Feeling festive? Well, stop it!

10 Dec 2014

Christmas jumper

Just as I was beginning to feel fairly festive I receive my annual missive from the British Dietetic Association warning me not to overindulge this Christmas.

Cheers guys - you know how to bring someone down!

It reminded me that women can have 2,000 calories a day and men 2,500, but on average people consume around 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone, and on average will pile on five pounds by New Year's Day.

Handy tips in the press release included: don't hover by the buffet table (you fat, greedy git), only have one box of chocolates open at a time and hide unopened boxes away to avoid temptation, don't share festive treats with your workmates (you great big pig), and avoid the January chocolate amnesty.

Instead start a 'fruit club' at work in the New Year, and see how quickly you become the office pariah!

Also when shopping for Christmas, don't give in and treat yourself to anything tasty - stick to your list - or preferably just eat the cardboard packaging.

For the 'big day' itself, don't eat the skin of the turkey (ugh!!), make sure a third of your plate is veggies, and ensure potatoes are 'dry roasted'. Use vegetable water for gravy rather than meat juice. Mmmmmm, tasty!

Also don't forget the calories in alcohol, you might be better off just drinking water all day to be honest. Bang goes the Christmas Baileys then.

And my favourite tip of all - take the lid off a mince pie before scoffing it to save a few calories.

If you listened to all this, you will be guaranteed the most miserable time, and could also succeed in bringing down everybody around you by reminding them of all the things they shouldn't be eating and drinking.

Alternatively you could act like the adult you actually are, and, like most people, if you have over-indulged one day, you won't do the same the next and it will balance itself out.

However if you do overindulge for more than one day and are not arrested by the glutton police on the spot, you could always cut back the day after.

I nearly replied and told them where to stick their advice, but I felt the strange need to go out,  buy a mince pie and stuff it in whole.



The bitter taste of success

17 Nov 2014


This morning my inbox was full of people saying how much they had enjoyed the awards, and on the night itself I lost count of the amount of people saying what a great time they had had.

However for me, this is always overshadowed by the negative comments made by a few, quite often by people who have had too much to drink (no surprise there then) and who probably have been beaten to an award by someone else and are looking to lash out.

I am never so arrogant to expect nobody to complain, and there are always things to improve upon, but when the complaints are unfair and with absolutely no basis, I get extremely pissed off and yes, I do take them personally as it is questioning my integrity as an editor and journalist. So to all those that made such comments last week - thanks for that. I hope it makes you feel like big people.


Just so you get some idea - the awards for me start in January, when we start looking at categories and planning themes for the event itself.  I start to amass the two, yes, TWO judging panels that help decide the award winners.

To win an award is the result of hours of judging by two independent panels, who painstakingly read through every entry. It doesn't matter who the entry is, each is treated exactly the same as the other.

The judges - who will all back me up on this - are a group of independent experts and representatives from every corner of the industry. They come along with no bias and judge based solely on what they have before them.  Making petulant accusations against the integrity of the awards is also a personal insult to all the judges too. 

The shortlisted companies are the ones that submit an interesting and relevant entry - they have READ the Ts &Cs, and read the criteria.

Perhaps even read one of the many articles that I personally write every single year, urging people to read the criteria and the Top Tips, that are on the dedicated Channel Awards website every year.

Of course from my end there is always room for improvement in the categories and criteria - but these are worked on every year.

The beauty of the channel awards is that anyone can win them, and it is not always the same, well-known names that do win.  Everyone has an equal chance, but it is quality of entry ONLY that will ensure you take home a trophy.

Contrary to the beliefs of some, it is not based on the amount of tables or sponsorship money - the winners are often decided way before table sales get underway and the judges have no idea who the sponsors are anyway - nor do they want to. You might get this at some awards, but this is NOT the case with CRN. Not on my watch.

