“Hit the ground running”
“Get up to speed quickly”
“Drinking from the firehose”
However you talk about it, I definitely felt a lot of pressure when I started this job to contribute as soon as I could. I read The First 90 Days, which suggested creating a learning plan.
“Great!” I thought, “I love plans!” I wrote down all sorts of things I knew I didn’t know, and that I knew I didn’t know where to go for, and some notes on how I’d get up to speed. It looked something like this:
VMware storage – set up lab myself?
Startup competitors – Pernix, [[unintelligible from interview notes]]
EMC/NetApp flash products
Product architecture – hashing, pointers, table?
Product GUI/demo – performance metrics we do/don’t use
Product management team meeting
How to get collateral produced
Engineers – how to interact?
Engineering – agile?
OK, it wasn’t really a plan. But it was a starting point.
And it started out well. I can tell you all about a distributed, deduplicated, server-side cache. I know what makes storage content-addressable, and why content-based cache is called content-based when all cache caches content ;). I met all my (great!) colleagues, learned how I’d do things, and got started writing some internal content.
Did you hear that? That was the sound of my hitting a wall. I tried to go faster than the speed of time. Let me explain.
The first time it happened was 10 days in. The Director of Product Management had set up a recurring 1×1 for us, and I came prepared with a bunch of questions about the technology, product, and market. At the end, I asked if I could answer anything for him. “Have you noticed anything not currently on the roadmap that the product is missing?” he asked.
Here it was – my dream moment professionally: someone asking me to influence a product! and I. Had. No. Idea. I had no intuition. I hadn’t had enough time to think about it.
It happened again the following week; I was on Lauren Malhoit’s podcast and she asked about write caching. I know that our product does write-through caching, I know how it works, and I know the pros and cons of it. But I got totally tongue-tied and twisted when she asked. Because I hadn’t had time to practice explaining it.
A former customer of mine came in for a visit to say hi and check out our technology. That was a little better – I got to practice explaining the technology to someone who already knew me and got to do it in front of our stellar SE’s, so they picked up where I petered out.
But right now in one of the other tabs I have open in Chrome is our “messaging document.” And I’m a little stuck on it, because I haven’t had the time to develop the intuition on how to talk about our technology yet.
It’s *really* frustrating! I don’t know any shortcuts to internalizing concepts so they feel like my own. I don’t know how to get my intuition to “click on” sooner.
There’s practice – sure – repetition is better than no repetition. But you can’t flash-cook a brisket. No amount of repetition can replace giving yourself more time.
And it’s not the kind of time that you can make at night or on the weekends. It’s the kind of time that happens…over time.
Time for ideas to percolate.
Time for relationships to build.
Time for opinions to form.
It’s the number of walks to and from the T station where you reflect on the day; the number of “aha” moments in the shower, the number of conversations that you overhear and people who stop by your desk and chat.
You just can’t make that stuff go any faster.