Apropos of absolutely nothing, I enjoyed reading Rands’ The Nerd Handbook recently. This link has absolutely nothing to do with the draft of a blog post which I’m currently chewing on, but I rather-strongly identified with the Nerd character who Rands describes in such lush and loving detail. Also, that draft post that I just mentioned? It’s taking far longer than I initially expected, and it has long surpassed the mental SLA that I have for acceptable delays between postings by several days. This delay’s enough to make me feel like a klaxon alarm continuously alerts my subconscious every moment of every day — you’re late! You’re late! You’re late. (I have a very active imagination. Unfortunately.) Therefore, I decided to take a detour and share The Nerd Handbook here, today.

Shut up, you silly bell, shut up. (I have a feeling that I will really enjoy the hedonistic yet easy pleasure of new mental silence which results from hitting that blue Publish button…)

In even less-contextually relevant news, I wrote 3 different bell-ringing programs when I was first learning C, a couple of years ago. Here’s the one that I made ring on my Windows 10 laptop (versus the first two, whose different implementations merely resulted in silence when compiled + ran.)

Enjoy! Feel free to write a comment telling me what you thought of this admittedly-rushed, poorly thought out, and yet enjoyably cathartic and mentally quieting post…I’d love to hear your opinion here. (Pun intended!)

/* 
* unlike my first attempt to make a dinging noise,
* this works on my Windows 10 laptop.
*/

#include  <stdio.h>
#include  <stdlib.h>
#define   BEL     7

main()
{
    putchar(BEL);
}

Lotus and turtle mural, painted on a retaining wall in Seattle.
I took a panorama shot of this mural on a recent winter walk. December 2020.

I like to use tenets to guide teams and projects, and for initiatives that cross team and project boundaries. Tenets are a pretty Amazon thing, but using tenets for your team, project, or initiative translates well to use in the ‘real world’, in my opinion. Tenets help you prioritize among many good ideas; tenets help you answer questions and challenges; tenets organize your thoughts about a certain space or theme area. Tenets also offer a convenient shorthand for sharing essential information – which I’m using here, to share my ‘managerial tenets’ with you.

At this point, you might be wondering — Why does Celeste have manager tenets? Management means different things to each of us, and while I find management to have deeply personal, critically important meaning, I might not find it easy to express that meaning to you in my day-to-day. So, I wrote this post instead!

In fact, you probably wouldn’t look at me in any single meeting and realize that I feel a sense of responsibility toward my teammates, business focus, and goal set. You’d probably assume I’m just chugging along like anyone else, trying to hold my head above water. But if you assumed that, you’d be mistaken! You’d also be missing some important context, and what you’d be missing, well, my tenets summarize that up pretty well. So let’s dive in! These are my tenets. Note, they are based on others’ “user guide”s and personal managerial tenets which I’ve collated, cut from, embellished, and added to over the years:

  • A healthy team requires a culture of trust, collaboration, and respect. Every one of you has my trust by default. Give me a fair chance to earn yours.
  • My job, and my goal, is to build successful, autonomous teams in which people can achieve career growth and a healthy work/life balance (or worklife harmony, or whatever you’d prefer to call it). I build and express clear tenets, charters, priorities, goals, and decision-making processes so that my teammates know what to focus on, and what they have permission to ignore. I like artifacts which contain plenty of context and may often stand on their own (but they don’t necessarily need to). These artifacts do contain enough data and information to justify their relative priority.
  • I believe in transparency and model it to the best of my ability. “What is happening and why?” … “What am I doing, and why?” …When you have to disagree & commit (and without a doubt, you will), then I will ensure you understand why I’m asking it of you.
  • I work for you. I measure my own success 100% by the success of the team — in delivering toward its mission, in the career growth of members of the team, and in the morale and drive of the team.
  • If I’m doing something you don’t like or don’t understand, please tell me. I’m not a mind reader. I want everyone to wake up in the morning wanting to work. If something is stopping you from feeling that way, let me try to help you fix it. Don’t suffer in silence.
  • I love systems: the repeated processes and actions that make people and teams successful. I focus a lot on inputs, outputs, and the metrics associated with them.
  • I love devops! If you want to learn about process improvements & process controls, you’ll learn a lot with me.
  • I love Amazon’s LPs. But first among equals, for me, is Ownership. Before you dive in, know what “done” is — and then get the details right.
  • “Escalation” is not a dirty word.
  • I believe that your “manager is the exception catcher”. Use your manager for that. Know that I will have your back.
  • I will always make time for you when you need it, but you probably need to ask me for time. I keep myself very busy. That doesn’t reflect upon you or your relative importance, by any means — it reflects upon me, and my desire to stay afloat in the current.
  • There will always be more work. Even so…You are important to me. You can pull me away from my work when you need me to support you and your work. It’s what I’m here for.
  • I hate, hate, HATE micromanagement. The times I micro manage, they’re not because I don’t trust people, but because I lack the visibility and information that I need to understand a situation & feel comfortable about it, so I start to dig deeper. A lot deeper.
  • Surprises rarely please me. Don’t surprise me with bad news. We won’t like the result.