So to all those claiming this is so - I suggest you do your research properly on the awards before flinging your insults and claims around, speak to any one of the 20+ judges involved in this process - they are happy to back me up. And if you still don't believe - why don't you get in touch with me and come and join the judging panel yourself to see how it all works?

You could even do me the courtesy of listening to my welcome speech, which explains the process pretty clearly as well.

Or alternatively do what most of these 'armchair' complainers do - come along to an evening that is the result of many hours' toil, organisation and stress for a lot of people, including myself, have a lot to drink and start hurling accusations of 'foul play'. I hope it makes you feel better.

But next time you think about saying something to me either on the night or afterwards, don't expect a polite reply. You won't get one.


Technology babysitting

30 Oct 2014

Keep kids safe online illustration

At a breakfast meeting this week the conversation turned to the role technology is playing in children's lives.

One of the execs I was meeting had young children, and said what a lifesaver tablets can be when it comes to keeping the children quiet or amused, and also how from the age of 12 months, most children know how to swipe a screen and mess around with a smart device.

However on the other hand, I asked whether this reliance on technology was destroying vital communcation skills that start in childhood, where children learn to interact together, find things to do and generally amuse themselves.

I fear several generations below me are pretty much incapable of amusing themselves without the aid of a touchscreen electronic device. While it is great to keep them occupied and engaging their brains, they also need time away from these devices to develop as human beings and not machines.

How are they going to cope in the workplace if they are not skilled at human interaction, but prefer to stare mindlessly at a screen all day?

On a recent press trip, a fellow journo was saying how he had to limit his child's use of his computer/smart device to an hour a day, which was used to play a Minecraft-style game. If the child didn't get the promised hour - there would be hell to pay.  Almost like an addiction to online gaming.

On the flip side, another member of my breakfast party said how computers and devices were revolutionising schools, and in particular giving boys the confidence to express themselves - and that is definitely a good thing too. It does have its good points.

When I think back to the truly dire IT lessons I had to sit through  - it was enough to make you lose the will to live - I'm glad things have advanced this far to be of actual benefit to young people's confidence.

I just worry that they are going to become ever more over reliant on technology and miss out on the simple things in life that matter so much.

And on my way home I saw this very point in action. There was a group of four children - ranging from about eight down to about three, and the first thing their mothers did was hand out the tablets, earphones and smartphones.

Within minutes, and after a few password related questions, they were all staring at their screens absolutely engrossed, allowing the mothers to engage in pester-free chat.

The girls were obvious One Direction fans (they were dressed in 1D kit) and they were watching self-made videos together and singing along, but the boys were doing very separate things.

But while I found it fascinating to watch them, I thought back to the days when I was a kid travelling anywhere - and we would be looking out the window, talking to each other and asking questions - probably irritating the hell out of fellow passengers - but taking an interest in the here and now.

These kids didn't look out the window once for the hour and 10 minutes that I was on the train.

Am I alone in finding that quite sad?




Customer service sadly lacking

20 Oct 2014

thumbs down

I had just returned from a few days staying with family in Italy and was feeling extremely relaxed indeed.

However I knew when I got back that I would have to waste at least 30 minutes of my life trying to change broadband providers, and I was dreading making that phone call.

Turns out I was right to dread it. It was nearly an hour of my life and I still haven't got the outcome I asked for.

Considering I was after a simple MAC code - you would have thought I was trying to crack the secrets at Bletchley Park during World War 2.

I have been a customer with AOL Broadband for more years than I can remember - I believe they are part of TalkTalk now as well. Name and shame? Absolutely.

After being cut off twice - one guy kindly phoned me back, only to claim that my account didn't actually exist. Amazing then that money has been taken from my account on a monthly basis considering the account didn't exist.

However he finally found me and then I was passed onto another person (after 15 minutes) who would 'definitely have the MAC code I was after'.

