Preface: this blog post is just my travel log, personal reflections, and thoughts from my time conversing with other community members at OpenTelemetry Comm...
- Strong Work Ethic
- Empathy and Good-humored Grit
- Inclusive and Equitable
- Health and Family First
- Outcomes Over Output
- “Good Enough” and “Too Much”
- Create More Value Than Consumed
- Success With Others
- What I’m Working on Full-time Now
Strong Work Ethic
I really care about what I’m doing. It’s generally not ‘just a job’ to me. There’s not enough time in life to just work on whatever. If I commit to someone that something will get done, I will make sure I know their time and quality expectations and get it done, regardless of whether it fits into a tidy 9-5 schedule. This means I have to pick and prioritize work carefully. I over-communicate slightly in order to make sure people know that I’m being responsible to them. I take ownership over my own learning and coaching processes. I tend to think of company, then team, then individuals.
Empathy and Good-humored Grit
Empathy may sound like a squishy term to some, it is not to me. Understanding and feeling with others is what most represents the ‘people’ element of work, IMO. Humans aren’t resources, we’re people and our emotions, affinities, dysfunctions, aptitudes, and baggage is what makes us who we are. If someone is having a bad day, which we all have from time to time, there’s probably reasons. We need to expect each other to be humans, not just employees. We should expect professionalism while being willing to adjust to others when there is a need.
Grit is important too. I like what Angela Duckworth laid out in her book, aptly named, ‘Grit’: Courage, Conscientiousness, Perseverance, Resilience, Passion. However, without ‘Good-humored’-ness, even the most well-intentioned grit (which is an ideal) can easily turn myopic. Good, as opposed to bad, humored-ness cares about the reality of others, how they would perceive the punchline or premise. Similarly, ‘good-humored grit’ means applying the grit-characteristics within the context of how it motivates, elevates, and accelerates others, not just an individual.
Inclusive and Equitable
I expect myself and those around me to work in a way that provides equal access to those who might be otherwise excluded or marginalized. Underrepresentation and unconscious bias are measurable and damaging. There shouldn’t have to be a business case for diversity. Inclusive environments encourage diversity of thought and a greater opportunity for accurate representation of consumers in products and services. Professional equity goes hand in hand with building these environments.
Physical and mental disabilities affect many of us and often social stigmas drive us to learn how to hide or protect ourselves from the ignorant behavior of others. I actively look to what I and others can do to change this dynamic, to make our work together a safe space, to be at our professional best, and to actively disrupt biases against level opportunities for everyone.
Health and Family First
Personal health and, if applicable, family time is the cornerstone of a healthy work/life balance. Colleagues that ignore these things often depend too much on what goes on professionally to bring meaning and value to what they do in the office. When something doesn’t go right at work, a project is cancelled or interpersonal relationships at work aren’t where they need to be, having positive support from other areas of life (including personal heath) helps to take each day in stride.
I advocate for my own and for colleagues’ balance of personal health, both physical and mental, and as much as possible prioritizing family over professional life. If there is ever a conflict between planned work and those things, I err on the side of providing air-cover to whomever needs it, because there should never be something so professionally important that it overrides personal health and family needs.
Outcomes Over Output
We all have tasks to complete, milestones to hit, and goals we sign up for. Everyone has the minutiae of their jobs to deal with, and sometimes someone else’s deliverable block yours. It’s easy to feel like we’re making progress when we’re “doing things”, but it’s even easier to be headed in the wrong direction if you don’t look up from time to time. Focusing on outcomes of our work helps us maintain good trajectory.
“If we’re trying to solve a problem with code, then shipping that code isn’t successful unless the problem gets solved”, as Adam Kalsey says in his Manager Readme.
“Good Enough” and “Too Much”
I once heard a CEO say to the entire company “we ship ‘good enough’ software” and at the time, if felt…less than inspiring. Pragmatism often is not shiny. What I realize now is that if we’re shipping more than ‘good enough’, we are lengthening the runway to know if what we built is actually solving the customer problem, or if it’s wasting the team (and company) resources on an increasingly unlikely bet.
Conversely, ‘not good enough’ also is a failure in using resources, as it is almost always possible to know this in advance if you are close with the consumers of a product or service…if you have relationships with them, ask what AND why questions, and really seek a deeper understanding about what’s needed to solve their problems.
So, instead of framing things in terms of ‘good enough’, I use the term “too much”. Is what we’re planning “too much” ahead of what we need to know to feel confident? Are we about to do “too much” research that answers questions beyond what we need to know now? Is what we’re coding “too much” for others (or our future selves) to comprehend easily and reason about at a time? Is the scope of what we plan to deliver “too much” for users to consume and value?
Asking questions around “too much” helps us to discuss and align on how far something needs to be taken before the halo of our understanding starts to dim the path ahead.
Create More Value Than Consumed
This is almost a direct port from Tim O’Reilly’s ethic of ‘create more value than you capture’ discussed in detail in his book “WTF: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us”. The point is, if you’re taking more than you’re giving, not only is this a recipe for rampant consumerism and economic depletion, it’s also easy to spot as disingenuous by others.
But if you’re constantly giving, assuaging the asks on you without expecting something in return, this is unsustainable (for long periods anyway). So again, you need to find the right balance of giving and getting. After many years of working on this myself, I find a slight over-balance of giving instead of getting works to instill a sense that you are helpful and not self-centered in others’ perceptions of you. There are even good books on how to operationalize this mindset for employers.
In technical engineering work, I look for people that don’t just do a job and leave the same mess for others to trip over later. If you fix something, do a 15min write-up on it and publish it somewhere appropriate (internal wiki, blog post, etc.)…then also link to it from the place that you fixed the problem so it’s easy for people to trace your thinking in the future. Maybe also share that over internal chat, do a lightning presentation, or if public-appropriate share on social media. In these ways, you are turning your tactical work into something others can and will benefit from. You are ‘creating more value than you consumed’ to do your job.
Success With Others
There are lots of books and lots of prior thinking on what goes in to being successful on a team, with colleagues, and professionally. The things that help me the most are:
- be ruthlessly invested in the other person. actively listen, seek to understand their goal, and look for opportunities to propel them forward.
- before talking, ask yourself A) does this need to be said, B) does it need to be said BY ME, and does it need to be said NOW? If the answer to more than one is NO, consider bringing it somewhere else at a later time.
- DO take time to establish positive relationships with others, even if they or you are bound to eventually part ways, for the time you have with each other a personal understanding of what motivates them and how they best operate works wonders.
- be kind, even if the environment is not positive. not doing this will ultimately lead to you making yourself, an individual, look like the problem instead of working collaboratively to address an external issue.
What I’m Working on Full-time Now
I currently work at Tricentis as the Head of Incubation Engineering (IncEng). IncEng is a critical function of business and you can think of it like an internal startup incubator or accelerator. My team:
- encourages innovation across the organization in product/service like outcomes
- vets internal projects for business value and payoff likelihoods
- provides business and engineering hours towards accepted ideas to guide them into successful graduates
- facilitates internal gatherings such as weekly “Mug Clubs”, monthly showcases, and quarterly awards events
- continuously improves the above work motions, our own selves, and each other
I’m ALWAYS hiring, even if I’m not. Between my professional team, other teams inside my organization, and even from my volunteer organizing work, I can probably help you move in the direction you’re looking to go in your career. Maybe we can help each other too.
CURRENT OPEN OPPORTUNITIES:
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NOTE: This is a placeholder article to house slides, comments, and notes related to my presentation for TSQA 2022 Wild, Wild Test on 2021-03-09.
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