In the last couple of months, I was thinking a lot about leadership.
It was not some deliberate targeted effort, it was more unplanned and it just naturally happened. I think the root cause for that was the fact, that I realized the difference between a “manager” or worse a “career manager” and a “leader”.
I am surrounded, more or less closely, by some exceptional leaders like David DeWolf, Scott Varho, Filip Zednicek, and many others. That sparked my curiosity, and I wondered how could I start working to become a leader like those role models in the future.
I started to ask myself questions like:
What does it mean to be a leader?
What do I expect from a leader?
What would anyone expect from a leader?
Is it a more natural skill or something you can learn?
Are extrovert people better suited to become leaders, or can introverts lead with success?
And many more questions like that…
I wanted to start acting more like a leader, while not being a manager.
And I believe that the ground truth I was desperate to discover was the answer to this idea:
After I realized that, I had to ask myself:
How could I do that, not being a manager with a team, but just an ordinary individual contributor?
The first answer to that question I could find was this, and I will use it as an example:
I heard something about a “coding dojo”.I started wondering how great it would be to throw one for my colleagues?
That obviously needed some plan. I will try to describe to you, how I proceeded and what next steps I have in mind to give this activity really outsized impact.
Step one – research.
I went online and read anything reasonable I could find about coding dojos. How to organize those events, what works and what doesn’t. It took me quite some time, but I learned a lot and had a clear idea of how to throw the first event.
(a little spoiler – I successfully organized two coding dojo events already and I will add some articles about it soon)
Step two – start small and get help.
Once I had a clear vision for the first session, I decided it would be good to get some help and I asked two colleagues of mine to facilitate the session with me.
I booked the conference room, send out the invites, and advertised the session a little bit on our internal chat.
People are visual creatures so I prepared fancy-looking slides in company colors to help us facilitate the session, explain the “game rules” etc.
Step three – learn&scale up
I learned a lot from the feedback on the first session and decided that it would be great to turn the one-time event into something regular. This is going well as it seems that people really like it (we have like 70% attendance rate) and it is transforming into a regular once in two months event.
Step four – scale up again
This is a planned step that I am trying to make happen right now.
I was wondering – how to scale it further up?
So I am preparing a “How to throw your local coding dojo” portal with all the information, motivation, etc. for the whole organization. I want to also do some online sessions to motivate people. (which will be challenging).
If this will be a success (And I strongly believe in it) the impact will be huge.
Much bigger than I initially thought.
So, to wrap up on the topic of “Everyday Leadership”:
I believe that anybody can act as a leader – it’s all about stepping up and influencing the people around us in a good way.
I call it “everyday leadership”.
You can start small.
You can scale it up.
You don’t need to be a manager to act as a leader.
Just think, what could I do for people around me to help us all be a little bit more successful as a team.
For me, leadership is not about my personal satisfaction – in fact, sometimes you need to put your pride aside to be a better leader – because, in the end, it’s not about you.
It’s about the team.
Hope it makes at least a bit of sense and thanks for reading.
I was recently approached by one of my friends. He noticed my increased online presence and was wondering how is that possible.
He teased me a little bit:
“Hey, I thought you are not such a show-off! I always considered you to be more of an introvert!”
Well, he was right. He was right about one thing.
I am not an extrovert. I am indeed an introvert, 100% sure of that.
Meeting new people, reaching out to them, is a real challenge for me. I find myself lost at larger gatherings like grill parties, conferences, etc. I find it difficult to overcome my ridiculous inner fears and go to new places. I don’t feel like trying new things. And it scares me to create some new meaningful connections just by talking to strangers.
The good thing though is that I know I have those issues. And I choose to willingly fight back in everything I do, every time I can. Sometimes with success. And sometimes I just lose. That’s life, right?
The important thing is that I don’t let my inner introvert rule my actions. Or at least I don’t intend to!
Let’s get back to this “online showoff”.
First of all, I don’t consider my online writing as “showing off”. I just like to do it. It brings me real joy. I believe I have things to say, I convert them into words, and that’s it.
And if there are people who want to read it and it brings them some value? Great.
I will not pretend like this didn’t make me happy. Of course, a healthy amount of attention and feedback makes me happy. Every comment and message I get is a nice dopamine dose, making me more motivated and grateful.
