Episode 09 - Transcript

Being Intentional with Stephen Lewis

The following is a transcript of “Episode 09 - Being Intentional with Stephen Lewis”.

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it in print.

00:00 // Benjamin

Welcome to CTO coffee, the podcast about humans in tech. And today I’m talking to Steven Lewis. He’s from Oxford and works in London, and in his time as a CTO, he saw the company he has been working at. Like since 2010 yeah. Grow from just a couple of people to lots more. And I think it’s more interesting if she tells you more about himself. So please too. Let’s see.

00:41 // Stephen

Yeah. Hello. Hello. Nice to talk to you. So as you said, I have been a CTO since 2010. And I feel like I haven’t really earned the job titles until, until relatively recently. I, cause I always started with a really, really small team back in 2010 and gradually my team’s grown to about 30 people within the company, and the company has grown to about 350 people. So I feel like it properly counts as a, as a medium sized company and it’s a tour operator or travel company. I suppose that detail isn’t important for the technical things and the human things we’re going to talk about so much. But we sell holidays, which is quite kind of a nice thing to do for your job. And, uh, yeah. I, I’m, I’m here to talk about my, uh, my experiences of, uh, of, of seeing that kind of growth in the company from a very, very small team where I was not really a CTO still writing software every day, um, to all the things that call it growing pains that come from, uh, from growing up quite faster.

01:36 // Benjamin

When you say it like this, do you have like, I mean that’s kind of like the question, like what have you learned in all those years? Do you have something like laid out where you say like, okay, these are my top five learnings?

01:49 // Stephen

I really wish I did. I really wish I had a top five learnings. I feel like I would be, I would, I would be a blogger and I would, I would, I would tweet about them all the time and time, but I think it’s far more, lots and lots and lots of little things. And it’s one of those things where. I think sometimes. Just like when your, for example, driving, you get to the point where it’s very conscious what you’re doing, but you can kind of do it. And then when you get beyond that, some of the decisions you’re making, you can’t really explain very well to other people. Wait while you’re making them. And I, I try not to make that an excuse for all. Yes, there’s loads of bias in everything I do. Cause that’s the danger. Um, but I think to some extent the things that require a lot of conscious effort to start off with can become. Like second nature afterwards, and then it becomes far harder to express them to other people. Um, and I kind of find, I find that I, I’m, I’m, I’m also learning Polish. That’s one of my, one of my weird hobbies. And I was actually talking to my teacher about this the other day. Oh, good. I’m glad it doesn’t sound right. It’s, it’s, it’s fun hobby though. I really liked it, but I was talking to my teacher about this the other day, but. To start off with, you just can’t do the thing, whatever the thing happens to be. And then maybe in the case of of languages, if someone says, you know what is a Genesis all of this noun? And you’d be like, yes, I remember the table, the Genesis of all of this now, and this is X.

03:06 // Stephen

But then you can’t use it in conversation at all. Your mind goes blank. You can maybe manage to come up with a word, but you certainly can’t. Uh, I can’t put it in the right form for the place in the sentences sitting. And then. You get kind of beyond the table and you try and use it in conversation and you get it right and maybe 50% of the time and then you get a bit further and maybe 80% of the time or whatever. And I kind of feel like that was many things I do at work, just to the conscious things where you think, Oh yes, someone, someone’s told me, that’s how I should do that. Or I’ve read a book and I’ve, I’ve, I’ve learned that at least some people in the world do this thing and that way, and they say it’s good when you do that. Um, but then. Some of it becomes automatic,

03:42 // Benjamin

I can really, really relate to that. Similar to my question I always have in mind, this one. Blog post after blogger who has like this top five list of things he learned. I never really know how to pronounce his name. I think I’ve referred to him in other podcasts, so maybe I shouldn’t say that again. He talked about like, theories he had before he actually started, um, the, his status specific role, um, which he wrote about. Then afterwards, when he left the company. And ever since then I always ask myself, okay, what is my current theory about work? What about teams and which I’m trying to prove, prove to myself, of course. And do you have any, any of these? I mean, you told me. Do you have this as a theory?

