You Got This!

No One Is Good At Work: A Discussion


Kevin Lewis: This is a session about trying to start a conversation around what you see in very productive people versus reality and transparency to the fact that always as good as it seems. So my name is Kevin Lewis. I'm director of You Got This. And Floor in a blazer.

Floor: I want to point it out. Obviously I'm still wearing sweatpants underneath.

KEVIN LEWIS: I'm wearing PJs waist down. Microsoft MVP and prolific meetup organizer, which means you're overcommitted like me. We thought this would be a really nice session where we're going to have chat and I said recording started so you know it's recorded which means we may not be the Q&A isn't going to be represented in the video. But we may well be in the chat. If we are we're going to make ourselves known at some point in time. Floor, talk a little bit about which we agreed to do this being good at your job versus work and as a scene setter.

Floor: No pressure whatsoever.

KEVIN LEWIS: No pressure. It's fine.

Floor: Like you and I were discussing a little bit. You might be good at your job, for me depending on who you ask. I think I'm good at my job but you might not be good at work. But I mean you'll hear from people how they achieve inbox zero all the time I'm at inbox 2,000. Many impaired at work because I have so many unread e-mails? I don't know, maybe. Or you see other people in a meeting and they stay focused during the entire meeting asking questions, I'm lost. Agenda item 2, I'm trying, I'm struggling to be in the zone and am I bad at work, people negotiating salaries and promotions. I don't know how to do that. Am I at work? I don't know. That's something we want to talk about.

KEVIN LEWIS: Some of these things you describe are skills you can definitely learn but are rarely taught. Salary negotiation is a tangible skill you can improve on. This will be in the library. Those are really tough because they're at the core of you as a person and how's you work. Focused. I don't know, I am a distracted individual. I don't see how I can hone that muscle. It's just the person I am or the way that I deliver projects best seems to be under a small amount of stress which means I take on too much. Ultimately deliver it all but have a base level of stress that's perhaps higher than it should be. Kicking off then I suppose is I want to start conversation about this notion that people who are very productive or seem productive online have all their ducks in a row and how that isn't always the case. Thought we could take time to talk about projects that we have delivered as individuals that have received praise like loved or appreciated or suck full in what they're trying to achieve and look behind the curtains. I certainly have contemporary examples like this event. You can start if you have anything to share, it might be useful. Being in developer relations you have a very visible role and you go to different events and you're here and then the next you're there and some of that is due to you submit a proposal to a CFP and you don't know whether that will be accepted. So you find yourself in a situation they're accepted. What are you whining about? Wonderful. They want to hear from you. You have to figure out how to make sure that you combine all that with the invisible things that you to do in the background to make sure you can deliver talks and contribute to a blog and do tasks you're supposed to do and attend meetings and ask really intelligent questions and also for me personally, is I'm a single mom so I have to figure out how where will my child be at the point I need to travel to XYZ city and which stuff happens at school, and I get messages while I'm at the conversation or just about to go on stage, how do I do that? So I hear there's a constant level of stress or a voice in my head. There's all these things you need to take care of. Don't forget that one thing. That's hard to explain. People are like why are you so tied up all the time and why do you talk to fast. I'm doing it right now.