Writing online might seem like a lonely activity. And it is indeed. It is similar to giving a speech on the stage. Some years back I also had a few lectures in front of a lot of people, and I also played a bit of the theatre. I loved it. Despite my introverted personality, I always loved it.
Do You know why? Let me tell you – it doesn’t matter how many people are watching you, because at that exact moment you are alone. There is no threat of conversations you should start but you are afraid of. Nor There is fear of others people’s reactions. There are no people, there is the audience. Anonymous audience.
With writing it is similar, even easier. There are no people, there are readers. And in the moment of creating and grooming your article, you are alone.
Of course, it can be challenging to read some negative feedback. But as long as it is constructive and hate-free, I am ok. I am keen to get better, and readers reaching back with some advice help a lot.
Though I had this period when I had to actively convince myself that it has some meaning to post online. That it is not embarrassing, it doesn’t matter that it won’t be perfect.
Fighting your inner introvert is a challenge.
What motivates me is how many incredibly successful people went that path before me- Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, and many more – you can find more e.g. in this article. I recently noticed that even our 3PillarGlobal CEO David DeWolf fight these kind of issues (he wrote this excellent article about networking the introvert way – inspired me a lot)
Long story short – I know I am an introvert, I found the strength to regularly fight it, when it’s needed, or use it to my benefit.
It talks about the so-called “good student syndrome”. Read the details in that article, but basically:
“good students” in that meaning are excessively concerned with external expectations. These individuals want to do well, follow guidelines and obey instructions, and they believe that other people are in a better position to evaluate their work.
Welcome to the jungle blog.
It does not seem so bad, right? Unfortunately, this is very bad.
And only after reading that article I had realized, that the article is 100% percent about me. I realized how deep impact and consequences that have on my life.
The pitfall of being a “good student” is, that when you leave school and come to the workplace, different rules apply. Because you got addicted to constant positive feedback, you desire constant approval of your work. You can be the best employee there – but your ever going thirst for approval makes you seem not capable of independent work. It makes you seem not able to take responsibility for the outcome of your work. And that leads to your colleagues being more successful than you.
And you will even feel aggrieved. Because you can’t understand what is wrong. You will feel not treated fair.
Realizing I have “good student” issues was a game changer
Realizing that I had a strong “good student” syndrome was a game-changer for me and it came at the right time. I just started my career change back then, pursuing the job of a software engineer, after 6 years in sales. I realized how much more successful I would have been so far if I realized sooner. Never mind, it is great to know now.
From that point on, I constantly challenge myself every time I want feedback. Every time I feel insecure or not performing well. I allow myself a moment to stop and ask myself – do I need some external feedback, or is it just a “good student” inside me asking for approval?
Often, I just say “good work Pavel” and continue with what I was doing 🙂
Another thing that helped me with that issue a lot is to note your success. To create a sort of brag list – a lot about that is in this post. It is easy to forget about your day-to-day wins. So make a list of everything you accomplish. It can even help you with annual performance evaluations and similar stuff.
I have a sort of brag list, although I don’t go that far to share it with my manager as suggested in the article.
That’s all for today. And if you just found out you have an issue with introverted personality or “good student” syndrome ruling your life, then congratulations!
It is the first step to spin it to your advantage.
is a mantra often connected with startups, or any sort of fresh in the market entrepreneur.
I believe the idea behind this is to move quickly, experiment with new ideas and processes before you invest heavily into them. I had to learn that way of thinking too, and I try to apply it to everything I do with one important twist.
The twist is to realize that failure is not a goal, the goal is to be prepared for the possibility of failure. And to be prepared to learn my lesson. If you truly believe in something, sometimes you have an urge to play it all in.
The second part I find important is to lower your expectations and invest appropriately with realistic outcomes in mind.
For example blog creation
Imagine you are starting a brand new blog, because you have this big urge to be heard. You have fantastic ideas for the first couple of posts. Then you start it big, rent a domain, web hosting. Maybe you spend a month playing with graphic style or even hire someone to do it professionally for you. You create your first post, Then hire someone to proofread it and you rewrite it three times to make it perfect.
Then the big moment comes – you publish it. The whole 12 people read it the first week, your mom included.
After all this effort that might be a tough crash with reality. And you would most possibly not have the energy to continue, you might find yourself paralyzed.
