Gratitude – November 2021

A great many lovely things happened in my birthday month. Here are some of the best.

Love Life Season 2

I totally enjoyed season 1 of Love Life on HBO, so I was really happy when I saw that it returned this year with William Jackson Harper (of The Good Place!) as its star. It was exceedingly enjoyable, and I was soooo happy to see that Jessica Williams was a co-star. She is so beautiful and talented. I can never look away when she is on the screen; so I am pleased that she was on the screen so often. The series is EXTREMELY well-written and acted. Extra shout out to whoever had the genius stroke of casting the great Punkie Johnson and also Jane “the real Aunt Viv” Hubert. Chef’s kisses all around!

The Souvenir

I recently watched this 2019 film by Joanna Hogg. after I read that she’d come out with a part II. Starring Honor Swinton Byrne with a supporting role by Tilda Swinton (Honor’s mama!), it was surprisingly moving and featured a delightful cameo from the great RIchard Ayoade!

Opus 40

https://opus40.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Aerial-View.jpg

Ahead of my very dear sisterfriend, L, moving out of the country, a group of us got together to do a long overdue friends’ weekend upstate. We had a lovely time and the discovered the very cool Opus 40 outdoor museum. The creation of the late sculptor and professor, John Fite, it features many massive sculptures, labyrinths, pools, and even an amphitheater. It was quite an experience and I hope that visit won’t be my last!

Medicine at St. Ann’s Warehouse

25/09/2020 repro free: Sean Carpio, Clare Barrett, Domhnall Gleeson, Enda Walsh and Aoife Duffin pictured during a break from rehearsals ahead of a ‘one-night-only’ peek at a new Enda Walsh play, Medicine. Photo:Andrew Downes, xposure

I was fortunate enough to see the adorable and talented Domhnall Gleeson starring alongside a small but wickedly talented cast in Enda Walsh’s Medicine, . It was intense and funny and moving. I will see anything by Enda Walsh that comes to town. The run at St. Ann’s here in Brooklyn was extended into December, so you really should go!

The Many Moves of a Manager

Dear Reader,

I certainly don’t need to tell you the myriad ways this pandemic has rocked the foundations of all the things. I don’t need to tell you how it has changed school and work and families. You’ve read all the articles about it. However, something I have not heard as much mention about over these lo’ many years is a certain something I have been facing on my team — so many people are moving.

Reader, I completely understand the need to move. I live in a small, New York apartment, and — to my recollection — I never signed ANY agreement with my past or current employer renting this small corner — from which I write to you now — out to any of them. No, Reader, these corporations just moved right in under threat of stripping me of my livelihood. I had no choice but to step aside and let them in to stay. Put in similar situations, nearly EVERYONE I work with has either moved to larger spaces or undergone significant work on their existing spaces. While I am happy for them — if not a little envious — you can imagine how disruptive this has been.

With the belief that I am maybe not the only team manager who is going through this sort of thing, I thought I’d write more in hopes it might help someone else.

Help! Everyone In My Team Is Moving At Once!

To be honest, I am part of the problem. I moved as well — twice, in fact — first to a larger place and then back here to my little corner. So being as I know the situation from both sides, I am well-positioned to provide a few tips. Here are my suggestions for what your move should be when everyone is moving.

Proactive Communication

As soon as the teammate informs you of the impending move, let them know that they should be sure to update their calendar and make sure any team members or other staff that regular work with them know this is going on. From what I understand, there are many moving pieces in purchasing a house. The team member certainly doesn’t have to take us through every twist and turn. Just let us know when they will be away from keyboard, so we can ensure coverage.

Encourage Vacation

If the team member finally settles on a date to move, recommend they take the time off with padding on either side.The best-laid plans can go awry leaving you without a desk or a door handle or working wifi in the new place. A smart move is to give themselves some buffer. Even if they don’t have unlimited vacation, still encourage them to pad a bit

Jubilant Celebration

Considering how frustrating moving and remodels are we should celebrate any time anyone makes it through one in tact. Encourage the team member to share the good news or even take the team on a virtual tour! Consider sending the person a small house warming gift or gift card from you or on behalf of the time.

