Category Archives: Management

Straight back down to earth

Back in the real world after the heady political junkie-ism of Manchester. My appearance on BBC News 24 got bounced to much later in the evening due to Gordon’s speech running over time, so I first went to the reception given by the Irish Ambassador. Met some interesting people there. That was really the point of being in Manchester – all the people I met from all sorts of areas – media, industry, lobbying, academia. I think we’re coming back with some better ideas of how to get our message across. And of course it’s always nice to spend time with the people you work with in a non-office context.

We were sitting in the bar of the main conference hotel last night (I was having a G&T to recover from doing a live interview on national TV!) when the Brown cavalcade swept into the lobby, Gordon glad-handing and Sarah wearing a very nice red dress (much better thank what she had worn that afternoon in the conference hall, if I can be Trinny and Susannah about her for a moment). Then they swept out again with lots of acolytes swarming around them. You might have thought that the conference-ites would have been less star-struck, but everyone was clearly very excited to see him. I saw several people wearing “I heart GB” badges, which I thought was some sort of jingoistic statement, until I realised who rather than what GB was!

So, as I said, back down to earth with a bump. I’ve got a crazy day tomorrow, with wall-to-wall meetings, including the Double Club, interviewing the propective new admin assistant and meeting what seems to be the only other UK Eisenhower fellow!

Busy bees

Is life (or rather work) just much better when you’re busy? After a surprisingly slow start to the week, things got going mid-week – kind of feels like we’re hitting about 40 on the speedo and accelerating. Quite a few newspapers and media organisations have been in touch as they’re interested in what’s going to be forthcoming from the Commission in the next few months, which is encouraging – they are coming to us! We’ve got a Commissioner over at the beginning of next week, Leonard Orban, who deals with multilingualism and he will be talking about the problems I mentioned a few weeks ago, that Brits are losing out in terms of jobs and business because of their lack of language skills. I’ve had to start taking on some of the responsibilities of a head of section (eek…) in terms of planning our priorities and budgets for 2009 – new stuff for me, but one of the reasons I came here, after all, so I just have to suck it up.

Went to the Museum of London last night for their Late night opening which was great fun (you’ll remember I won a competition and they played my music choices during the evening, which was fun for me, but probably not for the friend I was there with as I kept saying “this is one of mine”!) It was really well organised, with sort of treasure hunt round the musuem and them some fun stuff like making plasticine models of the exhibits. B (the friend) continued the winning theme with her model of a fish amulet, walking away with a book and some other goodies from the shop. The place itself was pretty unprepossessing from the outside, but certainly worth a wander around if you’re in the vicinity.

The BBC is running a piece tonight on efforts to develop a universal flu vaccine. We’ve been financing research on this at European level since 2006 – we did a press briefing in 2007, which was very well attended and was really interesting. I’m not sure whether the projects are linked or not, but it’s got to be good news if we can move more quickly towards such a vaccine. Speaking as someone who can’t have the flu vaccine because I’ve been allergic to eggs…

Our woman in London

I’m sitting in my office with the fan on, feeling like something from a Graham Greene novel! I lolve the warm weather, don’t get me wrong, but I do prefer it when I can lie in a garden overlooking the valley of the Neste river, or lie by a pool in Ibiza. It’s just not the same sitting in an office in Westminster!

Had a lovely weekend, with my first party at the house. Just a casual lunch thing on Saturday, with about 20 of us. No-one had met before, but everyone seemed to get on, and there were quite a few kids running around, from 7 months to 10. All great fun. A schoolfriend I hadn’t seen for nigh on 20 years turned up, which was delightful! Sunday I went to Clapham Farmer’s Market. Here’s a weird coincidence – Nafees who was on the Eisenhower Fellowship with me went to the Bonneville Primary School (where the market is held) for a short while when he was little. It’s a very small world…

It’s much more clear this week that the holiday season has started in Brussels – today has been very quiet. Still, gives me a chance to get on with some of the more long-term things we have to deal with, like helping a university that would like to give its journalism students a taste of “Brussels”, and tenders for this and that.

Also having some admin nightmares, not only on the personal front, with no-one having come back to me yet about my move, but also as I’m trying to recruit some new staff and have to wait until September for someone from Brussels to OK my choice. Given that I can only recruit people off a list drawn up after a recruitment procedure, I’m having difficulty seeing the logic in that…

Having to be all grown up…

One of the “head” reasons I had for taking this job in London (rather than the “heart” ones that went: want to live in London! Want to show the UK why the EU is a pretty good thing on the whole!) was that it would give me management experience. The Commission as an institution isn’t very good at that – you get no chance to manage staff (except perhaps an intern) until you become a head of unit and then – bang!- you have responsibility for loads of them. In the smallest units maybe 10-12, some have fifty or even one hundred. So the chance to run a team, get involved in recruitment, allocation of tasks, day-to-day running, reports etc was too good to turn down. I might suck at it, but if I do, at least I’ll have found out before I can do too much damage!!

