I’m moving on from my current job so I wanted to capture some of the most important lessons I’ve learned during my time there. After nearly 7 years, there were a lot of lessons, so I challenged myself to narrow it down to a top 5-ish:
Always Be Kind
This is the top priority for me in any personal interaction or decision making. A key point is learning to distinguish between ‘nice’ actions and ‘kind’ ones. This was one of Pivotal’s three company values, and in contrast to most corporate slogans, something that I saw people across the company implement in day-to-day and strategic decision making. I’m glad to be moving to a new place that also values this approach.
Start small and iterate
Whether you’re delivering a product, designing an organisation, changing team practices, or refactoring a codebase, the key is to reduce risk by building incrementally and validating frequently that you’re headed in the right direction. I’ve seen what happens when you have a large monolithic plan for a piece of work, and how much better it is to build slowly with frequent check-ins and incremental value.
Experiment with tools, process, organisation, and the overall system, identifying areas to take action, and following up at regular (and short!) intervals. I try to figure out how to avoid getting stuck in a local optimum when an even better solution could be reached.
Underneath it all most problems come back to how people are feeling and interacting. How are the people in this situation doing? I remind myself frequently that I’m working with individuals, each of whom could be fighting a battle I know nothing about. I work to understand the impact of any decision on a human level.
Fix the system
When things aren’t working, take a step back and think about the surrounding system, and the circumstances that led to this situation. Focusing energy on fixing and improving the wider system can lead to bigger impacts. I find this challenging to implement, as it’s important to find the right part of the system to focus on, and the work needed is generally cross-functional and not owned by a single person or group.
Don’t use pie charts 😄
It’s definitely important to follow this rule, and to know the rare situation where this can be broken.
In nearly 7 years at Pivotal there were many other lessons big and small, but these ones stand out to me, and I wanted to record them for myself. Lots of people have shared thoughts on their time at Pivotal: Amit Gupta recently shared some product focused lessons, and Denise Yu wrote about the habits she’s seen in High-Functioning Teams.