Tag Archives: Touchwork

Construction Expos, Sandton and Hypenica (2015-05-11) My Life 08 MAY 2016

(NOTE: Oh dear. This post has been sitting in my Drafts folder for a year now. I wrote it up at the end of May 2015, but never got around to finishing it off. Now, a year later, my birthday is literally around the corner again, and more importantly, the 2016 version of the Expo is about to kick off on Monday. And yes, Kinetica is again being used to manage the badge print process in case you’re wondering. Right, time to get it out of my Drafts folder then…)

Luckily Chantelle and I celebrated my birthday the weekend before with a fabulous weekend away of wine and activities in Franschhoek, because come the Monday of my birthday (11 May 2015), I was on the plane and off to Johannesburg for work!

walking to sandton convention centre

Hypenica, the sister company to which Touchwork (whom I work for) is a technology partner to, is an events and media (Concrete.tv, Cape Business News) company, focused in particular on the construction and infrastructure business sectors.

The week of the 10-16 May 2015 was a big one for them, with four distinct operations simultaneously taking place at the Sandton Convention Centre to make up their Concrete Week and African Construction Week events.

sandton convention centre signage

These four operations included:

  • The Coatings for Africa Symposium and Expo is the only dedicated coatings event focused on providing proactive strategies for improving the use and understanding of coatings technologies and emerging trends in the industry.
  • House for African Conference and Expo: With the continent now experiencing the world’s fastest economic growth and highest urbanisation rate, this much needed forum will highlight the latest technologies, thinking, approaches and strategies in construction to build and meet the demand for housing in Africa.
  • African Construction Expo is a one-stop-shop to showcase, experience and learn about the latest building and construction methods, products, tools and technologies in just three days.
  • The Totally Concrete Conference and Expo is the definitive African educational and networking platform for insights into the latest developments and technologies associated with the concrete and construction industry.

hypenica expo signage african construction week, coatings for africa

The reason that I got roped into all of this was because my boss Rudi Leitner thought it a good idea to test the waters and use Kinetica (formerly SurveyThumb), my multi-purpose, highly configurable feedback system as a exhibitor, visitor tracking and badge printing solution for the events – and so as first line system support and in order to get a better feel for what exactly was needed down on the ground for the expo environment going forward, I was plonked on a Kulula.com plane and sent off to Sandton, “the richest square mile in Africa”!

kulula.com boeing 737 from cape town to johannesburg

The flight was uneventful (bit of a bumpy landing though) and once safely back on the ground, luggage in hand and lost in O.R. Tambo International Airport, I followed the signs and made my way through the big space to at last locate the Gautrain ticket office/station.

gautrain high speed train 2

For R283 I bought a card with a Sandton return journey ticket loaded, and was almost immediately whisked away by a fast, clean and most importantly, efficient train (so, so much nicer than the general public trains that Metrorail employs back in Cape Town) – with the journey to Sandton Station taking literally only fifteen minutes to achieve!

No traffic, no waiting, no fuss. In other words, definitely worth the ticket price then!

gautrain high speed train 1

As for accommodation, I was booked a room in Tsogo Sun’s Garden Court Sandton City hotel, which is conveniently right next to the Convention Centre! (Meaning that for my short stay in Johannesburg I literally needed no transport other than the train between Sandton and the airport!)

Although the hotel passages are pretty dour and boring (as with any hotel I suppose), I was genuinely pleased with my room (216 for future reference) – it was spacious, comfortable and had a nice little work area too. The onsite restaurant, Riffs, is also pretty decent (I enjoyed a nice birthday steak there with the boss), as was the breakfast area (not that I got to use that very often mind you!).

So all good and efficient on that front then.

Garden Court Sandton City Tsogo Sun room 216

Now for the actual event itself. Hypenica pretty much had the run of the entire convention centre, taking up all the floors with the various functions and expos. I was of course involved with the registration/badge printing operations, which were situated on the 5th floor for the Coatings for Africa expo, and on the 1st floor for the Totally Concrete, African Construction Expo.

