David’s Manager ReadMe

David Kuo
7 min readOct 19, 2018

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The first manager readme I read was from Roy Rapoport when he was still at Netflix. Working with a new manager can be stressful. The purpose of writing a manager readme is to mitigate that stress for your new reports by letting them know who you are and what you value. Of course, it’s impossible to convey everything about you through a document. It takes time to get to know each other and build rapport through one-on-ones and social interactions. However, having a readme is a good start.

In the past few months, it seems like it’s getting more traction to share manager readmes. Here are 12 of them from engineering leaders. If those aren’t enough, here is more. Those are great references if you are thinking about creating one.

When I was at Life360, I had an infodeck for my new hires to share my values and their onboarding plan. When I joined Yelp, one of the first things that I had to do was to write a manager readme and share it with my new team. It gave me the opportunity to articulate my management style in a document. I also find it helpful to reinforce my day-to-day decisions and actions. Here is my manager readme:

Hello, I’m David

I’m excited to be working with you! I’m David, your manager. I understand working with a new manager can be stressful and daunting. We all have been there. This is why I created this document for you to get to know me and what to expect so we can establish a good rapport for us to be successful.

The most important aspect of my role is to attract, retain, and grow people like you. My goal is to lead the team to success by facilitating an environment that allows you to learn, grow, and have fun while you are doing your best work.

Note that this is a living document, and I might modify it to align with new company policies or based on the feedback that I receive.

About me

My friends call me DK (to distinguish myself from other gazillions of Davids out there), you can too. I was born and raised in Taiwan. I got married in year 2017 to the love of my life, Joy. In my past life, I was a software engineer for more than 10 years playing with different things. I’m a curious engineer at heart: to learn how to build mobile apps, I bought the first Android phone (HTC G1) in 2009, and I still have it at home. For other fun facts, ask me in person. What are yours? I’m curious to know.

What I believe

Treat others how they want to be treated — Yelp’s value “Play well with others” is very important to me. People are different. Everyone grew up from a different background and has a different frame of reference. How you want to be treated might not work for others. So treat people with respect and empathy. This can help us facilitate good working relationships with one another.

Care personally and challenge directly — To do my job well as your manager, I believe in caring about your well-being and challenging you by giving you honest, direct, and concrete feedback that can help you grow. If I care more than I challenge, you don’t know how you can improve, and you are not growing. If I challenge more than I care, I might seem like a jerk, and I’m treating you like a tool for productivity. Therefore, one can’t live without the other. I operate in this framework and always try to find a good balance between the two. If I’m not doing a good job with this, you are doing me a big favor by letting me know early.

Autonomy — People do their best work when they are intrinsically motivated and autonomy is a key ingredient. I’m here to help set context and goals. You are the expert in your domain: I’m counting on you to figure out how to get there, and I’ll support you along the way.

Servant leadership — I work for you, not the other way around. I’m here to support you so you can move forward, have impact, grow, and succeed.

Growth mindset — I believe in nurture over nature. Skills can be acquired by conscious learning and deliberate practice. This means we will work together to discover what you’re passionate to learn, and then I will find resources and challenges that can help you get better at it. Once it becomes your skill, we can repeat the same process to help you acquire other ones.

Iterative approach — Software development is about continuous improvement, not about finding that perfect solution. Instead of putting all the time and effort to find that perfect solution, I will actively encourage you to start doing and then iterate on that.

What I expect from you

Own it — If you are committed to a project, you are accountable for it. You are here because you are great at what you do, and you are the best person to deliver what you are committed to. If there are critical bugs in your code, address them until they’re fixed. If you are going on PTO or will be transferring to another team, make sure someone else is able to maintain your code or help you with your duties.

Communicate early and often — It’s important for collaboration, building rapport, and preventing problems from getting worse. If you are running into issues, surface them early so we can provide help and set right expectations. Express your opinions in meetings to help us gain different perspectives. Share with me what you are happy or frustrated with so we can celebrate or find solutions together.

Explore your passion in your career — Tell me what you like to work on and what you want to learn. They might not necessarily be things that you are currently good at. Together, we can explore different opportunities to help you develop new skills or master existing ones.

Win and lose as a team — Developing software products is a collective effort. Every component of the team’s work is crucial to the success of the team. Be curious about all the areas of the team and see how you can contribute. Lend a hand to your colleagues if they need help.

Health > family > work — Take care of yourself and your family first before thinking about work. You can’t bring your best self to work if you are worried about those. Take time off to rest, recharge, and address things that need your attention at home as needed. To help me plan and coordinate for the team, if you can’t be in the office during core hours or you need to request PTO, please let me and the team know early by following company’s guidelines.

Tell me how I’m doing — Like you, I’m also human, and I’m far from perfect. I’m constantly learning and trying to improve myself to be a better leader, and I need your help with this by giving me honest, direct feedback early and often. You can do that in our 1:1s, or we can set up a time to talk. I know it’s hard to give your manager feedback. I will create an environment for you to feel comfortable to do so.

1:1s

1:1s are important for us to get to know each other and help me understand how I can better support you to grow and succeed. You can talk to me about any topic that you feel comfortable talking about. I’d like to learn from you about your passions, frustrations, perspectives on different issues, ideas on how we can improve, and what you do outside of work. Knowing these can help me balance in the framework of caring personally and challenging directly and improve the team as a whole. Furthermore, I like to learn from you about how I can do better. So this will also be a time for you to share your thoughts with me.

I like to do 1:1s in the early morning or late afternoon so you have enough uninterrupted maker time to do work. Let me know what you prefer so we can make it work best for you.

My availability

Recurring 1:1s and team meetings are not the only ways that you can talk to me. If you want to talk, don’t wait as I mentioned in communicating early and often. Depending on the urgency of the issue and your preference, you can schedule a meeting on my calendar, ping me on Slack, come grab me, or call me. My number is on my Slack profile. If I don’t respond, I am probably busy with something. If it’s urgent, please reach out to my manager.

What’s next?

I hope this gives you some basic ideas about who I am so we can work better together. I’d also like to get to know you and look forward to hearing more about you the next time we meet. Once again, I’m excited to be working with you. Let’s have fun and build a great product!

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