How You Can See Me At My Best

27 May 2019

There has been a lot of talk about “Manager READMEs”, and I’ve seen a number of folks write their own version of a “what drives me” story. This is my attempt to work it out myself, and write it down.

A little about me

I am a very simple and principled person. There are many things that I care about. I am learning there are even more things I do not care about. It will take a great deal of energy to make me budge on something I care about. I quickly get out of others’ way so they can do the things they care about.

I write and speak plainly. My wife reminds me that isn’t always the best idea. I value written communication above nearly everything else. Good writing requires taking the time to understand the topic you are trying to communicate. Refusing to write indicates to me that a person has not full understood a thing, and is not willing to defend their choices.

My time is the thing I value most. It is the one thing I cannot fix, grow, or change. I do not want my time wasted. I work very hard not to waste others’ time.

I am at my best when

👉 I am given business context, pointed in a strategic direction (given a valid metric-based goal), and then given tactical autonomy (the authority to act). At this point in my career I have established that I am a capable and responsible builder of systems. I value learning user behaviors from what I build, and I value learning system behaviors from what I build. When I am told “we know our users,” I know I’m being lied to. I find little value in someone making a 20-point plan for me when more than 10 of them will change along the way. And if none of them changed—its because no one was observing the behaviors and learning from what we built.

👉 I see that we are operating near (not necessarily on) the leading edge of our industry. I mean this both technically, and culturally. I am a generalist, and I certainly have my “T-shaped” moments on certain topics. But I do not claim to have the depth of knowledge to be driving the leading edge of world-class work. There are only so many of those people who are alive right now. I am not one of them. When I see my organization purposefully acts in opposition to the direction of either a technical or cultural edge in the industry I will speak up.

👉 Collaboration within my own team, and with other teams is encouraged, expected, and prepared for (peer accountability & teamwork). I get excited when I ask a question and get a response with a reference to a written down answer; whether its a code comment, commit message, saved chat history, or external documentation. It shows me folks know their team interfaces with others, and their software interfaces with others. They had enough empathy to write it all down. Bonus points if multiple people give the same reference—that shows me teammates are on the same page.

👉 I have a deep bias to action. There is little to gain from pure speculation, wondering what the cost-benefit of a particular choice is. There is so much to gain from the concept of “Go and find out.” (shamelessly stolen from “The Toyota Way”). There are so many resources available to us that we can get straight down to testing and experimenting with code services when we have questions.

What I want out of my career

💥 At this point my career goal isn’t simply to build something someone thinks is “great”, or worth a lot of money. I want to work in an organization where I can grow and build a culture of increasing engineering momentum. Creating team(s) where our work builds on our previous work. Where we are constantly improving both quality and time-to-market. Where we are constantly learning from what we deliver (both learning technically, and learning from our users and customers). I will naturally work “on” the business, as well as “in” the business. If I cannot do that, I won’t feel like I am a member of the team.

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