How we do things at Human Made: The Human Made Handbook

Saying your goal is to prioritise people is easy. Doing it, a whole different beast.

People-first companies grow in number and like talking about themselves on the interwebs, but most workplaces around the world are still just workplaces—you put in your hours, get stuff done, and that’s it. As a result, resources on how to do things at companies that care about their employees are still limited.

At Human Made we live, work, and breathe in the open source culture. Restricting open source to just software? We’re not game. That’s why we’re releasing our staff Handbook: a constantly work-in-progress document where to find everything about working at Human Made, including work-related guidance and HR policies.

You are free to reuse it and apply its core concepts to your team. Please don’t assume it’s 100% fit for your own purpose: consult a HR professional to ensure it meets your cultural, operational, even legal requirements.

So here we go, without further ado…

The Human Made Handbook

My writing workflow at WordCamp Bristol 2017

Hey everyone, I’m super excited to announce that I’ll speak at WordCamp Bristol!

In my session I’ll basically explain my writing workflow. I think it’s very important to have a clear and well defined writing routine to release content (whether blog posts or internal reports etc.) without reinventing the wheel every time, and my talk will go exactly in this direction.

Sunday 14 May 2017, at the Watershed Media Centre, 10AM—my talk is the first one of the second day.

My speaker profile
My talk’s abstract
WordCamp Bristol 2017 schedule

Why “follow your passion” is the worst career advice

I’d like to start this blog post with a quote that you’ve probably read somewhere on the Internet:

Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

Often attributed to Confucius (which doesn’t really convince me—was “career choice” a thing in Confucius’s China?), this statement spread throughout a fairly wide range of sources, mostly from motivators of all sorts authoring self-help books or guest posting on business-themed websites.

As a result, it’s not that infrequent to hear recommendations such as “follow your passions” addressed to those who are striving for a change in their life. Blinded by their perhaps facile world view, people who suggest that the key for happiness lies in transforming hobbies into profit-making machines seem to ignore some of the very basic principles of our society.

Let’s start from the most obvious: most people’s passions, as a matter of fact, don’t fit well with today’s job markets. Most “passions,” oftentimes involving performing arts, literature, sports, traveling and whatnot, lead people to fight for a handful of highly desired positions.

There are quite a few examples that we could talk about. Take professional musicians. There’s no unlimited demand for them. Those who work with their music right now are basically good CEO’s of themselves—they sell their music as a product, therefore doing social media marketing, vlogs, podcasts, online stores, et cetera. Talent is not enough, unfortunately. Most successful musicians I know are better business-people than their less wealthy colleagues, not necessarily more talented.

Another example, much more painful—people in love with writing, who would love to write for a living. People ready to pen any kind of content that might be exchanged for some cash—usually a few cents—without realising they’re trying to make it in a space that is hyper-saturated to say the very least. All for their will to write, without focusing on the impact their content will have on people.

Every time someone shoots the “follow your heart” recommendation, what they’re saying might very well mean “sure, why not, spend your life wasting your time, doing something meaningless, maybe detrimental, maybe even dangerous for the whole world except you.

Doing “what we love” is not enough. What’s the alternative then?

Generally speaking, unless we’ve chosen to live as hermits, we’re part of a community. Something bigger than just ourselves. It might be our family. Our village, town, or neighbourhood. A community that builds around something, from a rock band to an open source software.

As parts of one or more communities, we’re bound to invest our time in activities that fits at least one of the next three categories.

Things we love to bits.
Things that can improve or even change people’s life.
Things that keeps us healthy.

Whether the money comes in from the first, second or third category, it doesn’t matter. What really matters is that you do at least one thing that makes you feel alive, at least one thing that has a positive impact on the people around you, at least one thing to keep you in good shape.

So the point is: Looking for a source of income? It doesn’t necessarily have to come from your passions. Focus on what you can do—or can become good at—that also happens to be valuable to the world.

How I apply this in my life

I try to make it simple. The healthy part is easy—I go to the gym and eat nutritious food. I aim at 5 workouts per week, and cook at home instead of living on Deliveroo.

What do I love to bits? I look at it from another point of view—I’ve worked to make sure nothing in my life makes me feel miserable. I love my job, I love the people with whom I work, I love working out (which fits the healthy category too, so yay), I love spending time with my bass guitars.

How do I improve people’s life? That’s the part that might be tricky. As part of our jobs at Human Made, we’re encouraged to give back to the WordPress community in any way we can. As a non-engineer, I do several things that are not necessarily linear or consistent. Right now, I’m mentoring new speakers for two WordCamps (London and Turin). I’m helping people find the confidence and using the right tools to share their knowledge. Was it my childhood dream? Not necessarily, but that’s not the point. I’m contributing to something bigger than me. I’m having an impact on someone else. It feels magnificent.