I also use this quick / “lite” version for internal job descriptions and pitches:

  • A healthy team requires a culture of trust, collaboration, and respect. Every one of you has my trust by default. Give me a fair chance to earn yours.
  • My job is to build a successful, autonomous team where people can achieve both career growth and a healthy personal life. This requires clear tenets, charters, priorities, goals, and decision-making processes so that people know what to prioritize and focus on, and what they have permission to ignore or push back upon.
  • I believe in transparency and will model it to the best of my ability. What is happening? Why? What am I doing, and why? When you have to disagree & commit (and you will), I’ll make sure you understand why I’m asking that of you.
  • I work for you. I measure my success 100% in terms of the success of the team … in delivering on its mission, the career growth of everyone on the team, and the overall morale. If I’m doing something you don’t like or don’t understand, please tell me. I’m not a mind reader. I want everyone to wake up in the morning and want to work. If something is stopping you from feeling that way, let me try to help you fix it. Don’t suffer in silence.
  • I love systems: the processes and actions that make people and teams successful. I focus a lot on inputs and outputs and the metrics associated with them. I love devops! If you want to learn about process improvements, you’ll learn a lot with me.

Now I’m curious…What do you think — is this helpful for you? Do you understand how you might work with me? Do you understand how I approach work in general? Do you get a sense of how I run my teams, and what I feel is important, from this list?

I use these tenets to appeal to potential teammates, but I also use them to orient me to my own North Star. If something’s not on this list, then why am I spending a day on it? Do I need to iterate on my tenets and add this new thing, or do I need to drop the low-priority item and replace it with something higher-priority?

So what do you think – are you going to write your own tenets? If you don’t, well, what do you think is missing or needs to change in mine? If you do write your own, please feel free to share them with me!

Celeste holding a happy balloon, as if giving it to another person to bring a smile to their face.

Do you host interns at your company? I’ve started prepping for my springtime interns already – here’s a document I spun up to help me keep myself sorted as I identify potential projects, prep first-time intern mentees, and generally look forward to hosting an intern in 2021. Do you think I’ve missed anything important? Would you do it differently at your company?

Identify a project

Intern projects should be relatively small, or make up a small portion of a larger project. This makes it achievable in the limited amount of time your intern works with your team. (Be sure to verify how long you have an intern! Depending on your company and program, it can be as short as 6 weeks, though 8-12 weeks appears more common.)

Prep team mentor

Make sure that the mentor is bought in on the project, and thinks the project can complete in the time you all have. Also ensure that the mentor understands the various check-ins that they should be working toward with their mentee. Not just the standard midpoint check-in and final presentation, but also regular CRs, and other process controls, like items in your task-tracking tool.

  • Measurable sprint tasks
    • During each sprint, new tasks should be defined and monitored. The tasks should be measurable and small enough to be completed in one sprint.
    • College students may not have a habit of sub-dividing the project into discrete, measurable tasks, hence the mentor should provide assistance here.
  • Point the intern to right resources
    • In addition to the team specific resources, the intern should also be pointed to useful team or company resources e.g. your internal wiki, so that they can unblock themselves on common issues.
  • Testing is equally important
    • Interns may focus more on development than testing. The mentor should show them how to think about the relevant testing before the implementation e.g. manual testing vs writing tests.
    • If possible, plan to create some metrics for the intern project and compare the improvement from before-state to finished-state.

Work backwards from project acceptance

When you have identified a project, you will want to outline some notes and a success state at the end of the project. The success state is your acceptance criteria. From there, the team hosts (intern’s mentor and manager) can identify intermediate milestones (with the intern, ideally) and the intern can work toward those milestones during the internship period.

