WordCamp Manchester: My First Lightning Talk

This weekend just gone was WordCamp Manchester over here in the UK (yes, the real Manchester for our American following). I gave my first ever kind of talk and in truth, post talk I felt like maybe I was a bumbling idiot in front of people. We’re our own worse critic, right?

So, I want to talk about that now and better articulate myself because my people deserve that.

Tim at WordCamp Manchester
My first talk at WordCamp Manchester.

During the day I was approached by Steph Walker, one of the wonderful volunteers (they’re all amazing!), she asked if I’d do a lightening talk. I’ve never really spoken at a WordCamp before, I had no real preparation, absolutely no idea about what I could or should even talk about. I keep getting told by some of our team that I should do a talk. Steph pretty much had a gun against my… ok, maybe she didn’t, but I did agree that I’d give it a shot. I figured what the hell, I usually never shut up anyway and these people want to give me a microphone. Jokes on them… Muhahahahahaha!

Here goes, this is everything I wanted to say about my team. The talk was called something like, “Remote Working and Being Happy.”

Nearly a decade ago I started working in support at WPMU DEV, right on the front line. Our team wasn’t big, it was less than 10. Sometimes it could feel somewhat isolating. James, our CEO, would check in from time to time to see how I was and even provide some feedback. It didn’t take too long until I was promoted to Head of Support and it was then my job to find incredible people. I had a decision to make at that point, what kind of a manager did I want to be?

Tim and staff at WC Manchester
Me and some of the crew meeting up at WordCamp. I love these folks.

It was a daunting task and in my first few weeks I heart-wrenchingly had to let a few people go. I lost sleep over that and sometimes today I still think back and feel the sadness, but it had to be done. That ole imposter syndrome kicked in pretty quick too! It often lurks in the shadows but that’s another story.

Our team meeting at WordCamp Manchester
WordCamps are great for learning and networking but they also give us a good excuse to get the team together.

Any-who, I set out to try to hire people who had something special about them, a sense of humour similar to mine, a willingness to go the extra mile, someone who cares, or someone determined to be more. I guess you would say passion and determination. Sometimes I’d give people a chance who were far from experienced. In fact one or two had no experience at all but I did so because their personality was kind and warm or I found something that made me just want to believe in them. Some people just need a chance and someone to believe in them, you know!

Drinking together at WordCamp
Building a healthy work culture is important… and it’s not just about working hard.

Building this team is what helped to make me happy. So yes, I was selfish. I built a team to make me happy. I surrounded myself with astonishing and awe-inspiring people that I can depend upon and be friends with. I guess you could say I’m building a family.

Bojan with Tim's girls
My kids with our current Head of Support, “Uncle” Bojan. He’s a good sport. :)

I often joke about them all doing the hard work… I just take the credit. But in actual fact, it’s true. They all do amazing work and the fact it makes me look good, well, that’s just a side-effect of being around wondrous people. I’ve never worked in a place quite as inspiring as this one, for me this isn’t work, it’s a joy and a passion.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker

We’re now at nearly 100 strong and this brings it’s own problems. A larger team does unfortunately mean running the risk of leaving people out and that isn’t what I want. I want all our people to feel included and part of that family. I want them to have someone to talk to, to never feel the need to be shut off and to be open. To combat this, I love to try and check in with everyone in every position of the company. It isn’t always practical though so we needed more leads. We run smaller teams through support and since taking over as COO we’ve started to do the same in development. These smaller teams have their Buddy Leads with the intent of ensuring we all have a friend and the support we need when we need it.

On the street
We work hard and play hard. Spending time together is an important part of building company culture.

So, to sum this up: Distributed or not, surround yourself with amazing people you can depend upon. We need community. We need people to reach out to in a time of need.

I love my team, I love my family.

Timothy Bowers
Do you have a team? Tell me how you are investing in the people you work with.