New to the game, I was amazed at the huge amount of behind the scenes work, logistics and client managing that has to happen in order to make these sort of events work, and to be quite honest a little out of my depth. However, my system worked brilliantly well, with us receiving a lot of positive comments around the speedy badge print and collection system.

In total, I was there for about three days, wandering around, assisting in setup/breakdown, manning badge stations, and tweaking the system on the fly.

On the whole, my system was a success, all of Hypenica’s events were a success, and I managed to navigate myself from Cape Town to Johannesburg, use the Gautrain and find the Sandton Convention Centre without getting lost – which in itself is a success. Plus, I also did that whole navigating thing in reverse to reach home all safe and sound.

So yeah, I kind of enjoyed the outing.

(I will however completely omit the fact that one evening I went out for a late night stroll and managed to get lost in one of Sandton’s trendy shopping malls – seriously, I could not find the exit. It literally took me an hour to try and find a way out and then find my hotel again. And this was literally just down the street…)

Related Link: African Construction Expo | Touchwork | Hypenica

Meeting Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in Pietermaritzburg (2016-04-12) Photo Gallery 08 MAY 2016

We’re currently working on implementing my Kinetica feedback system for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (we’ve have been running SANParks on one of my systems for years now), and they needed a technical lead at the project initiation meeting – which naturally meant that I got to pack my laptop and join our sales lead Athi Myoli on a trip through to their Pietermaritzburg stronghold for the engagement.

Touchwork VERY seldom ever needs me to go out on business trips, in fact, up until April this year (seven and a half years in) I’ve only ever been to a handful of trips to Distell in Stellenbosch and two outside of the Western Cape (both to Johannesburg now that I think about it).

In other words, I genuinely was looking forward to the outing!

IMG_20160412_1 Cape Town International Airport early in the morning

The cheapest tickets are of course the earliest, which meant that just after 05:00 on Tuesday morning, I found myself milling about Cape Town International waiting on our Flysafair plane that would shortly be winging us to Durban.

Despite the relatively full airplane, I struck it lucky and got an aisle seat with no one directly next to me, meaning that I had ample amount of space on either side of me. Combine that with Flysafair’s slimline seats, and I enjoyed quite the comfortable flight.

(Though I do feel a little sorry for the lady and her baby sitting at the window seat of our three seat row – I still get quite excited by the prospect of flying, meaning that I’m forever straining to look out the window at all the sights!)

IMG_20160412_2 Landing at King Shaka International Airport in Durban via a pink and white Flysafair boeing

We landed at King Shaka International to a sunny and warm Durban without incident, where next we headed off to pick up our rented car – only to discover that Meghan hadn’t actually organised it yet! Luckily, sorting it out didn’t take long, and pretty soon we were taking possession of our good looking, blue Honda Brio.

As you might gather from the above sentence, I actually quite like the styling on the plucky little Honda, with the cabin being surprisingly spacious and the car pretty easy to drive. However, that said, the Brio is absolutely useless on the highway – it literally has no power whatsoever!

IMG_20160412_3 Hiring a Honda Brio car rental at King Shaka International airport durban

The drive through to Pietermaritzburg from Durban remains a beautiful, lush affair, and I thoroughly enjoyed the scenic trip – even without the ability to actually overtake anyone on the road. Google Maps handled all of the navigation, and outside of one small incident at the start where I changed lanes without spotting a Land Rover bearing down on me, the drive was pretty uneventful.

We did however hit a snag once we finally made it to the leafy entrance of Ezemvelo’s offices – we were a good two hours too early!

IMG_20160412_5 Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife headquarters in pietermaritzburg

Luckily for us though, the nearby Victoria Country Club, usually only open to golf club members, took pity on these two unusually on time Capetonians and allowed us to sit and enjoy breakfast in the otherwise deserted restaurant – somewhat of a treat when you consider the jaw dropping scenic beauty that the 120+ year old country club’s balcony tables deliver!

IMG_20160412_9 View from the restaurant at Victoria Country Club in Pietermaritzburg

Plus, breakfast was particularly delicious.