Let’s get back to “fail fast, fail cheap”
The version I like more is a bit different. Learn fast, learn cheap. What I like about that mantra is the emphasis on LEARN. The desired outcome of our mistakes is to get better, right?
And it does not have to be necessarily connected just to failures. Things that don’t work. I also tend to connect it with challenges like getting better at written English. This blog is a great example – is it perfect? Hell no. But I hope it is a bit better with every post, every small bit I am working on.
So, what about those two failures of mine I kindly advertised in the heading?
Failure no. 1
Weekly notes. It was this post, where I advertised that I want to post weekly notes from now on – yeah, it was the first and the last one I did. I quickly realized that I can note down some interesting stuff and random shoutouts during my weeks, but the overhead to refine it into a post with some qualities is just too big for me for now. I am also still finding the answer to some key questions – like – What will be the majority of blog content? Will it become more of a lifestyle diary of mine with ideas and thoughts braindump? Or will I add more and more technical content over time?
I don’t know.
And I have the luxury to experiment and try. I have the luxury to do new things and get rid of them quickly if those don’t work for me or you guys. This is a pure-for-joy project right now, so it does not matter.
It took me some effort to mature my personality to the point that I can consciously stop the “weekly” notes project without guilt. Although I still love the idea and I might find a better platform for that with less overhead involved.
Failure no. 2
I love to try new things at work.
I want to be an active part of our community and help to shape our culture. Since the start of the year, I came with two ideas on how to contribute to our culture of craftsmanship.
The cheaper one was to build on certain momentum established by the advent of code – I know that some of my colleagues including myself participated. And enjoyed. So I created a dedicated slack channel for my colleagues called “the problem of the month”. The idea was to choose and post some interesting kata each month. I expected that some of my colleagues will solve it, we would exchange our ideas and code. Long story short – I did not work. Almost 15 colleagues joined the channel, but that was their last action. After 15 days the channel was still stale with no activity at all.
I invested roughly an hour of my time into that, it did not work but was worth the effort. Learn fast, learn cheap, right?
To be honest, the second idea to organize the coding dojo was a real success, but that is the story for another time (I will write about that very soon).
What should be your take-home message?
I don’t feel like giving any advice, so I will try to paraphrase what I try to suggest myself regularly: Don’t be afraid of experimenting. Don’t be afraid of trying new things. But, invest a reasonable amount of your effort, energy, and money. Be honest with yourself, evaluate what works and what does not on the regular basis. Learn fast and cheap.
Thanks for reading. As usual, every feedback is appreciated, just message me over LinkedIn, Instagram or leave me a comment.
Hi everyone, hope you are doing well. Today one non-tech, yet very important topic.
Today I want to talk about values.
The cornerstone question of today’s post is this:
“What does it mean to have some values in your life? What does it mean when a company claims to pursue some values?”
And I would like to think a bit about other staff closely connected to values.
Why? Because I believe values are important.
I started this post something like 2 months ago – and it evolved over time. It is not a very easy topic – I am still not 100% happy with the current state of the post, but anyway – I can always improve it over time.
What inspired me to even think about values?
Quite recently, three months back, we had a visit from our HQ in the USA and a Romania branch. If you guessed that the main topic of their visit was to share company values with us, you guessed right.
It was a bunch of really important people like David Sawatsky, our COO. Scott Varho, our VP of product development, has now a new exciting role connected to company culture and values. Alina Perde, Product development senior manager, and Anca Popescu – Director of global talent acquisition.
And those people came to us, despite COVID, despite the distance, to spend the whole day with us together at Olomouc, Czechia talking about the 3pillarglobal values. I mean, that is pretty impressive, right? And together as one team, we were asking ourselves questions like – What does “quality” mean? What transforms a good team into a great one? And we discussed a lot more topics like that.
Again, How great is that?
To be honest, this quite strongly resonated with me. That moment got me thinking about my values. And about values in general. What exactly are things I believe in? What are those things that are vital in my life? Based on what do I make decisions in everyday life, be it personal or professional? What exactly is my internal compass?
Let’s take a step back and think a little bit about the term “value” itself. Oxford dictionary can give you all the meanings of that term, and I kind of like two – First of all, value (uncountable singular) can mean “the quality of being useful or important”. The second meaning is that (plural) values mean “beliefs about what is right and wrong and what is important in life”.
– The quality of being useful or important.
– Beliefs about what is right and wrong and what is important in life.