Set process checkins

The intern program generally requires two meetings, a midpoint check-in and closing meeting where you communicate your team’s hire/no hire decision to the intern. Those aren’t nearly enough milestones to ensure your intern is working toward a successful deliverable.

Additional check ins that help provide structure include:

  • Weekly 1:1s with the intern’s mentor and intern
    • Provides technical guidance and ensures the intern feels supported in their efforts
  • Weekly 1:1s with the intern’s manager and intern
    • Provides feedback on office norms, guidance on soft skills like working with a team, informs the intern about technical best practices and process controls, may include technical guidance but at a higher level than the intern’s mentor is able to give (since the mentor will have the most context on the intern’s work). Also provides a forum for career growth discussion and setting expectations, in the same way a manager would for a full-time employee
  • Regular cadence for CRs (e.g. every other week, or something else that’s both achievable, and sane)
    • This helps the team provide feedback on the intern’s code as well as improvement over time, and prevents the intern from getting lost and not completing their project at all
  • An early architecture review with the team
    • Allows the intern to work backwards from a success state while getting feedback and suggestions from a wider variety of viewpoints (beyond that of the intern’s mentor and direct manager)
    • Prevents the intern from going off in a wild or difficult-to-implement direction, because of the breadth of technical depth and experience from the team
  • A mid-point review / presentation with the team
    • Shows progress from the architecture review (i.e. the idea) toward implementing the project (i.e. reality)
    • Allows for suggestions on refinements and minor course-corrections
  • A final project review / presentation with the team
    • Demonstrates completion of the project and allows the team to gather more information for their inclined/not inclined vote
  • Consider gathering feedback from intern on their mentor
    • This is optional but would help both the intern mentor improve their future mentorship as well as the intern become comfortable with the formal, professional-style feedback provided on promo docs and in internal annual review tooling (since there’s an absence of either during part of a typical internship period)

Informal check ins between the intern and their mentor and manager should happen regularly.

Team culture / ceremonies / social events “buddy”

Consider pairing your intern up with a team member as a “buddy” in addition to a project mentor. The intern can reach out to the buddy for non-work related questions, or for questions about social or cultural aspects of the team, company, etc. The separation between mentor and buddy helps the intern feel comfortable asking certain – distinct – types of questions of each person. This also encourages the intern to meet more people on the team, from the start!

Celeste posing under twinkle lights
Celeste, acting cute, standing under trees that have yellow leaves and twinkle lights.

Several friends of mine have reached out at varying times, somehow especially after I posted the image at the top of this post, and told me that I seem to be “happy” lately. I love it! Like all of us probably believe, this year has been … interesting. I started the year out in January with a heck of a personal struggle, for sure, so I’m glad that I’ve been past that for a couple of months now, and my friends have even noticed that I’m doing so much better. I work for AWS Security now, which has been a longtime dream, and I’ve set myself up for career and life success. One thing that’s helped get me through the tough times and which makes the good times even better is cultivating a sense of gratitude. Perhaps this will inspire you too, but here come ten things I’m grateful for:

  1. Long walks around Seattle, exploring parts of the city I’ve never seen, and photographing them to share with you on my Instagram
  2. Staying touch with my live-in partner, my two friends in my quaranteam, my virtual/socially-distanced & masked Lady Game Night crew, and my other friends who I manage to stay in touch with, mostly via SMS & Discord or Google Hangouts video chat
  3. My mom and her side of the family, who finally learned what a global pandemic was and how to socially distance to keep themselves safe
  4. My dad and his side of the family, who honestly lives far enough away that they could keep themselves safe by definition, but I get a weekly call with dad to stay in touch
  5. Working for AWS Security … I have always wanted to work in security, and in August 2020 I got my first “it’s in the title!” security gig
  6. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service, which has fed me so many enjoyable quarantine reads. I’m currently reading Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record
  7. Askamanager.org, which has also been a source of enjoyable quarantine reads, as well as advice on how to improve my skills as a people manager
  8. Baking. I had to give up climbing and BJJ in March, as those activities are both just … challenging to do without getting bacteria & viruses EVERYWHERE. In the absence of my usual time-sinks (seriously, I would spend 4-8 hours at the climbing gym alone every week) I need something to do, and obviously I’ve been reading a lot, but there’s many hours in the day, and I am not spending them at the office (my other great love)
  9. Yoga and other exercise videos on YouTube. (See above, need I say more?) I enjoy Yoga with Adriene, Redefining Strength, Nerd Fitness, Jeff Nippard, Rockentry Movement for Climbers, Face Yoga Method, and many others that I don’t subscribe to, but I had to keep this list down to something manageable, so there it is
  10. This blog. It’s been fun coming here roughly every week to say hi and share a little bit of what I think about work, with you. I think about work a lot, probably more than anyone would call “work-life balanced” but I’m happy, so I will keep on keeping on with my “work life harmony”

