Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Independence is finally mine... the imp can drive!

I've always considered myself to be a pretty independent person in most areas of my life.  However, there is one area in which I have been totally dependent upon others the past few decades of my life - getting from A to B by means of a car.  Yes - all my solo adventures have been made with the use of my own two feet and public transport.  Due to events the past few years I started thinking that perhaps I really should get my driving license.  After all, as the nature of the job I want is likely to involve travel - how likely am I to be successful in an application without a driving license?  A couple of years ago I cheekily asked if driving lessons counted as a 'training course' for my personal development plan - naturally the answer was 'no'.  My attitude is I was no worse off for asking and they could have surprised me (so I'm an optimist).

This year I finally decided to take the plunge and started saving.  It's an expensive business in the UK as there's a fair bit involved cost wise:
  • Cost of a provisional driving licence (if you don't have one already): £50
  • Insurance for a learner driver on the practice car
  • Theory test: £30
  • Practical test: £56.50
  • Driving lessons: £20 to £26 per hour in my area
  • Supplementary materials (e.g. DVD, Highway code): £25 for learner pack from DSA inc. L plates
  • Free information: Lots of good stuff on the motoring pages of the Direct Gov website.
Although I'd considered going the intensive route I decided I'd be better off taking it steady and accumulating driving experience between lessons - an approach I highly recommend.  In the end it took me 16 x 2 hour lessons (32 hours of driving tuition) and when all the costs are added up it still comes in under £1000.  A few hundred pounds over my optimistic budget... it was worth every penny to hear those magic words:

'I'm pleased to say you've passed.' 

For anyone else out there in their mid-thirties and thinks it's too late to learn - think again.  If I can do it - so can you!

Major thanks go to:
My partner: All your support, patience with manoeuvres and learning to trust my ability to stop the car.
My driving instructor - Dave Lewsey: Your patience with a perfectionist learner, willingness to translate concepts into something that worked for me (mantra: RLR, Rbs, Lbs, Bwdw) and your sense of humour - I loved lessons with you and no longer having them is the only downside of passing my test.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Need to keep IT on track? Put a woman in charge ;)

Only kidding - put whoever the most competent person is for the job in charge.  Personally I can't stand this business of meeting quotas and positive discrimination so I don't want any of you getting the wrong idea about some of my recent posts.  My headline is actually in reference to that used by Computing this week in reference to Catherine Doran who won their 'IT Leader of the Year' award.  Congratulations Catherine!
Catherine Doran, winner of Computing's IT Leader of the Year award, tells Angelica Mari of her determination to drive on with technology-led transformation at Network Rail despite uncertainty over funding.

These are challenging days for Catherine Doran. She is in charge of Network Rail's IT assets and is facing growing pressure to keep down costs, but she remains unperturbed. The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) confirmed earlier this year that Network Rail will be given an overall budget next year of £28.5bn, £2.6bn less than it asked for. The company still has to respond to the ruling, while the ORR contends that the shortfall will actually amount to £1.2bn once some projects are dropped or delayed. The announcement from the regulator followed months of wrangling with the rail infrastructure firm, which is understood to have said it could generate savings of about 13 per cent, considered "optimistic" by the ORR....

Read the full story at

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The path to CIO - as a black woman - to be or not to be?

The recent achievements of Lewis Hamilton and Barack Obama got me thinking about role models again.  Those of you who have been with me for awhile will know that I'm very interested in the challenges that women face working in IT and there is a lot of emphasis on role models.

It's a current ambition of mine to become a CIO and there just aren't that many females, let alone black females (the 'double whammy' as someone recently said to me).  So imagine my excitement awhile back on hearing the success of Gail Roper - a black female CIO working in US government.  Do you know of any others?

Anyway, back to my path.  My original plan to get there was to go through the ITSM route (which I really enjoy) yet recent events mean that I've had to put that plan aside and remap my path as I walk the project management route (which I also enjoy).  After some deliberation about the move I've decided that, actually, it is completely the right thing to have done.  Why?  Whether you read ITIL, CIO, or pretty much any other technology (with career focus) website out there; there are constant references to 'the business'.  Alignment.  Integration.  That's where we are at.  So what better move for me than to step out of IT and into the business in order to get a better understanding of 'the other side' with which we are to integrate?

More on this subject another time.  For those that would say race and gender don't matter in such things - as much as I wish they didn't - the fact is they do.  I hope that as I move through both my professional and personal life that people will look past gender, past race - and see me.  A little ITIL imp :)

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Amazing times...

In a departure from my normal topics - I can't let this one pass without joining in the commentary with my personal take.

It's been a great week for black people in terms of positive role models whilst at the same time being quite horrible given what is happening elsewhere in the world.

We've seen the first black formula one world champion in the form of Lewis Hamilton (image source: inthenews).  A kid who had a dream and managed to make it reality. As much as I admire him and know that he inspires others - I also want to pay tribute to his family and father in particular. Those that achieve great things rarely do so alone, it's the people who believe in them that help to make it so. None more so than the next man who has made history - Barack Obama.

I'm not sure I ever truly believed that I would witness such a day in my lifetime and I'm certain that Ann Nixon Cooper (106 year old American activist for African-American people's rights) never believed it either.

I was among those that stayed up all night to witness the historic occasion (ok, so I confess my body failed me and I crawled into bed about 15 minutes after it was confirmed that he took Ohio and it was clear he had won). How far America has come...and the oh the irony of a black family in the 'White house' - I love it.

Will he really change the world? Yes, he will - he already has by inspiring millions of people. It's THOSE people that will effect real change. I just hope that he surrounds himself with people who want a better world, that won't undermine him, and that the tough decisions he makes go towards achieving that.

If Martin Luther King could see this now...
20081104_Chicago_IL_ElectionNight1520, originally uploaded by Barack Obama.