Week 23 — A Vacation…Sort Of?
The importance of taking time for yourself
Last week I talked about impostor syndrome and how I have been struggling with it and what strategies I’ve come up with to cope. I’m hoping this week won’t be as heavy but I do want to dive into some other issues.
Before I go into the heavier topics, I wanted to reflect on the complete “night and day” of my baby as a newborn vs now (11 months). Obviously, the baby has grown up a lot in 11 months but I’ve also grown up. When I say that I’ve grown up, I mean how much I’ve grown as a person and how I’ve changed (I think) for the better. Before my daughter was born, I was much more pragmatic and perhaps obsessive to a fault. Nesting hit me hard. But now 11 months in, I feel more confident, more proud and more excited to see how my daughter grows up and to be there for her in whatever way she needs. Parenting is both everything and nothing what I expected. Parenting is a long term journey and I’m thankful for a wonderful partner to both support me but also be there as part of the parent team to get through these past 11 months.
A Vacation… Sort Of? Why It’s Important To Re-Charge and Why I Need To Follow My Own Advice
Despite a lot of workplaces offering paid vacations (including the Public Service) many millennials do not use their vacation time. As with most things in the world, the reason for this is more complex than simple. In less secure employment, this could be the case for financial reasons, due to a perceived or real lack of job security or any number of other reasons. To narrow my focus a bit, I wanted to focus on myself and my distinct lack of taking any vacation time.
I’ve been a public servant for 11 years. For a good stretch of that time (around 4 years), I didn’t take any extended time off with my longest streak of consecutive time off being 3 days. In the other 7 years, the longest time I took off was 1 week at a time. This was all pre-baby.
I’ve dealt with burnout in the past — largely my own fault for taking on too much work, not knowing how to say no, stretching myself too thin and not taking enough time for myself. As a result of that experience, I know my own personal signs of burnout and I am hyper aware of when I sense the signs of burnout approaching. To be clear, this post isn’t about burnout, a topic I do plan to discuss in the future.
Anyway, this week I took two days off from work. Not a full fledged vacation but something to recharge the batteries. I’ve detected some early signs of burnout so I want to make sure I take a few days to recover. The two days have been helpful but I’ve found myself straying into work even when I’ve intentionally booked off time to get away from work. Really, I need to learn how to follow my own advice and use vacation as a tool to combat burnout. It’s a work in progress and I know I need to do better if I want to keep myself in top shape as both an employee and a father.
AI Demonstrator Projects (Incorporation by Reference and Regulatory Evaluation Platform)
Incorporation by Reference: The Incorporation by Reference tool is increasingly getting better as we get closer to launch. We’ve run into a few issues around the dataset used and other unanticipated bugs including with the scrapers (which grab information from the different organizations who make/publish standards). In a nutshell, the problem is that there is inconsistency in how organizations list the number of standards they have which means the count of total standards can vary from organization to organization. The scraper is accurate based on the parameters we provided but our assumption about classification of standards have proven inaccurate for how some standards organizations count their total number of standards. While not a big problem in the grand scheme of things, this could lower trust in the system as users think the scraper is “missing” information which is not necessarily true but perception can be everything.
What the past few weeks has taught me is the challenge of expectation management. New expectations of the solution are coming up as the fidelity of the solution increases and the capabilities of what it can do become clearer. Even with these challenges, the project is making good progress.
Below I’ve included a screenshot of the prototype. What you see is the view a user is greeted with when selection to view the Energy Efficiency Regulations. You have the full text on the left side where each “incorporation by reference” highlighted and on the right you have links to all previous versions of these regulations. In the bottom(ish) right, you have the incorporation by reference that the AI has picked up. When you click through, you can see where in the text it is and click through to a detailed search to find more information about the reference (e.g. language, cost).
Regulatory Evaluation Platform: Both kick-off meetings have been held with both vendors. The first engagement session with both vendors has also been held. It’s becoming increasingly clear how big the task in front of us really is with this project. Both vendors are still competing with each other (two prototypes for the same project) so we have to take extra care to document, share and distribute information to both vendors in an equitable and fair manner.
This is easier said than done as we try not to be a bottle neck getting out information as fast as we can. The biggest risk to this project will be “lag” on the government side especially with 20 Departments and Agencies participating. Delays in holding meetings, seeking input from subject matter experts or seeking approvals is the single biggest risk to the project. We have already started developing risk mitigation measures to manage how we handle governance, requirements gathering and information sharing among 20 different Departments and Agencies. As these practices and tools become more mature, I will use this blog to share what we are doing and how it’s working.
Rules as Code: We held a quick kick-off meeting to set expectations and ensure the scope of the proof of concept was well understood. While there was talk about the future potential of “Rules as Code” work (e.g. changing how we draft regulations) we wanted to make sure it was clear that the initial proof of concept was about testing out the concept on a single set of rules and is not intended to recommend any changes to how rules are made in Canada. However, we all agreed of the need to keep these issues in the back of our minds as we start to think how to scale and what the future looks like when it comes to Rules as Code.
Rebuilding the Public Service From The Ground Up: Week 10
Week 10 of rebuilding the public service from the ground up involves inspiration from all the coop students (and others) who are coming close to the end of their summer work terms.
Idea 10: Make Departure Easier
Not a crazy out there idea but why is leaving a Department so hard? Especially for a student who has only worked for the government for 4 months. I don’t think the student has an acquisition card, signing authority or anything else outside of a badge and computer.
Not only are departure processes hard, they are also inconsistent varying widely from one Department to the next. They are also time consuming and don’t require what I think is the most important part of the departure process an exit interview (or survey).
An exit interview is important because you want to learn more about an employees experience working in the Department in theory at the time they are likely to not hold back as they are heading out the door. Departments should be striving to do better and an exit interview becomes another valuable data point to support making the Department better.
So here’s an idea: the departure process involves an exit interview with a designated person(s) who have specialized training. That’s it. Your badge, computer and other items are handed into your manager whose responsibility it is to get the items to the right place — no need to have each section sign off or anything like that.
Could this work? Why not? Why does leaving a Department need to be more complicated than an exit interview and handing your things to your manager?
Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great week!