04:37 // Stephen

No, I think I’m a, I’m one of these people who’s kind of almost envious of others who do have a theory. I mean, I think I have made maybe some more serious on state question is that I feel like I have a fairly strong set of values around around work. I do genuinely try it all the time too. Do the right thing by people and to behave in an ethical way, whatever, whatever that means in my frame of reference. But I’m actually quite envious of people who can kind of point to a reference and say, Oh yes, I read this thing, and that’s the way I do it. Because, for example, listening even to other episodes of your podcast, I hear people say, I’ve read referring to particular texts or something, and I’m always worried that when I say, Oh yes, I do this thing and this way, someone else will be listening and what be thinking, Oh yes, he’s got that from this book, and maybe I did and I’m not. Not referencing him isn’t making you sound like a, an original idea because I’m trying to plagiarize it from the author. It’s just that sometimes it’s such a mishmash of ideas, like often different places that sometimes I just just, I remember anyway.

05:34 // Benjamin

Yeah. Yeah, and I know what you mean. Yeah. That feels very in very familiar with this whole. Maybe, maybe even my, my mind is playing tricks on me. My brain is playing tricks on me and I visited an original assault that I had or that I heard from somebody else though. Maybe then I read it from somewhere or maybe you know, Twitter or whatever. Just something that flew, flew by me, like for one second.

So it kind of got stuck. It got stuck in my head and so, yeah, I really know what you mean there. Filled with this kind of forum would. Cool. Another thing that comes to my mind with this kind of theory it’s also, something that you mentioned when we talked earlier is this whole people talking or writing about their experiences they had and that team or in that company or with this technology or with that technology. This sometimes feels from the outside like is always like super. Shiny and polished.

Yeah. When’s he seen like things. Maybe not fail or maybe maybe not go the way you intended them to go. And you probably had your fair share of these kinds of moments, and then you’re, yeah. In your lifetime as a CTO.

Um, and yeah, it’s, it’s sometimes happens that since you wonder, like, and here I’m generalizing of course, but sometimes you wonder like, okay, is how did this shiny thing someone is presenting did not go well in the beginning, but wow, how many iterations did they have to take? Had to go through in order to absolutely arrive at this shiny solution, kind of.

07:14 // Stephen

Yeah, that’s absolutely true. And I actually, I can relate it a little bit to a, a talk, I went to my, my daughter’s school a couple of weeks ago where they were talking about social media. Well, I kind of thing this is, this is a nice analogy going on between meetup presentations and conference talks and so on and, and the things going on in, in social media where when you look at your, your, your Facebook feed or when, wherever you go to find these things, it can sometimes feel like. You know, you’re maybe seeing a very idealized view of what’s going on in the outside world. You know, all your friends are going on the best holidays, or they have the best job, best behaved children, or whatever it might be. And then you look at yourself and you see your whole life. You don’t just see the bit of your life, you choose to make public. Um, and I felt for a very, very long time, somebody, I still felt like this, I felt for a very long time. Then I went to meetups. I went to conferences. I saw other people talk about their experiences at work. In terms of technical things, in terms of nontechnical, things to do is teams forming teams, how to work with teams and so on.

And I had this voice in my head saying, why do you have all these problems in your life? And all these people are showing you the marvelous things that are happening in other companies. And I think if I want to try and get through kind of one message in a, in, in this, this podcast, actually, it would be that. I’d be very, very short and no matter who you are, that other people are having the same problems that you’re having. And it’s unfortunate that it’s very difficult to form that network outside your own organization, not as people talking publicly and saying things that they can say publicly. But I have people who will tell you that they have terrible problems with technical, debt, or they feel like their hiring process is broken or they feel like they’ve done the wrong thing by someone on their team, even though they try and fight really hard not to, and it ends up terribly and they feel guilty about it.

And there’s all those things which only come with forming that network of trusted peers, whatever it is you do with your CTO or. Any other job really to find out what, what the outside world is really like, not the view of the outside world through those Rose tinted spectacles that you get from the very public face of meetups and conference talks and blog posts and all that kind of thing. Yeah, and I’ve found that having those conversations with people has been really important in kind of collaborating my idea of what. Well, it’s okay. You know, I’m, I’m like, am I doing an okay job of this? Yeah. It feels all right because I know that other people have the same problems I have.

09:37 // Benjamin

I totally get that and totally subscribed to the idea and also matches my, my expectations. Do you have, because you say it’s like super hard, do you still have so many kind or tips or strategies. Maybe, maybe, I know what you said earlier. It’s hard to externalize this implicit knowledge we have, but so yes. Any kind of strategies for forming the kind of network?

