Thursday, 28 May 2020

On: The Office Life

another one of my #thismightnotwork posts (inspired by Seth Godin)

Deep down...
We know that nobody owes us anything.
We know that we are just cogs in a machine, replaceable.
We know that company loyalty does not really exist, no really, it IS about the bottom-line!
We know that we are only as good as our last project, even though ten projects earlier, we shot the lights out.
We know that no matter what we like to believe, most relationships in the office are simply transactional, although we would like it to be deeper.
We know that it does not matter how much we try, we can't (neither should we care to), change people's perceptions or deeply entrenched biases.
We know that mediocrity can be contagious if we stick around for too long, and unable to really influence change in performance and behaviour.
We know that tribes, cliques and clubs exist, it's natural (especially in Africa when it comes to racial divides), but we either feign ignorance or hope it gets better.
When a company value is "give benefit of the doubt" and we don't see it in action, what taste this leave us with?
We know that we are so much bigger than just our jobs...or do we really now (hint: count the number of times per day you find yourself immersed in thoughts about the office, even during your personal time)?

It's all about the bottom line....
It's business they say, you must develop a thick skin.
New age leadership is all bullshit they's capitalism and darwinism all the way man...power, politics and Machiavelli are role models of the day.
Empathy is so overrated, they say.
Empowerment? Let the team decide? What's all that fuss about? 
Humility, Modesty, Authentic, Integrity, Fairness...that's not leadership they say...but great for selling lots of books & makes for a booming consulting/coaching industry...but, kid, they won't get you through the real in the game is what you need, and be damn sure to fight to the death to protect it...
Attitude...attitude is good as long its conforms to groupthink aligned to culture (not the culture deck written down, but the real culture, yep they're different!).

...Yet knowing all of this, there are some people who still stick it out...
Wow, there walks about a man with grit & resilience they say... immediate assumption is: this guy must keep a cool head, he needs the money/income, responsibilities he has to his family, etc. comes first...just see it through, it will all be okay...

Dig a little deeper, and we often realise it's usually much more than just's quite personal actually, positively personal...sometimes deeply inspiring, confusing & at times bewildering...

Such people have a cause, they're fully in tune with their why, their self-worth and are completely aware of  not only themselves but of those around them. They know they stick out, are nonconformist, often mistaken as a threat to the status quo & risk being played out of the system...yet they still remain behind, firmly footed, digging their heels in - why, mostly because they take commitment seriously & sincerely. Such are those people, who believe in their craft, make their art, do things differently because they truly care deeply, and will not leave until they say "my work here is done, I've come as far as I'm willing"...they don't leave through external forces or pressure, instead they leave on their own terms, when they're ready to leave it all behind and never look back. And often to their surprise, they've built up a tribe, left a following behind...even though they didn't intentionally start out that way.

If you'd like to find out more about these people, check out Seth Godin & Simon Sinek's work...
Highly recommend getting your hands on:

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

LinkedIn Profile - probably a bad example

I spent a lot of time contemplating what should go as my "About" summary for LinkedIn, it's quite tough actually.

So I had this written down below for about 18 months as my profile, and I'm about to change it to just keep it simple and brief. Looking back, it's too much waffle..

Helping Africa's largest PayTV company build an internet TV platform, building local African engineering team & skills. This platform serves 50+ countries, multi-tenanted, multi-product & content packs. Scaled platform 6X through nurturing teamwork, MAU on a steady increasing trajectory, overall site traffic growing nicely YoY.

CTO for DStv Now, Box Office & Content Discovery Recommendations Tech stack, managing 100+ engineers: Enterprise Architecture, Software Delivery, AI/ML Scientists, Agile PMO, Infra/Networks & Ops/Site Reliability engineers.

I'm NOT strictly a builder anymore though. I haven't written code in ten years, but was once an expert coder. I don't do architecture anymore, but used to love models, abstractions, API design & authoring technical documents. I don't write or review test cases & test plans anymore but instead drive innovation & optimisation in automation & DevOps continuous delivery. I don't review code or do systems integration anymore but can write (have written) treatise on these software engineering topics.