Adjust or lose.

If you’re about to leave college, if you’re looking for a job, if you’re in the middle of a change career, don’t just look into your passions. Don’t be the selfish person that does something whether it has a impact on other people or not. Following your “passion” could lead to a life of misery and the alternative can actually be not that bad: something beneficial for others, that you at least don’t dislike, and maybe comes with a real job market connected. And who knows, maybe you’ve found a new passion. They usually change during a lifetime after all.

And if you are already working and at the same time doing what you love, don’t brag about you not working because Confucius allegedly said so. First, it’s a bit disrespectful towards all those people who once had dreams whose path of life brought them to, I don’t know, flip burgers at Five Guys. Second, you sound like you live in the 19th century: you still believe that work is by definition unpleasant and tiring. Third, it fuels unrealistic expectations on how people should invest their time, leading them to give a genuine shot at something potentially irrelevant to the rest of the world.

The product mindset at WordCamp Torino 2017

I’m super excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at the next WordCamp Torino!

I’m speaking (in Italian) about my mindset as a product person. In a nutshell, I’ll share with attendees how I apply my identity as a product person to everything I do.

Saturday 8 April 2017, in the beautiful Toolbox Coworking, starting at 10AM—my talk is at 10:45, in Track A.

My speaker profile
My talk’s abstract
WordCamp Torino 2017 schedule

 

Remote Work & Digital Nomadism: My interview on Merita Podcast

I’ve recently had the pleasure to be interviewed on one of my favourite podcasts, Merita. Giorgio Minguzzi, the host, is a true professional when it comes to using the Internet to grow a business, so I think you’ll enjoy the conversation—as long as you understand Italian.

We chatted about remote work and digital nomadism, particularly focusing on the challenges and dark sides typically connected to them.

Listen here ⬇️, or on iTunes. If you speak Italian and are on the lookout for great growth and marketing advice I’d recommend you subscribe to the podcast.

Out of Office, our online event about remote work, is today. Are you joining us?

You’ve probably been there: someone says “I work remotely” and you think they’re all about posting pictures of their laptop next to a macchiato in a hip coffee shop, working from a beach, or—worst case scenario—preaching about some obscure, passive—of course—way to earn the income that unlocks the chance to live that lifestyle.

Whilst that’s not necessarily old news, there’s so much more to remote work: think about productivity, growth, dealing with stress, or onboarding. Curious about how distributed companies, remote freelancers, but even the office worker who occasionally works at home deal with those? Good, because they’re all topics that will be discussed at Out of Office, today, at 4PM UTC.

Out of Office is live streaming online and it’s free

Yep, that’s right. You’ll be able to watch it at your own desk, on your couch (just cast the relevant Chrome tab to your tv if you use a Chromecast), wherever you want.

Reserve your spot now, go to the event page when it’s 4PM UTC, boom, done. Now it’s all about learning and asking questions to our speakers.

Talks & Q&A’s

We’re hosting a pretty nice group of speakers, coming from some of the most influential companies when we’re talking culture and flexibility: if you’re thinking about Basecamp, Toptal, Buffer, yes, we’ve got them all.

Here’s the full schedule:

16:00 – Opening remarks

16:15 – Toptal bootcamp: onboarding with impact, by Jennifer Weinmann (People Operations at Toptal)

17:00 – Productivity, by Rodolphe Dutel (Operations at Buffer)

17:45 – Values of a humane remotee culture: empathy, trust & inclusiveness, by Dino Anderson (Operational Development Consultant)

18:30 – Live Interview with Jason Fried (CEO and co-founder at Basecamp)

19:15 – Dealing with stress in remote teams, by Tom Willmot (CEO and co-founder at Human Made)

20:00 – Closing Remarks

At Human Made we’ve been working hard to put together a strong, BS-free event that will teach you a lot of interesting stuff about something we truly care about. Come watch it and you’ll appreciate.

Join now, there’s still time!

So, want to watch Out of Office? Awesome.

Reserve your spot HERE. Do it now, there are more than 1,000 people who already opted in.

Read more here, and tell your friends on social media you’re joining us. The more the merrier, you know?

Public Speaking: Organisation Tips

The other day I was asked to write about how I approach public speaking from an organisational point of view. Things like “do you have a general roadmap”, “how do you start creating your slides” or “do you use spreadsheets“ and so on.

I thought this was really interesting, so here we are, without further ado: tips on how to keep your life as a public speaker organised.

The Trello board

Just like almost everything else in my life, it all starts from a Trello board. My Trello board for public speaking helps me navigating across the grand scheme of things: biographies, headshots, speaker media kit, talk titles & abstracts.

trello-ps-board

The first column on the left has static info as well as a bit of meta—always explain how to use the board as it has to be accessible to mentors or colleagues. As I write this article, the Info column has four cards: a readme with instructions, a card for the Speaking Media Kit with the link to Dropbox (I’ll talk about this later), my biographies, and the abstract structure.

