How to Be a Leader, Shopify Style

Jul. 19th, 2016 02:28 pm
[syndicated profile] female_cs_feed

Posted by Gail Carmichael

Self-actualization, that thing at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: “what a person's full potential is and the realization of that potential.” Shopify cares deeply about growth, and aims to be a company where its people reach the self-actualization level of the pyramid. I think that’s pretty special, and it’s just one of the things that leaders need to manage during their time at Shopify.

For the last few months, I’ve been participating in what we call Lead Level Up. I’m not formally a team lead yet, though I have been in a bit of a leadership role and should become a team lead eventually. A lot of what we learned in the all-day kick-off is general enough to share, so I’m going to highlight the things that resonated with me the most. Most of what follows comes from our CEO and co-founder Tobi’s presentation that day.

An interesting fact is that Tobi and his co-founders/early employees didn’t know how to be managers. It was an entirely new skillset. Tobi admits he was not a natural manager; he found it difficult losing the tight feedback loop you get when programming. He admits he fought often with the others in the early days until they sat down and decided to respect each other by committing to being honest and improving their feedback.

Tobi ultimately believes that he was able to improve his own management skills by learning how to better give effective feedback. Everyone is bad at this at first, and there is no limit on how much better you can get. It can be really difficult to take feedback as the gift it is because your ego is so tightly wrapped in the exchange. When I was an instructor at Carleton, I learned how hard it can be to give good, honest feedback, especially if the other party (students, in my case) don’t entirely trust that you have their best interests at heart. I’m now learning to give feedback with radical candour.

A major tool that will help any manager is trust. Trust is more nuanced than a binary relationship. Trust exists between departments, and is fundamental to being highly aligned and loosely coupled (that is, fast-moving teams with high autonomy working toward common goals). When you start seeing a large amount of process being introduced, it’s usually because there is a lack of trust. Process is a prescriptive solution to a problem that isn’t terribly intuitive. It’s a bit like baby-proofing.

After trust is established, the manager’s job is to make their team better every day. If the team is not getting better, it is getting worse. Questions a manager can ask include whether they can remove any ambiguities or dependencies, have they helped someone have a breakthrough, etc. Focus on the high leverage activities that yield the greatest output for your team. Teaching, for example, is high leverage in all its forms. One-on-ones, while important, may generally not have high leverage.

Speaking of one-on-ones, how do you make them effective? Have them at least once a month. Take notes. Find your own style. Use them as a learning opportunity, and a chance to understand the other person. There will be hard situations, and they are only solvable if you have an extremely good read on all involved. Crucially, you must give good, honest feedback. And if you ever hear during a one-on-one that you have made a massive, positive contribution to someone’s life, then you know you’ve made it as a manager.

As mentioned above, managing is an entirely new skillset. Become well-rounded, focus on personal growth, read a lot (e.g. High Output Management and Thinking Fast and Slow). Become the guidance counsellor, the coach, the shrink. Help get yourself and your team to self-actualization, and you’ll do just fine.

"Of course tumblr is mad at you."

Jul. 17th, 2016 09:55 pm
[syndicated profile] adulting_feed
“Of course tumblr is mad at you.”

- My friend Cat throws out what is, upon reflection, a pretty good slogan for the site


Jul. 17th, 2016 09:37 pm
[syndicated profile] adulting_feed



n. A feminist who staunchly embodies a feminine aesthetic but thinks, acts and behaves however they see fit.

QUESTION! Is this a thing, and if not, can this be a thing? My feminism is quite feminine, and I would like this to be a thing.

No. There’s already a word for this idea: feminist.
All you’re trying to do with this is reinforce the already accepted cultural belief that feminists cannot and do not want to present as overtly feminine. This is incorrect.
Being a feminists allows you to be whatever you want to be already. The word and idea already exists. No need to bastardise it to try and separate yourself as something “other” or “more”. That is the anthesis of the feminism you already seem to identify with.

Oh! I didn’t mean to be divisive, just wondering if there’s a soft power, crone wisdom, will tell you go to fuck yourself in the most polite terms, takes exquisite and unending delight in pretty things strain of feminism. Definitely not trying to undermine anyone else’s feminism. Just talking about mine, here.

Never forget the pause.

