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Working with Robin

Why this document?

If you are reading this, I guess we're colleagues - yay for that! :) I was inspired by this article about manager READMEs and thought it could be helpful if everybody had a README, so here's mine. I hope you write one too and share it with me. :) Writing (and maintaining) this document helps me refine my thoughts and values and I hope it will help you get to know me better, resulting in us having a more positive and productive working relationship.

Feedback

My first degree was in mechanical engineering and since we first covered feedback loops with amplification and damping I see this in everything from car suspensions to human interactions. Just like a car suspension, it requires the exact proportions of feedback and damping to ensure that we stay (and if moved, quickly return to) the right spot - emotionally, ethically and factually. I want you to give me (constructive) feedback when you think I could have done something better. Just because you give me feedback or make a suggestion does not mean I will change. But I will listen to and take your suggestions seriously. Disagreement is feedback and the sooner we learn how to efficiently disagree with each other, the sooner we’ll trust and respect each other more. Ideas don’t get better with agreement.

It is important to me that humans are treated fairly

I believe that most humans are trying to to do the right thing, but unconscious bias leads them astray. I work hard to understand and address my biases because I understand their ability to create inequity.

Work and play

I want to be emotionally involved in my work - if I become bored I will be leaving the job soon. My family and hobbies are very important to me too. I clock in/out of work using a timing app to ensure that I work enough and not too much - I have found that if I keep regular hours and balance my work time well with family and hobby time between I do not burn out and am very rarely sick. Subsequently, I do not like it when work does not respect my need for down-time. I can burn the candle on both ends for a few days, but will refuse to continue doing it to the detriment of my health. I often think about and sometimes do work during my down-time, but this is my choice. If I write to you on a Saturday evening, I don't expect you to respond, and likewise I hope you don't expect me to respond (even if I sometimes do).

Family facts

I live near Munich in Bavaria (South of Germany about 100km from the Alps) in a house in a village with my wife and three young children. We like to travel, especially road trips with a tent somewhere with nice hiking. Our last trip was 4 weeks in the USA South West.

Origins

I hold an Irish, German and British passport - I was born in Ireland to a German mother and British father. I grew up in a cottage in the middle of nowhere in the North West of Ireland.

Hobby facts

I'm into wood working (ask me what the most recent tool was I got, or the next one is I'm saving up for), electronics (home automation, sensors, IoTs), RC model flying, gardening and outdoor sports. Nowadays sports have to be easy on my knees... they're not so fit any more... :( My list of hobbies changes every year and have a ton of hobbies I was once into and I find it difficult to let go of the paraphernalia... you never know, I might get into diving or fire breathing again one day! If you see that the last-modified date for this document is >12 months old, this list is probably out of date.

Ethics

I usually have a strong opinion on what is right and what is wrong, but that opinion can be changed given persuasive evidence.

Meetings

Someone should create minutes of the meeting - if you don't I probably will. This is important to me because of bad memory (see below) but also because writing notes helps focus the meeting on what is important: if there is nothing worth writing down, there is probably not much substance to the discussion. If 8 people are in a meeting for an hour, that's a full person work day consumed... I am very sad if the product of this meeting was not worth a full day of work. We don't need to take notes if we're having a social chat for fun. :)

Memory

I think many people rely on their memory too much - memory is fickle and fragile. If you ask me about something I said last week, I may not be able to recall it and will rather trust my notes than my memory. If I have worked intimately with you for a year, and stumble trying to recall your name when introducing you to someone, please don't take it personally... even though I practice, names and birthdays remain very difficult for me; I am not confident of recalling the birth dates and middle names of my own children without looking them up in my address book. Strangely I am very good at remembering events, activities, maps, trivia and technical documentation...

Video chat

To connect remotely I find good audio and video really important. If I can't hear you clearly (laptop microphone) or see you (video off, silhouetted in front of a window, etc.), I find it much more difficult to connect. Please use a headset and turn on your video when we're having a chat.

Punctuality and appointments

I am painfully punctual. If I'm more 2 minutes late for a meeting, then something has gone wrong - please try to contact me and remind me that I am late. I know that being punctual is difficult for many people, so I have understanding for up to five minutes, but after that I find it disrespectful. My calendar is generally well maintained, so if you want to talk just find a free slot and add an entry but please leave at least 15 minutes buffer between meetings.

Team first

Customers come first... but just a bit before that comes the team. If we stick up for, help and look out for each other then we will be the best that we can be, and a natural result of that will be the best customer experience possible. Honesty has precedence- I will not lie to customers just to be behind the team.

Over-engineering

I tend to over-engineer solutions. If you notice I'm getting consumed by details that are not relevant yet, please give me a reality check.

Authority

I think authority and a chain of command can be very useful for efficient operations and it is not always possible to make environments where everybody agrees with the decisions made. But... it is very important to me to be able to question authority in a respectful manner and have my concerns heard and responded to. I can agree to disagree and do the work necessary if a higher authority has made a decision I do not agree with as long as the decision is not morally corrupt.

Transparency

I wish there was more transparency in the world. In all systems I will be looking for ways to (safely) allow access to more data by more people. I believe the best decisions are made by well informed people, and so there is always value in making data accessible, even if the benefits are not immediately visible. Data should not only be accessible (i.e. I can technically get it), but understandable (presented / stored in a manner that it is useful).

Context switching

Context switching is hard for everyone. Especially me... I distract myself easily. In our work it is difficult/impossible to avoid context switching altogether, but every reduction is a bonus. A pet-peeve of mine is when people send me a direct (Slack/WhatsApp/...) message saying just "Hello Robin" (usually followed a minute later by the actual question/statement) - it is unnecessarily grabbing my attention without any useful communication and wastes my time then watching the screen waiting for the next messsage to come.

Miscellaneous

Wasting time is a trigger for me.

Belief looses to facts every time.

Books, videos and podcasts

Books, videos and podcasts on work related topics which I recommend:

Finally

This document is a living breathing thing and likely incomplete. I will update it frequently and would appreciate your feedback if you notice something about me or the way I am which you think should be included here.