Second, third and fourth columns are New Ideas, In Development, Completed. Every card in those three columns is a talk, with the abstract in the description and everything else—comments from peers or mentors, checklists, links, attachments and so forth—where appropriate.

Every time I have a new idea for a talk I just create a new card in the New Ideas column. There’s no such thing as Hmm, shall I add this here? Hmm… not sure if… hmm… at this stage. Wild ideas must be encouraged. You never know.

The In Development column have only talks that I’m currently working on. Might be talks that have been accepted for an event, talks that I’m preparing before applying with them, or talks that already exist in some incomplete form for some reason. When a talk is in this column I want slide deck and speaker’s notes to have enough meat as soon as possible. When the talk reaches that stage (talk ready to be delivered, but if there’s time I’d appreciate the opportunity to give it some extra love), I apply a label to it, which I named “MVP” (buzzwords, yay), but remains in the In Development column.

The Completed column has only talks that are ready to be delivered or have been already delivered.

Talks are moved around among those three columns, with the usual movement being left to right—New Ideas ➡️ In Development ➡️ Completed.

Labels help a lot with the process. No label means it’s a regular 30–40 min talk. Labels can include workshops, lightning talks, flash talks, keynotes, “MVP”, etc.

Biographies

You’re probably asking why biographies. The answer might be more than one, notably type of events (I’ve got a bio specifically for WordPress events), and languages. Always keep them updated and make sure they reflect the speaking application you’re putting together: if you’re applying with a talk about business development, make sure your bio highlights your experience with business development.

Abstracts

My abstracts usually have three short paragraphs. In the first paragraph I define a problem, an issue, a current situation worth talking about. In the second paragraph I propose a solution, which normally is the major part of the content of the talk. The third one is all about the ideal audience (answering the question “who’s this talk for?”).

The folder for talks

I have a “Public speaking” folder on my computer, which is sync’d to my Dropbox account. This folder has two folders inside: the Speaker Media Kit and the Talks folder. The Talks folder has one folder per talk, and every talk has a “Images” folder (with all the image files that I use in the slide deck), and the Keynote presentation(s). Why plural? Because if I give the talk at different events the deck will inevitably change (from the event hashtag to cultural adjustments).

To recap: Public speaking ➡️ Talks ➡️ Talk name ➡️ Images folder & keynote file.

The Starting Deck

When I start creating a presentation for a new talk, I don’t want to start from scratch. No one likes blank pages, and let’s be honest here, some elements are common across different presentations—every slide deck has at least a cover and a final “thank you” / “questions?” page, right?

In my Talks folder there’s a “Starting deck” folder, which is set up in the exact same way of other talks: an “Images” folder, and a Keynote file.

The Keynote file has a cover (with dummy title, subtitle, hashtag and background, plus my Twitter handle and company logo), a slide about me, a couple of slides about Human Made, and a final “thank you” slide.

Every time I have to do a new talk, I will go to Trello and make sure the talk is in the In Development column, then duplicate the Starting deck, move it to its talk folder that I had created beforehand, and give the file the right name.

It’s definitely easier and quicker to do it rather than to explain!

Speaker Media Kit

I mentioned the Speaker Media Kit a couple of times already, and it’s time to go a bit deeper on this.

A SMK typically is a folder that has your biography, headshots (include only those you’re happy with, as they’re going on the event’s marketing campaigns, website, etc.), contacts, speaking topics (all the topics you’re comfortable speaking about, with some issue / solution-based explanation, very similar to talk abstracts), and testimonials.

It’s particularly useful when event organisers want your complete profile as a speaker.

The Speaker Sheet

An alternative to have separate files is a “Speaker sheet”, which has everything in one single PDF file. I’m a fan of this solution, in fact my SMK has only a PDF and a folder with headshots.

I would love to know how other people involved with public speaking keep everything organised. There are a million ways to do this, so please do weigh in with your processes or feedback in the comment section!

7 Tips to use Slack effectively

Both Human Made and the WordPress community use Slack as their real-time communication platform. As a result, I basically live on Slack.

Italia WP Community on Slack
Italia WP Community on Slack

There’s more to Slack than just “chat”, but you have to know how to own it as opposed to being owned by it.

Here’s how I got there.

1. Understand the difference between teams and channels

First of all, to use Slack properly, you need to understand the distinction between teams and channels.

Teams

Think of a team as a community. You can be logged in to multiple teams at the same time (i.e. your company, the WordPress community, the WordPress UK community, etc.), and join different teams with the same email address / username.

The question “Are you on Slack?” doesn’t make any sense unless the Slack team is implicit (different from i.e. “Are you on Skype?”).

