Leaders of the world, STOP WAR!

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This blog is about leadership, tech and my personal life, but I can’t write about that ignoring the conflict going on in Ukrain these days. It’s terrible and wrong, it’s devastating physically and emotionally for those who feel powerless to stop it and magnitude worse for those who are directly involved 😢

In my opinion, chosen leaders of many countries failed. They were supposed to resolve conflict by communication and negotiations, but not war. I doubt any politician will read it, but I’ll still say it anyway.

Russian, EU and US leaders, who are in charge, you can’t undo all the terrible events already happened, but you still have chance to prevent further damage. Stop playing gods and ruining people lives! Stop this war! Get back to communication and peace!

Getting back to blogging

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It’s been about a month since I published my last post – book review for Indistractable. I know I planned to write 30 minutes a day and one post per week as part of my blogging experiment, but so many things happened to me so far that I had to drop the experiment to digest the life. Keep reading for more details about my adventures.

Role switch. I got a new role at Automattic – Director of Engineering for Transact Merchant Experience group at Woo 🎉 That’s both exciting opportunity for me and big challenge at the same time, because I have never led other leads before. It takes time and energy to transition and settle in the new role, but I’m surrounded by great people and professionals, feel supported by my leads and excited about the plans we have this year! Follow WooCommerce.com site and social media for updates.

Vaccination in Croatia. The decision of going to the other country for vaccination sounds weird taking into account several vaccines are available locally in Russia and there is no need to wait for it. However, none of the local vaccines are approved by EU and US authorities, making it hard to travel for work, so I went to Zagreb for COVID vaccination (some nice images from the trip are here). It didn’t go perfect – I was able to got a shot which is great, but unfortunately I got sick a few hours later, and it took me a whole week to fully recover from it. Everything is good now, and I received my EUDCC (EU Digital COVID Certificate).

Moving. Another surprise was awaiting me on return from Croatia. We had to move out of the place we rented with the family, urgently, almost without any notice. That was a very stressful and exhausting experience: looking for places, calling all the agents, arranging meetings, and running around the area to check potential places (we decided to stay in the same area due to convenient logistics for kid’s school). Luckily, we’d found a very nice apartment quickly and moved in within a single week 🤯 It took another two weeks to unpack and get used to the new place.

Now. It feels like the storm is over. Each of the events would be fine to handle on its own, but not all of them in such a short period. Now I’m good, enjoying a calm weekend, started seeing friends, doing some sports and ready to get back to blogging 😌 I’m grateful to all the people around who supported me over those weeks. I also started building plans for the future, both personal and work-related. Those are exciting, and I’m looking forward to making them real.


I’m glad to be back on track with my life and blogging!

Travel bits: Zagreb, Croatia

Croatia is one of the few countries vaccinating tourists from COVID. Few weeks ago I went to Zagreb to get EU vaccine. Unfortunately, those vaccines are not available in Russia, and vaccines available in Russia are not recognized by EU or US entities. But that post is not about vaccination in Croatia, it’s about beauty of Zagreb and some bits I was able to catch during the journey.

As usual, I don’t give any comments to images because I believe you’ll better build your own impression, but if you have questions, please ask in comments under the post.

City views

Parks

Grafiti

Now: Dec 26th, 2021

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“Now” – the magic moment in time which will never happen twice in your life. It’s shared by billions of people on Earth but still unique for every individual. In this post, I want to capture my very own “now” and share it with you. It’s all about me and my life, so proceed reading if you are interested in day-to-day details. As always, it’s ok to skip if you are not at that place now.

I’ve heard about the idea of “now” page from my blogging group fellows and liked it a lot but was putting aside for a while to focus on writing about leadership, software development and books. I’m at the end of the year and sort of trying to slow down a bit after a long, challenging and eventful year. That in my opinion makes a good timing for “now” post. So where I am now?

I am at my home now (the rented apartment at the northern part of Moscow), in my office (cozy corner in the living room), writing in the dark room (it’s less than 5pm, but already dark). 

The Christmas tree is all set up and lights are blinking to remind about the upcoming New Year. There are still three days of work left before the holidays, but the holiday mood is already there. I probably need to explain a bit the context specific for Russia and some other countries. Christmas is celebrated on Jan 7th, that’s why I’m not away from keyboard yet as most of my colleagues, and New Year’s Eve kicks-off a holiday season with big presents exchange happening on the New Year night.

That Christmas/New Year mood though has a bittersweet flavor this time. My daughter has got sick couple of days ago and there is not that much emotional energy left to party and celebrate. Anyway, I’m looking forward to it as a very needed break to refill my tank and jump into exciting 2022. There is still enough time for my kid to recover and for us to get prepared for a little family party.

My wife and I had a very productive year, learned a lot and have enough moments to remember. We both miss trips, but 2022 looks more promising in that regard, despite all the additional risks and unexpected changes which have been appearing since COVID times the beginning of 2020.

My work at Automattic has been an amazing adventure this year. I’m proud of what we achieved with the company as well as with teams I work closely. WooCommerce Payments has become available in 18 countries and got a ton of new features, it’s powering thousands of online stores and is helping merchants to sell their great products all over the world! It’s incredible to be part of that journey and share it with such wonderful people and professionals. There are ambitious plans for 2022, but I won’t share them here, you’ll find out yourselves either by following my or WooCommerce Payments’s updates.

I’m glad that I started writing and sharing my thoughts with people a few months ago. It’s not easy sometimes and far from ideal, but I’m happy with consistency since the beginning of the blogging experiment.

Wellbeing has become important to me recently. I started to focus more on this part of my life as well as continuing to care about other’s comfort. Thinking is not doing though, so the “doing” step needs to be improved in 2022 😀

Pausing here for now to spend some time with my family, bye!

