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Chris's README
Updated 514 Days AgoPublic

This is kind of weird, what is it?

This is kind of weird and cheesy. Why have a readme about yourself?

Personally, it's something I like to do for a couple reasons, namely:

  • I'm weird, you're weird, everyone's weird. We all have our own preferred work styles, idiosyncrasies, and ways of doing things. Documenting some of them here might help give a bit of background or context around "Why is Chris being weird about x?"
  • It clearly communicates the expectations that I hold myself and others to, and helps others keep me honest. If I'm ever not living up to, or if I'm acting in a way that goes against, something here, call me out on it, file a bug report against me, whatever. Let me know that I need to do better, because I'm probably not going to be aware of it in the moment. Likewise, if you feel that anything here is unfair or goes against company culture and values, it helps get that discussion started.

My Work Style

If I'm working in-person, I'm usually in the office from around 08:30 to 16:30, give or take. Typically my preference is to only work a half-day in office (dog dad duties call...) and I'll be in either mornings or afternoons. If I'm remote, my working hours vary a little more, but are generally about the same. I'll occasionally do a bit of work outside those hours or over the weekends. This is my choice. It is not a choice that I expect anyone else to make for themselves. If I notice that you are working evenings or weekends, I'm going to nag you about it: literally nobody, myself or otherwise, expects you to.

I might e-mail or IM you outside of normal work hours. I have zero expectation that you read or respond to these until you're back in the office. Usually these are because either (1) I'm bored or (2) I get a random idea that I don't want to forget.

The converse is not true: very few things are more important to me than being available if you need to talk to me about anything. If it's outside of working hours, text or IM me. If it's during the day, stop by my desk or put something on my calendar.

Feedback & coaching

This is a conversation that goes both ways, and I encourage any feedback you have for me. I also don't want you to wait until our next one-on-one if you have something important you want to talk to me about. Swing by my desk to chat if we're in the office; IM me if we're remote. Or put time on my calendar to discuss it. If my calendar's full, ping me and let me know. I will always make time.

Disagreement is an important piece of feedback. Ideas don't improve from agreeing with everything. If you have an opinion, share it! If you don't like my opinion, tell me.

If I am your direct manager, we will have (at least) a thirty-minute one-on-one every week. I will never cancel these. If you feel that it's not a good use of time any given week, you're always welcome to cancel or reschedule one. You are always welcome to extend them or shorten them. These are for you. These are for discussing substantive topics (not for updates on project statuses) — what's working for you; what isn't; how I can better support you; your professional goals and development.


I set my calendar's visibility to public. If you have a question about a meeting on my calendar, ask me. If one looks interesting and you want to join, let me know. I personally, and we as a company, place a high value on transparency and openness.

My expectation is that meetings include an agenda or stated purpose. If I'm attending a meeting, I'd prefer that it start on time. If I'm running a meeting, I will start it on time. If you provide any materials a reasonable amount of time prior to a meeting, I will have reviewed them and will have any questions ready when we meet. If I have not reviewed them, I will tell you.

My Principles

Put people first. Energized, happy, informed humans build the most fantastic things. The work that we are doing is fundamentally about you: if you aren't engaged in a project, or if you feel like your time and skills are not being used effecively or appreciated, or if there are any other obstacles to you being able to work well and in your preferred environment, let me know. The time you spend with us should be focused on how you can learn, grow, and develop personally and professionally.

Look for leadership everywhere. Managers do not have a monopoly on leadership, and job titles don't turn people into leaders. I will work hard to build opportunities for you to lead and expect you jump in and constantly challenge yourself. If I or others are demonstrating poor leadership, don't be afraid to speak to us about it and offer that feedback.

Embrace diversity of ideas. Diversity of ideas, backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences is critical to our team and our company's success. You bring an important voice to the table and I expect that you do not hesitate to share your thoughts, to offer criticism where due, to challenge ideas and ways of doing things, and to engage meaningfully. The most damaging thing any of us can do is to stay silent because we don't want to disagree with someone more senior, or because we are afraid our ideas might be judged. We are all working towards the same goal, and were hired specifically to add our voices to that conversation.

Bias towards action. I believe the best way to learn something is to just get started doing it. This can lead to mistakes and I'm sure can frustrate my coworkers. It is also not always the correct strategy. But given the choice between endless debate and doing, never be afraid to start before all of the is are dotted and ts are crossed.