IMG_20160412_10 Athi Myoli eating breakfast at the restaurant at Victoria Country Club in Pietermaritzburg

Now thoroughly sated and relaxed, we returned to the leafy gates of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (situated in the Queen Elizabeth Park nature reserve) where the meeting went well and the day therefore a success.

With time to kill before we needed to be back in Durban for our evening flight back home, I convinced Athi that we simply HAD to go to the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden, which she reluctantly agreed to despite her high heel shoes.

Following a brilliant stroll through some beautiful and exotic gardens (which I’ve already documented in the link above), we left the sadly slightly rundown Pietermaritzburg and made the long scenic drive back to Durban – though this time around it was a lot more excruciating thanks to the peak hour traffic we were caught up in!

IMG_20160412_15 Cattle sculpture Outside King Shaka International Airport in Durban

After some beer and ice cream at King Shaka Airport’s Spur franchise of all places, we accidentally nearly missed checking in for our flight, but following that everything ran smoothly as we returned safely to the arms of the Mother City.

(Pleasingly, my leg held up nicely for the full day of sitting, flying and walking about, though Athi did complain that it was like strolling around with an old man the entire day. I on the other hand complained non stop about the humidity and heat that is Durban/Pietermaritzburg.)

Sadly, due to misunderstanding how the Huawei P8 stores photos when launching the camera directly from the lock screen, I lost a lot of photos taken on the day, so there goes that. Luckily for me though, these few were posted to Facebook (thankfull, I’m pretty good with that), so something was at least salvaged for you to see:

(Note. All of this now reminds me that I still have a year old post regarding to last year’s trip to Sandton sitting in my Drafts folder! Guess I should actually get around to publishing that one day as well…)

Related Link: Touchwork | Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife

In Need of Some Balance My Life 22 MAY 2015

The nice thing about living in Gordon’s Bay is that when you need to take a bit of a break and get some fresh air… well then this is pretty much on your doorstep:

a walk along gordon's bay main beach in May 1

I needed that little lunch time stroll along Gordon’s Bay’s main beach mind you – the last three weeks or so have been completely unbalanced in terms of work and life in general.

I’ve pretty much worked each and every evening for the past three weeks, the first week trying to wrap up everything required from my system for the then upcoming African Construction Week shows, followed by work from my hotel room in Sandton in support for the actual duration of the expos, and then this week working in the evenings to make up for time lost while babysitting a sick Emily at home.

And the days haven’t been much better.

That first week it was foot on the coding pedal (which as I just mentioned, continued well into the evenings), the second week was spent flying up to Johannesburg (on my birthday!) to work at the convention center as an IT support, badge printing, customer service guy behind the badge pickup counter (followed by evening coding work to tweak the system to better work the next day), and now this week much of the daylight has been spent helping look after a sick Emily (Rotavirus, no fun) who obviously couldn’t be sent to playschool.

The weekends in between have of course been a mixed bag, the first being a splendid birthday weekend away for Chantelle and myself in Franschhoek (with the kids staying over at Oupa and Ouma – where naturally, Emily decided to start officially walking whilst we weren’t looking!), while the next was spent looking after Jessica and shuttling to and from the hospital to visit Chantelle and Emily during Emily’s stay there.

a walk along gordon's bay main beach in May 3

So needless to say, my life is more than just a little out of balance at the moment. My eating is not great, my getting fresh air and doing some exercise non existent, and I’ve been working far too long hours and spending less time with my wife and kids than what I should be doing.

So yeah, you could say I’m kind of feeling the need for a little balance and sunlight right about now.

Luckily all the urgent work things appear to be handled for now, Emily and Jessica are both healthy (for now), and I have a private flight over Strand/Gordon’s Bay (weather permitting) to look forward (make that VERY forward) to tomorrow.