I have spent a good amount of time lately, wondering about “normal”. I can tell you this: Nothing is normal about managing a team that I’ve never been in the same room as any member of. Nothing is normal about working from home for the past 9 months in my pajamas (as comfortable as that might be). There’s nothing normal about any of 2020, a year which goes down in infamy for many of us, I’m sure.

What does getting back to “normal” in the workplace even mean? Is there a way to do so? Would you want to, if you could?

For me, personally, normal looks like being in the office most days, not wearing a mask, and not having to avoid incidental touching or strictly remaining 6′ away from any other human (and their pets!) I don’t mind videoconference meetings, but would prefer to have the option of VC-ing from the office, even if everyone else in my meeting dials in from their various locales. Normal means hosting team events like lunches and gaming days that include ordering in food, open bottles of water, soda, and beer, and conversation with my peers. Normal means having a snack table and jigsaw puzzle table near my team’s desks. Normal means having access to a whiteboard, and using it to assist with discussing and shaping half-formed ideas. Normal means wearing pants on a video call (because you wouldn’t be able to make it all the way to the office in your stuffed-animal slippers while lacking bottoms! Wouldn’t you?) Normal means coffee or cocktails with my mentors and mentees (not all at once!)

However, I can feel nostalgic about these without having a clear path to return to any of them. I’m excited about the news of a vaccine, though I am one of those personalities who needs to see it before I believe it. Show me the vaccine! 😀

I know that I would go back into the office as soon as it opened up, freely, for group use, without the distancing and mask requirements. Would you?

I’ve gotten this question a couple of times now, so I thought I would sit down, take a moment, and write a post to share the “why” behind this blog. I really want to impress upon you, the reader, how important this little blog is to me, since it might not be immediately obvious.

I’ve worked for a FAANG technology company for more than ten years now. Before that, I went to school for civil engineering, earning a Master’s Degree in civil & construction engineering. I was one of about 25% of my class who presented in a femme way. Since entering technology, though, that already-low number plummeted dramatically. Ever since 2010, when I joined Amazon Business as a copywriter for Business, Industrial & Scientific Supplies, I’ve become accustomed to being the only woman in the room. I truly didn’t mind, at first. I didn’t think to question the situation that much.

Not knowing much about office jobs, I accepted behavior from my coworkers that, knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t. (Before Amazon, I’d interned and contracted in engineering offices, but those tend to feel more like small or even family businesses vs big corporations.) For example, one of my early bosses would come up behind people and startle them, then laugh. Today if someone did that to me or my peers, I would give them a strange look and ask them if they thought that was funny? Maybe I would wonder out loud whether they thought they were acting in a professional manner. Usually, a funny look and not-so-rhetorical questions stop unwanted behavior pretty quickly.

I started gradually improving how I enforced boundaries for myself, and sometimes even stepped in for others around me. By 2015-2016, when I found myself in a meeting with a bunch of hardware engineers who needed my teams’ requirements for some database hardware, I was pretty good at taking-no-shit-from-people. The hardware engineering team decided, for some reason, that they didn’t need to call me by my real human name, but instead I should answer to my team’s name… even though I had reminded them several times & had asked them each time to please call me Celeste. After they called me by my team’s name in yet another group meeting, again, I politely lost my shit. I emailed their boss, told them how I had tried to fix the problem to-date, explained how I interpreted it as rather dehumanizing and why it’s a problem for a group of men to treat a woman in a sub-human fashion, and asked that the manager make it stop. After that email, suddenly I was Celeste in all of those meetings.

I may have personally learned these lessons about standing up for what’s right, being successful despite not looking like most of my peers, and finding acceptance for myself, within myself. I see my mentees and direct reports and networking contacts I meet at conferences and meetups (well, used to meet, pre-covid) struggling with, and needing to learn, the same lessons I’ve already learned. I know the coping mechanisms I’ve built will help other people out there. I have skills that other people need, and can use to better themselves and their lived experiences at work. I can share what I’ve learned in the stories on this blog.

