Personal README

Updated May 30, 2023

(This document is mostly about my work at Zanbato building a web app to trade stock in private companies. However, it probably has interesting extensions into my worldview otherwise)

Humans are messy and hard to deal with. We also have steep learning curves and poor onboarding experiences. In this document, I want to make it a little easier if you unfortunately have to work with me. Hopefully it will help you make me more helpful to you. Although I wrote this document for my professional life as a Software Engineering Manager, it generally reflects my attitude towards life and may be useful in other spheres as well.

I love all written documentation, but I particularly appreciate meeting notes. Meetings should have an agenda, an assigned notetaker, and action items at the end. Afterwards, meeting notes should get shared. I’m happy to go off-agenda to talk about important topics, but this structure ensures that we accomplish something.

I believe in hiring good people and letting them do their thing with my complete support. As such, if you ask me make a decision, I often will defer back to you. Although I’m comfortable owning decisions, you probably know more than me about the task at hand. I will offer my opinion and context but will support your decision. I didn’t have many mentors and primarily learned through doing and failing, so I’m okay with non-catastrophic failure.

My teaching style has been (generously) described as “socratic”. Along those lines, I probably tend towards having a light touch. Usually, I think people produce the best work in the long term when given latitude to figure things out on their own. I try to be cautious with unsolicited advice. However, feel free to plainly ask me to opine.

I am a stickler for systems and processes. I forget things, so I use todo apps to track everything in my personal and professional life. I develop habits, routines, and written procedures for even straightforward tasks. I believe in keeping things orderly, whether they are physical (my desk), mental (meditation), or virtual (my inbox). However, systems are created for people, so they only work if they are useful. I constantly tweak and improve because no system is perfect in all cases, and the world is always changing.

My philosophy towards mentoring (and managing) is that I work for you. I can’t tell you what your goals are, but I will try to help you to get there. I am a big believer in having goals and a plan. We shouldn’t feel trapped by our goals, but life is more meaningful having thought hard to create a purpose.

Of course, I am not solely accountable to the people I manage: I also am accountable to other stakeholders, leadership, and the company as a whole. Whenever possible, I hope to align individual goals with company goals. If that’s not possible, we have something to talk about.

I expect everyone to always know what they are doing and why on both a short-term (daily) and long-term (years?) scale. We do daily standups not only to coordinate with others but also to organize and concretely state what we have already and want to accomplish. If you don’t know what you’re doing or why you’re doing it, I’m always happy to discuss: we need those reality checks, and it helps us find blind spots and motivate new projects.

I talk a lot. I overshare about my personal life, ask a lot of questions, work through problems aloud, and laugh often. I love meeting and getting to know new people. I will fill any awkward silences. I try to be hard to offend and open, so please be candid and speak your mind.

I wear many different hats in my current role, so please don’t be afraid to poke me to chat at any time, especially if you think we might disagree on something. Don’t be afraid to nag me because it’s probably my fault for forgetting or not setting clear expectations about when I would do something. I am used to context-switching, and I don’t believe in stupid questions. Most problems are caused by poor communication, so it’s never too soon to have a discussion. As a backstop, I have regular 1:1 meetings with everyone so we never get too far out of touch.

On the flip side, let me know if I’m bugging you when you need to focus and stay in the flow of your work. I’m happy to queue conversation topics for when it works best for you.

I believe that I don’t nonverbally express myself as a very empathetic person. I don’t cry very often, and even when you’re having a tough time, I will probably appear to be more impassive than caring. If it’s affecting you, I do care: just try to believe my words more than my expression.

I try not to work nights and weekends but will do it if stuff needs to get done. I don’t mind doing it, but I think it sets a bad example for others. I usually don’t check my email but will respond to texts and phone calls.

My only full-time work experience is as a co-founder at Zanbato, so I really don’t know how other organizations work. I have many blindspots and am always open to ideas about how to do things differently. The best thing I can do is learn, so I try not to get too prickly when I receive feedback and genuinely value the opportunity to improve.

I try to be a good example for what I preach and believe in getting in the trenches. I believe that I shouldn’t ask someone else to do what I wouldn’t be willing to do myself (if I’m able). A culture is what we all create together, and it would be disingenuous for me to behave any differently. Of course, call me out if you don’t think I’m abiding by that.

I bias towards action. I’m happy to iterate and learn the hard way. It’s kind of fun and exciting to roll the dice and see what happens.

I am not very visual, so I don’t draw well and have no sense of visual taste. This is problematic because most people are better at processing visual things. By default, I avoid drawing pictures and offering opinions on visuals, but you can prod me if it will help.

I enjoy levity in all parts of my life. If I make a joke in the middle of a serious discussion, I’m still taking it seriously: that’s just me. I also try to incorporate delight into everyday things.

Finally, this document is a work-in-progress! I strongly believe that “you will never know less than you do right now” and hope that this document reflects continued improvement on my part. I also will likely refactor it many, many times.