Slides for LeadDev SF 2022 – Having an impact beyond your team without hurting your day job

Want a PDF with the slides and speaker notes? Here you go.

Want to see the slides in this page? Keep reading!

Edit: After giving this talk a lot of folks asked about the images in my deck. I painted them with watercolors (mostly while watching TV after the kids went to bed). It was really fun, and was actually far easier for me to capture the visual I intended than building out line art or working with clip art. I recommend it!

What was this talk? On October 26, I gave this talk to LeadDev San Francisco:

Influencing organizational change without hurting your day job: a playbook

We live and work in a world of continual improvement, whether we’re improving our software, our development practices, or our company policies. As leaders, we often have the freedom to suggest improvements in our team processes, but what do you do when the friction is at a broader level? Perhaps you need to work with other organizational leaders, or partner with Human Resources. Perhaps you’re proposing something for every engineer or every employee. Perhaps you can think of something you’d like to change at your company right now!

In order to succeed, you’ll need to influence others at every step of the way: sharing your vision, aligning on a plan, and following through. Influencing without authority means not relying on personal traits like:
• Your level or role position in your company hierarchy, or
• Your tenure and expertise about your organization.

Those traits can help contribute to the beginning of a process change, but they will not get you to the finish line, and you don’t need any of them to be successful.

What you need is a playbook! You will learn how to successfully navigate each part of the process:
• Validating your hypothesis about the problem, • Gaining sponsorship to safely add this to your workload,
• Interviewing stakeholders to help you develop the right solution,
• Enrolling allies so that you’re not alone, • Following through with a great communication strategy,
• Monitoring your other priorities along the way, triaging as you go, and
• Being recognized for your efforts after meeting milestones.

By the end of this talk, you’ll be able to form a plan to influence change beyond the scope of your team, leading to better outcomes for yourself and your peers. You’ll also avoid the pitfalls of over-indexing on broad impact while ignoring your other responsibilities.

Why I stopped using Manager READMEs and no longer recommend them

Back in 2017, I was a year into my second management job and didn’t feel like my onboarding practices were at their best. I’d introduce myself, have a little bit of time with the new person, and then I’d start them on their journey learning about the company, their team, and specific projects. They’d have lots of questions, but they might wait to ask me until our next regularly scheduled meeting. We could go weeks before I even heard some of their low-priority but high-impact questions — the things that are often observed over time, but benefit from explicit discussion. That category of question includes:

  • How soon can I take time off?
  • When should I start or end my workday?
  • How would you like me to communicate status about my projects?

I heard about this “Manager README” thing on the Rands Leadership Slack and thought it could be THE solution to this problem, but in hindsight I don’t think it ever was.

Continue reading “Why I stopped using Manager READMEs and no longer recommend them”

You don’t need to blog to practice your writing

I started writing this blog in 2015 about a year after I began my management career. I wrote a few pieces a year, then one piece a year, and then nothing all year long. I love to write, but I find it difficult to make the time to write the words, then to edit and re-write the words, and to consider whether it will still find an audience after all that, and to actually publish. In contrast, I write constantly at work, which is similar to my approach to public speaking. I still strive for accuracy and successful communication, but the stakes for getting the words exactly right are lower: I can follow up on questions, corrections, and expanded analyses. In this post, I’ll share how I’ve used my love of writing as a light-weight method of building connection with my team and practicing my written communication.

Continue reading “You don’t need to blog to practice your writing”

Practice your public speaking with internal company events

Whether you’re trying to inform, influence, or ask questions to improve your understanding, communicating ideas succinctly is the most important skill for tech workers. In this post, I’ll share how I’ve practiced my public speaking through internal company opportunities, leveraging higher degrees of psychological safety, with the hopes of improving my public speaking for future conference talks. I’ll share my step-by-step checklist for creating your own opportunities as well, should an existing venue not yet exist. Want to skip ahead to the checklist? Click here!

Continue reading “Practice your public speaking with internal company events”

Parental Leave Guide for Parents

I went back to work after being out for six months. A lot of things stayed the same, but a lot of things changed, including how I felt about myself. This post details my experience as well as a number of tips that a returning parent your return easier. If this sounds familiar, I was fortunate to speak on this topic at Lead Developer Austin in November 2019, and you can also watch the 10-minute presentation version of this information. 10 minutes is a very short period of time, so please consider this the extended “Everything you need to know about managing your parental leave” version. There’s plenty to say about supporting parents on parental leave, but that’s outside the scope of this post.

Before Parental Leave Begins

There is a lot to do before going out on leave, and this can be one of the most stressful, uncertain times for everyone involved. With these tips, hopefully you can mitigate some of that uncertainty with a clear plan.

Continue reading “Parental Leave Guide for Parents”

I’m Grateful for My Parental Leave

I am so grateful that I’ve been able to spend six months with my family taking parental leave for the birth of my daughter.

I think it’s important to pause for a moment and acknowledge the fact that I’m highly privileged to receive this much parental leave in the United States. Most people do not receive anything comparable. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave for mothers, but only if they work for a company with 50 or more employees. In California, we have Paid Family Leave (PFL), which provides 6 weeks of partially paid leave. A few other states have similar protections, but it’s not enough for families to recover from the trauma of childbirth and to be in the right mental and physical health before returning to work. I’m grateful that a number of tech companies are leading the pack in terms of parental leave, and very fortunate that I’m able to work in this industry, but hopefully one’s ability to care for their child or partner will not be dependent on their employer in the future.

So, with all that said, I’m very grateful that my employer provides six months of parental leave to either parent, for childbirth or adoption. It’s an amazing benefit.

Continue reading “I’m Grateful for My Parental Leave”

Avoiding Mistakes with your Manager README

NOTE: I no longer recommend writing a Manager README at all. Click through to read why.

It’s been over a year since I wrote about my version of Manager READMEs and it’s been great to see READMEs and discussions about them crop up all over the internet. I shared some tips about successfully sharing information through documents on Twitter and here I’ll apply them to a Manager README to help you avoid some common pitfalls that can lead the document to hurt more than it helps.

As a reminder, my intent of a Manager README had two parts:

  1. Share expectations
  2. Build trust

A year later, I think it’s better to focus on the recipient’s value of this document, hence this new and improved intent:

  1. Share expectations to reduce their anxiety
  2. Build trust as they get to know you
Continue reading “Avoiding Mistakes with your Manager README”

2017 in Review

2017 has been quite a year. Looking back at my 2016 in Review post, here were my two biggest goals for 2017 and a mini retrospective:

  • Give away my Legos so that I can work with new ones.
    • Despite having the same title, I had a very different job at the end of 2017 than at the beginning. Sometimes it feels like I went from this to this.
  • Keep learning…
    • About my slice of the industry by hosting more meetups.
      • This didn’t happen at all.
    • About management via the Rands Leadership slack.
      • This was a triumph, and my network is stronger than ever.
    • About parenting and my kid by using my parental leave.
      • I spent a lot of time with my kiddo, using 26 days in 2017, up from 16 in 2016.

What follows are the stories behind these snippets, and a few other things that happened. Continue reading “2017 in Review”

[Update: Don’t] Share your Manager README

NOTE: I no longer recommend writing a Manager README. Click through to read why.

As a manager, on-boarding is both tough and really important whether you’re joining a team or they’re joining yours. My very short list for on-boarding in either direction is:

  1. Share expectations
  2. Build trust
Continue reading “[Update: Don’t] Share your Manager README”