Bartosz "Azatar" Solowiej

Operating Guide

First of all, I’m really excited to be working with each of you and your teams.


I enjoy tracking our agendas, actions, goals, and updates over Slack, Telegram, or Email (in that order of preference). If you have systems you use for project management, invite me. I track engineering process in Gitlab and Github (in that order of preference).

 

I try to avoid meetings unless absolutely necessary. 


  • Daily scrums: I like to check in nearly daily with frontline colleagues (those working on a project or task with me now). If we're prioritizing something important, we'll share what's done, what's next, what's needed every day over Slack, Email, Telegram or Text. Nothin' fancy please.

  • Weekly team meetings, as appropriate: I view these as both update and decision-making/work review forums. I expect people to be prepared and to participate, even though we’ll have to manage video conferences and time zones.

  • Quarterly planning sessions: it’s my hope we make these happen with strong pre-work and good follow-up afterward with our teams and partners (internal or external).

  • Flashpoints: It’s possible that we’ll have some separate business review-type meetings and we can work hard to keep work manageable between these and planning sessions. Stay tuned.

  • Speaking of Internal 1:1s

  • We’ll do a career session at some point in our first few months of working together—your history, why you’ve made choices you have made, what your ambitions are for the future, etc. These help me know where you are in terms of personal development interests and ambitions with respect to longer-term plans.

  • I believe in the two of us reviewing the top 3-5 personal goals you have each quarter or so (these are the things that you personally spend your time on, not your team plans, which I know you also spend time on…). We can discuss them each Q and then mark out a plan on how we make sure you get the time, space, and support to accomplish what you need. I do these every 3-6 months and will share mine with everyone, also.

  • Customer & external teams

  • Please add me to emails (fwd as FYI or add me) or documents that might be helpful for me to see as a way to understand the team and day-to-day work.

  • As work is ongoing or a team member does a great job on something, forward it. I like to see WIP and I am happy to meet with folks who have done great work so they can walk me through it at your discretion.

  • Finally, I look forward to personally meeting everyone on your team and let’s keep an eye to make sure I’ve done that over the next few months.

  • Engineering

  • We always lay down a high level view of the systems we're putting in place. This will come in the form of workflows, diagrams, and discussions that revolved primarily around mentorship and strategic value for you and everyone involved.

  • We break down big visions into pragmatic executable milestones. I avoid boiling the ocean at all costs. This often leads to longer timelines than you expect, but my estimation and execution abilities go hand-in-hand with over 14 years of engineering experience and managerial "lessons".

  • I encourage interdependence. The architectures we build are often a group of microservices designed to interdepend upon one another and so does our team. When you have an idea that you want to run with, great. Identify where it fits in the view from the mountaintop, communicate your desire and design, go for it. I don't expect to approve of everything, but I can be informed and maintain an objective mindset in turn.


Management Style

 
Collaborative
  • I’m very collaborative which means I like to discuss decisions, options, strategies, and whiteboard big stuff in a group. At times, it may seem that I am stuck in one position or opinion. This is where I do my best to communicate the thoughtful underpinnings of my position. Together, we'll discuss the variety of perspectives and make a great effort to arrive at facts and first principles. The downside is that you won’t always get a quick judgment out of me—rather something like "it depends" and a list of considerations will follow a strategic or technical question. I need to talk it through and see some ideas/data/options. Due to this bias, I can sometimes be slow to decide. If you need a decision quickly, make sure I know it.


Hands-Off
  • I’m not a micro-manager and I won’t sweat your details *unless* I think things are off track.  If I do, I’ll tell you my concern and we can work together to make sure I understand and plan together on how to communicate better or course correct the situation. That said, when I am new to a project/ team I often get into the work alongside people so I can be a better leader—I will get involved in details and be more hands-on early on in a new initiative and just be warned on that. It’s how I will know how to help if you need me later.

  • I expect you are making decisions a lot without me and if you come to me I’ll usually put it back on you with, “What do you want to do?” or “What should you do?” and just help you decide. That said, if there is a big one brewing, I’d love to know about it and I’m always here to talk it out. I like to know what’s going on with you and your team.

  • Please use calendly.com/azatar to schedule my time without asking. More on scheduling and communications later in this document.


Accountable and Organized
  • I swoon at any signs of honesty and personal integrity among my colleagues. Whatever the situation, I find great joy in honest communications, especially when you think it's not what I want to hear/read and you have to muster up the courage to share. Integrity in your actions goes a long way with me. A lack thereof is a formula for revelation and conscientious review so we have the facts straight.

  • I take action items really seriously and I expect you to know what yours are, when they are due, and get them done. I don’t like chasing them but I do notice when things slip—it’s fine to renegotiate deadlines but I’ll be annoyed if it’s the day after the deadline….