My 2021 insights

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2021 is getting to the end and it’s a good time to reflect a bit on what happened during the last 12 months. So did I with the help of my coach and want to share a couple of interesting bits of it.

Energy

I worked hard this year at my job along with many fantastic people around me. But hard work takes energy, which consecutively affects the quality of life outside work and threatens the balance between the two. What I found out though is to maintain that balance and live a happy life I need not only effectively use my energy during the workday but also effectively restore it. Rest is as important as the work I do. Taking rest is necessary to do the work well and should be planned accordingly. 

As part of the reflection with the coach, we were also looking at my activities giving the most energy. So here are the two winners of mine: solo trips (like the one I had this year) and skiing (my new hobby). They work differently to some extent but have at least one thing in common – they create a space where I am alone without access to daily routines. Sort of escape from busy days.

We also talked about how to apply that discovery on a daily basis in 2022 so I can always have energy, but those are only ideas yet to be tested, so not sharing them for now.

Surprises

The second part of the reflection was focused on things that surprised me most this year and two things popped out of this: my personal journey at work and how well the team has coped with all the challenges.

Without going too much into internal and private details I think if somebody would present me the plan one year ago with all the things which actually happened this year, I’d say with confidence it’s not realistic or at least too optimistic. Looking back I can say that constant learning, iterative approach, and the culture built within Automattic were the key elements of that success. That’s why for 2022 I’m not trying to make any precise plans, but want to stay ambitious, adjust as the situation changes, and enjoy the journey.


That’s it, now it’s time to apply those learnings – try to stay ambitious with keeping a good energy level and avoiding burnout at the same time. I’ll let you know how it goes in 2022.

Opinion: Top 3 leadership skills

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Audio recording of this post

Being a leader implies a broad set of responsibilities and requires skills that differ from individual contributors’ skills. I was thinking about it yesterday morning and then the question came to my head “what are the most important ones?”. Huh, the wheels immediately started spinning in my head trying to find the answer.  Then I remembered that limitations foster creativity (here are two posts on this topic), so I decided to add a limit of 3 skills to make the exercise even more fun. So here are the top 3 of my choice.

1. Communication

“Communication is oxygen” sounds like a mantra in my head not only because it’s part of the Automattic creed, but because I feel it with my bones. I doubt there is a leadership book exists which doesn’t mention communication as one of the top skills for leaders or managers. I also think communication is the most powerful weapon in the leader’s toolbelt.

There is a lot already said and written about it, but through this year I’ve realized that being good at communication is not just being able to speak or write well and without mistakes. It’s much more – from understanding the theory of information processing by humans to resolving conflicts, from effectively expressing yourself to listening and creating a space for others to share, from stretching people to supporting them, from mentoring and coaching individuals to learning from them, and so on. 

As you can see, communication is a very broad topic, so mastering and practicing various aspects of it will never hurt.

2. Sense of balance

Leadership is a very inaccurate science. There is no one size fits all solution and many recommendations depend on the context. That’s why I believe it’s crucial to seek, define, and regularly check the balance which works well for your case. That applies basically to everything – the amount of uncertainty affordable in the projects and processes, the amount of autonomy and control you want to have in a team, the amount of tech debt taken into sprints, the amount of time spent on learning and self-development, saying yes or no to many ideas and initiatives; the list may go very long.

No matter what was your past experience, it takes time to adjust balance in your current context, so pure curiosity, observations, and regular feedback loops are your best friends in finding the right balance.

3. Self-care

Supporting your team and its individuals is another extremely impactful way of leading the team to success. However, you won’t be able to do it well if your battery is drained. That’s why I think taking care of yourself is necessary, required, and mandatory in that role. If you like many others experience impostor syndrome or feel guilty about taking care of yourself, it’s time to reach out for support. Talk to your lead, talk to your peers, consider working with a coach or a therapyst, because sometimes it’s really hard to cope with. And last but not least don’t forget that simple aircraft instruction “Put the mask on yourself first”.


Note: this is purely my opinion as of today, after being more than one year in that role with a fully distributed team, after experiencing a team growth from 4 to 12 people, after experiencing a team split, team focus shift, delivering multiple projects, switching team focus, talking to and learning from many great leads, mentors, and coaches around me.

I’m curious what would be your top 3, so I would be happy if you share them in the comments under the post.

Voice behind the blog

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Audio recording of this post

I’m pretty new to blogging but what I like about it so far is that it’s a great way of sharing an individual perception of reality. That’s why I think the author’s identity is an essential part of the blog. That’s why many blogs have an “About” page and it’s a great way of getting familiar a bit with the author of the posts you read and hopefully enjoy.

Another great thing about people is they are very different and creative by nature and that applies to their blogs and about pages as well. However, so far I’ve seen only text and images as the most common content on the about page, mine about page is not exclusion. That’s perfectly fine, especially if you like me have the good old stereotype that “blogging is writing and writing is text and images”. However, Blogging for beginners course by WordPress.com Courses and folks at Automattic, challenged that setting in my head, and I realized it’s not like that anymore. Somehow my brain ignored the fact that video-based services like YouTube, Instagram (to some extent), Tik-Tok, and so on have millions of content creators who are bloggers. Podcasts became very popular too and can be considered voice-based blogging! So why not use voice, audio, and video in the classical web-based blog?! Why not use other media in addition to text and image on the About page to share your identity with readers and establish a better connection?! I don’t have a good answer for you 😛

So here we are, got to the point and the key purpose of this post – to connect the dots and give you a chance to hear the voice behind the blog. I don’t know yet if I’ll make audio recordings of the following posts, but I smile every time when I imagine how my voice sounds in your head while you read the posts.

Thanks for listening/reading and hope you’re not annoyed by the voice 🙂