I get asked many questions every day at 383. The questions are wide and varied and come from different sources. Clients may ask about development progress or for support defining a roadmap. People in my team may ask clarifying questions when defining technical approach. Senior management may ask what progress is being made towards longer-term, more strategic goals. Colleagues might simply ask, ‘how are you doing?’.
One of the questions I was asked recently took me by surprise, because it’s never been asked before: ‘what’s it like being a dad at 383?’.
I’ve always considered my professional life and my personal life as being mostly separate. There are inevitably crossovers, such as when a particular issue, interview, conference, etc., calls on me to spend longer in professional mode than usual, or when illness, a parent’s evening, or a million other things require me to be in personal mode. The edges of the two aren’t so much hard stops, that fight against each other for a greater share of my daily time, but softer, blurrier and pliable, even allowing overlap occasionally so that I’m often in both modes simultaneously.
To me, the question ‘what’s it like being a dad at 383?’ suggested that there was much greater crossover than I originally imagined and I honestly didn’t know how to answer — I think I just said, ‘fine’, with a shrug of the shoulders…
But the question stayed with me… what has being a dad got to do with being a 383er?
Being a dad
I have a large family. I’m married with four children: three sons aged thirteen, nine and nine (yes, twins), and a five year-old daughter (who obviously runs the show). My wife is currently a stay-at-home mom and part-time student, and has a tougher job than I ever will. I honestly bow down to her ability to put in 12-16 hours of demanding effort every day, balancing the constant demands on her time.
My children are completely different from each other, which is equal parts wonderful and challenging. Wonderful, because it means I have no idea what amazing or unusual situation or conversation is going to crop up next. Challenging, because I have no idea what amazing and unusual situation or conversation is going to crop up next. In the same hour I can go from Fortnite, to wondering what that sticky mess is I’ve just put my hand in, to an in-depth conversation about how pterodactyls aren’t actually dinosaurs, to trying to find out who made the sticky mess (apparently no-one did), to playing football in the garden, to cleaning up said sticky mess (with still no idea what it is or who put it there), to having my hair put in a bow.
I grew up when I became a dad. It changed me in ways I never thought possible. I’ll leave that emotional discourse to another blog post, though.
Being a 383er
I am Head of Engineering at 383, which means my main priorities are, what I call, the 3 p’s: people, products, and process.
The people at 383 are genuinely amazing. We work hard at recruiting and we demand that applicants work equally hard to join us. We will speak to vastly more people than we hire. Often we’ll say no. Sometimes we’ll say not yet, and give you guidance on where we think you need to head in your career. We don’t want to give any false pretences about the challenge ahead for potential recruits, and the recruitment process should also give applicants an insight into how I like to run my team: high challenge, high support.
We help build amazing products for amazing clients - and I genuinely mean both of those statements. Whether it’s by design or happenstance, the products we work on have real value for the end user, and there’s nothing better than working on something that people are passionate about. Our clients are also passionate about making a difference for their customers. Maybe that shared passion is what attracts us to each other, allowing us to craft great products and create amazing outcomes together – our work with Busy Bees nurseries is a great example of this.
Day to day often involves the wearing of many hats. On any given day I may be holding 1:1s with engineers, speaking to an existing client about their roadmap, looking at the long-term strategy for engineering and/or product development, solving short-term tactical issues, being involved with onboarding, discussing opportunities with new potential customers, being involved with events, planning a tech event, or even writing this blog.
"We help build amazing products for amazing clients - and I genuinely mean both of those statements. Whether it's by design or happenstance, the products we work on have real value for the end user, and there's nothing better than working on something that people are passionate about."
I love, and took to heart, the priorities stated by one of the key characters in The Phoenix Project. As a dad, my priorities are provider, parent, spouse, and change agent, in that order.
My key priority is to put food on the table and a roof over our heads — Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in action. Second is my responsibility to raise rounded, healthy, caring and contributing members of society from the chaotic, wild, endearing, funny, challenging, rampant group of hormones and energy that are my children. Thirdly, I need to be a friend, confidant, clown, source of strength, advisor, outlet and… whatever else… to my wife.
Lastly, I view change agent in multiple ways: how do I assess my current personal and financial situation and what can I do about that? How do I assess my personal relationships and what needs to change, if anything, so that we are in a better place at the end of the day than we were at the start (always how do I spend more time with them)? And how do I improve myself? What do I need to reflect on and improve about myself so that I can fulfil my responsibilities better in the future?
The mirror to this as a manager is that my priorities are the business, the team, the clients, and change agent, in that order.
My key priority is the success of the business. We could discuss stakeholder vs shareholder theory if you like, but the long-term financial success of the business predicates everything else:
- You want to employ more people and help them pay their mortgages? The business needs to make money so that it can continue to do so in a sustainable way.
- You want to do good and give back to society? The business needs to make money so that it can continue doing this over the long-term.
- You want to deliver amazing outcomes to our clients? The business needs to make money so that we can get the best people and give them the space and support and time to do amazing things.
It is my responsibility to be the provider for the business, ensuring the long-term viability and sustainability of the organisation.
Secondly, it is my responsibility to support and serve my team in any way they need. In the same way that it is challenging raising children, with all their nuances, foibles, requests, and individual needs and wants, so it is with a team of your own. I cannot always say yes and I cannot always give everyone what they want, but you can bet I will do everything I can to give them what they need, protect them when they need protecting, and push them when they need pushing. There is a beautiful symmetry with parenting and managing, and both are a rollercoaster of emotions.
Our wins are your wins and your failures are my failures.
Thirdly, my responsibility to our clients, ensuring we deliver and over deliver on our promises. Why third, you may ask? Well, if the business isn’t sustainable then I can’t deliver on my promises to our clients. If I don’t give my team the space, support and drive to deliver on my promises then our clients will be the ones to suffer. Like any relationship, you go into a partnership giddy with excitement at all the possibilities, with the long-term in mind. But, like all partnerships, you have to work at it. It takes trust, honesty and effort on both sides to make it work and both must get as much value out of the relationship as they put in to make it sustainable (read more about how we try to build client partnerships based on trust here).
Lastly, I view change agent in a similar way: how do I assess the current performance of the business, my team, my colleagues, the projects we have, the relationships we’ve fostered and are fostering and how can we change them for the better? How do we improve every day, moving the needle just a little so that we are in a better place at the end of the day than we were at the start? And how do I improve myself? What do I need to reflect on and improve about myself so that I can fulfil my responsibilities better in the future?
So. What's it like being a dad at 383?
It’s great. I have the opportunity to provide and serve both my family and my team to achieve the best outcomes for both. I can use the lessons from one side to be better at the other. I can merge and flex my personal and professional time so that I have the opportunity to fulfil all of my responsibilities to everyone and ensure that neither side makes unreasonable demands on the other, understanding the symbiotic relationship of the two. Well… maybe my children make unreasonable demands, but that’s children.
Most of all, I feel that both are conduits to my own growth and fulfilment. I am grateful for everything I have and thankful that being a 383er and a dad brings rewards beyond what I can describe in this post.
If you’re looking for your next challenge and want to work somewhere you’re highly challenged and highly supported at the same time, check out our open roles here. We’d love to hear from you!