So maybe, just maybe, next week is going to be the start of life at a little slower pace…

A Work Update My Life 01 OCT 2013

touchwork-orange-chairsOne of the primary reasons that I’ve been pretty scarce here on the blog as of late (seriously, if you haven’t realized by now that 90% of the last month’s posts were all filler content then I just don’t know) is the heavy work workload that I sit under at the moment. I’m rushing towards the end of my fifth year with Touchwork, and as it was from day 1 since I joined, the amount of work waiting to be done just never diminishes – unfortunately for me though, the size of my plate just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

The good news is that we’re moving into an exciting new office space tomorrow – still situated in Westlake Business Park of course, the new office is a lot more professional looking, with windows, and amenities, dedicated parking bays, etc., all things needed to put a stop to our feeling like second class citizens to the boss’ more exciting and successful Hypenica business that mushroomed up around us over the course of the last year or so (literally. They shared the same office space as us).

The other good news is that the sales team has got some new members onboard (though sadly we did shed a lot of guys in the process), the most important of all probably being Jessica, a seriously dynamic, deal closer of a sales manager which can only be a good thing for our product lines going forward!

(In other words, some nice shiny sales are starting to roll in for the company at last).

The bad news is that we’re still very screwed on the development front. Tracy has been a marvellous addition to my development team, working completely independently in bringing to life our mobile application product suite.

Unfortunately for me though, that doesn’t exactly help fill the holes left by the departed developers, meaning that for now I continue to (as I have been doing for well over a year now) handle all the development chores and projects that would have previously been handled by the likes of Tristan (Routing Server, TxtandTell), Jaco (TextandTell) and Stephen (Distell), in addition to my own work on our flagship Kinetica product as well as a few older, stable sites.

Then of course I’m picking up all the project management work that would previously have been handled by Simon (well I guess I am in the role of Software Development Manager after all), and now thanks to the poorly timed departure of account manager John, I have to handle the big Distell account as well.

Sadly, our year-long developer recruitment drive has been a complete failure, with us unable to identify any PHP developers with the combination of the necessary skill level, salary level, and willingness to work out in Westlake.

Sigh.

So as you can imagine I’m having to grab extra hours here and there to get more work done, which then makes it pretty understandable that I’m burning out pretty fast – luckily we only have a couple of months to go before the year end break is upon us… though to be fair, between Chantelle’s Cupcakery, Jessica and little on-her-way Emily, I don’t foresee a particularly restful holiday period coming my way at all!

Well at least I can’t say that I’m bored…

Lunch Time Stroll on the Beach My Life 05 AUG 2013

The last while I’ve been particularly busy at work, the usual story of just having too much to do and not enough resources to do it with. So much so that I’ve almost completely forgotten what sunlight during the day looks like! (My office at the workplace doesn’t have any windows).

Anyway, this started to bug me and so I set an alarm for lunch time last Thursday, added a calendar reminder, and so when lunch time on Thursday afternoon rolled in, I stepped back from my keyboard, grabbed my keys, and headed off to the beach.

As luck would have it, it was a gorgeous, wind still day, and I happily went for a nice lengthy stroll, basking in the sunlight and wondering just why the hell I don’t make more use of the fact that I live just a minute or two away from the ocean!

2013-08-01 13.40.43

(Seriously, even when we lived at Nagua Bay which was literally on the sea’s doorstop, we hardly ever made use of it!)

Parking Lot Jam! My Life 19 JUL 2013

Monday evenings have on the whole just gotten a whole lot more stressful, now that Chantelle has started training with Ursula and her Tamashii Daiko Japanese taiko drumming group.

tamashii-daiko-summer-party-2011_030

Practice sessions start at 19:00 on a Monday evening, meaning that at the latest, Chantelle has to leave home at 18:30 in order to make it over to Hathersage Farm in Somerset West in time for class.

That in turn means of course that I need to make sure that I’m home by 18:30 in order to take Jessica off her hands, which in theory should be fine because my work shift ends at 17:00 and it takes me just over an hour to get home, barring any heavier than normal traffic congestion.

That said, the first two sessions really haven’t gone according to plan, thanks to the 17:00 fun that is Touchwork’s chock-a-block parking lot.

