Refactoring Leadership

A geek struggles to become a leader


Last year at Edgenet, we switched from PTO to DTO. Under Discretionary Time Off you don't accrue a certain promised amount of vacation. You and your manager work out what you need with no set limit. This seemed like a progressive move to me but I got a lot of negative feedback. The reservations were:
  1. If I quit or get fired, I no longer have a cushion of PTO to help me transition.
  2. I don't like the fact that a new employee has the same vacation as me, since I've been here for X years and now accrue at a higher rate.
I don't necessarily have a great answer for issue #1, things like terminating someone is handled on a case by case basis. Issue #2 seems to betray a lack of trust in management: Damon will hire someone fresh out of college and let them take six weeks their first year. There are a couple of reasons why I like this policy.

While Edgenet has a codified list of our Values, when people ask me about our my management style I usually start with a very basic elevator speech: I strive to focus on the things that are important and ignore the things that aren't. Whatever vacation quotient The Almighty HR Gods came up with doesn't mean as much to me as whether or not you are meeting your commitments. I have long seen good managers unofficially throw extra vacation at someone who's been going the extra mile, and this just makes that my official policy.

This also gives me a unique way to take care of people. While I will argue that workaholics are bad for your culture, some people just can't help it. Maybe they are not truly committed workaholics, but they suffer from the notion that they are such a Lynchpin that Bad Things™ will happen if they take rest.

Someone may also be looking at a calendar year and budgeting their vacation. "Ok, I have X days for this trip during the summer, X days around Thanksgiving, X days after Christmas, so I really can't take this 4 day weekend..." With DTO I'm able to force someone to take the mental health days they may need. I have actually threatened to turn off someone's access fob and VPN for a few days if they don't voluntarily take some time for themselves to rejuvenate.

What do you think? A good tool or a trendy bit of nonsense?

Refactoring Leadership

You probably haven't heard of me. If you have, I'm not that guy anymore. I don't do those things anymore. I probably won't post my machine learning code in C# or Python. I probably won't be showing you amazing Reflection Emit metaprogramming tricks or showing you how to harness GPU computing from managed code.

I won't make any claims about being the best RockstarNinjaUnicorn developer, but I was successful as a developer and even more so as a software architect. To become successful, I cultivated various habits. These habits involve how I work, how I learn, and how I improve. Most importantly, I am hard-wired for constant introspection. I am my worst critic, and I'm always on.

This is the story of a life long geek who became a manager and hopes to become a leader. I manage developers, software architects, DBAs, and IT infrastructure pros. I want to be great at this.