This was a good week for work quotes … the meeting after the one above (and I’m not kidding, someone actually said that), another co-worker said he’d rather bring jello shots to the morning meeting than wine. The next day there was so much banging going on with moving chairs up and down three flights of metal stairs that another co-worker came out with the beauty: “It’s like working in a drum. Welcome to the madhouse.” Well, maybe you had to be there. I still crack up just thinking of the manner in which he said it…
We have been losing interns in a rapid manner, though, as the American and European summers wane, and UCT (this is University of Cape Town – I have been reminded that not everyone is going to be familiar with all the local acronyms) ramps up again. So heart is feeling smaller and smaller by the day. But there remains a lot of work to do!
The main things I worked on this week were developing a concept and starting on the theory of change around a tutoring business. This project is a bit of a microcosm of what the idea factory needs to be doing, but I am struggling, and I mean struggling, to make a clear sense in my mind of what the idea factory should be and what it should not, in relation to the incubator. Anyway. That is neither here nor there but the concept we have for this tutoring business is that supplementing secondary education to help learners get their matric (which we Americans would call a diploma, matric just sounds so much nicer though) is necessary but not sufficient. First of all, there are plenty of people with a matric and no jobs, and secondly it is difficult to obtain kickstart funding or get corporates to “sponsor” learners when all you are really doing is something that the school should be doing itself. So, we are investigating if there are industries that have skills shortages that don’t require a high level of heft (like, say, civil engineering) that we could use to supplement the academic classes. In other words, classic market research. But on Tuesday two of us met with this woman who is a social entrepreneur and who works with heart as a key advisor and part-owner (she is black, and this sort of thing is necessary under BEE). I had never met with her before but her insight and clarity of thinking were impressive, and I was pleased that she agreed with our general direction as well as giving us some pointers.
This was on Tuesday, and that was the high point of the day. The low point was reviewing a cost model for FoodTent GrowZones that basically indicated that our costs were higher than we thought, and so we need either to raise prices pretty significantly or cut costs (or both…). Well, we will figure this out. This aspect of business is, at least, straightforward.
Tuesday after work I locked up the office for what was the first time, but certainly won’t be the last. I was tired and wanted to go home and chill. Then my co-worker asks for a ride home (she lives in an area of the city called Observatory, probably because there is an observatory there), so I thought that was fine. Then she said she wanted to go out for a drink with someone, but they weren’t getting back to her (or something), and I said well, shame, ordinarily I would go out for a drink but I wanted to go home and chill. 2 minutes later she says, “Wanna go out for a drink?” and what do I say? Force of habit. LOL, she fooled me good! Well, it was nice though to chill … and yes, gossip. It’s always important to have someone to share things you’re feeling with and we both had a couple of things we were ready to talk about. THEN I went home and chilled.
Wednesday morning I had just a terrible workout. Apparently I should have gone home! My back was sore from Monday’s deadlifts … even with trying to keep form as good as possible that is still a lot of strain on the lower back but it was soreness pain not out-of-alignment pain. But anyway, pain. I was just uncoordinated and couldn’t snatch to save my life, then I was just really sloppy with my back on the kettlebell swings. At least I had a chance to practice my rowing form improvements but overall … not a ton of fun, so that put me into a bad mood.
The bad mood lifted though when I was actually able to locate the UCT Medical School campus (the text message directions were pretty good but I went out on De Waal Drive instead of the N2 so I had to use my super knowledge of Obs … :P) to deduce that the UCT Medical School might be next to Groot Schuur Hospital. And then I ate my breakfast out of the back of my car. Yes, I really sometimes do wonder about my sanity but I had to eat, and I wasn’t going to eat the sort of food you can buy in a university food court. My co-workers call me (among other things) Citronellie, because I generally have so much fruit at my desk, specifically oranges for a while after my ex-roommate went back to the States and left her oranges with me.