10:00 // Stephen

Ironically given, it sounded like I was being critical of, of kind of the idealized view you get from conference talks and meetups and so on. I would say that my tip is probably go to those events and talk to people. Um, outside of the goes to the hallway track just chat with people. And I wouldn’t expect through doing that. Now this is another thing where I, I started off doing this. I was like, Oh yeah, you know, I can, I can form that kind of trust with someone I meet as a meetup or someone straight away and we’ll talk about our deepest problems. We have a work in it. It doesn’t work that way. I, in my experience, at least, it takes a while to form a kind of a kind of relationship where you feel comfortable talking about the things that are actually going on within your organization, within your team, whatever happened.

But my tip would be trying to do it because without trying to do it, it can become a big, have a big problem with self confidence. And I think that’s, that’s really sad. And I do worry about this kind of coming from a position of privilege and being able to make those connections and so on. So we would have much less of a problem with people’s feeling of self work, especially in underrepresented groups in technology. If it were not so difficult to see. The real view of now is my experience. Okay. Am I doing an okay job and so on, because I think it can be quite a big problem.

11:18 // Benjamin

Kinda Silly for always saying yes to what you’re saying.

11:23 // Stephen

It’s true. And maybe, maybe, maybe to add something to that. Actually it’s, it’s not only about about doing it for yourself, it’s also about helping others to do it. So I’d like to think that just like. People who have helped make introductions between me and people that do similar jumps in other companies and so on. And so I hope, and I’ve tried to, in a pay it forward to other people who are new CTO’s and your heads of engineering people in new technology, instead of trying to find a full network of peers outside their own company, trusted peers where it’s okay to talk about these things. And maybe I hope that kind of, that will kind of help help some of the people I’ve introduced feel better about doing a good enough job, whatever that means.

12:08 // Benjamin

You used a great words early on, like calibrating your self image? I don’t know if you use corporate calibrating is an important worth there. Do you have any other kind of, again, strategies for calibrating yourself image so that you don’t fall into the trap of like lessening your own work or alloting it?

12:36 // Stephen

I think, I’m not even sure whether this, this counselor’s a tip, but I. I try to be quite self-aware in terms. Just notice the times when I’m, I’m calibrated wrongly in either direction, so if everything feels terrible, which does happen sometimes. Um, I try and remind myself that. Everything is not terrible. I try and look for some good things. I sometimes try and try and write these things down. Um, and likewise, if everything’s feeling wonderful online, well maybe I should be going looking for some things that aren’t going well, because probably my idea of how things are going is kind of biased a bit by one particular event or maybe something like that. Um, we, we actually, um, a lot of those is kind of like wrestling a bit from the work context. One thing that we do in my family, which I really, really like with the, with the children, um, is something called best and worst that we do every day. And we talk about the best things in our day and the worst things in our day. And I hadn’t really thought about it when you first start, uh, ask the question, but maybe that’s, that’s my tip. You know, even if you write them down just for yourself, if you don’t share it with anyone else. Like make your little list of best and worst and that I’ve always, you’re going too far off track in, in, in either directions.

13:48 // Benjamin

So many other situations in life, writing stuff down, like generally good thing to do.

13:56 // Stephen

It’s funny, we didn’t say this earlier, but of course we met at SoCraTes and I don’t know quite what it was that happens there, but I’ve been writing a lot more for myself since, uh, I was at Socrates, right. Writing and writing long hand and not typing on the computer, writing, writing things out long hand. And, uh, I have, uh, I’ve really liked it. It’s, it’s been a good practice for me.

14:19 // Benjamin

Yeah. That’s something that will get edited talk later.

I’m sorry, I lost, my train of thought happens every time. Um, which is actually quite nice to, um, to know that you can.

14:40 // Stephen

I almost feel like we shouldn’t edit this out, but you know, we present this idealized view of the recording of the podcast. Everyone else. Wow. Steven and Benjamin talked all this time without, without fluffing any words, without any pauses in the conversation, without losing their train of thought is getting me there. Um, yeah.

15:00 // Benjamin

In the same sense. Maybe to exactly this is like. Somethings feel like failing. Like I feel like I’m failing right now to, to maintain the proper flow of conversation, um, whatever proper means. But yeah, that’s a different topic. On the other hand, it maybe isn’t failing, so, Mmm. When do you have any things in your experience for events or typical stuff that happens where you maybe feel this feel like failing or letting people down? Or maybe it doesn’t have to be like super big, like companies losing millions.