KEVIN LEWIS: Yeah, you're getting it out because you don't know what's going to happen in five minutes. This might be a specific issue for our discipline as developer relations practitioners. But you fire off uses of work at the same time and not all will land like submitting talks to conferences. And so you can take -- you don't have to necessarily consider the implication of them being accepted. There's a good chance they won't be. One of my key personality traits is I will deliver which I say I will but there's always a cost mark to delivering anything whether it goes well and just time you contribute to it. So things start to go wrong, suddenly I feel the need to deliver. That's very important to me and I don't think I'll shake that but sometimes I should change my mind and I should tell people You Got This talk in the library how you communicate that and how you say no up front. But both skills I certainly have yet to learn. Eye great example. This has not all been roses, You Got This is basically me. I put this together. This is run perhaps not at the scale and that was part of the challenge. In the period between June of last year and today things have happened. I moved internationally. Also into a country I don't know how things work, I'm having to navigate all that. I suddenly had to find a new job which had implications on my childcare which was grueling. Just these things alone pushed the thing that should have happened months ago the last few weeks and hopefully this event is running and we're near the end and no hiccups impacted the event too greatly but behind the scenes huge human cost. I've learned lessons around I need to bring in help. I've hardly spent any time with my family because I said I will deliver this. It will be delivered. I have lots of people counting on it. I am working with speakers who agreed to give mow their time. Sponsors expecting me to deliver. Audience planning to turn up who is here right now. And I will deliver for all of them. But it come at a cost. So there's a shiny thing in the front that hopefully worked well but there's been a cost. Not being as organized as I want to be, overcommitting, general state and people don't see that will and I'm not saying that for praise. This is a challenge. This is reality. There's been cost that you haven't seen.

Yeah. Whenever someone gives you a compliment, that something looks effortless. I hardly say no. With my organizer hat on, you select topics you want to see and it's not fun when someone has to say no. I also know as ab organizer I weather have someone say no and overcommitting than not being able to deliver what you expected they would deliver. If I know this internally to be true, I can say no or change my mind, it's something that's hard to do.

It is really tough to do.

KEVIN LEWIS: Interestingly with this event it's odd because you observe behavior and that is the model. I am three speakers at this event who were unable to make it but they told me. You have told me you can't make it. There's been enough time to organize and sit down with you and spend this time to fill one of those slots and there are a couple orange talks dropped in. Model behavior, you can't do it. You communicate. As long as you do so with enough time. Making people aware. Or a speaker did not show up. No message. They were okay so it was not like something stopped them. They just didn't. That's the alternative. And yeah. Is.

We had similar experiences. I have a plan this event. Maybe you will have already seen it play out. Maybe you would not have. Hopefully not. Hopefully managed to make it. Now there's a plan in place but I didn't know how to respond in the moment. It was a tough half hour. But it was fine ultimately. That's another thing that's important. Is a bit of a reality check. The world keeps turning. I said this to all speakers during tech checks. People are worrying about lighting and how video is framed. I say I don't care. I say people are willing to learn a skill. As long as they can hear your voice and you turned up and deliver contract tent that you promised too. I don't care about the rest, camera stops working, Internet has a hiccup doesn't matter, the world keeps turning. This is another thing. There are very few industries or contexts where your work failing matters. I struggle to implement it myself. What if something failed, something happened and a block of it didn't go out as planned. The world keeps turning. It will be fine. I'll find a way to get content to you at a later point, no one's dying as a result. Hopefully, that wouldn't have been the reason if it had happened. It wasn't really dark real quick, what happened there?

KEVIN LEWIS: It's me. Being recorded two or three days before this particular talk is being shown for context. We're in the end game. there's a list of things to do. This is where I'm at. This is me. This is authentic me. Hello!

Floor: I'm glad we're getting all of you.

KEVIN LEWIS: Yeah. So I'm not sure where to take this conversation. We spoke at the start and we didn't explore it at the start about being good at your job, delivering what you need to. Successful for the business you work for and the clients and so on but not being very good at the act of working or maybe we should take time and talk about this.

Floor: I'd love that. Because I often feel like that's why I wanted to call out the whole wearing the Blazer thing is that I look at other people and I think that's a real professional. They show up at a networking event and talk to my boss, it will be awkward and uncomfortable. I don't understand why I'm not good at work. So I'd love to learn. Maybe learning is figuring out everybody has the same feeling of being an impostor in terms of not being good alt work.

