There’s been a bit of a rise in this idea of a Manager README - a document wherein a manager essentially explains how they operate as a manager and to give context about themselves. So here is an exercise in a Manager README.
Note: This is a living document.
My full name is Robert Frederick Philip Ludwick. From a young age, I have always put my middle initial(s) in name fields, which is why you’ll see my email signature (and other things) show Robert F.P. Ludwick. The original intent here was to differentiate me from my grandfather; I’m just used to it now. And I do have two middle names - I added the second one shortly before my wife and I got married. There’s a story there, and please feel free to ask me about it sometime if you’re interested.
I am married; I have a wonderful daughter, two cats, and a dog. I’ve been in technology for over 15 years and come primarily from the LAMP stack; the last 3 years I’ve gotten into the DevOps field. I became a Software Engineering Manager in early 2015 in the LAMP stack, and am now a DevOps Software Engineering Manager in the… DevOps stack. Hah.
Most people have a set of career tentpoles - values, morals, and a work style which are critically important to them as a person. At this point in my career, I have these:
- Work-life balance. I strive to ensure this balance for me and for my employees. There may be occasions when overtime is warranted, but I endeavor to retain work-life balance at all times. Death marches do nobody any good.
- Diversity and inclusivity. The greater number of life experiences and viewpoints brought to a team, the better. Groupthink does not help people grow and learn. Being inclusive helps the more diverse among us to feel comfortable in expressing their opinions and feelings. Diverse and varied opinions and backgrounds bring said diverse and varied perspectives to team decision making.
- Trust. Trust is vital in any team environment to get things done as a group, and to do so as a sum greater than the parts. Teammates who trust one another can talk frankly about challenges in their work and to be able to work together at full capacity, rather than reserving some to protect oneself within the group.
My job covers quite a lot of ground, but here are the highlights:
- Provide resources, context, praise, and feedback for your work.
- Help you to realize your goals and grow in your career (if that is one of your goals).
- Help ensure that we deliver quality work to our stakeholders in a timely fashion.
- Hold the team accountable for our work.
My Work Style
I am an early bird. With one brief exception, I have started my workdays by 8am Pacific Time since 2007. I do not expect you to match my schedule, but you may occasionally get a morning salvo of communication from me if you start later in the day. I try to get a lot done in the mornings. I encourage you to manage your notification preferences so that if you start later than me, you can get my morning salvos when you start your workday, not when I start mine.
I have email and Slack on my phone, and I will occasionally check them off-hours. If it is critical to contact me during off-hours, however, please text me or call me. I will do the same if I must contact you during off-hours. I cannot guarantee 24/7 availability as I share childcare duties at home.
I’ll hold regular 1-on-1s with you - the schedule and length of time may vary, but at an absolute minimum it will be 30 minutes every two weeks. I will also have a shared medium into which both of us can list agenda items. I intend to not have our 1-on-1s focus on day-to-day operational/tactical tasks - ideally we’ll talk about emerging trends, career trajectory, and such. That aside, I am willing to talk about whatever you may need or want to talk about during our 1-on-1s. They’re for you much more than they are for me.
I can get verbose in my written communication - sometimes too verbose. I believe that offering plenty of detail and context is helpful in many scenarios, but there are occasions where I need to be more concise. If you feel I’m getting too wordy or long-winded, then please let me know. I communicate better in the written form, and tend to prefer it in order to reduce miscommunications and ambiguity, and to create a more “permanent record.” It allows me to better collect my thoughts for dissemination and to refine my messaging. As a result, I will expect you to read emails, Slack messages, and the like and to respond if requested to do so.
I aim to offer feedback as close to real-time as possible. If I have a concern, some praise, or anything else contextual, then I will make an effort to bring you the feedback as quickly as possible. I am always on the lookout for feedback for myself as well, so please feel comfortable in giving me feedback. I will actively solicit it and hope you feel safe enough to give me said feedback.
If we’re in a group setting discussing some problem, some idea, some whatever, then I will largely keep my opinions to myself for a few minutes if at all possible. Even if it’s a subject which I have brought to the group, I tend towards letting others speak first. As a manager and leader, I know that my words can immediately shape conversations. This is why I let others speak first and let discussions get rolling first unless it is necessary that I jump in with my opinion quickly. I don’t want to steer the conversation in a particular direction, or to possibly discourage others from voicing their opinions if those opinions happen to differ from mine.
Cadences & Meetings
I am a creature of habit and repetition. I will settle into my patterns and cadences and will be quite happy there. My morning routine includes making a daily cup of French Press coffee (if possible), for example. Over time you’ll likely come to learn my common patterns to things like emergencies cropping up all the way to my vocabulary patterns. If you see me acting strangely, there is likely a reason and if you’re interested, please ask.
In terms of meetings I aim to always be on time to a meeting. As far as I’m concerned, it is rude to be late to a meeting because there are likely others wasting their time waiting for latecomers (though some organizations have a culture of “lateness” to meetings). If I am chairing a meeting, then I intend to end it early enough for others to be on time to any meetings which immediately follow. If a meeting I’m chairing has run its course in less time than allotted, then I’ll typically call it early to respect the time of others.
I rely on my calendar to ensure I have my day organized. I generally expect you to also have an accurate calendar, which helps me and others to know when you are available.
Learning & Improvement
I’m always on the hunt to learn something or otherwise improve myself and my own performance. These days, here are some things I’ve been putting my mind towards:
- Amazon Web Services / cloud computing
- DevOps toolchain & processes
- Other programming languages to better complement my PHP experience
- Leadership and management, typically via books and other individuals in the Rands Leadership Slack
- Home improvement (like replacing light fixtures!)
- I enjoy levity and jokes. My sense of humor is typically described as “dad”-like. I tend to bring my sense of humor to work.
- My vocabulary is a tricky thing. Occasionally I’ll add new fun/obscure words to my everyday speech, such as “superfluous” and “anachronistic.” Other times I’ll completely forget the right technical term or acronym for something. Please seek clarity from me if my vocabulary leaves you confused.
- People getting distracted during a meeting (via phone, typing frantically on their laptop, etc.) bothers me.
- I learned a few jobs ago that I really love to help people. I love helping my coworkers get their jobs done more efficiently, and I love helping my direct reports with their needs and wants as well.
- I enjoy playing indoor soccer and video games. I’ve been playing both since I was 6 years old.
- In 2016 I came down with Ramsay-Hunt syndrome, which left the left side of my face with degraded muscular control. I’ve regained some movement - but not much - and do not expect to ever fully regain its use. So if it looks like I’m constantly raising just one eyebrow in your direction, the other one is likely raised “in spirit.”