Reminders of Obligation

Make sure the team member knows they still have a job to do. Housework is never done, but it can only infringe on work hours for so long. If the person gets into months of house-related interruptions, it may be time to have a serious conversation about helping them find an alternative space to work from until the situation is rectified. No one wants a new home to become a new pain in the neck.

What about you? Are you experiencing lots of moves? How are you handling it?

The Speedy Scale-Up

Someone recently reached out to me with the following query and I thought it would make good blog fodder since I haven’t blogged in ages.

Their Question:

I’m currently in the throes of planning for 2022 and I’ve hit a few roadblocks on items I haven’t had to do before:
1- Hiring people, but not having enough applicants to the role (seems to be a widespread issue though)
2- Thinking ahead to what infrastructure I need to have in place to grow from 5 >10 >15 >20 over the next year

My Answer:

Yes #1 is a widespread issue right now!

I am the Global Head of CX at Humio. Before Humio, I built out support and success at Nylas, and before that I did the same at Shortcut (fka Clubhouse).

From my humble experience, these are all great things to be thinking about ahead of time!

Hmmm, here is what I’d say just off the top of my head.

  • Build out your org chart ahead of time and hire good deputies before you hire too many ICs.
  • Give the deputies some headcount out of the gate so they can build their own team.
  • Promote the strong ICs to managers and be ready to coach them (and/or have the deputies coach them).
  • Focus on having your direct reports be no more than Bezos’s 2-pizza box team.
  • Plan to do skip levels at least once quarterly so the people that report to your directs can give you the view from where they are sitting. It really helps with overall team cohesion — especially as you start to manage managers — and it gives people a view of what is coming down the pipe from senior leadership and/or the board or investors.
  • Keep in mind that you still need time to manage up to leadership. So delegate, delegate, delegate so you have time to carry out all the random little tasks that will pop up outta nowhere (because Tha Leaders always come into your DMs with that stuff!)

The other thing I didn’t mention that comes to mind now is this:

  • Take breaks and time off! If your company has unlimited vacation, really just treat yourself to days off randomly when you need them or even before you really need them. You will hopefully come back better off for it. And if you’ve delegated like I told you too, you won’t come back to a mountain of work.

In Plain Sight

I’ve been really into James Scott (see: Seeing Like A State and Three Cheers For Anarchism) and Anna Tsing (see: The Mushroom At The End of The World and On NonScalability) for some time, and I recently got hip to this amazing artist Kenya Robinson (https://www.teamhuman.fm/episodes/kenya-robinson). The thing she said on that podcast was so great.

“You will never catch me at a protest…I wonder if we are missing out on other options such as deceit, secrecy, spycraft, glamour….”

Kenya Robinson

Also this https://www.obfuscationworkshop.org/
And this https://syllabus.pirate.care/topic/hologramsocialcare/


This is from the Nick Cave show at the NYC Armory in 2018. My son is there at the end. Following enthralled.

Maybe we are going about this all wrong and the project of making ourselves more and more defined is just a trick to make us even more legible to the state and ruling classes?

Maybe we need loose cloak, spy closet identities to drape over who we actually are and what we are after?

Maybe instead of
Diversity
Equity
Inclusion

we focus on

Deception
Evasion
Illegibility
?

Gratitude: April 2021

Dolemite Is My Name

Dolemite Is My Name

I used to watch Dolemite movies in college as a late night goof with friends. I never knew much about the backstory of the star Rudy Ray Moore and I figured there wasn’t much to what he’d pulled together. So when Eddie Murphy came out with Dolemite Is Ny Name on Netflix, I didn’t figure it was worth watching. Fortunately, a very trusted friend pushed me to watch it and I am glad I did. It was a celebration of black culture and ingenuity. I hadn’t realized 1) Rudy Ray Moore intended to make a silly character/movie (I’d assumed he was more of an Ed Wood character) and 2)he was essentially an amateur folklorist, capturing a rich aspect of black culture that many others might have preferred to stuff into the dustbin of history.

Murphy was really great in it, but the other two standout performances were Wesley Snipes as D’Urville Martin (Dolemite’s reluctant director), and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Lady Reed (Moore’s protegee, trusted confidante, and muse).

Small Axe

Another recommendation from my amazing friend was Small Axe by Steve McQueen. It is a series of 5 full-length films about the Afro-Caribbean struggle in UK in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. This was exceedingly moving and I am sure I will watch again. It is one of those things I will get in box set if I am able to. Truly all classic.

