S02E20: Baby steps

Starting to feel more comfortable in myself, whoever that is

Overarching feeling of the week: pushing at the boundary of how much I can take on and feeing grateful that I’m at the point in my life where I can identify it

Themes of the week

1My job is weird. It consists of trying to think of every way something could go wrong, writing those down, and then finding a solution that will not go wrong in any of those ways.⁰ I explained that badly. Look, I really enjoy what I do, and every week that goes by reinforces my feeling that I made the right choice. I got some really good feedback about a feature I’m building, and the process itself is really great. I put headphones and get completely into the groove by turning everything else off. I feel like I’m making an axle: almost everyone who uses the whole product won’t notice, but if one day someone who knows about this stuff takes a look they’ll let out a low whistle and say, “Dang, that’s a nice axle”¹

The fact that I can re-apply that learning in new ways, like sharing knowledge with a friend’s mentee or helping my sister automate some of the less valuable bits of her job, is just the icing on the cake. I’m doing cool work for my team’s objective and my corporate objective, and although I can’t talk much yet about the latter I may be hitting some of you up on the down low to ask questions about money. I’m lucky, and I worked hard, and I’m grateful. I think these things can all be true at the same time.

2Feedback. I’ve been guilty of asking for feedback badly and giving feedback badly. I’m trying to be better at that. A few conversations I’ve had recently as well as things I’ve read are pushing my to understand how to do this better. Breakfast with a colleague brought up one point: how do you give feedback to someone who sees “mean” where you see “honest (if blunt)”? And then these posters flew past (and identified for me by Zuz, so thank you Zuz):

So I’m going to redo my feedback questionnaire when I get in on Monday to better reflect these suggestions, and make sure my future feedback is like this.

3Feeling the edge of my possibilities. Some of this is from my current low mental health, but I suspect some of it is also that my job now commands a lot of my energy. In either case, I’ve found myself turning down requests from other people, and that’s felt good for the first time ever. Every time I’ve turned people down before I’ve felt guilty for 24 hours and rung them up in a blind panic asking them to take me back.² I don’t know what happened, but I really hope this confidence stays.

Just say no (to more projects)

I am still taking on way too many self-directed projects, because I’m desperately trying to fill my evenings in less expensive ways as I save up for a flat. I’ve got too many on the go at the moment. I’ve noticed this solely because I’ve started recording things I’m doing and the time I’m spending on them, inspired by Dan’s meetings data. It’s valuable, and I’ve settled on the same heuristic as him — more than 40% of my day in meetings completely wipes me out. This is generally correlated with getting takeout. Fewer meetings → slimmer me, so let’s make this happen.

4All the good people helping with my corporate objective. Dan poking me to be a bit more OneTeamGov in my corporate objective. Morgan challenging loads of my assumptions. My line manager reminding me to look at the bigger (bigger) picture and consider whether I was over-invested. The little team of people coalescing around it and offering support. Someone raising an issue on the code repository because the prototype wasn’t working for them and then making a pull request to fix it.³ This objective is so exciting because it’s only 50% about code. The other half is the human-centric stakeholder management like getting people to buy into your story. I’ve got to find evidence and then build a compelling narrative out of it. It’s (probably) not going to make me a better technical developer, but it’s going to make me a better leader, and I’m excited and forking grateful to everyone engaged in it.

5This tweet kicked off some amazing answers…

…and I was reminded again that I love twitter. Here’s a few threads that I really, really enjoyed.

There’s a job that boils down to “try to break into a building”, and here’s a really bloody cool story from someone who does it:


The Millenium Dome — I visited it it when I was 10. Let’s not think about how long ago that was and instead enjoy this fascinating thread all about it:

⁰ It’s a really interesting job, and we’re looking for more people to come and do the job too. If you’d like to be a developer, now is a very good time. We’re running a pilot scheme for people at lower grades to make the jump and we’re hiring developers, senior developers, and a bunch of other roles. Plus my organisation is full of cool people like the team with a Goblet of Wisdom that tweets every morning:

¹ I literally googled ‘important car parts’ for this metaphor, I have zero clue what an axle is or does.

² Yes, this is absolutely tied to last week’s revelation that I desperately need people to like me.

³ A pull request is when someone copies your codebase, makes a change, and then asks if you’d like to incorporate their changes into the core codebase. It’s immensely helpful because it spreads the work around and, in this case, meant I didn’t have to trudge around trying to find a Windows machine with the right permissions to replicate the error.

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