We’re building an incredible team at Valon who truly cares about redefining the homeownership experience. An important part of what makes this team great is how we interact with each other on a daily basis. Since transparency is one of our core values, we wanted to make those interactions even clearer to everyone.
Valonians are encouraged to write a “working with X” document to share how best to communicate and collaborate with them. This document is intended for both new hires and tenured employees alike as a baseline of what to expect when working with their peers.
To give you an initial sense of what working at Valon is like, I’ll be sharing a bit about myself and how I work – things I value, how I interact with others, and my quirks. Everyone here has their own unique flavor, but we complement each other and strive toward the same overall values. All of which is incredibly important to keep us laser-focused on our mission – championing homeowners on their financial journey.
If you think you’d like working with people like me, we’d love for you to join us. Hit us up on our careers page!
Since my working style will evolve over time, a live running version of this doc is located here.
Hi! If you’re reading this, we will hopefully be working together. This is meant to be a living document that explains how I operate and holds me accountable – if my behavior doesn’t match what this document says, let me know! That being said, these are guidelines; I will occasionally deviate when necessary (like if we’re dealing with a massive fire). Lastly, this document is just a starting point – let’s get to know each other better!
At the highest level, my focus is to do everything in my power to achieve our company’s mission – championing homeowners on their financial journey. Most of the time, this means making the engineering team run to its fullest potential. More specifically:
- Empower teams and individuals to work at their fullest potential. I will do whatever it takes to improve teams and put individuals in the position to provide the most impact, whether you’re an individual contributor or a manager.
- Attract and retain the best talent. This is twofold: (1) recruiting and (2) building a world-class engineering team and culture that allows individuals to grow and be fulfilled at Valon.
- Set a clear engineering vision and roadmap. This involves a realistic evaluation of our abilities to meet business requirements. I’ll provide context and ensure that the company needs align with team or individual needs. Lastly, I’ll review high level technology decisions to make certain we’re aligned.
- Firefight. In urgent cases, I’ll step in and help fix things. In these situations, I may be more heavy handed in order to ensure the situation is fixed – everything else is secondary.
My Guiding Principles
- I genuinely care. I care about making the homeownership experience better for everyone. I care about each and every person at Valon because our mission is only as strong as the people behind it. Let’s build an amazing company where everyone cares about each other and their customers.
- I will put the team and you before myself. My focus is to empower others and lead by serving. Let’s make the team and the company better than the sum of our parts.
- I default to trust. We hired you for a reason – you’re likely the expert in whatever you’re doing. I also assume positive intent from everyone. Therefore, my default is to trust, be hands off, and give you a lot of ownership. That being said, when that trust is broken, it takes a lot to rebuild.
- I believe in continuous improvement in all things. I prefer a quick feedback loop for anything – coding, processes, and personal feedback. I expect myself and my team to constantly be learning and growing. As I continue to experiment, not everything will work out – and that’s okay! Every mistake is a learning experience.
- I want to hear all voices. I like to hear all perspectives, discuss all options, and see what you come up with. I will often reserve my own thoughts until the end. I generally like consensus because I trust your judgement, though I will sometimes tiebreak or override on occasion.
- I always ask why. I always ask questions in order to clarify and ensure we’re thinking about the right things. I expect myself (and everyone else) to know (1) why we’re building something and (2) why it has to be now.
- I will stand up for what I believe in. I’m not an argumentative person, but I will stand up and fight if I strongly believe in something or someone.
My ideal teammate
As my ideal teammate, you do the following:
- Optimize for the company, then the team, then yourself (in that order).
- Hold yourself and each other accountable, but also have each other’s back.
- Have strong opinions but remain open-minded.
- Give feedback often and receive feedback graciously.
- Aren’t afraid to say “I don’t know”.
- Look for every opportunity to make those around you better.
- Make work fun!
Things That Bother Me
- Putting your own success before the team’s. Don’t make yourself look better at the expense of others, the team, or the company. We succeed or fail together.
- Hiding critical issues. A problem brought up early is an opportunity to improve; a problem brought up too late is a disaster. Don’t tell me what I want to hear – tell me what I need to hear.
- Calling things done before they’re done. A bug isn’t fixed until it’s in production and verified. “It will be deployed later today” means it’s not done yet.
- Not following up. If you say you’re going to do something, I expect you to handle it. If something unexpected comes up, it’s your responsibility to communicate this.
- Process for the sake of process. Process is put in place to make ourselves better. If it’s not working, don’t do it.
I provide feedback because I care about your growth and want to provide you with the checkpoints to improve. I expect you to reciprocate so that I can grow as well. That being said, you do not have to follow all of my feedback. Sometimes you have better context than I do and I expect you to think critically about whether something is worth acting on.
In an ideal world, you and I are comfortable enough to provide continuous, informal feedback to each other by any means necessary. While I’m a big believer in radical candor and the 4A format, I’m not picky and will both accept and give feedback that doesn’t meet those exact guidelines, especially in the moment.
If there’s anything that makes it difficult for you to provide feedback, please let me know.
I’m a big fan of 1:1s. Don’t just give me a status update – that’s what standup, weekly syncs, or staff meetings are for. I like to keep a shared running 1:1 doc to keep us accountable and ensure we’re on the same page (literally!).
In general, I expect to get to know you more, talk about your satisfaction, hear your feedback for the company/leadership/myself, and listen to issues that you flag. If you’re a direct report, we’ll have weekly or bi-weekly 1:1s where we’ll additionally talk about feedback for you, team dynamics, career development, and brainstorm together. If you’re a skip level report, we’ll occasionally have 1:1s where we’ll discuss feedback for your manager or team.
Lastly, this time is yours. I am happy to talk about anything you think is important – work related or not.
I will always make time for you. If my calendar is full, just send me a Slack message and I’ll see what I can do.
I’m pretty informal with off-the-cuff communication and default to Slack. I don’t expect you to respond late at night or on weekends, unless I specifically mention it’s urgent. For more important information, I prefer a well thought out longform document.
For meetings, I prefer having an agenda, moderator, enough time for discussion, and most of all written meetings notes for posterity.
Lastly, I prefer overcommunication, even at the cost of efficiency.
- I like to think things through. I don’t like to rush to decisions and prefer to put some thought into everything. This means I may make decisions slower than you’d like.
- I like writing things down. I don’t trust my memory. I think writing helps clarify decisions and record for posterity.
- I’m more realistic than optimistic. This means you won’t have to pad my estimates as much. It also means I sometimes have trouble getting into the mindset of defaulting to yes.
These are some resources that have heavily influenced how I operate:
- Trillion Dollar Coach
- An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management
- High Output Management
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things
In case you’re curious, here are some of my interests outside of work. I’m always happy to chat about these topics.
- Animals. Of all kinds, but in particular: dogs, ducks, giraffes, goats, and otters (in no particular order).
- Snowboarding. My favorite resorts are Park City and Kirkwood. I’m always down to go on a trip together!
- Sports. I like playing sports casually and watching the NBA (Lakers) and the NFL (49ers). I’m a huge sports nerd and will talk your ear off about stats and analytics.
- Anything outdoors. Hikes, beaches, views, anything of the sort.
We’re all figuring this out together. Our final destination is a long ways away, so let’s make sure we have fun and enjoy the journey. I’m a first time CTO and I assume many parts of your job are new to you as well, so let me know if I could be doing better.
I’m so thrilled to see what we can accomplish together!