As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I started to log what I’ve learned at work on a daily basis. At the end of each workday, I use a KeyboardMaestro macro to generate the following template so that I’d fill in the blanks:
#personal-learning ## What work-only skills/knowledge/lessons did I learn today? ## What transferable skills/knowledge/lessons did I learn today? ## What soft skills did I learn today?
As I’ve also pointed out in that post, every item that falls into the soft skills question is interesting enough to talk about. Truth to be told, I was not quite able to definitely learn something each day. Other than realizations on how to deal with some situation better, I sometimes was only able to describe the situation and don’t know what to do, needless to say to have something learned. Nonetheless, I believe these are good stories to write down, so as to review and contemplate them holistically later.
Communicating with anger removed can get help quicker
There is this Team Z in our organization whose internal Product Y is one of our team’s major dependencies. Product Y has lots of limitations, surrealistic assumptions and quirky behaviors, and it has little documentation whatsoever—nearly everything is based on their team’s engineers’ word-of-mouth, and their engineers aren’t the happiest or friendliest people in the world. What’s worse, Team Z chooses to ignore all those, and focuses on what they think are important, and repeatedly ignore my team’s requests. Needless to say I accumulated lots of negative opinions towards Team Z, but I had to live on.
Now this time again, Team Z unilaterally cut off a feature that my team has been using for over 1.5 years, and did not tell us. The reason they cut if off wasn’t even because of my team’s misuse, but a third team’s. In our communication with Team Z, their engineer said those typical nonsense one more time: “We had to cut this feature off because our system doesn’t scale that well. But we are busy with something else, let’s discuss this after 6/30”.
This time I was also extremely angry, but I adopted another strategy, and pulled in some office politics. I replied to them that our use case has been long established, if this feature is cut off then we have to work around it with other features in your system that are not designed to be used in such workarounds, and that your unilateral behavior is the worst example of our company culture.
I said so in the most neutral way I could without sounding angry—even though I was—and their manager quickly joined the conversation and initiated a meeting with my team to move forward.
Lessons learned: communication with anger as spice doesn’t taste good. Just focus on the facts and state what you need.
HiPPO rules every other thing
This is another cliche story that our work priority was disturbed by “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HiPPO)”. For the month that follows, I will be working on a side Project X which essentially should have been completed in last year. Should Project X have been finished last year, we wouldn’t end up with a bigger catastrophe in March this year, and everybody would be happy. Even after the March event, the Project X’s priority still wasn’t paid much attention, and until very recently we got a new skip-level manager, who insisted we do it first. To the bright side, Project X is finally getting done, and that’s good. Hippos are sometimes lovely.
Taking notes for a meeting that I am not a main participant helps focus and learning
Today I participated a meeting that aimed at learning our team’s products and how they can be used by this other team. It was soon discovered that the product that I am mainly working on doesn’t enter the picture, but another one does. Nonetheless, I continued in the meeting and took notes while others are discussing. It turned out to be a great learning experience on what our customers want and what (other products of) our team can provide.
Be patient when helping others
In working towards Project X (see above HiPPO section), my manager emphasizes it so much that he assigns another coworker to help me on it, so that we can finished it as quickly as possible. It took me a lot of time to help my colleague out and confirm on the fine details here and there. I wasn’t able to accomplish much on my part of the project today, and at one instant, I was even a little bit impatient. Thanks to the fact that we were working remote, so probably that share of impatience was unnoticed, or was it?
Anyway, I think this is bad of me to practice so. I should pay more attention and be more patient and helpful. Thinking of when I just got started, and even till today, whenever I ask questions to my teammates they are all very patient and give me tremendous help, and I highly appreciate that.
Lower expectations from others and move on
Now back to the story of Team Z. So their managers agreed to have a meeting with us, and we had it today. The meeting was organized by Team Z’s manager and the focus was to learn my team’s use cases. These are fine.
But the meeting wasn’t going far from there. We’d want to know short and long term solutions to satisfy our use cases, and only thing their manager mentioned was to have a follow-up meeting in 1 to 2 weeks time. That meeting invite wasn’t sent out immediately (nor today), so I am not exactly sure if that will happen if we don’t push them.
Anyway, I’ve learned today not to put too much hope that things can happen perfectly. Set a reminder in two weeks time and ask them about it then, and just move on.