A generalist by habit, I've spent the last ~20 years concerned about code quality. I love building tools to improve code quality, reduce friction, and speed up work flows. My last few years have been spent on improving software development, especially focusing on the people who make it.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
A year later, I think it’s better to focus on the recipient’s value of this document, hence this new and improved intent:
This collection of lists is predominantly skewed towards gender diversity in tech. I don’t mean to imply that racial diversity is less important, but this collection sprung out of discussions related to James Damore’s memo.
Access to a wider hiring pool. There is a labor shortage with 627,000 open tech jobs as of April, 2017. Getting more women to apply to your jobs increases your odds of finding a great qualified candidate. 10,741 women graduated with Computer Science Bachelor’s degrees, 48,840 men in 2014-2015. Improving your funnel could increase your pool of candidates by 18%.