So you’ve found your desk. You know where the coffee machine is. You’re even pretty sure you know what that one guy’s name is. You’re not freaking out anymore. In fact, you’re ready to show up to work in the morning, sharpen your pencils, turn on your computer, and then what?
This next section walks you through figuring out what to work on. You’ll learn about how projects work, how daily standups work, and how software gets out the door at Catalysts.
Which project do I work on?
We always want to use your strengths as good as possible. Initially, your coach will take you under his or her wings. You’ll work in the same project and sit next to him or her.
You can look up what projects we’ve running and you can always raise your hand to let others know that you have special skills for a project. And you can also just talk with your colleagues. Lots of people at Catalysts want and need to know what you care about, what you’re good at, what you’re worried about, what you’ve got experience with, and so on. And the way to get the word out is to start telling people all of those things. So, while you’re getting the lay of the land by learning about projects, you’re also broadcasting your own status to a relevant group of people.
Got an idea for how Catalysts could change how we internally broadcast project/company status? Great. Do it. In the meantime, the chair next to anyone’s desk is always open, so plant yourself in it often.
But how do I decide which things to work on?
Deciding what to work on can be the hardest part of your job at Catalysts. This is because, as you’ve found out by now, you were not hired to fill a specific job description. You were hired to constantly be looking around for the most valuable work you could be doing. At the end of a project, you may end up well outside what you thought was your core area of expertise.
There’s no rule book for choosing a project or task at Catalysts. But it’s useful to answer questions like these:
- Of all the projects currently under way, what’s the most valuable thing I can be working on?
- Which project will have the highest direct impact on our clients? How much will the work I ship benefit them?
- Is Catalysts not doing something that it should be doing?
- What’s interesting? What’s rewarding? What leverages my individual strengths the most?
Someone told me to (or not to) work on X. And they’ve been here a long time!
Well, the correct response to this is to keep thinking about whether or not your colleagues are right. Broaden the conversation. Hold on to your goals if you’re convinced they’re correct. Check your assumptions. Pull more people in. Listen. Don’t believe that anyone holds authority over the decision you’re trying to make. They don’t; but they probably have valuable experience to draw from, or information/data that you don’t have, or insight that’s new.
When considering the outcome, don’t believe that anyone but you is the “stakeholder”. You’re it. And Catalysts’ clients are who you’re serving. Do what’s right for them.
There are lots of stories about how Klaus has made important decisions by himself, e.g., betting on a specific technology for a client after only a short meeting. Although there are examples, like that one, where this kind of decision making has been successful, it’s not the norm for Catalysts. If it were, we’d be only as smart as Klaus, Christian, or Christoph, etc. And they’d make our important decisions for us. Klaus is the first to say that he can’t be right nearly often enough for us to operate that way. His decisions and requests are subject to just as much scrutiny and skepticism as anyone else’s.
Whatever group you’re in, whether you’re developing a Grails application, speeding up an algorithm or producing an explanatory video, this applies to you. It’s crucial that you believe it, so we’ll repeat it a few more times.
What about all the things that I’m not getting done?
It’s natural in this kind of environment to constantly feel like you’re failing because for every one task you decide to work on, there will be dozens that aren’t getting your attention. Trust us, this is normal. Nobody expects you to devote time to every opportunity that comes your way.
We want you to learn how to choose the most important work to do.