Good Work—Edition Nº 20

A hand-curated newsletter devoted to exploring how we choose to spend the 90,000 hours that will make up our careers.
Andy Sparks
▪︎ 6 minutes read time

🎶 The Belt by In the Valley Below

If you really want to know what’s happening here and now, you’ve got to use your own eyes and your own judgment.Haruki Murakami*

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been kicking around a whole pile of ideas for what to write about in upcoming editions of Good Work, and we recently landed on an idea for a series. How common is it to work at a company and have no idea what your colleagues are doing? Say you’re in finance, and each day you get lunch with a few co-workers in engineering, but they use a whole set of words that may as well be Klingon. Maybe you’ve spent the last five years in marketing, but you’re interested in a product role.

No matter your background, degree or no degree, by nature of necessity you have a set of specialized skills. You know how some things work and how others don’t—you’re fluent in finance but don’t speak a word of marketing. It’s not uncommon for us to get bogged down in the weeds of specialization and fail to see the bigger picture. And that bigger picture only comes into focus once we see all the pieces it’s made up of. Knowing more about what other people do can be enormously beneficial for your own work. First of all, it’s an act of respect for the work of others when you can get to know what types of problems they tackle and what kinds of things excite them. You’ll also understand the operations of your company better—imagine if you could draw a map of how a project flows from one department to another. You’ll gain insight into your own work by understanding how the same work might be treated by a different department, person, or field. And who knows, you might even figure out that what you really want to be doing is going on in an office down the hall…

We’re thinking of publishing longer pieces that would be a sort of “Intro to X,” where X is a key company function like product, engineering, marketing, or operations, to help people see that bigger picture. (Like our “Fundamentals of Product-Market Fit” post.) So we thought we’d pilot the idea with you all, and make the next few editions of Good Work quick intros to different company functions, with some great reads to get you oriented around each one. Next week, we’ll publish the first in the series, on finance. I hope you’re as excited as we are!

This week, though, it’s my birthday, and I’m off celebrating in New Orleans. Enjoy a mishmash of good reads to get you thinking—and if there are any fields you’d like us to cover in the coming series, let us know on Twitter!

This Week

Mish Mash

  • Slack went public this week, and I appreciated a piece on the company in The Times, “Slack Wants to Replace Email. Is That What We Want?,” by John Herrman. While we’re Slack users at Holloway, I have quite a few gripes about the informality the product encourages. Food for thought: better outcomes in conversations often come from letting a thought stew and mature instead of spilling it out into a Slack message.
  • I’m a strong supporter of paid family leave, and loved Alexis Ohanian’s post this week on the subject: “Work-life. Balance. America needs Paid Family Leave. Fathers need to use it.” I love posts like these because they aren’t just paying lip service to a trendy idea. Alexis gets into the details and shares why you should care and what you can do.
  • Facebook announced Libra, their new cryptocurrency, this week. I immediately distrust anything Facebook is pushing, as I believe the company is our generation’s corporate incarnation of Scar from The Lion King. If past behavior can be an indicator of future behavior, Facebook’s impact on social discourse (and complete failure to atone for it) has frightening implications for their next target, our financial system. I found three reads this week that are a good starting point for anyone interested in learning about what they’re up to.
  • Alternatively, maybe a big tech company might not be screwing everything up (and that’s a big concession coming from me). The Economist recently reported that Google search has no ideological bias—it simply “rewards reputable reporting.”

That’s Good Work for this week. Looking forward to what’s next.

Andy and the Holloway Team

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