So, I was at UCT to attend the final presentations of our Norwegian interns (they were taking a class through the university in Oslo in conjunction with UCT). I thought both that the groups did a good job of presenting and that the feedback was tough but fair, and some of it I noted so that we could refine the plans ourselves! Sadly, I had to leave a little bit into the third presentation because I had a meeting to get to back at the office and the presentations were running a bit over-schedule. It was sad to say goodbye to my lovely friends! But also I am again realising what a very small world this is … obviously the head of UCT’s sort of student volunteering/social enterprise organisation was there, of course, as was the woman I had met with the day before. I mean yes, Cape Town in general is a small town it is nearly impossible to go, for example, to the Old Biscuit Mill market on a Saturday without running into someone that you know.
I had my phone on silent for the presentations and forgot to turn it back on for the drive back. When I got back to work my guests had already arrived (they were 10 minutes early), and everyone was wondering where I was! I had asked my co-worker the previous night at drinks to tell everyone I would be late, and of course I forgot to email and let them know also … but it was pretty funny when I arrived I got to tease my co-worker for forgetting to pass along the message. Not only did she forget to pass it on but apparently she forgot so thoroughly that she was texting me to ask where I was! Because usually I am a few minutes late thanks to CCF in the morning but wearing the pink pajamas is one thing, just completely not showing up is entirely another!
Moving on … the meeting was productive; it was a planning meeting around the group of Henley executive MBAs who are coming *gulp* a week from today, now. That is going to be one intense week….
Thursday I was also just all over the place, and was spending my time inefficiently. I hate that. It was meant to be my rest day because I was clearly just so smoked the day before, but then I woke up and saw that the workout involved rope climbs and handstand pushups so I decided to go between work and an event we had going on at the Hub that evening. See, I wanted to do rope climbs because I was for some reason never able to get more than like ¾ of the way up before, and this was the third day we had done rope climbs and I would be damned if I wouldn’t get to the top this time. Also, I had been waiting for a chance to use my jester socks from m*rathon now that I saw people at the CrossFit games wearing them and there is just nothing like wearing a really mis-matching outfit from time to time. So, I did get to the top, but I was mad because on my second climb (we were meant to get from the bottom to the top as many times as possible without touching the floor), I again got like ¾ of the way up and got stuck … my grip kind of died and I ran out of chalk and my hands just wouldn’t stay where I put them. I tried to go again but recognized my grip dying before I got very far up the second attempt so I decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Bah. Well, there is always next time. Clearly, it tired me out though because the rest of the workout I finished the 3 rounds of 5 handstand pushups, 10 situps and 15 squats quite quickly (like 2 minutes or just over), and then the biggest problem I had with the push-presses for the remainder of the 8 minute workout was my grip. Had to keep putting the bar down, and that just wastes time… well, I got to 85 which isn’t terrible.
But some other people did pretty fantastic at this workout – one girl got 4 ascents, one got three, and one guy not only did four ascents using just his arms but then took up a challenge to climb the rope one-handed and managed to do so. That is just sickly impressive.
After that, I showered and stretched (yes, in that order, sometimes I don’t make a lot of sense), and headed back to the Hub. We had a hub cinema event where we watched a documentary called The Age of Stupid, which is basically about all the wasteful things we humans are doing to the planet. I saw my co-worker eating a bag of Whispers (this is a Cadbury product), and asked him if that was dinner or dessert. Since he replied it was dinner, I asked if he wanted some of my food because I had some proper food in the refrigerator. He must have been hungry because instead of being polite, he agreed. So some springbok, chicken, sweet potato and avo later I wound up with an invitation to his place for dinner. I would say I got the better end of that arrangement!
Our guest speaker for the evening was one Gareth Morgan from the DA (Democratic Alliance), who is the Shadow Minister for Water and Environment Affairs (or something like that). In case you’ve been living under a rock the party in power in South Africa is called the ANC (African National Congress). It’s very much a one-party state at the moment, but the DA is actually in power in the Western Cape province. So he got up and talked on for a while about the sorts of things that government and the DA are doing in this area … blah blah, I don’t really remember too much.
