Manual of me

I’m working with computers and humans for long time. That has shaped a lot of my opinions and habits. In order to get the best experience of working with me, here’s a handy manual:

Working hours

I’m neither a classical night owl, nor an early bird. That means that I keep pretty normal hours. I also do believe in a healthy work-life balance, so I do my very best to stick to the normal weekly working hours. As a result, you can depend on me being around at 9:00 AM and should not schedule any substantial meeting later than starting 5:00 PM in the evening, as I’ll be aiming to clock out at 6:00 PM.

You will probably still occasionally find me going through email or chat notifications in the middle of the night or the weekend, but please do not count on this (unless there are pre-agreed circumstances and emergency protocols).

Knowledge and skills

Most people have one area of expertise where they have incredibly deep knowledge. My depth is width.

That means that I know more than the average layperson about nearly any given topic I come across professionally, but I am also aware that there are most likely a lot of people out there who know much more about it than me. If you have a problem outside of your area of expertise, chances are that I know at the very least the most useful search term or person that helps you with the next step.

My depth is width. Make use of that.

Managing and Delegating

Knowing that there are more senior experts on most topics in the organisation leads me to be pretty hands-off when it comes to the How and What (Solution) you are doing when I am managing you.

I tend to mostly think and communicate about the Why, When, and What (Problem), because it is my belief that these are the things you will need most to do your best. Answering the Why, When & What (Problem) questions give you all the ressources and constraints you need to define your problem space and find the best approach. Me, as a Product Person telling you as a Designer How to draw a picture would be pretty silly. And I won’t tell an engineer which kind of motor best serves the stated purpose.

If you manage me, I expect you to do me the same courtesy.

When I delegate a task, I will always strive to include a proper definition of done, a timeline, and a useful set of constraints. (See my writing about Nerdsniping)

Communication

I try to put an emphasis on asynchronous communication. That means that you will receive a lot more chat messages, tickets and comments, emails, and text messages than live phone calls or desk visits from me.

Asynchronous etiquette

With those, I stick to the „No Hello“ rule, getting to the point as quickly as possible in a fire-and-forget way. My expectation there is that even though you haven’t acknowledged receiving the communication immediately, you will still get it and give me a useful feedback as soon as possible and convenient.

As I’ll do the same in return when you send me such messages, here are some examples of what you can expect as answer:

  • a simple emoji indicating yes, no, on it, love the idea or similar. It should be pretty readable in context and also indicates that I’m probably in some situation where I cannot write anything more.
  • a direct answer to your query
  • a follow-up question
  • a request to send me the inquiry over a certain more documented channel (for example as a ticket or an email)
  • a deadline as to when I will actually get you the answer or complete the task.

Reaction times

If there is no deadline mentioned in the initial request, I will assume it is not urgent. If I didn’t mention one in a request by me, it is certainly not urgent.

Notification etiquette

I manage my notification settings in a way that reflects my availability and mental state. If I need to concentrate, most things that could go beep at me will be switched off. That means that your chat message might sit unnoticed for quite a while.

Or it might got noticed, but paused with a „remind me in 20 minutes“ marker, or similar. I have set up numerous filters that surface things that could be urgent, or silence things that have no impact on my current work.

It is my expectation, that everyone does something similar, so which sets my own expectations of reaction time. For more on that, read my text on Spam everyone and use your filters!

Emails

We will probably exchange a lot of emails. My aim will always be to

  • meaningfully populate the „to“ and „cc“ fields. If you find yourself in the „cc“ field, I only want you to know about the content of the email, but have no expection to act in any way on the email.
  • set meaningful subject lines. I will change the subject line, if the email conversation drifts to a different topic. I will split up a single subject into different new subjects, if there are several conversations at the same time.
  • answer within 24 hours of receiving the email, at the very least in order to acknowledge receipt and tell you when I’ll get around to actually answering any questions inside.

Synchronous etiquette

I will do my very best to never call you out of the blue. At the very least, you will get an asynchronous message asking if you have a specified amount of time to talk about topic x. That ensures two things:

  • you actually have the time and do not have to sacrifice context switching effort at the wrong moment
  • you have a topic at hand to ease any potential anxiety and to judge whether the time you have and the time needed for the topic match.

There are of course exceptions and emergency situations where we simply have to talk to each other right now, but those should be the exceptions.

Also, this does obviously not apply to watercooler talk in the company kitchen :).

Meetings

Meetings where a group of people discuss a problem or topic should always be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance. They have an agenda that states the purpose and shape of expected outcome. („we need to decide on a roadmap. After this meeting, we should have one“)

My instinct is always to keep the number of participants as low as possible. This is to keep the meetings productive, and to not waste anyones time. Please do not feel slighted for not being included. If you feel I erred, let me know why you want to join. If in any way possible, I will add you regardless of the reason you give me. The reason is jus tthere to ensure you’re properly included and have a voice. At the end, everyone in the meeting should have had an equal amount of time to speak.

Meetings facilitated by me won’t overrun their booked timeslots and will have time for a biobreak after at most 45 minutes.

Tools

I love tools and will always be curious to try out new ones. That can became a source of procrastination, but overall, the gains outweigh the costs so far.

Mainly, I stick to text-based things. Markdown editors, email, chats. Tools that help me manage notifications and set filters are always the first things I check out and set up. Things that automate tasks are high on my list too.

I love talking about my findings and help you set things on your end, if my time allows.

Damokra and memes

I’m a huge nerd. My hobbies include 3D printing, pen and paper roleplaying games (reading, playing & writing them), shooting foam darts at people who pretend they’re zombies and other stuff.

That also means that I will very often insert memes and pop culture references into conversations. You can rely on me adjusting the amount to the audience (it might even reach 0), but the preferred mode is OVER 9000!

Doge with pixellated sunglasses. Caption reads "DEAL WITH IT"

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