Missed Grenades for Leaps of Faith Not Taken


Grenade” by Bruno Mars, “A Million Dreams” Ziv Zaifman, Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams from “The Greatest Showman,” Intern Slash Best Friend” by Theadore Shapiro from “The Intern” (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)🎵

This week I traveled to Seattle where I talked to friends about their leaps of faith – when to take them, when not to. Each of them was going on different journeys. All of them were heartwarming and inspiring to hear.

They wanted another perspective, and I ate up their stories as someone who thrives on that – It was honestly one of my favorite trips.

One of my mentees, for example, really wants to be a manager, but he doesn’t see a path to get there in his current role. He doesn’t believe his leadership is invested or can be invested in him getting there due to a need to cut back on opportunities internally at his company. Several tech companies are no longer in a growth cycle, preventing these kinds of moves. I asked him “Are you driven by people or are you driven by technology?” And he said with all the confidence in the room, “People.” My advice was to give it 12 months, be transparent about his ask to his leadership, but if there weren’t opportunities to get there internally, that the company was not invested in that, and to look elsewhere. 

I found this ironic for me personally as I’ve asked repeatedly if I could “Punish others with management.” I’ve yet to have someone take me up on the offer. Maybe I’m pitching it wrong. 🙂 

Another friend has an amazing idea, but real business blockers that will prevent logically executing on it right now and needs to take their time. Wisely, they are going slow and listening. Getting answers to their questions before taking their leap of faith. All I can say is, good luck. You deserve this. And I would 1000000000000% promote the hell out of it when you pull it off.

And finally another, who has a startup on the side, is trying to decide between staying in their current FAANG role or jumping into a new company with a far better people network for their life goals than they currently are surrounded by today. I advised them, that sometimes, your network is your strongest advocate for where you need to go with regards to your business. If you aren’t surrounded by those who you want to be like, put yourself in the place where you will be surrounded by those people. 

These conversations helped me immensely to focus on my own leaps of faith. Truthfully any leap of faith for me right now is off the table as hard as that is to read and also write. I am blessed in that I do not lack options, but I am trying to practice consistency and patience, the first of which is a value of mine and the second of which is a struggle of mine (please don’t use that against me – some absolutely stretch the word patience to mean far more than it should and I do actually know the difference between impatience and taking advantage of women’s willingness to let you test theirs). Mostly, I know my actions speak louder than words and not taking one says a whole lot.

I am 8 weeks pregnant with no shame of saying that – Faced with the reality that I have a growing human who gets to live with what I feel daily, the single most important thing to me is to “make it to November” (my mother almost died having children) and face this part of my life with the least amount of stress as possible. It has taken me years, 4 failed IUIs, 1 IVF cycle to get here. Many limitations and sacrifices – my entire diet and daily routine has been completely upended and that’s okay. I know I can do my job well and be there for others. In 7 more months I want to be there for her with my full attention. Every day I think about what I want to model for her. What I want her to be surrounded by. That the next choices in my life impact her more than me – and more importantly, I want them to. If anything taught me patience it was this journey.

I feel blessed that Take-Two has a significant amount of paid leave, and I fully intend to take it. I have quite honestly worked my butt off for almost 20 years (I’ve worked since I was a teenager!), negotiated hard for the life I have today. But of all of the people I have supported to take their own journey in their lives for building their families, truthfully, I’ve waited so long to build mine there is no opportunity that will ever come close to the life I have today with that right around the corner.

That, and I love the crap out of my team.

Infrastructure is an absolutely wild role to work in with constant challenges – cultural and technical, but no matter how hard it is sometimes (a lot of times), there isn’t really anything for me to run from. I like the challenge of waking up and knowing that the day actually has challenges in it. Some days are unnecessarily hard and nothing gets on my nerve more than engineers blocked by not being able to themselves run at challenges and learn directly from them. I absolutely detest any kind of approval chains related to getting changes in production because I know the science says otherwise. If you didn’t know that about me, then you do not read this blog or do not work with me 🙂 cause boy am I loud about it – it’s something I’ve seen a LOT in my career. It’s something I don’t just believe, but have lived, repeatedly. Sure, you can read about it in Accelerate, but you can also have lived that culture shift already – or as those wiser that I discussed this with this week live, “seen the end state” – an image they can’t get out of their mind where it becomes their mission. God, I am there with you. I know it’s why we wake up every day and I can imagine if those most vocal about this in my current sphere actually did work at the same place how mind blowing that would be but we’re all in too deep now in our respective roles to quit.