KEVIN LEWIS: Based on your description I'm certainly not good at work. As long as delivery I do for job is adequate or better, hopefully better, we're all people here. There are people behind the jobs. So I can put on a facade and some could be text maybe that is appropriate thing to do. Talking to certain people maybe that's the to do. But direct colleagues, a couple months. There's a line, that's fine. You're good at the job, that's what you're being paid to do.

Floor: Some people are good at time management there's now or not now. I will try but it's not how I operate so that's hard to operate and keep up. Are we say keep up because it's we want to keep that up to make other people feel confident that that you'll actually be able to deliver in the end. Not because I need time management because I know it's not going to work for me. I need that level of inspiration. It doesn't mean that I'm not a procrastinator, I am. Other people feel comfortable if they feel you have a plan and you figure it out.

KEVIN LEWIS: I feel like that's the common thread of snippets of conversation versus perception versus reality. You want to put out the best perception or you want people to perceive you in the best way to feel comfortable in your ability to deliver and always doing something relentlessly advisable in whatever role you're doing. The reality is not always that. Maybe you move on to talk about how you reconcile two realities in a way that doesn't destroy your soul because you can only pretend to be something you're not to a point before that expectation breaks and perhaps putting up a facade makes the reality worse in the way it seems. I wasn't actually really good at it I just looked good at it.

Floor: Sometimes you can explain this to others. I look at people and think they've got it figured out and people look at me and think she has it figured out and Sometimes it's good to talk to the last group and actually in order to -- for instance to stay focused during longer meetings, I will have something to keep my hands occupied. If I don't have my hands occupied or feeling I'm doing something that is working towards some sort of goal, I need to stay focused on a meeting too or I will open another email I had a thousand unwritten e-mails but I can't multitask, not at all. So I shouldn't go to the other.

KEVIN LEWIS: Sorry, please go ahead, I'm vigorously nodding.

Floor: I do a lot of knitting and this can be done off screen because if I'm knitting here you won't see it. I will still be paying attentions, I don't need to look down if I'm doing a very basic pattern. I'm creating stuff. My whole family is drowning in scarves, there's too many scarves and hats. You need to sit in acts pay attention, you don't need to present yourself but you need to be there mentally. If I didn't have something that is productive in a way, it's a hard time for me.

KEVIN LEWIS: My new manager who I like, I like their style. They created an operating manually created at start. I mimic'd but the idea of creating one and I published it on my blog. Personal work style, communication style, how you do things. So people know what to expect. One thing interesting is there's a section of what do I expect from you? In meetings, I expect you to be in the meeting. Not on the side. I can't do that. I won't send it until the meeting is over. Kind of like this -- I know how you want me to work, I don't work like that. But I will still put my best foot forward in terms of how you want me to work even if it's not necessarily the most honest and truthful in this context. I've not thought about that much. How I mimic the behavior that wants to be seen rather than reality.

I love how you say that I'll be in a meeting and think of something and will move to Slack to send a message to someone. And if it's in a public channel, I will feel guilty if I hit enter because people in this meeting are going to see that I'm doing something else. Not only because they see my eyes move somewhere else. The light changes I'm in dark mode or they get a ping or whatever.

We spent more than half our time. I'm not sure where to take the rest of this time to be most useful for audience. But common thread is just people expect something of you or you put out perception of yourself in a way you want to be seen.Ed it's rarely reality or this is not necessarily a problem as long as you understand are true to yourself but in context of work example I just provided. Maybe I should just address this head on. I'm listening, I'm here. I'm not zoned, I'm hearing it. To be focused there needs to be something low level that isn't occupying my head space.