In my search for a deeper understanding of the term VALUE, I also stumbled upon this video called “Why values matter”.
There is yet another definition of values that resonated with me a lot – values are “situation independent decision helpers”. And I believe this is the root meaning of having values in your life indeed. Values are not about goals, about the milestones you want to reach nor about your dreams. No, values are about the everyday consistency of the path you are walking through life. Values are about the way we want to live, about the way we do stuff.
Values are situation independent decision helpers.Jan Stassen
I never really thought this through. I think I am living according to some values. But when you actually DEFINE what is it, that you believe in, when you see it written down black and white, it can be a powerful and truly transformative moment.
So let’s get back to that visit.
I will write more about my own values later, probably in a separate article, since this one would be too long.
I want to focus on that moment when I believed in our company values. When I realized that I don’t need to be concerned about being a part of a company of 3pillarglobal size.
Don’t get me wrong, I already knew I am at the right place. In Olomouc, we have great people, who are caring for each other. Our leadership – Filip, Petr, and Martin, are trustworthy, honest people you can count on. I never experienced such a company culture in the past.
So the local level – our branch in Olomouc, Czechia – works very well. But 3pillar is quite huge these days already, and it was this upper corporate level I was cautious about. I worked in corporate size enterprises before, and it was always about politics, internal fights, people defending their piece of the kingdom…and there was very little transparency.
Company values were always good for the official brochures and wallpapers in the employee kitchen.
Also in our hallway, some months after we were acquired by 3pillar magically appeared four posters with “Company values”. And I thought something like – “Oh boy, here comes the corporate”. I will be honest with you, I did not even bother to really read it. I have my values and don’t need some fabricated corporate ones, after all. Right?
And it would have had probably stayed like that unless it was for the leadership visit I mentioned.
Every larger company has some “company values”.
But the moment, when you will believe in those is when you see people leading the company actually living according to those values.
We, as humankind love stories. It is written into our DNA, some even say the ability to tell a story is the thing, that differentiates us from animals.
The story is a very efficient tool when it comes to passing information further. So is our own experience. (Btw story is nothing else than the shared experience of someone else.)
We had this 2 hours long workshop with Alina, going through those company values I ignored for weeks on the hallway wall. It was great storytelling, a lot of examples, and then we were assigned some “real life” scenarios, trying to solve these situations according to our company values. After that we discussed it.
You know what? It was easy. I proposed what I would normally do without knowledge of some special company values. And it worked as it should.
We believe that all people are innately worthwhile and possess unique talents and perspectives that only they can contribute. We treat each and every person with respect and honor their ability to contribute to our collective success.
We embrace the collective power of humanity and actively seek to engage the unique talents and perspectives that others bring to bear. We forge strong bonds of trust that enable us to share openly and work in harmonic concert.
We aspire to transform the world together. We pursue the seemingly impossible with passionate zeal and embrace the types of challenges that have the potential to change society – the way we live, the way we work, and the way we play.
We passionately pursue excellence in order to make ourselves, our teams, and our world a better place. We prioritize progress over perfection, pursue small wins that build momentum, and voraciously consume lessons that propel us forward.
When you realize that you can sign under every one of your company values, probably you are where you were meant to be.
I believe those values are the same our CEO David DeWolf is implementing his whole life. And that’s the reason they resonate through the company so strongly.
It’s been a while since I posted something online. In fact, I have not posted anything for about 6 months now, and the reason is quite simple. I got a little bit stuck, overwhelmed by a few possible choices, unable to make my final decision, and move on. Almost a year ago, I decided to take a leap of faith, leave a banking job that was no longer fulfilling to me and start working on getting into software development. And that journey went very well for me, almost like a real American dream.
Sometimes, dreams just come true
After just a few months on the job, can keep up with the rest of the team. I am able to come up with possible solutions for the feature we are about to implement and then translate my thoughts into the code. And that is the core essence of software development after all. So far so good.
Along my journey to become a software developer, I used to write blog posts quite regularly. About the joy and struggles of learning how to code. About the fears and excitements connected to my first job interviews. Then I stopped – I don’t know exactly why – might be that I felt like I was bragging. I was a little bit ashamed of how things went well for me. Of course, I had to work hard to get where I am, but the feeling that I was a little too lucky was simply there.
