Teamwork, Family, and Being a Role Model

In what way do you consider yourself lucky? For me, the answer to that question has been the people I’ve made a connection and with which I get to spend time. At Rubrik, that specifically equates to the folks who belong to the Technical Marketing teams that I oversee. We’re all different in many ways – different backgrounds, walks of life, views of the world – and live all across the world. But I think we’re a fairly tight knit group who respects one another and values the opinions and strengths we all bring to bear.

In this post, I’m going to expand on some softer ideas around teamwork, being a participant in family life, and how actions directly correlate to the type of role model you become.

Going Home to Austin

Coming up in April, I’m moving back home to Austin, Texas. Although I was born on the coast of North Carolina and spent nearly two decades in Chicago, I call this home because it’s the only place I’ve willingly chosen to live as an adult. I fell in love with the city during the NSX Ninja program back in 2014 and knew I was going to move there some day. Later, I moved to Oakland for personal reasons – one of which I’ll get into shortly.

Before I do, I wanted to highlight some of the life lessons shared by Ken Hui and how I’m embracing them. For those that don’t know him, he’s one of the most purely passionate individuals I’ve had the pleasure to interact with on a regular basis. Several years ago, he wrote a blog post on pursuing passion. It’s an emotional read. Expect to shed some tears (I did). But one of his three pillars are to “Take Care Of Those You Love.”

My Nana (what we grew up calling my Grandmother) was a wonderful woman who I regret not spending nearly enough time with. She was strong, resolute, and determined in a time when society dictated that women should be demure figures who propped up their husband’s career and status. Nana always spoke her mind and didn’t give a care as to what society thought about her role in life – in essence, she was an amazing role model. Last year, she decided that she had lived a long and full life, and that undergoing a drawn out battle with cancer wasn’t something she wanted to put herself (or her family) through.

My wonderful Nana working at WDWS Radio in Champaign, Illinois, 1954.

I really didn’t want to leave Austin, but thankfully my place in Oakland was close enough to my Nana’s home in Sonora (near Yosemite National Park) that driving out to spend quality time with her wasn’t difficult. To see her face light up when I entered the room made it all worth it. In her lucid moments, I could see in her eyes that she knew I was there, and that was enough. She passed away last summer. I miss her greatly.

And so, I am returning home. Although I still regret not spending more time over the years with Nana, I would never forgive myself if I hadn’t been there towards the end. Ken’s advice to “Take Care Of Those You Love” is so, so true.

Leadership on Work / Life Balance

The other thought that I wanted to share was around how powerful the concept of a role model can be to those with which you surround yourself. I’m incredibly guilty of doing a bad job in a few ways that I’ll highlight here. In a nutshell – what you do becomes the expectations for others, especially if you’re in a position of leadership.

My Grandfather died of a heart attack in his 40’s because he worked himself entirely too hard. I suppose this is a genetic trait, because I am addicted to work. People often asked me about the various successes that I’ve held – the VCDX, blogging like a fiend, endlessly traveling the world, and so forth. This is really just a function of working without stop.

I enjoy throwing myself into work without end. My routine is to wake up around 6:30 and not stop until sometime after midnight. And that’s my choice – I can do whatever I want. Except that it sets a bad example for those I work with. It makes this sort of bad habit seem normal. Worse than that … it makes working too much seem like an expectation. While I don’t have any desire to see people who report to me (or work along side me) working until midnight or later, nor do I reward such behavior, it does influence behavior.

Thus, I’m actively trying to disengage at a certain time each night and simply stop responding to queries as well as cease sending communications. I’m unplugging for the benefit of myself and those around me. I will admit – this is incredibly hard. Another trick I’m picking up comes from Ken in which you “block out evenings with [your] family on [your]¬†work¬†calendar” to ensure that I’m present and engaged. I find this to be helpful in squeezing more value from the small amounts of time that I have to spend with family and friends.

For example, I recently spent a weekend hiking along the coast of California with some friends. My phone was set to airplane mode to avoid getting any texts or emails, but with GPS enabled for staying on the trails using my hiking app. It worked wonderfully.

Thoughts

Be kind to your past, current, and future selves. The most valued experiences in my life were times spent with other people. Cherish those experiences, nurture your relationships, and be kind to everyone you encounter. You never know what sort of burdens and demons they are struggling with, and sometimes a kind gesture, a smile, or an offer to be included in a social event is the most wonderful gift you can give to someone struggling with life.

Cheers.