README: A User Guide to Dela

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We’re working together now, and I’m excited to get to know you over time, but here is some upfront information about how I think and work. I am here to support and help you, to give you an understanding of “why” we are doing the work we do, and to advocate for you and your team to the broader organization. One thing to note: My calendar will always look crazy, but you are my priority.

My Job

PRODUCT DELIVERY


Work with product managers to ensure that we have a clear and engaging product vision that aligns with our technical roadmap

Represent the product domain to the rest of the organization

Responsible for the long term health and maintainability of the products / areas I own

Manage cross project priorities and ensure that the right talent is on the right team

TEAM PERFORMANCE


Define clear objectives for teams and individuals

Collect and share context across the organization

Work to create autonomous teams

Attract, retain and grow high-performing talent and teams

Promote a culture of ownership, innovation, and collaboration that create a track record of building high quality and performant products

My Assumptions

  • You are very good at your job. You wouldn’t be at [this company] if you weren’t. When I’m asking you questions, I’m either a) gathering context, b) acting as a sounding board for you, or c) representing the stakeholders/customers.
  • I’m not good at your job. I exist to provide you with context and ask questions that may help you understand your ideas more deeply. I will provide you with clarity when the parameters/expectations are unclear.
  • You will let me know if you can’t do your job. I genuinely want you to be successful at work. Sometimes things slip through the cracks, or you lack the resources/knowledge to do your job – I won’t know that unless you tell me.
  • You have a desire for continuous growth. Software engineering is a very dynamic field that changes quickly. If you were not interested in constant learning, you would not be in this challenging field.
  • You feel safe debating with me. I am naturally a debate maker. I will challenge most of your ideas, looking for flaws, pointing out ways that systems could fail. When you say something won’t work, I may point out ways that it can. I am playing devil’s advocate most of this time. My goal is to continually build the most resilient solutions for the given constraints of time, budget, and scope.
  • You will collaborate. Software engineering is a team effort. Gone are the days of working in silos and the lone developer. I will expect you to collaborate with your teammates and across teams.

One-on-Ones

  • We will meet at least once every 2-weeks for 30-minutes (although I would prefer weekly). This time is your time. You will set the agenda, and you will determine what we should discuss. What is going well? What’s bugging you? Unless you want to talk about project status, this should not be a status update meeting. If I have something I want to ask, I will bring it up, but if it is pressing, you will hear from me sooner than our 1:1.
  • I will track our 1:1’s using a durable document for shared collaboration. I will leave a clear set of notes about what we talked about, along with action items for both you and me when warranted. Feel free to line up a series of topics for future discussion.
  • We may have additional meetings to set and review objectives, dive deeper into specific topics, and discuss growth. These meetings should not replace our 1:1s.

Communication

  • I am a very open person, which can be disarming for some people. I don’t expect you to be as personally transparent as I am, but it is critical that you talk to me as soon as possible when problems arise. I need that level of immediacy and transparency on issues so we can move forward together.
  • I believe in documenting meaningful conversations for the sake of clarity and the setting of expectations. As I find myself jumping across 8 to 16 different topics a day, it is a valuable mechanism for me to create a contextual thread that helps me pick up our last conversations. Many of our discussions will result in action items for both of us, along with dates for follow-up.
  • I prefer talking face-to-face or via video, but this may not be for you. If you need to get a hold of me, in terms of urgency via medium: Live (in person or video) -> audio call -> SMS text -> Slack. Email is not on that list – that is the medium where vendors reach out, calendar invites go, and lowest priority items land. Email messages will not be read daily or perhaps ever.

Collaboration

  • I believe participation in discussions is essential for growth. Meaningful conversation happens in multiple ways at [the company]: team Slack channels, Pull Request code reviews, collaborating with customer support / other teams, and speaking up in Agile ceremonies. I expect you to be an active contributor to all those mediums.
  • I believe that helping others get their work done is an essential part of your job. If you are not contributing to completing code reviews promptly (all PRs should have eyes on them within four business hours), please consider why that is.
  • Mentoring is the best way to reinforce existing knowledge. Please take the time to mentor those around you and answer questions posed to the team when possible.
  • I am technical and can act as a sounding board if you want. I spent over 20 years as a developer and am more than happy to serve as your rubber duck.

