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Dec 10, 2017 • 2 min read

Conference notes from a roundtable about SendGrid's values

I revisited notes at the plethora of conferences I ended this year. In the Spring, I attended Collision Conference in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans. While the conference felt disconnected, some of the facilitated roundtables were beneficial. For over two years, I managed over 40 people (most, remote), so the team culture tracks piqued my interest. Sameer Dholakia, the CEO of SendGrid facilitated for a session about leadership values. He shared how he approached creating a culture at SendGrid and value-guiding questions. He shared insights about recruiting, psychometric assessments, and team-building camps. For Dholakia and SendGrid, the culture came down to their 4H’s that are :

  • Happy
  • Hungry
  • Humble
  • Honest

While Happy isn’t easy to measure, company leaders should commit to it as a value, rather than physical things like kegs or ping pong tables. If people are burnt out, stressed, and overworked, the work suffers, and so do we. Life is about happiness, after all, and the perfect job that makes it all not seem like work at all. What is the perfect intersection of happiness and developer or designer’s role, and can we achieve it? How can we encourage that as leaders?

The value of Honest is not the same transparency, as many tech CEOs oversimplify it. For any leader and team member, it reads as being honest not only with each other but with ourselves. Honesty on the work, challenges, and missteps along the way. For example, acknowledging a scope creep delay or saying a project isn’t doable. Honesty is about asking for help.

We’ve heard Steve Jobs’ famous quote about hunger before. It reads as always needing a challenge If we’re coasting through the same thing, what are we learning or solving? Hungry is an underestimated value. We talk about hiring and pipelines, have yet to improve retention. We lose handfuls of tech employees within 2-3 years. I learned as a manager that so many are looking for challenges and learning more in a different way. It’s crucial for managers and companies to encourage employees who seek new roles, teams, and challenges.

Humble is my favorite value. It ties a lot of the others into one. Humility and being honest with ourselves can lead to people to accept who they are and dream of who they can be. It can be humbling to realize you’re not an expert at something and then be hungry learn more about it. A humble team, or its members, aren’t driven by self-praise. Instead, they’re driven by reaching an ideal outcome with a splash of having humility as a gut check.

In the brief time I’ve taken off this past month, I’ve explored what personal and professional values I hold. More, on that, in the future.


tags: conference  travel  tech  management  productivity  performance