Manager Readme or first meeting script

The last autumn my team grew from 5 to 11 engineers. In order to onboard new engineers effectively, I wrote down my values, expectations, and process, so that I could use it as a first meeting script. Given it worked quite well, I decided to share it wider.

The script is in full below


What do I value the most?

  • Always have an answer to “Why project? Why this way? Why this scope?”. For an engineer making the right trade-off is half of the job. Being busy is not the desired outcome, so it important to take into account the project objective, timeline, implementation alternatives.
  • Autonomy — when everyone is a one-person startup. I appreciate when people take responsibility and love to empower them.
  • Feedback, openness, and transparency. I intend to learn from working with you and I hope that you will, too.
  • T-shaped professional — you need to have deep knowledge and skills in one area, but also can operate in other roles (and with seniority a need for your effectiveness in adjunct roles grows). E.x. if you are developing frontend, you pick-up Sketch skills. If you are a mobile developer, you could write APIs. If you specialize in RoR, you also are interested in AWS and optimizing data-stores.
  • I am a big believer in “no broken windows”. I like clean design, well-handled edge-cases, coding style conventions, and low exception & pager noise. Your colleagues and users, who are using what you build, need to think about the task at hand without spending mental effort on ignoring cruft or noise.

Expectations for people I manage

  • Reliability and Quality. Test what you deliver and maintain it. Manage your timeline.
  • Prioritization. Know “Why?”. If this is an experiment, most often we would want a 20% effort for 80% results. If we are investing or scaling this functionality, we want to make it as complete as possible within a reasonable time. Building tools for other engineers is a totally different game.
  • Leadership. Own the project, the feature, the system, the technology you are building. Start as a one-person startup and grow your team, impact, and influence.

Keep me accountable

I am a coach and a team lead. My goals are:

  • help you to be successful (grow fast or attain craftmanship)
  • remove impediments & organize work effectively

I do so through:

  • regular 1:1
  • day-to-day operations—let me know how I can help. If you don’t tell me if you are blocked for a long time, that’s a problem
  • honest and timely feedback

Effective 1:1

Every 1:1 calendar invitation includes this image and I and have a print-out on my desk.

Come prepared — you can add things to my TODO. Come prepared — bring agenda (see this presentation
 
 Let’s achieve your personal goals:

  • How do you see your career in the next 5 years?
  • What do you want to learn?
  • Are you looking for rapid professional growth or day to day stability right now?

Let’s define your personal roadmap using projects on the intersection of your career goals and business priorities:

  • Interesting projects from team’s roadmap
  • System improvements?
  • Feature ideas?
  • Bug fixes? Exceptions? Architecture? Scalability? Security improvements?
  • Open-Source projects?

Don’t hesitate to give feedback to me!

Availability / Communication

Feel free to talk to me at any time. I prefer face to face, but Slack works great too. If I am busy, I will decline and ask you to schedule a time with me. Don’t save urgent matters for a 1–1 and don’t wait till the last minute!
 
 I work after-hours but I don’t expect you to do the same.

  • Email: read it at least twice a day (Mon-Fri)
  • Slack: @mention is expected to be answered within a few hours during business hours. I sometimes will message you at odd hours (sorry in advance). Don’t worry — it is based on your availability. It usually can wait till the next business day, unless you are on call.

Disclaimer

This script reflects things that I saw working well at various stages of Instacart growth and builds upon Manager Readmes from a number of successful Silicon Valley companies. Sharing a Manager Readme may be perceived as a risky move since it enables the new recruit to hold the manager accountable as it builds concrete expectations. Although this wasn’t the case at Instacart, I was warned against it by a mentor and just used this document as a script in my first meetings with a new team member — there was a lot of ground to cover and talking points are immensely helpful.

This document only reflects only my own views and, and in no way should be considered to apply to any other team or manager at Instacart.

Thank you for Daisuke Fujiwara, Xiuming Chen and Jack Dempsey for review and feedback!