Culture eats strategy, but…

A key part of my new job is vision and strategy development and then aligning our roadmap to that strategy. Right now, there’s a great vision, but there are gaps in the strategy that I need to address.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Peter Drucker

Within a few days of starting, this quote popped into my head (and then was repeated by the CITO just a week later, so now lots of us are thinking about it). The implication is that no matter how good your strategy is, culture is what determines success. I think this quote cuts a few different ways:

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Joining Stride Learning

Yesterday, I wrote about leaving Adaptavist. Today, I’m excited to write about joining Stride.

I got both my job at Adaptavist and my job at Stride through LinkedIn. For the former, a recruiter found me and reached out, and for the latter, I applied. What’s interesting about my applying to Stride is that I didn’t know I was.

They have a job board, but I didn’t find that. Rather, one night my guild leader on Guild Wars 2 was talking about his new job in edtech, and I thought, “Hey, I have backgrounds in both education and technology… why have I never looked for a job in edtech?” So I went to LinkedIn and searched for “edtech.” Then, I filtered for Easy Apply and remote, read a few job adverts that looked interesting, and clicked the button for one of them.

A week or so later, a recruiter called me and asked about my application. She said it was for Stride, which I had never heard of and wasn’t listed in the advert. I think this is interesting: as near as I can tell, she’s a contracted recruiter for Stride, and she takes the adverts from their job board, then posts them to LinkedIn with Easy Apply enabled. She reads through all of a candidate’s information (in my case, it’s not just my jobs but also my projects, volunteering, etc.), and then refers the best candidates to the hiring manager.

In retrospect, I am both incredibly grateful and incredibly horrified by this. I am so excited to join Stride, and the realization that I would have missed out on this job if not for the recruiter and her using Easy Apply is nearly heartbreaking.

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Leaving Adaptavist

Back in July of 2014, a recruiter messaged me on LinkedIn and asked if I would be interested in interviewing for a position working with Atlassian software. I normally rejected such messages, but I decided to accept the call.

It took 20 minutes for her to mention that the company recruiting me was Adaptavist. I was absolutely floored. I had been working with Atlassian software for 7 years at that point, and Adaptavist was a big deal in the space. I had been looking at some of their plugins for a while and I admired them as a company, so I was shocked that they wanted to recruit me.

2 months and 6 interviews later, they offered me a job and I joined in October 2014. I actually started working with my first consultancy client in September, covertly taking calls from my office at the university because that client was so desperate to get me in. For the first time in a long time, I was doing interesting and challenging work that I enjoyed and that was valued by my customers and colleagues. And I was doing it within the boundaries of 40 hours a week and didn’t have to work nights or weekends.

When I attended my first Atlassian Summit in 2015, Adaptavist was asked to stand up during the partner day keynote, and we were recognized while everyone applauded. I felt like a friggin’ rock star. I had arrived, and I hoped never to leave.

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Getaway Day

A few months ago, April took a weekend away to stay in a cabin and go hiking and be alone with her thoughts and God. It was tremendously beneficial for her, and after she returned we realized that I hadn’t really had any time like that for a couple of years, and not really more than a few hours of alone time contiguously for longer than that.

I had won a night’s stay in a hotel through a charity auction, so we picked a long weekend and agreed that I’d take a night and two days to just get away. Leaving her and the kids was harder than I expected, and by the end of day 1 I was really missing my family and kind of wanting to go home, but I also found the weekend to be rejuvenating and necessary.

My regular self-care consists of playing computer games 1-2 evenings a week for 2 hours at a time, reading for 30-60 minutes before bed, getting as much sleep as I can with kids who wake up before 5 am every day, and meeting with a counselor every 2 weeks. I realized partway through day 1 of my getaway that my regular self-care is like drinking water: it’s necessary, life-giving, and refreshing, but it’s also the bare minimum. It helps me survive, but not thrive.

I had a lot of realizations in my time away and wanted to document them here. I’ll go through the days chronologically.