Channels

Each Slack team has usually more than one channel, for different departments etc. This allows Slack users to read only the chats that are relevant to them.

Slack doesn’t allow channel arrangement in the left sidebar yet, but you can create your own hierarchical system (sort of). From the most important: starred channels & chats (for projects I’m actively working on, they appear on the top of the left sidebar); regular channels (I receive all the notifications for those); channels where @channel and @here are suppressed (don’t want to mute them, but still don’t want to be pinged for general announcements); muted channels (all the channels that are not strictly required for the work I’m doing).

2. Slack is not the right place for important discussions

Because of its real-time nature, any important conversation or write-up should happen or be recapped elsewhere, for example in internal websites that have a WordPress theme called P2. Websites with the P2 theme have a posting form right on the homepage, inline editing of posts and comments, real-time updates, and much more.

WordPress theme P2
WordPress theme P2

3. Use Slack asynchronously

Slack is often hailed as the saviour of internal communication as well as the destroyer of emails. Thanks to Slack, we don’t overfill our inboxes with countless internal emails, so we don’t have to keep up with different threads, mess with addresses in cc, etc.

In traditional communication, whilst emails are among the most effective asynchronous communication tools out there, chat, texts, etc. represent its synchronous variety. A team that works across multiple time zones can’t chat synchronously all the time, and as emails are out of the question, we need to adapt the chat and transform it into an asynchronous communication tool.

Do Not Disturb is the king

Slack allows users to set them on Do Not Disturb mode (automatically or manually). When someone is on Do Not Disturb, they won’t be notified in case of ping, but the system can be forced if the matter is urgent.

Do Not Disturb settings
Do Not Disturb settings

Generally speaking, it’s important that people can talk to each other even when the recipient is not around. If you understand you’re responsible for your own down time (setting yourself up on Do Not Disturb when you’re offline, not working, or in-the-zone), you’re giving others the freedom to get in touch with you anytime. It’s your responsibility then to deal with the message when you’re ready.

4. Always prefer public channels over private and 1–1 communication

When in doubt, always post a message where everyone can read it. Keep everyone updated on stuff that is not secret or private!

5. Do a routine decluttering

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been there: you’re in several channels, and some of them either ended up dead or lost relevancy to you and your job. Leaving channels when you’re not interested in them anymore means you have less stuff to catch up with.

6. Kill Slack when you need to focus

Which doesn’t necessarily mean quitting it. You can set yourself away, or activate Do Not Disturb, when you want to focus on something without being bothered.

7. Use Slack themes

Slack allows to customise the colour scheme of the left sidebar. Just head over to Preferences → Sidebar Theme and select an available theme, or enter your custom colour combination.

For example, this is a colour combination for WordPress:

#23282d,#191E23,#0073AA,#FFFFFF,#191E23,#FFFFFF,#46B450,#00A0D2

Bonus: is there a night mode?

Slack doesn’t have a night mode yet, but there’s a nice workaround for the in-browser version. Install Stylish for your browser (an extension available for Firefox, Chrome and Safari), and follow the instructions here.

External resources

WordPress communities on Slack – A collection of Slack teams related to WordPress (both country-level and non-local teams)

Slack on Product Hunt – Slack-related apps, add ons & collections.

Slack Themes – A collection of themes for the left sidebar.

11 Useful Tips for Getting the Most out of Slack, by the Slack team

An Incomplete List of Communities on Slack, by Angela Cois

WCEU, the Italian WordPress Community, here we go again!

WordCamp Europe 2016 is just two days away! It’s going to be the biggest WordCamp ever, with way more than 2000 attendees expected.

A12s, Humans and other WordPressers at Cocoquadrat (photo from https://www.facebook.com/cowork.coffee)
WCEU organisers, A12s, Humans and other WordPressers at Cocoquadrat (photo from https://www.facebook.com/cowork.coffee)

Vienna—whose duty to organise this year’s edition was publicly announced at the end of WCEU 2015 in Seville—is already experiencing an abnormal flow of WordPress enthusiasts from all over the world. Make sure you keep an eye open in coffee shops and co-working spaces (or interesting cross-overs between the two of them): we like showing off our passion with t-shirts, stickers on our laptops, someone even tattoos.

Of course I’ll be there with the awesome crew from Human Made, ready to hug everyone I know and meet everyone I don’t.

I have a special relationship with WordCamp Europe. WCEU 2013—the first WCEU—was my first WordCamp ever, and as Italian and co-founder of Italia WP Community, I cannot stress enough how much important WCEU has been for us.

If you want to know more about this, it’s all in the article Emanuel Blagonic wrote about us—and other communities—on the WCEU blog, and my Medium post for the 1st birthday of Italian WP Community.

See you all very soon!