And unfortunately for me, this photo I snapped on Monday evening is pretty much the reason I could only extract my little grey Getz out of the parking lot just after 18:00! (Hint: my car is the one furthest away in the picture).

parking lot jam at touchwork in westlake business park

Needless to say, a very stressful and fast trip back towards Somerset West, with a plan change thrown in for good measure. Seriously, I just made it in time!

Sigh, I really ought to learn how to ride a motorcycle someday…

(Which isn’t such a bad idea if you think of all the trouble I have just pulling my car into my own driveway. Sigh.)

Standing Desks and Me My Life 10 JUL 2013

So thanks to a successful experiment prompted by my colleague Tracy, I now code standing up – and I have to admit, I am quite into it at the moment.

Now I’ve known about the concept of standing desks and the theories around the benefits of standing versus sitting for work thanks to the various articles posted over in lifehacker and the like over the years, and despite being interested in the idea, I have to admit that I never bothered seriously looking into it even in the slightest.

A couple of months ago though, Tracy pitched the idea to me and asked whether I’d be keen to try standing up and working, seeing as she had these two cool bamboo lap desks which would double as a standing desk hack, and was pretty keen to give it a go, but didn’t particularly want to be the only sucker in the office standing and working. Intrigued by the prospect, I readily agreed, and then promptly forgot all about it as we got stuck back into work.

Then, out of the blue, Tracy walked into the office last week bearing the aforementioned lap desks, and after a quick bit of work space configuration (which included me entering our storage garage and fishing out abandoned office fittings so that we could raise up our second monitors to a more acceptable height), I was up and coding, and for the first time in a long time walked out of the office at the end of the day without any stiffness in my neck or back whatsoever!

And from that moment on I was hooked.

the final standing desk hack configuration

Currently I work pretty much the entire 8.5 hour long work day on my feet, only taking a sitting break for an hour so in the middle of the day during lunch. Funnily enough though, I can’t do it while wearing shoes, meaning that once again I’ll be know as that horrible barefoot office guy (and I was doing so well in terms of the shoe-wearing department in recent months!).

The Chinese-made bamboo lap desks are perfectly suited for the job, having more than enough work space for both your laptop and mouse, the ability to extend their height thanks to their sliding leg mechanism, an angle adjustment if you prefer to work on a slanted keyboard, and even a nifty cupholder. In other words, the perfect tool in converting your standard desk into a standing desk – and at a fraction of the price of a proper, full-blown standing desk solution! (They only cost around R300, located at the Chinese Chinatown cluster of shops in Sable Square, next to Century City).

And seeing as I work from home twice a week, I immediately organized my own standing desk hack to put in the study. (Unfortunately the local Chinatown doesn’t stock any, so I had to organise with my boss who happened to be going to Century City over the weekend to grab one for me).

One thing to note though, if like me your intention is to do away with all that hunching over your keyboard at work, you do need to run a second monitor which should ideally be raised up to eye level – it’s pretty much the same trick David Fox and I employed a couple of years ago when we came across the idea of artificially raising the level of our desk monitors to avoid looking down at the screen.

But yeah, who knows, this just might be the solution I was looking for in trying to fix my notoriously bad posture! :)

The Real Reason why I can’t leave the Office Early My Life 26 MAR 2013

I was meant to leave a little earlier on Friday so that I could get to Bellville to meet up with Chantelle and Jess and drive straight through to Jacobsbaai, thus saving us some travel time.

As it turned out, I wasn’t able to leave the office early.

If you look at these photos, then you might understand why – and just a note, this is the usual state of parking here at the Westlake office!

touchwork westlake parking lot 1

touchwork westlake parking lot 2

(I’ve helpfully circled my car in red).

As it turned out though, Cape Town was pretty much deserted on Friday thanks to the Thursday public holiday, and I breezed through to Bellville in something ridiculous like 25 minutes. And better still, we got to Jacobsbaai in a hour and a half, a full hour faster than what the GPS had predicted!

Now if only Chantelle hadn’t been held up in Gordon’s Bay and we were able to leave at the time that we actually wanted to leave…