But maybe small things. Um. Which in after a while you look at and then you say like, okay, where’s the juice? I’ll select cocaine. That it wasn’t actually so bad. Do you have like typical things in your, when you work, um, where this happens, where you have that?

16:05 // Stephen

I think probably it’s a place where, uh, I’ve noticed that most is sometimes things, things have happened where I kind of felt like that was a complete disaster. That was a failure. But when we talk about not so much technical things. But things to do with people in the team and things to do with management, leadership, interpersonal relations, and so on. And I wouldn’t claim for a moment that it’s always possible, but I’ve sometimes found it helpful to actually. Introspect on it a bit and then talk to the personal people involved about it as best I can.

And maybe apologize, say, I tried to do this thing, my intentions were good, but it all ended up terrible. And I’m, I’m sorry, but I’d like to talk about how it happened and maybe reframes on it in terms of, in terms of learning, you know, what, what can I learn from this? I recognize it with something that was my thing that I did wrong. But, um, and occasionally. Again, thinking about calibration, some of those conversations, have resulted in me thinking, well, maybe, maybe it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought, but he’s almost got, if can be very polarized, our feeling about things we do, we can do something for that. It was absolutely terrible, absolutely amazing, and sometimes it’s climbed middle of the road.

Or Maybe you personally feel like you did. A very bad thing by someone, but then you talk to them and find out that they genuinely didn’t perceive it as so bad. Um, and it’s kind of tricky, you know, maybe they’re just trying to make you feel better by saying that. But I think actually just, just talking to the people, concerned about the, the things that have happened and having a culture of doing that. So it’s not an unusual thing. It’s sort a big deal. Um, can help. Um, and I wish I had done that more over the years, I think. I think, I hope I do it now, um, when the opportunity arises, but I, I say something I wish I’d done more.

17:46 // Benjamin

Than that. Again, same, same for me. I also thought that over time I’ve gotten better at this and better in the sense of doing it more often than more. Less consciously just doing it. That just recently I had an independent experience where I fell like, okay, I’m really failing. End up felt terrible for like.

Two and a half days and then like someone, someone over work basically said. Yeah. Just talk to the people where you thought you did them wrong, and then I just, uh, and then it exactly as he said, it turned out that they didn’t actually didn’t feel bad. It was like, okay, they’ve really appreciated that, that I basically did what you just also send print now, like explaining my, my thought process. Saying, I’m sorry.

18:37 // Stephen

And I think, I think he can sometimes get the case that, um, you’re, you’re too hard on yourself because you don’t recognize that your intentions were good originally. And I. Do you believe that in everything I do, I have intentions that feel good to me. And I also believe that I work with people who always have the best intentions. And, uh, that’s important. I would, I think I would hate to work somewhere where I felt like my colleagues didn’t have good intentions, but that allows us all between ourselves to kind of recognize that we are human. We’ll get things wrong sometimes. And it’s not because we were being malicious. It’s because we made a mistake and that’s okay cause we make mistakes.

19:17 // Benjamin

Another thing you said earlier kind of reminded me. Of, this, this practice of doing debriefs or artistry, priests, postmortems, whatever you want to call them. So taking, yeah. Not making assumptions about what people thought or what people did. And then so on. And I think you said something along the lines of like when we talked earlier before this episode, this was also some of the practice that you were doing at your company, in your team.

19:51 // Stephen

We for certain for technical things for outages and some we, uh, we, we, we do indeed do, do postmortems. And it’s something we kind of follow the template from the, from the SRE book and the found its way. It’s worked really well for us. Um. One thing that I’ve done kind of privately, again, in the, in the color of a writer fighting things down in the sense is try and apply some cause I can’t relate them directly, but apply some of the same techniques to things like, I feel have gone wrong that have gone wrong in a, in a, in a team sense. Because I think one of the benefits fits. That we’ve really got with, uh, kind of the way we’ve started running postmortem for technical things, um, is you tend to be able to get down more layers than you imagine. I remember that feeling when we first did kind of a real post-mortem conclusions.

