How to survive your first week in a big new role (during a pandemic)

September 4th was the date the kids were due to go back to school – 3 days after I started in my new role as Executive Director of the Continuous Delivery Foundation. Then it was the 8th, then the 17th.  Who knows what will happen before then. I try to imagine the person who’s job it is to plan, make the decisions and communicate with all the parents and teachers. Suddenly my new role does not seem quite as daunting.

We are living day-by-day, week-by-week and an unpredictable future puts a dampener on me being right-out-the-gate with a plan. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Instead as I go through the onboarding motions my first week shapes up

Mentally promote yourself into the new role

I meet with Robin Ginn, the Exec Director of the OpenJS Foundation. She recommends the book ‘The First 90 Days’ and that book recommends you put the past behind you and mentally picture yourself in your new role. As Robin shares anecdote after anecdote it becomes easier and easier to see what the role actually is: problem solving all the challenges put before you and helping people get to decisions much, much faster than if left to their own devices.

Have daily conversations

The insightful chat with Robin reminds me that conversations are the daily antidote to isolation. Later that week I am on a call with Abby Kearns, CTO at Puppet. The call is about Abby’s keynote at the upcoming CDCon, but Abby also shares a ton of awesome advice for owning the new role: “Make it your own” in a nutshell. By the end of the week despite the information overload, I’m buzzing. The calls bring a fresh perspective, new energy, and inspiration. 

Anchor your focus on a sense of purpose

I drop in on the CDF Interoperability group and learn about the whitepaper they are writing. A spirited debate ensues about the definitions of continuous integration, continuous deployment and continuous delivery. What strikes me most is if this is the discussion amongst experienced folks, I can’t imagine how tricky it must be for newcomers navigating the ecosystem.  CDF is well positioned to help clear up the confusion, and I make a mental note that one of my missions will be to make a relentless drive for clarity in this space.  

The first week in a new job is always pretty daunting. Even more so a leadership role during a pandemic (when you kids are kicking about). My best advice is to forget about making those 30-60-90 day plans. Focus on purpose and people and the rest will figure itself out.

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