Jul. 17th, 2016 09:09 pm
[syndicated profile] adulting_feed

A lot of times, we read/learn/hear something, and our first instinct is to react immediately.

But — and this surprises me every time I remember it, which I try to make daily — the stronger the impulse is to do something right now, the more I need to examine that.

Why does this has to happen right now? Why must I say this thing to that person in the next five minutes? Why must I take this action at this moment? What underlies the urgency I believe to be real?

So — pause. That pause may be 10 minutes; that pause may be 10 years. But trust me: unless someone is actively bleeding out in front of you, give it at least a tiny pause.


Jul. 17th, 2016 09:05 pm
[syndicated profile] adulting_feed

n. A feminist who staunchly embodies a feminine aesthetic but thinks, acts and behaves however they see fit.

QUESTION! Is this a thing, and if not, can this be a thing? My feminism is quite feminine, and I would like this to be a thing.

[syndicated profile] sumana_feed
Maja Frydrychowicz's "Untangling WebDriver and the Browser Automation Landscape I Live In" is a delightful, very satisfying read. It covers the difference between the W3C WebDriver specification and Selenium WebDriver, explains their history and future, and uses the Firefox ecology as the concrete browser example so you understand how the components fit together. Also, Frydrychowicz drops in this punchline:
and some day all browsers will implement it in a perfectly compatible way and we'll all live happily ever after.

Upon reading the post, I noted:

I look into the middle distance, more motivated, yet calmer as well. I seem to hear the opening notes of "Fanfare for the Common Man" somewhere behind me. Automated browser testing seemed overwhelming previously, something to be left to Experts who knew this strange tongue. But now I know the power is in my hands; the map gleams and names that formerly confused me now fall into place. My world makes more sense; I have better comprehension of lists like PhantomJS's list of relevant test frameworks and their corresponding test runners. What might not be possible in this fresh new light?

So, if you feel faintly alienated and unmoored when trying to understand automated browser testing, check out the post.

(I know Maja Frydrychowicz because we both participated in the Recurse Center. Want to become a better programmer? Join the Recurse Center!)

[syndicated profile] adulting_feed

Hello, lovely person that is reading this,

I hope you are well, and calm, and not afraid. But maybe, like me, you feel terrified right now. You are wondering what this world is. You are crying and then furious and then crying again. It feels like everything is falling apart, and you do not understand why.

I don’t know why.

All I know is this: I cannot fix this horrific injustice and violence by myself. Neither can you. 

But here is my humble offering of how I’ve found to stay sane and kind in a world that feels like neither.

• Be a channel of love, peace and justice. That goes for everyone you encounter. All you can do is be good. So be as good as you can be.
• If you are not a POC or LGBT or whatever wonderful group is currently (and, um, always) being fucked over and striving toward justice: just listen. Offer support when you can; research and find out where you are needed and where you will do more harm than good. Stand in quiet solidarity, behind, knowing that your voice is not the relevant one here.
• Remember your Circle of Concern versus your Circle of Action. Stay as much as you can in your Circle of Action (and there are some good action steps below).
• PAUSE. Pause before you speak, pause before you act. Take moments to be mindful: is this the best thing to say or do? What are my motives? Is this helping? Just take a beat and examine your own mind.

Then, after the pause, take action. The only way to fend over feelings of terror, or helplessness, is to be of service and do what you can do.

My darling friend Sarah at YesandYes posted this, and I love it. Please, let me know if there’s anything else.

Everything is horrible and heartbreaking and most of us don’t know what to do or where to start. Maybe some of these links will help.

This is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter.

Educate yourself on race and racism in America. This curriculum is a good place to start.

Consider joining Campaign Zero.

Find your senator, find your representative, and tell them what you think.

Support legal defense funds that help the families and victims of police violence.

Understand your right to take photos and videos of police officers and know what to say if they tell you stop filming.

Find a Black Lives Matter protest in your city and join it. Most cities have a Facebook page for their local BLM group; this is Minneapolis’s.

Donate to the families of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, contribute to the memorial fund for the five police officers shot by snipers in Dallas.

Lastly, know that it’s okay to turn away from social media and tv for a day or two if you need it, to recharge and true your wheels. We’re all heartbroken. We’re all overwhelmed. We need to be our best, smartest, strongest, most compassionate selves to fix this.

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