Data-Driven Promotions - Rose Wiegley

Transcript generated with OpenAI Whisper large-v2.

Good evening, everyone. My name is Rose Wigley. I'm a senior staff software engineer at Shopify. Our team likes for me to mention that we are hiring for limited roles. So please check out our job page if you're interested. Today, I'm going to start with a story. Once upon a time, in the land before there was a cloud. Shortly after Y2K failed to lead to the end of the world. But right as it was starting to feel like the end of the world in tech. The first time, that is. There was a young software engineer working at a startup who wanted a raise. Her name was Rose. Yes, that is my name. But in this case, Rose also stands for the gigantic pair of rose colored glasses I viewed the world through. For example, I was so naive, I believed the startup when they told me that all those options I should buy outright were going to make me rich. The type of rich where 21 years in the future, I would be relaxing in my cabin on 500 acres instead of madly writing conference slides a week before my talk was due. Luckily, you'll notice my husband has a very clear pair of glasses. Well, except about stock options. We both made that mistake in the beginning. One day after work, I was venting at how frustrated I was. I had been trying to get my raise for some time and still hadn't gotten one. And that's when he asked what seemed like the absolutely most ridiculous question ever. Have you asked for a raise? At which point, I looked slightly horrified and said, of course not. I've been working really hard and putting in lots of extra hours. Aren't they just supposed to give me one because I deserve it? This sums up the look on his face when I said that. After recovering, he looked at me and said, okay, please sit down. We need to have a talk. And that was the day I learned what now seems obvious. It doesn't matter how much you deserve something. If you don't ask for it, you aren't going to get it. So why data-driven promotions? Because even asking isn't enough. Wikipedia says the adjective data-driven means that progress in an activity is compelled by data rather than by intuition or by personal experience. How many of us have either had or have heard of someone asking for a promotion just to be told? I feel you aren't at that level yet. But I can't tell you why. I like to imagine this in my best Lumberg voice, but I can't do an imitation of it. Something as important as promotions and raises should not be left up to someone else's intuition, especially since that's a great way to introduce, you know, unconscious or even conscious bias into the process. As an example, a study by MIT Sloan associate professor Daniel Lee found that on average, women receive higher performance ratings than male employees, but receive 8.3% lower ratings for potential. Potential being the exact sort of thing a manager is going to think about when deciding on a promotion. If we make our promotions dependent on other people's feelings, they are no longer dependent on what we have done and what we can do. But just like we can't rely on others to automatically give us the promotions we deserve, we also can't rely on others to gather the data that shows we deserve them. Even if you have the absolute best manager in tech, they will not be able to do that. Managers are busy. And good managers are not looking over your shoulder every single second. There is only one single person who can talk about everything you have done. And that is you. So how do you do that? Data-driven promotions in three easy steps. Okay. Well, except I'm introverted with a strong case of ADHD diagnosed late in life. Maybe not easy. And if you noticed on my first slide, I have some teenagers. And if you're thinking about a promotion, I'm guessing your workday is very full. And there's those three really important things you just have to go to first. So how about this? Data-driven promotions in three rather difficult to get around to but very important steps. To remember these steps, I have a nice acronym. What is the first thing you are going to think after working super hard, super long, and being told by your manager they don't feel like you are ready? WTF. Or more precisely, first, W, what matters? T, track progress. And F, frame your review. First, W, what matters? Before we can talk about what matters, we first have to talk about what does not matter. If you've never seen Tanya Riley's excellent talk on Glue Work, I highly recommend watching it. Glue Work can be summed up as work that keeps teams running but doesn't directly contribute to the product. Things like documentation, unblocking others, tooling, taking notes, planning team activities. Glue Work is often picked up by women and is often one of the reasons women will be passed over for a promotion as excellent but not technical enough. You want to make sure you are mostly doing promotable work and sharing the glue work across the team. But what is promotable work? That totally depends on your current role and your next role. To define out exactly what that is, I recommend making yourself a responsibility matrix. Grab your favorite spreadsheet software and set it up with three columns. Column one is going to be for the subheaders or for the headers and subheaders for the general areas of responsibility your organization uses to judge your performance. These categories should cover everything you would be expected to be due both technically, as a leader, as a teammate. If it's part of what somebody in your job should do, it should be covered by one of these. Column two is going to be your put your current role on top. And then underneath for each of those headers and subheaders, list out the behaviors that are expected under that topic for your current role. Then for column three, you're going to put in the role you want to be promoted to. And repeat column two except for that role instead. You want to cover both of these because at many companies, there's a little unwritten or unspoken, sometimes spoken, rule of tech that in order to be promoted, you have to show you are already acting at the next level or at least doing a lot of the tasks at that level. You need to know what that is so you can start targeting your tasks appropriately. If you're lucky, the place where you work has a documented job level expect has already documented job level expectations in detail. That will make this task easy. I was able to make my personal matrix by literally copying lines out of a company-wide document that says exactly what is expected at each category for each level. But what if your company has no documented job level expectations? Well, unless you work at a very tiny startup, we have an industry word for that. We call it a red flag. If a company can't tell you what you should be doing, how can they possibly judge that you are doing it? More practically speaking, that means you have a lot more work ahead of you. You still need that responsibility matrix. In fact, it's even more important than ever. Before you can work on being promoted, you first have to agree with your manager on what that even means. But this means you're going to have to at least start it yourself. You're going to make a responsibility matrix just like before, but this time you're going to have to do a lot of the research. Get online, talk to friends in the