  • I dislike being caught last-minute with people working hard on something we could have gotten ahead of—please help anticipate big work efforts and let’s be in front of them together. Similarly, I want us to be ruthless in priorities while we are resource-constrained. We need to all remain sane-me too.


Data-Driven
  • I like data and dashboards. Thus, there is one, objective (ideally) way to measure progress and results. However, I dislike being bogged down in data and torturing the numbers. Let’s review consistent information on what really matters and use data to get insight. Let's work to minimize "thinking" we know what’s going on and instead find metrics that lead us away from strategies that might involve "going with our gut". K.I.S.S. - Keep It Super Simple.

  • I also like to make agreements on “how we do things” that we then agree to vary/make exceptions on as a group versus everyone inventing their own process/frameworks.

  • If we’re discussing something and you know of or can imagine data that would be useful to our decision, bring it up. (See below—sometimes I go into intuitive mode and I should be analyzing first.)


But intuitive?! Isn't that a "gut" thing?
  • I’m intuitive about people, products, and decisions which means I’m happy to handle situations when I don’t have a lot of facts or data. You may think "uh-oh, he’s going to jump to conclusions", but I’ve worked hard to NOT be that person. Ultimately, I think I have a good gut but I’m not wedded to it.

  • *Your* job is to get my sense of something and discuss with me. I love a good discussion to a better outcome. Getting a long list of detailed questions out of me is a GOOD step toward success. If I am not asking, it's because I'm not interested or I don't know you need my opinions. If you're confused or annoyed, let me know. I will do my best to assess and re-state my inquisition more humbly so you have the opportunity to consider my perspective in earnest.

  • I use my intuition a lot with talent management. However, I am not always a good “read” on people. Again, I work hard not to judge or jump to conclusions. I ask a lot of questions when I need clarification. I will put forward hypotheses about your team members and your job is to make sure I really know the people. If I am misinformed, please correct me.

  • I stay out of your personal business. I only get to know what’s going on personally with people when I need to see the whole picture. I am a believer that we are “whole selves,” not work selves and home selves and it will help me know you and your team better if I know context. If something hard is going on with someone on your team, I’d love to know and offer support to help you sort things out with them directly.


Strategic
  • I try to think about where things will end up and the straightest line to get there but I’m pretty flexible along the way. If there is swirl I usually think to myself: “What’s the big lever here?” “What problem are we trying to solve?” “Why do we need to solve it?” “When do we need to solve it?” “What information do we need and when will we get it?” and I expect you to do the same. Every day I try to think about what’s the most important thing I can do and do that above all else. But sometimes I get buried under email, engineering, and I fail.

  • I am very long term in my thinking. If something surfaces that requires our immediate attention, it's because it may be a threat to long-term accountability. Otherwise, I avoid short-term gains without a hedge against distractions. This means that if there's a short-term win that doesn't impede long-term success, I'll consider it, but you'll need to explain the value and scope clearly to get my buy-in.

  • I am slow and steady in my strategic planning. Rather than rush through months of all-nighters and 90hr work weeks and killing ourselves, we'll plan steady and attainable success that preserves the quality of life for all involved. This way we nurture relationships along the way, even the relationships we have with our families, our communities, and ourselves. This is how we remain great for a lifetime of service to the global communities we each belong to.


By the way, I am often overly generous with my time and say yes too often to things. If you see this, please flag it to me. Although I love meeting with people, I sometimes don’t spend enough time on the strategic stuff because I am working on other things. Help keep me honest and I'll reciprocate in turn.


Human Centric
  • In the early phases of laying groundwork together, my key leverage is more about individual customer work than scale. This also depends on the client. I’m always interested in sales status, customer issues, customer stories, and meetings with our clients, especially when I’m traveling. Until we have a clearly reproducible value-add solution that's fully automated with intrinsic value, I'll keep beating the drum around the development of human-centric systems across the board: not just clients, or patrons, but also internal employees and stakeholders.


Communication

 
1:1s
  • Use 1:1s for items better discussed verbally and items that can wait for our weekly check-in. Email takes a *ton* of time, so use it wisely.

  • If we don’t have a 1:1 for a while, feel free to Telegram, Slack, Email or Text, of course.

  • Schedule my time via calendly.com/azatar. I keep this up-to-date. If there's a timeslot, then I have time.


Slack, Telegram, and Text
  • Any one of these is the fastest way to get contact and input from me.

  • Keep it succinct and professional. I do enjoy personal conversations on occasion, just in person and not over these channels. Shoot me an email or better yet, schedule a 1:1 meeting with me.

  • If it’s urgent/impt/timely or super short feel free to ping any time, even when I am “red”.

  • Short questions on chat are fine but I might be inconsistent in response times since I am often enjoying life.

  • If it’s a long topic and not time sensitive, maybe just wait for our 1:1 or send me an email.