After some time I decided that I should resume my blog writing attempts. I have realized that I miss it all quite a lot. And I could no longer excuse myself with the initial load of stuff for the job itself… but, after that, I realized I might want to start writing it in English so that I am not narrowing my audience only to the Czech republic. Also if I’m thinking long term, it makes sense, as I expect more technical content to leak into my posts. Well, my English is far from perfect, but it is slowly and steadily improving with every month on the job, so after some more hesitation I decided I will write this blog in English from now on.
And it might be a bit ridiculous sometimes, sometimes it might be a bit heavy, but hey, nobody has started with anything immediately perfect.
Our whole life is about continuously pushing our boundaries forward, getting out of our comfort zone, and getting better at stuff. Or at least it should be if you don’t want to be drawn into routine and everyday grey.
So, welcome itnoob.cz reborn. I decided not to change the name and domain of the blog because I actually still find it accurate. I am a newbie. And I will always be a newbie at something, as I decided to embark on the road of never-ending learning and improvement.
Continuous improvement and my first months
In fact, the idea of continuous improvement is one of the values of 3pillarglobal, my employer, but that would be a topic for some other time.
Today I want to talk about the importance of working with the right people. When I joined the company, I heard multiple times that they are choosing the people they want in their teams very carefully, because they are building a company that is supposed to work as a sort of a big family. And I immediately thought – bullshit. But hey – our managers are true leaders, my colleagues are all really supportive and fun to work with. And real professionals.
The first month on the job was really harsh – And I could not make it without all the great people around me. To be honest, I really did not feel very comfortable during my first few days on the job. I was afraid of prejudice. I was afraid that those “real” programmers would look at me and think I am a total impostor etc. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Everybody was just very supportive, professional, and welcoming.
When you are a junior dev, with just very limited commercial experience in software development, it is super important to find a company where people have enough time for you. To join a company that is ready to invest in you. And you should be prepared for the fact that you will give something back one day. And it might be not only that you will do a good job, but also those extra things you can do. There is a superb article by Daria Grudzien called The one about managing self as a junior. https://dariagrudzien.com/posts/the-one-about-managing-self-as-a-junior/
The subtitle of this article is “Or how to lower the load on your team”. That was exactly what I strived for – to be able to work independently as soon as possible, but at the same time know when to shout for help and not waste time. And I recommend every junior dev to read it. I had read it before I joined the team and I did the same now – a few months later. If anything then I consider the article even more valuable.
Let’s get back to people
When you start at our company as a fresh employee, being junior or senior, you always get a buddy. Someone – usually other dev – who will help you through your first days and weeks to get up to speed and get familiar with the project, our processes, and anything you can imagine.
For me it was Ivo Horak – and I would like to thank him a lot – as he did an excellent job. And looking back, I must admit one scenario. He likely accelerated my development as a software engineer maybe by months.
And that start was funny, I even remember that one time he wrote in a review of my code comment:
“Is this a joke?”
…He was messing with me a little bit, in a good way, don’t get me wrong – Ivo is a total professional. The point was that I added some method for a new protobuf message we added to our codebase, and there were like 20 similar ones already – all with parameters boolean b, string s. So, I did it the same way. And Ivo challenged that and asked me a question I will always remember – Was something like:
“So, if you see that someone wrote something 20 times, will you just blindly copy it? Or will you think about the way you would write it? And you should ask yourself – Am I copy-pasting code, that has some quality or not?”
Hey, thanks to you Ivo! I will remember this and many other lessons you gave me!
So how am I doing?
I think that generally speaking, I am doing well, considering I haven’t been in the business of developing software that long. And I think one of the reasons is, that from the beginning I think a lot about the quality – of work, of code, of the way we are doing things. I identify myself with the opinions and ideas of people like Robert C. Martin. But let’s dive into that area some other time in maybe a little bit deeper and concise article.
What will come next?
The beginning and the ending are the most important parts of every story, blog post included. This one was a little bit chaotic, I know, but a lot has happened in the last few months and I did want to give you a slight idea at least.
Next weeks and months I will write more about the way we work, about the things I enjoy doing as a software developer in 3pillarglobal. And also some of my fuckups, because don’t believe that my way is a narrow straight success street 🙂
See ya later, looking forward to hearing from you – any feedback is welcome, just leave me a comment or message me on LinkedIn, Instagram.