We managed to draw at the end of it, um, a lot deeper than I was expecting. I was expected to be good, but I felt like we’d really work together as a team and kind of got to the bottom of this thing. Um, and although I haven’t. Tried kind of introspecting and that kind of like formal sense of like, Oh yeah, that will answer these questions about things that have happened within that within the team. I think the general principle of asking yourself, well, maybe we change something where, where did I get lucky? Then, you know, was I lucky that someone reacted to something I did in a particular way? Did I, or was I particularly unlike him? The way someone reacted to your, cause I’ve anticipated that thing and signed it. I wouldn’t say I’ve kind of felt it sounds terribly, um, dispassionate to say, Oh, yeah, I have a postmortem template for everything I do with the team. That’s not the case. Um, but I think some of the techniques that we use for technical postmortems have actually really helped me think about. About the team, the way we relate to each other, the way we work together and so on and in a way I hadn’t already considered before or not that deeply.

21:42 // Benjamin

Interesting. I wonder if anybody has done a conference talk on that! To take a Postmortem approach from the SRE book or any Etsy or whatever kind of postmortem thing and apply it and look into it in details.

22:02 // Stephen

Yeah, may maybe they have, I think one of the thing, I mean, if they haven’t, one of the things that would be interesting about it is that I would be. Very uncomfortable by, I wouldn’t use real life examples in a conference talk like this is someone doing it, you know? this is the seed of an idea. I mean, we could do it, but you’d have to tell with some realistic scenarios. And then allies. And on that note, I actually remember at a conference that happened in London, I’m just trying to remember which one it was. I think it was the SPA conference and one of the evening sessions. Went through a post-mortem for Jurassic park. Um, so the film drastic part, we watch some clips and then try to go through a, a kind of postmortem template for what happened in Jurassic park. It was really funny. I mean, it was kind of a comedy session, but it did have a serious. Point as well. Um, and I think kind of may maybe even pick up, pick a film with some more, maybe scenes from the office or something and try and actually have a half serious half kind of comedy talk about that might be, it might be quite fun. Yeah.

23:05 // Benjamin

And also kind of skeptical of that really good idea because it’s kind of easy for tech more maybe not always easy, but easier. Definitely for technical topics to. Say something more in a dispassionate way, like, okay, I did this.

I kind of like, I don’t know, push the red button because I assumed it would do xyz. But in a, in a kind of like between people and some within a group, when it comes to people topics like conflict or whatever, then it’s not so easy always to to say this.

23:45 // Stephen

That true. Cause I, I kind of, although I think, I only know I’m in the lead in this conversation so far, I’ve kind of drawn some analogies between technical things and team things. And you know, as, as people who work in technology, it’s a very tempting thing to do. Um, I think you’re absolutely right that you can kind of take that too far. And sometimes it’s, it’s of interesting and sometimes it’s kind of. Thank you. Either the kind of the deeper meaning of human connection because you’re like, Oh yeah, it’s just like deploying us off by making this change within the same, you’re like, no, it’s not just like the software. You can, I think you can absolutely. You can go too far with that.

24:18 // Benjamin

Yeah. Which brings us to another very interesting point or topic is like when you work with teams. It’s always harder to fo various reasons for for when them, when you, that you said just now and for many other reasons, do you just kind of roll back changes or the two you can always like, I mean, computer systems are already non-deterministic, but people are like super non-deterministic.

24:44 // Stephen

And super, super stateful too. It’s the stay, sleep, full nature of human beings that sometimes it makes things. It’s funny, I mean, I’m going to throw one on those analogies. I just said that it was dangerous. In the sense that we talk about making it safe to fail, make it easy to roll back our software. And so I often look at those conference talks and I think, yes, the water about the state, you know, what about those bugs that cause silent. Gradual corruption of your data over time. What about those migrations where there’s no rhythm possible reverts staff, things like that. And then I look at things that happened with the team, they are very stateful. They can’t be rolled back. You can restore your team from a backup if you don’t like what you did here today. And that’s what makes this one the holiday. And at the same time,

25:30 // Benjamin

like the feedback loop is not always clear. I mean, people sometimes give you feedback, but maybe you just, sometimes they feel like maybe even hurt or mistreated in a way. And so the feedback loop is like super long or can be super long. So you do it a change to a team, whatever kind of thing. And maybe six months later you get kind of feedback to that and then you realize, okay, this has gone wrong, or this has, has been able to grow over the last six months. So, okay. Thank you. Now what I do with, so do you have any kind of, again, strategies, sorry for that word, for maybe shortening that kind of feedback loop when when working with teams,

