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Introduction To Lewis

This is an introduction to myself, in hopes to set expectation and manage any initial questions and concerns. While writing such a lengthy document exclusively about myself is a little awkward, for the sake of my audience, I feel that I must trudge on [1].

About Me

Past Experience

Before moving into management, I worked as a software developer for 12 years, working almost exclusively with Python [2]. In that time I did web development, industrial automation, distributed computing, and quality engineering. I’ve attended three PyCons and had the privilege to speak at one [3]. I have a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Masters of Divinity in Theology, so going into programming was a logical progression.

Situational Leadership

I believe in situational leadership, both in terms of adapting to the situations before us and, more specifically, to the situational leadership theory developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey. While the theory identifies 4 primary leadership styles, and encourages using all 4 as needed, I tend to default to the “Supporting” style, which means I tend to be highly supportive but not very directive. I am more likely to engage in discussion about what needs to be done, but encourage you to decide. I do try to be aware of the situation, but if you find that my leadership style doesn’t provide you the support or direction you need, please let me know so that we can get correctly aligned instead of you feeling frustrated. Also, if you have questions about the situational leadership theory and the four styles, I’d love to talk to you about them.

Strengths

I love the Gallup StrengthsFinder and find it a great way to understand our unique talents and how we differ and how we can leverage our diversity of strengths to make a better team. To that end, I share with you my Top 10 Strengths:

  1. Woo
  2. Communication
  3. Ideation
  4. Relator
  5. Strategic
  6. Belief
  7. Responsibility
  8. Adaptability
  9. Activator
  10. Arranger

For me, I tend to see my strengths in distinct groupings that work together to shape who I am, for good or ill.

My combination of Ideation + Strategic + Activator + Arranger results in a lot dreaming, planning, and throwing things against the wall and seeing if it sticks. I rarely see the minutia but certainly can see the big picture and where we should go. I’m rarely short on plans and dreams and ideas on things we could try to make our team or product better. However, the flip side to these strengths is that I dream but don’t do. I end up with a lot of ideas that either never get started or never get finished.

My Woo + Communication + Relator + Adaptability combines to make me the outgoing, gregarious, talkative person that I am. I will gladly bend your ear and I want to find the middle ground that keeps everyone happy. This combination has helped me to build key relationships and influence decisions from across the team to across the company. However, this combination can be quite overwhelming to introverts and those just less inclined to verbal communication. It can also cause me to be a bit overly diplomatic to the point of seeming indecisive.

My Belief and Responsiblity make me passionate about what I do and fully committed to the cause at hand and am passionate about doing the right thing (even if I don’t see the details through). That passion and responsibility extends to my team and what I am willing to do to help everyone success. The downside is that I can become obsessive about doing what I believe is right, struggle to say “no” and overextends myself.

Areas of Improvement

I know this is a shocker, but I am not a perfect human or manager. I’ll give you a minute to recover from this revelation.

In the vein of being open and honest, I want to share with you some areas of improvement that I have received and to let you know that these are areas that may impact you as well:

  • “I have noticed that Lewis can get bogged down when he’s working on tasks that are not necessarily engaging.”
  • “He does struggle a bit when transitioning roles or large tasks”
  • “Sometimes it can be hard to get a word in edgewise with Lewis in a meeting”
  • “Lewis occasionally will seem disconnected in meetings”
  • “His need to protect his team can sometimes make him overly sensitive to perceived slights.”
  • “He needs to understand when the situation calls for a more serious tone and resist the urge to always crack jokes.”

I recognize each of these areas of improvement and am continually working to grow and mature. I know that each of you have areas of improvement as well and believe, that together, we can work on our areas of improvement to become better people and employees.

Lewis Core Values

Communication

I’m big on communication. I think it is important that we be in communication with one another, as a team, and to the teams we support. I think explicit is better than implicit. Communication done right has the power to unite people and alleviate differences. Communication is the bridge that connects information with excellence. It is through strong communication that we turn facts and figures into stories, strategies, and shared visions. Communication is what brings us together.

Relationship

I’m a people person. I want to get to know you. I never want you to feel pressured to share more than you are comfortable with, but also know that I am here to listen. I believe that we are able to make it through the hard times because of the time we spend building a relationship before those times ever come. Relationship is also the means by which I, as a leader, get to know you and learn how to adapt my leadership style to best suite your own style and needs.

Collaboration

I never want our relationship to be one way. I value the input of everyone who reports to me and encourage healthy dialog and discussion. It’s OK to disagree; I recognize that many of us are passionate about doing the best that we can. Just keep the disagreement focused on the problem at hand and don’t make it personal. My mantra is that it’s OK to disagree, but afterwards, we need to be comfortable enough to go get a non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverage (I don’t want to leave anyone out of getting a beverage).

Development Philosophies

Having spent as much time as a developer as I have, I tend to have opinions on what development success looks like and how we should work together in terms of development.

Fail Fast

I encourage developers to try things on their own, but I also ask that you fail fast. Both myself and your teammates might have more experience or a different idea and I would rather us all work together than have you spin your wheels for an extended time.

New / Old Balance

I’m always open to trying new libraries, new technologies, new methodologies, but part of our job is to strike a balance between improving through new and adding additional cost in terms of upkeep and additional maintenance and knowledge diversity. Before you go too far down the road on trying something new, let’s have a discussion. Who knows; maybe you found the Next Big Thing (TM).

Constant Growth

As a developer, I encourage you to constantly grow. I find value in setting goals throughout the year that not only move our product or team forward but also yourself. Avail yourself to whatever education and training resources we have at our disposal.

Architecture / Design

When I was a developer, I was an opinionated developer. Having spent as long as I did as a developer, I have morphed into an opinionated manager as well. I have worked on a number of projects and helped to shape and design them and so I will most likely do the same with our projects.