Email
  • I read fast. I don’t love writing super long emails, nor do I think they’re very productive habit, although I break this rule on several occasions, especially when I have a critical thought process that needs to be clearly enumerated to many people at once on their own time!

  • I will read every email I get in a day but I don’t respond just so you know I read it—I’ll only respond if you ask me something directly or I have a question. Thus, assume I did read the email within 18 hours, but if you think I owe you a response please resend or ping me and I won’t be offended.

  • I *appreciate* FYI emails when you send me something you saw, a customer anecdote, an article, some data, or something someone on your team did and if you write FYI in the subject or in the fwd I’ll know it’s for my information but *not* requiring response or urgent reading and I’ll do the same for you. FYI = no response required.

  • If you add me to a team email celebrating something that I somehow missed, I know that’s the signal to weigh in usually with "woohoo!”, so go ahead but don’t overuse it or in my experience people will think it’s meaningless.


Working Hours and Schedule
  • I enjoy my family and a balanced lifestyle as much as possible. I engage in self-care by spending time with my family and I spend time recharging myself outdoors in Nature. This enables me to do what I do and I won't have it any other way. That said, I respect that you may choose to do the same. Thus, when I am not at my console, I am completely disconnected from communications and work. This is how I remain in full presence at all times.

  • I am up at 6-7a every day, including weekends. I work on weekdays from 7-8a until around 3-4p PST.

  • I schedule meetings from 7-10a on Mon, Tue, Wed, and Fri. Tue and Wed are my core meeting days. Those fill up first and then I offer the remaining slots. I mentor clients during these hours as well as schedule 1:1's to support our goals during these times.

  • I schedule my travel plans as much in advance as possible. I travel often. I update my calendar in turn. I'll always make a point to notify anyone working with me of any disruptions to my scheduled availability. 


Overall, I value necessary communication over frequent chatter. I won't dive into cooler-banter on private forums or slack channels. However, I do like to know what’s going on with you and your team. That helps me do a better job for you. I don’t view that as micromanagement but if you feel like I am too much in the weeds, please tell me. Finally, I don’t believe I will create a lot of email volume and I’ll be the first to recommend we do a quick in-person sync to resolve something versus a long email exchange. Or better yet, you can be the first to recommend it, and I’ll be the second.


I also like plans that are documented. I don’t care if it’s slides, Graffles, Jupyter notebooks, docs, or spreadsheets but I expect detailed work has been done when needed.

 

It does make sense to me that whatever you choose for documentation, you make the choice in a manner appropriate to the task. So, don't write ML code in a Word Doc. I won't read it. Document your work so that others may prosper and follow in your footsteps. Always assume you're building something for the long-run. We do respect scratch work, but be prepared to document for production.

 

If you have WIP or plans, I love to be included early and often in their development *but* I’ll generally only weigh in when asked or on final review, even if I have draft access.


Feedback

I like it. I like to give it and I like to receive it, particularly constructive. We’re in this to get better together. We’ll have a quarterly official session but I’ll try to be timely when I observe or hear something and please do the same. I also like to know how and what your team is thinking and feeling and I will do "skip levels", office hours, etc. Remember, whatever I hear or see, I have your back and I’ll tell you when I’m concerned. Anyone who vents to me about you is going to get my help to tell you directly.


Management and People

I care a lot about you, your people, and all of your development. Please make sure we’re touching base on your team, building our teams’ skills as individuals and as teams constantly, and that I know when there are superstars and challenges so we can help people together.


Results

Let’s get good ones and know we did. Measure measure measure :)

 

Humor

Finally, I like a good laugh and to have fun with the people I work with. I definitely will not tolerate any humor that marginalizes humans by their religious or spiritual beliefs or their sexual orientation. Keep it witty and clever. I don't mind talking like a sailor when we're hashing out brass tacks. I do mind anything that deprecates individuals on a basis of their diversity.  


I hope this was helpful and, again, I look forward to working together.


You are welcome to make suggestions to this document.

My Biography

I was born in Poland. I grew up in the United States. I lived in Texas, Georgia, Washington (DC), Silicon Valley, and Oregon. Moreover, I travel the World extensively with my family of 7. We continue to "see it all" with a deep sense of responsibility and personal empathy to all forms of Life on this great planet.

Professionally, after finishing my undergraduate studies in Economics and Mathematics at Emory University, I decided to forgo a PhD in Economics from the University of Oregon in lieu of real-world experience. I mentored professors at Emory University, single-handed front-end product engineering at The Washington Post, built successful companies in Silicon Valley & New York CIty, and continue to innovate with a life-long passion for improving the human condition using the skills of my trade and wisdom of my travels. 

I believe strongly in the value of personal growth through adversity and persistence. I believe we individually create the reality that we all share on a collective level and that every individual has the power to alter the course of evolution by their self-improved awareness of the eternal moment that continues to unfold to this day since the beginning of all time.  

Connecting

You're welcome to connect on LinkedIn.

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