This person then tried to bully me into staying with existing provider, and wanted to go through some 'offers' that would tempt me - but I said about 15 times (listen to the recording if you don't believe me) that I didn't want to hear them, I wanted my MAC code, I have been offered a deal I'm happy with from another provider, and basically wanted to get on with my day.

At one point this person said she was 'not going to give me the code until I had listened to the options'.

Excuse me, but when a customer wants something, you damn well give it to them.

For years, and entirely my own fault - I have watched AOL/Talk Talk offer brilliant deals to new customers, but never once have they bothered to contact existing customers and see if they could help them save money.

Only now, when I want to leave does this become an option?  I don't think so.

At the end of that exasperating conversation, she then informs me that it will take up to five working days to issue the MAC code, and that if I dared to cancel my direct debit, steps will be taken to claim what is owing.

Oh really AOL?  What will you do? Come to my house that you didn't believe actually existed?

If this is their idea of customer service, I am very glad to be turning my back on them - it can't come soon enough.

I suggest you sit down with your staff and give them some training on how to handle simple customer requests, and perhaps ask yourself why a customer wants to leave in the first place.

Angry is not the word. But please, next time you send me a press release lauding the brilliance of your products/services  - I'll just refer you to this blog.

Sexism is alive and well in tech apparently

09 Sep 2014


Now this is a controversial subject I know.

But apparently, and according to research from online accounting firm Crunch, a total of 71 per cent of female tech workers have labelled sexism as an industry problem.

The firm questioned 500 male and female tech workers (not sure what percentage of that was actually women) and found that 43 per cent of those women questioned have witnessed or experienced sexism in the workplace. This is compared with 29 per cent of the men polled who said they had witnessed or experienced sexism in the workplace.

A combined 51 per cent of female respondents said the sexism problem was 'moderate' or 'extreme', while 32 per cent of men said the issue was widespread.

But despite this, according to the research less than half (45 per cent) would report a sexist act to management.

Now one thing this research failed to do was to actually define what they class as 'sexism' or a 'sexist act'.  Were we talking some smutty comments, or someone actually being taken advantage of blatently and either physically or verbally bullied because of their gender?

According to the dictionary sexism is described as "prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women on the basis of sex".  But it happens against men too, in certain industries, and that shouldn't be forgotten.

On a personal note I have had loads of comments made in the past, mainly alcohol fuelled, at various events, and have just laughed them off - there was no harm meant at all. It was all a bit of fun, and I certainly give as good as I get.

However there was one occasion involving female members of the CRN team where lines were crossed, and those involved were lucky to get away with their actions.

People who know me, are aware of my views on 'Women in IT' - I have written a fair amount about it in the past, but I feel that by highlighting it as an issue, too much is made out of it.

Historically it has been men that went out to work and the women were expected to stay at home and raise the family. This was the mindset well into the 80s, so it is to be expected that many industries have more men than women working in them, particularly in senior positions.

But things are changing and they are changing at the right pace. Women are being promoted on merit and not because they are women.

I still think meddling governments introducing boardroom quotas will set the industry back, not move it forward.

And when talking about sexism, I think we need to be very careful indeed.

Of course when people are being sexist, they should be pulled up on it and dealt with accordingly depending on the severity of the case, but in many instances I truly think people need to develop a slightly thicker skin and more of a sense of humour.

I would welcome any thoughts on this.


Polishing my shield

02 Sep 2014


It is that time of year when I generally brace myself for an avalanche of emails.

The day that the CRN UK Channel Awards shortlist is launched. We held the first stage of judging this morning after all the judging panel had spent many hours reading the hundreds of thousands of words that made up the entries this year.

I may say this every year, but more entries than ever before are of a higher standard than last year, but there are still some that have a way to go.

I cannot go through every entry with everyone, but as I'm the only one of the judges that reads every single entry I can give this advice - please READ the criteria and top tips to entry on the dedicated Channel Awards website before even starting an entry - they really are there to help. It was obvious to me that many of those entering had not. Therefore they didn't stand a chance of making the shortlist.

