Hi, and welcome to my team, I’m happy you are here. Since every manager has a different view on what this job entails, I thought I’d write down my approach to the role, so you will have a better idea what to expect and what not to expect from me. I hope it is valuable to you. If anything is unclear, let me know.
It is my job to make you and the team productive. Since you’re here, you must have valuable talents (probably many). I’m here to make sure those talents are effectively used and developed, and to reduce distractions and other obstacles that stop you from getting your job done.
It is also my job to ensure you’re sufficiently challenged and growing. If you’re bored, tell me. There are always opportunities for change, either in my team, or in another; I will even support you if you feel you need to join another company in order to achieve your goals (my employers don’t always appreciate this).
It is not my job to tell you what to do. We have goals as a team, you will have your personal goals. I’m happy to participate in discussions on how to achieve those goals, but don’t expect me to micro manage you. I will (probably blindly) approve any vacation, work from home, going home earlier requests, and expenditures, because I trust you can decide these things on your own (in cooperation with the team if it affects them) — also refer to the Principles section below.
I’m deeply technical, probably more so than many other managers. This can be both an advantage and disadvantage for you. At times, I may overstep my boundaries, relapse and act as a tech lead — please tell me when I do. However, always expect me to challenge your ideas in the context of technology choices, architecture, scaling and operation of the systems that we build. Often, I won’t be shooting in the dark, I will speak from experience. Nevertheless I will rarely, probably never, veto your decisions — all I ask is consider my challenges carefully.
I write, and speak at conferences and other events occasionally. At times you may find I published an article, or mention an incident during a talk that you recognize — it may even seem to be about you, although I will not mention you by name. You will probably be right, most of writing and speaking topics are inspired by my day to day work and thinking. If you have issues with this, we can discuss.
Here are the most important principles and assumptions that guide my attitude to work, and life. You don’t have to agree with any of these, but if you’re ever surprised about my behavior, these can explain things.
In these, let’s assume that when I say people I refer to people in our company, I’m not ready to claim these apply to the entire world population.
- People are good. Even it is sometimes hard to understand their thinking or actions, few people in the world are intentionally malicious.
- People can be trusted. Trust by default.
- People are not stupid. If I don’t understand people’s actions, it is most likely my lack of understanding of their context or thinking, not the action itself.
- Being wrong excites me. I like being challenged, and I’m open to the idea that I’m wrong.
Beside team meetings, and the occasional department meeting, we will have regular 1:1s. Just you and me, ideally every week for 30 minutes.
During this meeting we can do various things:
- If you have something you would like to discuss with me — great, let’s do it. This can range from frustrations at work (colleagues, noise level, concerns about our product direction), or things you really love at work, to your home situation, to your hopes and dreams. Whatever is on your mind. If you got any feedback for me, tell me.
- Got nothing? Perhaps I will have some observations to share about you or the team in general.
- Still nothing? I may bring up some topic that I’ve been struggling with myself to see if you have any thoughts on the topic.
- Crickets? This happens, there are slow weeks, let’s not sit and stare at the wall. Back to work!
My opening question will almost always be: “How are you doing?” You should take this question the literal way, not in the American meaning of “Hello!” Tell me how you are really doing.
By the way, if during meetings I’m typing on my phone, I will 99% sure be taking notes or creating todos for myself. Don’t take it as disinterest.
At work I will spend a significant amount of time not sitting behind my desk. I may be in meetings, or be walking around, even be walking outside to think. In my calendar you can check if I’m in a meeting, if not and I’m not at my desk I will probably be reachable through Slack. If it’s urgent, just call me.
While I love my job, my family does come first. I have a family with three young children. It’s important to me to be home in time for dinner, and therefore I usually leave around 5pm. If you need to reach me afterwards I will most likely still be responsive on Slack and email until I go to bed.
That said, I am passionate about what I do. Therefore, I also spend much on my free time reading work related things, or thinking about work. You may get emails or Slack messages in the evening, extremely early morning or weekend. Feel free to answer at your leisure, I don’t expect you to answer immediately.
If there is something urgent and important, you can call me 24/7.
Some random curiosities
- I have a highly sarcastic sense of humor. I know that sometimes you may not understand if I’m purely joking or if there’s a deeper message, even pointed feedback buried in my comments. Honestly, it may be either, let’s just say that this is how I spice things up. In case of doubt, just ask me.
- While I generally speak English at work, do realize I have been living in Poland for many years. I understand the language reasonably well. If you think you can talk about me in Polish because I won’t understand, you’ll probably be wrong.
- I am very even-tempered, cooperative and nonviolent. This is not superficial, I’m not covering anything up, I won’t badmouth you when you’re not in the room, I don’t book an extra 10 minutes in the conference room after each of our 1:1s so I can punch a wall (although I’ll admit this is an oddly specific comment to make). This is my nature. What you see is what you get.
- While I’m Dutch, ironically I’m allergic to cow milk, so I don’t eat cheese nor any other dairy products, nor peanuts. Don’t feel bad eating something milky and (to you) delicious in front of my face, it doesn’t affect me at all.
- I don’t like puzzles, I don’t like designing algorithms. If you need help with these, look elsewhere.