Yes, I'm building an E2E tech stack commanding a v.large budget, in a fast-paced VUCA world.
Yes, I handle tech conversations & make tough decisions, engaging and challenging C-level executives.
Yes, I do write technical papers.
Yes, I can indeed get into engineering detail too...BUT...

I CHOOSE to LEAD through PEOPLE: empower, protect, listen, steer, guide, groom, mentor, coach, train, show & tell, nurture-to-catapulting NextGen leaders we so desperately need today...

Some people call me a turnaround specialist - rescuing distressed projects & teams...
Others have said I have a knack for making the complex look simple...
I've built full stack software from device firmware, middleware, apps to server-side systems.
I was once an expert technical project and program manager, but that too is no longer who I am...
I was also a scrum master, agile coach, devops & agile delivery release manager too...I was also a senior management consultant...

So who/where am I now??

I am now a builder of LEADERS, who happens to be a senior engineering guy with PI-shaped skills, who loves to solve perceived intractable problems and thinks big: org, people, radical ideas, disrupting, transformation.

I'm known to challenge status quo, ruffle feathers & doing things differently - radical candor. Sometimes seen as a threat to old-school thinkers.

Autonomy & Trust is where I thrive - democratising the workplace!

But I tend to get bored easily if I'm not stetched or challenged enough. Typical cadence is 3 years before changing! 

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

On: Never fight a battle you're not prepared to win

A topic that's been on my mind of late...

The thing with "Pick your battles"...
Everyone says, "Pick your battles," and they're right. But usually they only mean "Pick your battles based on whether or not you have a good chance to win." That's fine, as far as it goes. But we think you should be even more pickier. 
Only pick battles that are:
a) winnable
b) important
c) battles for which you're fully prepared to pay the price to win
d) battles you're damn sure you can afford to win

-- Quote from "Buck Up, Suck Up...and come back when you foul up" by Carville & Begala

So think and reflect on that deeply. Remember other anecdotes "If you want to fight, you have to get into the ring, it will get bloody messy but you can't stop until you give it your all". 

Which battles are you fighting in your head?
What's keeping you up awake at night, causing you sleepless nights?
This could be personal or professional, or a professional work scenario that's starting to negatively impact your personal & family life, possibly causing anxiety and borderline depression.

Before diving straight into battle mode, it might be prudent to find a quiet space to brainstorm.
Mind map each scenario and use the four criteria above to map pros/cons, upsides/downsides, apply some rationality to the process. 
It will be hard to fight the emotions, but you got to try.
Be critical.
Be meticulous.
Be objective.
Play devil's advocate. Is it just your ego being bruised?

It's not about being safe and taking the easy way out, nor is it about being risk averse. It's about being sensible, a matter of calculated, smart survival tactics, at the expense of giving into emotions.
Sometimes one has to lose a couple of battles to win the war.
It's about the long game - envision a future where your current troubles disappear and replaced with victory & triumph. Keep doing this as often as you can to get through the dip.

But...sometimes, if not most of the time, emotion & gut instinct are indeed right! After thousands of years, we humans still have our lizard brain, the instinctive reflex of "fight or flight" has served  and continues to serve & save us.
My gut instincts have saved me more times than I can remember, so it might be perfectly okay to react too.
Going with your gut, embracing the emotion (anger, disappointment, betrayal, rejection, doubt, etc.) can be very powerful motivators for change...
These, coupled with your closely-bound value system, can be the only key indicators for you to decide to get into battle...when you do get into it, you need to be prepared for various scenarios...especially when the impact of going into battle has far reaching consequences other than yourself: you family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, your own reputation, etc. 
Another tool is to seek out close confidants, mentors and guides - the counsel "Shura" of other trusted parties can generally help you seeing things that you might be currently blind to (since all you can think about are the battles raging in your head).

After all of that, once you've processed the noise in your head, sought counsel, go back and ask yourself: What am I willing to walk away from??
Take a deep up courage....and take that first step (battle or not) and never look back...

another #thismightnotwork post