All those shortlisted will now go onto the second stage judging panel which meets in October, and it is there that the winners are decided.

I also must stress that any firms making the shortlist of the big three - Reseller of the Year, Vendor of the Year and Distributor of the Year - must actually come into the Incisive offices on judging day and present to the judges to be in with a chance of winning. Any firm choosing not to come in will be removed from the shortlist.

It really is a difficult job for the judges, and deciding who will be shortlisted is never easy - quite often the decisions are so close and there are just a few points in it - so congratulations to every company that has made the cut - it is no mean feat.

To those that didn't make the shortlist this year, please don't give up, there is always next year.

There is also one other category that is not judged but is intead an Editor's Choice Award - this will be announced on the night as well.

Best of luck to all those nominated in the shortlist and congratulations once more.

Apprentice bonanza

14 Aug 2014

Firms turn to school leavers

According to research from a top apprenticeship firm QA Apprentices, the number of school leavers applying for IT apprenticeships is at an all time high.

Apparently there is a 108 per cent increase in demand for IT apprenticeships from school leavers seeking a route into tech careers, aside from the traditional university route.

The research follows the latest round of 'record' A-level results in the UK - where the usual pictures of fresh faced blonde and brunette female students celebrating straight A results adorn every front page of national and often local papers and websites.

There is no doubt that this is good news for our industry, with more and more firms realising the benefits of training their own batch of apprentices and bringing in raw talent from the ground up.

As I reported at the CompTIA ChannelCon event in Arizona last week, the younger generation of workers (known as the Millennials) are obviously more tech savvy than their Generation X predecessors, and are fiercely loyal to their employers, wanting nothing more than the business to do well so they can further their careers.

QA's research also revealed that there is a 40 per cent rise in the number of employers seeking IT apprentices.

So it all points to a positive future for the apprenticeship initiative.

i was lucky enough to not have to pay for university tuition fees when I went back in the dark ages, but if I were faced with £9,000 a year fees i too would look for an alternative way into the workforce. Times are very different these days and fair play to the youngsters that just want to get straight into work and earning a wage.

Just because you have a degree, doesn't mean you are the right person for the job - experience counts just as much.

I do wonder though how many more years the A-level results will keep going up - considering I took mine nearly 22 years ago (OH MY GOD!!), I must have been really thick, because they have improved EVERY single year since then.


Lessons learned from the USA

04 Aug 2014

Friends jumping

This week I am really suffering in the name of my work by sitting writing this on my hotel room balcony in Arizona in 38-degree heat.

Well, someone has to take one for the team. It is a tough call sometimes.

I am attending this year's CompTIA ChannelCon at the Marriott Desert Ridge resort in Phoenix, and as ever with the Americans, everything is done with just that little bit more enthusiasm than anywhere else.

Since taking over the Channelnomics brand as well, I am learning quite a lot about the American approach to all things business, and it is certainly different.

While the British are reserved, self-effacing and quite often self-deprecating, the Americans are often the opposite - confident, keen to share their viewpoints, and very very positive.  I can understand their inherant desire to whoop along with things quite often. It is just an inbuilt mechanism going back to their Spring Break days - and good on them!

I have a number of meetings plumbed in while I am over here, and I am sure I am going to be drowning in positivity - but that certainly isn't a bad thing.

There seems to be more openness to actually attending face-to-face events over here, despite the considerable distances travelled to achieve that, with business leaders realising the importance of meeting up with and speaking to peers from across the country.

They are not afraid to share ideas and be vocal about their thoughts either, unlike their more reserved British cousins.

However the one thing that the UK channel still holds the trophy for is partying - no-one can party like the UK channel. My head after the UK Channel Awards is testament to that!


Views - both channel related and everyday life observations - from CRN Editor Sara Yirrell. If you have any gossip that you would like to share with me please do get in touch and also we would love to see your comments at the end of the blog.

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