The last few weeks have been rough. #understatement
Work has been eventful... and I mean stressful for me. After not shipping one of our products since September 2019, we shipped five in eight days. Shipping is stressful as it's letting our works of art out into public to be judged. I took a new role in September, and whew it's been difficult! I took it, because the last two people in that role quit and who else was going to do it? Yet I quickly learned why it's so difficult. It's a nexus for both information, and physical hardware, and when any aspect of those two things don't get done a certain way by a certain time, it falls to this role. In my previous role I was responsible on the digital and information side, which is a strong suit for me, now I'm getting into the actual hardware too, which contains more data. I'll get back to that. Plus, not sure you've seen, but the USA had an election recently and Covid-19 cases are skyrocketing around the country.
Add it all up and I felt overwhelmed.
My boss, who I am very open about with my struggles, offered to go to lunch, and as we were heading out the door, another coworker, and very good friend of my boss, who I'll call A, asked to come with us. I was planning to tell my manager the struggles of the day, but A beat me to it, by going on a ten minute description of the issues he was working on. It blew my mind! I was aware of two issues he brought up, but a few others were new to me. I also realized, 'wait, I can help here.' I have the skills to maybe not help with these immediate issues, but I can make sure that in three weeks, he won't have to deal with these issues again, at least for the next 9+ months... until we have another ground up redesign effort, but possibly never again, if we can front load some existing software tools we use.
Ten minutes later when we were eating and I was then asked about what was up in my world, I said with a small laugh, "I think A about covered it." My first thought about what I was feeling in that moment was, 'misery loves company' but that's not exactly the feeling or perspective change I had. My mind shift was more, 'the things that are stressing me out are stressing me out because I'm currently responsible for them in a way that I have not been before. So I kind of don't know what I'm doing. But! We are nearing the end of this surge and it is a great time to reevaluate HOW we do things so that a person does not get put in my position, or for that matter A's position during the next surge.' In other words, exactly what I came to a startup to do, build a company by building the processes and roles to systematically create a physical product where there previously was none. In the depths of the trenches I've been in the last few weeks, I've only seen the mud, not the whole battlefield. However, I've now been at the company through three product kickoffs and two product launches, in addition to the kickoffs and launches that I saw at my previous company. I have the experience.
Point being, it's easiest to map a process when you've done every step of it, or at least witnessed them all. And once you have a map, you can get from start to finish more reliably without getting lost, which makes the stress levels go down. You can onboard people and describe to them how to do it. Ultimately you can optimize the process. And my manager actually suggested to me this week, I should write all this down, so that we don't forget it, so that we don't have things fall through the cracks. Honestly, I'm delighted to go spend some time working on that. It's great when you have a thought about going to do something that needs to be done, and then your boss has the same thought and gives you the assignment.
To step out more broadly, my family and closest friends are taking Covid-19 super seriously. As a competitive runner, I don't want any lasting lung or heart damage from getting the disease. I'm only socializing with a single person in this current wave. She's the only person in my Covid-19 bubble. And seeing all of these people I care about take it so seriously, I have a lot of hope that through Zoom calls, phone calls, texts and some socially distanced outdoor adventures we'll make it through this winter just fine. Oh we'll drink too much alcohol, and have lots of negative depressing thoughts, and anxiety when we have to interact with strangers, but ultimately we won't be dying. I read in an article today, "If you're not dead, you're winning."
So I'm optimistic. We're going to get through this. I'm going to get through this. 2020 is a learning experience that we will all pass on to future generations. As my blog is titled, we are learning to do, and in this case the doing is very difficult right now, and many will suffer mental health effects for a long time, let alone the hundreds of thousands of dead Americans. Many people have been humbled this year, which is often a hard experience, but I'm optimistic that will allow us to help each other heal in years to come.