This interview with Steve McQueen rocked my world. Loving this man FOREVER.

Dr. Lonnie Smith

Another friend hipped me to this new album Breathe by Dr. Lonnie Smith. The track below is my favorite on it

Old Customer Care Lady Sayings

As a leader in customer care, over the years I have developed a few sayings that I believe have held me in good stead.

Camille’s Top Three Customer Care Sayings

#1: No Special Snowflakes

To My Fellow Caffeine-Fuelled Zombies: The Special Snowflake Paradox

This means that –as much as possible — we want to avoid having to support custom features, special builds, weird bespoke SLAs, and anything else that is going to be hard to track and resolve. Specialness is frustrating to handle and an impediment to scale. If we are running a tiny neighborhood cupcake shop, fine, I am happy to handcraft cupcakes. If we are trying to build a mega cupcake conglomerate, it needs to come off the conveyor belt the same as the others. I tend to say this to sales people and occasionally to overzealous engineers.

#2: Keep Receipts

In your career and in your day to day work, a lot of information goes flying back and forth and it can be hard to track across public Slack channels, private Slack channels, DMs, emails, Google Docs, Zoom calls and so and so forth. When in doubt (and you should mostly just STAY in doubt), write things down, have other people write them down to you, record things, screenshot things.
You will forget.
People will forget.
People will pretend they forgot.
People will try to reinvent the wheel.
People will try to rewrite history based on their faulty memories or wishful thinking.
Keep receipts to remind them (and yourself!) of the good things, the bad things, the mistakes, and the almost-forgotten strokes of genius.

#3: Reduce information asymmetry

I wrote about this here and it is a brief read, but the tl;dr isI this:

If you know something that the customer should know, tell them right away. It will give them some information to gather OR help them set expectations on their side OR prompt them to fashion a workaround. They might not be happy about what you tell them, but at least they won’t be sitting idle wondering if you forgot about them and their problem.


What about you? What are some of your favorite sayings or rules of thumb?

Everything Is About Time

I feel like everywhere I turn people are talking about time. Here are a few recent references

AmarElo

This documentary was so gorgeous. It opened with the saying,

“Eshu threw a stone today that hit a bird yesterday.”

Emma Dabiri – Don’t Touch My Hair

The weaving that occurs in the braided hairstyles, the aspects of their temporality, their consistency as well as their adaptibility, share many similarities with the oriki (Yoruba oral tradition) genre. What is this something else that oriki performances aim at? Simply posing this question highlights a profound difference between a Eurocentric concept of history and Afrocentric engagements with time.

In our language the word for the sea means the ‘spirit that returns’

I found my way to the land closest to nowhere after Google Maps said there was no road to follow. My eyes told me different and I kept going. To get there that first night, especially alone after dark, I was far more reliant on strangers’ knowledges of well travelled roads than any formal map or its timings. Nowhere is an invention. Real or not, it enables navigation, not on land but at sea:

Latitude 0°
Longitude 0°
Altitude 0°

Nowhere is the centre of the surface of the world. It is on the longitude line that links Britain and Ghana. Nowhere sets its clocks to Greenwich Mean Time. This nowhere is the nowhere because the British were best at sea. The land closest to nowhere is a cape jutting out into the Atlantic, not to one point, but three: nowhere is never somewhere you get to one way.

Towards a Temporal Rezoning

At Home With Ursula LeGuin

In “A Non-Euclidean View,” Le Guin cited a writer and folklorist who described a saying among some members of the Cree people:

Usà puyew usu wapiw! (“He goes backward, looks forward.”)

The phrase is used to describe “the thinking of a porcupine as he backs into a rock crevice.” The author in question, Howard A. Norman, wrote that “the porcupine consciously goes backward in order to speculate safely on the future, allowing him to look out at his enemy or the new day. To the Cree, it’s an instructive act of self-preservation.”

Reducing Information Asymmetry in Customer Care

As a customer care person, you are placed at an important vantage point between the company and the customer. You (should) have visibility into the product and people in your company beyond what your customers currently knows/can see. You are there to solve problems for the customer using both information that may already be publicly available to the customer as well as information that is not.