In addition, if you need help, please don’t hesitate to ask. If it is something I have experience with, I’ll glad to assist. If its not, I probably either know someone who may or can point you in the right direction. I never want you to feel like I am meddling or micromanaging, but I do hope you find me a collaborative partner.

My Commitments to You

Open and Honest

I personally believe that each one of my core values hinge on us having an open and honest relationship. I will be open with you about your successes and areas of improvement. I will be honest about what we face together, even if that means that the times before us are going to be hard or challenging (sometimes through no fault of our own). I do not find value in hoarding information and so try to strike a fair balance between providing needed information and keeping private what should be private.

Building Your Brand

Personal brands should be important to everyone. It is the secret sauce that can make you stand out in a community. If you don’t develop your own personal brand others will do it for you. Developing your personal brand is the proactive way of controlling your career development and how you are perceived in your community. I want to work with you to help build that brand and let you define who you are to yourself and to your peers.

Shielding You

Developers are most effective when they are developing. I will work with you to ensure that you are getting the time and resources to get done what you need to get done and will play the role of mediator with those wanting your time or the roll of “bad guy” when necessary. That is not to say that you get to operate without accountability or consequences. Rather, I want to provide an appropriate level of cover to let you get done what needs to get done while letting you get involved when needed as well.

Letting You Grow

In addition to helping you build your brand, I want give you the freedom to grow. If you want the opportunity to try something new or outside the normal routine of your job, I want to help you find those opportunities. If you want to take on additional responsibilities within our work, I encourage that as well. I want all of us to be growing and maturing and I want to ensure you have those opportunities.

All Ears

While it is in my nature to try to solve any problem presented to me [4], I recognize that sometimes everyone just needs someone to listen to concerns or frustrations without judgment. I want to always be an available outlet to listen and accept your frustration without judgment. If there are actions we need to take together to improve a situation, I’m here to help, but if you just need someone to hear you out, I’m here for that as well.

Nitty Gritty

1:1s

One-on-ones can be one of the most valuable meetings that we can have. To that end, I place them of highest importance. They are one of the last meetings I will ever cancel, and even if I need to move them, I will make sure that works for you first. For me, the one-on-one is a time to get to know one another and for you to talk about what you want. Do not feel obligated to give me a status update; there are other times for that. We can talk about your career, your life, your frustrations. Topics of conversation during a one-on-one have ranged from discussing college football (Sic ‘em Bears) to capital gains taxes, to great vacation spots. Our one-on-ones will be scheduled weekly and will always be scheduled for 30 minutes, but I do set aside the following 30 minutes in case we go long.

I also strongly encourage peer one-on-ones. Peer one-on-ones hit on all of my core values and so I believe they help us grow as a team as well. I ask that members of the same team meet either bi-weekly or weekly for 30 minutes. For members of different teams but a part of my staff, I encourage 30 minute meetings that span between bi-weekly and quarterly (at participants’ mutual agreement).

Work Hours and Availability

For the most part, I’m pretty flexible with when and where you want to work. I tend to be an arrive early, leave early type of person and know not everyone has that preference. I do ask that we come to agreement where your availability overlaps a majority of the team and any other teams we interact with. I’m also comfortable with working remotely, but this either needs to be a pre-existing agreement or one that we agree to together. I try to work from home at least once a week so that I remain sympathetic to the remote workers needs and challenges as well.

Communication Methods

I love utilizing all our available communication mediums but also recognize each also has its area of strength:

  • Video is great for high bandwidth conversations. If it’s a discussion where a decision is made, make sure that decision is recorded somewhere for posterity.
  • Slack for quick communication. It’s hard to beat the speed at which an asynchronous conversation can transpire on Slack.
  • JIRA for accountability. When decision are made, or need to be made, put it into a JIRA so that we have a history of the discussion and decision. JIRAs are not reserved for tracking items related to development. When in doubt, JIRA it out.

My Calendar is Yours… Sort Of

I get sucked into a lot of meetings of various importance. If you need to talk about something, feel free to schedule something on my calendar. Any available slots are for the taking. If you cannot find an available slot in the time window you need, feel free to reach out; I can usually find someone to cover for a meeting so that we can chat.

Work / Life Balance

I believe strongly in a work-life balance, and tend to err on the side of life. As a parent of two special needs children, I know that things come up unexpectedly and so if you need to take care of something, make sure I’m in the loop, but don’t fret over it. I encourage everyone to use their PTO; it is a benefit the company provides and you’re just giving the company money back if you don’t use it. All I ask is a heads up before you put the request into the system.

Feedback / Performance Review

Let me tell you my frequency with providing impromptu feedback with a story:

A couple was watching a romantic comedy and the wife turns to the husband and says, “Why don’t you ever tell me I love you like they do in the movie?”, to which the husband responds, “I told you I love you when we got married. If that ever changes, I’ll let you know”.

I know that people appreciate timely and meaningful feedback and this is an area of growth for me.

However, I never want any required formal reviews to be the first time you receive feedback on a particular issue, positive or negative; if that happens, it is a failure on my part as a manager, not on you as an employee. To combat this outcome, as well as a structured mechanism for me to provide meaningful feedback, I do require everyone to participate in scheduled performance reviews throughout the year. These can be as frequent as you would like, but I require a minimum of one per quarter. These are reviews where we mimic a full performance review, but the contents are only between the two of us. This is a time to discuss what has transpired, the trajectory you are on, and what success looks like.

[1]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ba1_oCcoSd0
[2]I spent one year coding in OpenROAD, but this was a dark, non-Python time…
[3]

Distributed Computing Is Hard, Let’s Go Shopping.

[4]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg