Day in the Life
John Powell

About John

John Powell
The Broad Residency 2018-2020
 
2
Apr 11
5:30 a.m.

My alarm goes off and I make my way to the kitchen to start some coffee brewing and feed our dog. I take her outside and sip my coffee as I start to wake up.

6:00 a.m.

I head off for a run around lower Manhattan. Early morning is the only time the streets are empty enough that running cross-town is even thinkable. The sun comes up as I get to the West Village—a beautiful way to explore the narrow streets here.

7:45 a.m.

After a shower and breakfast while checking the news, I leave home and head for the subway. I’m starting my day at our Midtown office, where the Accounting team works. Most days I’m in Union Square, a nice walk from our apartment. Today, though, I have a 20-minute ride on the crowded subway ahead of me. I get off at 42nd Street and walk a few blocks to the office.

9:00 a.m.

I meet with our two Directors of Accounting. Since I started at Uncommon, we’ve had a weekly check-in to make sure our teams, which work closely together, are aligned and that we’re planning comprehensively for big financial events. They’ve been at Uncommon longer than anyone else on the Finance team, and have been an invaluable source of advice and information. Today, we talk about a few new processes we are hoping to introduce for the next fiscal year, and about how best to roll these out to our partners in school operations.

10:00 a.m.

While I’m in Midtown, I catch up with my New York City finance team—a Senior Associate Director and Associate who support our 24 schools in Uncommon NYC. They’ve been working from this office a couple days each week, and it’s nice to have a quiet spot to catch up on their work. We discuss their plans for upcoming budget meetings with the NYC schools, and set goals and a timeline for some analytical work and budget presentations they have coming up.

11:00 a.m.

I catch the express train down to Union Square to spend the afternoon at our main office. I try to make the most of this brief time out of the office, and stay “unplugged” as long as possible before the rest of the day’s back-to-back meetings. I buy a sandwich for lunch on the walk from the subway stop to the office.

12:00 p.m.

I’m off to the races with afternoon meetings. First up is a budget meeting with one of our Home Office instructional support teams, led by another of the Senior Associate Directors on the team. She does an amazing job asking the right (sometimes tough) questions and guiding the group to make decisions. I leave feeling comfortable about the team’s budget for the rest of the year, and head to back-to-back regional budget preview meetings. The Senior Associate Director responsible for our schools in Rochester, Troy, and Boston presents his analysis of regional budgets for the next fiscal year. I’m there mostly to support him and to help connect regional budget issues to the bigger picture for the organization. The Managing Directors of Operations, to whom we’re presenting, ask great questions and together we generate a few action steps for each region. We’ll see the effects of our work when we finalize budgets in a month or so.

3:30 p.m.

I step out of the last regional budget preview to take a call with the Senior Director of Finance (my boss) and our Real Estate and Facilities Senior Director. We’re discussing construction timelines and financing options for a new school building, and are trying to pull some key data together in time for a presentation to the regional Board of Directors next week. After ironing out some timing and cost details, we have a solid plan for the presentation.

4:30 p.m.

I step out of the office with one of the Senior Associate Directors on my team. We’re headed to a coffee shop across the street for a change of scenery and some privacy as we discuss her annual review. At the end of the yearly professional development cycle, it’s a great chance to look back at the team’s progress towards its goals. Even though the budget season is reaching full swing, and time is hard to come by, I’m glad we prioritized one-on-one meetings for the team. After a great conversation, I’m re-energized for the year ahead.

5:30 p.m.

For the first time today, I have a chance to dig through my inbox, prioritize items that have come up, and start checking off tasks from my to-do list. I’m hoping I can at least get to a comfortable place before heading home, though I know I’ll have at least some work to do later tonight once things have settled down.

6:30 p.m.

I leave the office and start the 20-minute walk home. Once I get to the apartment, I feed and walk the dog and rummage in the refrigerator to come up with something to cook. Thankfully, my wife and I did some mid-week grocery shopping, so it’s not too hard to make something edible for the two of us.

9:00 p.m.

After eating dinner and relaxing a bit, I open my laptop and spend a couple hours getting to the work I didn’t do today: responding to emails, finishing annual reviews for the team, and building out a capital budgeting template for the team to use as they build school and regional budgets for next fiscal year. It’s easy to get lost in the Excel work, so before I know it, it’s time for bed.

11:30 p.m.

I settle into bed to read until I fall asleep. On my nightstand: a few back issues of the New Yorker, a biography of Churchill and Orwell, and a Canadian journalist’s memoir of his time in Afghanistan.