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e733e11 May 16, 2018
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@angryweasel @gholt-aws
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Working for Me @alan

This is the owner's manual of sorts, or a "manager readme" for anyone who works directly for me. Honestly, you'd figure all of this out within your first month, but since there's so much other stuff being fired at you from all directions when you start at Unity (believe me, I remember my own experience), I hope this provides some necessary insight and overview.

The Team

I manage individual contributors (ICs) in Seattle, Montreal, Austin, and Odessa, and have leads in Helsinki, San Francisco (indirectly), and Copenhagen. You'll eventually get to know all of those people, but start by getting to know the team members in your home office.

1 on 1 Meetings

You should schedule a weekly, 30 minute conversation with me - I prefer that you schedule the meeting, as you can pick a time that works for your time zone, and so you can avoid interrupting other meetings or work.

Your daily work will come largely from the feature team you work with - so our chats will be less about status of your work, and more about how the work is going, how I can be a sounding board for your ideas, and if there's anything I can do to guide you, coach you, or do anything else that will help you become a better test and quality expert for your team. A bit more on this is in the How I Manage section below.

If I'm traveling, I will plan to have our 1o1 during our scheduled time, but on some occasions I may need to cancel if schedule and timezone oddities make our regular time impossible. Even if we need to cancel, I can always make time for a slack conversation or video f2f at some overlapping time. As a manager, I am here to serve you and your needs. A big and important part of my job is helping you to be successful, so use me for that as much as you want.

Your Role as a Leader

Improving the quality culture in an organization like ours requires leadership. As testing and quality experts you will need to influence the team to change, improve, or add processes and tools to our systems. At times, you may need to change the mindset or beliefs of your team as you help them improve the way they approach making quality software.

I am committed to helping you become better leaders, and we’ll talk about leadership and influence frequently during our 1o1s. I expect you to let me know your own leadership challenges, and I will do everything I can to help you succeed as you address those challenges. While I could use my position to add “weight” to your influence, I will step in only on very rare occasions. I am here for advice and ideas to help you as needed, but I have complete trust in you to lead your team from a quality point of view.

How I manage

I read a lot about management and leadership. Just like when I started reading testing books, I found that some had good ideas, some were awful, and some were in between. Eventually, I was able to discern good from bad from irrelevant; and more importantly, begin to form my own opinions. I'm not sure if the books guided me, or if I just had more acceptance for the books that aligned with my values and experiences. Nevertheless, my management and leadership philosophy cannot be explained without a few references to existing ideas.

In short, the following 3 points sum up a large part of my management approach.

1. Our relationship is an alliance

Your relationship with me as a manager is a mutually beneficial deal for both of us. Our goal is to add value to each other, and we will help each other be successful. I will help you grow in your career and help you become more valuable to Unity while you make Unity successful. Our alliance may take on several forms, and we should be clear with each other on how we help each other's success.

For more on an alliance as a manager/employee relationship, check out http://www.theallianceframework.com/ - Reid Hoffman from linkedin created the framework, and I've found a lot of value in using this as a framework to describe how I work with people in my organization.

2. Balance independence and coaching

Regardless of whether you work 10 feet from me or 10,000 kilometers, your success relies on your independence and autonomy. My role as a manager is to provide a framework you can work in (e.g. help define your role and mission), and then get out of your way. Unity employees are capable of working with others and figuring things out - I'm here for guidance, coaching, and to help otherwise as needed. If you have questions - or need advice - or just someone to bounce an idea off of, I'm always available. I will also step in and apply additional guidance from time to time. It doesn't mean you've made a mistake or you're doing something wrong - it just means that I spotted an opportunity where I think I can help you. The One Minute Manager (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_One_Minute_Manager) also covers a lot of this philosophy.

3. Improvement is a Priority

I use two different frameworks to think about employee growth. The first is from Max Landsberg - but I first read about it in Michael Lopp's fantastic book, Managing Humans (http://managinghumans.com/). It's a quadrant of skill and will. You may spend time in each of the parts of the quadrant from time to time, but my role as a manager / coach is to guide you towards high skill, high will work as much as possible. This is where you provide the most value to Unity, and where your strengths and skills grow the fastest.

skill and will

The other model I use is highly related. It's my own, so the name is in flux. For now, I'm calling it the ACM framework (Ambitious, Comfortable, Mundane). The idea is that if you look at the work you do over a week / sprint, some of that work is new, challenging, or ambitious, a big chunk of work is stuff that you're just really good at (comfortable work), and you may end up with some work that you're overqualified for, or is boring, but that just needs to get done (mundane).

We should work together to make sure you have enough ambitious work that you are challenged and growing, if you're not learning something new every week, that's something we should work on together. We also want to minimize your mundane work. Often, your mundane work may be someone else's ambitious work.

An exercise with this model is to simply list the work you do in a sprint (or in a 1-2 week period), and then classify it into the three categories. The list should have a balance of enough Ambitious work that you're not overwhelmed, and little or no Mundane work - with Comfortable work to fill the gap. If the balance is off, we should discuss, as there's likely a way to find balance by shifting work around, discovering new work, or stopping work on some items entirely.