Anyway, all of that because today was a “management” day. We had the heads of our “satellite” offices here, from Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast, and I was asked to present to them an idea I have for a team-building with the press team here and those in the satellites. If anyone has any good ideas about how to do a team-building event on a budget, with people of all ages and physical abilities, then please leave them for me to crib! I also interviewed two people to fill some of the current or possible future vacancies in the press team. I had sent them a mock week of press releases and events and asked them to identify how they would use that to plan our week’s activities. Quite a useful exercise, certainly for me, but I think also for them, as it gave them a glimpse of what working here would really be about.

But in among all that “management” stuff, I got to do my first TV interview as UK Head of Media, for Meridian (South of England ITV) on the fruit and veg marketing standards story. Hopefully someone will see it somewhere!

On the personal front, a possible flatshare for the house in Balham came by last night. Seemed a really nice guy and quite compatible on the “sharing living space” front. Just waiting to hear whether he’s prepared to take it or not. If not, then it’s back to square one, as the houseboat is great, but needs some work doing and I’m not going to say either way until I’ve seen how it has been done. Don’t want to get stuck with some shonky patch-up job.

Had a lovely time in Brussels, though it does feel weird being there in this kind of limbo between living there and having left. With the cats there, and most of my clothes and all of my furniture, I haven’t left in my head, but I definitely felt I was visiting. I suppose it’s that issue of routine again – home is where the routine is…that’s a sad indictment of our existence.

Home-owning creeps ever closer, with the mortgage offer date of 23 June (the date I can signal my acceptance) approaching. Have hopefully got the power of attorney for my father to sign the papers all sorted out, so fingers crossed by early July, I should own a lovely little French house. I spoke to my parents today and they were up in that valley, checking out a rafting trip (…!). They commented again what a pleasant place it is, much nicer than the St Lary valley, which is the next one over, which is much narrower and more claustrophobic.

Off to the launch of the London Architecture festival now where hopefully I’ll see Hannah Cox from Brussels. It’s really a small world!

Euonymics

euonym (n):

1. (obscure) A name well suited to a person, place or thing so named.

2. (contemp.) The name of the weblog of the new head of media at the European Commission office in London.

That’ll be me!

So. I arrived from Brussels on Sunday, and settled into my temporary home staying with the lovely Rob and Amanda in their lovely home in Balham. I’ll be here for a month while I get myself sorted with a place to stay. Already on Monday I went to look at somewhere – a houseboat on Eel Pie Island. It was great and I’m going to go back and have another look, as well as going along the river with my cousins to see what else there is.

The first week has been fun so far. Monday was the usual “first day at school”, unpacking boxes, getting a telephone, working out where the loos are and that sort of thing. But now I’m starting to get into it, have even taken a few phone calls!

One of my responsibilities is “cultural diplomacy” which covers the work the Rep does in promoting European culture. That’s going to be ery rewarding and right up my street! Already in this first week I’ve been to an exhibition of paintings by the Luxemburg ambassador and a film festival up at Notting Hill Gate. Last night I saw “Elle s’appelle sabine” about Sandrine Bonnaire’s autisitic sister and tonight I’m going to see “I’ve Loved You So Long” and might even get to meet the film’s star – Kirsten Scott Thomas!

One of the team is leaving on maternity leave, so we had a nice hello/goodbye lunch with the team yesterday and a baby shower. It’s going to be very different, in lots of good ways, working in a small office like this, rather than a gargantuan one like the Berlaymont. In a way it’s an atmosphere I’m used to, having grown up around embassies. And the office is in an area where I know a lot of people (all those civil servants) so it shouldbe quite easy to keep in touch with people.

The President is in town today, so the office is pretty quiet at people are out supporting him and his entourage. He’s not doing any media except a press point with the PM, so I haven’t had to get involved – which is a relief, given I know nothing at the moment. Hopefully I’ll be a bit more clued in next time he comes. The big thing here is going to be getting the planning right – like in my old job, if you plan for the things you can plan for, then the emergencies that crop up can be dealt with more effectively. So we’ve been looking at what’s coming up in the next few months to see what seems to be of particular relevance to British business or society. I think there’s some good things coming up, so watch this space!