Maybe you don’t present as femme, or you don’t identify with some under-represented group, nor anything similar – do I still want to help you succeed? Of course I do! You might not struggle exactly with the same things as I do or did at work… but I’m sure you have your own struggles – and I hope my perspective helps you out, as well. I write because I want to share my experience and help others, no matter who they are. I will admit I get more of a thrill from helping out women and femmes in technology careers, but I will never object to giving an assist to anyone else in the world. Help me understand what situation are you struggling to resolve at work? Do you have any stories of egregious discrimination while you were at work? I’d love to hear your problems and, if you’ve solved them, how you went about solving it.

I’ve got a post in the queue that I’ve been struggling with, as it turns out to be a more complex project than I originally thought – I’ve had a few people ask why I started writing this blog, and it seemed like a fine time to tackle that. But it’s taking more time to put that into words than I originally estimated, and I don’t want to leave you without something to read for too long! (I know I get impatient with my favorite blogs, sometimes. Hopefully I’m making it into your list of favorites! #purelyselfish)

Anyhow, I read this StackOverflow blog post today, and I really enjoyed some of the tips. Not only do they point out how important 1:1s are (more important than you may think!), but they also provide some advice on how to best utilize that time. They share ‘default topics’ you can return to whenever you need inspiration, from Current Projects, to Feedback, Professional Development, and Future Opportunities.

They also point out that you should thank the other person for their time and this 1:1. They imply that the employee should thank the manager, but I believe that the manager should thank the employee as well – we wouldn’t have jobs without the other person in that relationship! And being grateful has positive effects on your mood, no matter who you are. (If you’d like more tips on developing your sense of gratitude, check out Grateful.)

Thanks for joining me today!

I love reading Ask a Manager. I just came across this relatively-recent post which expressed some thoughts I’ve had, and coached my peers through. Because this question seems common to many, I figured I would share here. “When you’re inexperienced, how can you know if something is worth complaining about or leaving a job over?” (Posted October 12, 2020).

In her response, Alison Green points out that if you’re more in-demand, more experienced, or simply unhappy, you’re more likely to (and able to comfortably) complain or leave a job over insulting and dismaying scenarios.

She mentions, “All of this points to proceeding with caution when you’re relatively new to the work world — and testing your assessment of a situation with people you respect who have more experience to draw on. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t entitled to push back on something or leave a job if you’re unhappy — that’s your prerogative at any time.”

I really like her suggestion of sanity-testing your assumptions, though. When you’re new to the working world, or just new to a particular role or position, you might think something is strange, unfortunate, or even horrifying because it’s not how you personally might do that thing. When you test that feeling of, “Is this ok or am I mistaken?” you get a lot more data than if you just react.

One thing I’ve learned from the working world is that I should never just react — I know that I can check in with my own feelings, a trusted advisor or mentor, or a family member (though — be skeptical if your family doesn’t share a career focus area with you! Technology is very different from library science is dramatically unlike truck driving…)

I always swallow my first reaction to a novel situation at work. I quickly verify how I feel and how I should be feeling, just to make sure I’m not wildly off-base. Surprise or dismay can make a small indignity feel much larger than it really is, or needs to be. I can’t tell you how enraged I’ve been over a too-large backpack hitting me in a crowded conference room, or hurt I’ve been by an offhand comment about my appearance from a coworker.

Now that I’ve been in two different careers for more than ten years, each, I can check in with myself first, and then reach out to someone else…Luckily, these days, I don’t necessarily need to check in with another person, at all, because I have these years’ worth of history that I can compare new feelings and new situations to.

Personally, I believe it’s a serious error of judgement to react before you think, in the business world. I’ve seen people rage-quit jobs, and they almost always regret doing so. Or even lower-stakes, when someone yells in front of a meeting’s audience, they don’t generally feel good about it later. If you find yourself experiencing strong emotions at work, take a breath, step away from the situation if you can, and check in with a trusted peer or a relative. If you determine that it’s appropriate to do so, respectfully complain to the person you’re emoting at, your manager, your HR business partner, or someone with power at your place of employment.

You can be the change you want to see in the world – but changing whether or not your loud boss closes his door when he’s on a call, or threatening to quit when they change the brand of coffee in the kitchenette – those aren’t good looks. Tread carefully when you feel yourself emoting in the workplace!

