(Almost) Off into the sunset; what I've been up to for the last six months
I last wrote something longform in this blog in February, about how 2018 was a long and brutal year for me. The post reflected on 2018 and low-key announced that I’d landed myself a new opportunity. I wanted to give a sort of update, sort of belated announcement of what I’ve been up to for the last six months since October.
On October 8th, 2018 (2018-10-08T09:30:00+01 for all you ISO 8601 fans) I started my first day of work at the Open Data Services Co-operative (ODSC); my dream job. Why my dream job? Well:
- the work follows naturally from where my PhD will leave off (status update on that later) in the open data world. ODSC support many amazing open data standards such as Open Contracting (OCDS, not to be confused with ODSC), 360Giving, and International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) among others. It’s meaningful work, that I adore doing even in the midst of “the daily grind”
- it’s remote work. I’ve been looking to transition to remote work for a while; partially to escape the UK if the far-right rise up, but also partially to experience a bit more of the world. This is a relatively low-key requirement for me but the fact I’ve managed to find work that ticks this box so early in my post-academic career has been mindblowing for me.
- and most importantly – it’s only a bloody worker co-operative! Many know I lean quite far to the left and that democratic worker control is a really important thing for me. Worker co-operatives are pretty much the best a worker can get under capitalism and ODSC have proven time and again that they (we!) value each of the workers and strive to provide an environment that grows each individual in a way that means we strengthen the group. I’ll add an obligatory footnote that we don’t really discuss politics much at ODSC (besides Brexit) and that, unless someone’s really good at hiding it, I’m the only commie there. There are many political stances that advocate for the worker co-operative model and I believe that ODSC nurtures members with a wide variety of political views. As a group we are by no means a-political but we’re certainly not positioning ourselves as a leftist organisation.
I’ve by no means hidden my new job from anyone, but I’ve held off of making a proper “announcement” online for these last six months. That’s because the probationary period at ODSC is six months. So… I am ecstatic to announce that as of Monday 08th of April I am a full worker-member of Open Data Services Co-operative!! I have never been more proud to contribute to an organisation as I have ODSC. During my time there I have been moved to tears on more than one occasion due to the genuine passion and care that these people have for each other and their work. Whether it’s writing a policy to give workers generous parental or sick leave, the daily act of reminding you that you’re working too much and to take some time for yourself, or the systematic way they’ve incorporated expressing gratitude to others as part of the culture there via a dedicated IRC channel – I leap out of bed every morning to go to work and return to bed grinning after the day’s done. As a full member now, I am expected (and keen) to become more involved in working directly on the co-operative itself. For now I’ve elected to join the Staff Welfare group (to scratch my Shop Steward itch) and Finance (to actually learn about the financial processes of running a business). I’ve participated in three quarterly Ordinary General Meetings (although my first one was on my third day and I didn’t contribute much!) where there is always a rollercoaster of emotions as we discuss the future of the co-op. I am under no illusion that being a member in a worker co-op is (shock-horror); work. This is work that I’m looking forward to. I’m more than happy to trade the false stability of market-salaries and keeping my head down being told what to do for control over my destiny and furthering the cause of worker control. I was braced for a future filled with workplace struggle through union battles and, for a while at least, I get to redirect that potential energy into the co-op.
This has been a far-cry from the late days of my PhD; where I was experiencing a lot of depression and anxiety and would outright not feel up for making it into the lab some days. It’s safe to say that the environment ODSC have created for me to visit every working day has been the major contributor in my recovery re my mental health. There have been other factors, too. A massive shoutout goes to my new flatmate Rosie who has provided a wonderful environment to grow in. Seriously, thank you. Another focus of my gratitude is my lover V who has been a bulwark of support and patience these last six months and who provided an amazing rest period over the Winter Solstice for me in Madrid.
The journey of my PhD is not yet over. I’ve still got a thesis to write. My writing has been… slow. Part of that is due to fear of the thesis, some of that has been lingering anxiety reactions from the trauma of my Phd, and some of that has due to being plain tired at the end of a fulfilling-but-long working week. My supervision is slightly better now, but still not ideal. I’m debating playing with my options for extending the write-up through looking at extensions or dropping to 0.5 for the writing year (if that’s even possible!). At the moment, though, I want it done. It rattles around my brain at night (though I’ve actually been able to rest). I’m ready to write it but we’ll see what’s a healthy rate for me. The lessons I’m taking forward into the next six months are that I need to be better at getting what’s owed me from my supervision, and that integrating writing into my new life is key. I owe it to my participants and myself after last year.
I’m not sure when I’ll next write something that isn’t a response to evaluating some open data, or some thesis. My priorities aren’t with a blog until my thesis is done. I can’t say that I’ve left my old life behind but it’s certainly fading to nostalgic sepia tones; a series of loose ends that just need a few knots tying off before the sails are rigged and I can cast off.