6. Should not be a slave to a must-see/must-buy/must-eat list they compiled back home.
  7. Should not condemn any type of restaurant as "touristy" only because it is near a place of interest or is not in their list of recommended places.
  8. Should not sleep until noon or take ages getting ready. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to set my alarm either, unless I have an early flight to catch, but I don't want to waste half the day waiting for somebody in the morning.
  9. Should be flexible and not go into panic or sulky mode if something out of our control does not go according to plan.
  10. Should not be bossy and unable to compromise...

Monday, April 30, 2018

Perpetuum Mobile

Last week I attended another session of a series of workshops on organisational development and agile methods I am attending together with some of my colleagues. In the course of discussion I voiced some observations of mine, among them the fact that I point-blank refuse to perpetuate a system of ugly text-loaded presentations or other things that people continuously complain about, but don't really do anything to change. Meaning that it's all good to come together to discuss the cool things we could potentially do, but you also need to take action to not fall back into the old set ways. I don't know if it is a sign of (old) age or if I am just past caring, but I have become quite radical in some of my views over the years and noticed that there's no harm in voicing them...diplomatically. I realised my choice of adjectives might have been a tad too harsh when a colleague approached me in a break to ask if it the company was really that horrible, which was not at all the point I had been trying to make. Being the harmony-freak that I am, I immediately back-pedalled and listed some things I found progressive compared to other companies. It really was not my intention to come across as a finger-pointer and complainer who provokes the inevitable question of "if it's so bad here, why don't you leave then?" Until I have figured out the ultimate recipe of giving constructive input in an easily digestible form I will stick to publishing articles on these topics on LinkedIn and wonder if some of my colleagues find them in their feeds. Subversive element, me!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Homebase

Believe it or not, I spent this past weekend in Vienna for a change. Yep. Didn't fly anywhere. It was good timing, too, as the weather was super summery and I finally got round to cleaning (most of) the windows in my flat, swapping most of my wardrobe, "moving" my car, which had been parked in the garage for weeks, and doing other random things I had been putting off. I'll readily admit that I have been a bit overzealous in my weekend-break-booking craze and there for weekends at home have been rare and far between...and will be in the next weeks as well. Compensating for the nice business trips that I don't have any more is a great idea, if slightly costly one, but unlike the past when I always had the weekends to recharge and refuel in between, I am beginning to miss that downtime and am now actually looking forward to some Vienna weekend time in the summer. Not complaining about this self-inflcited #firstworldproblem, though.
I may not have a rooftop terrace and my flat is on a rather busy street, but I still love it and it is my little haven that I have made to look and feel the way I like it over the years.
Random fun fact - I struggle to say the world "homebase", apparently. I had to repeatedly use it in a work context recently and half of the time what came out was "homepage", much to the amusement of the workshop participants. The same thing happens to me with the names "Gerhard" and "Gerald" and "Karin" vs. "Kat(h)rin", all four of which are among my friends - I always need to stop and concentrate before addressing them with the wrong name.

Monday, April 16, 2018

With New Eyes

While some of my spring "weekend tripping" was of the impulse buy variety and I am beginning to think that I might be overcompensating for the absence of business travel in my life, ahem, just a tiny bit, the weekend in Vilnius was booked on Christmas Eve. I got my Mum (pictured above) a voucher for a weekend in any European city of her choice for Christmas and since she is as eager as I am when it comes to travelling, we went ahead and booked a few hours later. Like mother, like daughter., I suppose. She picked Vilnius as she had never been there and a friend, who stopped there en route to Finland last year told her she really loved it. Unlike Mum, I know the city (centre) quite well, having been there on quite a few business trips back in the days at the Firm. I always really liked Vilnius, the town, but job-wise, I much preferred to spend my time in Sofia and ultimately struck a deal with my manager asking if I could put the focus of my activities on Bulgaria, rather than the Baltics. Although, objectively, Vilnius is way more attractive than Sofia, I just felt more comfortable there as far as local colleagues and clients were concerned. The Baltic people I met seemed of the "glass half empty" variety whereas the Bulgarians definitely were team "glass half full" and everything seemed to be more fun and lighthearted there.
Vilnius, however, is not at fault there and so it was a rather novel experience for me, this time. I had booked the fanciest hotel in town and the weather Gods had mercy on us (probably having decided we had our fair share of winter and wet feet in Bukarest), and got to see the city through the eyes of a tourist. My mother really loved it, too, and we both agreed that the pace was decidedly slower and more laid-back than in Vienna. If we had been on a busy schedule, the not exactly speedy service in restaurants and the decidedly "Communist customer service attitude" in some shops might have bothered us, but as we weren't we just went with the flow and had a great time. We thoroughly enjoyed our 48 hours in town, strolling around at our own pace, ticking off the main sights and discovering some interesting details. I decided that next year, I'll treat Mum to a weekend in Tallinn, a city I know less well than Vilnius and am curious to revisit.
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