My personal operating manual

Photo by Dan Lohmar on Unsplash

In a distributed workplace it can be challenging to understand each other as a whole person, so I’m trying to share some personal things about myself with anyone I might collaborate with. I hope this will frontload the trust-building somewhat, and so far I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.

By being open and upfront about who I am and how my brain ticks, I hope to build transparency and foster psychological safety. If you like this and create a manual too, please share it!

🎛 Modus Operandi

  • I’m an introvert. My role requires a lot of communicating and collaboration amongst many people. While I can get a lot of energy from being with a team or in groups, I recharge best by being alone and sorting through my thoughts.
  • I do my best work asynchronously. I view meetings as mechanisms to exchange timely information, debate, and discuss things together to ultimately agree on a decision. However, if I haven’t had time before the meeting to absorb and process the relevant context, I often find it difficult to confidently voice my opinion. If you’d like to discuss something that requires decision-making, please send a pre-read or relevant documents ahead of the meeting. 
  • I live in a country other than where I grew up with two kids, two cats, and my partner. This means that we don’t have a social support system like grandparents or aunts/uncles to take care of the kids every now and then. My productive time is somewhat limited (e.g. when kids are at preschool or in bed) and it can be unpredictable. I try to be as upfront as possible with this to set expectations, but every so often it can happen that I need to shuffle my calendar on short notice. Because of this, it’s okay to sometimes schedule meetings in the evening.
  • I always try to assume best intent. I like to think everyone tries their best to do their jobs and go through their lives. It’s only natural to experience a negative feeling when something doesn’t align with your expectations, but when we empathize with others we often realize we are all just humans trying their best. This became especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • According to this personality test, these are my core strengths:
    • Love – Valuing close relations with others, in particular,those in which sharing & caring are reciprocated; being close to people (I’m at my best when I experience a sense of belonging, in a group or team with mutual respect).
    • Hope – Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about (Technology has always made me an optimist, I easily get excited about what’s ahead of us).
    • Humility – Letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is (While our development talks ask of us to describe our achievements, I prefer to let others speak about mine). 
    • Love of Learning – Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one’s own or formally (Having learned how to learn has been my most valuable lesson. It’s a muscle that we can train).
    • Forgiveness – Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting others’ shortcomings; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful (I find it a waste of energy to stay frustrated and I’ll often find ways to move past something quickly).

📞 How best to communicate with me

  • Email –Preferred method of communication
    • I don’t intend to spend most of my day in my inbox, but  I do think that email is superior to other modes of communication. It’s great for:
      • Creating a paper trail, or information that needs to persist time (Might I need this later? Is this an agreement or decision?).
      • Preparing for a decision, providing context (here’s a list of docs or things I think are relevant to our thing)
      • Asking for feedback (please provide a deadline!)
      • Transparent discussions. Using Google Groups for discussions and decisions that you’d like to be accessible to others is a great way to build transparency!
  • Slack– Best for casual chatter or quick questions
    • Search in Slack is terrible, please don’t send me something in Slack that you think I need to find again later. 
    • Don’t ping me with just a “Hey” and wait for me to respond. Please let me know what you’re looking for and I’ll respond when I can. If you need a more elaborate response, send me an email instead.

🙇‍♂️ How to help me

  • We’re in a distributed, growing team and it’s challenging to know everyone in our product area. If you think I’m not aware of a person who joined recently or is missing out on a relevant ongoing discussion somewhere, please tell me. 
  • I’ll never assume I’ve read and analyzed all documents or research that we’ve done on a particular subject. If you know of any material that could add to the context we’re discussing, please mention it, I will be forever grateful. 
  • Onboarding in a new product area in a distributed fashion is something new for me. If you think I could be more successful (or more pleasant to work with) by changing my behavior, please tell me. Your feedback will make me a better coworker.
  • I’ll take it in whatever form is comfortable for you, but I appreciate it if you’d give me feedback as soon as possible. If I have an opportunity to improve I’d love to know about it when it’s still fresh. 

🔋After Work

Although the time before and after I begin my workday is usually fraught with a happy family chaos I try to find time to be inspired and recharge. 

  • I love baking bread: I maintain a healthy sourdough culture and experiment with baking sourdough bread. It’s getting a little nerdy lately since I found myself adjusting subtle factors in the process like water temperature and autolyse timings 🤓. It’s a wonderfully analog process that seems simple but can be very complicated. Who knew that making something with only three ingredients could be so complex!
  • Reading: I try to read non-work related books when I can. Recent recommendations are Limonov by Manuel Carrère, Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin and Lifespan by David A. Sinclair.
  • Running: Since starting at Spotify I picked up running and I love it. It’s a fantastic feeling to clear your mind by testing the limits of your body. I run all year round and I plan to do it a lot more. 
  • Standup Paddle: when the weather allows I’ll try and go out on a standup board when I can. It’s very relaxing to be on the water and enjoy the views. Last autumn I was caught on camera exploring the mist. 

🌏 References

Categorized as Blog

By Roel

Roel is a senior product manager at Spotify. He loves internet quirks, baking, running and tech.