Floor: If you're in a physical meeting and sitting opposite each other and pull out phone and I'm not tweeting I'm just writing something down. Like have to prove why they're looking at a different thing. And maybe a similar thing can be said -- maybe it's not a similar thing. But, if you're in a meeting and someone has camera off and they explain why, I don't think you need to explain why your camera is off. Maybe you didn't have time to have lunch and no one wants to see how you're shoving food in your mouth or whatever. You have a lot going on not everyone wants to see chaos. Like you said, it's being true to yourself about how you are from that situation or what's happening around you. On the other hand I will -- I feel like we should be a little more forgiving whenever someone has their camera

KEVIN LEWIS: Something relevant when you work with other people there's an expectation. When you're visible in any way, there's an expectation that may not vibe with the way you have to do things but there's push and pull. This is a low level example and not reared itself as a huge issue. I'm in a new business, we have a new way of tracking how we work but I fire off 10 at the same time but that's not necessarily the expectation which is now clear because of the way the tooling works. This is a project. Trying to keep doing as minimal as possible but I have every item on my list in a state of doing. There's a kind of how do you -- is this something you have to adapt to as an individual. You isn't that and don't have to be singing in the same hymn sheet.

Floor: I think you and I are very similar in that regard. I have a lot of things in flight at the same you kick a lot of things off and you wait for input and you're stalled in a pile but that's not expectation, you pick up the task and move it to the end. Whatever is your limit of work. You will probably -- either you continue to stay true to yourself and have way too many items in progress or you pretend you only have three going you still have the others that are in your backlog or to do. Or maybe granularity doing is not to blog everything to the point where I start and end. There are progress updates that talk about progress. That's what I'm trying to do. I'm writing this is what's just happened in here so you get this history of awesome. Doing for a week.

Yeah. Just develop what means is a task to do, for instance, can you still do research on it or some initial scoping on the project or should it really sit there and you're not allowed to touch it until you start doing? So there's maybe a little bit, you know, room there.

Kevin Lewis: For engineers joining us perhaps, it is less typical you'll be firing off 10 things at the same time. It will be more typical you focus on task and work to maybe we are somewhat outliers in the overall group we have watching us in that we do fire off 10 things at a time. I had something insightful.

And now you lost it.

Vanished. I'll have a think.

Floor: Don't you just hate it when I'm going to sound so wise when I drop this truth bomb. Last.

Last 10 minutes. It's gone. It will come back. I hope so too. That's funny. I'm relying on you to keep us going. We spoke about being true to your sex and breaking standard expectations. Might completely fail to get off the ground and project, whatever, can just fail and never make it out the door or make it out the door and be -- when you take something off the menu, it will be out of existence. I good did a small discord community for development event organizers. Small group, but there were commitments in that delivery and being the person I am. A monthly event. A resource library. So I ran it maybe for five or six months. We'll wind it down to all parties involved. Give you access to the resources created. Being very up front about it is not only for yourself, for whomever was involved in that project but for people who are looking at you as a person who has it all figured out, not everything works. I had a similar experience too it was a community created with meetup organizers for ruby and python meetups for the Eastern Europe type of area. We would announce the different meetups taking place because by going by train to another city was trivial and it worked a little and then not a lot

KEVIN LEWIS: it also needs to make you happy, needs to meet your personal needs. I ran an event a few years ago and I believe wholeheartedly its what a failure. It was a lovely event for them. They were happy. They'd love for it to happen again but it didn't do what I needed it to do. Both in terms of how I felt about it and deliverable and it never happened again and it was one and done and I own that. I learned lots of it. You're no longer deriving joy from it and respectfully and transparently.

Maybe find another maintainer. That's cool. Respectful to yourself because you can do more with that time.

I heard instances from an outsider, enjoying something that was unfinished and hearing from organizers why they wouldn't do another event you can also make peace from that. You can understand why they can afford to spend time organizing things any more. Though don't owe you anything. They could have stopped it without explaining why, right? Because that's their prerogative. But it's great for the people on receiving end to understand.

KEVIN LEWIS: We spoke about a lot. I'm going to try to sum up. We're going to tie it all together. We talked about projects we personally talked about projects looked good to people who -- I suppose we've bookended it in the same way. Weren't successful but had other costs and everything isn't always perfectly delivered polished but sometimes messy and not quite of the quality creator would have liked. And that's okay.