industry, look for what general industry standards are for each role, both what you want to be and the one you're aiming for. Then you need to go to your boss and have a really good conversation with them. Show them the information that you've gathered. Let them know that you want to work towards this promotion. And most importantly, ask them for their advice on how to build out what's missing. Even if you kick off this project, you want to get your boss's buy-in on it and contributions as early as possible. Because in the end, they're the one who's going to have to agree that this is what these definitions are. At the end, you should both have an understanding of what each role looks like. So now we have a definition of what you should be doing. So we go to the next step, T, track your progress. The best thing you can do to track your progress is keep an ongoing brag document. This is where you keep track of your accomplishments as you make them. Julia Evans has a great blog post on brag documents. I highly recommend reading it. I wish my younger self could have read this post years ago. It starts with, there is this idea that if you do great work at your job, people will or should automatically recognize that work and reward you for it with promotions, increased pay. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? However, I recommend one variation on the brag document. Remember this responsibility matrix we made in step W? Organize your brag document by each subcategory in your responsibility matrix. Include the descriptions for your current and next role under each header as an easy reminder to yourself. Then list out what you have done in each category with the date that you did it or the date range. Just to remind yourself, drop a star by anything you think counts as next level work. Side note, if you had to make a responsibility matrix from scratch for step one, make sure that lands on your brag document under something like, help define job level expectations for roles at the company. That sounds a lot like a task I would expect out of a manager, for example. Occasionally, skim over your brag document. It should become obvious where you are clearly meeting your level, the next level, or where you need to spend some extra time and focus. You want your brag document to be your map of where you are and where you need to go. You can use this map in two ways. First, it can point you to where you need to focus more time. If there is a category or two where you currently do nothing or are even weak for in your current role, then you need to find some work in that area. However, we do not need to be experts at everything. The brag document can show you where your strengths and where your weaknesses lie. For your weaknesses, you can do just enough to assure people you have the ability to do the work. Then, focus on your strengths. So you have a few things you do at a level that knocks it right out of the park. You want one or two items that's going to make people go, wait, what do you mean they aren't already at that level? Finally, F, frame your review. The funniest thing a manager ever said to me during a review was, I was very entertained by your self-reflection. It was also one of the more startling things a manager said to me because I wasn't sure what he meant at first. What was so entertaining by my self-reflection? It turned out it's because I organized it a lot like my brag document. When a review is about to start, when you are planning to ask for a raise or a promotion, when you just need to check with your manager, take your brag document and use it to show what you have done in each category. I will go through, word it nicer, clean things up, collapse multiple things down into a category. I don't mark, in this case, the things that are work at the next level. I assume, for starters, that my manager knows what the next level is and will recognize that. However, I'm also always prepared because I have the responsibility matrix. If it looks like my manager is missing its next level, we can talk about why it counts at that level. That's it. WTF. W, you want to know what matters. T, you want to track your progress. F, you want to frame your review so that you're providing your manager with the information that shows why are you ready for the next level. Before we end, I want to stop and talk about two final things. First, I want us to pause because this advice makes some assumptions. First, it assumes you are ready for a promotion. This isn't a check box activity where you do one thing under each category and once you've checked off all the items, that means you're ready for a promotion. Usually, you have to be working at this level long enough to show that you can do this skill repeatedly for your company at the level that's expected. Just because you put a single check mark in each thing, that does not mean when you go to talk to your manager, they're going to be like, okay, we're all set. Now you're going to get your promotion. This is part of a process. Second, this assumes you have a good relationship with your manager. All of us are in different situations at work. Throughout my career, I have had amazing managers, I have had average managers, and I've had a few awful managers. Sometimes you're going to be in a situation where it is not going to matter what you do. You are going to be stuck dealing with a manager who is not going to promote you. So one thing you have to learn is to watch for the red flags in your organization and make sure that you trust your manager to have your back. Now, having your back doesn't mean just promoting you. Having your back means that they're willing to have the conversations with you that are tough conversations where they might point out where you still need to work stuff. So you need somebody who will look out for you, push you when you're ready, and help you when you're not. Second, remember when I mentioned that I'm a mother, an introvert, and have diagnosed ADHD? Please don't think because I talk about the system that I have implemented even close to perfectly. Last review period, I got so busy, I never even submitted my self-reflection. My Brag document is often reconstructed backwards every few months after combing through Slack, email, Google Docs, and any other source I can find to dig out what have I worked on recently and why did I not remember to write it all down this time. Sometimes I've even forgotten about it so much to the point where I can't reconstruct it, and I just have to kind of declare, just like you'll declare I'm done with this inbox and wipe it to zero, I'll declare Brag's Doc deletion and start over from scratch. The point I want to make is I don't want you to judge yourself if you can't hit this ideal I'm talking about. You do not have to do this 100% to get yourself promoted. The goal is to aim for this, and any amount of work you can do on this on the way helps. The other goal is to remember that part of your job is to prioritize yourself and prioritize the time at work to take care of yourself, and that means doing things like documenting your work, talking to your manager about it, and making sure they know what you've done a great job at. Thank you. Thank you, Vicki, and thank you everyone at NormComp for a chance to give this talk. The blog post this is lightly based on is located on my very rarely updated blog.