Jul. 3rd, 2009

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So there was a two-day class at work this week that I would've liked to have taken -- supposed to be a big hands-on overview of how lots of the moving parts of infrastructure at the company fit together. But the higher-ups on my team have really been pushing for the feature I'm working on to get done, and I don't blame them, so I didn't try to do it.

(This is the part where I digress and mention as background that I have weird deep fears about being too pushy or too forward, due to all sorts of awesome irrelevant reasons.)

Instead I mentioned briefly to the tech lead on my team that the next time the class was in town, I would really like to have the time to do it, but I understood that this wasn't the right time so I wasn't going to try now. He was totally encouraging (I heart my tech lead) and next time I will. (In some ways it might be better -- I'm told it was poorly run this time.)

This afternoon I talked to my manager, and said in passing that I was a little sad that I didn't feel like I had the time to do this right now. I told him that I'd said I'd like to do it next time. He has a really good response, and it basically boils down to this: the approach I took is actually kind of sucky for both me and my tech lead in a bunch of ways. (No, my manager did not phrase it as "kind of sucky".) Being that indirect about it means that ultimately I'm not asking for what I actually want -- I'm giving up on it without talking about it, I'm not even letting my tech lead have the chance to say yes or no. My manager offered instead as a suggestion on how to approach this: "Hi, there's this class I want to take, but I'm worried about how it will interact with getting this feature out. What do you think?" Make it a question. Which is not all that different, and still totally in my comfort zone, and yet way better -- makes it a conversation, still makes it clear that I know there are conflicts and maybe we won't be able to work them out, but directly addresses what I want rather than preemptively skipping over it and to some second-choice option that's not really what I'm driving at. This makes a lot of sense, and I wish I'd figured it out myself. But I think this is another good thing about working with + for people who know their stuff -- in the same way as I get to absorb technical knowledge left and right, it's a pretty awesome way to learn about communication too.

It's a good point in general. Ask for what I want. Not some six-degrees-separated thing that I think would be the best compromise. Don't make people guess what I'm really aiming at.

He also said that "talking about things should always be okay". Which is AWESOME. And which maybe I should have known, but is really good to hear anyways. And that everyone lives somewhere along the aggressive <------> non-demanding spectrum, and I land far enough to the non-demanding side that I shouldn't be afraid to go a bit farther towards the norm. (At work, at least.)

(On the downside, said feature is STILL NOT DONE. Gaaaaaaah. And I got blindsided twice on big-picture questions about it, one a question about timelines from tl+pm, and one just a "give me the overview" question from manager -- I think I've let myself lean too much on the more senior guy who's working on this feature with me. On the one hand, that's why he's getting paid the big(ger) bucks and I think this is supposed to be a Leadership Experience for him; on the other hand, curiosity about the big picture has always always been a driving force and an asset for me, and I shouldn't let myself fall to the backseat just because someone else is supposed to be in charge of laying out our route. Meh. Another, different, technical communication skill to learn, I guess? Thinking on one's feet?)

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August 2010

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