Kindness: What Makes a Great Technical Team

How do you quantify what makes a great working environment, a good team, and work worth doing? An important piece for me is kindness.

Kindness is Human

At the risk of speaking to some stereotypes here, kindness is incredibly important in teams where members often lack patience and social skills. It doesn’t have to hinder honesty, expedience, or effectiveness. In fact, showing a small amount of kindness in your daily interactions reminds the people you often work most closely with on otherwise dry, tactical topics that there’s more to work than just code or tech. It reminds people that both you and they are human, not software-delivering carbon units.

Kindness is Engaging

When you show a little kindness, maybe a bit of sympathy about how frustrating a specific framework or project is to the team, it allows people the opportunity to open up if they want to. By sharing a short, discrete moment where you’ve felt the same excitement or frustration for a technology, you’d be surprised how often it elicits candid conversations that you’d otherwise not have during normal sprints or reviews. It gives people the cue that it’s okay to be themselves a little.

Kindness is Strategic

Looking for a promotion? Counter to kissing ass with a boss, expressing a little kindness to everyone you work with signals to intelligent management that you pay attention to social cues and understand how to play well with others.

Again, the level of kindness you show shouldn’t detract from your efficiency or ability to be straightforward at work; it should enhance your efficiency by proactively smoothing the interactions you have with co-workers, partners, and other non-technical folks.

Kindness is Admirable

Everyone has bad days. It’s how we deal with them that signals to others how professional, reasonable, and capable you are when you get down to business. And let’s be honest…technology is a revolving door. The relationships you make at one organization can indefinitely benefit future positions you may hold. Just as honesty and effectiveness are qualities people remember, being unkind never gets you on the list of people that others want to carry with them to the next gig.

More reading:

Minimum Viable Open Source

It was about 7 months ago I started to feel myself drawing a line about how I use the words “open source”. 7 months. Certainly in my copy, my writing, and my ideas for future projects (not just programming projects), these words infer meaning beyond what most people think about when they use them.

Originally, open source software was just a bunch of scientists sharing useful stuff. Now its a method of brand extension. How far we’ve all come. It used to mean the freedom to do what one thought was worth doing. Now it seems more synonymous with another word: shackles.

So I want to put it down here, a point in time, where people can see my progression. To call something open source, I expect that:

  • it’s IP/source is available freely without signup
  • it is moderated by the community of its own contributors, not one entity
  • it is maintained separate from other commercial product/service lifecycles
  • does not share the identity of its benefactors  consent
  • does not contain EULAs that non-technical and non-legal persons can understand

I have no problem with companies who want to use “open source” to their brand advantage, but to not respect these few core principals is to be ‘half in’ and very transparent in its intent.

Other reading:

The Cost of Not Changing Things Up

This week, I realized that for years, I’ve been looking at life changes in terms of cost. How much will it cost to move, how much will it cost if I quit, how much will it cost if I fail.

Nothing of worth comes on a silver spoon

Despite warnings and signs, friends and teachers, and despite being part of moments in spacetime I would gladly revisit, my aha moments always necessarily originate internally, most often when I put myself in challenging situations. I always want to know what’s in the pita.

While waiting for an officer to write me a bogus citation today, it hit me that much as in the same way I measure things from both sunk vs. opportunity cost perspectives in business, I forgot to do that with my home and personal life. The cost of what I’m doing in one place is more than what it costs me emotionally, physically, and mentally; it’s costing me true happiness that I’m leaving on the table.

Forget silver, there is no spoon

I love this thing. It’s not my family (of course I love them), it’s literally a thing. I have fallen in love with an open source thing. That passion has caused me to ignore the bigger picture. And who the fuck loves a thing over themselves?

When someone or something is tied to a prior transformation, it’s hard to give it up. It’s an edifice, a token. It’s also just a thing. And since this particular thing is open source, it’s free (for now at least) so at least there’s no sunk cost for me to keep using it.

There may be no spoon, how about a knife

I feel like a snake during ecdysis, or maybe a pile of phoenix ash. Either way, change is coming, and bitches, watch what happens between here and Denver. I have something no one is expecting. I will cut through so much wrapping paper that the present inside will be a fun little aftershow.

Semi-related reading: