People feel pressure when a boss or another person comes in and says, 'Can you give me feedback?' One thing my boss does really well is that she changes hats. She'll say, 'Okay, I'm putting on my coaching hat.
In this episode
Accountability is crucial regardless of the position you hold within an organization.
This accountability is one of the ways teams can embrace resiliency as changes inevitably happen, such as new technology like AI.
In episode #154, Tim explains how he fosters resiliency within his team, and discusses the challenges organizations face when implementing changes.
We also touch on how to handle employees who resist change and how to hire resilient employees so this resistance doesn’t become an issue in the first place.
Tim Armandpour has over 20 years of experience leading in the engineering world. Prior to his current role, he worked in leadership roles at Yodlee, Zong and PayPal.
Today, Tim is the CTO at PagerDuty, helping leaders throughout the company develop a resilient workplace that embraces change.
Tune in to hear all about Tim’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
Getting things wrong in leadership
Accountability in different positions
Benefits of matching resilient teams and systems
What does AI mean in tech resiliency
Handling resistance to change
Hiring resilient employees
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Connect with Tim on LinkedIn
- Register for Fellow + AI LIVE
- Subscribe to the Supermanagers TLDR newsletter
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 00:41
Tim, welcome to the show.
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 03:29
Thanks for having me.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 03:30
Yeah, very excited to do this. You’ve had a pretty extensive leadership career at companies like YapStone PayPal, Zong. Today, you’re the chief technology officer at PagerDuty. So lots of things that we’re going to talk about today. But what I actually wanted to start with is, do you remember, when you first started your career, when you first started leading teams, what were some of the very early mistakes that you used to make?
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 03:56
Yeah, it goes back maybe about 20 years past, early days of when I was at a Yodlee, and it was the first job out of college, getting paid to code. Felt like a great way to earn a buck. A couple years in, we’re growing very fast. And I was asked to not just technically lead part of a team, but actually now start to manage the team. And that’s pretty much how it was presented. And again, we were a young company, maybe less than 100 employees at the time. And I was the one of the first engineers on the ground there. And I do remember being not only really, really scared, I didn’t know what it meant, but then still super excited. And there’s countless scenarios where I just kept getting things wrong and wrong and wrong to the point where I opted out for a little bit and said I can’t do this. Let me just go back to just the tech side of it. But I did have a really good mentor and manager at the time saying no no, you need to grind through this I’m going to help you. So that was that was some of the early days I remember being really just scared and excited all at the same time.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 04:53
So did you actually make the switch back, or he stopped you?
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 04:57
No, I did I actually continued with his advice. And you know, like one of the classic scenarios was I was repeatedly frustrated with people just not listening to what I was saying, why aren’t they doing what I want them to do? And why are they doing it the way I want them to do it. And it’s one of those early mistakes that, you know, I’ve seen time and time again in the last 20 years that people make. And what I learned from that experience, it was, it was important to, in a way, like grind through it, like nobody solved it for me, but he did help me figure out and ask me a lot of questions. Why do you think the reacting them? How would you position it differently? Did you think about this, versus giving me the actual solution saying now go read this book and run through the steps, I learned quite a bit around it, it isn’t about having people do what you want them to do. But more about, do they understand kind of like their their part in helping to solve you know, whatever the problem space, or the challenge or the next thing might be without getting in their way.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 05:51
So if you were to answer, you know, if someone were to come to you today, and then ask you that same question, which is, you know, I’m telling my team what to do, but they just don’t seem to do it the way that I want. How would you coach them in that scenario?
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 06:05
I’d probably start by asking like, what kind of culture context Do you all have? What is it? Is it a deadline? Is there a customer demand? Is it because someone else from hiring upset? So, you know, I think there’s an aspect around creating like an environment arounds centered on transparency. But also, you know, transparency does help build context. So being able to share some of that context goes a long way. Other typical questions you start to roam around with have to do with them? How are you presenting the information? Right? Are you telling them or are you probing? Are you encouraging, you’re getting them excited? But what might need to be solved? I mean, sometimes well, nobody likes really, really hard deadlines. But sometimes there’s a bit of excitement factor. We’re a bit of our, you know, our heart starts beating a little faster little adrenaline kicks in of like, oh, this is a good challenge. How can we solve it like we start with quickly, scenarios like that tend to pop up a lot, and just going through some of that q&a with the individual, or the team leader or the manager goes a long way. I’m also a big believer in, I asked him, I said, Well, how do you see me showing up? When we just went through? Maybe a similar scenario, right? What what did you see when I when I brought it to the team? And seeing if there was any kind of relationship with like, did I model the right behavior? Because it’s a good checks and balances, as a leader to almost give feedback without saying, Okay, can you give me some feedback, that puts a lot of pressure on individuals as well? So I’m a big fan of trying to always be in this continuous learning mindset. And making sure that you know, am I modeling the right behavior? Maybe I’m doing something wrong. Maybe it’s not just a manager?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 07:28
I love that question. Can you repeat it again? It was, how did you see me show up?
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 07:33
Yeah. How did you see me show up? When I gave, you know, it might be a problem say, it might be a business challenge. It might be like, I just met with three customers. Here’s the theme I picked up on. I said, What did you hear from me? And what did we decide on? Let’s go back through that. And it helps me also understand whether or not, did I do well? Did I in my in service of the of the group or the team to be able to do the best job they can with all the parameters and constraints that are in play?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 08:00
Yeah, I like that. And it’s so much better than Do you have any feedback for me? So yeah, definitely a really good way to do it.
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 08:07
People feel pressure. And when, when a boss or another another person comes in just says, Can you give me feedback? You know, one thing my boss or CEO does really well is she’ll change hats. And physically, it’s like a physical prompt. She’ll say, Okay, I’m putting on my coaching hat. I’m not your boss. I say, okay, and sometimes I’ll prompt her, put on your coaching hat for me, I got a problem, do it. And then you remove the pressure of like judgment, right? You kind of get that out of the window, and it becomes a discussion conversation, almost like a mutual learning moment.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 08:35
Yeah, I love that you all were prompting before prompting was the thing. That’s awesome. That’s really cool. Just a dig in a little bit, because I think this is super constructive on the you know, how you present the information. So from what you were saying, What I understand is that it’s not really about showing them or you’re presenting the information on this is what you must do. It’s more showing them the context and and then asking them what they think should be done. Is that is that a right way to phrase it?
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 09:07
Yeah, that’s a part of it. I think the real anchor point is being able to talk through what is the expected outcome we want to create, right? And that could be, well, we need $10 million or more revenue from these three customers, it could be we need to create a new target state from a systems architecture perspective, because customers might expect this or we’re facing these problems. It could be we have to get don’t have to be twice as productive as we are today. What’s in our way, what are we doing that’s dumb, what are we doing that’s men, things like that are are ways in which I found to be effective to be able to really kind of almost like wrap it up in a bow where you can all center on the outcome you’re trying to achieve, right? And ideally, it starts to minimize some just a predetermined bias that might exist between you solution without context. And then if that can start to become kind of a bit the basis of the engagement, the discussion cuz then I’d like to think there’s a good fighting chance you’ll you’ll find your way there.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 10:04
And when you walk into these situations, you must already have something in mind like you probably have the thing or the solution in mind. But you just don’t outright say it.
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 10:15
You don’t you don’t unveil it? Because I think yes, while I might have both, let’s say that that next destination kind of vividly in my head, now the path to get there, I might come in with a whole boatload of assumptions that may or may not have validity, right? Because I may not be as close to some of the areas that need to be touched or reviewed or looked at or even some of the groups that have to be brought in. So it’s, it’s a little bit of that, that kind of more art than science to help them paint, maybe a potential path, right? And again, talking about what are you trying to affect, or create in terms of like the outcome, at least has definitely helped me phrase up and tee up some of these types of scenarios, especially when, you know, a lot of times in, in our business lives and everything else, things are constantly being injected, you might think you have a plan, but things are moving and shifting very quickly. So how do you create that almost like comfort with being uncomfortable comfort with adaptability. And at the bare minimum, we can have a conversation about right, we didn’t, nothing’s really etched in stone. I mean, a lot of things are put in Google Docs and whatnot. They’re pretty ephemeral by nature. So we ought to be able to change them if needed. But that’s generally how I think I’ve seen things end up better than the not.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 11:29
And it’s almost like you’re architecting the system and enabling like, the parts of the organization to be able to solve these problems and get to those end states, because, you know, it’s very hard for them to be able to be self directed, if you’re constantly having to be involved, you’ll be the bottleneck, you’ll be the go to all the time,
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 11:49
it creates one of these almost like, unnecessary steps in the process. Because now all of a sudden, it’s like you’re talking about in one of your past podcasts around this, this art around management, and you know, kind of how you start to hone in on effective leadership is around how you find really strong leverage points, right, knowing what you know, what do you need to change? How do you affect that change, but it is 100% still a people sport that people got to believe they got to be able to get excited to be able to, you know, follow along and, and stay adaptable for for the greater benefit that you’re trying to make happen.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 12:24
Yeah. And so when you started your first line manager, obviously now you met you know, you’re you manage all of the technology organization at PagerDuty, does this style of communicating change? Or is it different when your first line manager or you get more senior and you all of a sudden have VPS reporting into? Is it the exact same concept? Or are there subtle differences.
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 12:47
I think conceptually, it’s pretty durable, over the course of like, one’s career journey. I do think though, when you think about, you know, depending on where you sit in organization, there’s a scope of accountability that does change, and then your sphere, even scope of influence starts to grow over time, as you move a bit higher up, and you take on a little more. And then, you know, in your first line manager, you’re, you’re kinda in the nitty gritty with the team, right, you’re really ideally understanding literally what’s happening and how it’s happening. As you become maybe a manager of managers, now you’re trying to get some really good work done through a whole different perspective. And then you think about like vice president level, you now have most likely a lot of shared responsibility with business outcomes along with you know, your your organizational health and hygiene and effectiveness. So I think a lot of it stays durable, but that scope and perspective does shift over time. So how you how you choose to engage. So if you’re a VP, you have a handful of directors, these are tenured, seasoned, capable individuals, right? How you approach them with, let’s say, painting context and policy, you may be just far more ambiguous in the grand scheme of things because ideally, those roles, they thrive in being able to maneuver through ambiguity and creating clarity with you along the way. Whereas if you’re like that first line manager, you’re probably seeking to like, almost eliminate ambiguity as much as you can for the effectiveness, effectiveness of the team itself and the work that’s getting done.
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Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 15:12
It makes sense. It’s conceptually we’re talking about the same things, but there are the subtleties that you manage. And one topic that also comes to mind is that it feels like this style of communication is yes, maybe it’s very directly applicable to when we’re talking about leading teams. But would you say that, I mean, it applies to all sorts of communication, even if you’re working with peers, or even if you’re managing up? Would you use the same sort of principles in those scenarios as well?
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 15:42
I think principles, yes, principles being high integrity, honesty, vulnerability, things like that, in terms of style of communication, but, you know, when you’re, again, context needs to shift a little bit in terms of the communication itself, right? Meaning, if I were to unveil all the glorious details of something to, let’s say, our CEO, it may not actually create a whole lot of effectiveness, because a lot of times those lower level details may just not matter, given the scope, and perspective that the CEO needs to apply, right, versus talking to our CEO in terms of in that scenario of communicating up and out, being able to convey perhaps maybe the the risk profile of a big project and initiative, the progress that’s happening, and the intended outcome. And then what we’re actually starting to see transpire in terms of may not be exactly what we expected. But here’s how it’s shaping up. And here’s why it’s so important to understand that, what thoughts do you have in terms of how else can we either keep moving forward and current pace and everything else? Or I might be asking for more funding, or I might be asking for other people’s help, in that regard. Similar with peer to peer kind of scenarios, again, context, context matters a lot. And, you know, communication, I mean, everything going on the world. It’s like, it’s like who, who and what do you trust? With communications? Can you be rooted in some aspect of data and insight, and perspective, because ultimately, these these roles around management are super important for organizations, they are like the anchor point to literally manager communication. So if you look at an org chart, a lot of that has a lot to do with like, Oh, this is how communication is most likely going to flip. And if not, then you start to shift the org chart. So I think, again, the principles still apply.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 17:27
Yeah, and that’s super interesting on org charts, and like, ways that information flows as well. Very, very interesting. Before we hit record we were talking about, I think, we had looked up, you had a talk at some point or wrote an article, where you said to meet the need for speed success metric for leading companies will shift to resilience, and how quickly you can recover from failure at the free to maybe start by elaborating on that. And then maybe we can then talk about how that applies these days,
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 18:00
going back in the context of that had to do with both resilient teams, resilient systems, if you can mash these things together, then you give yourself a really good fighting chance to persevere and be able to look up on Even Wikipedia around like resilience engineering, or the term resilience. Really, it’s about being able to have an ability to deal with the unexpected. And then how well that shows up probably deals with a lot of different types of parameters. For us at PagerDuty, it was like the scenario is somewhat sequential, like, we can’t have resilient system without having resilient teams. Therefore, what are the whether it’s the tools or the practices, or the solutions we need to have in place for ourselves, in order to be able to adapt and adapt quickly. Because our whole scenario with the type of service offering we have is that there will be failures, distributed at scale system, a lot of unknowns, always, you’re building on things you don’t readily control, whether it’s cloud, or name, your third party SaaS provider, and how well you can react to something going unexpected or anything else being injected. And ideally, minimizing your customers or stakeholders that ever notice. Now you’re starting to get better, better in the in the art of, you know, resilience, engineering, if you will. So that was some of the contexts around this. And it’s really interesting, because if you were to look at, you know, AWS, for example, has a thing called the resiliency hub. And it’s a set of practices and solutions you can subscribe to and put in play, really to help you and your teams be able to, I think just be able to persevere effectively.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 19:37
Sorry, it’s not a technical solution. It’s actually like people
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 19:41
there is part technical, but I think part culture goes a long way with it. And I think from a cultural perspective, there’s aspects of it like how do you foster one an environment of continuous learning? You’re always in learning mode. Right? I think that’s super paramount. Versus Yes, you need to be coming up with solution. That’s part of the craft. That’s part of the job. Ah, but how do you create effective solutions without learning, right? And so knowing that things are going to fail, and knowing that you just came out of, let’s say, a failure moment, it could be a major technical incident, you know, you could look at, you know, what many organizations have gone through with a pandemic, you know, how resilient have we all been in the grand scheme of things, and here we are now, three plus years later, but the culture side, and the way you show up internally for yourselves think plays a pretty hefty role in terms of how well now you’re going to approach some of those solutions that from a technology side, from a business impact, customer impact, ended up showing up.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 20:38
So if someone were to come to you and say, Hey, I’m struggling to figure out if my team is resilient, you know, what might you coach them to probe for? In order to be able to answer that question?
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 20:51
It’s really good question. I, one thing I think we’ve learned a lot about is, I think a lot of, if you were to describe, like, what’s a strong ethos to have within your culture, to build up from think empathy goes a long way, how empathetic are people towards each other towards knowing that you have confidence, but without ego and arrogance, you’ve got enough vulnerability and humility in order to really hone in on the fact that what someone else is going through is probably really hard. So how can I help them? How can I get out of their way? What can I do to help get out of the way type of scenario as well? So empathy goes a long way. And then I think, coupled with that, when you talk about communications, and transmit, how comfortable are you all sharing things, without judgment without the stress of being wrong, but always to create like a newfound level of effectiveness within organization? And that’s not easy to do? Because the clock is ticking on the business role on borrowed time and money. So how do you balance that out with things that still need to get done and need to get done? Well, but I think the some of those things definitely stand out in terms of the internals,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 21:56
is there a story or example that you remember, at your time at PagerDuty, or another company where you felt really good about a resilient structure resilient team that you were able to build and maybe a scenario if you remember a story or scenario of like how that played out,
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 22:12
I remember one very vividly still probably never escaped me. So October of 2016, our CEO had just joined the company. So our original co founder and CEO handed the reigns off to our current CEO, Jen Tejada, we had a really, really bad outage, to a point where like, our service completely went dark for our customers. That was maybe a year and a half into the job. And the root of it had to do with, we had some data storage issues, and we just could not recover, like recovery was not happening. And before you knew it, we were probably somewhere around, I don’t know, maybe just under 100 In engineering, in total, we had no real plan in terms of like for a prolonged outage, how do you go manage this? How long should people be tasked with doing things at some point, they’re going to need to take a break what you do, and you hand things over. And what was really amazing to see happen from the people side of it was individuals stepping up and coming up with actual solutions on the fly in terms of it’s like the little things like someone started a spreadsheet and said, Let’s keep track of who’s on call for what, which then kind of was kind of fun later on, because it led to some of our own product offering to come out into the wild through this experience. But people really stepping in to act like leaders almost, and really, really hone in on, you know, the broader problem needs to be solved, but we can’t just have the same people on it. Right? It’s starting to shake people out how we manage communications showed up a lot in terms of we didn’t have playbooks for 24 plus hour outages and system interruption and service interruption. We had our CEO that would sometimes come in and say, can we fix it faster? Well, if we couldn’t, we would, clearly. But you know, some a lot of the flexibility and optionality start to show up of, “hey, who do we know on the industry that also manages this type of data storage platform and happen to be on Cassandra at the time? Who do we know a certain companies that started reaching out to them? Is there a third party we can bring on to help us in the moment?” Parts of that showed up a lot in terms of the resiliency of the group, and the individuals because it felt like nobody was alone. That was really magical, as a leader, like someone like me did not script that did not have to dole out borders. It was it was the other way around. The team members were much more in control of the next set of steps, even if it was completely unprepared for or being very ambiguous. And I like to think from that learning. We shaped up a lot in that regard. But the the adaptability and the humility and the teamwork that showed up was absolutely magical.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 24:50
Yeah. And it’s really cool. And it sounds like you didn’t have to orchestrate it. It was very organic. And I think like that maybe points to a lot of the work that maybe you and team had done to build that organization to be at that level, because it could have operated in a different way which was okay, tell us worse. Yeah, give us an
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 25:12
soon tell me what to do. I’m waiting to be told what to do. I think the practice side of it, I think 100% helps a lot. You know, we chose early on to invest in our practice our practice around, for example, you responding to a major interruption of service, you know, a major incident, we invested in, literally, and we had coined a handful of blogs early on in the days prior to even myself joining Patriot called failure Fridays, which every Friday there was a time window where teams would sign up to run their chaos engineering tests, when these are basically controlled tests and failure modes happening in the live environments. So that we can learn very quickly, where we where we need to be, you know, and the amount of learnings that came through those really eight helped shape a lot of the almost like the reliability and resiliency profile of, of our service offering for our customers. And then also, we continue to hone in on our own practices around what works well, what doesn’t, people are able to learn and practice about what it feels like to be on the spot. When the pressures mounting, you know, human nature kicks in adrenaline kicks in. Sometimes if you feel a lot of pressure, your heart beats at a certain rate, you can’t process information at the same way, us really as a combined unit, really learning about how to effectively manage to do that, I think has been an absolute game changer and a differentiated for a lot of what we brought out into the universe as a group.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 26:36
Yeah, this concept of chaos engineering is a really interesting one. And obviously, the term Chaos Monkey, and, you know, other terms around that that people have been employing is very interesting. What about in terms of resiliency with technological change? So we started talking about, you know, there’s this big platform shift, everybody’s talking about AI these days. And, you know, people are wondering, what does it mean, you know, for the products that you build? What does it mean, for our companies? What does it mean for our jobs? And these are all the sorts of questions that are going on, in everyone’s minds. I’m curious, like, how have you chosen to talk to your teams and to your company about this big change that’s happening? And how does everyone process this?
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 27:26
It’s a really important topic, especially as we for some of the big shifts, you know, the, if you go back a little bit, there’s internet, there was mobile, you had advent of cloud computing, that are the shape shifted a lot, most of all the industries. And now general AI is come on to the horizon into the commercial landscape, where big question is, is, are you going to be an AI company or not? And what is that going to mean? For us how we started, we’ve been talking about it, we’ve been in the business of AI and applied machine learning for the last five to six years by virtue of parts of our product offerings. So that type of role is not necessarily new for us. But just like everyone else, trying to understand how does generative AI work, and how’s it being, quote, unquote, you know, almost like operated is one of those scenarios where we are in the business of learning and learning very quickly right now. And one thing we did make it clear for the company, and a lot of ourselves inside the company was around, maintaining status quo is just not an option in place. So we’re going to have to We are going to come to a set of decisions around what do we adopt some of this emerging technology for our own benefit internal? Like, how can I create newfound leverage of productivity for ourselves? How can make some parts of some jobs easier, better, faster? And then what are the things we’re not going to use it for? Right, and I do think that, you know, it’s like a technical leader, it’s important to have certain types of almost like principles in play that are really, really overt and obvious. So for example, we’re evaluating, just like, everyone’s probably a number of coding assist tools, like GitHub co pilot, you have AWS code whisperer, tab nine, there’s a lot of a lot of companies in there to evaluate. One thing we’ve honed in on we made it very clear to everyone is that while what that that assist, helps enable can really, really create like a fast start to something that they can be amazingly beneficial to a company to organizations, even as a set of teams, but make no mistake, it’s most likely not your final destination. And what we mean by that is, you have to understand what’s actually like showing up on the screen, and the context and then the resulting output. So therefore, you as an individual, you’re still accountable for the output. No matter what, what happens is just like you’re still developing software, like you can’t really just relinquish accountability, that’s your code. So this may help us get a fast start to a lot of things. It may help us round out certain solutions, but it’s not going to replace for example, a software engineer and the expertise in the craft of development and building products and programming, what it can do is help elevate some of the type of work you do. So now you don’t have to deal with so much boilerplate things. And that creates more time and headspace to go solve bigger and more impactful problems. And so that’s where we’ve started holding on. And then, you know, the third leg of this is you. So you’ve got the internal productivity, what can do for our team members and employees? What can you do in the, in the advent of given day, specifically with, let’s say, software development? And the third piece is like, how do we actually create newfound value for our customers by incorporating new technology, that’s always a topic of conversation, this has now been cranked to 11, right? There’s no doubt you, we now have to actually do adapt and be be in learning mode much faster than ever before, we want to be very thoughtful about how we incorporate, we do know that there’s value to be provided for our customers, that is paramount for us. But also, we’d like talking about doing a lot of things very, very safely and responsibly, because some of the current known capabilities of generate may or may not apply to every part of every product offering every platform offering. So how you choose to apply that is going to be I think, one of those really important sense of like decision cycles that we’re going to find ourselves in for, for the coming weeks, months, who knows how, right but we’re excited to be to be embracing it, but it is, as you know, as humans, as leaders as companies, it’s not always easy to be, you know, comfortable with the uncomfortable. And this is one of those moments, I think we all find ourselves in like how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable really quick.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 31:34
Yeah, and because it’s it’s such a change in a lot of times, it’s difficult to adjust to change and to be comfortable in it. Sometimes you’re you understand or you feel like you’re building on top of previous things that you’ve done, but then the the ground gets pull, you know, from under you. And then you almost have to invent the future. So what am I questions is, you know, for there is some resistance, not everybody is, is so on top of, you know, basically incorporating all this new technology into the way that they work for some teams. It’s like, oh, it’s not ready. It’s not there yet. And it just reminds me of the same technology adoption curve, right. Like there’s the laggards. But there’s even the laggards for new things like this, even though we’re all playing in the in the technology arena. How do you go about changing their minds, because it actually requires like an active, changing the way that you do things. And when you’re used to doing things the same way for a long period of time. Like it’s really hard to get people to actually change? Is there anything that you’ve done to really help encourage that?
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 32:39
I think I think about you know, incorporating, shifting from you know, whether it’s waterfall to more agile and nimble practices, and it’s like, okay, well, why? Why do you need to change? Where are you going, having a discussion about what could be the benefits around the channel, because there’s these net benefits. And if you can help paint that context in pink like that, almost like that next destination? Hopefully, that starts to open up some doors where people are open to being able to discuss and almost like, work through, what are the changes that may be most impactful to me, to my team, to my part of the organization, as a leader, you want to be a little bit ahead of that, to preempt some of those types of scenarios, right to be well prepared in a thoughtful and ideally engaging manner. Right? I think about like, when I came to PagerDuty, we were very small (me about 30 and engineering at the time) yet, we were very operating a very like centralized manner. Meaning, if you wanted to change in let’s say, the production environment, you would file a ticket, one or two engineers in what we call it at the time, the operations group will work on that ticket. And then a couple of weeks later, the ticket will be resolved, then you get your changes. It could be configuration, changes in name, your cloud provider, things like that. But yet it was wrought with friction, and just latency time being lost, right, and we’re still growing companies. seems a little odd. And you know, one of the forcing functions I started because like, well, we’re going to adopt a more healthy DevOps mindset. And what that meant was, as a business, we need to be able to support a high rate of change in order to foster the growth of this business. But it can’t be it has to be again, in safe and responsible, repeatable durable manners, which then said, Okay, well, what do we need to change part of how we work, but also part of what we invest in, we’re going to invest in automating a lot of things, right? Because we want that consistency to build up. We want predictability, we want proficiency to build within our teams where I like to think I painted a picture on like, Hey, someone was going to build up new skills. That should be exciting. Well, part of this craft in this practice, we should be excited about building up new skills and experiences and if not, that’s okay. This probably isn’t the place for you. So I think being able to talk through parts of that, I do think it’s important for leaders to have almost like a like have a point of view. It may not be the right point of view, but that’s where hopefully you can create some dialogue in Congress. decision to bring people in. Because in when we get through these, these change management cycles, and if you are the leader or the manager that is like the face of the change, if you will, it’s incredibly lonely. Because you’re, you’re the one. And it’s very easy to get a target on your back not not in a malicious manner. It’s just one of those things where like, there’s gonna be a million reasons why something might not go well or might not work out. But if there’s a handful, that creates a new benefit. It’s like, how are you as a leader showing up to be able to almost like to fight for those things that matter? Yeah, and
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 35:31
one of the things that I’m constantly reminded of is that the information flows that you may have may be different from all the people on your team. So something may be very abundantly obvious to you, because you just have the you know, you talk to other CTOs and other technology leaders. And it’s the storytelling of communicating all of the wise, like you said, and the context sharing, like, like you mentioned previously. And sometimes it’s easy to forget that you have to do that. And the context is different. And so I guess this is a bug in human communications, which is like you always have to do this context sharing and realignment,
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 36:08
that context shows up a lot in you think about when someone’s, when we’re all going through our career journeys, depending on time and place and where we’re at. Sometimes I’d be sitting with someone, and they would say, I should already be a director, because I do X, Y, Z, like that person. And there’s this natural comparative that shows up. And then it’s like, okay, well, let’s talk through that. So here are the reasons you present. And so do you believe that, you know, that’s the only things that person does? Or is that all that you’ve seen that person do? Because you might get see them two hours a week, let’s say inaction, but the other 38 plus hours, what are they doing? Do you understand the scope of that? How have you demonstrated the ability to do the, and then all of a sudden, you start to kind of unravel, and again, create a certain perspective and context for the individual or the broader team. So I think even that, that scenario shows up a lot in people trying to figure out maneuver their own career development and career journey, just like we all
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 37:01
are. Yeah. And that’s a good example, and a good way to coach in that situation. So we talked a lot about teams, I did want to very quickly also touch on hiring. So you’ve obviously hired a lot of people. And so I assume that resiliency is probably something you look for even in the people that you hire, is that the thing is that, you know, in your hiring rubrics, do you look for that in the individuals? Does that matter for the resiliency of the teams? Yes, and
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 37:28
yes, one thing we I’ve always looked for it we tend to continue to look for is individuals that can talk through what they’ve learned through failure. One classic question I like to ask a lot is, maybe this is someone that I don’t know, let’s say interviewing for maybe a VP of engineering position, or director of engineering or another executive role. And one thing I’ll ask is, you know, walk me through a time you advocated or made a decision, or it could be with technology or, or some kind of cultural thing. And I’ll play around with what goes in that fill in the blink scenario. And when you look back on it now, you would never make that decision again. Why? What have you learned, what transpired? What was your role in it? Who else was part of it? And you start to really kind of dig into like, you know, what is this person’s journey taught them, and how they shown up. And if they, you know, been able to literally like, persevere through in the fact that they are, where they are, and they’re interviewing with us or talking with us. And we’re excited on top of that speaks a ton to most likely what they have learned in that regard. But that I do think like the learn through failure goes a long, long way.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 38:31
That’s actually an excellent question. And yet to demonstrate that type of learning, I guess it and it can apply to everybody. It’s not just senior people that have made a lot of mistakes, like you could have made mistakes, you know, even while you were in school. So it’s a good question that that can apply everywhere. So Tim, this has been an excellent discussion, we’ve talked about so many different topics, you know, starting from, you know, building resilient teams, and also hiring, also adapting to change and how to create that change within an organization. And, of course, we talked a lot about context sharing. The question that we like to always end on is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tricks or parting words of wisdom that you would leave them with?
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 39:20
Yeah, I think, you know, the way I’ve approached or the way I’ve, I think, decided to approach some of this, I think management has a lot to do with like, you know, what you do and leadership is about how you show up. And so irrespective of title role, you know, that how you show up goes a long, long way, because you are in the business of trying to create effectiveness by your touchpoints. And a lot of that is with individuals and humans. And so how you create the level of engagement, thinking about the context knowing that you know what, someone else has another perspective, and I need to be able to actively listen and understand that without automatically think about what my rebuttal will be, but truly engaging and listen to their perspective. That is something that I’ve worked really hard to hone in on. I am nowhere near perfect at it. It’s one of the things I’m very cognizant of, of how well am I listening? Now, I might have a difference of opinion. Therefore, I might be in charge of making a certain decision and becomes a different decision. Right. But that’s part of my job. Am I clear with that? Are we understanding the context and why I made my decision? And did I take your point into account I think that goes a long way as you’re fostering relationships, whether that’s with people that reporting to you, peers, those above you. I think that is one area that I think we can always keep working on getting better and better.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 40:37
That’s great advice and a great place to end it. Tim, thanks so much for doing this.
Tim Armandpour (PagerDuty) 40:42
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.