“Working with me” / README template for individual contributors

I keep a living document for my coworkers that covers the basics about me. I started the document at a time when I realized that I’d be going through several manager transitions in a short period of time and I wanted some control over how I was going to come across and what I’d say to each of my managers. Now I maintain the document because it turned out my teammates liked reading it too.

In terms of overall principles, here’s what I think makes a good README for an individual contributor (someone who is not managing people):

  • Keep it brief. This isn’t your Myspace profile. With this type of document, I think it’s hard to toe the line between demonstrating self-awareness and… self-absorbed preening.
  • Values and philosophies are best discussed verbally and discovered over time. Treat the document as a conversation starter, not as a series of essays.
  • There’s a difference between what people can learn from working with you over time and what you can state in a document like this. Even if you say things like, “I have no ego, feel free to call me out whenever”, no one will believe that until they get to know you. There’s no shortcut for getting people to trust you faster, so I try to stick to topics that I feel need to be covered up-front without the need for that kind of trust. (This is difficult with topics like “how to give me feedback”, but it’s a best effort kind of thing.)

In the rest of this blog post, you’ll find an edited version of my document in case you want to start your own.


Miscellaneous must-mentions

I use this section to cover anything I really want people to know about me, but that would be strange to bring up out of the blue.

  • Please call me “Amy”. “A. N.” is good too. I don’t like to be called “an” (“Anne”) verbally because it’s not my name. (Note: “an” is my username at work.)
  • Sometimes I cry if I’m thinking about something embarrassing or stressful. I think I’ve cried in front of more than half of my past managers. Don’t panic!
  • If it’s not in Jira, I often forget to do it. Please remind me to file tickets for work you would like me to prioritize. If you want to contact me outside of work hours and expect an action, it’s best if you email me (not Slack). (You can Slack me fun jokes and no-response-expected messages at any hour.)
  • I don’t like to be touched or surprised from behind. I don’t like loud noises.
  • I wear headphones because I like music and get distracted by voices, but I am always open to talk if I’m at my desk. I’ll notice a Slack message right away. (Please don’t tap me on the shoulder!)

H2 2019 goals

These goals are too Stripe-specific and personal to put here, so I’m leaving this section blank!

1:1s with my manager

I like 1:1s where we:

  • talk about professional/personal/career development for me
  • talk about strategies for how I can tackle a hairy problem (generally not in the technical sense but in the interpersonal or project management sense)
  • don’t talk about project status updates
  • talk about things that I’m bothered by in our organization

(Not all of these in one conversation)

1:1s with peers

Why do you have 1:1s with other people? What are you trying to get out of it?

I like hearing what others are working on and thinking about ways our work overlaps or how we can help each other. I also like hearing about my peers’ personal/professional goals so that I can think about ways to help. (For example, if you say that you want to get into public speaking, I’ll remember to start sending you CFPs in the future!)

Motivators

People are motivated by different things at work. When do you feel happy or accomplished? When do you feel demotivated? What makes you feel rewarded or recognized?

I feel encouraged when people help me understand the user-facing or business impact of my work. If a user says they really want something and I deliver it, I feel energized. I am also excited when someone helps me see the dollar value of what I’m doing. I am happiest day-to-day when I look forward to coming in and working with people who make work fun.

I feel discouraged when I don’t see why my work matters to the company. I am neutral-positive about gnarly technical problems, but I don’t optimize for working on technically complex problems.

Hours

This is probably more relevant to people who work at geographically distributed companies. I work in Singapore, but the majority of Stripe employees live in the US.

  • I’m usually online at 8am (to catch US folks online), in office at 9am, and ideally I would leave at 5pm.
  • Ideally, I don’t work unusual hours unless I’m on call.

Meetings

This section is probably skippable if you don’t have strong meeting feelings.

  • I prefer back-to-back meetings over having small gaps between meetings.
  • I don’t like having 1:1s on Mondays because I usually am not prepared to discuss meaningful topics at the beginning of the week. Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday are great.
  • I don’t mind having meetings rescheduled, even at the last minute. Please feel free to move meetings around without asking for permission first, as long as you select the “send email notification” option when making the change.
  • I don’t like having 1:1s delayed for more than a week. Rescheduling by 1-2 days is fine.

Feedback

I like to think that if you tell people how to give you feedback, they’ll be more likely to give it.

    • Positive stuff: Any time! Slack or 1:1 works. For small stuff, I like getting /++ messages. (Note: This is a Slack bot where people can send each other a +1 point for whatever reason.) I appreciate getting recognized casually within the team (e.g., “thanks for doing that, Amy!” in a team Slack channel), but it’s embarrassing when the spotlight is bigger than that (e.g., I don’t want everyone clapping for me in a team meeting).
      • I think it is not good when there is a pattern of all positive recognition being related to something that is stereotypically associated with Asian people and/or women. I would like to avoid only being recognized for non-technical contributions (e.g., note-taking, organizing morale events, office work).
    • Suggestions for improvement: In person is best. For example, in our 1:1s, or if you have something you want to say sooner, you can ask me to take a quick walk. Feedback on Slack is better than no feedback at all!
      • I really appreciate getting specific examples of my behaviors and how they impact people. I like the Nonviolent Communication and Situation Behavior Impact frameworks!

Work history

I’ve been on a couple of teams and projects (across two orgs) at my current company, so I quickly mention the highlights of what I did on each team. I don’t bother with previous jobs because I have LinkedIn, but some might find it useful to cover that too.

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