If you know something that the customer should know, tell them. Tell them as soon as you know. If time is running down on an SLA and you are still waiting on an answer from Engineering, find a nice way to tell them that (the phrase “I have escalated this matter to our Engineering team” works). If you are investigating something specific, tell the customer what you think might be the issue. If you need them to provide you with more information from their end, ask them right away so they know the ball is in their court.

I can’t count how many times I have seen a support ticket with numerous back-and-forth internal notes in it and no response to the customer. Things are obviously happening. Ideas are being shared. Surely there is something there we can tell the customer.

If it is a question between providing what you think is a perfect answer and speed, choose speed.
If it is a question between providing what you think is a perfect answer and providing context, choose context.
If it is a question between assuming something or asking the customer, ask the customer.

You are the customers’ eyes in the company, let them see.
You are the customers’ ears in the company, let them hear.
You are the customers’ voices in the company, speak up for them….. and to them.

2021 Brain Picking Bank

Well, I have reached the point in my career where people reach out to me rather frequently to “pick my brain” about various things, particularly business or product ideas. After griping about this a bit on LinkedIn, I got brilliant pieces of wisdom from two brilliant people in particular (Liz Fong-Jones and Nikki Yeager):

  • Liz shared that she schedules a set amount of time per week for brain pickers so that she doesn’t give away more than she can manage.
  • Nikki shared this great blog post which has some great ideas for how to deflect meetings and/or filter out people who aren’t focused.

I have decided that I will try to cap brain picking at 5 hours a month and I will use this blogpost to track how it goes this year. Wish me luck!

Questions

What counts as brain picking?
Any stranger or person I don’t know very well reaching out to ask me for my opinion or input on an idea. It can also include friends or family if the primary purpose of wanting to chat is to get my opinion or input on an idea. It does not include work people, because I am obliged by money to let them pick my brain.

Will you share details about the content of the brain picking sessions here?
Unless the person explicitly requests that I do, no I will just share the date and time expended.

Why five hours?
It is a totally arbitrary number.

Can I pick your brain?
Maaaybe… First answer the following:
[ ] Do you have specific questions?
[ ] Do you know what your specific questions are?
[ ] Is it less than 3 questions?
[ ] Do my answers need to be delivered synchronously?
If your answers to everything above was YES, contact me and we’ll see.

Brain Picking 2021 Log


8 January 2021 – 30 mins
17 March 2021 – 30 mins

Gratitude – October 2020

Wow, have I really not done a gratitude post in almost a year? Shame on me. My mother was right all along! I am ungrateful. Just kidding! Despite All Of This, I’ve had plenty things to be grateful for. Here are a few of the latest:

Brittany Howard

Brittany Howard of The Alabama Shakes is so dope. Last year she put out a solo album, Jaime. I listened to it a lot in the winter and am now revisiting it because it is good for singing along to. I recently discovered that she did an NPR Tiny Desk last year so I have been rotating that a lot these days too. Especially recommended for people who like Prince or Mavis Staples.

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Mensah

Ever since this whole pandemic went global, I have had some challenges focusing. Riding on the subway to and from work was my reading time. So I’ve been reading snips of this and that, but nothing grabbed me, especially not fiction until this book fell in my lap. As a girl of Ewe descent this book grabbed me from the first page. Weird cultural things that characterize our culture in this modern age were turned up to absurdity level 11, and I couldn’t put it down. I hope this gets a film treatment!

Cillian Murphy on BBC….yes, again

Cillian is back on BBC 6 Music! This time coming live from…his basement! It is always super good and I love his weird little stories and segways. Just listen!

Singing lessons

Taking singing lessons has been on my bucket list for years, and in January I decided this would be the year. I booked my lessons and was excited to start when the lockdown hit NYC. Undeterred, my amazing new singing teacher moved the whole operation online. So for the past 8 months I have been taking singing lessons. I am a natural soprano! Who woulda thunk? What a year to find my voice!

How to Live In Denmark

Another unexpected thing this year is that I changed jobs/companies, and I now work with a bunch of brilliant Danes (and other people from other countries but it’s mostly Danish people day to day). Shifting to this new location and cultural orientation has been quite a shift, so I was grateful when my boss introduced me to Kay Xander Mellish and her How To Live/Work in Denmark series. I am learning so many new things and better able to understand/contextualize and affect what is happening around me.