Should you be in the position of working for or with me I thought it would be nice to have a guide that brings together most of the stuff that explains how I work, what I expect, and how to make sense of me. This isn't to replace actually getting to know each other, but might answer some questions that come up eventually.
- Take care of Humans
- Try to do the right thing, even if it's hard
- Go fast when you know what you are doing, Go slow when you don't
- Simple solutions are usually better, but it's often hard to make something simple
- Bring a spirit of care and craftsmanship to what you do
- Show your thinking in however your communicate, prose is greater than slides.
- Think with a friend
- Avoid blame, how we will do better next time is a get out of jail free card as long as you don't repeat things.
I think a lot about systems, how do all the pieces fit together. I tend to hold a model of the future state system in my head and use it to make decisions, align plans, etc. The system in most cases is the thing we are building, but it's not uncommon for that system to be bigger and expand to include the people building and managing it. If it seems like I have a couple of disconnected things going at the same time, it's probably that I imagine a place where these things are aligned our coupled in some larger future state system. Ask and I'll be happy to draw a picture of whatever is in my head.
How do I think?
I'm one of those people who absorbs and listens for a while, then reads, then thinks in the background. At any given time there are two or three problems rattling around in my head. They do that. I make mental models of big systems. At some point between 1 day and 1 lifetime things snap into place and out pops an answer. You will be able to tell that this happens because I'll come into the office and want to tell you all about it, draw it on the white board or show up waving some long document I wrote overnight. When this happens I'll speak with tremendous certainty and confidence. If you catch me on one of these days, ask questions and look skeptical. It helps me make the answer better.
How I work
Sometimes you might ask me about a problem you are working on. I'm going to do my best to assume that you are doing that because you want advice and feedback on your thinking, not because you want someone to solve something for you. If I step into your area it's probably because I really like solving problems. Just remind me that you've got this.
I can form a snap opinion on anything. Seriously anything. Some of those opinions could be really great. Some of them are probably terrible. If you ask me a question about something odds are good that I will have an opinion based answer. If you know better I'd appreciate it if you tell me I'm wrong. You can be polite about it, but don't leave me in ignorance.
Building Complex Things
I've built some complex things. Five billion moving parts is beyond the level of understanding of individual humans. I don't know, You don't know, your co-workers don't know. What we have are best guesses based on experience, research, and data. This is why we take successive approximations and iterate. Think a little, build a little, repeat.
Estimates and Planning
Estimates are useful to the extent they help us make a decision. Best laid plans rarely survive execution. In fact, execution is the thing that ultimately ruins all your plans. I tend to hold a live model of the plan in my head, in time I get pretty good about fitting all the parts together and being able to predict pretty accurately what's going to happen next. No false idols, whatever you use to think about these planning challenges needs to stay close to reality.
I'm usually working between start_time and about 6pm Monday - Friday. start_time is a little variable, but begins about 15 minutes after the completion of acquiring coffee. I'd prefer to start my day with a quiet coffee, web, email catch up sort of thing. I don't always get what I want. It's safe to assume that start_time is always before 10:15am.
For large portions of my career I've spent a lot of time on the managers schedule. This is not my preference. If you have an important topic and need a formal meeting, schedule it ahead of time. I'd appreciate pre-reading, agenda, whatever in advance so we can all get there and be on the same page. Odds are good you can see my free/busy information, free time is generally first come first served. I will be grumpier if you schedule before start_time.
Way more fun for me are more informal chats with a few people trying to work through a problem. Don't hesitate to grab me if you think I could help.
I'm typically very available when I'm working. When I'm not working you can bother me. It turns out that phones and stuff all have really good filters on them. You won't wake me up or interrupt something important. If you do it's my fault. I'll either pick it up and respond when I'm next working, or sometime before that. If I choose to reply a few hours later in a time when you aren't working, I don't expect you to stop your non-working time to reply to me.
That said, if it's really urgent, like emergency/fire level you should probably text me or call me. Put URGENT or something like that somewhere I will see it. You might try multiple places or repeat it in 2 minutes. If you don't get some sort of acknowledgment that I'm responding within 15 mins. or so, good odds that I'm not going to in the time scale you need for this urgent thing. Make the decision you need without me to get things into a safe state. I trust you.
As a Manager
I'm not here to do your job, I'm here to help make it so that you can be successful doing your job. Success for me is that you and your peers work me out of a job by being so awesome.
If I'm your direct manager, I'll schedule these weekly for an hour. It's your time, guaranteed with me. These are usually fixed points on my schedule, but don't be shy if you need to move either once, or forever. In this meeting I want to talk to you about how it's going, not what you are doing. I want to hear what you need, how I can help, and things you are worried about. Make sure I know which is which. I also reserve this time with you to talk about long term goals. Some weeks we might talk a lot and not need the 1:1, that's up to you, but we should still sit down for a few minutes at least and talk. Sometimes I might have to move/cancel/miss one. I'll be sad and sorry about it and try and make sure to reschedule.
Propose a Solution
I love talking through problems with you. It's actually like the fun part of most of my days. You can always do that. You don't lose points or anything by using me as a sounding board. Remember though, that whatever we come out of that with is yours. You own it, you turn it into a real solution for the company. Unless you want me to do it in which case we let's talk about that too.
Your Career is your career
There are few things I'm prouder of than the opportunities and success of people who have worked for me in the past. It's incredibly rewarding to see people move on to take that next step towards their dreams. I want to help you get where you want to go. Ultimately however it's your responsibility to set that direction, I can't do it for you. Several times a year I'm likely to ask you something like "What kinds of things do you like doing?" that's your cue to tell me about the kinds of things you aspire to take on, learn, etc. I'll tell you what I've observed about your current skill set, the kinds of things I think you might need to develop to get there, and then I'll start looking for safe ways for you to have the opportunity to exercise and demonstrate these capabilities. Once I understand where you want to go, I'm going to work hard to make that happen for you, so let me know if things change.