Disagree but commit. I don't agree with every technical decision our team makes. I don't expect you to either. We should all stand up for and argue for what we believe in. But we are one team and we each need to fully commit to the work we are doing. We will debate all ideas, we will hear everyone's opinion, and we should all voice our dissent and disagreement. But once we make a decision, we need to commit fully to making it a success.

Insist on the highest standards. I have relentlessly high standards, both for myself and the rest of my team. We might not always meet these standards, and I personally fall short of them pretty often. But we should be constantly raising the bar that we hold ourselves to, so that we consistently deliver high quality products, services, and processes.

Make mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes are inevitable and painful. (See the previous point: I make a lot of them.) But without a willingness to fail and an environment where it's safe to fail, we lose our ability to invent. What matters is that we fail well, embrace and reflect on our failures, and learn from them.

Have strong opinions. Companies are slow and driving change is hard. If you aren't contributing to changing people's minds, then what's the point? I generally don't have much of a problem making pretty black-and-white arguments and positioning myself on the far extreme of issues. It's a good way to force people to clarify their own opinions and take a stance of their own, and for us all to find common ground on the crux of whatever we're discussing.

Have strong opinions, weakly held. I have my own biases and blind spots; we all do. I also don't always recognize them. My best defense against this is to open-mindedly consider the possibility that I might not be seeing my choices optimally, and that others might be seeing the problem from a better frame of reference. Operating with the sincere belief that I probably don't know the best possible path, taking in information even if it's inconsistent with what I've already concluded, and being willing to change my viewpoint in the face of a more compelling argument generally works a whole lot better than assuming I have the right answer from the get-go.

Be radically transparent. Ripping this one straight from Ray Dalio: "The more people can see what is happening --- the good, the bad, and the ugly --- the more effective they are at deciding the appropriate way of handling things." Truths aren't always fun, and don't always make us look good, but sharing the unvarnished truth is how we get better and build trust in the long run.

Think big. Thinking small creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Be ambitious, take bold direction, and think differently.

Kill your babies. Or maybe less dramatic, don't be dogmatic. Remember that you are not your code, and recognize that sometimes the best decision means sacrificing code that you have worked passionately on.

Obsess about our customer. We are a service team. We need to have a deep and intuitive understanding of our customers' needs and pains. We need to engender their trust and deliver results that materially improve their lives and user experience.

Use data ethically. We have access to an astounding amount of highly personal data and will be asked to use it in innumerable ways. Every project we undertake, and every outcome we model, should start with the question, "Is this ethical? What are possible consequences? Who could this harm?" If you're on the fence, or outright think we're applying data unethically, speak out. [Note: This is mostly specific to data science teams. But it's hard to argue against "be ethical", so I'm keeping it around]

Start with an assumption of positive intent. I've found this usually works out pretty well.

Errata & Assumptions

When I ask you to do something that is poorly-defined you should ask me to clarify the request and its importance. I might still be brainstorming.

I assume you're good at your job. If you weren't, you wouldn't be here. If it feels like I'm questioning you it's because I'm either trying to gain perspective or to act as a sounding board. If it sounds like I'm disagreeing, I'm probably just playing devil's advocate. If I actually disagree, I will tell you.

I assume I'm not very good at your job. My job is to get out of the way and let you do yours. I'll help you vet your ideas, and communicate if I disagree with you, but I will not overrule you without a really good reason.

I assume you will disagree with me and that you'll tell me when you do. I also assume you will call me out when I screw up.

I default to open. There is very little I will ever intentionally not share with you. If it feels like I'm misleading you or holding something back, bring it up with me. I'm probably not aware I'm doing it. If there is a legitimate reason for me not being able to discuss something, I will be clear about that fact.

You control your own time. Work from the office. Or from home. Or from a coffee shop halfway around the world. Finish everything you wanted to get done today? Cool, call it an early afternoon. Just straight-up need a mental health day? Take one, please. We're all professionals, we're all capable of managing our own schedule, and productivity doesn't scale linearly with hours worked past a certain point. What matters more is that you have an environment that enables you to be productive when you need to be, and that gets out of the way and lets you live your life otherwise.

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May 2 2022, 12:25 PM

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