Thanks to my beautiful Arm colleagues for these pictures!
At work, recently, I’ve started to randomly wear some meaningful t-shirts with messages that, hopefully, resonate. The first one is I’m a person, not a resource. Because I am frankly quite weary of that word within my company, or even project tracking software. But for many more reasons.
A bit more than three years ago, during one of the Agile conferences in Spain, and a while before I joined Arm, I was frankly impressed by one of the talks by David Fernández González with the same title as this t-shirt which, I hope, is a tribute to the influence he had in me that day, but also a declaration of intentions as I didn’t know back then how much it would affect me in my professional life.
It isn’t correct to address people as resources. Language is important and matters. You can call resource a laptop, a printer, stationary… but not someone who has intellect and is unique in their individuality. And the use of the word resource (in which I declare myself guilty as well) diminishes and nullifies that unique essence.
I cannot recall how many times I’ve seen reports where people are counted as 0.5 resources if they can only dedicate half of their time in a task. This is just the beginning: We don’t have resources, We need two resources for the next PI, It would be advisable to hire four resources… I am totally done with it personally, and my personal mission this year in 2019 is to provide as much awareness about this toxic wording as much as I can.
Remember: People are the ones who make a company grow. People who are there to support each other. To develop a career. To give the best of themselves if engaged correctly and treated as what they are: human beings.
People with highly professional profiles, from management to Scrum masters, architects, developers, QA engineers, Human Resources, and a long etcetera that are treated as people and work in a highly human environment become a fellowship. And this fellowship only adds good elements to productivity for any company.
In order to achieve that, a healthy division of responsibilities is needed. Not too simple, not too overwhelming. There must be room for growth and personal development. Teams should compete with each other in a sport-like approach so they can fill the existing gaps with their own talents. This is also known as the bus factor, where we have an environment of highly shared information, so if anyone is ran over by a bus (I always found this a bit creepy but funny), we will be able to continue.
Sadly, one of the dark sides of the resource culture is that it has psychological consequences in the people that uses and believes that people are just tools they can use at the company disposal: imposition instead of collaboration, lack of interest in their peers, dehumanisation to a degree, toxic and awkward interactions, conviction to these people that work is just work. They do become resources. And I am absolutely against this practice and even this kind of people when they’re beyond the point of basic education.
And yes, I have been happy to see people like that leave on their own volition recently. They were no good in the long run. If a job is just a job for them, so be it.
I have become now a so-called leader in this Release Train Engineer role, a role I adore but in which, despite I am massively engaged and trying my absolute best to help and serve my people, I still feel clumsy and more distant from the teams, something that I feel a bit sad about as I don’t have that much visibility anymore on their day-to-day basis.
I always think on leading, not being a leader. I am not important. I simply think that leadership as a concept and its connection to the development team is essential. A two-way street. A bottom-up model. Let my people develop themselves, and with that they will also develop confidence and engagement. But it’s easier said than done. How close I can be with everyone? Realistically, impossible.
I do believe in people. I do not take my job title seriously. I use whatever abilities I have at the honest service of them, even if they cannot see it or know really what I do. Because engaged people need goals, avoid feeling they’re stuck. And I do all that behind the scenes, with different degrees of success. Honest feedback is essential, and avoid at all costs selling them lies or opacity. People know what’s going on in an office, believe me. And you, reading this, know it.
Lately I have become relatively grumpy because of my workload, and I have humbly apologised to all those who I’ve rolled eyes to. I was really sorry. I forgot they are my people. And a basic rule for anyone, regardless of their role, is smile. Being kind. And the constant use of words such as hello, please, excuse me, see you and thank you. And meaning it.
This has been a humbling lesson, this rollercoaster of responsibilities. And while I’ve received praise for my work, there’s room for improvement. When it comes to the topic of this post, it’s simple: let your colleagues know that they are people, and that their personal lives matter. A work-life balance is essential for anyone’s happiness. And happiness isn’t a goal but a way.
My work is massively important to me (and honestly, made me stay in Cambridge when I thought I had lost everything in my personal life a while back) but that balance is necessary. Never forgetting that the definition of happiness is totally individual. What might fill my life doesn’t have to be the same as yours. The only thing that matters is that we respect each other’s priorities.
Because what matter isn’t the quantity of work or the working hours, but the quality of that work. People who work more time don’t reflect they work more, but highlights that everyone else works less. And this is very, very bad in the retrospective of my many years of professional life.
People need goals, development, personal objectives, professional and personal. On that note, I am very grateful I work for Arm because THEY REALLY GET IT. And while not always the same for everyone, the default is the humanisation of resources.
I will close this blog post reminding everyone that work is an important part of their lives, but not the whole. And that money isn’t everything. Money is worthless with no time to enjoy it. What values is your time and the quality in which you spend it. Give purpose to your life, inside and outside the office.
I will always be grateful to David for putting these thoughts deep in my head three years ago. I’ve used many of his remarks here, because his ideas are also now my own.
When it comes to work, remember the very famous sentence of the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset: you are you and your circumstance.