A busy couple of weeks, partly because Arthur was off for half of it on holiday. There are some new projects on the horizon, which will continue to keep us fully occupied and so I've been keen to keep the pace up in tying up loose ends and putting a couple of earlier things to bed.
Since getting back, Arthur has re-jigged the My Baby's Got LED programming fixture and glued the pogo pins into place. That's back with me now to carry on with getting the software side working so that we can easily get a board programmed after it's manufactured. I have given it a quick test already though, as one board I was shipping out hadn't already been programmed.
There's another episode out in our teleprinter restoration diary. Fresh from our success last time in controlling it from a computer and getting it printing, this time there was a lot of dismantling to work on getting the switch between letters and figures modes working better:
Continuing our new product thoughts of late, we've broken ground on two(!) new products.
Arthur has been looking at whether we can turn the My First PCB workshop into a pay-what-you-feel course for people to follow in their own time rather than when the workshops are scheduled.
That resulted in a couple of firsts for him: designing his first pcb in Kicad, and also made his first pull request with the updates to the course notes that he made in the process.
And I've spun up a new repo for Mersey Dot, our next IoT device. I've made a start on the PCB design, but most of the work so far has been in confirming that it will work well with an ESP8266 chip (given we've already got those in stock, so (a) we should use them and (b) we don't have to worry about the global chip shortage for that bit), alongside some investigation into the software to run on it.
Alongside all of this I've been thinking more broadly about the direction of the company and how we can do more.
That "do more" phrase isn't the best, but the alternatives that come to mind are terms like "accelerate" or "increase our impact" and they don't sit well with what I'm trying to convey. I prefer Rachel Coldicutt's approach when she says:
"I wasn’t sure exactly what we would do, but I knew I wanted it to be careful, productive, and collective. And I knew I wanted to do it slowly."
However, I'm also mindful that there is much good work to be done, and I'd like MCQN Ltd to be contributing more.
In particular, I read Sarah Miller's All The Right Words On Climate Have Already Been Said. She's right. All the words have been said.
That made me reflect on the work we're doing, and how much of it is moving us towards a better future. I think back to when I read the Green Marketing Manifesto and started work on Mazzini. That was in 2008 and it's now 2021 and very little has changed; beyond me abandoning that work after realising that I didn't care enough about the data, so that wasn't a solution that was going to scale anywhere.
The hair shirt environmental approach has been present my entire life and been beaten at every turn by consumerism, so I still believe that we need the moving-towards-more-sustainable-and-equitable-electronic-products approach that I'm taking, but is it enough, or are we not making progress with it quickly enough, or...?
There's also ibal46, a climate/energy-related research project that I've been prodding at for a decade now. It's accelerated now that the company is on a stronger footing, which has allowed for more investment into it (which sounds very grand, but is mostly just being able to spare a few hundred pounds in kit). I need to find ways to push that forward to either a working prototype—which will unblock the list of further development and business development tasks that I've been building over the years—or a decision that it isn't workable, allowing me to put the idea to bed.
Our client work does take us in the right direction at times. The ongoing two-days-per-week is building air quality monitors, and we might be starting some battery grid storage work soon. That's all good work to be doing.
The limiting factors are still my time and the mix of skillsets within the business. There'll always be a primary need in the company for technical—software/electronics/design—skills so one option would be to find a recent graduate (or someone around that level) to take some of the workload from me. That's also an area that Arthur can cover, so finding someone to take the sales/marketing role is my initial focus.
Given how tiny the company is, there's a decent flexibility in moulding the role to suit who we hire, and on some level all of the roles are hybrid across a few responsibilities. I guess that's why I'm describing it as "sales/marketing" rather than "sales" or "marketing".
I'll be firming up the search over the coming weeks, but am happy to have a chat with anyone who (knows someone who) might be suitable.