The other day I saw a tweet by Susan Bond that asked the question: "How important is it that your friends hold the same values as you? Is it very important? a little? or not important at all?" I was contemplating what my answer would be when the next day I saw this quote by Kevin Kelly: "Your growth as a conscious being is measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have". To be precise, values refer to principles or standards of behaviour that are not contextual, and shape our character and behaviour. For example authenticity, freedom, kindness, perseverance, pragmatism, or respect.
I know that I can't be friends with people who have the opposite values than me. It would require too much energy and the interactions will not be pleasant. On the other hand, hanging out with people who are very much like me, who think like me, and have the same values as me is very pleasant but ultimately means we stay in our own little happy bubble and never change or grow. So I think the best option is to be friends with people with similar values to me, who think like me on some things but challenge me on others.
The same principle applies at work. People used to say we should hire for culture fit but that resulted in a monoculture where everyone in the organisation is the same as the other person. The problem is we usually end up with a homogeneity of privileged people that reject qualified candidates who don't match the pattern. It masks employment discrimination and social biases since the rejection is not about skills and capabilities. Instead, consider hiring for culture add. Culture is not a static state but continuously keeps evolving and changing. Instead of focusing on cultural sameness, consider how candidates can contribute to your organisational culture. Hire a diverse team of talented people that share your organisational values and can help your company and culture develop and grow.
However, before a company can do that, it should define what its values are. Your company values are the beliefs, philosophies, and principles that drive your business. They reflect what you and the company stand for. They guide the relationships with everyone who's involved in the business. They help the team make accountable decisions, that are aligned with company values. Company values align the team to improve performance and reduce ineffective decisions. They improve team motivation as acceptable behaviour is clear and encouraged. And once again, company values make hiring the right people easier. So do you know what your company values are?
Building Inclusive Teams will be kicking off next month on July 18th-21st. We had to push the original dates back so you still have time to secure a spot. Diverse and inclusive teams have been shown to increase financial performance, value creation, and innovation. Join us to unlock team performance.
We met another enthusiastic cohort of engineering leaders last month for our Leading Engineering Teams workshop. Thank you to those who joined us and for sharing your stories and experiences. The next workshop will be on August 8-11th. Take advantage of our early bird tickets and save $300 before July 1st!
Last month, we dedicated some time to providing free office hours to help folks with their problems. It was a mixed bag of career advice, developing a learning framework, team structure and work rituals, and a pairing session. Scott W. from Atlanta, GA was so delighted with the pairing session that he donated to the Stars Foundation (an organisation we contribute to regularly) on our behalf as a gesture of his appreciation. Yay!
Team Blackmill attended Tractor Ventures — The Cost of Capital event last week in Melbourne. CEO Matt Allen talked about how they prefer to offer revenue-based financing rather than venture capital, and how he and his team can help Australian and New Zealand tech start-ups scale well. One of our clients, Gavin Ballard from Disco Labs, was on the panel, telling Jodie how he used Tractor Ventures resources to help scale his business. It was an insightful evening and extra lovely to see old friends and meet new people (in real life!). As a friend of Tractor Ventures, we offer free one-hour advice and AMA sessions to help their portfolio companies grow.
Women in Type — rediscovering women's contribution to type in history. It is a research project highlighting the work of women as key contributors to the design process of many renowned typefaces of the 20th century.
Talking, Typing, Thinking: Software Is Not a Desk Job — developers over-optimise for the ergonomics of typing and not enough for the ergonomics of thinking.
The teeth — how will our process bite us? or in other words, deliver value in small manageable changes.
The optics of pair programming — nuance behind pair programming unpacked or why pairing doesn't work in some teams.
I’m a Principal Software Engineer. It’s a fairly ambiguous job and differs from person to person. I think of it as the person who is accountable for how teams are solving their problems. I shouldn’t be telling people how to solve them, but I should help them think through the problem so that there are no nasty surprises, and to also align them to where the company is going technically. The thing I like most about this role is that I get to jump between problems. Lately I’ve been thinking about how I broaden my T (assuming I’m a T shaped engineer), and by being exposed to different problems in different situations I get to learn what I don’t know and what I can improve.
Staying aligned to what the teams are up to. Right now there are roughly 8 streams of work that I’m involved in. Each of these have their own nuances, and you need to stay on top of what their plans are. If you don’t you can find that you’re just creating noise instead of helping the team with their current and near future problems. These plans can pivot quickly, and often when I’m considering what teams will work on I will have a plan A, B and C in my head in case they pivot. What does help is having regular syncs with different leads, and also the adjacent stakeholders. I do find I drift in alignment sometimes, but right now I’m aiming for good before I aim for perfect.
Debugging. We focus so much on the creation of code, but when I think about the times I’ve been most useful in my career so far it is always debugging systems and problems. Being curious about a system and how the different components work together is something I’ve been trying to instil in others, especially my kids. Whenever something breaks, we sit down together and work out how the thing works, or should work and whether we can fix it.
We bought a small house in Sydney. I didn’t think we’d do this till much later in life, but the stars aligned and we’re now in our own place. Something nice about being able to make changes to the place knowing that you aren’t at risk of moving because a landlord changes their mind.
I make something physical. It used to be painting, but apartment living was not conducive to that, so I switched to baking. Doing a slap and fold on 2kgs of dough is a really good way to get the brain to zone out.
Be flexible in what you think your career path should be. Sometimes your company will need you to work on something that is outside your comfort zone. Be willing to fail, learn, fail, learn and so on until you succeed. You never know when you’re going to be presented with a new opportunity to learn something and you dive in when you can. I wrote a blog post (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/flexible-sugendran-ganess/) with a lot more detail.
Make people be happy with what they have rather than wishing for what they don’t have.
Rebooting my side project. It took the back seat when we moved the family back from the UK to Australia. Am hoping to have the head space to get back into it before the end of the year.
~2kg of lamb (you can use chicken instead). I like to get a leg of lamb, get the butcher to cut it into steaks and then take it home to cut into smaller chunks. Keep the bone, it adds flavour!
2 large onions, chopped roughly
Tomatoes (you can use tinned tomatoes, about 1 can)
Ginger Garlic paste. You can use fresh ginger and garlic, but I’ve never been able to get it fine enough that you don’t feel the ginger when eating.
Coriander and mint
Cook the rice until it is 3/4 done. Think of it like al dente pasta, you want it to absorb some flavours and finish cooking with the sauce
Brown your meat and take out of pot
Fry onions till they’re brown
Add about 2 tablespoons of ginger garlic paste and fry till it starts to catch/brown
Lower heat, and add the biryani mix, stir for a couple minutes
Add meat, stir so that the meat is coated
Add tomatoes and let it cook for a bit — basically make a curry. The tomatoes should deglaze the pot and your gravy should form here. You might need to add water here, you probably want about 2 cups of gravy in the pot — it’s going to cook the rice later
While curry is cooking, steam/boil potatoes. Optional, but recommended, fry the potatoes so that they’re crispy and golden
Add about 2 cups of the half cooked rice and stir
Layer the plain rice, then biryani, then plain rice, then biryani into an oven proof pot — I used to use a roasting dish with a foil lid before I bought a cast iron pot
Shove the potatoes into the rice. Optional, but recommended, cut some knobs of butter and shove them in near the top
Put your mint and coriander over the top
Cover and stick in a 180 degree oven for about 20-30 mins — this is to finish cooking the rice
Serve and enjoy
* The box will tell you to add yoghurt, I tend to marinate the meat in the yoghurt instead of adding it to the curry.
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Until next time, keep learning!
Everyone at Blackmill