Then the floor was opened up to a Q&A session which is where you get to see what politicians are really made of. Now, this guy is a Rhodes Scholar so clearly he’s not stupid. I have to admit I was a bit shocked in the video where this one family was trying to reduce their carbon footprint and noted that a round-trip from London to New York would blow their carbon allocation for three years or something like that. So, naturally the question I asked was around this: given my shock at this (to which he replied I wasn’t allowed to go home, and that one got the audience laughing, but wait, a government official just said I wasn’t allowed to leave the country….), I asked for his thoughts on personal carbon offsets, a) and b) what were his thoughts on cap & trade vs. carbon tax. First of all, I was actually interested to hear his answers. Secondly, I was impressed that he answered these questions in a way that indicated knowledge, thoughtfulness, and intelligence (which is to say his conclusions and opinions mirrored my own so of course I am going to like hearing what he has to say!).
Long story short I went up to him after and we talked for like 15 minutes. Turns out he has spent some time in Middlebury, knew of Burlington, and is actually going to the States in a few weeks “as a guest of the U.S. State Department.” Whee. So I find politicians interesting because they are much harder to gauge when they are playing you (or trying to play you) and when they are just being themselves. Case in point, he asked me what I did and before answering, because the question is much easier to answer when you know what heart does, I asked him how much he knew about heart, to which his answer was “Not enough; tell me.” Eh. Could be he really cared (he sure as heck should, I’m starting to think Peter Shrimpton might very well be the center of the universe), or not. Well what I can say is I got what I wanted out of the conversation: after hearing about what I did and I told him that I agreed with his assessments of cap & trade vs tax (“Oh really? Good.” Really Gareth? Really?) he invited me down to Parliament for a tour and lunch or drinks, to talk more about these sorts of issues. I hadn’t even gotten to the part yet about how I really wanted to add a purely environmentally-focused company to our portfolio. He then followed up at the close of the conversation with the priceless statement: “And this is a serious offer.” As the Xhosa kids are always saying, yebo, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. It was funny when he was talking I was looking at him and I had this absolutely outrageous urge to drag him to CCF. Why? I don’t know. Strange. But in all seriousness, his knowledge and contacts can almost certainly help us, so I was pleased.
And actually this leads me to my next thing because while I write “can almost certainly help us” it’s not actually about us. Friday morning while I was spending the entire morning doing what can best be termed as fire fighting (this after the obligatory birthday celebration during which I managed to blow the candle completely off the cake…), I had a bit of an ourburst. So our CEO was up in Sweden meeting with a bunch of people (including a private tea with the queen … not even kidding), but basically fund-raising. So we were hearing about one of his meetings and at the end what I said was along the lines of, “Yeah well did he actually get money in the bank? Because I’m starting to get mad. It’s not because I’m not getting paid just now because I really don’t care about that… I have enough money not to have to worry about that [thx Jeeves!] but I’m mad because we’re wasting time. I see all these projects and all this potential to build businesses and change lives and we just can’t get started because we don’t have capital.” It kind of surprised me a bit to have an outburst like that; I think it surprised my co-workers a bit too, the few of them that witnessed it. But in a good way. I hope.
Friday afternoon I went over to Kuils River, I am helping one of my friends do some consulting work in the family business. This is interesting because it should be so simple, but it’s actually not. This is a great learning experience for me because the problem in this case isn’t a complicated business problem, or model, or anything like that … it’s people, and how people think. Wow I was mentally tired at the end of that, and needed my two beers at Spur to wind down. Then, of course, I had to go home and eat because I only ever eat at Spur when I’m very desperate. Sadly, I was close … stress makes me hungry.
Oh, these photos? Well, one is my birthday cake that was “hidden” in the stove at work, much to my amusement, and the second is one of the pigs always wandering around. I just love this pig, when I first saw the pink one I was driving and thought it might be a rat but thank heavens it was a pig. The black one I rather like, you can go over and talk to it and it looks at you with interest while it’s chowing down.