Feedback

  • I believe in giving feedback almost immediately when it is top of mind and closest to any situation deserving of feedback. When there are actionable items, I will attempt to provide at least one corrective suggestion. I expect you to determine the best course of action and report back any progress made efficiently.
  • I believe that feedback should be a two-way street and sincerely appreciate any feedback you have for me as immediately as possible. You should know that it is difficult for me to grow without your feedback, so I welcome it.
  • Feedback has three aspects to it, and I will attempt to adhere to the parameters set forth below:
    1. Safety – You should feel safe when giving and receiving candid feedback.
    2. Effort – It should require little work to provide feedback
    3. Benefit – Giving / receiving feedback should result in a material impact
  • [The company] will have a formal feedback cycle that happens either quarterly or twice a year. I will most likely supplement their feedback cycle with informal 360 surveys that I send out to your teammates to gather input. These surveys help both you and I identify your strength, opportunities for growth, and ways to improve over time.

Your Development

  • You own your career. You know where you would like to go next, how you would like to improve, and what areas. I can only provide feedback and an outside perspective. For your career, you are the Directly Responsible Individual.
  • Early in your career, you may not be clear where you want your career to go – management, principle engineer, product management, or architect. You should expect me to be available to answer questions and provide guidance. However, I will expect you to drive the conversations and refine your goals over time.
  • I will do my best to align you with growth opportunities and assignments that may stretch you. It is up to you to take advantage of those opportunities. The more you help me understand what you want out of your career, the more I can help you.
  • I am here to help and coach, but this is your career at the end of the day. You establish the goals. You set the priorities.

Autonomy

  • I hire intelligent people to solve complex problems. I can provide you with the mission/context for your work and the parameters around quality and performance. After that, I will get out of your way.
  • I am here for guidance, coaching, and to help remove blockers. You will need to reach out to me if you want my help.
  • You are the technical expert – my glory days of coding are behind me, and I have no intention of reliving them – I want you to experience all of the joy and pride that comes with doing a job well. Some of that joy involves experiencing pain and frustration first. If you need further assistance, I can help align you with additional resources to solve your problem.
  • I expect you to chase down the loose ends and organize meetings. When you are assigned a story or epic, you are the Directly Responsible Individual for that work. You own that work from discovery to production. If there are missing requirements or designs, I expect you to keep driving on those efforts until you have what you need.
  • You own the quality, performance, monitoring, alerting, and security of your solutions. I expect that it will go without saying that all code you have written is well tested, automated where it can be, and can handle the real-world peak load thrown at it. I will trust but verify that there is proper monitoring and alerting around your solution. You will be security-minded by performing threat models and implementing adequate security measures.
  • You will ask for help when needed. Most people will want to know what you have tried already and what ideas you are still considering. Be prepared to show you have put in some effort before asking for help.
  • You will proactively communicate the status of any project, including delays. You are in the position to call out any delays to achieving milestones. Please do so as early as possible.
  • I need you to hold onto the big picture. I need you to keep our mission in mind and question when it seems like an action you are performing to take will fundamentally come in conflict with our mission or values.

Things You Should Know About Me

  • I work through lunch every day. I am more than happy to work and meet during typical lunch hours. I will always try to avoid scheduling a lunch meeting but feel free to book an appointment with me during those hours.
  • I am available outside of work hours. While I am a firm believer in work/life balance, if I can pick up your call outside of business hours, I will. Do not hesitate to reach out to me.
  • Transparency is essential to me. If you ask me a direct question, I will be as forthcoming as possible, although some business circumstances require discretion.
  • I view things as integrated systems. Any process or problem you explain to me will involuntarily be mapped to a visual “city” or “factory” in my mind. I will immediately begin to create associations between pieces of your system and ask questions around failure points, communication, and data points to gain a better understanding. This is how I am wired.
  • I will assume positive intent. When a project, story, or task misses the mark, I will assume that you have tried your best but will ask what could have been done differently for both of us to understand how we can be successful next time.
  • I heavily bias towards action. You will notice me constantly pushing towards decisions and the communication of action items. I believe in calling our risks and planning for them. I am a firm believer in the ideas presented in The Cult of Done Manifesto.
  • I can only focus on one thing at a time. I can parallelize asynchronous tasks, but context switching at intervals greater than every 15-minutes can wear me down. I utilize my calendar heavily to manage context switching.
  • I am very candid. I do not intend to be rude, and I will try my best to land a message as effectively as possible. Still, I perceive direct, honest communication using supporting data as a kindness that we owe each other.
  • I care deeply about how people treat each other with kindness. While I may be very candid, I also care about treating people with kindness, assuming positive intent and understanding. I can’t force you to act kindly, but I will call out acts of unkindness and suggest better approaches.
  • Bigotry has no place on my teams. I am a bi-racial man raised by a feminist who is a strong supporter of LGBTQIA+ rights. I have family members on the Autism spectrum. My core beliefs lean Buddhist, but religious freedom, including secularism, is important to me. I have no tolerance for bigotry or treating people differently based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity. I will directly address insensitivity. Excuses like “we were just joking around” are a trigger for me.