Hello friends, and welcome back! Continuing on with (and closing out!) my semi-intentionally serial post, the worries that I’ve gathered people experience, with any change, land into one of 3 categories:

  1. Imposter syndrome – will I do ok?
  2. Human tribal nature – will they like me?
  3. Choice economics – did I do the right thing, did I move to the right place, did I move at the right time?

The scientific framework we will apply here:

  • First, test
  • Then asses one or more fixes
  • Apply the first fix
  • Evaluate how it went
  • If more fixes needed, continue to apply and evaluate them in sequence until the benefit no longer outweighs your effort

We’ve addressed what I do about imposter syndrome in my last post, and this post I will attempt to digest how I deal with fears around being accepted by the group, and whether the recent job move or increase in responsibility was, ultimately, correct.

To address human tribal nature, we might cross a bit into relationship management or even ‘politics’. No one seems to like politics. People complain about it whenever they think they’ve been a victim of politics, and yet we often find ourselves unintentionally acting in a political manner, because it’s an easy trap to fall into. People are, ultimately, tribal creatures. We like to align ourselves with the people we like and respect, and avoid the people we don’t. Therefore this worry lends itself most easily to test. Either you find it easy to get other people to buy in to your projects, to give you the inputs you need for your deliverables, and you can just “get ‘er done”. If you find it challenging for you to work with others and perform your job duties successfully, you know that this test has failed, and you need to apply some kind of a fix …or get a different job ASAP! (Finding a new job is ultimately a type of a fix, I suppose.)

I wave my hands at this point, because I could write an entire book on improving your relationship with coworkers when you need to collaborate to succeed on your own. I’d prefer to focus on the original point of this post, where I show you how to use the framework above to quash your new-job worries. So, you’ll create a list of potential fixes, apply some kind of a fix to your issue, see if that makes it easier for you to collaborate with your coworkers, and if it doesn’t — then you iterate and try again.

As a sidebar, I’d like to point out that much like imposter syndrome, your peers worry about whether you like THEM, as well. So take a moment every day to express your interest in your peers, ask your boss how they’re doing today, spend an extra five minutes answering questions for the new person on the team, and consciously spread some of your attention around. You will find that the time you spend paying attention to, and caring about, your coworkers will pay dividends in the future. People help the people that help them. Because I’ve spent 10+ years at my company helping people without expecting a quid-pro-quo, my peers have started sending each other my name as a potential good boss to work for. I couldn’t get any more flattered and happy about the trust that people show me when they recommend a friend reach out to me for a job.

Okay, let’s address the framework for our third and final fear – did I make the right decision when I chose to take this new challenge on? That one takes time to test, and ultimately your emotions will guide you, here. Your test becomes, “does this feel right?” and requires self-awareness and attention to a rubric that each person builds for themselves. You really can’t rush this one. You can’t tie the outcome to your external veneer of success because you can, for example, get a promotion, but hate the job itself.

For me, I know I’ve made the right choice with a new job or new responsibility when I find a sense of satisfaction with my ultimate outputs. Each day, I start the day off thinking about which three things I’d like to get done, and at the end of the day I spend a moment evaluating if I did those three things, and how I feel about them. This takes less than five minutes total, at this point. I also run the same exercise for the week on Mondays and evaluate the week’s deliverables on Fridays. I used to write my To Do list down, but lately I perform the check mentally…and sometimes I forget to do a weekly analysis and that’s ok, for me, for now. My job requires constant attention to relative priority among projects, because I can easily get lost in the weeds and react to the most urgent problem, when the long-term strategic priorities forever end up sliding off my plate. We don’t want that! I won’t meet my business and personal goals if I let the important but not-urgent issues constantly go unaddressed.

So, to test whether I made the right move with my new job, ultimately I’ll just have a sense of satisfaction about the products I launch, I’ll see my team growing in their own career goals, and I’ll be proud and happy about the product and the people. Since I’ve only been at my new job for two months, it’s too early to say that I made the right choice for certain – though I can tell you, if you made the wrong one, you’ll know definitively, and pretty fast. Somewhat confusingly, my absence of negative emotions and lack of worry means that I probably made the right choice even if it’s too early to authoritatively tell.

