Sunday, September 28, 2014

My first 3 weeks + 3 days of being a (remote) manager

I have never been a manager before, so I can't compare to managing an in-person team. I have worked remote off and on for a long time and I'm a fan of it. (Yes, I owe you an updated post - I have a separate room for a home office now!)

I have four direct reports. One in Seattle, one in Minnesota, two in the home office in Brooklyn. I'm often worried that I'll ask too many office favors from the two guys in the home office. Yeah, btw, they're all guys. They're delightful guys and I chose this team very deliberately. Oh yeah, I'm also the first female manager in Infrastructure, the arm of Engineering that isn't working directly on the website.

We have one status meeting on Mondays. I have a 1:1 with each of them every week. I have a 1:1 with my manager. A 1:1 with the manager of Data Engineering. An every two weeks check-in with Data Science. And on and on. These are via video chat, and I'm now actually running into problems with my ear hurting if I wear my headset this much.

ANYWAY. it's been a stressful whirlwind of trying to do all the things and not being sure if they're the right things, and worrying I'm not helping enough. So let's make a list of things that have gotten done:

1. We're having our first bootcamper(1) next week!
2. Two people have talked to me about senior rotations(2) they'd like to do in the future.
3. We are all planning to be in the Brooklyn office together in late October, when we will:
    a. Visit the Datacenter
    b. Do a Support Rotation(3) together
    c. Offsite activity together - chosen with input from the whole team
    d. Team dinner
4. Week after next, we're going to do a trial run of having a Hadoop focused Doubles Development(4) day. All 4 team members opted in to help with this.
5. We're keeping and expanding my "project" of teaching anyone who wants to enough scalding (the tool we use to write Hadoop jobs) to answer their questions. All 4 team members have opted in to learn to teach, and they've been updating the notes I send out before each session
6. We are going to a small conference and having an offsite in Austin in January.

Also I got in just in time for 2015 planning! Which is extra fun given that I walked in being a top user of the cluster, but having no real idea what the team actually does day to day, just that I need them to keep doing it. Welp, it's a great opportunity to show my team that I trust them about technical decisions.

I have also been working on:
1. Starting a community for managers that aren't in Brooklyn
2. Doing a 6 month evaluation of our mentoring program and figuring out how to make it better
3. Helping to organize a big project coming up next year.

BTW - the first two of these I chose to kick off during my first week of management. This is the worst idea I've had.

I've listed a lot of facts, but how do I feeeel about all this?

I love my team. I'm excited to figure out how to help them work on things that excite them and advance their careers. Coming into this, I thought the one thing the team most needed was more connections to the rest of the company, and so far every idea I've come up with to build these has been met with enthusiasm both in the team and outside of it. There are awkward moments where someone demands something from our team that clearly doesn't seem ridiculous to them - and I don't yet have the tact to answer nicely. Or when someone on my team wants to do something that I'm not sure is the right thing to do, or I'm sure shouldn't be a priority yet. I love getting to tell them YES, but I'm having a hard time learning to tell them No. (Partly, I have far less reason to practice my "No"s!)


(1) Bootcamp is an Etsy tradition where new hires rotate among other teams for their first several weeks. A bootcamp can last a week or two, depending on the project the bootcamper is attempting. The goal is mostly for the bootcamper to get to know the people on the team and a bit about what they do, not to accomplish something. But word is that it's a more satisfying experience if they do get to do SOMETHING that doesn't feel like busywork, even if it's small.
(2) Senior Rotations are possibly a dead attempt at a new Etsy tradition, wherein each individual contributor rotates to another team to spend about a month doing a substantial project. Originally, it was pitched as taking place in the month of your Etsyversary, to combat bus syndrome, but now it's a lot more flexible.
(3) Support Rotations are an Etsy tradition where everyone in the company does two hours of support once a quarter (ish.)
(4) Double Development is an opt-in program where you periodically pair with some other programmer (and non-programmers can opt in as well!) and work on a ticket, usually one chosen by Product Quality. We're starting to experiment with working on specific skills - there's been successful trials of pairing the mobile app trainers with people who want to learn more about mobile dev.