26:14 // Stephen

I think it’s probably shortening, but it’s partly also making sure the feedback there in the first place, regardless of where or where it comes. Because I think I would be very uncomfortable with considering kind of very unethical to kind of do an experiment with a team without saying what you were doing. You know? That’s, that’s just wrong. If you can frame things when you talk to people about something that’s going live or restructuring or something like that, or moving someone from one team to another one time. If you can frame it in terms of if you’re not sure, I’m not sure whether this kind of work out, these are the outcomes I expect from this thing. These are the things I, uh, I’m trying to avoid by doing this. And if you, if you have that conversation with the people involved and say, if it turns out that this change is not resulting in those outcomes that I was expecting, and you know, you’ve got good intent, so you’d hope that those outcomes would be outcomes that everyone would consider reasonable, then please tell me then that’s a way of making it. It’s kind of guiding. Guiding the, the fact that it’s okay to give that feedback that you for already considered the possibility you might’ve got this wrong and that you’d really, really like someone to tell you if they notice that you’ve got it wrong.

So I think maybe to summarize that, cause I, I waffled a bit, it’s about being explicit and intentional about changes you’re making and talking about expected outcomes as well as just the change. Cause like again, I’m going to use one of those technical analogies. I feel really self conscious about doing this rather if you were to put it in a pull requests like some of your software and there was nothing there that was any hint at why you were doing it. You know, you look at the change my why, and I understand the change. I understand the effective well, how far, I don’t understand why that would be really badly. We, I think generally speaking, we’d look at that and we’d like to, I need you to do the more context that, you know, what was the user need that drove this change to like highroad out or whatever. And I think it’s the same with changes that you make on a team that if you say. I’m going to do X without any rationale. It’s kind of people have to guess while you’re doing it, and if you say, I’m doing this thing because I’m expecting these two other things to happen and these two other things not to happen, then you get much, much higher quality.

28:16 // Benjamin

I think we kind of identified one of your learnings over time, which is make stuff explicit and be intentional about it. I can. Yeah, I think this is really like one of the, I’m kind of putting this in your mouth, support some right now.

28:32 // Stephen

I would say it’s pretty good. You can help me run my blog post my five learnings.

28:39 // Benjamin

Happy to so but yeah, being, being intentional, taking the time to think things through and find out like why, why are you doing this stuff? Because some of the things technical and people relate to it. We kind of have like a gut feeling like, okay, I would do this, that this taking the time to really reflect on, okay, why am I trying to do that and what is the outcome that I’m trying to achieve and how can I find out if I’m successful or how can I find out if I failed thinking about these things and relaying them to the team to work to the people if is involved that it really it helps to get it to push, push it through the change or to maybe not push. But to implement it and to help everyone get on board. I think it can come. Camille from basically wrote exactly, also hold this in like one of her blog posts when it comes to like, reorgs, how to do them be, be very intentional, be be open about, and lots of other very good stuff.

29:54 // Stephen

I think though, in this, in the speakers, you reminded me of a, of another, another blog post actually by, um, Lara Hogan, which I think was called, why can’t they just. In the spirit of non presenting, the though the Rose tinted view of the world where we can be explicit about everything and so on. There are times I have found that to be many times when I can’t be explicit about why something’s happening. You know, there are some reasons why some things just have to be private, but offering a small number of people and we can, as people in technology be like, Oh yeah, we can make sure everyone knows everything about everything in the company, but sometimes that’s just not possible. Um, and I think just to sort of put the, the other side of that, but. It’s perfectly possible to have the best intentions of being explicit all the time and still find yourself faced with that uncomfortable situation where you can’t be, and maybe you build up the trust in all the other times and then just occasionally you have to say, I’m really sorry.

I can’t tell you why this is happening. I hope you believe that I have good intentions in doing it and I’m asking you to trust me and in, in doing this. And I didn’t say that quite as well as Laura Hogan. So anyone’s listening to this, I’m pretty sure it’s called why can’t they just. It’s a really good short read about exactly that.

31:02 // Benjamin

And then the way you said it right now is exactly the way to handle it in the longterm, like the trust during the time where you can be expressive to know where you can be open.