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IOU, Steve Proffitt

I’ve been putting off writing this for a while, and the increased cognitive load and knock-on delays are forcing my hand. I can either write it, or forget it altogether, and I think it’s too important to future-me so here we go.

Back of the program for Steve’s funeral

One evening, during my second semester of college, I was walking west to east on the north side of campus. For those of you who are familiar with MSU, you can imagine me passing by Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts and thinking about the nights I had played there in the symphony, and approaching Scholars Hall where someone I cared about deeply lived… but she was in the process of ending our friendship and I was feeling lonely and sad. On that night, I had no one to call or spend time with, no one to commiserate with me, and I prayed to God.

Please God, I need some Christian friends. I need a community. I’m desperate, Lord.

And then I decided that I needed a cup of coffee. I could turn around and head downtown to the Mudhouse, but I recalled that there was a coffee shop just east of campus that I had never visited. I’d pop in there and get something, then continue my walk of angst.

I crossed National Ave., climbed the three stairs to the porch of The Potter’s House, and approached the counter, which back then was left of the door but parallel to it so you faced the back of the shop when ordering. I placed an order, perused the corkboard to the right of the register filled with advertisements for roommates and barbers and whatnot, and then accepted my sugary frappe thing while handing over my credit card.

“Oh, sorry, we’re cash only. No cards,” said the person behind the register, or something to that effect. But I already had my drink, and I was suddenly overwhelmed by shame. I probably blushed, and I stammered out that I could run across the street and get some cash from the ATM. Here I was, screwing everything up again, just like I had been all year.

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” said Steve. “We’ll just write you an IOU. What’s your name?”

My brain shut down about then. “An IOU? What do you mean?”

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I wish I had switched from Carbonite sooner

I was happy with Crashplan back in the day, and when they sold/switched me to Carbonite, I didn’t particularly mind. I’ve had two successful restores after hard drives died… the first was stressful but everything went fine, which was a huge relief. When I fried my drives a few weeks ago (remember kids, don’t use cables from an old PSU with a new PSU…), I was confident my data would be restored without any trouble.

What I didn’t know was that Carbonite is now throttling transfer speeds. I have ~650gb and it took almost 3 weeks to restore. I started looking for an alternative a week ago, and when the restore finished last night, I killed Carbonite and installed Backblaze.

My upload speed isn’t that fast, but it’s 10x faster than Carbonite’s throttled download speed. About 90gb uploaded overnight, and I’m optimistic that Backblaze will be done in a few days.

I also really like how much more secure Backblaze is. I’ve encrypted my backup, and setup 2FA with no fallback to SMS.

The timing is perfect because my Carbonite subscription renews in 9 days. As soon as I can confirm that Backblaze has my data, I can cancel Carbonite.

Investing in myself costs more than I’m currently willing to spend

I don’t think I’ll ever start wearing suits again, but I respect this piece and want to share it with you. It is powerful and good.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wear lately. I’ve been thinking a lot about my health and investing in myself. Maybe it’s worth it.

I know what you’re thinking. “Of course it’s worth it!” But that’s the effect of trauma at a young age. And I suspect many of you are wired the same way: we always think other people are worth it, but we’re not sure if we are, ourselves, worth much of anything.

But maybe I am. Maybe. April bought me a new shirt recently and I wore it on Saturday, one of the only shirts I’ve had in the last 6 years that wasn’t a free t-shirt from a work conference or something similar. I liked how it looked and how it made me feel. I now have 3 non-t-shirts that I like to wear. I have 1 pair of jeans that is in decent shape. That’s my wardrobe right now.

I have, of late, been reflecting on being valued, feeling valued, and the source of my value. As a “good Christian,” I know that this ought to come from God. But where I look to for feeling valued, it’s not God, and I’m not getting it, so I often feel down. Nice clothes won’t make me feel valued either. They won’t make other people respond to me, or talk to me, like I really want them to. And even if they did, my brain would probably find some other reason to doubt.

But there’s something about putting your body into a different position, a different posture, and the effect that has on your brain and heart. Maybe it’s worth trying. Maybe.