the dream team
I just hung out with my coworkers for the past two weeks straight. That statement usually doesn't seem that impressive until I disclose that when our team gets together we share an Airbnb, and arrive in the office by 8:45 AM. A strong team of seven nerds, we are the last line of technical support before we file an issue with our engineering team. With each team member strategically located around the world in case of an outage, us being all together in the same place is a once (maybe twice) a year occasion.
The last time we got together, one of my colleagues said that I was the least diverse person on our team. He might be right considering that we are comprised of the following:
- A German guy living in London (but was in Ireland until a few months ago)
- A Japanese guy living in London
- A Brazilian guy living in San Francisco
- A Brazilian guy living in San Jose (but was in New York until a few months ago)
- An Australian guy living in Sydney
- A mormon girl living in Ann Arbor
I replied that technically I was ethnically Chinese living in San Francisco. Didn't that count as something? He replied - No Becky. You are American.
That's what I love about him. He gives it to you straight, and there is no beating around the bush. He's the first one to call bullshit on something you say, and yet you somehow you find yourself still laughing about it. Then we have our process-oriented German who loves give huge hugs, and who seems to have already lived five lives. Our dead-pan Japanese guy with dry humor always "pocket dials" our team's group chat by accidentally blowing up our phones with a bunch of stickers. Our health and fitness conscious Australian who restores old cars in this free time, can tell you a lot - about a lot. Our other Brazilian, who recently shaved his head so we say that it looks like he just got out prison - always seems to have something witty to say about everything. And lastly my right hand woman (@katypratt), who quit Google to bike around the world on a tandem bicycle, somehow manages to juggle the six of us and an infant with such grace.
The seven of us are pretty different, with a wide variety of strengths and interests. Our team is like a bunch of puzzle pieces of different colors, shapes and sizes. Inspected individually, you might think that our pieces wouldn't have anything to do with the others. However, when put together, we operate as a full freight train that can't be stopped. We're like the Power Rangers.
Multiple folks from other teams have individually told me that we seem "like a little family".
When describing our team to a Product Manager, the best analogy I could come up with was that "we were all like ice cream cones with different toppings. 🍦 I'd have to say by now we are like different types of ice cream sundaes." (Yes, I'm quoting myself from an email I wrote to my team almost a year ago.)
I've been watching a number of videos about leadership and team dynamics over the past few months. Given how different each of us are, I have been wondering what keeps our team together, and how I can encourage us to keep working together as a unit.
In the past three months, four of our team's leaders announced that they were changing roles (three over the past two weeks) - two who has made a huge impact on my life. With the announcement of a pending re-org, I've been trying understand what made them such great leaders so that hopefully there will be someone who will fill these gaps in the future. Thrown into the oceanic feeling of change, scared that our little family will be torn apart out of fear and/or anticipation.
I went to the engineering lead's going away party on Friday, where he talked about his experience joining the team, and gradually what the team became. When he first started, he quickly learned the importance of trust. The importance of letting go and relying on the team, and forcing them to grow as individuals.
I have a hard time trusting people - both at work, as well as personally. Perhaps "hard" is the wrong word, but rather am not smart about trusting people. Either I trust too early and things don't work out, or I'm just reluctant to trust people (potentially as a result of the former). Trust that I can rely on others. Trust that others have my back. Trust that they aren't just using me.
In the work context, I've been told multiple times that I need to trust my teammates more. People can tell when their leader doesn't trust them. A strong leader knows when to step in, and when to step out. My managers have been encouraging me to learn how to "Do more by doing less."
This reminds me of Seth Godin's idea that there needs to be a vacuum for a leader to emerge. "When we sense that there's a vacuum... someone feels enough push that they overcome that internal resistance and say, all right I'll do it. Let's go."
With all of the recent changes, I see tons of vacuums all around me now. Naturally I want to try to fill as many as I can, but I'm also learning that I need to trust that other people will do their part as well.