Where you can share the why behind change us in order to then be able to handle the cases where you can’t. That’s tragic. I think I was wondering maybe one last kind of thing to ask. You mentioned the SRE book earlier and when, again, when we talked before the episode, you also mentioned that you’re like, that’s the space you’re pure in or that you’re very interested in related. Then of course, besides being a generalist a CTO. I found this sort in my perception all with the last years, probably now already people in that community or people interested in the topic, SRE ops and postmortems and all of that. It became kind of like more accepted to talk about failure or talk about failings. It’s tough to talk about. Yeah. That everything being always. Great, but at the same time, again, people did that in a way, which is like super polished.

Like, okay, we do this great way more. We have to straight away. It was doing our postmortems or I wonder, I’m, I’m wondering like is, do you have an idea how this could be. How one could go along and make it less polished, like generally, of course, he kind of change thousands of people around the world that when presenting something, when talking about stuff out in the. I had a meetup at a conference.

How could one talk about failing without doing it? Then this super fancy. Yeah, we’re cool. Come work with us.

33:04 // Stephen

Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a really good point. I think maybe the reason, sometimes there are different reasons behind the Polishness of the presentations, and I think particularly when I think about conference talks and presentations, I’ve, um, meetup presentations I’ve seen in that space. One of the things I mentioned is going on behind the scenes is that companies, particularly companies operating in regulated spaces, operating with people’s personal data and so on, it’s sometimes a step too far, um, to be really, really explicit about the things that went wrong the risks that were involved and so on. And so even more so than when we talk about, you know, I’ve, I’ve migrated my thing from this monolith to microservices.

You can fairly safely talk about bouncing as a handle on the way because it doesn’t look like you were putting your company at risk, putting people’s personal days where original, whatever, whatever happened to might be risking data corruption through a particular kind of outage. And I think that when you think about things in the, in the op space. It feels like they’re more that kind of thing with this some things there that might be commercially sensitive and that’s perhaps why you see the, the more polished view of the world.

And I’m not sure whether I have a good answer for how to make that seem less polished. It’s, it’s, it’s a really tricky problem. Just like with a few of the things we’ve talked about, like things that happen within your team, things that happen. With your, with your infrastructure, wait like, wow, we really shouldn’t have done that. You know, we’re proposing that we may have been planning to migrate this thing in this way and hadn’t done it yet. And as a result, exposed ourselves to more risks than we would normally have been happy with. It’s like, it’s hard to talk about those things publicly. And I think maybe I’m, I’m going to tell you this full circle back to where we started this conversation that sometimes within the constraints of what your employment contract allows and all those other things.

It’s, it’s better to have those conversations privately. Um, and in my experience, sometimes I’ve seen one of those really polished presentations about ops things, uh, or things in the SRE space or whatever. And I’ve gone and talked to the person who was presenting afterwards. Um, they’ve been more willing to talk privately than, than, than publicly about, about how things actually happened. Sometimes. It’s just enough to say, I can’t really talk about this, but understand that not everything was great in the way that, you know, I will always give some details in my presentation, but I couldn’t talk about all of them. So maybe my long winded way to an answer is actually that might be sufficient. Just so you know, I’ve, I’ve shown you the good bits of this. There’s some bad bits I can’t talk about, but if this is making you feel bad, polished rationale shine, just bear in mind that. Well, you’re probably in the same by wherein.

35:55 // Benjamin

That’s beautiful and makes a lot of sense. So we talked for quite awhile.

36:00 // Stephen

It’s been fun.

36:03 // Benjamin

Any last words you want to share with your audience?

36:09 // Stephen

That’s like asking for my masking. Me from my app, my five tips. I think my last words are. If you think things are terrible, they’re probably not. They’re probably not all that bad and how the people are probably in their organizations going through exactly the same thing, even if they’re not as cool. Last words.

36:31 // Benjamin

That’s great. Funny thing is when you started saying that, based on what you said earlier, I thought you would say like, okay, when you hear. People say something’s bad, it’s even worse. No, but you’re worth way more beautiful than mine. Yeah. Thanks a Stephen. That was a lot of fun.

36:49 // Stephen

It’s been a real pleasure. Thank you for having me on the podcast.

36:52 // Benjamin

Thank you for joining me and have a great evening, actually.

36:55 // Stephen

Thank you. You too.