As much as that challenge is a reason for giving up, it is also the reason not to and you know it – I write about those problems because they are everywhere. Even if we wanted to run from them – we couldn’t. There isn’t a single enterprise company (anyone with more than 10K employees) that isn’t dealing with legacy, technical debt, migrations, people who haven’t lived outside of their roles for 10+ years and lack the knowledge and reflection that comes from that, eco-chambers to break through, authoritarian leadership styles, and so on. Problems that need real addressing and experimentation and people strong enough to stick it out even when it’s tough.

It also needs tough women who will call poor responses for poor responses – when people are avoiding the problem, or the classic “You’re stressed!” when you disagree with leadership style. These are the reasons to do what I do, but sometimes you have to get perspective, true perspective, to remember that and not give up.

The things that frustrate me today are not change – we all have to embrace change as a part of life. I’ve come to realize that sometimes growing in roles, does not actually remove the things that bring you frustration. It may put you in a position to do more about it – to change culture no matter where you are – but real culture change takes commitment, time, and a willingness to have the extremely tough conversations – to stay. You can’t give up on that when you are so close to making a difference – maybe you already did. But no one explicitly said it. Maybe you didn’t need leadership buy-in. Things just started to get better with choices you all made together. No one can explicitly point to you because you didn’t write out a whole plan to change culture – you started doing incremental things here and there.

All the platitudes in the world from those we report to, despite those being kind and welcome, mean unfortunately very little if they do not come from peers, partners, customers, mentees – the people we impact. I think we all crave this. I was reminded this week that I need to do a better job hearing that because often people have been saying “you’ve had an impact on me” and it’s so easy to focus now what’s going wrong instead of what’s going right – spend too much time sharing the noise that is what is going wrong, instead of sharing the noise and direction and time on what we have done right for those we most impact. We will often repeat what has gone wrong 10 times, but what has gone right only once to another person when really it should be the opposite.

Sometimes people will never tell you you are doing a good job for them. Sometimes they will only tell you what they need and that will wear you down because it is truly impossible to get everyone exactly what they need – you can only come close. You also have to carry the wisdom that sometimes what people ask for, what they wanted, isn’t what they need – and be willing to say it. And you have to wade through the sludge and salt water of their anger until you finally get them what they need. You may hunger for a ‘thank you’ and never get it. If you are lucky the ‘thank you’ for that will be instant, but sometimes thank you for that may come months or even years later – or never. It will be seen in survey results, and you will clutch to those knowing that some of that was you, some of it was others, because that’s all you have until we each start saying, loudly, we are grateful for what we are doing right individually. We can model it until we each aren’t alone. Personally, It brings a huge smile to my face when I see a team member who isn’t a manager individually call out another team member for doing a good job for no reason, not prompt or system, just be nice. I’d love to see more of that.

Perhaps we feel we are being listened to, but not truly being heard on decisions. In those moments, it is easy to get frustrated, but those are the moments it’s okay to say, “I feel unheard today. I disagreed with this. But I’m going to let it go. My stance is I disagreed and we did the opposite of what I asked. I’d like to move on.” Because we know that isn’t our moment.

Not every grenade is worth catching. 

A peer I consider smarter than I will ever be, reminded me, that when it comes to business and life, there will be a million grenades we could catch for others. That perhaps I did not need to catch so many. And I took that step further and decided, that it’s okay to catch none of them

It’s okay to let ‘em all go off every now and then. For how long is completely up to you. That could be a vacation. Or it could be a team dinner masked as one where you didn’t talk about work at all. It could be a conference you needed to attend just for you and your growth while others had to wait for you to prioritize your personal goals for once. Or even the idea that you could have options, because, truthfully, smart people will always will have options. Celebrate your rarity and the idea of you not being there so people know what it is to be without you and how truly special you are and start generating gratitude again.

In the silence of you and the volume of everything else, everyone else – that gratitude can finally be heard through action.

And you can say, thank you for hearing me. I ain’t going anywhere intentionally.

For all the reasons any of us could at any time explore our leaps of faith, the reasons I wouldn’t jump, the very positive reasons are those implicit resounding thank you’s, and sometimes direct ones, from those I am responsible for and they have more often been louder than the grenades I didn’t catch – I hope will be for a little bit longer so that I can catch the one I absolutely have to on my own.

(PS. The Intern was a great movie)

We’ll come back to the puzzle.