Earlier this week, I had the distinct privilege of being invited to be on a panel at UCBerkeley’s “New Manager Bootcamp“.
This was my first time participating on an “expert panel” like this, so I really wast sure what I was getting myself into.
The auditorium was packed with ~90 people, all seasoned professionals from a range of different companies and different industries. They’d spent a bunch of time in workshops, listening and learning in an intensive crash-course. Now the tables were turned – they got to set the pace, and ask all the questions. After intros, and one “warm up” question from the organizer, the free-flow open questions started. From all corners of the room. Non-stop. For 75mins.
The trust and honesty in the room was great, and it was quickly evident that everyone was down-to-earth, asking brutally honest questions simply because they wanted to do right with their new roles and responsibilities.
The first few questions were “easy” black-and-white type questions. Things quickly got interesting with tricky gray-zone questions for the rest of the session. Each panelist responded super-honestly on how we’d each handled those tricky situations. Given that we all came from different backgrounds, different cultures, different careers, it was no surprise that we had different perspectives and attitudes for these gray-zone questions. We even had panelists asking each other questions, live on stage!?! As individual panelists, we didnt always agree on the mechanics of what we did, but we all agreed on the motivations of *why* we did what we did: taking care of people’s lives, and careers, individually, as part of the group, and as part of the company.
I found this educational, and I hope it was useful for the people asking the questions! Afterwards, I spent time in a nearby coffee shop quietly thinking about the questions, and reliving the different experiences behind the answers I shared on stage.
Unexpectedly, I was also asked to come back the next day, to talk about “we are all remoties“. Turns out that geo-distributed groups was a popular topic of discussion throughout the bootcamp, but I was still surprised at the level of interest when Homa asked for a quick show of “who would be willing to skip lunch for an extra session on remoties” and almost everyone jumped up! The “remoties” presentation was rushed, because of the tight time grabbing food-to-go, making sure not to delay the other scheduled sessions, and the flood of questions. Yet, people were fully engaged, sitting on the floor with food, asking great questions, and really excited by what was possible for distributed groups when the mechanics were debugged.
Distributed work groups are obviously a big issue, not just in open source software projects, but also in a lot of other companies in the bay area.
Big thanks to Homa and Kim for putting it all together. The timing of this was fortuitous, and I found myself thinking about possible ideas for Mozilla’s ManagerHacking series that morgamic revived recently and will be coming up again in a few weeks.