This upcoming week is a big one for me and my wife: we will welcome our first child into the world. As you might know (or would expect), there are a myriad of ways becoming a parent challenges the way you think about the world you live in. When we first found out we were pregnant, one thing that surprised me was how uncomfortable I felt about photos of our child being posted on social networks.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been culling through a gigantic pile of links, articles and ideas that I’ve saved up for this blog. One of the files contained quotes from team members at The Iron Yard (the company I help lead). I’m not exactly sure who said what or when, but I do know that I copied them from Slack or other internal tools.
Being asked if you want cash back at a grocery store or convenience store is one of those experiences you don’t really question—it’s just part of the normal shopping experience at many places. I couldn’t help but think, though, that there had to be more to the story than only convenience for the customer. There’s no fee collected by the store and it’s likely most of the competition offers the same service, so what’s in it for the store? I had a few theories, but decided to figure out what was happening behind the scenes.
In 2014 I wrote about the problem of ‘quantity perception’ that many online reading interfaces present. Here’s an excerpt:
Many formats (or interfaces) through which online copy is delivered make judging the amount of content difficult. Simply put, indicators of quantity (or length) are vague and inconsistent. In many cases, the scroll bar is our most commonly available point of reference…
The United States Postal Service is one of the largest civilian employers in the country, but has been plagued with financial struggles, making news headlines several times over in the last decade. In 2010, for example, the organization posted a mind-blowing 8.5 billion dollar loss. I remember the debate over ending Saturday service only a few years ago.
The causes of these problems (and their solutions) are large and complex, but the decline in usage of traditional ‘snail mail’ (due to digital communication) and the logistical transport efficiencies achieved at the demand of massive retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart have no-doubt shaken the foundations of historical postal services.
Management is a topic that draws no shortage of opinions, studies or differing experiences.
I’ve heard a variety of terms and concepts used to describe managers. Managers as leaders, managers as cheerleaders, managers as experts and so on. Lately, I’ve been thinking about a manager as an editor, similar to the editor in chief of a publication.
Some time ago I signed up for an online course about user growth. Overall it was underwhelming (so I’m not going to link to it), but there were a few exercises that challenged me to articulate my thoughts about products I’ve used and the company I work for. In particular, one of the assignments required me to “name a product either you’re working on, or a product you currently use, and explain why you feel it has achieved product/market fit.”
I chose to write about Front App, a product that, earlier on in The Iron Yard’s growth, allowed a very small admissions team to manage email across a huge number of campuses. Below a full re-post of my homework assignment.
One of the greatest mentors I’ve ever had in my professional life is named Heather Hough. When I was just out of college, she took a big chance on me as an over-confident, inexperienced grad and opened doors of opportunity I wouldn’t have had the chance walk through otherwise.
She taught me many lessons, but one in particular has made a significant impact on my career. It is a concept she referred to as “managing up.”
In organizations, the word “management” almost always refers some level of top-down authority or hierarchical leadership, even in ‘flat’ company structures. Managing up is the initiative of first looking beyond your own work to understand its context in the broader business, then second, understanding responsibility of the person you report to, finding ways to contribute to their success.
Good employees do good work. Great employees do excellent work and find new, creative ways to make the business better. Future leaders seek to understand how their work and the work of their leader adds to the bottom line of the business and proactively helps equip their manager to deliver results.
Ideas like these can easily become somewhat ambiguous, easily-Tweetable business wisdom, but why is this true?