Because it’s so hard to test this worry, it means it’s also hard to apply a fix and iterate. I’ve had friends move into a new job role and transfer out again in 30 days, which seemed rather fast to me. Talking with them about the change, though, they knew that they couldn’t work for a boss who screamed, or who used sexist/racist/*ist statements that made my friend immediately uncomfortable. My friends moved as soon as they could find another gig. I feel lucky that I’ve never landed in a role that was that bad, that quickly – but on the bright side? They saw an undeniable signal that, no, this job won’t work for them. This choice was 100% the wrong one!

Personally, I test whether I still feel satisfaction logging onto my computer every morning. I know that if I will feel pride when I finish a keystone project or can imagine that I will get a sense of satisfaction from promoting an employee, I’ve probably made the right choice. At a minimum, I know I have pointed myself in the right direction and should continue on. That kind of mindful test allows me to make minor changes in course when there’s just not much signal to go off of, so I may move a certain item up my To Do list. With that change in priority, I check in with myself and see if I feel optimistic about the future state of the world… and that’s all I can do, really.

Let me know if you apply this framework to your new job fears, and how they turn out. I think some of these worries apply themselves to testing more easily than others, as you’ve seen from my description of how I apply my framework. I find it easier to address my imposter syndrome and my human tribal worries than to address my fears around “doing the right thing”. While it’s frustrating to not really know that I’ve made the right choice in life, that seems like a pretty universal human condition, doesn’t it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you’re like most people, you find a new job, or broader responsibilities in your current job, is a nerve racking experience. Change is scary. No matter what you say, or how much you embrace change, it’s a short step from, “I’m so excited!”, to “what in the world have I done?”

Real talk, on the day you accepted that offer, you flipped from one extreme to the other — at least 4 times. Even with self-care (proper hydration, exercise, adequate sleep and food), you might be spinning from excited to ‘oops!’ rapidly. Thankfully, these self-care steps are some great coping mechanisms we can all use. And beyond self care, you can test your fears. They complement each other, so you can start testing each fear, and move on to dealing with your fears via exercise, sleep, whatever, and you’ll find that using both, you’re minimizing your fears moving forward.

In my last post I discussed coaching my teammates, peers, new hires, and people at school and in earlier jobs — I found the worries they experience with changes land into one of 3 categories:

  • Imposter syndrome — will I do ok?
  • Human tribal nature — will they like me?
  • Choice economics — did I do the right thing?

And the 5-step scientific framework we’ll apply here:

  • Test
  • Assess
  • Apply
  • Evaluate
  • Repeat if needed

Let’s discuss the first fear, imposter syndrome, and how we can apply our framework to it.
Just in case you want to know more about imposter syndrome, here’s a great TED talk I’ve found helpful, and an article on HBR.

Once you’ve finished with these links, you’re may still be wondering if you’ll do well at your new job. Don’t forget! You got this job based on your history, experience, and your performance during your interview. If you’re still feeling like an imposter, you can tell yourself that you got this gig based on your interview and prior achievements, so don’t worry too much! Many people still need a little help, and this is where we can apply our framework.

To reality-test your performance, talk to your boss, ask your peers, or seek feedback from clients and customers. If you genuinely seek and ask for feedback, most people will be happy to share their thoughts. Maybe your boss tells you that that you did a thorough job researching a document, but it isn’t in the format they expected, and it’s more granular than they wanted. You need to figure out a fix.

First try asking if the current format’s ok, or if they’d prefer you re-work it. Let’s say your boss suggests you keep the current format but maybe roll it up into a less-granular summarization of the first draft. Great! You have a direction now, you can test with that. Without being pedantic, you can whip up a fix that attempts to correct for the feedback you received, and later circle back with the update. At this point, your boss is happy (or not) and you can iterate from there, or know that you completed the project to your boss’ satisfaction…and you can, in the future, remind yourself that you did a job to your boss’ requirements, and that satisfied your boss. Tell that nagging voice in your head that you’re not an imposter if you can make a satisfactory deliverable for a big project that your boss cares about.

One way to get the imposter in your mind to back off is to do your job well. Praise and gratitude both help silence the imposter, but in the long run, praise and gratitude from others do end up being external motivation. The most satisfying motivation comes from within. Remind yourself that you did a good job! And use that satisfaction to continue moving forward and achieving.

As a bonus, I’ll link two books that helped me with Imposter Syndrome personally include Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and Amy Cuddy’s Presence.

My next post will cover how to apply this framework to human tribal nature, and choice economics.